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Creation of Cougar Gold

The year was 1940 and N. S. Golding was in the Washington State College creamery surrounded by a group of dairy science students. Crowding near, the young men strained to follow as Golding described the intricacies of cheese-making…
“Golding was English and had a habit of talking with a pencil in his mouth,” said Jerry Clarke, a former student, now age 90, looking back through time.
“I’m not sure if he was trying to develop something with gas production or just experimenting with different cheese cultures, but he made a batch using yogurt that day. The cheese came out with a unique flavor — and that’s how Cougar Gold© was born, though it didn’t have a name back then.”
Visiting the WSU campus for the first time in decades, Clarke and his family toured the creamery last summer. He sat down with WSU Today and creamery manager Russ Salvadalena to reminisce about his college days and fill in some gaps in the history of the creamery.
Q: Why did you come to Pullman for college?

I graduated from high school in Noxon, Mont., and had a scholarship to WSC in forestry. I didn’t like math, so somehow ended up in dairy. Maybe it was fate?
You also had a paid job helping Golding make cheese?
Yes, I did. I made a batch of cheddar cheese the morning of July 1, 1942 — and had also made arrangements to get married later that day. My wife to be, Lorraine, and her mother were coming from Vancouver and the train was delayed or something — so I guess there was real sweat going into that cheese. We got married that afternoon in Moscow and four days later I went into the service. We were married 65 years.
Where were you stationed in WWII?
I had signed up for manufacturing, and was supposed to go to Chicago to make cheese, but I ended up with troops guarding government prisoners in France.
I came back from Europe in April 1946, then came back to WSC and got my master’s working with Dr. Golding making blue cheese.
Can you tell us more about the first Cougar Gold© cheese?
The first batch came out much too orange. Dr. Golding didn’t like it, so … that was the last of the color. (Today’s Cougar Gold© has no added color and is pale yellow.)
We made a lot of experimental cheeses back then. Most of them just went to the dorms to be used in cooking. Golding didn’t keep a diary, so we didn’t know what was in his mind.
Was it true that Golding first used cans as a way to send cheese to the army?
No. He didn’t develop canned cheese for the army — the Forest Service had canned processed cheese years before we started canning Cougar Gold©. Golding was trying to prevent mold growth — that was his goal. 
Why did he use the large four-pound cans?
They were the only kind available at that time. (Cougar Gold© was sold in four-pound cans until the late 1970s when the creamery changed to one-pound cans.)
Do you know how Ferdinand’s originally got its name?
It was based on the Disney character, Ferdinand the bull, but we think it also had something to do with Rune Ferdinand Goransen — another dairy science student. He was a favorite of professor Bendixen, who led the dairy products judging team and also worked for Golding.
After graduation, where did you work?
I was first hired by Darigold to work in their blue cheese plant in Raymond. Then I went to work for Safeway in L.A. in 1952 — at the old milk plant on the edge of Watts. In 1954, I began managing the milk plant in Portland, then in Butte for six years, then Bellevue in 1966. I retired in 1982 — after 30 years with Safeway.
What is the single best memory of your time at WSU?
 When I met my wife …

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