Fun and Family
Working at ASA was hard work, but there was always time for a little fun. Every employee’s birthday was celebrated. Employee’s marriages and births of children were always celebrated. Before a male got married there was a ritual. The female employees would tell them they needed their office furniture rearranged. Once it was moved around a couple of times, then they had them put it back just like it was to begin with and thanked them for moving it. They would look perplexed and the girls would say welcome to being married. This was a well kept secret, so new employees had no idea what would happen, if they decided to get married. The birth of a child was a very special event. Children were always celebrated, not only at birth, but throughout their childhood and all the way through college. Academics were stressed, and at last count, we had 10 children who participated and held titles in academic competitions. No need to say, ASA children always had the winning science project, and the project was not done for them. They just had really good teachers and supervision.
Every summer ASA sponsored a picnic or trip to an amusement park for the employees and their families. This event was looked forward to all year long.
Christmas parties at ASA were not your typical office Christmas party. The last day of work before Christmas, all the doors were locked and we were only open for emergency work. The day was filled with games and food. The annual rook tournament, with a coveted trophy, was the highlight of the day. If you had a driver, you were allowed to drink some of Ama’s famous hooch, which had been fermenting in the sample cooler for a couple of weeks. Trivia games and scavenger hunts were played for gifts. ASA’s Christmas Star was the talk of the community. Ama had mentioned she would like to have a big star to put in the front yard. One night several of the guys built a 16 foot high lighted star and it was in the front yard when she came to work the next morning. Since she normally came to work around 5am, it was still dark and when she came down the mountain and say that 16’ high star all lite up, it was amazing. Greatest gift she ever received. In years to come the star grew and was eventually 24+ feet high. The story was on the front of a local paper.
Ama was terrified of mice. Regrettably no matter what we did, occasionally we would get a mouse. If a mouse was noticed, it was a well kept secret. Employees would try to get rid of it before she discovered it, because if she knew, there would be major mouse hunts until the varmint was found and killed. Now everybody knew Ama kept a bebe gun to shoot at crows that got in the dumpster. One day Ama spotted a mouse in her office. She screamed and ran out. Four of the girls run in the office, shut the door and began the hunt. They realized they had nothing to kill it with. One of the girls picked up the bebe gun. They cornered the mouse and she shot it with the bebe gun. It was hilarious. She became known as the big game hunter.
Shannon Chapman, the laboratory manager, was very soft spoken. One day she came out of the bathroom and just frantically stated in her soft voice, “Snake in the bathroom” She kept walking around and kept saying “Snake in the bathroom”. Most people would be screaming, but her mode of panic was hilarious. Just calming walking and walking saying “Snake in the bathroom” Yes there was a very small green snake in the bathroom. Ama, the person terrified of mice, but not afraid of snakes, went in and killed the snake. We finally got her to quit walking. Needless to say, the guys could not resist putting a fake snake in her desk. They got in real trouble.
Lyndon Johnson loved his truck. No one could drive it but him. One morning it was blocking another vehicle in the parking lot. One of the samplers, John Hall moved the truck, so he could get out. When it was time for Lyndon to leave, he went out and his truck was not there. He panicked. He came running in and told us to call the police, someone stole his truck. We all ran outside and sure enough Lyndon’s truck is gone. Then one of the guys walked out on the road and saw it, it had rolled over the hill and was hidden in the big ditch in front of the office. The sampler who moved the truck had left it out of gear. Lyndon ran over the hill and was jumping up and down and furious. He was a sight to see. Luckily the truck did not have a scratch on it, but needless to say, John never got in Lyndon’s truck again.
David Bryant was ex-military, retired postal worker, and very straight laced and soft spoken unless you made him angry. One day he was working in the attic and he made a misstep and stepped on the ceiling tiles over the lab. He fell through, all the way through and ending up in an upright position on a lab counter. Luckily all he hit was sample cups full of sewage. He never said a word, just stepped off the counter and acted like he was just passing through. Everyone started laughing, once they saw he was fine. He just looked at them and shook his head. In a few minutes, he came back with ceiling time and fixed the ceiling. Then he calmly said, I’m going home and getting this S- - t off me. The next day, he went to the attic and put up a bannister, so no one else would make the same mistake as him.
I can say my tenure here at Standard Labs has definitely been anything but boring. I have been afforded the opportunity to grow both personally, as well as professionally, and am greatly appreciative of all those opportunities. During these many years, I have worked with so many amazing people it would be impossible for me to list memories of them all. There are some stories I would love to be able to share but can’t as even changing the names of the not so innocent could certainly be problematic. Many, many went through my head but were quickly dismissed as embarrassing to someone, inappropriate, or possibly a violation of confidentiality. But I’ve managed to recall a few that can be communicated without recrimination or backlash.
…When I had first been with SL about 3 months, answering the phones, sorting and delivering mail to each office, I was called in to Troy’s office and laid off due to the lack of work resulting from a UMW strike at the time. Six weeks later, I was contacted to return to work, and invited to attend the company picnic just before my return. You would have thought the Queen of England was at that picnic! People were soooo happy to see me! However, this was not so much due to my magnetic personality as it was due to the fact that during my absence these many weeks, lab, accounting, and Standard Instrumentation personnel were required to man the main phone console to answer calls, take messages, and track down or page people for unanswered calls, etc. Everyone HATED that job, and were just happy I was coming back to take it over again.
…Every year, we have an accounting audit performed by our CPA’s to ensure our policies and procedures are being followed and all is flowing as it should be. Back in the early days, these audits took weeks to complete, and the auditors were in residence at our offices every day for weeks on end, and late into the evenings. On one of those long, grueling days, we did experience some levity however. One of the auditors had come into Ron’s office with questions that needed clarification. He was leaning against the doorway, and as he turned to leave his pants pocket caught on the door jamb and ripped half way down his leg. This was fairly early in the day, and he had many long hours of work ahead. So, we searched around, found a few safety pins, and he was able to pin his pants together enough so at least he wasn’t walking around flashing his boxers all day.
Gladys’ panty hose
…On one occasion it was my assignment to pick Gladys up from the airport, she lived in Lexington at that time, take her back to our offices to change and freshen up, then deliver her to a hotel downtown for a meeting. After we had left the office to go to the hotel she noticed a run in her pantyhose. Ever prepared, she whipped a spare pair from her bag, proceeded to yank up her skirt, wiggle out of the ruined pair, and into the new ones in less than the 10 minute drive to our destination, arriving looking no less than spectacular. She performed this feat with the skill and dexterity of a 20 year old fashion model…mind you, she was at least in her sixties at the time.
Micks tires and wheels
…One year during our annual Coal Testing Conference, Mick Samples decided to leave his vehicle in the office parking lot instead of at the airport. Safer, you know. Our parking lot was on the back side of our office building that was situated on a busy main thoroughfare thru Kanawha City at that time. The next morning when I pulled in to open up the office, there sat Mick’s SUV propped up on cinder blocks with all four tires and wheels missing! That morning was spent calling the police, and helping to facilitate Mick filing a report long distance.
There are many more stories, but I’ve taken up enough space for now. At any rate, I am thankful for all the memories I have of Standard Labs, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!
I went to work for Core Laboratories on October 21, 1987 and was assigned to the Buckskin Mine. i was hired to travel between Buckskin Lab, Caballo Rojo Lab, and the Jacobs Ranch Lab.
When a permanent position presented itself at JR, I took it.
Ed Smith was the Western Division Manager at that time and Doug Kline was the Laboratory Manager. Doug decided to take another position and suggested to Ed that I be his replacement. Ed took Doug's suggestion and made me the manager. I think that was late summer of 1989.
In 1990, Standard Laboratories bought Core Laboratories.
In March of 1991 I took maternity leave. When I returned back to work, I went back at the Buckskin Mine,
I can't remember for sure when I was asked if I would go to manage the laboratory Standard Labs built at Wright, but I'm thinking 1999. I did accept that position and transferred to Wright. The reason the Wright Lab came to pass was to make the minesite laboratories in the area of Wright, to be 'quick' analysis laboratories, with the Wright Lab running the ASTM's. I think the that staff was around 18 to 20 people, quite a different atmosphere from managing 4 people. Unfortunately, the Wright Lab was not a success and it was closed in 2000.
After the Wright Lab closed and all the inventory was taken care of, I went back to the Buckskin Lab.
Kiewit Mining Group took over the Buckskin Mine in 2004. With that change in the guard came lots of changes.
The Encoal Project, had operated on the Buckskin Mine site. This was a government subsidized program to reduce the moisture content and enhance the BTU value of the coal. I don't recall when this project started, but I coordinated analyzing and reporting results with Encoal personnel, on both products that the coal enhancement process produced. Buckskin Lab analyzed the PDF, (processed derived fuel), and Encoal Lab was used to analyze the CDL, (coal derived liquid). .
Unfortunately, this project was not successful, and was shut down.
With the mining industry forecasting an increase in coal demand, in late summer of 2006, the Buckskin Lab moved it's on site location to the previous Encoal facility.
That move brought duplicate equipment for nearly every instrument with the exception of the sulfur analyzer and the AA.
The staff of 4 techs went to, I think 12? I'm thinking at the highest production year, Buckskin shipped like 24 million tons.
Then the bottom started falling out and staff at one time went down to 3 people for 3 shifts like in 2015?
When coal came back, we went back to 4 techs and things evened out.
I think I have a mental block from PTSD on when the ISO procedures entered my life...maybe
2016? :-) :-) hahahaha I did manage to get procedures in order, approved and trained. The Lab was ISO 17025 certified in 2018? and successfully passed one onsite audit and one surveillance? audit.
The rest of the time at Buckskin was pretty much just trying to stay under the radar and not draw much attention to myself. :-)
Thank you for taking the time to do this.