E. Brubaker (00:00:00):
This is interview with Professor Tom Lane in his home in Guelph on April 1st, 1997 and conducted by Ed Brubaker for the Alumni in Action Committee and for the archives at the U of Google. Tom, you and I were classmates at Guelph. Where was your home originally and what did you do through school, after school and so on?
Thomas H. Lane (00:00:43):
Well, Ed, this is April Fools Day in 1997 and everything I'm going to say on the tape here isn't going to be an April Fools joke. You've asked me to reminisce a little bit about my life and my experiences. I was born in St. Barnabas, Manitoba in 1920. My father and mother were farmers. My father was a pioneer in the prairies, lived in sod shacks in the early 1900s. During the first World War, he became a regimental Sergeant in Asia with the 43rd Cameron Highlanders and was wounded. This wound condition bothered him for the remainder of his life, although he lived a very healthy and happy life. My parents were both English. My father came from Gloucestershire in England and my mother from Hertfordshire in England.
Thomas H. Lane (00:01:37):
As far as my education is concerned, I was educated in Manitoba and I completed my junior matriculation there and partially completed my senior matriculation. And this would be in 1938. Between 1938 and 1940 when I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, I worked as a farm laborer. It may be of interest to some of the people that might be listening to this tape to note that during the winter of '38, '39, I worked on a farm for six months. My salary was $10 per month, which included my board. And out of that $10 per month, I had to provide my own clothing.
Thomas H. Lane (00:02:31):
I then followed that up with a period of a year working in construction when they were building Number One Highway from Western Canada, through Western Canada and our area of the province of Manitoba, so I was involved in the construction of Highway Number One, Trans-Canada Highway. In 1940 when I joined up, I enlisted in Winnipeg and was posted from Winnipeg to the Toronto Manning Depot. They had a good reason for doing that. They often posted Westerners east to train and the fellows that enlisted in Eastern Canada to Western Canada. I think it was a very, very good decision.
Thomas H. Lane (00:03:14):
One of the things I most vividly recall on going by train from Winnipeg to Toronto was the number of first and second year university students that had enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force at that time and I wondered how I was ever going to compete with these individuals as far as my activities in the Royal Canadian Air Force was concerned, but I subsequently found out that it took a little more than education sometimes. During the Air Force, you've got education a lot different ways than just through schooling. From Toronto, I was subsequently sent to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia for a period of guard duty. I went from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to Victoriaville, Quebec for initial training school.
Thomas H. Lane (00:04:10):
Once we were selected for our various roles, I happened to be selected to be a pilot. I went from the Victoriaville Initial Training School then to the Elementary Flying Training School in Mount Hope, Ontario, where I took my initial training on the Fleet Finch aircraft. Following my training at Mount hope, I was then sent to Grenville, Ontario for what they called the Service Flying Training School. And at that time, then I was trained on Harvard's and Yales. And these both be single in aircraft, I was trained then initially to become a fighter pilot. I received my wings in October, 1941 and then went overseas from there.
Thomas H. Lane (00:05:03):
When I went overseas, then I again went through another period of training and this was on beam approach training, get used to the various methods of communication in the RAF overseas and we did this on twin engine, Oxford aircraft. From there, I went to Kinloss in Scotland on what they called an operational training unit. And there, I flew a twin engine Whitley aircraft and was graduated then from the operational training unit to be then posted to an operational squadron that were flying bombing operations then over Germany.
Thomas H. Lane (00:05:49):
I was initially posted to Number 10 Squadron Royal Air Force in England that was stationed in Yorkshire in England at Leeming. When I arrived there, the crew that I had trained with was taken from me because an officer pilot had lost his crew and he at that time required another crew. They'd been killed on a crash landing, so he took my crew so I was minus my original crew. And from that point on, I was then transferred or posted to what they called an operational training unit to be trained to fly Halifax bombers. And there, I flew Halifax bombers with then Squadron Leader Cheshire, who later became Group Captain Cheshire, DSO, DFC, and One or Two Bars and also the Victoria Cross, and was responsible for the Cheshire homes that you often see advertised if you were in England or you may be familiar with them.
Thomas H. Lane (00:07:03):
From the conversion unit then at Marston Moor, I was then posted to Number 35 Squadron Royal Air Force and this squadron was later to become one of the main squadrons in the Pathfinder Force and the Pathfinder Force's role was to lead the thousand bomber raids and all other raids over Germany to mark the target and show other bombers where to bomb, where to drop their bomb loads on whatever part of Germany was being bombed.
E. Brubaker (00:07:37):
Tom, the Pathfinder Squadron, did you have special training for that, special equipment and what was special about it?
Thomas H. Lane (00:07:49):
Yes, we were specially picked crews, Ed, that were picked by the Air Commanding Officer then, Air Vice Marshal who came and selected our crew specifically and then we were trained specifically on the forerunners of radar. And many a time, when we were on training in this area, we have taken the inventors of the radar and the forerunners essentially of television, we had them up in our aircraft. They flew with us and I can recall many times when the equipment would catch on fire up in our aircraft and we would have to put out the fires and come back down and land until they got the equipment repaired. This might be interesting too, many of these people didn't want to wear parachutes when they flew with us, but as I was Captain of the aircraft, if I was going to wear a parachute and go up with one, they also had to put one on, so they were a very interesting group of people. Very.
E. Brubaker (00:09:01):
Very good. And then you flew Pathfinder, how long, Tom?
Thomas H. Lane (00:09:06):
I flew Pathfinders essentially for 42 operations then over Germany. And might I also say that my second crew then is rather unique as well. Four members of my second crew were off a crew that had crashed and the pilots and the flight engineer had been killed in England, so there was myself and these four and then I picked up another two crew members, a new flight engineer that had been killed and a new bomb member that had been killed to replace the one that had been killed in the previous crew. I essentially then picked up an entirely new crew and I must say that they looked at me with some apprehension when they saw me come in as their pilot or as their captain.
E. Brubaker (00:10:06):
Takes a little while to get to know them.
Thomas H. Lane (00:10:08):
Yes, it certainly does, but we were an extremely competent crew and flew, as I say, over 40 missions together. From there on, Ed, I'm a little hesitant here, but I get to recall some of these things, but I was awarded the Distinguished Crime Cross in May 1943. In June, 1943, we were shot down as a crew over Germany and ultimately became prisoners of war. On the night we were shot down from our particular squadron, 19 aircraft took off, six aircraft failed to returned, mine being one of them. Of the 42 crew that were shot down that night, 14 survived. And fortunately, seven were all of my crew, so I was very, very fortunate in being alive.
E. Brubaker (00:11:19):
So you were in prisoner war camp for several years to the end of the war, Tom. Can you recall any of your important experiences there in that camp?
Thomas H. Lane (00:11:30):
One thing I might, before I do that, yes, I can. Before I do that, I might indicate to you that when I was shot down and taken to an interrogation center in Amsterdam in Holland, I went to a farm house for help. I was free for a day or so following being shot down and I went to a farm house for help at night. The farmer and his wife and son took me down to the police headquarters with a gun and a fork and turned me over to the police. I have no anger or resentment over this whatsoever because there their lives were also at stake as well as mine. And as I look back on it and I say, well, they had no other choice because they knew I hadn't been killed, my aircraft was exploded and they could find no bodies in the aircraft, so they knew I wasn't killed so they had to protect myself.
Thomas H. Lane (00:12:35):
When I got to the interrogation center, the interrogation officer, who speaks fluent English, had traveled in Canada, had traveled in the United States in England. He brought out the Royal Air Force flight magazine and showed me exactly when I'd been awarded the DFC, the actual magazine itself and said, "We know all about you, we know all about your squadron," and you might wonder how they might have got that periodical. But I think if you look back on it, Spain was neutral, Portugal was neutral, Switzerland was neutral and those magazines came in through those countries just as quickly as they were published in England or any other place. Getting back to answer your question then on prisoner of war, yes, in the prison camp that I was in, I was in with some very extraordinary people.
Thomas H. Lane (00:13:44):
For example, the film The Great Escape, Wally Floody, the technical director for that film and I lived in the same room. Kingsley Brown, who had been editor of the Halifax Chronicle, had been a newspaper reporter in France and also been a reporter in Winnipeg, has written a book called Bonds of Wire, if anyone's interested. George Harsh was another fellow in the same room with me. He was an American and he wrote a book called Lonesome Road about his life. George Harsh was a second year university student, I believe it was in Georgia, when he and two or three other university students decided they would go out and do some hold ups. George harsh and the two students did a hold up. Harsh had the gun. He shot the store owner and then was incarcerated in chain gangs in Georgia and he spent 10 or 11 years on the chain gangs in Georgia.
Thomas H. Lane (00:15:01):
From the chain gangs in Georgia, during his time there, he also had killed another inmate. But in addition to that, he'd also performed some appendectomies and other operations on other inmates. And for that, he was given a discharge. And immediately on discharge from the chain gang in Georgia, he came up to Canada, enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, became a gunner in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force. I illustrate that just to indicate to you the kinds of individuals we were associated with. I was associated with the ranchers from Australia, bankers from ,England criminal lawyers. One of the best criminal lawyers at the time in London, England, he was associated in prison camp with us as well.
Thomas H. Lane (00:16:08):
Wing Commander Tuck, the Battle of Britain fighter ace, was also in our room. The education I received in prison camp was probably equivalent to, if not better than, almost any philosophical or psychological education I could have received any place. I learned how to get along with other people. In all the time I was in prison camp, I had never saw a fight. I've been in so many vicious arguments, but always someone could walk away. My time in prison camp, yes, was two years out of my life, but on the other hand, it was two years of extremely valuable indication and here I am in 1997 still able to talk about it.
E. Brubaker (00:17:06):
Wonderful, wonderful. Tom, the war ended and you were freed. What encouraged you to come to the OAC in the fall of '45?
Thomas H. Lane (00:17:20):
I'm glad that question was asked because that's extremely in interesting. While in prison camp, I ran into or we met with and were very good friends with Jim McKay. I believe Jim was OAC '40 or '41 graduate in animal science. Jim McKay is the farmer from Ellison, Ontario that had the extremely important and significant Holstein operation. Jim McKay influenced not only myself to come to OAC, but also Harold Sullivan of year '49 and Bob Buckles of year '49 to come to OAC, so we're extremely grateful for that and we acknowledge Jim for that. But let me add another interesting anecdote here. On our squadron, our squadron navigation officer was Bill Grierson-Jackson, who was a year OAC '38 graduate in horticulture and he also got his masters in horticulture here from Guelph. And as a matter of fact, married a Guelph girl and the Secretary of the Horticulture Department, he was our squad navigation officer and, Ed, I did not know that he was a graduate of OAC until I came to OAC in the fall of 1945.
Thomas H. Lane (00:18:47):
And in the basement of Johnson Hall, along what used to be Bill Van Norman's barber shop along the wall there, there used to be pictures of different OAC graduates that had joined the air force and there were pictures of in their uniform. And there, I saw the pictures of Squadron Leader Grierson-Jackson on that particular wall. OAC had a sort of an influence on me long before I realized it.
E. Brubaker (00:19:19):
Okay, Tom, looking back at your college career now, you were one of the more experienced fellows in the year. Maybe not the oldest by any he means, but middle age, certainly quite a bit older than the 18 or 19 year olds that came into the year right out of high school. What was your reaction to being put in with these younger people who of course had not traveled, had not had the lifetime of experiences that you and many others had had?
Thomas H. Lane (00:19:58):
I think that the people that got the most out of us older fellas coming into the university where the young seven, 18, 19 year olds that were coming directly out of high school, I found no problem with this at all. The one thing I did find that they had taken chemistry courses, math courses, trigonometry courses, and geometry courses much more recently than I had because I was now 25 years of age then when I came in there, but they melded it into our group very, very well. We got along extremely well with these younger people and I think that they probably benefited more from it than what we older ones did. Although on the other hand, they knew how to study and we had to, after being out of school for about eight years, we had to relearn how to study. So from that aspect, I had no problem with it at all.
Thomas H. Lane (00:21:16):
I should go on and say that while I was at OAC, I came there with the idea of, well, I don't know what I wanted to do, but once I got through second year, then I decided to go into chemistry, Ed, and the reason I went into chemistry was that I thought that that was a good outlet for various other opportunities that might come along. Then I went from chemistry, after I graduated into chemistry in 1949, I then went into the Soils Department. It was then called the Soils Department, it's now called the land resource science department, into the Soils Department and took a master's degree in soils. Following my master's degree in soils, the department decided to take me on in the field of extension, worked where I was involved in land use planning and conservation farming and land use planning.
Thomas H. Lane (00:22:19):
And in order to be more effective in that field, I then went to the US, United States, and took training under the United States Soil Conservation Service. It's rather interesting, my training at OAC and I guess my background at OAC and my age and that, many of the fellows that were taking the course at the same time as I was taking, Americans, they thought that I would've made a good area soil conservationist, in other words, being in charge of them. I don't know whether that would've been right or not. I wasn't interested. I came back to Guelph and had a very, very interesting career at the University of Guelph in soils, particularly in the area of extension.
Thomas H. Lane (00:23:15):
And also, I was involved in teaching, mainly at the diploma course level, although I assisted at degree level as well. Some of my teaching was done with the landscape architecture students, whom I found very, very interesting. I'm certain that some of the practical advice that we gave them would help them extremely well in their careers and in the future.
E. Brubaker (00:23:48):
Tom, we'll talk more about this work in the Soils Department a little later. First of all, can you recall any highlights of your five years basically to the end of your master's degree here at Guelph? Any important professors that influenced your life very much or even any extracurricular activities that you were involved in or pranks even, if you recall any that were very important?
Thomas H. Lane (00:24:22):
Well, I don't think I was quite so much up to the pranks as maybe some of the other younger ones. I think that's where the younger people that entered our year could really get involved in the prank aspect of it. Because I was married then after my first year at university, at OAC, first year at OAC, and so I lived off campus, but that didn't deter me from playing intercollegiate soccer. I had my major O in soccer. We won the intercollegiate soccer championship one of the years that we played. I played with some excellent individuals. I was also the athletic representative for our year on the Athletic Board. There were lots of ways of getting involved in the affairs at the OAC in those days.
Thomas H. Lane (00:25:28):
As far as some of the professors that I recall, yes, because I took chemistry, I'll always remember Dr. Stu brown, who was head of the chemistry department. He'd also been in the services and understood the returning service personnel that were involved in OAC very well. Dr. Bill Brown was also a serviceman and, again, was very, very helpful in the chemistry and the biochemistry aspects in getting me through OAC. I never did top the class at OAC, but I stood generally about halfways in the class. So from that aspect, I think those two people were very significant. One when I was taking my masters would be Professor Ted Hei that was in charge of the soil test laboratory, was my senior advisor on my master's thesis and then also a very personal friend from then on for many, many years.
Thomas H. Lane (00:26:40):
In terms of another person that had quite an influence on me was Rick Richards, who became Dean of Agriculture for OAC, Dean of OAC, and he was extremely helpful and also extremely good to work with and very, very understanding. We had some marvelous faculty members, we had some marvelous people we worked with, and I think that will always be this way at OAC because I've just come... Being involved in the OAC Alumni Bonspiel year, I was asked to fill in and the younger people were really thrilled that somebody from year '49 would be able to curl with them and participate with them and they asked a lot of interesting questions of some of the older fellows about OAC and that and were, I believe, sincerely enthused with the fact that we were there. I think OAC will always be here matter whether it's the University of Guelph or what it is.
E. Brubaker (00:27:58):
Good. Tom, you were hired in 1951 by the then Soils Department and a good part of your job was extension activities. What kind of work did you do then through the '50s with that department?
Thomas H. Lane (00:28:17):
Well, we did what was called land use planning work or, in other words, farm planning. It's really the conservation planning and many of the ideas that are now being advocated for farmers, such as tillage, no tillage, limited tillage, crop cover residue management, contour stripping where applicable, we were responsible then for designing plans, workable plans, plans that a farmer could actually put into practice on his farm to enable him to do a better job of soil conservation, soil erosion control, increase his crop production. And it's rather interesting that many of these farmers have come to me and said that once they got onto a plan, then it gave them more incentive and more encouragement to continue farming. Because in some of those days, farming was a pretty, pretty rough too. Crop prices were low, it was difficult to get many of the piece of equipment they wanted following the war and these farmers needed some encouragement.
Thomas H. Lane (00:29:40):
I can recall one farmer that told me that following changes in his plan, removing fence rules, making it easier to farm, that he had saved something like 25%. In other words, he'd reduced his tillage cost by about 25% with the ease of which he was able to manage some of these fields. Another farmer told me that as a result of the farm plans that we had made for his particular farm, that two of his sons had gone to the Ontario Veterinary College. And he said if it hadn't have been for the incurred encouragement that we had provided to that farmer at that particular stage in time when he needed, he might not have seen his way clear to have sent these two sons to OVC and they graduated and they become veterinarians in one of our better counties of the province. So it had a lot of very personal feelings as far as I was concerned.
Thomas H. Lane (00:30:48):
I got very close to the farmers. I understood their farm problems. I was able to really essentially not do anything in terms of direct benefit, but often it was more the indirect benefits of these, the encouragement that you gave them and the possibilities that were there with respect to their particular farm, so I enjoyed that extremely well.
E. Brubaker (00:31:20):
Tom, about how many of these farm plans did you prepare and what was entailed in preparing a plan for a farmer?
Thomas H. Lane (00:31:31):
Ed, somewhere in the neighborhood of about 1,500 farm plans had been prepared when it was discontinued in, I believe, it was 1963, somewhere in that neighborhood and then that service was turned over to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food to the Soils and Crops Branch to continue that program. And for a period of approximately 10 to 15 years, there was very, very little done, follow up work done on that particular aspect, until they came along somewhere along with the idea of this Project 2000, whatever it was called, and then there's been, again, a resurgence in soil conservation planning. As far as these plans were concerned, what we essentially did was went out, surveyed the farm, looked at the various soils, the type of soils that were growing there, the topography of the soils, the drainage conditions within the soils, the field arrangements, and found out what we could do or modify or change in a practical way.
Thomas H. Lane (00:32:44):
And I keep stressing practical here because some of these engineering solutions aren't always the right solutions. You often have to think more of cultural solutions, in other words, crop rotations, crop management, what crops are specifically best suited there and how can you manage these crops in the most effective way, so it involves a considerable amount of work. Going back to the office, working on the various classes of land, working up the rotations for the farmer to suit his particular farming operation, whether it was dairy, cash crop or whatever the case may be. Putting this down on paper, going back to the farmer and consulting with him again on this to make sure he understood where you were coming from and how that would fit in and whether or not it was practical for him to do. Where he saw impracticalities in it, then make modifications that would suit him. In other words, a simple modification is the width of farm equipment.
Thomas H. Lane (00:33:51):
What kind of equipment does he have? Should we be, if we were putting in contour strips, should we be putting in a hundred foot width contour strip versus say 105 foot width or versus 90 foot width. These are very practical considerations and are very, very easy to accomplish and do.
E. Brubaker (00:34:11):
Tom, were most of these farmers in close around Guelph?
Thomas H. Lane (00:34:15):
No, these farmers were scattered all over Ontario. As a matter of fact, probably fewer were close to Guelph. ,Most of them were over often Peterborough, Hastings, Northumberland York, Durham, Middlesex, Oxford, Wellington county, obviously as well as other areas of the province. In other words, the Niagara Peninsula, there were many farms in the Niagara Peninsula where, for example, you might look at that farm from its standpoint of its farming potential and drainage might be the problem. Well now, what type of drainage system does he need to accomplish whatever type of farming you want to put into the area and, again, what's the cost of this? In other words, to grow just straight hay or a forage crop, you couldn't put the same type of tile drainage system in as you might for soybeans and corn, a much higher value cash crop, so it was evaluating basically, again, it didn't matter where it was, what the farmer wanted to do then or what his goals or objectives were and then how could you best manipulate his soil, soil conditions or his farm to accomplish this?
Thomas H. Lane (00:35:35):
Sometimes, in some cases, there was very, very little information we could supply. In other words, he'd either would already receive what we thought at that particular time was his potential or it would be too costly to put in some of the modifications. And if he were going to do some of these things, maybe his best bet would've been to change farms or go to some other location. I can recall farmers coming to me, for example, from Brad County or Essex County and saying to me, "Well, I see some good farms up North Wellington County," and you would say to them, "Well, what do you want to do? What kind of farming do you want to do?" and they would say corn and soybeans and some of the crops they were accustomed to, but I would immediately point out to them then that often there was five or 600 feet difference in elevation.
Thomas H. Lane (00:36:40):
In other words, the growing season was much cooler. Had they thought about this and frequently they hadn't. So it was those kind of areas and ideas that sort of helped them decide what they might want to do. And often, the farmer said, "No, that isn't where I want to go then." The soils and everything were good, all those aspects were good, the drainage was good, but the climatic conditions were such that they... and that was before we had the type of varieties that we now have. We've had the tremendous change, biotechnology and that coming along as is a tremendous improvement.
E. Brubaker (00:37:17):
And they grow many of crops now that they couldn't grow 40 years ago.
Thomas H. Lane (00:37:22):
They can grow many of them they couldn't grow 40 years ago. And while they may not get the same yield level, they still have a tremendous yield potential. So yes, I would very much like to be working again in these type of times because I think the advances that have come along in science and biotechnology and that is tremendously significant and tremendously important.
E. Brubaker (00:37:49):
Good, good. Now, Tom, I think you were involved in some of the demonstration days too weren't you on soil conservation? Can you tell us something about that?
Thomas H. Lane (00:37:59):
Yes, I was involved in the very first conservation day ever run in Canada and certainly in Ontario and that was on the Heber Down Farm in Ontario County up just not too far away from Marshall, Brooklyn, on the old Number Seven Highway there. In that particular case here was a farmer that had a very significant erosion problem, didn't know how to handle his situation. We got the Ministry of Agriculture involved, the various other governmental agencies involved and took out of a number of old stone fence rows that were in inappropriate positions, put in contour strips, very practical contour strips, on that farm. I won't say completely eliminated the erosion, but very, very significantly reduced the erosion and increased the crop production potential of that farm.
Thomas H. Lane (00:39:02):
Along with tile drainage, some tile drainage where it was needed. Also, diversion ditches. A diversion ditch is just simply a ditch or a berm or a bank that conducts runoff water in a very slow, lazy path off into some outlet where it can dissipate and not create any erosion problem. Grass waterways were very, very prevalent. We've done some very significant grass waterways where we've actually had five and six farmers involved, particularly in Peel County and these grass waterways then were continuous from one farm to the other and these farmers got extremely involved in it and it turned out it's extremely successful and eliminated a hazard on all of their farms.
E. Brubaker (00:40:04):
Tom, what year was that first demonstration and who helped you with that?
Thomas H. Lane (00:40:10):
That would be in 1949. One of the professors that involved in it was Professor Lan Webber of the Department of Land Resource Science. I can't recall who was involved from engineering, but certainly the engineering department.
E. Brubaker (00:40:28):
It'd have been James Scott.
Thomas H. Lane (00:40:30):
Yes, that's right. It would be Jim Scott, Professor Jim Scott from engineering was involved. And certainly there would be somebody involved from Animal and Poultry Science and I'm not sure who that might be. Bill Knox probably or Rathby, Professor Rathby or Professor Knox. Those were the kind of peoples involved, along with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. And again, names are hard to recall from that aspect too, but all of the agricultural departments were involved and very significantly too.
E. Brubaker (00:41:11):
I wonder, I'm reaching back in memory, whether Lynn Fair would not be Ag Republican in Ontario.
Thomas H. Lane (00:41:15):
Lynn fair would've been Ag Rep of Ontario County and that brings up another interesting aspect of this work with Lynn Fair. I helped put on contour strips on a farmers by the name of Earl Parrot and many of the illustrations that you see in some of the magazines from back in those eras til Lynn Fair, I should say, along with Earl Parrot and their son on this farm with the contour strips, or myself, and if you go back into some of the Department of Planning and Developments booklets or magazines that were issued in those days, anywhere during the '50s and early '60s, again, you'll see pictures of myself or Lynn Fair, of the contour strips in those public cases.
E. Brubaker (00:42:14):
Okay, so that was a very interesting time in your career.
Thomas H. Lane (00:42:19):
Very, very much so, one that I enjoyed extremely, but I also enjoyed teaching. So from that aspect and the students, I enjoyed, I presume most, were the diploma students because, again, these were students who were going back to some practical farming situation in many of the cases or they were going to work with nurseries or some soil... anyways, soils and soils and crop production were involved. And again, I enjoyed that. Plus, I enjoyed... They had experience, many of these people, and they could ask some very, very demanding and very, very crucial or critical questions and that always interested me. Then following that, another interesting aspect of my career at Guelph was once I left the land use planning field, or the farm planning field, I was involved in micronutrient research for about 10 to 15 years.
Thomas H. Lane (00:43:26):
And probably the work that I did in micronutrient research was significant for a period of up to 15 to 20 years. I did work on soybeans, sugar beets, corn, potatoes, barley across the province, all the way from approximately Belleville in the east, back to Windsor in the west. I normally had research going on anywhere from 40 to 60 farms per year covering these crops. As a matter of fact, being a little egotistical, I helped develop one of the first accurate methods of applying micronutrients to crops using the idea of a scuba tank for gas pressure because you can get a scuba tank blowing up at any fire station, almost anywhere in the province at that time to get the pressure where I could accurately put on sprays. If it required 40 pounds PSI, I could accurately put them on.
Thomas H. Lane (00:44:52):
We also calibrated a sprayer to move across the field at two or three miles an hour, whatever we wanted to move at, so I knew exactly the speed that my sprayer was moving across the field at, or across the crop that was being sprayed, and I knew exactly what was going on. I could say then to anybody... And the statistical analysis could be done on it and be done on it very, very accurately. I also then was able to document picture wise or photograph wise what some of these nutrient deficiencies where and also in some cases where we got toxicities and that's as important as deficiencies sometimes is toxicities, where are you going to... under what soil conditions are...
E. Brubaker (00:45:47):
What are some of these nutrients that you're talking about?
Thomas H. Lane (00:45:51):
Well, I'm speaking about manganese, copper, zinc, boron, molybdenum. And in some areas of Ontario, we have deficiencies in those. And in Peel County on one farm, we increased oat yields on an area of a farmer's farm from 15 bushels per acre, up into the neighborhood, I believe it was 115 or 105, with an application of manganese that would be worth about, in terms of dollars and cents, under $5 per acre. It was amazing. On another farm, working with zinc in Essex County or Kent County, I should say. In Kent County, we found that he had zinc deficiency in his corn and his yields were being reduced by up to 20 bushels per acre due to zinc deficiency. Well, the cause of the zinc deficiency was excess application of phosphate and so you have a phosphate-zinc interaction here so we were able to reduce then his fertilizer bill on those particular portions of his farm, if you'd like to look at it that way, because he didn't require more phosphorus and the extra phosphate was inducing the zinc. And again, we, by applying zinc then as a spray on that particular section of his crop, again, would be under $5 per acre cost. I enjoyed that type of work extremely well.
E. Brubaker (00:47:29):
And you enjoyed working with farmers. Now from looking back on it, did you find farmers in one part of the province or one particular type of farmer, whether they were the livestock farmer, cash crop farmer or some other farmer, in general, were some groups more receptive to these ideas than other groups?
Thomas H. Lane (00:47:52):
I suppose so, but it'll be an age thing if it's anything. what I found was that in working in extension, another area that we became involved in was land judging and land judging meant simply looking at the soils on your farm and training farmers to look at soils on their farm and evaluated whether they were well drained and perfectly drained or poorly drained or other aspects, whether they were silts, clays, loams, whatever they might be. Dr. Burt Matthews, who was a former vice president of the university, and at that time was head of our department, he and I established land judging competitions in the province of Ontario and we conducted them in Northern Ontario throughout Ontario into various counties. What I found ultimately that the young farmers that were taking these courses and looking at became very, very interested. And when I say an age different, then these were the people that ultimately came into farming, got their own farms or took over their father's farms, and these people were really the backbone.
Thomas H. Lane (00:49:12):
I can think of the Armstrongs in Peel County, Neil Armstrong and Dave Armstrong, as others, just as example. I can think of Dana Porter over in Kent County and some of these. They became then really the backbone of their county groups, but I think it was the the initial approach with them or working with them or understanding with them or trying to let them understand what they had to work with. Basically, a lot of it, I believe, in extension work is, Ed, is you have a certain amount of knowledge, but I think it's a lot psychological too and being able to understand where that particular individual is coming from and then understanding where you're coming from and you end up with a compromising.
E. Brubaker (00:50:10):
Tom, you went to Saudi Arabia once to do some soils work. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience, how long you were there and when?
Thomas H. Lane (00:50:21):
Yes, Ed, I went to Saudi Arabia twice in 1972 and again in 1974, that was before my retirement, and I went there with Cansult Limited, a Canadian consulting company that was very, very involved in Saudi Arabia, along with Marshall Macklin Monaghan, the consulting engineers. The prime reason I went to Saudi Arabia was, was to look at the City of Riyadh and the City of Medina and their sewage sludge problems and what use could we make of the sewage sludge that was being generated by those areas in terms, what potential did they have in Saudi Arabia? And rather interestingly, at that time, I was probably one of, certainly less than, a dozen Christians that had an official pass to the Holy City of Medina and lived there for a few weeks and was able to survey the area then outside and look at the sites for where each year they have the influx of tourists and that to their holy pilgrimage and that in those areas.
Thomas H. Lane (00:51:51):
I enjoyed the area very, very much. I would not, at that time, have taken my wife with me at all because of the restrictions at that time. And it sounds as though, even now in 1997, if you read the papers that there's still some of these restrictions as far as women and that are concerned, but I enjoyed the experience very, very much. I enjoyed the desert and as we were often out on the desert, almost a camel or a Bedouin tent or an Arab would just seem to appear out of nowhere. It's just amazing in the desert what life is out in the desert. Also, the potential for some of the sludge and the use of the sewage sludge and their sewage treatment affluent and this kind of thing, I had a tremendous potential as far as I was concerned out in the desert area with some engineering, we should have been able to take sewage almost by gravity out to some of these areas and I thought that it had a tremendous potential, particularly in four stations in those areas.
Thomas H. Lane (00:53:13):
And rather than using some of the deep water that they were using, I thought that they could have developed park areas, and particularly in reforestation, and, again, got away from any possibility of contamination by disease organisms and these type of materials that might be in the affluent because they didn't treat it quite as well as we were treating it at that particular time. What I did find out was that I found things so slow and it was so hard to make progress there, from my perspective, from the pace we're used to going at, that by the time I'd gone there a second time, about all I could do was make recommendations and hope that some of these might be carried up. My understanding is that some of it was later carried on as other consulting companies moved into the picture, that some of the things were followed up, so I certainly feel as though it was worthwhile.
Thomas H. Lane (00:54:24):
It was certainly a brief it's experience for me. One of the interesting things is that I believe it was 1974 on our way to Saudi Arabia, we dropped off into Beirut, Lebanon and had to wait there to catch a Saudi Arabia flight to Riyadh. We got there. And when we got there, the Saudi Arabian airline that we were due to go on was confiscated by King Fahd or King Faisal, I'm not sure which it was because it was a big wedding, and so we had to stay in Beirut, Lebanon for about five days and really, from my perspective, was a waste of time because I didn't have then the time that I needed to spend when I finally got to Saudi Arabia and Riyadh. In other words, my work potential was cut down by about five days, but it was really interesting to have been in Lebanon and being in Beirut before all the insurrection that's gone on since that particular period.
Thomas H. Lane (00:55:33):
And that was a beautiful area. I recall the fellow that was with me and I, we hired a taxi and we took some of the routes that Christ took, the Cedars of Babylon. And through that, we went and looked of those areas. So personally from that aspect, it was very, very interesting, but the other interesting aspect was that I had to get a special passport because we've been to Israel prior to that, so I couldn't use that particular passport because they wouldn't let you into the country if you had an Israeli stamp in your passport.
E. Brubaker (00:56:12):
Okay. Very good, Tom. Now, you've been retired for a little over 10 years. How have you found life out of the fast lane at the university? What have you done with yourself?
Thomas H. Lane (00:56:26):
Well, from the standpoint of retirement, it's the best job I ever had. Let me put it that way. I have been very, very blessed with good health, both my wife and myself. And as you know, Ed, if you've got your health, you've got everything. That's the first thing, so might I suggest that anyone that's listening to these tapes, particularly young people, think about yourself, think about your health and it's not too soon now to start thinking about your health because your future comes up on you very, very quickly. And when you reach the age that I'm at now, which is 76, and to be fortunate enough to have the health that I have, I'm extremely blessed.
Thomas H. Lane (00:57:15):
I have been involved in curling. I do a tremendous amount of curling. I've been involved with horses and the horse racing business and I've enjoyed it very, very much. Let me suggest that anybody's thinking about horse racing business and money, you'd better have a lot of money before you start because I certainly didn't make much money in it and it wasn't that we didn't understand horses or didn't enjoy it, but there's certainly not much money there unless you're into it big time. I've been on school boards and that's another aspect that I enjoy. I enjoy some of the amalgamations and that that are going on now and here with respect to municipal councils and the same thing applies to school boards. And whether it's the separate school board or the public school board, I happen to be on the separate school board, both at the high school level and the elementary and secondary school levels, but amalgamation is something it's got to come. From my perspective, we're wasting too much money in administrations. and there's no reason why a purchasing agent can't purchase for more than one school or one school board and do it much more effectively and efficiently in school administration.
Thomas H. Lane (00:58:52):
The same thing applies at the university, so I'm not speaking about anything that doesn't apply to university or industry or school. I also play duplicate bridge and really enjoy duplicate bridge and my wife does as well. We don't play together because we've decided that we could come home and discuss bridge as much more independently if we played the same bridge hands and one's bidding one way and one's the other, then we can discuss the pros and cons of each of our areas.
E. Brubaker (00:59:36):
And she won't trump your ace if you're not playing with you.
Thomas H. Lane (00:59:39):
No, she'd better not trump my ace. No. No, she's very excellent and I've been very, very fortunate. My wife, her parents were Italian and they came to Guelph after the First World War in 1920. She's been a long time resident of Guelph. For those of you that might have followed hockey in the past, her brother was Lou Fontinato that played 10 years in the National Hockey League for the old New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadians. He's a city bred boy, he's now a farmer and an extremely successful beef farmer. He's got an extremely good eye for cattle, extremely good feeder. So any of you that have city backgrounds and have the desire to do some of the things, here is a city born and bred fellow that's got an exceptionally good farming operations.
Thomas H. Lane (01:00:50):
Now, being a little egotistical, and Ed, you can cut this out if you like, but right this past year and for the past several years, he has many delegations going to his farm from Korea, Japan, the Asiatic countries looking at his beef operations and that and he's been featured in Japanese papers and that. So what I want to say to you is that you can essentially, as a student or a young person, you can do anything you want to, I believe, but you've got to have the desire and you've got to have the willingness to do it and you've really got to work.
E. Brubaker (01:01:37):
Good. Tom, I see that you're recording a lot of your life in book form and so on. Who are you doing this for and why?
Thomas H. Lane (01:01:47):
The main reason is that if we that have gone through this period of time don't put this information together, when we pass on, it won't get put together and the people that are more interested in it, even more interested than your own children, because when you were raising your own children, you didn't have time to show them what you had and show them what kind of a background you came from. I came from a farming background. We were very, very poor, a poor farming background, but we had a good life. We had good parents, good mother and good father, but the people that seem to be really interested in this are our grandchildren. Our grandchildren can just spend hours sitting here looking at this information and asking us questions, so what I'm attempting to do is to put it together to make sure it's put together in book form and a chronological form that they can look at.