INTERVIEW: FEBRUARY 26, 1980
INTERVIEWER: KENNETH B. WEST
INTERVIEWEE: ROBERT MAMERO
WEST: Could you describe the events of that day, January 11, 1937?
MAMERO: Well, when I first come back into the shop (I would say that was around eight o'clock), that's when everything started. Well, the police was trying to get in and, just before we got the fire hoses out and turned the hoses on them where they couldn't get near the shop. We kept them out. And at that time the watchmen, they run into the offices and hid. They didn't want any part of it. And they were shooting tear gas through the windows in the shop. And I was up on the second floor. And they were shooting tear gas through the windows. And I went over on top of the paint shop. It was a lower building on that side.
WEST: On the roof?
MAMERO: On the roof. And, oh, we had hinges and bolts and everything else we was throwin' at the police. But I don't know who done the shooting. I imagine they did. I got shot here in the leg and I got shot in the hip.
WEST: Oh my. You have no idea where the shots came from?
MAMERO: I don't know where they came from. It was goin' real rough there for a while.
WEST: Did the police shoot? Did you notice that the police were shooting?
MAMERO: Well, I don't know who shot, but I got shot, anyway.
WEST: What happened? Did they take you to the hospital then?
MAMERO: This fellow by the name, that worked with me, by the name of Gig Moe, on the stock department, and the fellow by the name of Si Davis I mentioned before. He took us to the hospital and he had a 1936 Chevrolet Coupe. He took us to the Hurley Hospital. They put us in the hospital there and they took the bullets out of us. And they had us in there, oh, I was in there about a week. And I think the other fellow was in there longer than that. He got shot up in the leg.
WEST: Do you remember who that was?
MAMERO: Gig Moe.
WEST: Gig Moe.
MAMERO: And the cops sat outside the doors in chairs. They thought we was gonna run out of the place. Then after they released us they took me to jail, both of us.
WEST: A week after?
MAMERO: After I got out of the hospital. I really wasn't in the jail part. I was in the holding room. There was bars in there. My uncle used to be the Chief of Police in the Flint Police Department, a fellow by the name of Al Suff. He used to be the head watchmen at Chevrolet. And my folks called him up to see if he could go down and get me out. Well, he come down there and by the time he got here to get me out, they had released the both of us by that time, so we weren't in there too long. I guess about maybe half a day.
WEST: When you went to the hospital, along with your friend, there were others, I guess, who had been shot, too.
MAMERO: Well, I suppose there were, but that's the fellow that took us up there.
WEST: I see. Do you remember any of the others who got shot, too?
MAMERO: Well, I was over to the union hall here to the Christmas party and there was probably about, I'd say, twenty-five of us left of the old retirees, and some of 'em were usin' canes and wheelchairs, but, as far as I know, I'm the only one left that's been shot. This Gig Moe, he died here a few years ago, so I guess I'm the only one left that got shot.
WEST: What happened when you were released from custody, then? Did you go back to the plant or was the strike nearly over then?
MAMERO: Well, I was out for, gee, I don't know how long I was out. I guess they were still on strike. And I went with my buddies to...two of 'em worked there but they never stayed in the plant that I chummed around with before. And we went down to his relatives down in Anna, Illinois for two or three weeks and come back. And when the plant opened up again I just went back in and I worked 'til August of '40 and then I was drafted. I went in the service and got out in '45.
WEST: Did you recall any other events after the strike that occurred in Flint? I understand that there were other strikes that took place, too.
MAMERO: Well, there may have been smaller strikes, but there was nothin' like ours.
WEST: No, no. So you were in then, all the time from the beginning of the strike until you were shot.
MAMERO: Yeah, I was in right from the beginning. I was in there all the time.
WEST: Who do you think was the chief leader at Fisher 2? Could you single out anybody, do you think, the one who more than anyone else who held you together? You mentioned two or three of them.
MAMERO: I think Bruce Manley and O'Rourke and Red Mundale.
WEST: Accusations were made during the strike, of course, that some of the leaders of the strike were Communists and that, you know.
MAMERO: No, that's a bunch of baloney. No, you hear a lot of people talk and they don't know what they are talking about, especially these Fisher 1 guys that claim that they ramrodded the whole strike. They didn't do nothin'. They just closed after we went down. They had nothing to do with our strike. They was in no fight, no nothing. And the next plant that went down was the engine plant across the street, 4. That's the only two that was in ours.
WEST: Were you involved in that at all, the takeover at Chevy 4?
MAMERO: No, they went down, but I was in Fisher 2, and I never left.
WEST: You went back then again after you recovered, did you, from your wounds?
MAMERO: Oh yeah, when they started up work, I went back. I went back at $1.10 an hour.
WEST: That was quite a jump for you.
MAMERO: Yeah, from makin' fifty, sixty cents.
WEST: You mentioned that you had a good foreman.
MAMERO: The darned best foreman Fisher Body ever hired.
WEST: Did you notice generally, though, after the strike any differences in the attitude that the foremen took toward the men?
MAMERO: Well, I think they were a little more lenient. They didn't come up and tell a guy, "You do this or that," and demanding. They weren't like that, treat you like a dog, because they knew what would happen to 'em again. 'Cause I think they knew that we meant business.
WEST: Did you ever encounter (you wouldn't if you were in the strike, but afterwards) people who were opposed to the strike, the Flint Alliance and that? There were some like this around.
MAMERO: Well, durin' the years after that a lot of people hollered about strikes. Actually strikes, people really don't benefit by too much, on a long strike, especially. But one thing I like about it, the people let the company know what they wanted and they couldn't be treated like dogs. That they're human beings and you can't go around and spit on people and think you can get away with it. I think that they realized that after that strike. And the thing run pretty well, I would say. I always had a good job after that, nothing too bad. And I think more or less everyone did.
WEST: Is there anyone around now that you know of, that we could talk to about the strike? You mentioned that a lot of them are gone.
MAMERO: Well, there's fellows that probably know about the strike, but I don't know anyone that ever sat in, anymore. But maybe some fellows you've talked to, Neil Yaklin, have you talked to him?
WEST: Don't believe we have.
MAMERO: Neil Yaklin, he was a sit-inner. And gee, I don't know where that picture was I had. We had all the names on 'em, there. But it's got right down now to Christmastime when I was there, I wouldn't say there was over twenty-five of us left that was actually sit-downers. There was a lot of fellows out on strike, but none of 'em left in there. Of course, a lot of them have passed away, too. Some of these fellows are probably about, oh, I would say seventy to seventy-five, some of 'em close to eighty years old.
WEST: Could you say at the time of the strike and throughout working at Fisher 2 that most of the fellows were fairly young? Or were there a lot of older people working there, too?
MAMERO: Well, I went in there when I was twenty-some, I guess, but there were older fellows in there, too, fellows who had been in there... Well, I had thirty-eight and some tenths years in then. A lot of the guys when I went in there before when I went in, they probably went out with about forty, forty-two years. But I don't think there's too many that had over that many years left. But there was a few old ones in there. But I say, just like the older ones, they're gone now.
WEST: Yeah, they certainly are. Do you think they had trouble keeping up with the pace more than the younger guys? I'm wondering if there was any difference?
MAMERO: No, when they got their jobs settled there, it was fairly good working conditions and they could keep up with the younger guy because it wasn't that hard.
WEST: That was afterwards. What I was thinking of was before the strike.
MAMERO: Afterwards because the work was distributed around and everyone got a little of someone else's job to make it easier on a person, you know.
WEST: So there was somewhat less speed-up after.
MAMERO: Yeah, they hired more people and divided the jobs out where a fellow could take care of it. But when I went in there, see, I never worked production. I worked in the stock department. But at that time fellows were workin' piecework. See, they would get so many pieces a day or whatever. But I think on that piecework too, that there is too many fellows that was too speedy and get all that work out and could go home. And I don't think that has a good reflection on the company. If you can do all that damn work and go home, well, that don't work good, either. 'Cause I've seen fellows in the shop, after the piecework was gone...I worked on the front seat back line, on bucket seat back line. Well, we had so many pieces to do an hour. Some fellows would be faster than the other and they would do that and sit around. Well, that's a bad reflection on the other four guys that is workin' with you.
WEST: Right. It created some jealousies then, you think?
MAMERO: Well, not jealousy but the company sees that and then the first thing they know they got a time study on you. So one guy can hurt four guys. So you just got to get on to him and talk to him. "Hell, you've gotta cut stuff out 'cause everyone can't keep up." Like, well, one don't work as fast as the other. We had one fellow there when I worked in the hog ringers, these air compressor hog ringers, you know. Well, this one fellow, he could work with either hand. He could work with his left hand just as good as his right hand. But he was right-handed. Well, he would put out jobs faster than the guy workin' with one hand, where you work here and turn the cushion around. He wouldn't turn it around. He would just throw the gun over to this hand to go around the other side. So you gotta watch guys like that, because they make it rough on the other people.
WEST: Was it company policy, do you think, to encourage that sort of thing?
MAMERO: That company watches that, see. They got the foremen to stopwatch that. They've got your time. Then they'll come and time your job. So all they can do is work a normal pace. And that's one of the hardest things there is to do. You know when someone's watchin' you, you try to take your time. You always more or less seem to speed up or something. But it works out, I guess. The company buys it sometimes and sometimes they don't.
WEST: Now, what you're describing, that took place before the strike?
MAMERO: No, that was after, because I never worked production during the strike. But there were a lot of guys. Well, after the strike I worked production. I worked spittin' tacks on the front seat line. Tack spitters. They didn't have guns and staples at that time.
WEST: That's an interesting job. You spit the tacks out, didn't you?
MAMERO: Well, I'd put tobacco on this side and tacks on this side. A lot of guys chewed snuff around here. So I had tobacco in the left cheek and tacks on this side.
WEST: I just thought that was a little hazardous, you know.
WEST: Well, I have heard of fellows swallowing tacks but whether they would dissolve themselves or not.
WEST: Wouldn't it effect your teeth after awhile, too, chip your teeth?
MAMERO: Yeah, it does, teeth would get hit with a hammer and stuff like that. But it just comes natural as soon as you got a tack to put it in, you got one with your tongue right there ready to get it out.
WEST: Where did these tacks come from then?
MAMERO: Well, when I was in the stock department you would empty them out of a box, a wooden box, into a hopper and then we had little cans like that. You would just stick it under there and fill it up and everyone had their tacks.
WEST: I wonder if they were packed in anything?
MAMERO: Well, there was a wooden box and they had...well there would be more or less like a waterproof paper in there. They were all sterilized. But as dusty as it was in the cushion room, we had a top on the hoppers. But we would still get dust in the tacks. The company would come in and the fellows would holler about the dust. And then they would have a guy come around and measure the dust in the air and everything. They would have the windows all open and the fans and sweepers goin' all the time. As soon as they left, the floor was dirty and the windows was closed and the dust was all over. So when they're there, everything's good. But soon as they leave they go right back to the way it was. When I worked out here they had that air pollution thing there. Well, it was bad for a while. And then one of the guys come right back again after he left and caught 'em doin' the same thing that they had done for years before. So you've got to watch what the company does. They are not out to give you everything on a platter.
WEST: In the period before the strike, was your work pretty tiring?
MAMERO: Well, it was heavy, I'll tell you that. I worked on the outside, not a closed in dock...outside. Two pair of pants on, two pair of coveralls and two pair of gloves unloading metal, quarter panels, doors and everything. It was worth fifty cents and hour, I'll tell you that. It was a pretty rough job, but I was young.
WEST: Mostly young people on that?
MAMERO: Yeah, in the stock department, yeah. But after I got out of that and got into the cushion room, then I can't really say I really had a tough job. Of course, I didn't work on the line until after the strike. The fellows who worked on the line, they probably had tougher jobs. But after the strike I went spittin' tacks on there and I thought I had a good job. I wasn't workin' too hard.
WEST: But it was the body men, then who started the thing, you think?
MAMERO: Well, yeah. The body shop is a tough place to work. It's dirty, it's smoky and there are sparks. They didn't have adequate ventilation; that was the biggest trouble. They didn't have enough ventilation to take that smoke and stuff out of there. And it was hazardous with that metal and stuff and at one time they didn't have...well, underneath the conveyor line, a gate or a basket to keep...you could walk under there and maybe a door would fall right on top of your head. At that time there was nothing underneath the conveyors to keep stuff from falling, no safety devices at all.
WEST: No safety devices. Did things improve in that way after the strike?
MAMERO: Oh, steady, steady but still it's the same way out here. I talked with a couple guys that retired here a few weeks ago, that they still have to keep on the company for safety things like that. I know I never went to work out here at Chevrolet at all when they changed from Fisher Body to Chevrolet. I never took a job at Chevrolet. I just walked around for forty hours that week and they said I could retire. So I retired. I never took a job. But I talked to guys that has worked there at Christmastime and they're still on to 'em about safety. They had an awful time with the spray booths over there, not enough ventilation. And the spray booth is a bad place to work if they don't have ventilation, because you can just look at a guy and say that he worked in the spray booth because he was just white and chalky from bein' in there with all them fumes of that paint. But at Fisher 2 the spray booth was all water and all water underneath. But at that time when they went to the Chevrolet they didn't have it like that. They had the spray booth but they didn't have the water goin' over the top and underneath to take care of all that dirt and stuff. I suppose they have it now, but that was one of the big problems after they went over to Chevrolet. And I remember when I worked at Fisher 2 that between the two plants, all there was was a railroad track run through there. There wasn't a wall up to the ceiling. You could look over there. Well, at Fisher 2, we had stockmen to stock your job at lunchtime. You could look over there and see the Chevrolet guys with a sandwich in one hand and was stockin' his job with another hand. Well, they didn't do that at Fisher Body. But when it went from Fisher to Chevrolet, well, Chevrolet expected the people to do that, these Fisher people. And they wouldn't do it, 'cause they never had any trouble gettin' help there, 'cause they always quit Chevrolet. But after Fisher Body got over into the Chevrolet department, it changed things all around.
WEST: When did that change take place; do you remember?
MAMERO: When did I retire, Lois?
MRS. MAMERO: In '71.
MAMERO: In '71. Well, it went right on through for four or five years before everything got straightened around. Well, the Fisher 2 men had an awful time with Chevrolet supervision because they wouldn't do the work. They wouldn't work like Chevrolet men. And one of the biggest things I talked to guys when I was walkin' around there was that the majority of all Fisher Body men had all the seniority over Chevrolet men, because they had such a turnover, because their jobs were no good. There was too much work; they wouldn't stay. They was hirin' all the time where Fisher Body wouldn't hire nobody. And most of the Fisher people took Chevrolet jobs. And of course they had more seniority at Fisher 2. And I would say that, oh, probably at least sixty percent of 'em got on inspection when Fisher 2 went to Chevrolet, 'cause they had seniority. And I talked to different guys that a Chevrolet guy would be breakin' in a Fisher Body fellow on the line. And he worked with him maybe half a day on the line. If he wouldn't keep up, he would get mad because he didn't keep up. And he was a laborer himself. Well, of course he probably got mad 'cause the guy was gonna take his job. Well, more or less anyone would if a fellow was gonna take a job away from him. But he wouldn't teach him the job or he wouldn't help him to keep up. So that's the way they wound up. But I think most of the fellows from Fisher 2 got pretty good jobs. Oh, it took about three years for 'em to get it, but they did.
WEST: Now going back to the period of the strike, did you know Francis O'Rourke at all?
MAMERO: Well, I knew who he was, but not like a close friend or anything, because he worked downstairs and I worked upstairs.
WEST: At your lunch breaks (this is before the strike, now, when the union was recruiting people), did you take your lunch in the restaurant or cafeteria?
MAMERO: No, I brought my lunch.
WEST: You brought your lunch with you. Did most of the fellows do that?
MAMERO: Well, there was a few that went to old Locker's Restaurant, up at the shop. They would eat up there.
WEST: Did you talk union a lot during the period of your lunch hour?
MAMERO: No, you just kept to yourself. Of course, there was some radicals. There is in everything, you know.
WEST: Can you expand on that, the radicals, I mean?
MAMERO: Well, I don't know. I couldn't expand on it.
WEST: I mean, how did you know that they were?
MAMERO: If they were radicals, you could watch 'em and talk and they would try to recruit a guy. And if he didn't want to belong and then they would tell him about all the benefits he would get. But he didn't want to belong, but he would take all the benefits. He would take the paid holidays and everything else. That was okay. He would take that, but he wouldn't want to belong. But then it come to a closed shop and he had to belong.
WEST: Now after the strike was over and you had gained at least a temporary contract with General Motors, did a lot of people come in then?
MAMERO: There were a lot more members.
WEST: Did you have a tough time getting them in after that?
MAMERO: No, I was a steward for a while, but I didn't bother with it. I didn't have time to go around and talk to guys and stuff. But we always had a union meeting up at the hall on Chevrolet Avenue. It was up next to a Locker's restaurant up there. It was about once a month. Well, I'd say if you get a hundred, hundred and fifty you would probably be doin' good, just like any other meeting. A lot of people belonged, but they don't go. They didn't participate in it, but they always wanted the advantages.
WEST: Did they pay their dues?
MAMERO: Well, yeah, we had our own dues payment at that time. When you get your little slip, you paid your dues.
WEST: Any trouble collecting them?
MAMERO: No, we didn't have no trouble.
WEST: You said you were a steward. That interests me, the steward system because that was not quite the same as the committeeman system.
MAMERO: No, not now. The committeemen, they got to talk to the foremen and they have meetings and they talk to supervision and stuff like that with the fellow's grievances. Well, that's like a steward would be like. Well, you would try to recruit somebody and the fellow didn't like what he was doing and thought he was gettin' a raw deal, that you just went and talked to your foreman. But the foreman I had in the stock department and he was a white guy. He stuck up for his men. You never had no grievance with that fellow at all.
WEST: So you didn't have really much to do as a steward then, in terms of grievances.
MAMERO: No, I just got rid of it. I didn't have nobody on the stock department that had any grievances to talk to the management about, because this fellow here, our boss, well, he knew what you could do and what you couldn't do and he would just go and tell 'em. And that's the reason why that he never got any more than a foreman, to this day, that I know of. He never got be a general foreman or a superintendent because he wasn't that rotten.
WEST: Were most of the foremen like that or not?
MAMERO: Well, see, I only worked in one department. I don't know what the other people done. I worked in the cushion room for '38, well, one year in the stock department. But it was still more or less in the cushion room. I stocked trim.
WEST: But you were inside, then.
MAMERO: I never worked in any other department. When I got out of the service in '45 I went to south-end Fisher and I worked there for about a year. Then the foreman they had there he says, "Well, I'll see you Monday night. You come in Monday nights." I said, "Well, you just bring my release right along with it because I'm not workin' nights." So I didn't work nights. So I went out here in '47, when they opened up here, and I went out to see if I'd be called back to work and he said, "Well, we haven't got much to do. If you want to sweep and clean up around the contractors, you can come in probably three or four hours a day." I thought, well, I won't come in. I'll paint my house. So I never went in there 'til they got the contractors out of the way and started up. But fellows that had, oh, at that time probably had twenty years' seniority, something like that, and they were called back. But all they were doin' was sweepin' and cleanin' up. There was no production to amount to anything.
WEST: That was after the war.
MAMERO: Yeah that was in '47, when they opened up over here in Van Slyke.
WEST: Well, that's very interesting.
MAMERO: Well, I had a good job there. I worked all the time in the cushion room. And then I went to...well, all the time I was over here at this plant, I was a relief man all the time, 'cause I had lots of jobs to do and I had an interesting job, not the same job all the time, see. I was a relief man at old Fisher 2 down in the hole. And I was a relief man out here then in the cushion room, on the front seat line, spittin' tacks at that time. Then they went to staple guns. Then I went on to...when they came out with the ragtops I went on relief man on ragtop line until I retired...until I went to Chevrolet. Though I never went to work for Chevrolet; I just retired.
WEST: You just retired.
WEST: Well, that's very good. I thank you very much for what you have told me about this. I am curious, going back to that night, because things do seem so confused.
MAMERO: ...he used to be a watchman and then chief of police in Flint. Well, the shots they took out of me was like the size of pea, like a buckshot. Well, he kept the shot and I don't know whether it come from the police riot guns or where it come from. But I got shot through here and they took the shot out here. And I got shot here and they took it out in the back. It went right on around. But who done the shooting, I don't know.
WEST: Do you think it came from the street level or from buildings across the way?
MAMERO: I was up on top of the paint shop and a cop come in back of a watchman's shanty. He come between the watchman's shanty and there and I had a fire extinguisher. I threw that down on top of him and it knocked him right down between the watchman's shanty and the building. But then that's when I got shot. They were dumping over police cars there and then they had...well, Murphy was the governor and they had the National Guard in there too, at that time.
WEST: They had no difficulty getting you out of the plant then, into a car and into the hospital then?
MAMERO: No, by that time it had quieted down, because I stayed in there quite a while after I got shot. Of course it wasn't bleeding too much, you know. It was bleeding. The leg was all blood and down the back and the legs. But the other fellow, this Gig Moe, he was shot up in the shinbones pretty bad. And, like I told you, Si Davis took us both to Hurley Hospital.
WEST: Right. I just wondered because there is some controversy as to whether there was any shooting from across the road or street. I guess that would have been Chevy 2. One account says that the company or somebody had men up there that were shooting.
MAMERO: Well, I don't know who. I don't know who done the shooting, but I know I got hit. That's all I know. But who done it, I don't know.
WEST: None of the men in there had guns?
MAMERO: No, nothing like that. All we had was hinges and bolts and whatever you could throw. All of the tile...these half tiles on top of the building, the paint shop there, the tile that you put over cement blocks. You've seen them around a building.
MAMERO: We took them off and broke 'em up and threw them at the cops.
WEST: Did you know a cop named Whitey?
MAMERO: Whitey Basinski?
WEST: Yeah, right.
WEST: What did you know about him?
MAMERO: I knew of him, but I never knew the guy. I knew him when I seen him, yeah.
WEST: We talked to him. He's still alive.
MAMERO: He is? My god, he must be eighty years old.
WEST: Well, he said he was the oldest man on the force at the time of the strike and he's still alive.
MAMERO: He's got to be in his eighties, isn't he?
WEST: Yeah. He claims that the police didn't shoot, didn't fire. But they must have.
MAMERO: Well, I don't know who did. I never did hear from my uncle or whether he kept the shot...whether it come from the police department or where it come from. He never did say and I never did know.
WEST: Did Sheriff Wolcott come out there?
MAMERO: He was sheriff then. Yeah, I don't know whether it was his car or not. But they turned it right over on the side. I used to have some of the old pictures. Lois is gonna look for 'em. She's got 'em all stashed away some place. She dug around here for two days and couldn't find 'em.
WEST: Oh, that's too bad.
MAMERO: But I had a bunch of old ones.
WEST: I'd like to see those. Did you notice any part that women played?
MAMERO: Well, there was no women in there, but a lot of the fellows' wives would bring food in. You know, hams or stews or bread and cakes and pies and a lot of stuff like that.
WEST: How did they get the food in there then?
MAMERO: They'd let 'em bring it in. They could get in there after the fight. But like I said, they had a small cafeteria in the front. And they did cooking in there. And then later on it was more or less catered. Different places supplied. But I really don't know who supplied the food. But I know they brought it in there. We had plenty to eat and we had to clean in there. Everyone had their job to do.
WEST: What job did you have, in particular?
MAMERO: I was cleanin' up. Well, in the back of the plant they had a big cloakroom, where everyone used to hang their clothes and put their overalls on and stuff. And they had all tables in there. I would clean the tables and sweep in there.
WEST: Was it fairly healthy in the plant during the time?
MAMERO: Yeah, better than it was when we were workin'. There wasn't all of that smoke and everything and dust.
WEST: But nobody got sick?
MAMERO: As far as I know no one got sick.
WEST: How was the morale? Was it pretty good all the time that you were in?
MAMERO: Well, I think it was pretty good. Everyone had a good time. Everyone was playin' cards and poker and everything else, I guess. Of course I suppose someone won all the money. But it was good morale.
WEST: Now you stayed in all of the time. Could you get in and out?
MAMERO: No, I never went out. I don't know whether guys went in and out or not. Some of 'em might have, but I never did.
WEST: Except that one...
MAMERO: That one night. I think fellows did go out maybe a day or a night or something like that.
WEST: Do you remember why you left that night?
MAMERO: I don't know why I did leave. I hadn't been out all the time I was in there. And I just went home. I didn't live far from there. And I walked up there and stayed home a couple of hours and went back, I would say about eight o'clock or eight-thirty.
WEST: And when you got back...
MAMERO: That's when it started.
WEST: Did you get back in the plant just before the police came?
MAMERO: Yeah, I was back in the plant.
WEST: What happened when you first saw the police? Did they pull up in cars?
MAMERO: Oh, I don't think there was over three cars out there that I seen at the time. Everyone was ready for 'em. We had all the boxes of hinges out there and bolts and everything else 'cause that was the only thing we had. And they was shootin' the tear gas. I know the police shot the tear gas through the windows because they had the upper part of the shop there so that you could hardly see. You had to cover up your face and your eyes and everything else. It was just loaded with tear gas in there. And that's when we went out onto the top of the paint shop.
WEST: Did any of the police get into the plant?
MAMERO: I don't think one ever got inside. We had the fire hoses there in the doors and you couldn't go through the hoses. If they did, they got knocked down. I know one fellow there that they used to call "Black Pete." He isn't living now. He was pretty rough customer. In the body shop they used to have stick solder, about this long and about ten inches around. Well, he used to wrap that around both hands and he went right out the door. And anyone he run into, he would just nail 'em.
WEST: So some of the fellows from inside the plant went out then to chase the police. And that's why they overturned some of the cars.
WEST: Then did they come back in the plant?
MAMERO: Yeah, they come back in. As far as I knew, the police never got into the plant.
WEST: Did you get pretty good treatment when you were in the hospital afterwards?
MAMERO: Oh yeah, just like anyone else. Not just because I was on the sit-down strike that I didn't get good treatment.
WEST: I was wondering about it. But there were guards in the hospital?
MAMERO: They would just sit right in a chair, right outside the door...a cop. They figured we was gonna get up and run out or something, like a criminal.
WEST: And then right after you were released they took you to...?
MAMERO: They loaded us right in and took us down to the jail.
WEST: They didn't keep you, though. They released you, you said before.
MAMERO: Yeah, I had my uncle come down to get me out and this other fellow out. But by the time he got down there, they had released us anyway. We weren't actually in a cell. It was like a holding room.
WEST: What did they say to you when they got you there?
MAMERO: Well, as far as I can remember they never questioned us or nothing. We just sit in there.
WEST: You just sat in there and then they told you could go?
WEST: Just the two of you, then?
MAMERO: There was just two of us in that room, Gig Moe and I.
WEST: Were there others, do you think, in other rooms?
MAMERO: Well, there might have been in other rooms. I don't even know if any other fellows got shot. As far as I know we were the two. I suppose someone else did.
WEST: Did Bob Travis come down there? Did you know Bob Travis?
MAMERO: I've heard of him. He was the organizer at that time. But I suppose he was there, too. I don't know.
WEST: Well, is there anything else you can recall about those days?
MAMERO: The only thing was just a good old wild night, I can say. Yeah, I would have stayed right there. If they'd done it again, I'd be right in after it.
WEST: Were you at home when the contract was announced or were you in the plant, the day the strike was over, February the eleventh, I guess it was.
MAMERO: Well, I was there until everyone left. I was in there forty-one days, I think. I never left, only that one night.
WEST: So when you were released from the hospital then and from jail, did you go back inside the plant again?
MAMERO: It wasn't working right away, at that time.
WEST: No, I mean were they still on strike?
MAMERO: I imagine so, but I never went back to work right away.
WEST: No, but did you go back into the plant again to resume the sit-down afterwards?
MAMERO: Not after I got out of the hospital. I don't think there was anyone in there.
WEST: The strike had been settled then, in other words.
MAMERO: Yeah, it had been settled. It took them a while to get things running, I suppose, heated up and stuff. I don't know, but I don't think there was that much damage done inside of the plant as far as body and destroying the building or anything. I don't think that that much was done to the plant.
WEST: Well, thank you very much.
MAMERO: You buy a General Motors car or you don't work here.
WEST: They expected you to do that?
MAMERO: That was back in the thirty-twos and stuff like that.
WEST: How could they expect you to buy a car with the depression on?
MAMERO: Well, at that time, $600 would buy a car. I don't know, I had an old piece of paper one time with a '37 Chevrolet, and I think it was either five or six hundred dollars. It wasn't very much, 'cause I know I bought a '37 Olds and I was only makin'$1.10 an hour. And when I went back and almost paid cash for it. It wasn't over about $700, I guess.
WEST: But at fifty cents an hour wouldn't that have been...
MAMERO: Well, at fifty cents an hour...well, I was single. Fifty cents an hour and twenty-four dollars a week went quite a ways. Of course now it's nothing.
WEST: Did you have a telephone in your house?
WEST: You did. What newspapers did you read at the time, do you remember?
MAMERO: Well, we used to have the Journal. Well they'd get papers in the shop. And of course everyone would read 'em. And by the time they got around to everybody, there wasn't much to it. But we had papers in the shop.
WEST: What did you think of the coverage that the Journal gave to the strike?
MAMERO: Oh, some of it was good and some of it was bad, you know. Of course, at that time a lot of it all run General Motors. Well, more or less like it is now; it's a General Motors paper. They print what they want to and you believe what you want to.
WEST: Did you get support from your folks when you went on strike, from your dad and your mom? Or were they a little leery of what you were doing?
MAMERO: No, I don't think that they...they never said anything. I just did it. Of course, I only went home that one day.
WEST: But they didn't object to what was going on?
MAMERO: No, 'cause my dad had been a...well, he worked at the old wagon works on Dort. And when he went to Flint he was always a laborer all of his life. And he knew what they done in the factory, how guys were treated. So he didn't care.
WEST: Was he working when you were out on strike?
WEST: He had retired, had he, by the time of the strike?
MAMERO: Yeah, see when Flint went to Fisher 1, he probably worked there, I don't think over two or three years. And then he retired when he was sixty, I think. At sixty he retired. He always was a factory laborer. He never was laid off, because he worked that much, you know. He never had layoff. Even during the Depression a lot of people were off, but he worked. Well, he didn't work full weeks, probably. But he worked; he never was laid off.
WEST: Was he a union supporter? He didn't join the union, but was he supportive?
MAMERO: Well, he was a union supporter, but I don't know whether my dad ever joined or not. Did you ever hear him speak of it? Well the union probably wasn't that strong at the time he quit. I remember years ago when he worked, he always hunted and trapped. And he would just say, "Well, the trappin' season is on now." So he would just lock up his toolbox and go and trap. And when he got through trapping he would come right back to work and there was nothing said. But now, the way things are now, you couldn't do that.
WEST: No, but he had it fairly good.
MAMERO: Yeah. Well, he never done that when he worked to the old Flint in Fisher 1. He couldn't do that then. That was back in the old Dort and buggy works at that time. I guess your job was secure then. But now, you attempt that now, there's always somebody ready to take over. And that's the same way it was down there in '32.
WEST: When did you get married?
MAMERO: I got married on the thirteenth in '43.
WEST: Had you been working then, at all?
MRS. MAMERO: Yes, I was workin' at Bell Telephone.
WEST: Bell Telephone. Were you in Flint then, during the strike?
MRS. MAMERO: Oh yes.
WEST: Maybe we should turn to some of your recollections of this period. Do you have any at all that you'd want to share?
MRS. MAMERO: No, I just remember that it was severe, you know. And I mean I read about the shooting and that sort of thing. Well, because I guess I didn't know him then. Probably I would have been worried like all of the wives were. But I remember, you know, that they had it down there and the whole ball of wax.
MAMERO: But I think some of the married people with kids, they had probably a rougher time then, than I did. Of course, I didn't give a damn. I was single and so I just stayed right with 'em.
WEST: Did the union talk politics at all, after the strike? Did you get involved or ask to involve yourself in politics at all?
WEST: Because I know the UAW later on became pretty active, politically.
MAMERO: Yeah, it has. But like I say, thirty years ago a union was an awful good thing. And it's still a good thing today. But I worked with guys that just wouldn't work. That was it. They wouldn't work if you'd give 'em fifty dollars an hour. Well, I would say that fifty percent of them guys are in the union, committeemans or something else. They will try and represent a working man and they wouldn't do a job in their life. That's the way it is today, in my opinion.
WEST: Divorced from the leadership of the rank and file.
MAMERO: And the way it used to be thirty, thirty-five years ago. But I see it when I go over to the union hall before I retired. I know guys there and they wouldn't work. They are the guys that...most of 'em were in the union. But they are doin' all right, I guess. As long as they ain't lettin' the company get the upper hand on it.
WEST: Right. Well, I do want to thank you both again, very much.