Oral History - Chapman, Lyman J.


Ontario Agriculture College, 1930
Interviewed by N. R. Richards
This is an interview with Lyman J. Chapman OAC 1930 conducted by N. ‘Rick’ Richards OAC 1938 for the University of Guelph Alumni Association. (Conducted on July 6, 1989 in Chapman’s home, located on his apple orchard farm near Thornbury ON, for the University of Guelph Alumni Association Oral History Project.)
R: Chappy, it's good to be with you this morning and chat about your association with OAC and the kind of activities you have been involved with since your graduation. So, let's begin with you giving us your place of origin, in Ontario and the circumstances responsible for you going to Guelph.
C: Well, I had three brothers all older than I was and my dad told me when I was thirteen that he couldn't buy farms for all you boys. So he said "you better go on to school and get your start that way," and I never had any question about it. He said "whatever you think you'd like to go through for we'll try to see you through."
R: Where was your father's farm located?
C: Agincourt at that time, but then we moved to a farm near Weston north of the Woodbine Race Track where Humber College is now located. That was the farm that we moved to and grew up on.
R: And when you came to the campus, give us a bit on your course of study and the major that you chose.
C: I went there because what paid my way through College was alfalfa seed. We were getting good crops of alfalfa seed back in the twenties and we were trying to pay off a mortgage on the farm at the same time but we had good crops of alfalfa seed. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for alfalfa seed because that's what took me to OAC. Actually I had in the back of my mind that I might get into the seed business when I graduated. So, I wanted to take the Field Husbandry option but I was the only one that decided they wanted it. So, they said "you better go over into Animal Husbandry". However, I wrote my Thesis in Field Husbandry even though I was in Animal Husbandry.
R: But the area you chose for specialization was related to the kind of enterprises you probably had on the home farm.
C: Well, not really, not really! Between my second and third year I looked after the fertilizer plots for the Department of Chemistry. All the fertilizer work was done at that time in the
Chemistry Department and I looked after the permanent fertilizer plots at Simcoe that summer. That's when I got connected with the Soils section of the Chemistry Department at Guelph. When I graduated Frank Morwick was head of the Soil Survey and Gerald Ruhnke was the head of the Soils Section in the Chemistry Dept. at that time. Between the two of them, they hired me to go on soil survey so I worked there in soil survey for the next two summers.
R: So your work in the Soils area began early in your college career. Before we get into the soil survey work, have you recollections or impressions of particular faculty members of that time?
C: Oh, a lot of them keep coming up. Prof. Blackwood in Physics and Prof. Howitt who told us a story of Ergot-in-rye, how to tell the difference between twigs and disease tremors and with Ergot-in-rye, if you bite it in two and if it's white inside it's Ergot-in-rye if it's brown inside it's not Ergot-in-rye. [laugh] A whole series of things, Wade Toole was the head of Animal Husbandry at that time.
R: Who was the president of the college?
C: When we started it was...names get away from me.
R: Was it the Creelman period?
C: No, no after Creelman. Dr. Christie came in during our undergraduate days.
R: Oh, you graduated when Dr. Christie was the principal. How many were in your class?
C: It was a small class. We had thirty three at graduation.
R: And Lynn Fair was a classmate of yours.
C: Yes, Tom Jukes, Len Birk, Lynn Fair, Ab Barr, he was principal of the Kemptville school later, Vic Langton, Herb Atkinson--- we had a who's who in the Class [laugh]. Tom Jukes ended up at the University of California. He became one of the outstanding nutritionists on the continent.
R: Now you made reference to your early interest in soils and mentioned working on soil survey. Will you give us just a bit on what was the beginning of the formal Soil Survey in Ontario?
C: Well, it began a few years earlier in Norfolk and Elgin counties and I wasn’t involved with that. In 1930 we were first in Kent County and then moved to Grenville and then Middlesex. I was involved with all three of these counties, the first two in 1930 and the next two in 1931 and then the money got tight and Soil Survey was discontinued. This meant
that I was out of a job! I think then I received a letter that I was temporarily laid off and I've never had any further word so I guess I'm still temporarily laid off. [laugh]
R: So the people associated with the Survey at that time were?
C: Frank Morwick, who was one fine fellow, was head of the soil survey but Gerry Ruhnke was head of the Soils Section in the Chemistry Dept and in that Section there was Pat Scully, Len Burk and George Woodside. George went to Prince Edward Island afterwards and worked on soil survey there. Pat took up High School teaching and ended up in Fort William, where he came from. Len Burk taught Organic Chemistry for years and years in OAC/University.
R: And it's interesting that that was the core group because there was a large part of the province surveyed with that group of personnel. You mentioned Frank and Lorraine Morwick, great people.
C: Oh, wonderful and Lorraine was a super person, a super girl she...
R: Just a few days ago their daughters Barb and Jean, Barb Tate and Jean Smith, were back to present the Morwick scholarship for outstanding service in the Land Resource Science Dept. Well, lets...
C: Anyway, I was out of a job in the first of the year, 1932. Now in about April, Mr. Tennyson Jarvis, from the Ontario Research Foundation talked to Frank Morwick and said he wanted a Soils man to work with him, so Frank told him to get in touch with me. I was home on the farm at that time when he phoned me. I went to Queen’s Park and talked to him and was hired. It was like a summer assistance job at sixty dollars a month. This didn't sound like much you know but it was what I wanted to do. So, one of the best decisions I ever made, was to take that job because I worked there for thirty seven years.
R: Thirty seven years with the Ontario Research Foundation, a long tenure! Would you summarize the types of projects that you were associated with over that period of time?
C: Well, Mr. Jarvis had started a program in Crop Ecology, and he wanted to describe the soil and climate conditions in which farmers operate and the responses of crops to them. It was so people could decide what were the best crops and the best varieties of crops for their conditions and he had a saying "we want definition and we want more definition." He just wanted to describe the things accurately and more accurately. He was a Botanist and I was his a Soils specialist and I was also responsible for the climate, the complete environment, and it was quite an experience to work with him as a Botanist to combine these two. The work at the Ontario Research Foundation was started that way and I never lost sight of it even though we got into many other things. We never lost sight of the fact that what we were doing was getting information that the farmers could use.
R: You were one of the graduates from your Class who took graduate studies. I believe you
took graduate work at Michigan state?
C: Yes, it was at Michigan State. I got a summer job in 1932 and it was just a summer assistance job and in the winter I didn't have a job so I went to Michigan State to start an M.Sc. Then I went back several years later and finished the requirements for a Masters degree in Soils.
R: So you're Masters was in Soils. I was about to ask, did your work at Michigan State relate to your kind of activity with the Research Foundation?
C: Well, yes because I had started to work on the soils in central Ontario and there are a lot of calcareous soils there, so I worked on phosphorus, particularly with phosphorus on calcareous soils and I wrote my thesis on that.
R: And following graduate work did you return to the Ontario Research Foundation?
C: Yes, I went back to the Foundation.
R: And somewhere along the line you became associated with and worked with Dr. Putnam.
C: Yes, Putnam was a '27 graduate of OAC, and in 1934 a group of farmers from near Schomberg were having trouble with their Oat crop. So, a delegation of farmers came down to the Research Foundation and asked if we would go and investigate what was the matter. It very soon became evident that we needed a Plant Pathologist and Don Putnam, who was just working on his PhD in Botany at the University of Toronto (which was just across Queen’s Park Crescent from the Research Foundation at that time), and Dr. Bailey, the Head of that Division, recommended him to help us. Don Putnam came to work on this and very soon he found that the Oat crop problem was due to Nematodes in the roots. The next year we ran some experiments, controlled experiments in the field with Nematodes, and so he came and started to work with me through Oat Nematodes. Well, when we weren't working on Oat Nematodes he came over and helped me because I had already started doing broad soils surveying. It very soon became evident he was more interested in soil surveying than he was in the Oat Nematodes and we worked together for about fifteen years. This was a real asset because Put was just a great guy.
R: My recollection of Put, a very interesting person, a character in his own way, but his academic training was rather unique wasn't it?
C: He graduated in Animal Husbandry from OAC, he took his graduate work in Plant Pathology and then he started working with me in Soil Survey. When the University established a Chair of Geography under Griffith Taylor, Dr. Mandola(?) had asked him if he could make use of him in any way because he thought he might like to get into that. Taylor didn't have anybody to help him with the labs, so Put went there as a lab assistant, and to make a long story short, he ended up Head of the Department a number of years later. Another interesting thing was that Griffith Taylor was a Geologist, who never took a course
in Geography in his life and Put was a Plant Pathologist, and after he started to work with us he became a Soils specialist and a glacial Geology specialist but he had never taken a course in Geography either. Here were two individuals untrained in Geography but became two outstanding individuals in that discipline.
R: So in his academic training he moved from Animal Science, to Botany, to Soil Survey and into Geography. [laugh] That's quite a combination! Well, when he became associated with you, you went on this broad soil survey and eventually ended up with a publication did you not?
C: We soon realized after we got started on that type of a survey that we had to put ourselves in a position when dealing with soils, which are glacial soils, that we had to envision this country completely covered with ice. Then starting with the first split of the ice, the first land to be uncovered, to step by step trace the recession of the glacier and the uncovering of the land and the deposits associated with it. The lake deposits that were associated with it, the stream deposit that were associated with it, and if you don't have that history, if you don't have that story to tie to, there is no way you can grasp and hold a mental picture of the soils of this country. So we had to put ourselves into that position and it took ten years of survey and another five years of checking before we completed it. We finally put it all together in a book on the physiography, called the Physiography of Southern Ontario.
R: So there was fifteen years of gathering information and compiling it and eventually reaching the published form.
C: Yes, we travelled the roads. We were on every possible east/west road from end to end and a lot of the north and south ends. In other words we saw all sides of every mile and a quarter square in southern Ontario and...
R: Was the base plotted on topographic sheets or were aerial photographs available to you?
C: We plotted on topographic sheets. We didn't work on aerial photographs although we used them. We took them to the lab and got the detail from them. They were a tremendous help because between the roads you can trace a feature on aerial photos and it gives you much more accuracy than you would get without them.
R: And the publication of the ‘Physiography of Southern Ontario’, was it published by the University of Toronto Press?
C: The first two editions were published by the University of Toronto Press. These were published in 1951 and 1966 and there was a revised edition in 1973. The third edition came out in 1984 and it was published by the Government of Ontario as Ontario Geological Survey, Special Volume 2.
R: The third edition, and was there a revision each time?
C: Well, yes in particular the third edition.
R: Now, this is a classic as far as physiographic and soils information is concerned in Ontario, who in your view, were the main users of the information?
C: Well, first of all the soil survey specialists use it. There isn't a County Soil Report that doesn't include information in the first section that's part of this work. It was done for that purpose and it accomplished that purpose. I don't think there's any doubt about that. And in teaching of course it's not only used in courses in Soils but it's used as a text in Geography courses, especially in Physical Geography courses.
R: And the emphasis and interest in the use of gravel deposits at the present time, did you have any input on a consulting basis with developments in this industry?
C: Yes, for sure, I did consulting work on finding gravel deposits and writing reports for gravel companies because they have to have a Technical Report to establish depletion allowances and I've done quite a few of them. Highway engineers sent people to me, re: deposits in future road allowances, so I've done quite a few of those. I worked for Consolidated Sand and Gravel for years as a Consultant and I finally ended up working half time for them on rehabilitation work and in finding gravel deposits. The deposit south of Guelph near the Speed River, that their working on now, is an example of a deposit that I found for them.
R: Along the way it seems to me I have heard that you had some association with the building of race tracks as well.
C: That's a little off the usual, but two men walked into the office one day with a sample of soil and they said "we hear that you can tell us where to find soil like this if anybody can," and I said "O.K. what's your problem?" They said they were from the Woodbine race track and I said "I don't know anything about race tracks. I've never seen a jockey race in my life." They said "your education's been neglected," and “here's some tickets for the afternoon, come down and take a look”. Anyway they wanted soil like the sample they brought with them. That sample of soil was from one of the best tracks in the United States. I couldn't find soil like that very close to Toronto and they couldn't stand the trucking costs from very far away, so I ended up by suggesting that they mix what they had right on the track. They had sand on the front stretch and there was a silty loam on the back stretch so I ended up mixing the two together and it worked out. So, I worked for them as a consultant off and on for thirty five years.
R: It's an interesting part of your career.
C: It's very technical, and it's the most exacting thing in soils that I ever tried to do, because you want traction, you want a safe track for the horses so they get a good grip, and you want a lot of sheer strength in the soil, but you've got to have a soil that dries out very fast and doesn't get too hard on the other side and clod. I worked on race tracks all over the place eventually-- Calgary Stampede track, the Blue Bonnets in Montreal---
R: So you worked on a national basis on race tracks.
C: I consulted for the Santa Anita in California, the Laurel track in Maryland, and also one in Trinidad.
R: Now after your publication of the Physiography, your areas of interest and projects also included Agrometeorology. I mention this because of our mutual friend, Murray Brown.
C Well, it was our responsibility to describe the environment, so in 1938, Putnam and I produced a description of the climate of Southern Ontario for agriculture. And later, I wrote a similar description for Northern Ontario. One of the problems in describing climate is to know whether the rain that falls is adequate, or inadequate. You have to have information on evaporation rates, so we hired Marie Sanderson to work on the evaporation aspect of climate. She measured daily potential evapotranspiration rates using a lysimeter that was designed when she took her M.Sc. with C.W. Thornthwaite in New Jersey. There was a dense growth of sod in this lysimeter, located in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, and the amount of water that was used each day was measured by the difference between what was added and the water that percolated to a spigot at bottom of lysimeter. So, it was potential evapotranspiration that was measured because adequate moisture was always available. This was used to figure out the need for water by a perennial crop, and when compared to rainfall amounts it was possible to come up with figures regarding water deficit periods and surplus water periods.
R Marie Sanderson, was she associated with the University?
C No. She was a research associate at the Ontario Research Foundation when she
did this work. Then, when she started to raise a family, and lived in Windsor, there was a
period when she was inactive in that type of work. Although I understand she installed a
lysimeter in her backyard and later studied for a PhD at the University of Michigan.
Eventually she taught in the Department of Geography at the University of Windsor.
R That’s quite a remarkable achievement and … she’s retired now.
C Murray Brown came later.
R Yes.
C I got him to work on the crops, and we decided to work on corn and soybeans. He finally came up with a “heat unit system” that’s been very well used in the province and now in other parts of the country. It provides a means for recommending where the numerous corn hybrids should be grown, because there is considerable difference in the time to reach maturity for the various hybrids. Murray devised the heat unit system so the hybrids and the climate zones are rated in the same way, thus a farmer can choose the hybrids that are best suited for his farm land and his planting schedule. He later helped to arrange the
system to be used for soybeans and other crops that grow during the frost-free growing season.
R It’s been a very important concept for land use capability of different crops.
C Yes, particularly in different regions.
R Yes. With the zoning of climate conditions and the landscape--- I am left with the impression that Mr. Jarvis got out of his car and made observations, that so impressed you, that much of your career has been putting into place a working system, that has integrated the “Coincidence” as Major Factor in Agriculture. (The latter is the title of a paper published by Tennyson D. Jarvis in Scientific Agriculture, Vol. XI, No. 11, July 1931. So this is an interpretation of N.R. Richards comment during the interview with L.J. Chapman.)
C I hope that’s true-- and that’s what he tried to do. Of course, when we wrote the Physiography text we wanted the people to understand the landscape. We tried to write it so that anybody could read it and understand how the Ontario land was formed into the various landscapes--- and I think we accomplished that.
R So, after, thirty-seven years at the Ontario Research Foundation, you located here in Thornbury.
C I like this country--- and after I made a study of the soils of the apple orchards in the area, at Mr. Jarvis’s urging, and I got to know some of the apple growers and they seemed to me to be a great bunch of fellows. As you know Georgian Bay is close by and as a result some of the best land for growing apples trees occurs in this area. So, I thought I’d like to get a piece of land and set out an orchard on it, for my retirement. This would provide something of interest for me to do, and that’s what I did about five years before I retired. There is a twenty acre piece of land with the house and barn on it, and eventually I set an orchard – ten acres of orchard- and this keeps me busy, and interested in agriculture.
R And what varieties do you grow in the orchard?
C MacIntosh and Spys, principally. We have some Delicious trees, that are not well adapted here--- so I wish I’d never planted them.
Tape 1 of 1 Side B
Ontario Agriculture College, 1930
Interviewed by N. R. Richards
R We left off on the other side of the tape, Chappy, speaking about the varieties of apples, and you made reference to the Spy. What do you see as the future for this variety?
C Well, it’s been number one processing apple, and it’s in demand for that. I think that demand will continue. For some peculiar reason it’s not commonly sold in stores because it’s a big apple, and perhaps because the packers do not have a suitable container. It doesn’t fit well into the poly bags. This seems to be an odd roadblock to not have a container for big apples. If you’re growing good Spys, you’re growing big apples, that’s for sure.
R Does this suggest that they – the marketers- for varieties such as the spy will have to come through farmers’ markets rather than the large chain stores?
C The biggest market, I think, for the Spy apples right now, is the Michigan buyers who are buying them for processing. During the picking season, there are tractor trailer loads of Spy apples going out of this community every day into Michigan. We have free trade with respect to apples. There is no restrictions. Free trade doesn’t make much difference to us.
R Comparing the Spy – with the MacIntosh – do you know which produces the largest income or are they similar?
C Well, they come on at different times. The MacIntosh matures earlier, and to spread your labour out it is desirable to produce both MacIntosh and Spys, as you don’t want everything coming on all at once.
R A mutual acquaintance of ours, Harvey Caldwell, after whom the Caldwell variety was named. I understand you have some Caldwell apple trees as well.
C Yes, I know Mr. Caldwell. After hearing about his variety of apples, I talked to the people at Vineland about the Caldwell/Mac very early, they said the Caldwell was harder – a harder MacIntosh- and from that standpoint, I was very much interested, because the MacIntoshes are a very easily bruised apple, and if we could get a harder Mac, it would be a tremendous addition, so I bought some of the seedling trees. I have a dozen Caldwel/Mac trees in my orchard here – when I harvest apples from those little trees and compare them to apples off the original MacIntosh trees grown fifty feet away, I’ve never been able to show any difference in the pressure test results. So, I don’t know whether I could say the Caldwell/Mac is a harder
apple. It’s a good solid red apple – i.e. a very good red apple. There’s nothing wrong with it, i.e. it is just as good as other strains of Macs, but from the standpoint of getting a nice red colour, it’s a bit better than some strains of Macs.
R Well, what is happening to the apple-growing industry in this area? i.e. acreage-wise?
C Well, there has been a lot of apple orchards planted recently in this area – and I don’t know if they will soon swamp the market, or not. But uh,…
R But that’s encouraging, isn’t it? – they could actually…
C …yes, reduce the price of apples, to the point where it would not be profitable and the orchards would be torn out for housing development, etc.
R …you know, one worries about the competition for land for many different uses and in particular up in this area, -recreation and many leisure activities prevail- and over time may overtake agriculture, but you say there are many new plantings set out in this area?
C There are young orchards that have been set out – just one after the other. Yes, there’s hundreds and hundreds of acres of apple orchards set out – with young trees. (inaudible)
R Some of the names associated with the apple industry -like the Hamilton’s in earlier times – are those families still associated with the industry?
C No. Unfortunately, not. The Hamiltons are gone as Bill Hamilton’s son didn’t take any interest in apples and that orchard died with him. The Smart families were very good apple-men, but there are no Smarts in the business now. The Mitchells – there’s none of them in the apple business either. Jack Mitchell finally sold the orchard, but he’s still living here and has a few apple trees himself, but he’s the only one, I think.
R It’s interesting to hear you use the name “Smart”. John Smart served on the Fertilizer Advisory Board years ago, when I was associated with it, and he made a very significant and useful contribution to that Board.
C He was a proponent of using a little more potash than we were using at that time, but without much basis, I think.
R I cannot resist saying that in those days, Ernie Hampson would have agreed with him.
C (Laughter) oh, yes, I guess he would.
R Yes he would. Well now we have been chatting about happenings of the apple-growing industry in the area, and you’ve been moving about the province for a number of years in your professional career making observations about the use of resources, what do you envisage for the future? Where are we going in our resource-use and other matters related
to it?
C Not in particular with respect to apples?
R No, in the wider use of resources– in the broad sense.
C Well, I hope we can get the real value out of our better soils – our good land, i.e. set the real value on a little higher priority, because now, urbanization is taking place on the good land, without any restrictions. They don’t set rules to save the good land. Anything that is done is barely visible– you have to look pretty hard for it. That farm land north of Toronto is good land – it is “class one” land, and it’s all going to be paved over within fifteen years.
R Hmhm.
C They can go a little farther north and build on the sand hills- that land doesn’t grow much of anything...
R It’s difficult to get that position accepted by the people of the province.
C The opinion seems to be – we’ve got all kinds of good land. Why are we worried about saving our land, because we’ve got so much of it? We don’t – they don’t know how much land is poor land and really don’t care. I think it’s the dollar that says where one should be able to put his house and that’s where they stop. They don’t know how much good land is available for agriculture. And as far as their own activities are concerned, I don’t think they want to know.
R From time to time we hear views expressed that use of land for agriculture will change, and we may be faced with the licensing of land for agricultural use. This seems a bit extreme for Ontario, how do you react to possibilities, such as this?
C Well, I know what’s happened in regions when the population pressure gets high enough, and where the land becomes more valuable - take Germany for example– you can’t buy a viable farm with good soil, - a person, who is not a farmer, cannot buy that farm. A person has to have the proper credentials before he can get a deed to take over that farm, and operate it. So they have come to the point where they are restricting the use of good land. And we are not likely to come to that point until we are right up against it – like they are in Germany. I don’t think we could persuade people, that it’s valuable to retain good land– until it’s too late – to be honest with you. This may be a pessimist’s view, but I think this is our situation.
R Since you moved into a new area and began to farm after retirement from a professional life that provided you with the knowledge of the land resources in the province, are there conflicts between the farmers who use the land to produce food and the people who want to use the land for recreation and leisure-time?
C Oh, yes. Sure. (Chuckle) Sure there are. I know a fellow who built his new house next to his orchard, and of course, when the wind is in the wrong direction, and his wife’s has some clothes on the line, the clothes get sprayed, and she doesn’t like that, because they didn’t do their planning right. There are orchards in this town (Thornbury) that cause conflicts all the time- when the spraying operation is underway the houses right next door get mist from the sprayer and, of course, the people in the houses scream because orchards and houses don’t belong together. There should be a buffer zone between these two things.
R Really, no doubt some of these problems have developed because of new technologies?
C Well, it’s not only orchards that cause conflict, some rural residents, who have built homes near huge hog operations, begin to complain because they hate the offensive smell that comes from the manure storage tanks when the wind blows in the wrong direction. Neighbouring farmers are much more tolerant than city people living in the country.
R What are land values in this particular area?
C Well, land values (in southern Ontario) tend to be dictated by city people moving to rural areas, but in this area- apple growers dictate land value to a certain extent. In addition, land values are inflated here, because it is ski-country in the winter-time and those who enjoy skiing want a little place to stay on weekends, so they think, “well, land’s a god investment anyway”, so they buy a farm, and sometimes sell off the barn and all the land, which I think is a mistake, and they come and live there on weekends. Or they may rent the farm and use the house for themselves on weekends in the winter-time. Sometimes this includes the summer-time as well because Georgian Bay is nearby with other recreational activities available.
R Of course, real estate values in the metropolitan areas having escalated so much that, I gather it’s having an effect on real estate in the country as well?
C All areas…
R Sure. Sure.
C I have to agree – half the properties that are bought here, are not bought by farmers- but by city people.
R Earlier in the morning we chatted about a related resource problem, water, and the need for a good supply of fresh water. This seems to be becoming more and more of a problem?
C Yes, water will become a massive problem for Toronto– when the water in Lake Ontario
becomes unfit to drink. And they’ll have to do something massive. Likely, it will be necessary to build pipelines to Georgian Bay. There are no rivers or streams around Toronto, big enough to supply water to the city of Toronto.
R It seems to be almost a paradox, that with the emphasis’s that we’ve placed on planning over the last few decades, that we continue to permit the density of (the human) population to increase in the Metropolitan area.
C Well, actually, you know, that’s where the markets are, and they move there to be near the markets. They move there to be near the services. And you can understand this, because the only people that don’t move there are people that have a high value product, that doesn’t cost much to transport, so they set up shop in Barrie, or even Bracebridge, or Kitchener, but…
R -coming back to the water, for a moment, and looking down the future ‘pipeline’- do you envisage as a solution to the water problem – the use of the water from the northern Lakes?
C Oh, yes, Definitely. Definitely – especially for Toronto. …and the cost of this is going to be (chuckle) tremendous – I tell ya’.
R Isn’t great that they have- a source of fresh water in the Great Lakes!
C Well, getting back to agriculture, -for a minute– this (southern Ontario) is the only sizable block of land in the country -with the climate- that allows us to produce a fairly wide variety of crops. The only other areas in Canada with growing seasons that allow a wide variety of crops occur in the Fraser delta on the southern coast of British Columbia and some of its interior valleys, where irrigation is necessary. There isn’t another place. That’s why this (southern Ontario) is the “Heartland” of Canada. We must realize this and try to keep the good land for agriculture, if we possibly can.
R It’s rally satisfying and refreshing to hear you comment on these things, because you worked at the right time, and in association with the developments that have taken place, and you know undoubtedly, how the natural resources – land and water- coexist in this province. It’s most refreshing!
C Well, you know, one gets around. When you love good soil and you know it responds to everything that can be done with it, and poor soil is just a drag on your ability to maximize outputs. Therefore, one hates good land being urbanized, when it doesn’t have to be.
R I’d like to go back for a moment to OAC – you graduated from the College in year 1930, and I believe it was in 1989, because I was present when you spoke on behalf of your class when presenting the 1930 Class-sponsored sculpture to the Donald Forrester sculpture park, on Alumni Weekend that year.
What prompted the class of OAC ’30 to present a sculpture?
C Well, we wanted to leave a memento to our Alma Mater, and we decided on a sculpture. One of our classmates was interested in such things, and he suggested this sculpture by a French Canadian. It is a bronze sculpture of a husky young farmer uprooting a stump with a big pole. And (chuckle) it stood for many years in the main lobby of the Administration Building (now Johnston Hall). It is now located in the Macdonald-Stewart Art Centre on the ground floor. I always liked the thing.
Now, for our Fiftieth year in 1980, after considerable discussion we decided that we would sponsor a University Farm Appraisal course that included Real Estate Law and Farm Appraisal, to help students, who planned on buying a farm, avoid the pitfalls when they set out to buy farm land. They set up such a course, but before a few years they encountered some problems – I think it was a poor teacher – and it fell flat on its face and was discontinued. So, at that time, we had to do something else, and decided on a work of art. It was another sculpture by Evan Penny. This piece was unveiled on Alumni Day in 1989.
R I wasn’t aware of that course in Real Estate Law and Farm Appraisal.
C As a matter of fact… they’ve started it up again under a different teacher, and it’s (chuckle) very successful. I believe it is on right now and very successful.
R I would hope so, because it would seem to me there’s a real place for a course like that!
C Well since students spend four years learning how to grow better crops and raise healthy livestock, then the biggest decision they make, if they want to farm, is buying that land which is the most important decision they will ever make.
R That’s right…
C … so give them the information necessary to deal with the purchase of a farm, and that is something that should be in the curriculum…
R And your class can take satisfaction from the decision that such a course should be taught in OAC.
C Quite so. We decided to sponsor the course after talking to Dr. Switzer, when he was Dean of OAC, and to the President. They decided to include it in the curriculum.
R Hm… Uh, …
C We sponsored it. We provided enough money to pay the expense of bringing in special lecturers, and other incidentals (inaudible)…
R Coming back to the Evan Penny Sculpture, – you mentioned there was a Classmate who was interested in this kind of art – what was his background?
C That was Brad Pett, who took the Chemistry option. He was an interesting individual. He took his PhD in Biochemistry– studying enzymes. He eventually landed a job as Director of Nutritional Services in Ottawa. He explained to me one day that he tried to get his experimental work published in a Medical Journal, and because he didn’t have an M.D. after his name, they wouldn’t accept his scientific papers in any Medical Journal. So, he said, “I have taken most of the credits” – so he spent two years at the University of Michigan - in the summer months – to get his M.D. Therefore, he has a Bachelor’s Degree, a Master’s Degree, a PhD, and an M.D. Brad Pett is- ( chuckle) -one of our most interesting classmates and he is still living.
R Do you recall– was he from a rural or urban background?
C He was from the city. His father was a baker, so that made him interested in nutrition, and made him gravitate back to that field of study.
R It seems to me, that this was sort of the characteristic of the student body of OAC in those years. I don’t know if this still holds at present, but there is a wide range of interests and backgrounds in the young people who came to take the B.S.A. courses.
C Oh yes, for sure.
R So, his influence and interest in art, influenced others in the Class of ’30, and now fifty-nine years later, your Class (chuckle) presents- another sculpture. It is a beautiful sculpture.
C It can be seen from Gordon Street as you drive by on that highway.
R Yes.
R Now going back to– your graduate work at Michigan State- what year did you start your Master’s degree?
C I started back in ’33.
R Who was your advisor?
C Spurway! I took my M.Sc. studies with Dr. Spurway as my advisor.
R Did you?
C He made the first portable soil testing kit – and he gave me one when I finished my degree. I used it for many years.
R Did you get forced into taking his course then?
C Oh, yes…
R How did you get involved with Soil Classification after completing your M.Sc.?
C Maybe you don’t remember Dr. Alf. Leahey. He was in charge of Soil Classification in Ottawa at the time, and I had talked to him after completing the description of the soils of South Central Ontario. After he read that Report, he said, “ I’m going to get you a Master’s degree for that--- (Inaudible)”
R (Chuckle) He was right on …Well, now we’re coming to the last of the second half of this audio tape Chappy. Is there anything else in particular that you would like to record for us?
C Well, only this, my work was aimed at providing the information for which the soils of this province could be used for. When our work was completed, we had a description of the soils and the physiography. We were tremendously surprised at the requests– at the number of people that wanted this information on soils. Eventually, I got into consulting work on racetracks– determining the correct texture for the dirt tracks and found the soil with the right texture for the new Woodbine racetrack in northwest Toronto. I had never designed racetracks before Woodbine, and this job led to work on several other racetracks in Canada and the USA. (Chappy finished his career doing consulting work for the Aggregate/gravel Companies.)
R A lot of them…
C In addition, I’ve done a survey for foundry sands and a survey of clay lands for making wall tile – things like that.
R And on the way, your contributions have not gone unnoticed. You were awarded an Honourary Doctorate by the University of Waterloo…
C Oh, yes. The thing that triggered that honourary degree from Waterloo was the publication of the 3rd edition of the “Physiography of Southern Ontario”, but I was not expecting anything like that. It is nice when these things happen!
R Was that during the tenure of office of Burt Matthews, as President?
C No, it was just after that.
R Too bad you missed the period when Burt was President, since he was a Soil Scientist too! (Chuckle)
C Yes I knew him well…
R That was a well deserved recognition. I certainly congratulate you on receiving it.
We have been recording this interview with Lyman Chapman, Class of ’30 OAC, in his beautiful farm home at Thornbury Ontario. I gather this house is about a hundred years old?
C Well, I don’t know exactly, but a lot of these houses, of this vintage/type were built around 1880 to 1885.
R Well, I do want to thank you for your cooperation and help in making this tape for Alumni records, and I want to express my personal thanks for having an opportunity to visit with you, so we could chat about mutual areas of interest. Thank you very much.
C Well, it has been a pleasure, Rick, and thank you for going over these things. It was nice recalling some of these things…