INTERVIEW: April 4, 1980
INTERVIEWER: Kenneth B. West
INTERVIEWEE: Andrew Havrilla
WEST: Mr. Havrilla, were you born in Flint?
HAVRILLA: No, I wasn't born in Flint. I was born at a Pennsylvania coal minery.
WEST: Pennsylvania coal mines. When was that, sir?
HAVRILLA: That was way back in 1908.
WEST: 1908. And was your father a coal miner there?
HAVRILLA: Yes, and my uncle, he turned around, didn't like the coal mines, so he come up here to Flint. Then from Flint, he told my dad, so my dad come to Flint in 1912, I think, somewhere in between there.
WEST: And you came along with him then in 1912.
HAVRILLA: Oh yes, the family moved over there. On the way over there, we shipped all of our furniture to come over here. And two quilts, feather quilts, were stolen on the railroad track, up here.
WEST: In Flint?
HAVRILLA: In Flint, on the way up. So then he got a job in the Lapeer coal mine. Do you know where the Lapeer coal mine is?
WEST: I'm not sure that I do.
HAVRILLA: It used to be on Lapeer Road. There used to be coal mines. They shoved him down the shaft there to work. He didn't like it.
WEST: He hadn't come to Flint in this area to work in the coal mines, had he?
HAVRILLA: No, he tried to get a job in the factory, but they wasn't open then. But there was an opening at the Lapeer coal mine. So, in other words, he come in there, and that flooded out, see. Then he come back and he got a job in to the Buick as a sprayer. Paint sprayer at Buick.
WEST: Would that have been before the First World War, then?
WEST: Afterwards, after the First World War. That must have been tough work, hard work painting, and pretty disagreeable.
HAVRILLA: You better believe it. It was all confined, like you say. Then he turned around. My brother got older. He got a job in there, see, in the factory.
WEST: In the Buick, too.
HAVRILLA: And I was a runaway kid.
WEST: What did you mean you were a runaway?
HAVRILLA: I didn't like school. So the fourth grade, I run away. My dad was gonna lose his citizen paper if I didn't go to school...the truant office. I got a whippin' from my dad. I got a whippin' from the truant office. So I hitched my two-way bicycle to go backwards and forwards and I took off to, oh, I can't think of the name right now. And so, in other words, my bicycle chain busted. A drunkard with a horse and buggy come up there and he said, "What's wrong?" I was pushin' it. So he said, "How 'bout staying with me all night?" I said, "Okay." So I did. Throwed it on the buggy and away we went.
WEST: Was that in Michigan?
HAVRILLA: Yes, oh, yes.
WEST: You were in the state then.
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes, that was in the state, yes. I can't think of the place. It was over on...
WEST: But you were still pretty young then, weren't you.
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes. I was a youngster, about thirteen, fourteen. I was mean and ornery, but the black sheep in my family. I was the black sheep in the family.
WEST: Can you tell me, you said that your father might lose his citizenship papers if you didn't go to school. So he came over from the old country, then, did he originally?
WEST: Where was that?
HAVRILLA: Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
WEST: Hungary and Czechoslovakia, I see. Did he come over to work in the coalmines, then, in Pennsylvania?
WEST: In Pennsylvania.
HAVRILLA: Yes, he was shipped from there. You know what I mean, to bring employees over here to work.
WEST: Oh, he came over then. He had a job all ready.
HAVRILLA: Well, they was just like we did, the same as we did at the Chevrolet factory. They brought 'em from the South up here.
WEST: Oh, so your father was brought over from Hungary.
HAVRILLA: Yes, from Hungary over there to here. And the first job he got down there.
WEST: Do you remember what coal company that was?
HAVRILLA: No, it was Sagamore, there. He was working down in the coalmine. But over in Europe he was a teamster. So, he didn't like coal diggin' in there with pullin' the carts with a mule. So he took care of the mules up on top of the ground after they worked their days. He took care of them, see. Then we had a company store...no money...you bought all your food from the company store. You got free rent. You didn't get free rent, but the rent was free from your common labor from the store; I mean from the workin'. Then on top of that, I think they gave him a dollar. Then he went down to the bar and in them old-fashioned lunch pails he'd get a quarter worth of beer to bring home.
WEST: That was in Pennsylvania.
HAVRILLA: That was in Pennsylvania. I can still remember quite a little bit. Okay, my dad come out there and I think then they fought a little bit. My uncle got killed down there for the strike, tryin' to organize the strike down there.
WEST: United Mine Workers they were then, weren't they?
HAVRILLA: He got killed.
WEST: Do you remember when that was?
HAVRILLA: No, I couldn't tell you. Somewhere in '12-'13, somewhere in between there.
WEST: Just before the war, then.
HAVRILLA: You could find out.
WEST: Yes, I'm sure. What city was that?
HAVRILLA: Pittsburgh and Sagamore. That was in between...they was diggin' there where the coke mines was. You probably never seen a coke mine, have you?
WEST: No, I don't know that I have.
HAVRILLA: Just like an Eskimo igloo. Yes, but they had a hole on top and then it was all coated with bricks and the slag went down in there and when it cooked for about two or three days, then we pulled the coke out and then we shipped it to the foundry.
WEST: So you came to Flint. Then you ran away. Just to resume where we were. You came to Flint then with your father, and you ran away.
HAVRILLA: Yes, now I came to Flint, but I didn't like school, you know what I mean?
WEST: Right, so you ran away.
HAVRILLA: After I got my whippin' I ran away, see, 'cause dad gave me a whippin' because he was gonna lose his citizen plate, see. And so I got a whippin'. We used to sleep upstairs in an old four-room house just like this, but we slept up in the attic. And there was a window over there and there was a trellis in the front. Well, from that window, down the trellis, got my bicycle and I took off. I didn't see my dad for three years.
WEST: Three years, oh boy! What did you do at that time then?
HAVRILLA: On the farm.
WEST: Work on a farm.
HAVRILLA: I was workin' on a farm.
WEST: Then you came back.
HAVRILLA: Then I came back after I got...first it was this way. The fellow said at the end of the year, "I'll buy all your tobacco and clothing and I'll give you a western horse, no saddle, but a suit of clothes." That's what I got for one year's work. Milkin' five cows and plowin' the farms and everything. You had to harvest it. Well, I come back home, brought the horse, and my dad come out there and he was just as tickled to death. Them days we didn't have what they'd call people to find people. You know what I mean. So from there on I come in and then I got a job to...well, I didn't get a job first. I was cleanin' the oil tanks' scale from Armstrong, the scale. After they put the springs in there and the scale would get red hot and then the scale come out there. So I was workin' Sunday. Took the contract to work it Sunday for twenty-five dollars a pit. Wheelbarrows. And so I got mad. My dad had an old Studebaker at home he bought from a son----my brother. So I cut the Studebaker in half and put a half dump box on it. Then we went up there to the pit and loaded it up there and then we took it up there on the hill and dumped it. So I was makin' pretty good rate at that time. Took us about four hours then, instead of all day shovelin'. So from there on then, the foreman come around--the boss, them days we didn't have foremen. He said, "How do you like the work?" I said, "Fine." He said, "You're a pretty good worker what you're doin'--knowledge." And I did. So he asked me, he said, "How would you like to be a millwright. We need some millwrights. We're short." I said, "Fine." A couple of smart alecks, "How 'bout goin' down and get a wreckin' stretcher, to the tool crib?" "Sure." So I went down there and asked for it at the tool crib. He laughed and giggled. A wreckin' stretcher!
WEST: So they put you on.
HAVRILLA: Put me on. Well, like you say, that's nature for everything.
WEST: But you went on then and worked at a variety of jobs in General Motors.
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes.
WEST: And finally you wound up in Fisher Body?
HAVRILLA: Chevy. Chevrolet. I wound up in Chevrolet. I worked six months I think, in Fisher Body and stayed here. I got thirty-eight years in there.
WEST: Right. So you came in. You worked on wood bodies then at first.
HAVRILLA: At Fisher Body. I worked at Armstrong Spring Works for a year and a half until they got transferred to the Buick. Then I worked in Buick for six months, piecework. Then I went over to Fisher Body and got a job at Fisher Body out there as a...workin' on wood. Then from there I didn't like it, because I come in in the morning and they said, "We haven't got no trucks and we haven't got no orders." Then I kept goin' down to the Chevrolet, lookin' in. They used to have a fence on the outside. You probably don't remember that fence on the outside.
WEST: No, no.
HAVRILLA: Fence on the outside. We all lined up there. Then they called out and said, "We want a hundred eighty pound men." Nobody wanted the job; so I sneaked in. Sneaked in there and it was Mr. Wilson and his son-in-law. He come out. He said, "I live on your street." I said, "Why don't you give me a job?" He said, "Okay, we'll try you out." He said, "How 'bout truckin'?" "Good!" Five men pushin' a god damned truck with a load of iron on to it. Take it out and put it in. Well, I was a little educated in there, because I was a half-ass mechanic in them days and a good horseman. So I said, "Now, I don't like this job." He said, "What do you want?" I said, "Where is somethin' that's hard to do?" He said, "Well, we got crankshafts." A little four-cylinder, old sucker. Askin' for a hundred and eighty pound man to handle them little god damned cranks. Them days we didn't have counter balance; you had to just tip it just so and find out which way on the roller bearings and which way it tipped. And you mark it there; then you go out and ground it a little bit and then see if she rotates. Well, we'd come in to within an ounce, and ounce and a half. So I was doin' pretty good in there. Then they brought this balancer in there; it was a big one. When they come out with the six cylinders, they come out with a balancer. And they come in there. I was young and mean and ornery. So I turned around and I was a leader. Well, it took me about two days to find out what the hell's what. God damned chart was just drawn this way, you know. And they had marks in there, one, two, three four, five, six, seven, eight--a weight, see, bottom and top. Well, how in the hell was I gonna figure that if I ground the bottom, the top would go? Then turn around and ground the top; then the bottom went back. Oh boy, that was a mean thing, see. So, in other words we had to split the difference. If it showed seven on top and twelve on the bottom, take three off the top and six off the bottom. Then she'd rotate a little bit off. Then we took a little more off and a little more off of that and...
WEST: Then you got it balanced.
HAVRILLA: Then you got a balance in there.
WEST: So you worked on that for a while then.
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
WEST: What job were you doing at the time of the strike?
HAVRILLA: At the strike I was in the crankshaft.
WEST: You were in the crankshaft.
HAVRILLA: That was the club I give 'em. Into the strike I was in there. Well, let's put it this way. Federation of Labor was first, in 1930.
WEST: Right. I wanted to ask you. You joined the union then, did you, right away?
HAVRILLA: Yes, sir. I was mean; I was mean enough to join. In 1930 we had Federation of Labor. In 1934, '33 or '34 we were supposed to walk out at ten o'clock. Federation of Labor stole that out of us. That was in Pengelly Building. Do you know where Pengelly Building is?
WEST: Oh yes, where it was.
HAVRILLA: Okay, Howard, Walter Johnson and Ralph Amy and me. There was four of us in Plant 4. At them days we called it deputy steward and chief steward.
WEST: You're right. This was about '34.
HAVRILLA: Yes, sir. Like I say, I might mix this up, but then you can straighten it up if you have to. Then the UAW come in, L. Johnson come in...not Johnson. That preacher in...
WEST: Homer Martin was the head of the UAW then.
HAVRILLA: Yes, at that time.
WEST: That would have been about '35 or a year or so later. You were sold out in '35, you say, in '34. You were ready to strike. Did you keep your membership in the union? Did you keep payin' dues, or did you drop out then?
HAVRILLA: No, we dropped for the time bein'. Then when John L. Lewis come up, then we start payin' for Martin. Then we start payin' fifty cents a month.
WEST: Right. What were the main gripes that people had that they were concerned about?
HAVRILLA: Okay, we was on wages at the time, see. All right, for the lowest man...we had six seven men on down the line on drill presses and so and so. And the job paid down there at the tail end it paid only about twenty-six cents an hour, thirty cents, thirty-five, forty, forty-five and I was the leader. I had to push, see. That's the way the job was organized.
WEST: I see. So the pay wasn't equal at all, then.
HAVRILLA: It was not equal. We all done the same work, handled the same materials, but it was just not equal. They had a leader and a tail end. A tail end, if you hired in today, you start from the bottom, at twenty-six cents an hour on up until you get up to the top, see. All right, then, that turnaround and come out there. Then they come there, Roosevelt come in and he said...no...yes, they offered us ninety cents an hour. Roosevelt said, "Dollar fifteen an hour." Then the company come out there and said "efficiency". Do you know what efficiency is?
WEST: Sufficiency, yes. You had to make a certain amount.
HAVRILLA: Yes, okay. So they brought that in and we worked. We got a hundred and eight for two weeks. Like I say, everybody was workin' their head off.
WEST: It was speed-up, then.
HAVRILLA: Yes. Hundred and eight and hundred and ten. The last day when the pay was supposed to go in they said, "Well, we gotta send half the crew home." Efficiency went down to about ninety-six, ninety-five. We got paid for ninety-six, ninety-five. All right, then, that happened. A man from state come in there to the union hall and explained to us what they're doin' to us by getting rid of half the people. Do you know what I mean?
WEST: Yes, they laid 'em off.
HAVRILLA: Yes, they laid 'em off for that day. Yes, that started the ball rollin'. We got scared; we had our own meetings in there and he explained to us just what they're doin'. He said, "Well, the production is goin' higher, but the last day we're cut out."
WEST: Was he a union man?
WEST: The guy that was talkin' to you?
HAVRILLA: No, from the state. From Lansing. He come in. Some representative from Lansing come in and told us about it. Then we started educatin' in the meetings and the meetings and the meetings and told us...he was in there about four or five times. He come down and explained to us what they're doin' on efficiency. And the same way it was when I worked in the Buick. I was on piecework, runnin' the lathe on flywheels. I got thirty days ahead. Then at thirty days ahead, when the inventory come, my production was cut next year down to half, because I gained thirty days. Ground my own tools, make my own belts, oil my machine, and take the grindings out.
WEST: Now when did you join the UAW then?
HAVRILLA: I think it was right after the A F of L sold us out. See, we was supposed to strike at ten o'clock. And then from then Mr. Martin or whatever his name, the church member, he took over us, see, in Pengelly Building.
WEST: Did you know Bob Travis at all?
WEST: Wyndham Mortimer. What did you think of these guys? Did you know?
HAVRILLA: Well, at that time we broke in two sections, just like we have today--negative and positive. One wanted to run the union and the other just wanted to stay with the union. Me, Ralph Amy and Howard and Johnson, well, we was buckin' each other, see.
WEST: Who was this Johnson you're talkin' about. Was that Kermit?
HAVRILLA: Somewhere in there...he's Johnson. I think he's somewhere in there.
WEST: This is Chevy 4 you're talking about.
WEST: Now, the strike commences then first in Fisher.
WEST: In Fisher 2 and then Fisher 1 goes down. And they were down for better than a month before you got involved.
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes. We kept goin' in the afternoon. Now the union owes me a car--a smashed up car and a clutch and a transmission. I was courtesy driving the boys over and back.
WEST: Oh, you were driving the courtesy car. That reminds me of the fact that there was a bus strike then, wasn't there?
HAVRILLA: Correct, correct.
WEST: So you had the courtesy. How did that work? Were you working for the union then?
HAVRILLA: They was supposed to, but they didn't. They were supposed to pay me and to fix my car, because it was icy that one day. I don't know. In December it was icy and I went around. Do you know where St. John Street is?
WEST: Yes, oh, yes.
HAVRILLA: Do you know where that turn is there?
HAVRILLA: Well, it was icy and my '29 Chevy it slid and she hit that telephone pole over there and just bumped it.
WEST: So you didn't get paid.
HAVRILLA: I didn't get nothin'!
WEST: Were they supposed to pay you around '34, so much per day?
HAVRILLA: Yes, they were supposed to pay me so much and all expenses for the car.
WEST: Did they tell who to pick and where to go and that?
HAVRILLA: Yes, down at the union hall; we all went down to the union hall.
WEST: You were down at the union hall with your courtesy cars and then they'd tell you.
HAVRILLA: See, at that time it was only five cents streetcar fare. And ninety-nine percent of us, we walked. You know what I mean? 'Cause it was in the short distance around there. 'Round the factories, most of us employees 'round the factory. Us Hunkies was up here on the North End.
WEST: Where were you living then, at that time?
HAVRILLA: On Apponey.
HAVRILLA: Apponey Street. Do you know where Stewart Avenue and St. John is? The second block is Apponey Street, there. That's where I was raised.
WEST: Oh, yes. Were you involved at all in the strike in 1930?
WEST: At Fisher they had a strike at that time. What was that like? That was in the earlier days.
HAVRILLA: That was earlier. And we was buckin'; just like I say, that we didn't have no carts. They only give us twenty-six cents an hour. But we were sent home. So we went in there and worked and we didn't have no cart supply in there. So they give us twenty-six cents for down and sent us home, see. In other words, we worked just one hour, maybe fifteen minutes to cut on band saw and doin' this.
WEST: That was 1930 during the strike then.
WEST: Did the cops come out around that time?
HAVRILLA: Yes, oh, yes.
WEST: There was a Hungarian hall up there, wasn't there around that area? Did you go to that Hungarian hall then?
HAVRILLA: Yes, oh, yes.
WEST: The Hungarians, were some of them pretty active in that strike?
HAVRILLA: Yes, just like I was. Talked for the rights or the freedom. You know what I mean. It's the same thing when they had that strike in '37 in the Chevrolet factory down there. The General Motors had the police department all bought. They stood up on Plant 5, lined up on Plant 5, while we was in 4. We had the whole thing closed. In the meantime, like I say, that I had that club. I had to pull the scabs off the machines, to shut the machines down in order to push 'em out.
WEST: Now that was in Chevrolet 4; that's account of the sit-down strike down there. That's interesting. You'd been in the union for a while. Did you know a strike was coming at that time?
HAVRILLA: Yes, oh, yes.
WEST: You knew then they were gonna strike.
HAVRILLA: As I said, the Federation Labor was supposed to call at ten o'clock, but they didn't. So they sold us out to the company and the police department. Then when we come out there, John L. Lewis come over and took over. Then from the state they come out then and represented our efficiency, how it works. But then we all got a little organized and we just talked and talked and talked. Well, there was half was willing and the other half wasn't.
WEST: To organize and to strike.
HAVRILLA: To organize.
WEST: How many guys would you say in Chevy 4 at that time were part of the union? You said about half.
HAVRILLA: About half. See, company wanted to buy half, as they can from them. Said your job will be just as good; you'll never have to worry about it. You know what I mean. And the rest of us, well, the job would be all right. At that time I'd say the job was easy. The best man the boss liked, regardless how much seniority you had, you're gone; you're laid off. And even if you were just there one month, but you were a good worker in workin' for the boss, then you had it made.
WEST: What was your relationship with your foreman, then? Did you get along pretty well with him or did you not sometimes?
HAVRILLA: Well, there was good relations. They tried to buy me. See what I mean.
WEST: How do you mean that?
HAVRILLA: Because I was a half-leader, like I say, the chief steward from the union, see. They tried to buy me.
WEST: How did they do that?
HAVRILLA: Well, they tried to offer me the best jobs in there. And I was up in the tool room and I was up in here and I was handyman all around. And they said, "You can go any place you want." I had seventeen different jobs in that plant. When they needed anybody, I was there.
WEST: So they offered you a pretty good position. Did they know you were a union man?
HAVRILLA: I was a pretty good talker, you know, at that time, a fighter. Well, like you say, I asked the people, I said, "Well look, this is what they gave us, and this is what we want." I said, "We're gettin' gypped every day by efficiency, all the way down." And like the leaders, they said the tail end got twenty-six cents and the top man got forty-seven cents, doing the same work. Only he done the finish work.
WEST: Right. So equality of pay was something you were after.
HAVRILLA: Yes, but we was all equal, to the pay, if we should have been. But that's where the catch was. Twenty-six to forty-seven. Then the same thing was our bonus in there, see. It went up, then they laid half the crew off; and it went down. Then the state man come from Lansing and told us in the union hall what they're doing to us. Drivin' us to death...
WEST: And then you got your act together and began to organize and plan then for a strike.
HAVRILLA: We started organizing.
WEST: Now you were continuing to work for a while now while Fisher was out. They had a battle down at Fisher 2, close by. The Battle of the Running Bulls that was.
HAVRILLA: Plant 2A.
WEST: Did you get involved in that at all?
HAVRILLA: Yes, I got involved 'cause I was workin'. Plant 4 was over here and Plant 2 was over here, 2A over here and Plant 2 was here, right across here, Plant 2, see. Yes, we got involved in there. Oh, I went out and had a drink. There was two beer gardens up there at that time, see. And so when they stayed in there, why, we sneaked in there and got in there. We left them go out home for four or five hours.
WEST: Oh, you were in Fisher 2, then, for a time, while they were sitting down. But you were still workin' then when you had a lot of work. So you went in there to relieve them so they could go to the...
HAVRILLA: Correct. So they could have a few hours off. Then they come back. Then I went home and slept and then went back to work, see.
WEST: That was before the battle, though, because after the battle they had the National Guard in, didn't they? And you couldn't get in then.
HAVRILLA: No, the National Guard come in. And if it hadn't been for Governor Murphy, we wouldn't have the union today.
WEST: Did you get involved in any of the fighting then that was down there?
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes.
WEST: Down at the Battle of Running Bulls, with the cops that night?
WEST: How did that...can you explain any of that?
HAVRILLA: Like I say, there was a handful. And bunches of police come down there and we was by the gate. Two or three of 'em said, "Let's get 'em." So we went out, hammed it up. Then when we come back in there and when we see we was losing the battle, why we come back in and closed the gates. But we was just like the bunch, you know what I mean. And like you say, on top they had machine guns, up on top, machine guns or guns, whatever they had and ready to knock us off.
WEST: Now on the day that Chevy 4 went down, they had it planned apparently for the afternoon that there was gonna be a diversion at Plant 9. Isn't that right? The women were knockin' out the windows and there was a fight in Plant 9. And all the cops went there. And in the meantime, they came by to shut you down. Do you remember what it was like that day that they shut you down? Can you describe the events of that day?
HAVRILLA: Well, the way we had it set up, that we start up there in force and close the doors down here in 4, see. Plant 9 was a small outfit. That was just the valves and clutches and brake linings. We were puttin' brake linings in in Plant 9, see.
WEST: But you were the assembly plant there.
HAVRILLA: Yes, we was the complete assembly, motor line and everything, see. When Plant 4 closed that was it, see.
WEST: Right. I know it was important.
HAVRILLA: That was the most important plant, 'cause everything was made in Plant 4 outside of the clutches and the brake bands and so and so and valves, see. But down there in Plant 4, the whole Plant 4, when we closed that up, why, there was nothin' there.
WEST: Right. From what I can understand, some guys came over from Plant Six to help you guys in Plant 4 shut down and take the plant. Did you see those guys come in?
HAVRILLA: Yes, that was on the back end of the east side in Plant 4. They come down a railroad tract in between Plant 7 and Plant 6; and Plant 10 was over there where they come in.
WEST: And then you guys, some of you union boys, shut it down too.
HAVRILLA: Correct. We had to have reinforcement.
WEST: Did you have trouble shuttin' the line down? You said some guys didn't want to.
HAVRILLA: Had clubs, and we shut it down. About fifteen behind and each one had clubs. See, in them days we had sticks. Well, when we used to grind the weight off the crankshaft, well, we made clubs out of them, billy clubs out there. And a lot of them just used a club, see. And ten of us just went down there to the line and said, "Either get off, or we'll knock you off." And we shut the machine down complete. In other words, half didn't want to go, see. I'd say more than half, 'cause, like I said, they wanted to keep the line because the management said, "Stay on the job."
WEST: What did the foreman do while you were running around with the club shuttin' it down?
HAVRILLA: The foreman just stayed on the side. He knew what was up, see. 'Cause there was about ten, fifteen of us going in through see. I come in there with that club. I just give it to you; I know you can't have 'em now. So I said, "Here, you might as well have it." This is a 1937 club, because I made it in the crankshaft department me, Ralph Amy, Howard Walter and Johnson.
WEST: Was that Kermit Johnson now, I wonder?
HAVRILLA: It could be; you ask Kermit Johson if he knows me. I know the Johnson.
WEST: He had a wife, Genora Johnson, who was pretty active.
HAVRILLA: Yes, at Plant 9, where they worked on that line, over at Plant 9. Well, that's where he started out, see. And like I say, I can't think too much of them names.
WEST: But those were the people that were with you when you shut it down.
WEST: What happened to the guys that weren't union people and didn't want to shut it down, and you forced them to shut it down? Did they leave the plant?
HAVRILLA: They left the plant. They left and went right out of the plant.
WEST: When all of those were gone and you got some of the enforcement from Chevy 6, I guess, were there many of you in the plant then?
HAVRILLA: Well, I guess about two or three hundred, not more than that.
WEST: Well, how many guys would work there, normally?
HAVRILLA: Well, normally about twenty-two hundred.
WEST: So it was a pretty small group of you in there. Did the police come and try to get in then?
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes.
WEST: After you had completed.
HAVRILLA: After we locked the gate. We had the doors just plugged up. And everybody was setting inside the window. And everybody come in there goes. We had the gate locked and everything.
WEST: And you had weapons. You were ready to...
HAVRILLA: No, we didn't have no weapons. Billy clubs.
WEST: Did you have hinges and any things like that? Any metals, you know?
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes. Chains and everything like this. And anything that was valuable. We were willing to kill ourself or them. But if it hadn't been for our Governor Murphy, I think we would have had a fight.
WEST: Right, right. So the National Guard did come in then.
HAVRILLA: Pulled everything up there and forced General Motors to bargain.
WEST: And you went down then in Chevy 4, I guess, for about ten, eleven days. Did you stay in the shop?
HAVRILLA: Oh yes.
WEST: All that time?
HAVRILLA: No, I was the out going and comin' in.
WEST: Oh, that was your job. I was gonna ask you what your job was then.
HAVRILLA: I went out at first and got a radio to find out about the broadcast. Then I went out there and got some liquor.
WEST: Oh, did you have liquor in the plant?
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes, we had liquor in there. See, it wasn't condemned. But each one didn't get drunk.
WEST: No, but you did have liquor.
HAVRILLA: Oh yes.
WEST: Because I was talking to some guy from Fisher 1 and they said that the leadership there, the union leadership, said they couldn't bring it in. You brought it in. Did you have to sneak it in or did you...?
HAVRILLA: Sneak it in, oh yes. From under the bridge, in to the side of the river, and then I walked in. They came to me at the front of the gate and I said, "Catch it." Under the river at the Chevrolet Avenue bridge, I'd walk up there and come in there.
WEST: What sort of liquor did you have?
WEST: Where did you get that? From the beer garden?
HAVRILLA: Yes, right up at the other side of the Genesee Bank. I can't think of the name.
WEST: Was it cold in the plant?
HAVRILLA: Oh, you'd better believe it was cold. It came up across the river.
WEST: How did you keep yourself warm?
HAVRILLA: Well, at that time we done a little jogging and talking, you know what I mean. And we'd keep walking around, keep walking around in there. And we'd huddle up there, played cards and so on.
WEST: How did you get food?
HAVRILLA: Oh, we'd have to bring it in.
WEST: Oh, so you couldn't cook in the plant?
HAVRILLA: Oh, we could cook all right.
WEST: Oh, so there was some cooking you could do.
HAVRILLA: Like I say, we brought lunchmeat and bread and took it in and that was it, see.
WEST: Now at the time of the strike, were you living with your parents then?
HAVRILLA: No, with my wife.
WEST: You were married at that time. Did you have any children?
HAVRILLA: One, or no, I had two at that time. Tell you what, history is going to repeat.
WEST: Oh yes. That was '29, wasn't it?
HAVRILLA: Them cars aren't like we're gonna build 'em today. In them days we had these little two-cylinder Austins.
WEST: Oh, small cars.
HAVRILLA: And I'd like to have that printed in the union paper and show 'em what was the olden days. We've got the same trouble we had them days. In the Buick factory out there, when things got tough I had a Ford----Model T Ford. And the general foreman come around and said, "If you don't get a General Motors car, you're out of a job."
WEST: Oh really, he did.
HAVRILLA: Yes, sir.
WEST: That was in the twenties, was it?
HAVRILLA: '26. No, '28.
HAVRILLA: Then from '28 I went down to the Fisher Body, in '30. Then from '30 I went back over, six months from there I went up to try and get a job at Chevrolet. And I got a job at Chevrolet Manufacturing. And there I stayed for thirty-eight and a half years.
WEST: Right. Did they have the same policy through the thirties that you were expected to buy a General Motors car?
HAVRILLA: No, just at the Buick at that time, because Buick wasn't doin' good, and I was workin' at Buick. And I had a Model T Ford I bought from a neighbor of mine and I drove that back and forth to work. And they asked what kind of car you had and said, "You gotta get a General Motors car or you don't work." And in Chevrolet plant, the boss he'd come around and tell me, "What would you rather do, look from the outside in, or the inside out?", if I didn't do the job. Oh, hell, man; I went through hell down there. I had seventeen different jobs. I walked down the goddamned line. Pretty soon the foreman said, "Where are you goin'?" At that time we wasn't allowed to leave our department. He said, "Where are you goin'?" "Well, I said, I just got laid off." "Come on, I got a job for you."
WEST: So you weren't out of work for very long.
HAVRILLA: So I went in there and worked and finally somehow my superintendent found out that I was workin' up in a different department. And he come up there and tried to get me back. I said, "I don't want to go back." At that time I didn't have the union. "Well, you gotta come back." I said, "No, I don't want to come back." So I didn't go back. Went to another department and a friend, like I say a friend in another department over there, he said, "Come on, I got a spare job here." He showed me how in a few seconds and that's all. Pretty soon the god damned tool room come down. They wanted me back there because I was doing work down there.
WEST: I was interested if you were married at the time. Was your wife pretty sympathetic with you? Did she understand?
HAVRILLA: Well, no she didn't understand. No.
WEST: No, you had problems at home?
HAVRILLA: Had problems at home because I was comin' home maybe one and two o'clock at night and on the weekends after our meetings went over. And she was mean. And I was having to take the car drivin' back and forth, you know what I mean. And so she just couldn't take it.
WEST: And then you sat in the plant then, too, during the strike.
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes.
WEST: How did she get on then when you were in the plant?
HAVRILLA: Well, she got on all right. When we went on the strike I had about six hundred dollars cash money. Didn't get no money from the union. My six hundred went to hell for the sixteen-some days. I don't know what it is right now.
WEST: So you lost your savings.
WEST: Did you have trouble making payments on the house?
HAVRILLA: No, no.
WEST: You could make payments, then. And you kept your car.
HAVRILLA: Kept the car and made the payments on the house. And like I say, but I lost the six hundred equalizing everything.
WEST: Right, right. Was your wife working?
HAVRILLA: No, in them days, women they wouldn't let in the shop.
WEST: Were your children in school?
HAVRILLA: Just that one.
WEST: You just had the one. Was he in school?
WEST: Well, what was it like for your wife and son then, during the strike? Did they have to take any abuse from the neighbors or others because you were in strikin'?
HAVRILLA: No, that was a hunky town and they all enjoyed what I was doin'.
WEST: Oh, they were all sympathetic to you.
HAVRILLA: They were all sympathetic to what I was doing.
WEST: Most Hungarians then, were union people.
HAVRILLA: Well, as my Dad said, they fought for their life to get away from Europe to get over here, so they could be free. So they were sympathetic people.
WEST: Right. And your Dad had been a union man, too.
WEST: So your Dad gave you support, then, did he?
HAVRILLA: Yes. And my uncle he got killed down in there the first strike they had down in Pennsylvania, see. So like I say that he was a union member and everything he wanted me to be. Then when we had land...we bought land for twenty-five cents an acre down in Pennsylvania, up on top the mountains. Dad couldn't get no money enough to pay his taxes and he lost it after he'd cleared the land to use them big pine stumps after the sawmills come through and cut the good wood off and let the stumps. And we cleaned it. Us kids had to dig around the stump and make a fence. Somehow my mother got sick and couldn't pay for the taxes either, so we lost it.
WEST: So you lost it after all that work.
HAVRILLA: All that work and everything.
WEST: When you were in there during the strike, you went outside and did jobs for the union.
HAVRILLA: Oh yes.
WEST: You had a car and so did you go out sometimes to bring other people in to the plant?
WEST: I know they got pretty low. How did the people feel when you went out to talk to them about coming into the plant?
HAVRILLA: Well, they thought I was a good organizer. I talked to 'em and I said, "Now if we don't win this, we're gonna lose everything." I said, "What we're tryin' to gain is a decent living. We know old man Mott is a rich man and the big shot is over there, old man Davison." Kobacker and all them controlled Flint at that time. Then when the Depression hit, all these five guys own the bank and company. The banks belonged to 'em and everything. Like I say, I bought the house next door to me where I was rentin' for three hundred, when the Depression come, from the bank. They couldn't pay, so I just let 'em stay there. I said, "Take it easy and live here 'til you find a different job someday," 'cause I had money at that time. But it cost me...now I guess I had about twelve, thirteen hundred dollars saved up, because I was doin' two jobs at the same time. I was deliverin' coal in the winter when I was laid off and I had a truck goin' for the goddamned city concrete, pavin' the roads.
WEST: Oh, you were pavin' the roads. So you had a lot goin' for you then outside the plant.
HAVRILLA: Oh yes, you gotta be smart in order to be dumb. You know what I mean. So I had quite a little bit going. A dollar here and a dollar... Then I bought about twenty miles of railroad ties and tracks. So I got a bunch of these men that didn't do nothin'. Took 'em out there and pull the spikes out and got the rails off them and brought them in. Made a few dollars from a Jew. And I continued goin' all the time. You know what I mean.
WEST: Right. That was during the Depression.
HAVRILLA: That was during the Depression.
WEST: To make ends meet.
WEST: When did you get married?
WEST: Oh, just before the Depression.
HAVRILLA: Before the Depression.
WEST: Did your wife ever encounter any of the people who belonged to the so-called Flint Alliance? It was a back-to-work movement.
HAVRILLA: No, no.
WEST: She didn't have any experience with that. Were you Catholic, being Hungarian?
HAVRILLA: I wasn't either one. That's what I was doin' when I was runnin' away from home. I wouldn't learn my language. And I wouldn't learn readin' and writin' in American, neither. All I could do was talk.
WEST: The strike then, was finished in February the eleventh.
WEST: How were things afterwards? Did things change in the plant much after the strike?
HAVRILLA: No, no, but like I say. Then when we set up the bargain table, it seemed like the big jobs were scarce too. When we asked for somethin' they gave it. Before we didn't have no gloves. We asked for gloves to handle raw material. And they gave us gloves. They gave us practically everything that we demanded for. And look, what the hell, prices kept goin' up and up.
WEST: Right. But these things management was more willing to give you the things you wanted. Did you stay with the union then afterward. Did you become a steward?
HAVRILLA: I was a deputy steward at the beginning.
WEST: How did that work out then?
HAVRILLA: Well, we had three. We had a chief and two deputies.
WEST: How many men did you represent then as a deputy?
HAVRILLA: A whole...our department, crankshaft department, and all the way up. Anybody that wanted to call us, we went.
WEST: And you were expected to represent the men to the foremen.
WEST: What sort of grievances did the men have?
HAVRILLA: Well, you might say first you started out switching jobs. Line had to be broke down here. Take him off and put him over there. Then you'd turn around after the line got fixed. Why he come out there and the foreman would say, "I want all of them out that are behind." So that means he would work two hours for the rest of them in order to do the job for the foreman. He was tired when he come back over.
WEST: So you wanted that sort of thing stopped so each man would have one job and work it.
HAVRILLA: Yes, it broke down and broke down. In the olden days, like I said before, in there we got twenty-six an hour for a breakdown job. And you stayed on the job until the maintenance man fixed it, see. Then you come back on your piecework and you could make it up. But you still got twenty-six cents an hour.
WEST: Down time.
HAVRILLA: Down time. Then the same thing like our pension, see. The union was supposed to fight for that. How they cheated us out of thousands and thousands of dollars that they never come up with.
WEST: Oh, the union didn't come through.
HAVRILLA: No, they didn't come through. Like I say, it was on a paper where they stole thousands and thousands of dollars from us. Efficiency went up and then went down.
WEST: Were your foremen a little easier to get along with after the strike?
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes. But there was one goddamned foreman. He come in there, like I say, he come in there and man he'd treat you good. Him and I went to the beer garden...about four or five of us went to the beer garden. Man, he was just out of this world. Down on his goddamned bench he was writin' down everything. Two of our machines broke down. Had a balance machine broke down. He come up to me and he said, "I'm behind on cranks. Do you think you could help us out?" Well, I thought he was a good man and a good foreman, so I said, "Okay." He said, "I'll tell you what I'll do. We'll double up." I said, "I can get this work out in about thirty minutes, but I'm gonna work my head off to get it." Then he can get the same thing. There, we got that down on a piece of paper and we followed it two weeks on the strike that time. You probably read in there where we was two weeks on the strike.
WEST: That was after the union was settled.
HAVRILLA: That was after the union was settled down and everything, see. That was the double up we had. See, I worked my head off, and he worked his head off in order to get the two extra machines back in production, see. Then he come up...we was gettin' twenty-one an hour at that time. Then the big shot come down and he said, "Thirty." So I said, if we can get twenty-one and hour, or a half hour when we try to help the boss, he said we got to be able to get another quarter more. So they put it up from twenty-one to thirty.
WEST: So that was speed-up, and then you went down.
HAVRILLA: That's it. That's when we went on the strike. So then we come up there for the strike. They wanted thirty, we got it cut down to twenty-five. And they kept addin' one, kept addin' one, kept addin' one, kept addin' one, 'til they got up to thirty. And after they got to thirty...and they was gettin' heavy. They were seventy-nine pound cranks then. That was too heavy for me. I was only a hundred and thirty-five pounds. So I told the boss, "I want to get transferred." He said, "Where?" I said, "I don't give a god damned where." So he sent me to the head department. I said, "No...handle them god damned big heads." So I said, "No." Well then he sent me to the water pump. I liked that job, the water pump. And first thing I knew he said, "Well, this old man here is capable of doing your job. You gotta go over and do his job." I quit! I said, "Give me a different job."
WEST: Did they give you another job then?
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes. Oh hell, they couldn't afford to lose anybody that was willing to work, at that time.
WEST: Again, that was after the strike.
HAVRILLA: Yes, after the strike. See, every man was valuable at that time, see. So they sent me over to the tool room. From the tool room I was over there a silver solder brazin' over there. Then pretty soon they called me down to the oil pump. Then from the oil pump I went back up to valve job.
WEST: You were all around.
HAVRILLA: Nineteen different jobs. Last I was up to the main office.
WEST: Oh, what were you doing there?
HAVRILLA: He used to call me down. He said, "Send this to Harold Will, up here." So, oh boy, that scared me half to death. Sid Smith, do you remember? No, he probably wasn't in the strike. Sid Smith was his name. He was a big plant superintendent. I come up there and he said, "What's wrong, Andy?" He come out there. He'd take two quick and made me. He said, "That's all I want." I had worked in Plant 4 and had to go up to the main office.
WEST: That was all he wanted from you.
HAVRILLA: That was all. That was all he wanted from me. So that was the best part of the world. They all liked me. Sid Smith, and I can't think of this other guy; him and I used to have a bottle of booze in his desk. Damn, I can't think of his name right now. Sid Smith, no...
WEST: At any rate, you had some wildcat strikes.
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes. I just told you the one on the crankshaft.
WEST: That took quite a while. But did they settle down then after while?
HAVRILLA: Yes, they settled down. But they proved that we could get it, see. But we was told to do it, see.
WEST: So that foreman that you thought was such a good guy.
HAVRILLA: That's right.
WEST: He wasn't; he was a pusher.
HAVRILLA: He was a pusher for the company, see. Then we had the foundry do a little different set-up on their machinery before we set the thirty. Because in other words, they made a die block in there. Some was too thick on one end, too thin on the other end, see, so we agreed if you could get on the foundry to equalize that weight on the crank, then we'll take it over. Then they brought the crank from fourteen, fifteen ounces off down to five and six. That was perfect. But fourteen, fifteen ounces, that was too damn much.
WEST: Yes. Well, that's interesting. Now going back to the period before the strike, did you have stoolies in the shop, guys that were company men that you couldn't talk to?
HAVRILLA: Yes, oh, yes. Yes, that was piecework. We had company men in piecework. They'd see what we're doin', see. If we was layin' down on the job or pushin' on the job, see.
WEST: Did you have to be careful, too, about talkin' about the union?
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes. Oh, boy. Oh, boy, you had to be careful. Yes, you had to be careful. The one time we was careful when we got outside the gate and up in the dining room. Like I say, your friends...you started from your friend, and his friends, and you'd tell 'em both.
WEST: Did you get to know quite a few men pretty well?
HAVRILLA: Oh yes.
WEST: And you'd talk union then outside of the shop.
HAVRILLA: Yes, we used to talk. And we used to go up there...just like politics today. Go in and have two hours drinkin'. Afterwards we'd stop in...usually we'd stop and drink about six beers in about an hour. Then we'd talk what we can do and how we're gonna do everythin' that was comin' out ordinary. You know what I mean. And so, in other words, we'd stop in like that, see. That's what they'd call "get together".
WEST: Right. Did you hold union meetings in the Pengelly or did you have them someplace else?
HAVRILLA: Pengelly Building. We had meetings over there; I think it was two or three times a week. I ain't quite sure. I know we had one on Friday. That was the last day of the work, see. And we had 'em on Friday.
WEST: Now, after the strike, did you take part in helping to organize any of the other places around town?
WEST: You stuck pretty well in Flint, 'cause some of the guys I've talked to did go down and travel to Pontiac, you know, and South Bend and other places.
HAVRILLA: Well, they were more educated than I was and willing to ride and go. No, the only place I did was over at Fisher Body and Chevrolet. After that, why, I was content in what I was doing.
WEST: Right. One thing that interests me is during the strike, and for a while after the strike too, the Flint Journal and other people who were talking about the strike kept saying that you guys were a lot of Communists, or Socialists and that sort of thing. How did you react to that?
HAVRILLA: Well, that was a laugh, see. The company had what they called Communists and what they wanted, see. Like I say, you got your job and you stay on the job here and you'll have a job the rest of your life. That's socialist. Workin' for the union was the opposite way of that. So we resolved...and the company went on one side and we went on the other side. But we was tryin' to get in and organize and educate these people, see. Give them what they'd promise 'em and say you got a job the rest of your life. So they'd back off.
WEST: But I mean, were there people who were Communists?
HAVRILLA: No, no, no, no. No, they was no more Communists than they are today, like the Klu Klux Klan.
WEST: Right. Were there any Ku Klux Klan people around?
HAVRILLA: No, no. We had a lot of hillbilly and a lot of hunkies and very few niggers, see.
WEST: There were no blacks workin' in...
HAVRILLA: No, there was about half a dozen at that time. And we had them cleanin' up the shavings and sweepin' at that time. Then when the war started, then they shipped in everything in here, see. On the boxcar they brought in for the wartime. They used to be soup a house on the corner of Stewart and the railroad tracks. There used to be a soup house there through the wartime. Then there was a bunch of bunkhouses, two-story houses, about twenty of 'em in that way, where we had all soldiers and everything in there. Right behind the soup house was Liberty Motor. Airplane motors made.
WEST: Oh, yes. That was World War II?
WEST: World War I. Oh, I see.
HAVRILLA: I go way back there.
WEST: And they brought people in then.
HAVRILLA: Oh, yes. Come by carloads in. And black and white and you name 'em, hillbillies and everything. And they had the camp house down here, and the soup house down there. And I used to go down there and in there, and I knew 'em, 'cause I just lived across a railroad track over there. I used to go down there with a kettle 'cause I had my mother cook. And I'd go down there and they'd give me a goddamned bowl of vegetables. And I'd take it home to my family. There were six of us and Dad and Mama, see.
WEST: Right. Did they bring 'em up from the south, people up from the south through the twenties and thirties, too?
HAVRILLA: No, no. There was enough left. Michigan Avenue was nothin' but a colored district. Before there was the hunkies in there, what they called shanty town. And like I say, we didn't like 'em then, and I guess we don't like 'em today. So all of us got out of there and moved over to the other district, across St. John, see. And we gave Michigan Avenue to the colored people.
WEST: Well, you had some tough times.
HAVRILLA: No, there was wonderful times those days. No, I used to go with an Irishman. He was Irish and his mother was black. And him and I used to go to school together, then, to Fairview school. We used to go down to Fairview and I can't think of the name right now...Shaheen. They used to go in there, Shaheen and judge...that woman judge; she used to go to the same school that I did. But I was mean as hell, and like I say, I didn't like it. Remember they used to take me upstairs and she'd say, "Hey, you're smart enough, why don't you get into politics?" That was educated in the schools. So all the rest of 'em wanted the power. I said, "Huh, uh."
WEST: Did the union become active in politics after the strike, then?
HAVRILLA: Yes, oh, yes, they did.
WEST: Did you get involved in any of that?
HAVRILLA: No, I quit right there.
WEST: You were just on the job, then.
HAVRILLA: Yes, I was on the job after that. I quit right there. I didn't want to have any thing more to do.