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Interview with Joseph Griggs, September 25, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Joseph Griggs, September 25, 2002
September 25, 2002
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Griggs, Joseph Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  9/25/2002 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length  86 minutes


Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock. I’m with the University of North Carolina Wilmington and a staff person at the library. Today’s video tape is of Mr. Joe Griggs. We’re doing this for the North Carolina Museum of Forestry in Whiteville. Mr. Griggs and I have a shared experience we may refer to. Mr. Griggs is a World War II veteran and I had interviewed him some time ago, not too long ago, for his World War II experiences.

Zarbock: So I’m going to start off this interview by asking Mr. Griggs, when you got out of the military, where did you go to school and why did you go to school?

Griggs: I was a fire control man during the war and so at first, I’ve always been interested in forestry and spent a lot of time with forest scouts and with did a lot of camping and hiking and that kind of thing. Also I grew up with my daddy who was a bird hunter so therefore I liked the outdoors.

When I came out of the service, I wasn’t all that sure, but I was fairly sure so I applied to three different colleges. One was just a general arts college right there near my home in Macon, Georgia and Mercer University and was accepted. I applied at Georgia Tech because of the technical work I’d done in the service on electrical stuff and I was accepted there.

But my real love was forestry so when I went to Georgia, the University of Georgia in Athens, they said okay, you can come here if you want to, but you’ve got to find yourself a place to stay. We don’t have any place for you. They were just overrun with people who were just out of the service like I was and there just wasn’t any dormitory space.

Zarbock: What year was this, Mr. Griggs?

Griggs: This was 1946 I guess because I got out in March of ’46 out of the service so I went to school that fall. So a friend of mine named Tommy Clay, he was taking something else, but we went up to Georgia and we looked around and we found a house, a room in a house in town there on Derrick Street just to remember the actual place we were located. Anyway I enrolled in the University of Georgia Forestry School.

Zarbock: Now how old were you in those days?

Griggs: Well I was born in ’24 and it was ’46, so I was 22 years old.

Zarbock: Now you had the GI Bill?

Griggs: I went to school on the GI Bill.

Zarbock: And that paid you what? $75 a month.

Griggs: $90 a month. Of course with tuition and the books and so forth. I went through the school. I actually finished in three and a half years. I was like all the other GI’s at the time. We wanted to get out and get busy so we took extra classes. I got through as soon as I possibly could.

Actually if I had really planned it out from the beginning, I could have finished in three years and as far as my career, it probably would have put me in a better position to start with the company because everybody was coming out of school at the same time. It was actually probably a surface of foresters at that time. Of the 30 foresters that graduated when I did, only 15 had jobs to start with.

It’s not that the companies didn't need those people, it’s the fact that they were still expanding after the war and they didn't have that many positions open as far as forestry. In fact, I started with International as a compassman.

Zarbock: What is a compassman?

Griggs: A compassman, at that time when I went to work at International, they were still buying quite a lot of land so that’s where you were first assigned, was on an acquisition party – to go on properties and most of the time there was a crew of people out. A good part of the time it was just you and a cruiser and you acted as compassman. In other words, he was supposed to be the person that had the experience and you pulled the chain which was the way we measured distances between plots. You did the tallying and keeping up with the paperwork and all while he actually measured the radius of the plot and that kind of thing.

Zarbock: Do you remember what your salary was in those days?

Griggs: Yeah, I remember it well. It was $160 a month and that was salary too. If you worked more than 40 hours a week because of the low salary, you were paid overtime. But they tried to restrict that to as little as possible believe it or not. They only allowed, even when you were on expenses, $3.00 a day.

Zarbock: What was the length of a work day?

Griggs: Well most of the time we started to work, tried to be in the woods at 6:00 in the morning. In the summer, it didn't make much difference in the winter, but in the summer it was so hot that you tried to get in at least 8 hours before it got so hot. You carried a sandwich sometimes, but sometimes you just worked straight through and when you got through, about 8 hours, you went back to wherever you were staying.

Now sometimes we were allowed, in fact most of the time in the early days of my career, we were allowed to work 10 hour days and so we could work four 10 hour days and that would be 40 hours and then you would be off the rest of the time. However whenever you were on a big tract or something, they wanted it done right away.

We did the field work during the daytime, then at night when we got back to the room, we had to do all the paperwork which consumed several more hours especially when they get the tracts done and then the supervisor who was, at that time I was assigned to the Georgetown region, who was taking all that information back to Georgetown. He wanted it in his hands on Friday afternoon so when he went to Georgetown over the weekend to the region office, then they would decide which tracts they were going to try to buy on Monday and then they would contact our central office which at that time was in Mobile and they get permission from Mobile on Monday or no later than Wednesday. Then he would go back and see the owners.

Zarbock: Did your job also require you to give sort of an inventory of the kinds of trees that were on the property?

Griggs: Oh yeah. If you want to talk about how we cruise, I can tell you how it’s done. The first thing, you know, you had a plat and if you didn't have a plat, you had someone to go out and show you where the corners were of the property. Therefore if you had a plat, you would use that to set up your map. Then you went out to the property and found the corners and you set up a baseline which you ran a compass line or took the longest line on the property that was perpendicular to the main drainage.

Zarbock: Could it be miles?

Griggs: Could be. Usually when you had a tract that large, there was a whole crew and someone still had to run the baseline and set up where the lines were going to go.

Zarbock: Well what would be an average size, just typical?

Griggs: Typical would be 200 acres I guess and especially in the Piedmont area and then on the coastal plain, it could be as much as 5000 or more acres and sometimes even greater than that. In fact, they would have special occasions where you would have a whole crew and then you would have a crew chief who would set up the whole deal and each person in the group would be assigned a certain line or a certain part of the tract to cruise and you would do that.

The cruise line may be several miles long and when you got to the end, usually you had a line in, a line out so you came back close to the place you started, but there were times when you were assigned that was so long, it would take you a whole day to go through it and then you’d have to walk out to a road that was identified on a map that you’d never seen before. Somebody would pick you up there and bring you back.

Zarbock: How could you possibly get an inventory of the trees? How was that done?

Griggs: You use what is called a line plot system. You divided the tract up into so many lines and then you took a plot, they use a 10th acre plot now and the last years that I worked, you have a radius. You go to the plot and you have a circular radius by which you measured every tree in that plot. You had to measure that 4-1/2 feet from the ground or they called it breast high.

You started, if you’re running, I did a lot of work by myself, but anyway when we had a crew like that, it usually started where the chain came in if you were measuring it by a chain. Later on as we got more and more experienced, we just paced it especially if the…well even if it was rough timber, after a while you knew exactly how far you’d gone by the number of paces you took to the plot center.

Well they required us to mark the plot center because it has what they call the check crews would come back and make sure that you measured every tree. Anyway you take the radius of this plot and you would start where the chain is and you would go around and you would measure or call every tree in that plot. Like I said you measured breast high, you also had to measure them as far as how tall they were.

We’ve got some little instruments. This are the basic things that a cruiser uses. This is a compass that I used. I have recently, I say recently, in fairly recent times, did some cruising and this is my compass. This is a standard forester’s compass here. This is the diaton tape which is used to measure the trees and you just put it, it’s got a hook on the end so you hook it into the bark of the tree at 4-1/2 feet and put it all the way around and it reads directly as to how big the tree is.

Then you’ve got to know and we usually carry a hundred foot tape to measure the radius of the plot whenever it’s in doubt. Sometimes there’s no doubt about it cause there’s just a few trees. If you’ve got a lot of trees on the plot, then you’ve got to…this is called a hypsometer and this is a little instrument you use to measure the heights of trees.

Zarbock: I was going to ask you how does that instrument work? How does it measure the height of the tree?

Griggs: You go out a known distance. In other words, generally they go out 100 feet.

Zarbock: From the base of the tree?

Griggs: From the base of the tree, go out 100 feet and face the tree. It’s strictly an angle measurement. You read on this scale, what is called the ____ sentiscale and you go out 100 feet, it would be redirect. You take the shot at the top of the tree and then you take a shot at the bottom of the tree, you add the two together and it tells you how tall it is.

Zarbock: And every tree had to be measured as to girth and height?

Griggs: No, every tree has to be measured according to girth and then you make a volume table from samples of the heights of the trees in order to get a volume. In recent years, since soloves have come to be in prominence, we cruise in log lengths as well as in height so that you separate the trees according to what they’re going to be used for.

Your tally sheet shows the species of the trees, loblolly, longleaf and various hardwoods like certain oak and hickory and gum. We particularly interested in gum because it can be used with pine. It has a similar fiber length as far as pulpwood as the pine does. Now they don’t like to use that as a normal thing, but whenever wood starts getting tight, they don’t really fuss about using gum, a certain amount of gum, into making paper. In fact they always have used about 8% hardwood.

Zarbock: Now you introduced a new phrase, new to me, you said the fiber length. Would you tell me a little about that?

Griggs: Fiber length is very important. One reason is that craft paper is so strong, it has a long fiber length compared to hardwood like oak. Oak is a very dense wood, but it has a very short fiber length. Whenever it’s broken down to be used in paper, it doesn’t make a very strong paper. It makes a lot more of it, it’s just not as good. But pine has a long fiber length and it’s real strong. That’s the reason they make cardboard boxes out of it. Red gum or sweet gum as most people call it has a fiber length similar to pine in that it can be interchanged there as far as pulpwood is concerned.

Now oak, there are certain species of oak that are real valuable, but the general rule, oak in this part of the country has very little value because it’s not quality. Now there are some live oak that are okay, not live oak, white oak species. A lot of the red oak right in the coastal area is a very poor quality. Now you get up in the mountains, in the river valleys like the Cape Fear River valley, you can find some real nice oak.

Zarbock: When you say poor quality, you mean poor quality for the manufacture of paper?

Griggs: Anything.

Zarbock: Furniture?

Griggs: It’s usually so wormy or else it’s got a lot of rot and defect in it, that the local oak is not very good. That’s the reason when you go down the street sometimes, some of these older trees when they break off, you know, there’s nothing but a rotten limb in there. That’s not condemning all oaks because white oak is a very valuable wood. That’s what they make whiskey barrels out of. If it’s the right kind of tree in size, they’ll go out and get one tree and pay a premium price for it because there’s not a whole lot of that left. It’s very in demand as to specification.

Anyway one little side thing. When I lived in Wilmington years ago, we cruised a lot of land in this area and incidentally where the college sits, part of the land that’s here used to belong to the International Paper Company. A boy named Jack Harlan and I, before they sold it and ended up the college site, that’s what we used, he and I cruised it as a valuation for a company. That was back in the 50’s, well it was in the 50’s, but I’ve forgotten what year, ’51, ’52.

Zarbock: Mr. Griggs, it’s somewhat of a side issue, but it’s an important one. If you’re out in the woods all by yourself, there’s an opportunity for accidents or getting bit by an animal or a snake or something.

Griggs: Well that goes with the territory. You just don’t worry about that. When I first started working in the woods, I didn't like to work by myself. But after a while, I really enjoyed being by myself because one thing, all the accidents I got in I knew were mine (laughter) and I didn't have to depend on somebody else’s mistakes.

Zarbock: Well did you ever get bitten or have an accident?

Griggs: Oh, I… no, I’ve never got bitten. It didn't ever bother me much. This is a very snaky part of the world as far as rattlesnakes and cottonmouths. It didn't bother me if I came across a rattlesnake late in the day, but when I was first starting out in the morning by myself, I either stepped close to one or saw one, I would be kind of apprehensive all day because lots of times you’re wading through fern and that kind of stuff, brush that’s about half leg to waist deep and you can’t see the ground. Actually I didn't worry about the snakes. They are very… seldom does anything like that ever happen. I’ve never known but a few people that have gotten bit.

Zarbock: What about wild animals? Were there any events – or dogs?

Griggs: Only one dog case I can think of right off hand. When I first started working like I was telling you, I was working up near Saluda, South Carolina, with a fellow named ______ Caden. He was an old time timber man that the company had hired just for acquisition purposes. He and I were walking down a highway going to cross a little creek there and we got up on the highway.

We were walking to get on the other side and start back in the woods and this hound dog came out of this yard. We didn't hear him, we didn't hear anything and all of a sudden a car came by and it was a Godsend. It hit that dog just as he went to grab hold of me on the leg and knocked it off down the embankment there and killed it. So that was a strange thing. That’s a real tale, a real true tale. I guess that’s the only time a dog ever gave me any trouble. I’m sure it would have bit me if it had not been killed by a car.

Zarbock: Did you have anything like a machete?

Griggs: We carried what we called, well we usually cut a stake about 5 feet high and we called that a snake pistol. It’s actually the best thing you can have for defending yourself against snakes and knocking brush down and stuff like that. It would be about an inch or two inches and we sharpened the small ends and would stick them in the ground. We used that to mark the plots too especially when you’re by yourself. That was the first thing you did when you got out of the car if you didn't carry one with you. Usually it was a sweet gum. They grow real nice about an inch and a half in diameter and cut them off about five feet and sharpen one end, strip the bark off the top of it so you can see it good. That’s the way we used that.

Zarbock: Well sir, what about storms?

Griggs: At times we would try to come out of the woods if you had a storm. Sometimes you get caught out there, but we always tried, if we could, in a thunderstorm get out. Other kinds of storms, we didn't worry about unless there was a lot of dead timber. If limbs were falling because you had gale force winds or something, we tried to avoid being in the woods in those times. Otherwise, we didn't worry about it.

The only other quirk about foresters and people who are marking timber, we did a lot of timber marking too, but the rule of thumb was if you got six drops of rain on your tally sheet, you could quit (laughter) cause we didn't have the things they do now. Everything was on paper so you couldn’t have a wet tally book. So we didn’t work in the rain.

The other way that we evaluated things and I have bought timber and land for the company by what we called stand description. In other words, you take an aero photograph. We had coverage of all the lands that we owned that were fairly updated, and you could look at them and trained yourself. I did have some of that in college, aero photography.

At first we had these little things that you’d look at it and you could see it in stereo, but from a practical standpoint just so long as you had a photograph, you could put the plot, the tract on the photograph and that way you’d have a delineation of how the land was and also how the timber was on the land and you could walk through those stands and each stand, say there would be a black looking glob here and a white looking thin place here and whatever there was on that track.

You would delineate where the stands were and you would number them according to numbers on the whole tract and you would correct yourself after you were there on the ground. Generally you could tell before you got there when you first went in the woods what they were as far as what was cohesive and what was not. You could take a few plots and measure all the trees, you wouldn’t measure them, you would count them and figure the average volume in each of those plots.

You would just say well from a practical standpoint, this area has x number of acres in it and you multiply the acres by the number of cords or whatever you found in those few plots. You take by your own judgment then, you could come up with a figure by going through the whole tract and repeating that same process and coming up with a figure.

Zarbock: But basically it was your best guess.

Griggs: It was your best guess. Stand description was the best guess. We had gotten and I’m not the only one to do this, but we got to a point where we could be pretty dag-gone close. One of the fellows I knew who did not work for the company, he was what they called a timber ______ and he bought all the timber that the sawmill used that way. He didn't even have a plat or anything, he’d just go out there.

He would walk through a tract of land, usually it wasn’t all that big, say 50 acres. He’d come up with a number, he’d write it down and the company he worked for would buy the timber on that basis. And he would be right, he’d be close.

Zarbock: Now what was the company you were working for at…?

Griggs: I was working always with International. Now one time I got a little discontent and one of my classmates in Georgia, a boy named Bob Edny, worked for a box company here. I’m trying to remember the name of it. Anyway they wanted someone to come and work with them, but it was a hardwood company. They dealt in plywood and lumber and also they made these toilet seats out of compressed wood.

So I thought I might like to try that so there wasn’t anything happening right then at International so I worked for them for about several months until I found out I didn't like snakes all that well. I didn't like floating around in swamps. That’s what they owned. They owned a lot of land on the Cape Fear River. They had a barge that they used to load logs on and bring it into their mill here over there on Smith Creek. The mill there burned.

The interesting thing that happened there was that while I working for them, you had to go over there on _____ Island and you may have heard about it and I think the state owns it now. At that time they owned about half of it. So they had a black crew that did the cutting and they would go in from time to time and evaluate how they were going to get the wood out and so forth. There was a huge cypress in there that they thought was no good because it was hollow. Some of it was over six feet in diameter.

They had cut one tree and I went and looked at the stump so I can vouch for it being a huge stump. Now I didn't get up and measure it, but they said it was 14 feet across when they cut it down. They cut it about as high as this ceiling here. It was a huge stump and they had to cut it in sections. They pulled it out with a steam skidder all the way to the edge of the island and then across the river. They had to kind of roll it up a hill until they got it loaded one log at a time.

Zarbock: What year was that about?

Griggs: It would be about ’50 I guess.

Zarbock: A huge tree like that, how was it cut?

Griggs: They used a crosscut saw and what they would do is they would weld a couple of them together so that they could reach all the way across. Then they put springboards up on the side of the tree so they would have a place to stand. It’s very unusual in this part of the country. There are and still are a few huge trees around, maybe not that large.

Zarbock: But the saw itself must have been very, very heavy.

Griggs: Well you had some people there who were pretty strong fellows. It was not something that you just all of a sudden got the tree down. They probably worked on it several days to get it down because you know, pulling a long saw like that, you weren’t getting very far even though that wood is fairly soft.

I was going on to tell that this crew that went over there and were evaluating how they were going to get this timber off of the island. The foreman had a gold watch on a chain. We always unloaded our boat and just had a little old skip and went across the river, Cape Fear River over there. Somehow or other when he got out of his boat and got up on the natural levy. If you know anything about how things are formed on a river, they usually are natural there right next to the river and then it drops off and gets real low on the other side of that.

He got up on that levy and somehow that chain on his watch had caught on a bush and left it hanging there. Well he lost it. He didn't know where it was. They had this other fellow who went over there. I had another guy that worked with me when I was working then, a black fellow. He was, he and I, when we got out of our boat and started walking down this natural levy, there stood this man’s watch hanging on a bush. So he was tickled to death when I carried it back and gave it to him (laughter). It’s one of those strange things that happened.

I didn't stay with them just a short while. I went and asked my supervisor, a fellow named Fred Bragg who had hired me originally, and I said I’d like to come back and he said no sweat, just come on.

Zarbock: But I’m going to have to remember that about you. You don’t like snakes or swamps.

Griggs: Well I don’t have a big hang-up about either one of them. I just know that that wasn’t what I wanted to do full-time is work in swamps all the time. As far as going into a swamp and cruising timber, I don’t mind that at all. As long as I got me a good snake pistol like we were talking about, that’s no problem. As long as I see him first, I don’t worry about things like that even when I’m working by myself.

Zarbock: Well what was the next big jump up in your professional life?

Griggs: Okay, I’d like to mention one other thing. I’ve talked about timber crews and that kind of thing, but we fought a lot of fire too. We had a fire crew at Valhallen which is no longer there and we had one up at Sandy Run. They were all part of what they call the Cape Fear district.

Zarbock: These are full time people?

Griggs: Full time people, usually had…in those days, we did some road work too, building dirt roads and so forth. But they usually had a D-4 tractor with a Mathis power in back and had a warden, an assistant warden and two laborers. Right after World War II, things were just like they were before the war. People still thought, the old-timers, that they could turn their cows loose and everything else in the woods so they believed in burning them off in the spring of the year.

So it was common practice to burn everything that they could set fire to. So we were called out at all times. It didn't necessarily have to be the spring either. Spring was one of the main times, but it’s very hard to grow trees if they get burned up every spring. We would be called out anytime and all times, at night, days, whatever. When the conditions were worse like you’d have a heavy wind, that’s when somebody would set a fire. So there were some memorable moments.

One of the times, things that the company used to own, well it did until the Marine Corps took it over, most of what was Camp Davis, sometimes we’d go up there at night because all those old-timers up there set the woods on fire to have places for their cows to graze and the hogs. In the spring of the year, colored people got out there and they gathered what they called deer tongue. It’s a plant and the reason they call it deer tongue is it has a leaf shape kind of like a deer’s tongue and it’s very aromatic, is that the right turn, and they use it to flavor tobacco. They would get out there with sacks and go through the woods in a group and pick this deer tongue after it had been burned over.

So they were responsible, some of them. Most of the burning was set by the old-timers. So I’ve been on fires when it would be so dag-gone cold that whenever the fire would be going along, it would break the ground up in great big sheets. The water would run back in, the ground was wet. So we were usually walking in ice water. All the roads around here then were dirt. There were no paved roads except highway 17. Get up around Hampstead and all through there, there are a number of highways now, but they were sand roads.

Zarbock: Now what year would that be?

Griggs: It would be ’51, ’52, ’53. I was transferred to Georgetown in ’53.

Zarbock: Unpaved sand roads?

Griggs: Oh yeah, dirt roads. Highway 210, I don’t know if you know anything about Pender County, that was a deep sand road. Shore Highway running parallel to the Northeast River going up to Highway 53, that was about the worst road around here. It was sand.

Zarbock: Didn't that get a little slippery when it rained?

Griggs: No, it was actually better when it rained cause it solidified the sand. It’s whenever it was real dry was whenever you couldn’t get over a sand road. Sand roads are very difficult to traverse whenever it’s real dry. The sand gets loose and makes your car…it’s easy to get out of control and go into the ditch just by the way the sand is so you had to go at a fairly moderate speed.

But anyway the next job I had, I was transferred to Georgetown as what they call a field assistant. I was next to a district forester down there. I stayed at Georgetown 10 years with various jobs down there. It was there that I began to get more and more involved in wood procurement. I was still, I was involved very much in wood procurement because I was assigned to a unit called the Plansville unit and then later on I was assigned to Charleston and Berkeley County whatever the company owned there.

There was a boy down there named Buck Hill who was the best woodsman I have ever known and a fine man, he gave everybody kindness. We worked a lot with pulpwood mills and we furnished that guy a good percentage of the wood that he got that year. He was one of the biggest producers, well he was the biggest producer in those two counties. Now Canal Wood was always the biggest wood producer. They’re still in operation.

Another guy’s name was Boots Albright. He’s no longer in operation anymore. Then later on I was transferred to Rockingham, actually to Wadesboro, North Carolina where we had an office there. That’s where I got more and more into wood procuring. I still stayed in acquisition a lot cause the whole time I was there, my hobby, my vocational hobby was to buy land and build roads. I liked to do both of those and I got really involved in that in Georgetown while I was there.

Like I said, the company was still expanding then, but there wasn’t any movement upward much. There was just…I got a lot of good experience there with plantations and plantation owners. Also I’m kind of a history buff, in Georgetown, Georgetown County, Charleston and Berkeley counties, there are some old sites that nobody has seen for years and years. Back in the woods, there’s old cemeteries and that kind of stuff. When you read these novels or even historical documents, you come up with people that you’ve seen their gravesites that probably nobody has seen in I’d say…the general public hasn’t seen for maybe 100 years or so.

Zarbock: Now houses were abandoned?

Griggs: There weren’t any houses there. It’s just woods now, but the cemetery was still there. One of those places was called East Shaw Church on East Shaw Creek. They built the church later on, St. James Church over there on another road and they abandoned the original church, but it was right there. It used to be River Road. It ran along the Santee River and this church was right there.

A guy named Warren, Reverend Warren, was very prominent there in the Revolutionary War. His old field and all was still there, 16 acres that he used to keep up his house and all, where the house had been. There was nothing there then. The church had been torn down, but all these graves were still there and he was buried there. If you like historical things you’ll come across his name sooner or later if you read about the Revolutionary history.

Anyway then I went to Wadesboro and there I got more and more involved in wood procurement and had several wood yards. There was a guy named Charles Bell that was actually the forest superintendent, but he and I were about it. He was probably the best wood procurement man I’ve ever known. He taught me a whole lot.

He would probably have been higher up in the company except he had failed to go to college. He just came out of the service and went to work. Fantastic guy. If he had worked in some other region, he might have gone even further. He shot way up to start with and then the company started to look at people who had a college education and that kind of stuff.

Anyway then I went to Winnsboro, South Carolina and there I had both the forestry end of it and the wood procurement end of it and several more wood yards. Then they had another reorganization and they gave me all of the woodlands, from the Virginia line to the South Carolina so I had what used to be at least two or three districts combined into one. I had all the woodlands, but I didn't have wood procurement anymore.

Later on after that in ’74, I was transferred to Russellville, Arkansas as the area superintendent there in the Ozark area. I think I had about 22,000 acres plus several wood yards there. I think one of the things that made me stand out above everybody else was that the planning program that we were into then, we were trying to plant and replant as much as we could. In Winnsboro, I had gotten up to about 8,000 acres a year I was planting.

We had organized one of these land clearing people and they were clearing our land for us with D-8 tractors plus they had what they call the CM&E, construction, maintenance and engineering department who had a number of heavy tractors and they would come up and do clearing too. We mostly depended on…the most reliable people were the contractors. We could keep them busy.

We’d get the land cleared off. When I say cleared off, one thing about growing pine trees, it needs to be a cleared area or no other vegetation. I don’t mean to imply that it was completely denuded, it just didn't have any trees left. The guy I worked for then was a guy named Chaz Delnak who was my supervisor and one of the finest men I’ve ever known, but he didn't have but two speeds, that’s wide open and stock.

He was a great believer of direct seed. He and I finally compromised on that somewhat because there were some areas that direct seed in that eroded land up there…because that’s very eroded. The Piedmont area of South Carolina and North Carolina too is very eroded particularly on the edge of the Piedmont where the fall line is really. That is very eroded. Fairfield County which was…well we were in Winnsboro, reported to be the most eroded county.

Zarbock: Now what kind of seeding did you see?

Griggs: Direct.

Zarbock: What does that mean?

Griggs: We treated the seed. First we went out and gathered the seed. We had a tree improvement program going in. We were into the superior tree business, but we were not to the point that we had enough seed that we could use that. In fact, we were just getting to the point that we could have enough seed to contract out those superior seed or improved seed to an operation that would grow the seedlings for us. They were in limited number back in that time. This is in the 60’s and early 70’s.

Zarbock: Now the seed is in the pine cone, isn’t it?

Griggs: Yes, I don’t know how much detail you want, but anyway several years there we actually bought seed. We bought pine cones by the bushel and we paid x number of dollars a bushel for them. Then we sent them to someplace to have them dried and the seed extracted. Okay, then we take those seeds and this direct seeding thing that Chaz, my supervisor, forest superintendent, he really liked direct seeding. Anyway there was a cold storage place there in Winnsboro.

What you had to do, you had to put them in water, so you could dump seed in one end, shake them and have them kind of come out the other end and the bad seed of course would float so you’d skim those off. So anyway we worked it out. While they were still wet, you didn't try to dry them or anything, you put them in plastic bags and then you took them up to the cold storage locker. They were still prominent in those times.

You would keep them at least 40 days. They would do what they call stratify, it’s called stratifying the seed. That softens the seed coat and it also causes the seed to swell, but they won’t sprout. Then we’d bring them back to the shed there. We had a little cement mixer and we’d mix up this certain amount of pores and also coat them so that they would be visible and supposedly it would be visible, but also repel the birds and so forth.

We’d did back then a ton a year so it was a bunch of dag-gone seed. Anyway then once you got that coating on, you had canvas sheets and put them on the floor of the shed and dump all that stuff out there. Of course it was latex based stuff and it would harden. Then you’d break it up so your individual seed would be separated and the way that they did it was they used these little cyclone _____. You’d calibrate those to spray out as few as it possibly could cause you didn't want to get many out.

That was the problem with direct seeding because you got too many into the acre. You want less than a thousand is what you want. Usually direct seeding, you’ve got too many. If everything is right, you got too many trees and then you’ve got another problem. As time went on and I got a little more control we modified that to where we planted the areas that we could and then those rough areas that are hard to get to like the gulleys and so forth, that’s where the direct seeding was. So we had a compromise, yet something that worked out well for both of us.

Then as I said I went to Arkansas and I had Jacksonville wood yard, Baldwin wood yard, Danver____ wood yard, Russell wood yard and Judsonia wood yard and _____ yard. I had these wood yards and I had to go and supervise them as well as I had about 22,000 acres of land which is a relatively small amount, but some of it was pretty interesting deal.

There’s one thing that I’d like to mention too in passing that I had a wife and two children by now and of course when we moved to Arkansas, they were all grown and in college, but I would have to say that the hardest thing for them was all this moving around meant they had to adapt every time. A man going to work has his work and he has plenty to do and he keeps busy, but the wife, she was to reestablish herself plus she’s got to take care of the children and get them in school and all that kind of thing.

I will say that whatever success I had, I can say that she was mainly the cause of it. I would like to have that in this interview because I think it’s important that the wife be remembered and the children because they actually took the brunt of the moves and had to reestablish themselves each time we went.

When I got to Arkansas, one of the things that I ran into was that in the mountains there of the Ozarks, there were lots…they were mostly white people working in pulpwood work. In fact, there were almost no minorities in that whole area so that even though we were constantly being asked to hire minorities, you can’t hire somebody that’s not present. We did have some Indians and they were good workers.

The only thing was when they were not actually working, sometimes they got in trouble and we were not involved as far as the company was concerned, but they can be pretty powerful people. The other thing was that I alluded to was a lot of times a man and his wife would be out there cutting pulpwood. I saw that because we were still dealing in those times mostly with short wood which was about 3 inches thick.

They would bring their loads of wood in and the two of them would be working together. That’s the first time and the only time I saw that in considerable numbers. I don’t mean hundreds of them, but it was not rare. A man and his wife would be out there cutting trees down, loading and bringing in wood to the wood yard.

Zarbock: This is pulpwood?

Griggs: Pulpwood, yeah.

Zarbock: And they would use chainsaws?

Griggs: Chainsaws, hand loading it. They didn't have any other equipment. Now the big thing that had revolutionized wood by this time though as far as the short wood was concerned was this big stick loader. They had taken a different kind of truck and made it into a boom with a cable on it and they could actually reach out and pick up wood. Therefore they started loading the bottom few tiers by hand and they’d put the bigger wood on top where they could use this lift to put it up there. That was a big step forward as far as short wood was concerned.

Zarbock: You called it short wood? You said 3 feet, why not 5 foot?

Griggs: Well 5 foot is okay, but we tried to get the maximize amount. Really the length restriction was the conveyor belts at the mill, that’s what they could most economically and best use with a 5 foot, 3 inch stick. Now anything shorter would get jammed in the conveyor. When I say shorter, it would be say 5 foot and no problem, but any length that you could increase the length of the stick, the more wood you could carry on a given load of wood.

They found, the engineers found and everything goes back to engineering when you get down to it, that that’s the most efficient stick of wood. When it goes into the barking drum the 5’, 3” stick debarks better. Now when wood got tight and some of the mills could take 6 foot wood, we tried using 6 foot wood in the mill and we had one holy mess, you know.

We could go up to 5-1/2 feet without any problem, but when you get up to 6 foot and beyond, you’ve got an impossibility because it wasn’t so much…if it got in the barking drum it would be okay, but the shoot going into the barking drum, it would jamb up and then you had to stop everything and somebody would have to get the wood out. So we insisted on wood, especially when it’s coming out of the wood yard, with the scale that it be within the realm of 5 foot 3 and it had to be at least 3 inches in diameter.

Zarbock: How would you figure a cost on a load of wood? You’ve got a length, but there’s also a diameter.

Griggs: You feed on a volume per truckload and what they did in those days in the beginning…everything now is weighed. You can hardly find anybody that stick scales wood. But you had a scale stick. What they would do is the scale stick had a little crook on the end about an inch long and you’d run it through the load and would pull it against the same stick on the other end and you’d read the length of the stick on the scale stick.

Then you’d turn that stick over and take one or two more and you’d do that throughout the load. Then you’d measure the height and the width of a load and that gave you the cords in the load. Those fellows that regularly cut pulpwood, they could tell you within a tenth or less of how much wood they had on the load when they threw the chain over. They had to chain the wood down to keep it from coming off.

You could tell watching the scaler and that guy who brought his wood in if he didn't agree with what the scale…all our scales were check scales so they were all good. Nobody tried to cheat anybody or anything. Now when we started going strictly to weight, there were some problems because wood doesn’t weigh the same thing. Like they weighed literally hundreds and maybe thousands of loads and they came up with 5,200 pounds to the cord so that’s the right for loblolly pines and most woods. Now longleaf actually weigh about 6,200 pounds, but you don’t have much long wood.

Zarbock: Refresh my memory, a cord is what by what by what?

Griggs: It’s 4 x 4 x 8, 4 foot wide, 4 foot high and 8 foot long. You hear people talking about they bought a face card, like firewood, what they bought was a 2 foot length, 4 foot high. That’s a face card. That’s the standard measure throughout the pulpwood industry, is a cord. All the accounting was done against a cord. In fact even saw logs that we sold, they eventually... all carry that back to a cord. There’s a difference there.

Zarbock: What happened to you after Arkansas?

Griggs: Well after I was….

Zarbock: How long were you in Arkansas?

Griggs: I was in Arkansas about 11 years I guess. I was up there in Russellville. I was in Camden, Camden area and that’s where I had the best job I ever had in the company. I had the Camden area and it at one time built up…whenever the paper market gets good, the saw log market gets good, then that’s when you have the bad weather and you have trouble getting the wood to the mill.

So that’s when you have a tremendous buildup of people and equipment to get the wood to the mill because the mill is making money hand over fist during those times, but they can’t get enough wood. No matter, almost no matter what it cost to get that wood, they make money on it. So they spent money like crazy.

They were putting some of the mills on line and they were also running flat out all the mills that they had and so we had a tremendous buildup of company jobs to satisfy people. Company jobs had two functions. One is they produce wood, but it’s generally at a higher cost than what a contractor can put it in for because he doesn’t have all that overhead. Probably had social security, he doesn’t have worker’s comp, well he did later on, but it wasn’t like ours was.

He doesn’t have benefits, all those fringe benefits and that’s a tremendous amount of money. Anyway that way you knew what the contractor could do it for so he couldn’t charge you…when you negotiated a price, you knew what it actually cost him. If he could produce it a good bit cheaper than us, then we’d try to accommodate him as much as you could. When you hit a time like that, quite often everybody else’s mill is running flat out too.

Then wood gets tight. So you start, then you have to produce a lot of your own wood in order to draw wood enough to operate on. That’s when you train people to do it and build up equipment. We had some good crews. I mean we had some people that really knew what they were doing. The downside of it is when everything gets going the other way, then all of a sudden, you have a bunch of surplus. That’s when you have to go out and talk to some people in a bad way.

I think I had 5 to 9 company jobs, I had that many wood yards and I had 300,000 acres and three different fire crews. We had some problems with fires on what they called the Navy Ammunition Depot which was a big place that during the war they stowed ammunition. We owned about 44,000 acres out there. People who had originally owned it thought they were going to get it back and they had been promised it back, but when the government sold it off, they sold it off in big chunks so they were not able to buy back what they had, which was 15, maybe 20 acres. They got shafted, not by the companies, but by the government.

They took it out on the companies by setting the woods on fire. So we had fire problems. Here again, we were planting like 8,000 or more acres a year and we had to gear up for that. We eventually got into hiring mostly contract work, we also did a lot of land clearing, like we had done at a lot of other places.

(tape out for a few seconds)

Zarbock: What about the stumps, did they have any commercial use, no, just pile them up and burn them?

Griggs: No, just cut them off. When you cleared the land, sometimes you could plant it without getting the stumps cut off. They had what they called a KG blade which is a big bulldozer type blade except it’s angled, curved and it’s real sharp. It’s just like a big knife is what it is. It has a sting on one end and it would run across that stump and cut it off the ground. Then too you know in the last years I worked, we cut most of our wood and so did the contractors with shears so they cut it off right at the ground so they didn't have that problem.

In earlier times now, we had to do with the KG blade. We had to cut them off so we could plant. But if you did it by hand, but on the coastal plain and other places, we used a big 18 disk. It was a mounding disk and it covered 10 foot wide sware and pulled by a D-8 tractor after the initial clearing was done. On these wetlands, these flat woods they call them, they would pile this dirt up in a mound maybe a foot high and we’d plant right on top of that. Most of that was done by hand.

The reason it was done that way is because if you try to plant without doing that, the seedlings a lot of times, they’ll drown. Also they would not grow as well as they are when they pile up on that thing.

Zarbock: Who did the planting?

Griggs: We hired a lot of it. We did some with our own people. We kept our own people employed all the time. But it was cheaper to hire people cause they would do it at so much a thousand. They usually planted by the thousands. They didn't do it by the hour.

Zarbock: A thousand little trees?

Griggs: Yeah, the trees actually are about this big.

Zarbock: Where were they raised before you got them?

Griggs: In a nursery.

Zarbock: Owned by the company?

Griggs: In the beginning, no. They usually were owned by the state to start with, but later on the company had its own nursery. That’s one of the things that I guess I’m proud of, that I helped get the one established there in Arkansas in my district. We found a site for them and we furnished some of the equipment for clearing it up. Then they contracted the equipment and it had to be a certain type of soil and that’s why we chose the site.

It had to be a sandy soil and it had to be fairly granular. Now granular soil in Arkansas is hard to find because the soil was washed in there or washed away from there by the end of the last Ice Age so there’s a lot of this fine, silky white soil up there. But at this particular location, had the right kind of soil and they had one of these things that went over that site after it had been initially cleared and it was a root cleaning thing is the best way I could describe it.

I guess it’s kind of like a sweet potato harvester, but it dug down under the ground about a foot or so and it had a screen on it that ran up like some of the highway machines you see. It separated the roots out and then it put soil right back on the ground. They raised those super seedlings they called them. We went out and I was involved in that especially in my younger years, is finding those trees that could be used for super trees or plus trees.

That was started when I was in Georgetown. First they had a guy come up from Florida. Anyway he got it started, but then they decided they better go with North Carolina State so that’s who actually operated it. A Dr. Zobel was the guy that was there at the beginning of that.

Zarbock: How many years were you practicing in your profession?

Griggs: Well I like to think I’m still doing it (laughter).

Zarbock: Well you are as far as this tape is concerned, that’s for sure. How many years did you work at International Paper?

Griggs: Well over 35 years.

Zarbock: Tell me in the time we’ve got left there, what was your view of the technological changes?

Griggs: Technological changes, they began to have more and more computers keeping up with things. For instance, the last job I had I was transferred to Shreveport, Louisiana, where I retired from. I was in charge of all the maintenance and keeping track of all the maintenance of all the equipment that we owned.

They had combined the Arkansas region with the mid-South region. They called it the mid-South region. I also was responsible for the engineers, the radio people, about four, no, about five or six service centers that were supposed to maintain this equipment. As time went on, we discontinued some of the service centers. We kept up with all that with a computer.

In those service centers I was talking about, we had introduced computers there so we could keep up with the inventory and how much we had and what was done and that kind of stuff. We had to report on that every week and then the maintenance of the stuff. Then on my signature on some of that heavier equipment which cost a bunch of money, but I my own signature could authorize, I couldn’t write a check. I never could write a check, but I could authorize spending up to $20,000 on my signature.

Zarbock: That’s a little different from $160 a month.

Griggs: Yeah, and I was making more money too. In fact, I had gotten well up and I was on the regional staff there. In fact, I was transferred to regional staff before the old Arkansas region was disassembled. By the time that I left, that’s what I did. I kept up with those service centers. I kept up with all the equipment and of course I had people doing that. I didn't have to punch anything into a computer.

Zarbock: Would you kind of looking over your shoulder at your life, would you recommend forestry as a career for a young man and a young woman?

Griggs: Yeah, I think there are a lot of women in it now. There’s a real place for them because a lot of it is…now when I first started working, I’d so no because it was different. It was a lot of manual work and then you were exposed to pretty rough conditions where you had to live and all that kind of stuff. I would not recommend them then.

But now a lot of it is done in the office on computers. In fact, International has quite a number of foresters. A lot of foresters don’t have any idea what it looks like out in the woods. I’m not saying anything against what they’re doing, but they don’t have the on the ground experience that us older fellas have because a lot of the work we did in the beginning was really just technical work.

We had all the experience and we knew what was happening out there. We knew what the conditions were and nobody could pull the wool over my eyes or anything like that. I would say yes, but it’s like the teaching profession or something like that, you almost have to be dedicated to it. It’s not something you want to enter into just because you like to be out in the woods and go hunting and stuff like that. It’s not like that.

It can be pretty tough sometimes you know. It’s like any other job, if you really work at it, and it isn’t always pleasant with the management you have to work under. It’s just life. I never regretted it. I think it was the thing for me to do.

Zarbock: I’m going to ask one of the strangest questions you may be asked?

What’s your favorite tree?

Griggs: Well I’m from Georgia so the state tree of Georgia is the Live Oak so I guess that’s my favorite tree. Now as far as commercial tree is concerned, I would say probably loblolly pine because it grows very quickly and it has all the attributes of any other pine tree. As far as the best timber, if you want to sit around and wait for it, is the longleaf. The market and the use of the wood now, there’s not any reason to do it.

Zarbock: So the peach tree would not be one of your favorites (laughter)?

Griggs: Well you’re talking about a fruit tree and we’re talking about commercial forest trees.

Zarbock: Mr. Griggs, I really enjoyed it.

Griggs: I hope so, thank you.

Zarbock: Thank you sir.

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