DATE: June 26, 1980
INTERVIEWER: William Meyer
INTERVIEWEE: William Speckman, Crapo Street, Flint, Michigan
MEYER: Maybe we can start by your telling me a little about when you began with General Motors. You were talking with me a little bit about that over the phone.
SPECKMAN: Yeah, I was looking at these papers. You know I was in the hospital, had a couple operations. People go through your stuff. Anyway there's your first paper, 1917. Factory 12.
MEYER: This was a...
SPECKMAN: Insurance. It tells you how much they paid you. I think it was, I don't know, fifteen dollars for ten days or something like that. Sick benefits. You couldn't leave the town, neither. There was a guy watching you all the time.
MEYER: What do you mean, "you couldn't leave the town"?
SPECKMAN: When you was on sick leave. Now they got unemployment. Boy, they almost take 'em away in a car.
MEYER: Who would watch you?
SPECKMAN: The company had...
MEYER: And they would have people to watch you at home or wherever you were?
SPECKMAN: Yeah, they'd go in the neighborhood and see if you was there. Oh, it was pretty close them days. And, boy, what the hell you was getting! All I got was two dollars and seventy-five cents for ten hours. And that was time checking.
MEYER: What do you mean by "time checking"?
SPECKMAN: Well, there wasn't...I had a clock and a little kerosene heater and tin around me, and every time the guy'd change operation, he'd come to me and I'd ring out this one ticket and then ring him on the other ticket, see. And that's the way we had to keep track of it. Yeah, we didn't have like they got now, air conditioning, boy.
MEYER: You were in Buick for a lot of time.
SPECKMAN: No, not too much time. No, I think I was there about two months. Yeah, I started at six o'clock in the morning and twelve at night, I'd ring out. The boss says, "Speck, you got to cut out that overtime. We can't stand that." Well, I said, "Mr. Ramage," I says, "I'll have to go back to Chicago, where I come from." I says, "We made thirty-five dollars a month, but we had tips. We had good eats and drinks and everything." That was a year.
MEYER: What year did you start?
SPECKMAN: In 1917. February the 21st. Yeah.
MEYER: With General Motors, working for Buick?
SPECKMAN: Yes, sir.
MEYER: And you came from Chicago?
SPECKMAN: I came from Chicago, because my wife got sick. She had her folks here, so I made three trips in one week. I says, "I can't afford that," back and forth on the train.
MEYER: So your wife's family was from Flint.
SPECKMAN: Yeah. But they come from... My wife was born in Cheboygan.
MEYER: How old were you when you started working in the plants?
SPECKMAN: In the Buick? Well, let's see. That was February 21st, 1917. I was born in '96. I was going on 21, because I was about 20 when I got married in '16. There's the marriage certificate from 1916. "Until death do we part." Nowadays they get married on Friday and Monday they see the judge: "A big mistake." I think that's some stuff I wrote in there.
MEYER: "Started at Buick, September 22nd."
SPECKMAN: And the different places I worked and how much money. I tell you we didn't make much, but a dollar was a dollar in them days. Now it's nothing.
MEYER: Well, let's talk about the Sit-Down Strike a bit. What plant were you working in at the time of the strike?
SPECKMAN: I was working in Factory 11.
MEYER: Which one was that, now?
SPECKMAN: That was where this big fellow----I forget what his name is now----he was the only one in 11 that stayed on the machine, sit down. I forget what his name is, now. He's gone. Yeah. Oh, I was looking for another paper that had the names on them fellows. I couldn't find it.
MEYER: Where was Factory 11? What did they do there?
SPECKMAN: That was on Leith Street. And 12 was on where the personal service is right across the street. That was Factor 12, that corner.
MEYER: Was that part of the Buick complex?
SPECKMAN: Oh, that was all Buick.
MEYER: That was all Buick. So you were working at Buick during the time of the Sit-Down itself.
SPECKMAN: Oh, yeah. Yes, sir.
MEYER: When do you first recall encountering the union, in working for General Motors?
SPECKMAN: Well, that was in '37.
MEYER: You don't remember any union activity or membership in the union before the Sit-Down?
SPECKMAN: Yeah, I've worked in the Fisher 1, South Saginaw Street. That's Buick. And I worked there five years.
MEYER: About when was that?
SPECKMAN: That was about in '27 or something like that. Five years after I retired in the Buick, here, Factory 18. I had, let's see, fifteen years with that and five years with Fisher 1, without a break. But when I retired at Personal Service (they made that bowl), they didn't have that record, see. I got that record from General Motors five years after, when my wife died. I said, "Yes, I worked at Fisher 1." I says, "Well, there's your big break that they was hollering about." Course I didn't think about it at that time. I lost my wife and just getting out of that place. And, I don't know. They still owe me over fifteen years. They give me $71 for my wife and I and that one daughter for all that 41 years of my time there. And, oh, the union says, "I worked there several times there. We can't do nothing. That was before the union." "Yeah," I says, "everything was before the union." But the union was good, until they started that rumpus, you know, breaking windows and everything, that big strike over there at Chevrolet, turning the police cars over.
MEYER: During '37, you're talking about?
SPECKMAN: Yeah, that was about it. That was after we was getting organized. But they got rough over there. Over here it wasn't bad. It was pretty good.
MEYER: But, in talking about your first recollections of the union, you mentioned at Fisher 1, there was some union activity?
SPECKMAN: I even got the receipt here somewheres. I paid $1.30 a month. Now they pay about eight or nine. But look, it ain't worth nothing. You might as well give 'em 20 dollars and they'd send nineteen of that to Lansing and the rest ... But you can't tell the young generation that. Every time I went to 599, I says, "You kids, don't ask for more money." I says, "You got everything clean, sanitary. Give 'em a day's work." I had a good recommend when I was laid off, that big lay-off, you know when the stock market went to hell? Well, that was about '18, but in '32 is when they laid everybody off in the Buick. I was working in the Body Receiving then, and that was about the middle of '32. I even got I.M.A. cards from that year. Then I had this daughter. I had a doctor with her. Leukemia. Eighteen years. All eighteen years she suffered. She was the youngest one that Michigan doctors didn't know what the hell was the matter. I still owe that woman doctor from Canada. I don't know who sent her over, but she went in the house and come out. She said, "Mr. Speckman, if you had a million dollars, you couldn't save her. She's got leukemia." I tell you, she suffered. No, I was surprised. I found that receipt book in the union over there at Fisher 1. I forget what his name was. He didn't last long. But five years later then we organized 599. Things were getting rough over there in Fisher 1, so I transferred back to that Buick part here.
MEYER: In what way were they getting rough?
SPECKMAN: Well, the business was getting bad, you know, the banks and everything. Yeah, they closed the banks up. There was only one bank that could pay dollars for dollars. That was at Citizens. But they still had to close, because that was the law. No, I know about that before they closed it. I had a brother-in-law. He was a head of the Buick advertising (I don't know----well, you wouldn't know him), A. Brown Batterson. He lost 90,000 in that stock market. There was a lot of guys that shot themselves, you know, over what they lost. He just sold out in Flint and with what little he had left he went to Florida.
MEYER: One thing I'm interested in is from the time you started working in the plants to the time of the Sit-Down Strike, that was more than twenty years----it's about twenty years. What is your recollection of how the nature of the working conditions changed in that twenty-year period from about World War I to the time of the strike?
SPECKMAN: Boy, it changed awful. No, when I started, I 'member we moved from the Parts and Service into Factory 28. And those guys with the machines moved out into another building, see. And I was gonna go to the toilet. I opened up that toilet door and it would knock you down. It was that deep! I shut the door, and along come McKay. He was an assistant superintendent. He says, "What's the matter, Speckman?" I says, "Go in there." Oh, the foreman was making about 45 dollars a week. He didn't give a damn if you had a good toilet or anything else. And we worked, they'd have so many jobs and that's it. And I 'member I, well, I worked on an assembly line. I used to shift around. I worked to get any extra money. And we was on that assembly line, sitting there, and the guys were playing cards. Sat there a couple hours. Well, they paid us 50 cents an hour. "You better go home, boys. Consumers breakdown." That poor Consumers, they would broke down all the time. They wasn't broke down. They wouldn't pay it. There was no business, see. Well, you only had so many jobs. I found out about it in later years. I was in that one shop there. I got transferred onto the assembly line, 'cause they paid me a nickel more. And I think we was getting four cents a job then. And the boss says, "I got a job fitting curtains." We didn't have windows, you know, but that curtain job's about that job in them days. "We got to have about 35 men. We got some repairs in Saginaw." They didn't say how many. I says, "Boy, I'm gonna get into that, because I'm getting a nickel more than them other guys." I could fit curtains, too. I don't believe I done a dollar's worth of work in them two days. First day they couldn't find the guy to open up the fairgrounds in Saginaw. You know how the guys were in them days. Sit down and shoot craps, you know. The foreman we had, one fellow, I forget what his name is, he always had a silk shirt on, set there, shootin' craps. Now, I tell you, I found out all that time that I worked in the Buick (41 years) that was the best plant in Flint. Course there's a lot of guys...
MEYER: Why was that so good? This was Plant 28, did you say?
SPECKMAN: Well, it was 28. The last place was Factory 18, Parts and Service. I put in about 20 years in that place.
MEYER: Why was that the best?
SPECKMAN: What I mean is I don't know. I tried to get work in Chevrolet when I was out. I was over to Ford. You couldn't get in no place. You had to be a foreigner. They'd grab them and in you'd go. I always went back to the Buick. Yes, sir. No, I say the Buick was all right when we was alone, the union was alone. But this other, this clique above 'em (you know who I mean; I won't mention any names)...He's gone now, the one. Him and that guy you had. They appointed themselves the head of the automobile association, 'cause they're the ones that do all the bargaining, see.
MEYER: You mean the head of the UAW? AFL?
SPECKMAN: I forget what they call that, now. It's a certain name.
MEYER: Flint Federation?
SPECKMAN: Everything is done through them. No, we had...Lot of times we turned down a strike. We were satisfied. That didn't mean nothing. Well, it was this gang ahead of us.
MEYER: When was this problem?
SPECKMAN: Well, this was shortly after we got organized in 599. Then this came up, meeting. These guys showed there and you couldn't say nothing. You know that.
MEYER: This was maybe '37 or '38, around in there.
SPECKMAN: Yeah, it was about in there. Yup. And they bought Black Lake. No, Reuther was the head of that outfit. I don't know, I still say if it wasn't for the laboring class, they wouldn't have got in. And who paid their wages? The laboring class. Like Chevrolet, the union. Buick, the union. So much of their money that they get that goes to the head guys, see.
MEYER: Were there particular labor leaders at that time that you thought were pretty good, or?
SPECKMAN: Oh, we didn't have nothing to do with them. No, that was...I've been trying to get a hold of them to get my fifteen years' service.
MEYER: No, I mean back then, in the '30s, were there labor leaders locally?
SPECKMAN: Lot of it's the same thing. Yeah, they was all the way through until Reuther, he got killed, and that's the way they keep her going on, you know. 'Cause it's that one class, and that's what I told him.. I told the governor last year. Gonna get me $250 help me on Consumers and then two weeks later get me another $50. I didn't get nothing. And last year they sent me a check for eleven dollars. I says "I pay more than that in the Federal taxes." Imagine heating this house for $160 with coal and now that much with gas. They're gonna help. No, they don't help you. No, it's a shame. I told that governor, I says, "It's a shame," I says. "In the land of plenty, we got nothing. We give everything away." And I said, "All we got left is the flag. We don't have no constitution, because that's all made for the rich guy." Which is so. That's been changed so many times that you don't want to hear anything much about it. When my dad and mother came over from Germany and landed in New York, when that they go on that island. What was that, Blackwell's Island? They're fixing it up now. And that you'd be examined and everything, you know. We landed in New York. Jesus, a penny was gold!
MEYER: You were born in Germany?
MEYER: You were born in this country.
SPECKMAN: New York. '96, yup. Yes, sir, and in 1900, I can remember, Russia wanted Germany. She never bought for nothing. They were always starving or something. We helped 'em, and now we got to kiss their butt. I tell you, I've seen lots of things. And I 'member New York. My mother would go to the Jewish fish market on Saturday, and I was telling this to Mr. Weiss, started building this Parkview Manor. I said, "Mr. Weiss." I says, "There's the wrong name on this street." "What do you mean, Speckman?" I meant kind of Jews be ... I said, "They ought to call it Hester Street." I said, "Don't you know Hester Street in New York, where in July you could smell that fish market three miles away?" "Speckman," he says, "you was there." Yeah, he spent seventy thousand on that apartment. And he had to go thirty feet down to hit the old Crapo farm sawmill, with that pile of sawdust. Dig that out, that seventy thousand that he was gonna build that place with that all went to concrete and steel. All winter long. That's a darn good foundation, that place, I think. Then I'd remember that Hudson River and the streetcar. I remember that. That was quite a feat in those days. Back before 1900 that was built. I mean that Hudson River, that's a lot of water, boy.
MEYER: Going back to the strike for a moment, what did you think about the Sit-Down when it occurred? You were not a sit-downer yourself, right?
SPECKMAN: No, we just went working. That's all. But we was all signed up, about ninety percent. Guy would catch a rat and tie a string to his tail----just another rat! I'll never forget them days. And Scotty, he was the head one at 18. And he'd follow us as we was picking in the street with a movie camera. I wonder what he done with them pictures. Old Man Scott. The only thing he was good in when the World Series was on. He had a blackboard put up and the guy would put the score down there all the time. He was good on sports, but otherwise he never bothered us at all. He'd just walk by and nod, and that's it.
MEYER: He was the foreman?
SPECKMAN: He was the head one that run that plant. And it was after that when I got a stove, an oil furnace, from my foreman up in the North End. I was talking to him about the times. I says, "Yeah," I says, "I remember. Scott. All them factors. I used to wonder how they run it. Well, they give each factory so much money, see. Like you was in charge of Factory 18. They'd give you a couple million dollars. Well, if you could cut down on your help and get the production, that was in your pocket, see. That was all money in your pocket. "Oh," he says, "they don't do that any more." I says, "Don't tell me." I says, "Them factories are all there and them plant managers are all there, only they get more now." I think we'd have been better off...That union. At one time General Motors wanted to give us stock instead of raising the wages. We'd have been better off. Course the minute we got a raise, oh my god, the grocery man he'd have to start marking everything up. Yeah, he'd maybe have stuff on the shelf that maybe had been there for years, but it all went up. That was when the school started, when we started getting raises and that. Right away the teachers had to have a raise. I had a barber. He had to get up to three dollars for a haircut. He didn't last long. I told him. I says, "You can't compare your work with that stuff that I lugged around, those third members and all that, side panel." It's the same way. There's nobody there that knows about the material like I did, 'cause I worked in material in Claim Department. Stuff coming back, you know. Maybe somebody in Florida sent back a envelope of rust: "Look at my Buick!" Well, it was a damn ... that anyone would raise hell, you know. But you had metal in them cars. My big Torr, that big thing. That was about in '28. The blood come right out of my shoe. But they was fenders. And then the last, towards the end, I noticed out then that everything was getting...the side panel. When at first it would always take two guys to carry one of them. It was so thick of metal. But, like I say, these head guys, above the locals, they say, oh, yes, they got to pay more for this, they got to pay more for that. I got a '66 LeSabre. Rear-view mirror, got a beautiful chrome bracket on it. All right, I'd say yeah, they'd pay more for that now than what they got in '66. But now you see 'em on the car. A rubber gasket holds that rear-view mirror. Is that gonna cost as much as the other? No. Well, I could tell them guys a lot. But I wouldn't last. You know why I wouldn't last? Somebody would bump you off, the first damn thing. When I was a kid in Bay City, Senator Couzens, he was after them guys, see. He come pretty close to 'em. All of sudden, bingo! He was bumped off. Boy, that Bay City Journal would just pull, oh, they're gonna investigate this or that. Two weeks you never heard a thing about it. It was all quiet.
MEYER: He was getting close to what guys?
SPECKMAN: It was Communists, you know. Like Al Capone and the rest of 'em. No, when I went to Chicago in about '13, I think it was, Chicago was bankrupt. It was run by these Al Capone, and the Purple Gang, Detroit, but they never bothered the poor people. There was no unemployment. If you didn't have a place to sleep for ten cents, you had a bed. The saloons, one place on Wabash Avenue, I think it's there yet, three saloons, one right next to the other. All you needed was a dime to get your schuper of beer. And here was a quarter of beef on the bar. "Go help yourself. Cut off as much meat as you want." Any kind of bread, butter, cheese. It was all free. But I says, when these educated politicians took over, that was the end of that beer business. Look at what we're spending on unemployment and all that.
MEYER: What did you think of the union at the time of the strike? What did you think about the strike itself?
SPECKMAN: Well, we needed it. The way the sanitary conditions in one place, you know. And then working and lifting this and that.
Oh, yeah, we needed it bad, because the foremen, they didn't give a damn about sanitary conditions. You know who was the union before us?
MEYER: No, who's that?
SPECKMAN: Your neighbor. Like if you worked next to me, if I come in and I didn't feel good, and you didn't give a damn (all you cared about get your operation done), that was it. But I was always lucky. We always helped each other, you know, so that we got the day in. That helped a lot. But a foreman, he'd never tell you to hurry up. Once in a while, somebody'd throw a wrench into the conveyor, strip the pins, you know. But the foreman come along, I know ..., "Ah, boys," he says, "beautiful day out. Boy, we get that schedule out," he says, "we'll all go to the ball game." That was it, see. No pressure, see. And they go work like hell. They had to go to the ball game. That's half the ruination of this country----too much sports. The people don't spend enough time to see how the government is run. It's a shame. No, instead of us getting everything cut twice, why, they go ahead and give the foreigners a cut price. Some of 'em don't even pay for it. Now, when the war ended, there was another item. I wish I'd have saved that newspaper. Somebody brought it up. Who's gonna pay the war debt? You know the first one that said they'd pay? It was Germany. Hitler's willing to pay that share of the war debt. Then they asked England. She said a couple words, and that was the end. You know who's paying it? We are. We're all paying for it. That's why everything is so damned high, and the dollar's so damned cheap. That's a shame.
MEYER: You said earlier you'd thought there was quite a bit of change in the conditions of work during the '20s and early '30s.
SPECKMAN: Yeah. Now a foreman, he can't go up and give you hell about something, you know, 'cause right away you say, "Get me the committeeman." Then they argue it out, you know.
MEYER: Well, what about back in the '20s? Did you see a change then? You started with General Motors very, very early, just after the company was formed. Did you see much of a change between then and the 1930s, you know, in that twenty-year period?
SPECKMAN: Well, the '30s wasn't bad. It was a better conditions then. But we didn't have no union then. But it was slowly where it should go, see. That's why I say, when we organized in '37, it was going along fine. But after this other clique went over the top, that was the end of it, boy. Sure.
MEYER: So your quarrel with the union is that the people, the leadership who came out of the strike, were not effective leaders, in your opinion?
SPECKMAN: Yeah. I don't know. Well, Reuther was a Communist to begin with. He come from Russia. I know that. And his gang, that come with him, so you can...Well, mostly this country is run by Communists, but they don't say it, 'cause it'd be hell up. But who was it? Oh yeah. King was killed. Do you remember that? No, I thought he was on the right track, and he said before he died there wouldn't be a change in this country until the whites and the blacks would shake hands. I worked with the blacks in Bay City. 1911. I was about sixteen years old. Go home twelve o'clock at night with 'em, walk two mile, and it was nothing said about you being black and I'm white. We was all one. Well, there's where the government was lame, like this black fellow said here at Central one time. They don't tell the young blacks about how Michigan was one of them that helped their forefather get free. See? He had the right idea. No. Them days. That's the whole trouble with this country. It's too much of this cover-up. No, it's a shame. I look at them young kids and wonder what in the hell they're gonna do when I'm gone. But this here unemployment, that's no good. They could take them guys, like they started that CC outfit. There were a lot of soldiers. I worked with a guy, Bruce Witmark. I says, "Bruce, you was over there in Grayling. How'd do make out over that CC camp?" "Oh, hell," he says, "we had a nice time. Three meals a day, nothing to worry about, taxes." He says all he had to do was to make candy, see. And they all got along good together. Nobody had to kill themselves. All them highway stands, that was all made by CC boys. Drill a well and put some benches there. You come along with your car and you park it there and you eat your lunch with your family. No. But I tell you who made a big mistake. Was Franklin Roosevelt. If I could have got near him at that time, I'd have told him how Russia in 1900 wanted Germany. She couldn't get it, and the Germans called her the "Big Bear." Then along comes Franklin Roosevelt, gives half of Germany to 'em. I had a son-in-law, and his boy was in that war. It was outside of Germany. They stopped our troops outside of Germany, Berlin, and let the Russians go in, take over. Course that's all big business.. If you stop and think of it, there's a lot of 'em. No, that was awful, I'll tell you. But I know Teddy Roosevelt. I was in New York. I remember when they blowed up the Battleship Maine. He said, "Remember the Maine, the hell with Spain!" And then the Alamo, when the Spaniards massacred all them soldiers. Teddy Roosevelt organized the Rough Riders, and all they had was one of them curved swords----what do they call 'em, sabers?----and a pistol. That's all they had. I remember when he went through there with 'em, Rough Riders. God, it was rough! Jesus, you could run when you see the face on 'em. But I 'member I was about five or six when he come back. I had my hand on his horse. You could count the ribs on him. So skinny. And here was old Teddy sitting on the top, with his great big glasses, you know. If I was a painter, I could paint you his picture. Yeah, remember the Alamo. No, but I tell you, it was funny. In them days, they had for election time they had a big fat policeman down on the walk, American flag, and he kept order, you know, nobody'd pull any crooked stuff. But I don't know, they didn't act like they wanted to be crooked. But they took care of the poor people and the rich people. I went to work one month on that one farm. What was it, Rothschild's, or? I forget who it was now. But they sent us out for the health camp, you know. I'll never forget that.
MEYER: When was that?
SPECKMAN: Oh, gosh, that was back about 1900, anyway. And I'll never forget that. I tell a guy up North, you know we didn't dare ask our parents for a penny. My god, that was gold! Jesus, we'd get a lickin'. So we'd go along the sidewalk where there was a grading, you know. Guy had a window there, down below in the basement. We seen a couple pennies. So we gets a stick and some wagon grease and we poke it through the grating and got them two cents. Well, the Jews, them days, they had a push cart, they call 'em, a two-wheel. One would have all bananas. The other one oranges. So we took the two cents and went across the street, got a big orange. We got the biggest orange that Jew had on the cart. When we got home, we damn near got a whipping. "Where'd you get the money from?" "We found it." "Don't you know that's gold?" We damn near got a lickin'. Then we said, "How much did you pay for it?" "Two cents, what we found." Well, we started to eat that thing. Do you know what it is? Grapefruit. What in the hell did us poor people know what a grapefruit was? That was a rich man's food. It must have been just about the time that they were coming in, you know. Oh, I tell you. That was something.
MEYER: Do you remember----talking about the 1930s again----a couple of years, or a year or so after the strike, there was a split between two factions of the union. Do you remember that at all?
SPECKMAN: No, there was no split.
MEYER: It was an election, I guess, between AFL and CIO.
SPECKMAN: There was something about that. That's right. There was something about that. FBI wanted. Any way, there wasn't much of a ruckus. Like I say, they got to cut out this other stuff. What good is paying thirty-forty thousand? Yeah, you could afford a Buick when I was working on the assembly line. They had some contest. A man won either $887 or he could get a car, a four-cylinder Buick, curtain top, see. You know what they made them today? You'd have so damn much gas in it, you'd flow it down the street. A four-cylinder car. No, we figured it out when I was in the office. They figured they made about two dollars for one, General Motors, at that time. And then, like I say, I wasn't long there on that good job there, where I made eight dollars by two o'clock, on the cushion job, 'cause we went to war. I came from Chicago in '17, spring of '17, and they had the preparation parade. You know what that was? That was all paid for by the businessmen of Chicago. I remember the Bell Telephone. They had American flag, and all the girls was all dressed like the flag. You know what I mean. Some would be striped. Some would be stars. Two blocks long! I wish I had that newspaper. Yeah. Then I got to Flint. Then I got that job time checking, and then it wasn't long I got this other good job, and then all of a sudden we're going to war. That was about '18, 1918. Well, the boss says, "We got a job for youse married people." They sent me over to Factory 11, give me a job on cutting a slot in the connecting rod. I worked all night for five hours in the shop. Had to reach up toward a bell on the machine and just press a button and away they go. And I made five dollars and something. And them other guys, foreigners they were, they'd steal the stock. Hell, I didn't have nothing to work on. So I went home in the morning, and my wife says, "Well, ain't you going to bed?" "No, I'm going back to Buick and tell them to shove that damn job." Which I did. I drank some coffee, and I went back to Personnel and I said, "That job ain't no good," I said. "Worked all night and what do you got?" I says, "the other guy steals the stock." "Got a good job for you." You know what it was? Fifty cents an hour to set on my butt, and you come in on for a war job. I give you a button, and then write you up. There was a number on it, you know. We was making that Liberty motor then. And you know I never saw nothing in them books with that Liberty motor. I got the fiftieth anniversary, the seventy-fifth anniversary.
MEYER: When did you retire from GM?
SPECKMAN: '62. Yeah. '62. And then in '67 was when I lost my wife, five years later. No. Yeah, that's right. It was '67 when I lost my wife.
MEYER: What was your job when you retired?
SPECKMAN: In the Claims Department, where all that stuff come back. See there was boxcars in the floods and all that. Yeah, we'd have to check 'em.
MEYER: Did you ever work as a foreman or a supervisor at all?
SPECKMAN: No. I never worked as a foreman. I was too honest, I guess. No, I had a good record. No kidding. I had the best record you could get, when we laid off in '32. But all the union had to do get my record straightened out, see. Add that five years in there that I worked at Fisher 1. Would have made me right straight through 41 years. No, all I got was $71 for three of us for 41 years of work. And they was work, them days! Yeah. No, I never sassed the boss. I always thought a hell of a lot. You know you could think a lot, you know. The guys used to tell me "How the hell did you get along with the foreman that long?" I says, "You know, I had a whole barn full of that foreman's..." If I had 'em here, I'd show 'em to you. No, you got to use your head, you know. The Lord give you one brain to use, and I think a hell of a lot of the guys knew damn well they was wrong, but I couldn't contradict 'em, because I didn't have no say-so. I remember the time they had a "safety first" program. I got a letter. I was wonderful. And I was cooperating with them. And I'll never forget them five crates. One was already off, you could go up there and blow on it. It would have fell down and hit somebody in the head. I told the foreman about it, and, Jesus, that's dangerous up there. I let somebody take care of that. But, as luck would have it, nobody knocked it down, but there was a hazard, see. But I could have got in on the carpet, you know (we had a union then) for not going in and taking care of that. But I never was that way. I say get along best we can.
MEYER: Okay, well, this has been very useful to us. Thank you.