INTERVIEW: February 27, 1980
INTERVIEWER: Neil Leighton
INTERVIEWEE: Cloyse Crane, 6123 River Road, Flint, Michigan
CRANE: It happened; it was so sudden, see, and they had to have it that way, because, I tell you, before that strike, a supervisor in there, if you just mention the word "union," nine times out of ten you're gone out the door. Yes, that was it. It was just that tension there all the time, you know. And you didn't know the guy that was workin' across the line from you what he was, whether he was for it or ag'in it, you know. And, I tell you, them people in there, they were just, long towards the end, I tell you, I hated to go in there and go to work. Yep, I did, 'cause you didn't know what was gonna happen to you. And finally the thing broke loose and that was it. It was some of the people, and I was one of them. They put me on inspection 'bout, oh, six months before the strike, see.
LEIGHTON: So that was about June? June and July of '36?
CRANE: They started puttin' guys on inspection, see, and, well, then they called them "company men". We was "company men" then, see. Then, course at that time it was okay with me, because they guaranteed me fifty dollars a week. And that was a little more than the rest of 'em was makin', see. And so everything run along fine and in that deal you didn't go home with the rest of 'em. You stayed there and helped the foreman. The foreman had to sweep his own departments out. He had to do his own bookwork and everything like that, you know. It was more money and that, but we needed it, see. So when this thing happened, why, I think I was in there two times in three days, somethin' like that. And the...I forget where it was...they had a vacant building; it was there on Third Avenue, or on Chevrolet Avenue and supervisors were in there, see. And we was called in there, all of us guys that was inspectors, see.
LEIGHTON: On Third Avenue? Was that the employment office?
CRANE: No, not Third Avenue. Chevrolet Avenue. It was on Chevrolet, down there.
LEIGHTON: Oh, the main building, was it?
CRANE: Yes...no, the main building, the office was on Glenwood there?
CRANE: Glenwood there. But they called us in there and they wanted some of the guys that were in there, see, they didn't like it 'cause we was in there with 'em, see. 'Cause they'd labeled us "company men", see. See, the company had labeled us "company men." And of course, we had to get out. And but we did smuggle in food and everything that we could get our hands on. We took it in there to them guys and bags of beer, stuff like that, you know, sneak it in. Well, then they put the National Guard on both ends of Chevrolet Avenue there. Well, that cut us out there. But we went down back in there and snuck it in there. And we made a lot of stuff. The wives would cook bean soup and stuff like that and get it in there. But there wasn't too many in there when they got it. We had them...which I didn't like...them riots and fights down there. That was just a little bit too much.
LEIGHTON: I wanted to ask you to go back to that. One of the questions that comes up is...the plant goes down...Fisher 2 goes down about, what? Seven fifteen, about eight o'clock.
CRANE: 'Round eight o'clock, yeah.
LEIGHTON: Eight o'clock. They'd had a meeting, did they not, at seven fifteen, scheduled?
CRANE: Yes, they did; they had a meeting scheduled and they had everything all set up, see.
LEIGHTON: What was the meeting about? That's one of the things I'm really not sure.
CRANE: Well, there was so many of us around there. We heard part of it. That's the first time when they had that meeting that I knew there was gonna be a sit-down, see.
LEIGHTON: Okay, then, that was the bargaining committee was going to meet with management. Was that it?
CRANE: Well, they wanted to know...it was no bargaining. It was just a group of brave people.
LEIGHTON: And do you remember who they were? Just some of them?
CRANE: Well, you was talkin' about Redmond. He was in there and a guy by the name of Bloomfield; he wore a button. That's what started it, see. And they were all in there. Sam Sammarco was in there.
LEIGHTON: Sam Sammarco.
CRANE: Yeah, he was in there. Well, he was the head of the bargaining committee over there for years and years. And you know he was elected to the national bargaining committee in Detroit, see. He was always representin' our plant there. And, oh, there was a little guy named Hughie Parker; he was in on it.
CRANE: Yeah, and who else was in there? Herb Semeral was there. And it was so many of them.
LEIGHTON: Was Bruce Manley there?
CRANE: Yeah, Bruce Manley was there and it was kind of a mixed up deal. They tried to keep it underground, see.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember a fellow named Joe Clark? Was he there, too?
CRANE: Yes, yeah. In the trim department was where Joe worked.
LEIGHTON: So what really caused this group of guys to get up and to go into management early in the morning of December thirtieth, wasn't it?
CRANE: Yeah, yeah. December thirtieth, that's when it was.
LEIGHTON: What were they all steamed up about?
CRANE: Well, that was the last chance, because this thing was breakin' up so much our floor out there, among the workers. Yeah, everybody was gettin' so tight, you know. Well, I think if it had went two more days, I think half of the people wouldn't even come in. It got that bad.
LEIGHTON: Why were they so uptight? You mean because they were getting fired for wearing the union buttons?
CRANE: They used so many tricks in there and underhanded ways to try to stop it, see. They knew that they had just about give up on bargaining or talkin' about it, see. But they didn't know quite when it was gonna happen. And what happened, this Bloomfield I told you about, he was an inspector. He come in that morning and he had his union pin on. And the foreman took him by the arm and took him up to Personnel for firin' him. Then when they did that, that's when your gang of people went up there.
LEIGHTON: I see, so it was Bloomfield, who was an inspector. But he wasn't a company man. He had his union button on.
CRANE: He had it on, see. And the foreman and the superintendent, he worked down in the body shop...that's in the metals.
LEIGHTON: He was a metal finisher.
CRANE: Yes. They took him up there. And when they did, all the people in the body shop followed right up with him, then. Wherever anybody seen him goin' they just joined in and went, see. That's the way it worked.
LEIGHTON: And then what happened when they got up to see management?
CRANE: When they got up there, they shut the door in their face. So the guys went back and got their dinner buckets. Them that wanted to go home, they said, "go." They said, "We're stayin'. We're gonna stay right in there. This is our plant, and it's where we're supposed to be makin' our money, and we're stayin'." And, oh, an awful bunch of 'em stayed. But then they'd dwindle out, you know.
LEIGHTON: But right on that morning then, how did they shut the plant down?
CRANE: They had to. There was nobody on the job workin'. They had to shut it down.
LEIGHTON: Okay. Did somebody shut the lines off?
CRANE: The foremen did; they had to.
LEIGHTON: The foremen shut it off.
CRANE: They had to save these bodies from pilin' up in there.
LEIGHTON: How did they get the idea to sit down? Did they just come up with that right away or had you (meaning the guys who worked in the shop) been meeting in peoples' houses talking about this situation?
CRANE: Well, yes, and you see we were the first ones to shut down. But that Chevrolet motor plant there, Plant 4 and Plant 5, they was doin' the same thing, see, and Plant 9, back of 'em. And Fisher 1...
LEIGHTON: Down on South Saginaw, sure. They went down after you did.
CRANE: Yeah, they was workin' on it, too, see. And what they were doin' was just waitin' for somebody to make the break, see. See, that's what the whole thing was about, see. See, somebody had to do it. And they had have a little of an excuse to do it. And that's the excuse that they took when they took Bloomfield to Personnel and fired him, see. And that was it, right there. It was done.
LEIGHTON: Now, I've heard this, and correct me, 'cause I could be wrong, that Mundale and Manley and a couple of others, they also refused to work with inspectors who were non-union. Was there anything to that story, or is that...?
CRANE: No. Well, they could have been in different departments. I don't know. I just have to talk about my department on that, because, you know, this thing didn't organize right there all at once like that. That thing went on and on, and then first one guy would join the union and have a button on and pretty quick somebody else will and that's the way it went.
LEIGHTON: When did it start? Do you remember? I mean when did you first become aware that they were organizing.
CRANE: Oh, it was in the fall.
LEIGHTON: Was Bob Travis in town yet, or was Wyndham Mortimer still here...or do you remember either one of them? Well, you remember Bob, probably.
CRANE: Well, I know Mortimer.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember when Mortimer came to Flint?
CRANE: Oh, not exactly. I'll tell you, there was guys comin' and goin' all the while. They rented a store building. Well, it's the same one that supervision set up there, to protect the men. But after the strike was over with they had a little union hall up there on Chevrolet Avenue. And there was different guys comin' from Detroit and all over, you know, to help get the...we had to get a charter of some kind, see. You just couldn't...we had to get a charter, you know, one that would hold water. Well, I guess there was Teamsters Union here in Flint at that time, but when they started talking about all the automobile workers organizin', why, that was a dirty trick and it was way out of this world, you know. But they had that up there. And in Detroit, who was it? It was CIO-A F of L put up the money, you know, sponsored it.
LEIGHTON: Well, it was the CIO, then.
CRANE: Oh, John L. Lewis, he kicked in, you know, to finance it. Well then, they, of course they had to elect officers, they had to elect committeemen and all that stuff, you know. That took a long time. It was a year after the sit-down before we really was organized and had our charter and knew up from down and which way we was goin' and everything like that. It didn't happen overnight, just as soon as they give in. Oh no, there was so much work to do. Then there you was. You had to pick somebody for president, you had to pick somebody for shop committeeman, you had to pick your secretary and treasurer. Well then it got, it just kind of slumped out, it seemed to me, because our union dues wasn't checked off, see. You had to go up to that little place up there and pay it. And then some of them guys just would not go; I don't know why. And there was a lot friction in there. I go up there and pay my dues every month. And the guy workin' across the line from me, he wouldn't sign up to pay.
LEIGHTON: When did you first, though, join up in an auto union? Were you in with the old A F of L? When did you start workin' in the auto plants in Flint? Let's start that way.
LEIGHTON: So you started in at Fisher 2.
CRANE: Fisher 2; I ended up there.
LEIGHTON: Now, in 1929 was anybody, any union trying to organize in the auto plants?
CRANE: No, no.
LEIGHTON: It was not 'til when, 1934?
CRANE: There was nothing growin' in there much until, oh, I would say there was some talk about it in '35, along in there, see.
LEIGHTON: That was under the A F of L, right?
CRANE: The A F of L was the ones that was doin' the talkin', see. See originally our charter was CIO, see, our first charter. Well then, after they got these plants all organized, we had enough people then to have a union of our own and a charter of our own, see.
CRANE: That's when they broke away from CIO.
LEIGHTON: Yes, and they formed the UAW-CIO.
CRANE: Yes, they changed it then to UAW-CIO, see. Well then they broke away from CIO. See, Reuther did that and we ended up with just the automotive and united farm machinery, and just what we got now, see. Oh, they've taken in some small ones now. But it was...we didn't have no job security whatever.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever run into a union organizer before Travis came, though, to Flint?
CRANE: No, I don't believe I did.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever run into a guy named Phil Raymond, with what was called the AWU, the Auto Workers Union? It would have come to Flint about 1930.
CRANE: No, I don't believe I did.
LEIGHTON: When you went into Fisher 2, did you ever run into guys outside the gate passing out stuff, join the union.
CRANE: Oh, we had a lot of literature passed out there.
LEIGHTON: And who was doing most of that?
CRANE: We had some of our own people doin' it. But there wasn't much fare in front of the plant, I'll tell you. It was up the street aways, see. Yeah, all them guys all had somethin' to stick in your pocket, see, for you.
LEIGHTON: And who were they passing it out for, do you remember? Was it just the UAW?
CRANE: No, there was no UAW; it was the CIO.
LEIGHTON: Or the A F of L. Was there a big organizing drive in Flint in 1934, do you remember that? The one that a guy named Frey, who was the head of the Flint Federation of Labor. Did you ever go to any of those meetings up in the Pengelly Building?
CRANE: Just once I was up there, yes. What was his name, Frey?
LEIGHTON: Bill Frey. Some of the plants, particularly Buick, went on strike in 1934 and the A F of L didn't back 'em up. Let 'em just hang out there to dry. And a lot of guys just apparently said, well, that was it; they had it with the union.
CRANE: Well, that did help slow it down. But they tried to take too much on themselves. Well, see, when this '37 deal come up, they was organizing in Fisher 2 there on Chevrolet Avenue, Chevrolet Plant 2 across the street, down south Plant 5 was organizin', Plant 4 and Fisher 1 out there. They was right along with us, see; and they was built right up, had the same head of steam we had, put it that way, see. And they were waitin' for somebody to turn the belt. And it just happened to be our plant that time.
LEIGHTON: When did the activity really start getting intense? Was that '36?
CRANE: Yes, it did in '36. There was so much of it that was hush-hush, see.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever go to any of the hush-hush meetings?
CRANE: I was to one of 'em, yeah, I was to one of 'em.
LEIGHTON: Where was it held?
CRANE: Some place on Corunna Road.
LEIGHTON: Was it in the basement of a house or something?
CRANE: No, it wasn't in a basement. What's that building across from Zimmerman School there? They got a dance studio in there. It was in that basement right there.
LEIGHTON: Okay. Who was at the meeting? I sound like I'm the FBI, but of course it was forty-three years ago.
CRANE: Well, I know I was there.
LEIGHTON: Who did...did somebody do the talking?
CRANE: Yes, it was a guy from Detroit...what was his name? It wasn't Mortimer?
LEIGHTON: George Addes, Homer Martin?
CRANE: No, it was one of the Reuther boys.
CRANE: Roy Reuther. That's the guy. They was into it; they had a lot of fingers in it, them three guys did.
LEIGHTON: From the time of that meeting, did you ever go up to the Pengelly Building?
CRANE: I think I was up there after that; it was after that, yeah.
LEIGHTON: Was there a meeting held up there?
CRANE: Yes, they had a get-together there. You had to have a card to get into it.
LEIGHTON: So before you could get into the meeting you had to have signed up with the...?
CRANE: You had to have a card of some kind, identification, see.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember who first signed you up?
CRANE: You mean these cards?
LEIGHTON: Oh, that was all secret; they were handed to us, a card and a pin, see, in our plant. Where them cards come from, I don't know.
LEIGHTON: Oh, how did they get handed to you? I'd like to know the process of it.
CRANE: Oh, they come along, you know, and be talkin' with you somebody would, you know. And pretty quick, why, you ended with a pin and card in your shirt pocket, see. Yes, that's the way it worked. We didn't talk union in there; but we knew what was goin' on. We knew that guy when he was comin' down there what he'd want and everything. And I've seen guys just as soon as he got goin' take 'em out of the pocket and throw it in the basket there or tub. So you know that's the way it was. It wasn't a hundred percent. It wasn't fifty percent for a long time, you know. It just had to be slowly and real slow put together.
LEIGHTON: You joined, though, when? Six months before, five months?
CRANE: Well, I had my pin, yes, I had my pin then, yeah. But that pin, I don't know how long I carried it. Let's see...that was in February, eleventh of February we come out of there. And it was over. Why, I believe it was a long time...let's see, February...it must have been the latter part of April, the first of May along in there before we got our charter. Then we had to have our election, see. You can't appoint nobody on a charter; they gotta be elected.
LEIGHTON: I wanted to get back to the guys in the plant. Did you know that there were certain people in the plant who were kind of like shop stewards? This was before the strike, now, not after.
CRANE: Oh, yeah, yeah. We knew where they were. Bloomfield was one of them. And there was a lot of 'em in there.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember Bloomfield's first name in case I could ever find him?
CRANE: I can't...he was a big tall guy. He ended up, when he retired over there, he was superintendent of the body shop.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember any of the other stewards or these guys that were kind of organizers?
CRANE: Well, let's see.
LEIGHTON: What was your department, by the way?
LEIGHTON: Paint, that's right.
CRANE: It's been so long ago, I'll tell you. We knew just about who they were. You see what we had there. The company didn't have no parkin' lot. And we rented parkin' spaces out north of the building.
LEIGHTON: So they made you pay for parking, too.
CRANE: Oh, yeah. It was private; we paid for that, see. That's where you'd see some of these union guys out there. They couldn't kick 'em off there. And they'd be out there with literature, handing out that stuff. Oh, two or three times a week; and you'd hardly ever see the same guy, you know.
LEIGHTON: Any of the political parties pass out literature to you out in the parking lot?
LEIGHTON: Socialist, Communist, Socialist Workers, Proletarians...there was a whole...?
CRANE: There were some, I can't think what it was. Some of it was all right and a lot of it was just a mess of junk in order...they tried to throw you off track some place if they could, you know. You know it got so big and tense, it just had to break; that's all there was to it. And then 'course afterwards it was kind of a funny thing, you know. We were...them people that was in that sit-down strike. Outside the city here you go out in the farmin' district and they called you Communism and everything else, Communist, you know. I'd go up home; I was born and raised up northwest of Owosso. Some of my old friends and neighbors wouldn't even speak to me.
LEIGHTON: So you came from Shiawassee County? Near what town?
CRANE: Well, Elsie.
LEIGHTON: Oh yeah. Up near Bannister and...
CRANE: We lived five miles east of Elsie.
LEIGHTON: Was that a lot of Czech people living in that area, then?
CRANE: A lot of what?
LEIGHTON: Czechs. People from Czechoslovakia
CRANE: Well, in Bannister...Bannister you're talkin' about. Oh yeah, there's Czechs, a lot of 'em there.
LEIGHTON: And a lot of them worked in the plant, too, didn't they?
CRANE: Well, not so many that far away. But we did have a lot of farmers in there. And most of them was north of here, Birch Run, Montrose, New Lothrop, Clio, down in there. I'm talkin' about farmers. They had a racket, 'cause a foreman, he hired 'em, he fired 'em, everything else. Whatever had to be done, he did, see. In the fall of the year, that plant would shut down. We didn't know whether it was gonna be one week, two weeks or three months. We didn't know. And they'd tell us, well, watch the paper and listen to your radio. That's the only thing we had to go by. Well, before they started up there'd be a piece in the paper about when they were gonna, see. Then it would start comin' in on the radio and then they'd say they wanted certain operators to come in to the body shop, see. And right on through, you know, certain operators...paint sprayers, sanders, wheel polishers and them guys, see. And when them guys come in there, they didn't come in the plant. They stood out front; you didn't go in the plant. You stood out there. I don't care whether it was rainin' or snowin' or what it was. You stood out there 'til your foreman come out; had a slip of paper in his hand. "I want you, I want you, I want you," see, like that. When he got the farmers all in there, then he started on us city guys, pickin' us up.
LEIGHTON: Why did he pick the farmers first?
CRANE: Because they was takin' eggs, they was takin' butter, they was takin' potatoes, they was takin' squash, hams in there to the foremen and the superintendent and all them, see. He wanted to get them in there because the only time they're gonna work there is in the wintertime. In the spring, they're goin' back to the farm, see.
LEIGHTON: So they could bribe their way into a job.
CRANE: Sure they did. That's the way it worked, you know. And that's not job security. But I know it done me good. And I know it did everybody good in there. Just that security deal. There wasn't nothing safe in the plant at all. They didn't have no safety inspector. They didn't have nothing at all.
LEIGHTON: What about in your department, in the paint department? You were in the paint shop, right?
CRANE: I was a water sander.
LEIGHTON: Okay. Did they have any fans?
CRANE: Oh, no, no.
LEIGHTON: No ventilation!
CRANE: For '29, '30, '31, and '32 they painted three different colors in there. Black one day, next day dark green, next day dark maroon, and they just rotated that. When them guys went home, anybody all along the street would know what color they painted that day. They had so much of that paint on their ears.
LEIGHTON: Did you wear a mask?
CRANE: No, I didn't have a mask; just had a rag tied around here. Some of them guys have to lift the rag up; you had Copenhagen in...to spit. And they had Vaseline in their nose, so it couldn't get up in there. I'll tell you, it's hard to believe, but that's the truth. On that water deck, now let me tell you somethin'. We had, I think there was about thirty-six people on there. There was piecework, see, at that time.
LEIGHTON: How did that work?
CRANE: Well, they paid ninety cents a body to get 'em sanded. And three men on each body, see. Each guy got thirty cents, see. And I think we had about ten teams; sometimes we had twelve. That would be thirty-six. Ten would be thirty, see. We didn't have no relief man at all. If you could happen to catch a foreman just right and you wanted to run to the toilet in a hurry, he might do one for you. And as far as urinals in there, they had a trough right along the wall there. That was it, right there, see. And I've seen sandpaper, that old used sandpaper, so thick on that floor, I know it was four inches anyway. And all the foremen would do, every once in a while they took a stick. We had drains, you know, every so far. They'd take a stick. And we used a hundred a gallon of water there, you know, an hour...water sanding them jobs down. And it wouldn't be long you know before one of them plugged up, boy.
LEIGHTON: Did you sand by hand?
CRANE: Oh, you ain't a-kiddin'! And they bought the cheapest sandpaper they did, until after the strike and then they got some different. It was awful rough back on it. And you sand just so long and your fingers start bleedin'. And there's another thing. We got our working conditions changed, too, after the strike. And we had people come in there to make 'em change it after they found out that we had a hand hold in there, the people from Lincoln come in there. Checked out a lot of that stuff...fire equipment and all that stuff. Boy, they were right in there.
LEIGHTON: The wet sanding...you didn't have too much in the way of dust around, did you, because of the water?
CRANE: No, not right in there, no. But, see, they go out of wet sanding through a drying oven. Then it went into the Duco sprayers; that's color. Well, it was Duco then.
LEIGHTON: It was du Pont paint, wasn't it?
CRANE: Yes, it's acrylics now they put on. That's where they done the Duco spraying, right. It was a short drying oven, so that water would be dried off. Then they went into the Duco booth. And them guys, see, they was sprayin' out of a tank, you know. Well, then they had barrels of the...if they run black, they'd have barrels of black paint stashed along there. And they'd take their tanks...they had five-gallon tanks they were sprayin' out of, 'cause they would have to go up and down the line sometimes. And they would have to go over there and fill them up and get back.
LEIGHTON: Now, did you do mostly wet sanding at the time or did you do all of those jobs?
CRANE: I did 'em all. Not right then, not right then. But when I got out of there, when I retired, I did every paint job they had in there.
LEIGHTON: And before you wet sanded, somebody had to put the primer on, right? Did they spray a primer coat on?
CRANE: Well, they had a primer. That was black stuff. And that went through an oven. And it come out of there and they had some guys there checkin' them to see if the paint would run or anything. If they did, why, they had what looked like emery cloth; you'd scuff it off. Well, then, they went into another spray booth. That's where they put the glaze on. That's the stuff that we was water sandin', see. It was red oxide. That's what it was. And that went through an oven. Then it come out and we water sanded it. Then it went through another drying oven. That's what they had. They had a little fan up in there and I seen (he must have been an inspector or something, a state inspector), I seen him come by there and felt up there. You couldn't feel nothin'. And he got in his pocket and he got a cigarette out and cut it out and he got the tobacco out and held it up and the cigarette paper dropped right down on the body.
LEIGHTON: No suction on the fan.
CRANE: Not there at all, no.
LEIGHTON: So you guys were breathin' all that in...all that.
CRANE: Well, it was all over the plant. It was all over the plant. When that Duco got dry, they had some more booths upstairs. They went upstairs, and when that got dry, they had guys up there oil sanding 'em, with sandpaper and oil. Oh yes. And then they had clean-up guys that had to clean all that mess up. See, that was left on there after the stuff would dry, just like black dust on it. Clean that all up good and then they went through a...it was a final core...I forget what they call the damn...it was just a short booth, see. Then they come out of there and up around the end they went. Oh, a big "O," half-circle space, come out of there, and they had polishers there. When I first went there, they polished them with pads, made pads to polish 'em. Well, then they got polish wheels in.
LEIGHTON: Those were powered; they had to have electric.
CRANE: You talk about dust from them things. It was pitiful, you know. And, of course, up there, they could open windows and let some of it out. Some of it would go on the wall there, but downstairs you never could have a window open. Dust would blow in there. There would be sand and everything else.
LEIGHTON: So you could only open the window in the warm weather, though. In the cold weather you'd freeze.
CRANE: Oh, I hear you.
LEIGHTON: How hot did it get in the summer?
CRANE: Oh, well, I'll tell you how hot it would get in there. They had a boy Friday, I don't know what he was supposed to have been doin'. But when it got hot in there, he come down there with two great big pails of oatmeal water with a cup there. He had his oatmeal water to drink, to keep cool. I can remember that.
LEIGHTON: In Fisher plant, Fisher 2, what about the speed-up?
CRANE: Well, there was no control on it at all. The control was the foreman.
LEIGHTON: And he would speed it up, what? During the day sometimes, on there?
CRANE: Well, sometimes, you know, there would be a breakdown. There's bound to be that in any plant or anything like that. But maybe we was running about around a body a minute, see. And if that line was broke down for ten, fifteen minutes. A foreman would have it caught up in less than two hours. He'd go speed the line up.
LEIGHTON: And also, did you get paid for those ten or fifteen minutes you were off, or hour or whatever it was down?
CRANE: If we were workin' piecework, we didn't get paid. But we made it up anyway, because he speeded the line up, see. We had fifteen jobs that...
LEIGHTON: Did they ever cheat you on the piecework, the company?
CRANE: No, I think we cheated them. Everybody had some extra tickets. You had a ticket you had to pull off, see. We tried to break even, but we didn't do it. We had to give up and close the darn thing down.
LEIGHTON: What happened if a new guy came on the line and was a real go-getter? You know, wanted to work hard or fast or anything like that.
CRANE: After he was on there two weeks he lost all that go-get! GM had that!
LEIGHTON: His go-get got up and went.
CRANE: Yes, we never got too many eager beavers, because if you did, the foreman seen him, you know, a little ahead of the rest of them, he'd go crank the line up a little and tire him down. We could take it because we was used to it. Then we could work to our advantage. And he was just in there fightin' himself. No, we never felt...well, he had to be broke in. Everybody that was in there was willing to break him and like that, you know. He'd get on a job there workin' along with somebody and guys would help him out. I have broke in many, many of them you know. But after he was there a few days, he found out he better work right along with the rest of us. There's not too many of them any more. They got too many eyes watchin' them now.
LEIGHTON: The day of the strike, they shut off the lines and the fellows sat down. That was during your shift. You worked first shift?
CRANE: They only had one shift then.
LEIGHTON: Okay. What did you do?
CRANE: I went right back in my department down there, and I got my wet clothes off and put some dry ones on. And I got a sandwich out of my lunch pail and a cup of coffee and set there and drink it. That's how relaxed I was.
LEIGHTON: Okay. So did you have a meeting then among the workers?
CRANE: Oh, after the thing kind of quieted down they begin to...they had guys up in the office, see, all that time, see.
LEIGHTON: Yes, but there must have been a lot of guys on the floor that were caught by surprise, weren't they?
CRANE: Oh, they were and they sent guys right up to the office. They were talkin' to Labor Relation up there and the manager, assistant manager. They were all in there. Superintendents were in there. And they was up there chewin' the rag about somethin'; I don't know what. Then they came back and just shook their head. So we started makin' some place to lay down. And they had a bunch of brand new cushions made. See, they made their own cushions then. And they had them cotton batts and all everything upstairs. So we just went up there and went to bed.
LEIGHTON: About how many were there in the plant when you sat down?
CRANE: I believe there was around two hundred left.
LEIGHTON: After those who were gonna leave...
CRANE: Yes, when it settled down, we figured there was about two hundred people in there, because we had to know.
LEIGHTON: Had to take a count.
CRANE: Well, we had to know everybody's name and the dock number, too, see, on account of safety, see. Because they didn't do it while I was in there, but after that they shut the heat off, see. And they did turn the water off. But the insurance company made 'em turn it back on on account of fire, see. They had no sprinklers in there, you know. And the insurance company sent a man down there and turned that water back on.
LEIGHTON: So did you have a meeting of all the guys left in the plant early that same morning?
CRANE: Well, along in the afternoon, we had...I was up in the cushion room. We all got together up there and then started changing thoughts and...
LEIGHTON: Who was the take-charge guy? Do you remember?
CRANE: Oh, there was two or three. Red Mundale was one...and I can't think of his name...O'Rourke.
CRANE: Francis O'Rourke was one of 'em. He got killed, you know, shortly after we got...
LEIGHTON: Oh, did he?
CRANE: Oh yeah. His son, you know, is a lawyer. Well was out...he was just a kid then...and he was out to Potter's Lake to some Boy Scout deal out there. And Francis had to go pick him up after the plant went down here. He went out there and he had a wreck and got killed. We used to call him "Rookie".
LEIGHTON: So you had a meeting and these guys kind of explained to you what was going on, was that it?
CRANE: Well, we knew what was goin' on, but we didn't know how long it was going to last, you know. And we kind of was figurin' a little bit ahead. For a long time there, you know, we were sending out gettin' somethin' to eat...coffee and like that.
LEIGHTON: Did anybody from the outside come to that meeting? Like Bob Travis? I mean outside the plant.
CRANE: I don't know whether Bob was there or not. It was two hundred of 'em jammed in that place there. He could have been there, because he was there that morning when they walked out.
LEIGHTON: Did they send the women home that worked in the cut and sew department, or did they...?
CRANE: Yes, they sent them home, yeah. Well, the guys didn't want 'em in there. There was no place for...they didn't have but a handful of women there. They was in the cutting room, see, and the sewing room.
LEIGHTON: Were there any black guys working at that time in Fisher 2?
LEIGHTON: Any guys from up north...from the Upper Peninsula, like, oh, Finns or Swedes, Norwegians, anything that you remember?
CRANE: Yeah, we had some Swedes in there.
LEIGHTON: From the copper country.
CRANE: And the fact is the...what the heck was that guy's name? He used to come in there; he worked out of Detroit, I believe...oh, he was a big guy, a guy about fifty years old. And he used to come in there. He was supposed to be a safety inspector, company safety inspector, you know. And nobody paid any attention to him; he was just in there walkin' around, you know. Nordyke, his name was.
CRANE: The company had a lot of them there. It was just about as good as a counterfeit one-dollar bill.
CRANE: That was just about what it amounted to, you know.
LEIGHTON: But I meant were there any guys, let's say, that had been in the big strike in Calumet that had been through some strikes and had a little bit of knowledge about what to do with a strike.
CRANE: "Whitey" Nordstrom, he was in on it.
LEIGHTON: Nordstrom. And he was from up there. What was his name? "Whitey"?
CRANE: Delbert, his name was.
LEIGHTON: Delbert Nordstrom. Okay, and then he had been in one of the copper strikes.
CRANE: Yes, he'd been up in there. He worked in them copper mines when he was just a kid up there. He told me fifteen years old he went in that mine.
LEIGHTON: Had he ever been a Wobbly?
CRANE: I don't know.
LEIGHTON: A lot of those fellows, you know, the Wobblies were very active...the IWW...International Workers. Those were guys that you could kind of turn to sometimes, or they knew a little about...
CRANE: Yes, they'd had a little experience, see. And they kinda bridge you up a little bit when you needed it. And if you needed knockin' down, they'd...
LEIGHTON: What about any guys from the coal mines in Fisher 2, from down West Virginia and Kentucky?
CRANE: I don't know if we had coal miners in there or not. We had quite a few people from the South. But I don't think we had any coal miners. We had some cotton pickers in there.
LEIGHTON: Cotton pickers. Where in the South did they come from? Do you remember?
CRANE: Most of 'em from Arkansas.
LEIGHTON: Where did they live in town?
CRANE: Well, at that time they had a little village out on Fenton Road there and what did they call that? "Hillbilly Center," I guess they called it. See, what happened there you know, them people didn't come up here to get a job. GM sent agents down there and told 'em you had a job. Now that's how they got here.
LEIGHTON: Yes, they went down and recruited them.
CRANE: And they had rooms all ready for 'em and everything.
LEIGHTON: Oh, really?
CRANE: Oh, yes, on Glenwood there, where all them stores are. Them was all rooms up in there. And I forget the guy (his name) that run that. And he fed 'em, packed their lunch for 'em to go to work and had their beds up there for 'em. He was in on it until he finally got caught up. He was diggin' too deep, you know. He got down where he couldn't handle it.
LEIGHTON: You mean what he was doin'...was it illegal what he was doin' or he just went bankrupt?
CRANE: No, he didn't go bankrupt; he was goin' the other way. He was chargin' these people. See what happened there. Chevrolet had an agreement with him, see. And his expenses was taken out of their check before they got it.
LEIGHTON: So he was making a little on the...all right.
CRANE: Well, he was takin' too much cream off the top, see.
LEIGHTON: Right. So how many days then did you stay in the plant?
CRANE: I think I was in there the rest of that day and the next day. And let me see, the day that I went out of there was the day that Governor Murphy was inaugurated over to Lansing.
LEIGHTON: That would have been about just the first or second of January.
CRANE: Yes, that was the day, 'cause I went home and he was on the radio.
LEIGHTON: So you had a radio.
CRANE: Yes, we had radio.
LEIGHTON: Did you have a telephone?
CRANE: No, there wasn't too many of 'em had telephones in there. But we had the paper. That's where we got all our information, there.
LEIGHTON: Did you take the Journal?
CRANE: Yes, we had the Journal. And remember that time that Flint News-Advertiser used to come out free, once a week?
LEIGHTON: Well, that was before my time, see.
CRANE: Well, yes it would be. Well, it's something. When you come out of one of them things, you don't wonder why you did it. You don't wonder that at all. It's over with, see. And I'm glad I did it; we go on from here, see. My opinion of the whole darn thing...I think it did labor a hundred percent good, not only in your working conditions and your job seniority and stuff like that. But we got so much fringe benefits out of that, see. And when I hired out there in 1929, I had two items taken out of my check. One of 'em was...see I got paid every two weeks...one of 'em was every two weeks and the other one was once a month. Every two weeks, now I didn't volunteer or sign up for it. But they, when you hired in there, it was IMA dues. That was the first thing. Well, the end of the month we had to pay all of our license charge; they didn't pay a penny of that...that was taken out, too, see. But you look at it the way it is now. I know it sounds way out of proportion, you know. Wages now, fringe benefits and all that stuff. But I don't know what would happen if we hadn't got this UAW or hadn't organized. I don't know and I don't want to know. Because I know myself what it's done to me. I'm settin' in there. I haven't got a swell home; I got a home, it's mine. And I get a pension, I get my Social Security, I got my livin'.
LEIGHTON: There was no Social Security in those days, no Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
CRANE: Now this was after the strike, see. That eight months that I was off after World War II broke out, you know how much a week unemployment I got? I got thirteen dollars a week. Now you can't tell me that if it hadn't been for organized labor, you couldn't tell me that these big corporations would just volunteer to give us that stuff.
LEIGHTON: That period during the strike...why did you leave the strike? Why did you leave the plant after three days? Was it family or...?
CRANE: No, the company had a lot to do with it. And I guess it was between the company and the union, see, because we was classified as company men on the strike list, same status that our foreman was. That's the reason, and a lot of the guys didn't like it, either. You could feel it in there, you know.
LEIGHTON: It was largely because of your job classification. After you left the plant, then, did you have any kind of set duties or jobs that you had to do for the strike? You mentioned that you took food and stuff over...
CRANE: Well, they had some picket lines down there, too, you know.
LEIGHTON: Did you have any picket captains?
CRANE: Yes, we had them. But that didn't last long, you know, because the judge served the injunction on that.
LEIGHTON: That was Judge Black, the first judge, wasn't it?
CRANE: Yes, and then it got kind of rough down there. Well, when old Tom Wolcott, the sheriff, went down to serve that injunction, they tipped his car over.
LEIGHTON: Were you down there when that happened?
CRANE: No, that was about a day or two after I left there. They tipped his car over on the roof.
LEIGHTON: With him in it?
CRANE: Yes, they didn't bother to let him get out.
LEIGHTON: His famous statement was, "It was bad enough they turned my car over, but they did it with me in it."
CRANE: Well, then, they had a fight with the police down there too.
LEIGHTON: Well, was that the Battle of Running Bull?
CRANE: That's when a guy got shot in the leg and I guess one got cut.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember who the guy was that got shot in the leg? Did you know him?
LEIGHTON: Were you down around the plant during the battle?
CRANE: That happened at night, you know, that one did. No, I didn't get in on them. I lived way out off Fenton Road, see.
LEIGHTON: Oh, so you lived south of town then. I see.
CRANE: I lived on Remington.
LEIGHTON: Was that still in the city? So that's before you get to...
CRANE: Just past the viaduct there on Fenton Road.
LEIGHTON: Right. Was that your own house then, or did you rent it?
CRANE: No, I was rentin'. Yes, that was my first wife, and I was rentin' there. Nobody had no money, just lived from payday to payday, just making about, oh, forty, forty-two dollars a week. The guy I was rentin' from, he lived over to Flushing. Bob Hart, his name was, and he had a farm out towards Goodrich, too. And every once in a while...well, he always stopped there to get his rent, but sometimes he'd just stop in, you know. He'd been up to the farm, maybe on a Sunday or somethin', and he 'd stop in there after this strike started. He told me, "Don't worry about it. All I want you to do is see if you can get enough to eat," see. He was pretty good. But there's a lot of these merchants that weren't. And I'll tell you, they didn't go for that. The doctors, oh, boy! You know when was that, wasn't that 1950 they started the Blue Shield? And every one of us that had a family doctor, we was supposed take some of that literature in his office. They called us Socialists...they wanted socialized medicine, see. Doc Hague was my doctor.
LEIGHTON: There were a couple of doctors, though, that were kind of sympathetic towards the strikers. Do you remember any of them?
CRANE: Yes, there were some of them. Well, there were some doctors, but very very few of them. Some of their doctors they wouldn't even doctor you any more, 'cause they knew we wouldn't get 'em paid. He was after the money part of it.
LEIGHTON: You got lousy treatment there. Did you have to go to the hospitals then, if you wanted any treatment at all, if you needed something? If your doctor wouldn't take care of you during the depression, you'd have to go to the hospital.
CRANE: I don't know how. You would have to be pretty near dead, because they wanted their money too, you know. We didn't have no hospital money. [At this point conversation shifts to dangers in the plant] There was an open trolley line down there and polish wheels was on 'em then, with a cable sliding back and forth. The crib shop, with all their drills and all that stuff, see. And lightning would ground out and that fire would just go back and forth on them.
LEIGHTON: And they didn't worry about it at all.
CRANE: Oh, no, no. They didn't worry about it. If one of 'em got electrocuted, they'd kick him to one side and send somebody else up there. Their Labor Relations at that time was spelled with a capital with a big LABOR...with a capital L. In that plant in there you labored all day long, I'll tell you that right now, whether you liked it or not. But look what we got now, though, out of it. We got Labor Relations; we got Personnel Directors. And I don't think that anybody that's workin' right now would really need human relations the way they got the plants goin' now, and fixed up nice. And I haven't been in there in quite a while, but I guess things are pretty near right up to snuff, because it's been every local agreement that comes up. There's always been sanitary conditions, see. And them committeemen, they just get right onto them people to keep that place clean, see. And, oh, they get in squabbles about it once in a while; the company will get on 'em for not keepin' the parkin' lot clean...beer cans out there and stuff like that, you know, just to prod back a little bit, you know. But I don't think there's anything too serious goin' on in there. I've heard a lot of things, but I don't care how many people you put into a place like that, you're gonna come up with some gripers, see. There's people, whatever you did you could satisfy 'em, you know. And then there's some things that I know that the union is lax on. They got an absentee agreement, now, the union and the plants have. And I think they both should live up to that.
LEIGHTON: Speaking of absenteeism...after the strike is over how soon before you went back to work...after February eleventh? Four or five days, a couple weeks?
CRANE: That was on a Thursday, I believe the eleventh was that day, 'cause I was down there around that plant, and they went right over and pulled number one out, Fisher 1.
LEIGHTON: Had a big parade?
CRANE: Oh, did we!
LEIGHTON: Marched up South Saginaw Street.
LEIGHTON: Remember how many people in the parade?
CRANE: Oh, I don't know.
LEIGHTON: About thirty thousand.
CRANE: And they had a great big...what was that...over Sloan, Alfred P. Sloan; he was the president. They had him there; had a great big cardboard thing made out of him and his arms all dragged down here and his head layin' to one side. And they marched right down Saginaw Street with that. That was the end of him, too, Alfred P. Sloan.
LEIGHTON: So you had a big celebration. Up to February eleventh, what had you done most of the time? That was just carry food, and do any picketing and stuff.
CRANE: Anything that we could sneak in there.
LEIGHTON: But after the National Guard came, you couldn't get down around the plant. Is that right?
CRANE: You couldn't get down that street. There wasn't no guns around the plant. They had machine guns up on Glenwood and Chevrolet and Third Avenue. There was three machine guns on each. We snuck around Court Street there and come out back down towards the river, back into the plants.
LEIGHTON: So you snuck in. Did you get inside the plant then?
CRANE: No, we didn't try it. They just took stuff through the window, and they had just a very few windows that would open.
LEIGHTON: Most of them they welded shut, didn't they?
CRANE: They welded 'em right shut, oh yes.
LEIGHTON: During the strike did you help to distribute the Flint Auto Worker, you know, the strike paper at all?
CRANE: Oh yeah, yeah.
LEIGHTON: Did you help do that?
CRANE: Yeah, we did that, yeah.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever meet Henry Kraus?
CRANE: I don't know.
LEIGHTON: He was the editor. When the strike ends, you go back to work, what, the following week, let's say?
CRANE: Well, we didn't go to work. They called a bunch of guys in each department, like the paint department, the body shop, trim, cushion room. They called people, just a few in each one of them. Oh, that plant! That was a hell of a mess in there! Had to clean that mess up.
LEIGHTON: That's what I wanted to ask you next.
CRANE: To clean that mess up.
LEIGHTON: What did the mess look like? Were you one of the first ones in there when you got back?
CRANE: Well, the stuff was all in there, yep.
LEIGHTON: What was the mess?
CRANE: Well, they had them cushions all tore up and made beds out of 'em and they had big rolls and rolls of that upholstering; they had it for bed covers and sheets. And they had three, four places in there they brought up some of this plate, steel, off the floor down in the body shop and built fires on there to keep warm. And they burned some cushions, whatever they could get hold of. They go down, had them creosote blocks on the floor, you know. They'd go downstairs and get a few of them.
LEIGHTON: And burn those.
CRANE: Oh, yeah. It got warm, but it got awful smoky in there sometimes.
LEIGHTON: Yes. What did the cars on the line look like? Were they torn up at all?
CRANE: No, they didn't hurt them any. Well, they didn't hurt 'em; they was so dirty and smoky it took a whole day to just clean up.
LEIGHTON: But I mean they weren't damaged.
CRANE: No, I didn't find any damaged. It's a wonder there wasn't a windshield or something like that.
LEIGHTON: Was there a lot of water around the place after the...they must have had some water in there from the battle or was that all pretty well cleaned up by the sit-down?
CRANE: That was pretty well cleaned up, yeah. But you know, there was no relief people, no nothin'. You couldn't get nobody to relieve you to go use the telephone. And, if you did, they'd probably charge you a dime for it. And everything was like that. They didn't have no cafeteria. Twice a day there was a young yo-yo come down there with a candy cart with candy and bags of peanuts and bottles of warm pop. That was your lunch, but you didn't step away from the line to eat it. You had a little table there where you had your sandpaper tore up on. You put it on there. And whenever you got a chance, you'd reach around there and grab a bite of whatever you was eatin'. That's when you would eat it right there, 'cause the line wouldn't shut down.
LEIGHTON: You didn't get time off?
CRANE: We had our lunch break, yes, but all at once. We all carried our lunch, see. We had a big long bench there with our lunch pails on there.
LEIGHTON: Did they shut the line down for you to eat lunch?
CRANE: You mean a regular lunch period?
LEIGHTON: Yes, your regular lunch period.
CRANE: Yes, a half hour.
LEIGHTON: No personal days off...none of those good things?
CRANE: No. We had a locker on this...they called it a water deck. Along the wall there, there was an oven, a big long oven. And they had about an inch-and-a-half pipe railing out there. And when we changed our clothes, you had to take everything right off, see, and put on our work clothes. And you hung 'em up there, see. And underneath here, was your bench. Well, when the shop went down, we all had to have a bath, right in there. You couldn't put them dirty clothes or your good clothes over that. Everybody stripped right down naked. We used that water that we was sandin' with, had little hoses there. And we was scrubbin' one another's back and hosin' 'em off!
LEIGHTON: That could be a little cool in the wintertime.
CRANE: Well, it was, I'll tell you that. Them clothes was hangin' close to that oven. We was glad to get in 'em warm clothes. They had the troughs over on the other side; anybody had to urinate scooted across there. That water was runnin' right down one of them drains, there, see. I just hate to think of it. I tell you one thing, and this is no lie. The first ninety days I worked there I quit every night I went home. I said, "I'll never go back in that place!" But stayed there thirty-seven years.
LEIGHTON: Well, in the depression you didn't have much of a choice, did you? It was either work or not eat.
CRANE: I worked in 1931. I worked every day the plant run and I made six hundred and ninety-one dollars...a whole year in 1931. We was workin'...I'll tell you how they rigged it. We was workin' two days a week. We'd go in Monday and Friday.
LEIGHTON: Wow! After you went back to work in '37, were there many wildcat strikes in your plant?
CRANE: Oh, once in a while. There wasn't too many of 'em. I'll tell you, we had some hard heads in there...supervisors. And our plant manager was, too.
LEIGHTON: Who was the plant manager, remember him?
CRANE: I know the guy they brought in.
LEIGHTON: Any of the supervisors you recall off hand?
CRANE: Bert Johnson was our foreman.
LEIGHTON: Bert Johnson. Was he a pretty good guy or was he one of the hard heads?
CRANE: He was too scared to be either, put it that way.
LEIGHTON: Especially after the strike, is that it?
CRANE: Yes, he tried to be good, but he didn't dare, just put it that way. It was just like you said, there was so many people after this thing started to get out in the open, see. There was so many people around there watchin' you work, and you never seen 'em before. Them was them company goons they had in there, see. Plant 4, Chevrolet Plant 4, there, boy, they had an army of them in there pretty near.
LEIGHTON: This was before the strike, though, wasn't it?
CRANE: Yeah, yeah.
LEIGHTON: And they were right there in the department.
CRANE: Oh, yeah, minglin' around, you know. And nobody there were people I'd ever seen before, you know.
LEIGHTON: Did they have weapons on them or billies or anything?
CRANE: No, they didn't look like it. They was company men; I knew that. But where they come from I don't know.
LEIGHTON: And they came in what, six months, a year, before the strike?
CRANE: Well, right along June, July, in there. And see that fall, you know, they shut the plant down for model change. So there was...I couldn't tell you that, that would be getting down too far. But there were probably two or three weeks in there that the plant went down for remodeling the plant and changing models. So there was two or three weeks in there that the company had things all their own. Contractors was in there workin'. They had some pretty rough foremens in there because before the strike they knew they could get away with pretty near everything they wanted to, you know. And if they found a guy that they could scare another ounce of work out of him, they'd get it.
LEIGHTON: And after the strike, though, what happens to these guys?
CRANE: They tried some of that stuff. That's what I was gonna tell you. They couldn't get that out of their head that they had to change, too, see. And they let a lot of 'em go. And they left the plant manager go. I don't think he ever did come back after the strike. But the guy that they did hire in there, he had been there before. He was a great...he was a nice guy. He was a great friend of the Fisher Brothers. Lawrence...they used to come in there, them Fisher guys would. They'd come in there and shake hands with you, you know, and visit with you. But how they ever put up with some of them foremens and supervisors in there, I don't know. The manager was blamed for that, see. It wasn't the Fisher boys. It was that manager, the guy that hired 'em, see. He wanted somebody that whatever he wanted 'em to do, they'd jump and do it, see. And that's just exactly what they did, too. They'd fall over one another to get there first to do somethin'.
LEIGHTON: So after the strike what did some of the foremen get roughed up by guys on the floor or...?
CRANE: I guess down in the body shop they had some little cuffin' goin' on down there at one time. And of course I didn't see anything, you know. It just circulated through the shop like that. So and so slapped somebody down...their foreman and somethin' like that. You heard a little of that, but...
LEIGHTON: Nothing like that happened in your department.
CRANE: No, not to my knowledge.
LEIGHTON: Did your department ever go out on a wildcat during that spring and summer following the strike, in '37?
CRANE: In the spring we did. Well, what happened down there, anyway we didn't go out. We just sat down in there.
LEIGHTON: You just sat down again.
CRANE: We just sat right down. They shut the line down; they had to, the company. We just sat right down there and waited for the paint superintendent, Jack Scott his name was. They had to get him down there and he got right up on the front end of one of them bodies. And he said, "Okay, what's your trouble?" you know. And we went 'round and 'round there for about an hour. We got it straightened out. I think it was that line speedin' deal, is what it was. They'd just crank that thing up and crank it up. He didn't go up to Personnel with it. He thrashed it out himself.
LEIGHTON: How soon after the strike ends do you start electing? Did you elect shop stewards or did you elect committeemen? Or do you remember any difference between the two?
CRANE: No, we didn't have no shop steward. We had a committeeman.
LEIGHTON: You never went to the shop steward set up, where you had one guy for fifteen or twenty men.
CRANE: No, the shop steward, that's in your A F of L, Teamsters Union; they've got shop stewards, 'cause I was workin' for A F of L after the war, you know. I told you we was buildin' that new plant. Well, we had shop stewards there; they worked right along with you, you know, then. No, it's committeemen. You got your district committeemen and you got alternates in them. And then you got your shop committeemen.
LEIGHTON: Well, how soon after the strike did you...you must have sat down and picked them or elected them or how did that come about?
CRANE: Oh, we went up to that low building there. They had a list of people that they thought they wanted, you know, to run.
LEIGHTON: Who picked them? Was it the guys in the plant or was it the union?
CRANE: No, the union picked them. Roy Reuther was one of 'em and there were two or three guys from Detroit, see. And after they got them guys picked, why, they had kind of a school for 'em. They would tell 'em what they can't do and what they can do and like that, see. And I think it was in July when we had our election.
LEIGHTON: That was for Local 156?
LEIGHTON: Oh, you'd already split; by July you'd split into five, from the one big local, the 156 for all of Flint. You begin to break down.
CRANE: Our charter was 598 and still is. And then they went to work then and we elected our officers. I don't think we elected a president. That was "Rookie" O'Rourke, was our first president. And I think the secretary and treasurer was just somebody appointed. I don't remember voting for one. And then they had their headquarters in that little storeroom up there.
LEIGHTON: Long about August of '37, Bob Travis leaves Flint. Do you remember that? They had a picnic for him.
CRANE: Yeah, that was out to Potter's Lake, wasn't it?
LEIGHTON: Was it there or Kearsley?
CRANE: Sometimes we had them there. Yes, I remember that. I remember takin' beer there. I was gonna tell you. Those guys they wouldn't let us stay in, you know. After the strike, you see, we got paid...and these guys knew we was gettin' paid, in there, see. And that's the reason why the company didn't want to pull us out. They wanted to cause friction in that plant, see. So, anyway, after they got out of there and everything got settled, we throwed our great big party. And I don't know, I think we all throwed in twenty dollars apiece. And we throwed a big party for the guys after they got out. And Fisher 1 done the same thing.
LEIGHTON: That's a good bash, at twenty dollars, in those days. That went a long way.
CRANE: You could buy twelve bottles of beer for a dollar then. Yeah, they could.
LEIGHTON: I remember those days. They're not that far away.
CRANE: Well, we had the party down at the IMA. We had a hillbilly orchestra there and we danced. Had Claytie Martin; he played in that band. What did they call that band here in Flint that time, that little hillbilly band? They was around, playin' all over. Well, they were down there, 'cause Claytie was in the strike, there. He was one of the sit-downers.
LEIGHTON: After Travis leaves in '37 and you get the charter for 598, do you remember the big split that comes? They formed the unity caucus and the progressive caucus. Do you remember that?
CRANE: I don't remember when it happened, but it didn't happen right then, because it was a long time later before they got Ford into it, see. Remember the fight they had on the overpass? Now that was quite a long time after...
LEIGHTON: 1940 that was.
CRANE: Yeah, there you was, see. And I believe I don't know whether it split then or not.
LEIGHTON: Well, you had the split between those who favored Homer Martin and those who favored Reuther.
CRANE: Yes, that's when it was, right in there. What was that other one? Thomas? Do you remember?
LEIGHTON: R. J. Thomas. He was elected in 1939 after they threw Homer Martin out.
CRANE: That's right, yes. He was supposed to have been a preacher.
LEIGHTON: Homer Martin.
LEIGHTON: But did that split affect your plant at all, or didn't it affect you very much?
CRANE: No, I don't think it did too much. In our plant there we had pretty good committeemen, but we was having trouble with the president of our local, see.
LEIGHTON: Who was president then, still O'Rourke?
CRANE: Yeah, O'Rourke was the first one and he got killed. And then they appointed one...oh, what was his name; he didn't last too long. They had about three appointments in there and when we shut down for the war, whoever that was was the longest one. No, Sam Sammarco, he was president of it then, see. Then after the war we didn't elect Sammarco. I can't think of the name of the guy we did elect then. But anyway, after the war we made Sam Sammarco shop committeeman. He was committeeman all over the shop, see. That was in 1947 and he stayed there right on that one job until he retired, and he retired in 1972.
LEIGHTON: I wanted to ask you a couple of things before we finish up. Before the war were you laid off again for any length of time in '38 or '39, other than just a model changeover? Did conditions get pretty bad again? Or did you manage to keep working through those years?
CRANE: No, '38 was a bum year. We had a little strike there, in our plant now. It wasn't General Motors; it was just a local grievance, you see. That's what I'm talkin' about. We did have an eruption in there. And I just can't think what it was that caused it. It seems like that was speed-up, too; speed-up, speed-up, I believe it was. You see, your contracts now, they cover stuff like that. Your national contract covered a lot of that stuff that we was havin' trouble with and had to take care of ourselves. That covers a lot of it now.
LEIGHTON: In that period, after the settlement of the strike and so on, did you continue to live on Fenton Road or did you manage to buy a house? When did you buy your first house?
CRANE: Oh, I lived on Fenton Road until 1940. I bought a place over to Flushing.
LEIGHTON: So in 1940 you were able to buy a house.
CRANE: Yes, and I wish I hadn't. The war broke out and I was off for nine, ten months there.
LEIGHTON: Oh, yeah. Did you lose the house, then?
CRANE: No, I didn't. We made a go of it. Then during the strike, my grocery man footed my food bill and landlord, he...
LEIGHTON: Did you have a car during the strike?
CRANE: Yeah, I had an old one. I guess it was a '34 Chevy. That's what I had, yeah.
LEIGHTON: Did things get better soon, or did they tend to stay the same for quite some time after the strike?
CRANE: Well, they was slow; it was kind of a slow process. It took more energy to start back up than it did to shut it down, you know. And, but anyway it was pretty slow and we didn't get it goin' too good until the war broke.
LEIGHTON: Right. You didn't notice any difference in your standard of living or anything very much?
CRANE: No, that hadn't even come up...it did come up a little bit. But I think...what year was the best there after that strike? '39, '39 was our biggest year.
LEIGHTON: Let me ask you something, if you remember this. After the strike, did you personally get a little more interested in or active in politics? Maybe not running for an office yourself, but maybe you did.
CRANE: What do you mean, now, politics? In the shop or you mean...?
LEIGHTON: No, outside the shop.
CRANE: Oh outside, you mean.
LEIGHTON: Like did you campaign for anybody?
CRANE: Yes, we had our...me as an individual, I don't know. I might be wrong, but I don't want nobody comin' around and tellin' me who to vote for and I don't want 'em comin' around askin' me who I voted for. Well, when they come out with this deal in the shop, you know, kick in a dollar for the campaign fund for this guy and next year kick in for another guy, you know. No, that's not me. I'm not gonna sell my vote to nobody and I think that that's my privilege. And that's a democratic way to do it.
LEIGHTON: Did you take any interest in who got elected to city hall or who got on city council after the strike, now?
CRANE: Right. I don't know whether you remember or not. But do you remember the McKeighan days?
LEIGHTON: I remember reading about them, but of course that was long ago.
CRANE: Well, I was in them days, see.
LEIGHTON: The Green Ticket?
CRANE: Yep, that's the one. Yeah, he got out on a railing on the Flint River down there when he was runnin' and he admitted he was a crook. He said, "You gotta be a crook to run this town." Oh, yeah.
LEIGHTON: But that was of course before the strike, wasn't it? Quite a ways?
LEIGHTON: But I mean, after the strike, did you, as a man who had gone through this whole auto strike (and this was quite an ordeal!), get more interested in who was going to get into city hall and how these guys were going to affect you than maybe you did before?
CRANE: Well, for a long time there, you know, city hall was just a place to go in out of the rain, you know. They had this manager form of government, see. And I didn't go for that at all, you know. And of course they got a mayor form now that I'm kind of interested in. They get in some pretty heated arguments down there once in a while, but I guess that's their privilege.
LEIGHTON: Did you get more active politically in the shop? I don't mean the debate over the dollar contribution.
CRANE: Well, I hadn't got...
LEIGHTON: Did you ever run for committeeman?
CRANE: No, I didn't; turned it down. See, they was after me for, oh, several times. I'll tell you what happened down there and maybe it is now; I don't know. But on one of our local strikes down there, just our shop, oh, there was a lot of dissension in there, and Ed Lovelace, who was my committeeman, he come around there and he had a book on grievances about that high. And he had his name all signed on it and dated. "Here", he said, "write a grievance on here; we need 'em." I said, "You need what?" He said, "I want you to write a grievance." I turned around and I said, "You know what; I want you to go to hell." And I says, "Listen, Ed, I'll bet you seventy-five percent them you got and the rest of 'em here in this plant are nothing but counterfeits; they ain't worth the paper they wrote 'em on. You're not gonna go up there in that personnel office and try to put...that'd be just like handin' one of them guys a bogus dollar bill. They know the difference. There you are. You're gonna take a bunch of crap up there, and you gotta go through all of it. It's gotta go through that same procedure." And that's what takes time to settle these strikes; you got so much counterfeit stuff in there you gotta sift out. Now that hurt me right there. I would never run for a committeeman because I couldn't get it. Because I'd go to a guy and he wants a grievance, I'd talk it over with him first. And if I didn't think it was a grievance I'd just tell him, "Now just cool it and forget these little, oh, just dinky things, you know, just forget 'em and go to work." That's the reason why I never got elected, because I wouldn't every night go up there to the personnel office and have the grievances stacked up. But there's so much of that stuff went on, you know. I think for being a committeeman, district, the person that's gonna run for it should pretty near know every person in that district by name. He should know a little bit about his personality to go along with it. And he should know his job; he should know exactly what that job is, see. Then there's no guesswork about it. If he knows the guy so he can call him his first name, or a woman and kind of find out a little bit by talkin' with him. If you could get a little personality out of 'em, see. And on top of that he should know every job in there.
LEIGHTON: Have I left anything out? Do you have any names that you can think of that we didn't plow the ground over?
CRANE: Well, the only thing I can tell you is that since it's happened I've been better off. And it's been a miracle to the workers. To think that they done it all their own, see. They done it all their own. Outside of a few guys out of other unions comin' in and keepin' the little wheels a-goin', see, so that we could get the big ones rollin'. That's what that was for, see. And just like I told you, we didn't get what we wanted right off the bat, but we got somethin' so we could go ahead and get it, see.