DATE:  Mar. 4, 1980
INTERVIEWEE:  Francis William Motter and Grace Motter
INTERVIEWER:  Kenneth West

WEST:  Can we start, Mr. Motter, with some personal background, if you would, please?  Were you born in Flint?

MOTTER:  No, I was born in Richfield.  Out in Richfield Center, out in that area.

WEST:  I see.  What year was that?

MOTTER:  Let’s see.  1902.

WEST:  Was your family originally from this part of the country, then?

MOTTER:  Well, my mother, she was from Germany, and my dad from Canada.

WEST:  From Canada.  I see.  And did you go to school, then, in this area?

MOTTER:  Well, I went to an old country school out there, called the Slyker School.

WEST:  And what were some of your earlier work experiences?  When did you start working?

MOTTER:  Well, at about seventeen I started workin’.  World War II, you know, you could go get a job in them days.

WEST:  What were you doing then?

MOTTER:  Workin’ for General Motors.

WEST:  Oh, you worked for General Motors.  Where did you start working, then?

MOTTER:  Started, let’s see, at Chevrolet.

WEST:  What was your job there?

MOTTER:  On the assembly line.

WEST:  I guess it was quite a bit different in those days from what it was even at the time of the strike.

MOTTER:  It’s a lot different even now.  Everything is, you know...  Them days, we had to work.  Nowadays they just play in there.

WEST:  What was your job then at Chevrolet?

MOTTER:  Well, I worked on machines on the assembly line.

G. MOTTER:  You put on radiators, didn’t you?

MOTTER:  On the assembly line.

WEST:  Oh, you were putting on radiators.  How did you do that?  It wasn’t automated at all.  There wasn’t much machinery then, was there?

MOTTER:  No.  When I first went there, the job was set on a wooden, kind of a wooden dolly, and they had the track down along the line to keep it straight when you pushed ‘em on.  No chain or no nothin’.

WEST:  When did you notice the chains in the...?

MOTTER:  Well, it gradually changed from year to year, you know, more automation all the time.  Then they got the idea of gettin’ the old assembly line in.  When they got that, why, then the boys went to work.

WEST:  You weren’t working then at Chevy all the time.

MOTTER:  I started workin’ at Chevy, and then my buddy, he got the job at Fisher 2, over there, where the Battle of Bull Run was, and so he was makin’ a little more money over there, and he was workin’ piecework, and we was workin’ on that there----oh, what did they call it then?

WEST:  Straight time, was it?

MOTTER:  Well, it was straight time and then you was supposed to get a little bit extra on efficiency jobs.  But you always ended up every payday the same way.

WEST:  And so you went over to Fisher 2, then?

MOTTER:  I went over to Fisher 2.

WEST:  And that’s where you stayed?

MOTTER:  No, I was at Fisher 2, and then Fisher 2 one model year, they, Buick, changed models sooner than we did, but we weren’t done yet, but they wanted to reassemble our plant, and we built the Chevrolet over to Buick, kind of stuff over there.  And most I was workin’ for, he wanted to make it over there.  So I went over there.  Well, when we ended up over there, I was gettin’ ready to come out, and somebody said he wanted to see me ...  I thought I was going to get a vacation, but he said, “How’d you like to stay over here and work for Buick?”  And I says, “Only one way.  If you want to transfer my seniority and stuff, okay.  I don’t care.”  So he transferred me over there, and that’s where I stayed out to Fisher, South End.

WEST:  Oh, so you were making bodies, then, at the Fisher South End.  What year was that, that you moved to Fisher?

MOTTER:  Oh, boy.

WEST:  Because it was 1927, I guess, when the Fisher brothers came over and took over that plant on South Saginaw.  Would it have been about that time?

MOTTER:  About that time, ’21, ’22.  I can’t remember ...

WEST:  I know.  I know it’s been a long time.  1929 came the crash, the Depression, and were you laid off during the Depression?

MOTTER:  Not too much of the time.

WEST:  Oh, you kept working.  What job did you have, then, at Fisher 1?

MOTTER:  I worked one end of the line to the other.  Now it’d be hard to tell whether it was hangin’ doors, settin’ deck lids, hangin’ deck lids...

WEST:  Hanging deck lids, what was that?

MOTTER:  [inaudible]  And...

G. MOTTER:  You hung doors, too.

MOTTER:  Oh, yeah.  I’ve worked about everything, up and down the line.

WEST:  Was that fairly usual, then, for people to work a variety of jobs on the line?

MOTTER:  Well, some guys would come in there, and others... Now, my partner, he could work on one side of the line, but he couldn’t come on my side of the line and do the same job he was doin’ as he was on the other side.  He just couldn’t change hands, you know.  ...When he went on the other side, he just took ‘em off with the left hand [inaud.].

WEST:  I see.  But not everyone could...  So you were pretty well employed then during the Depression.  Were you married then, during those years?

MOTTER:  [nods].

WEST:  Where were you living at the...

MOTTER:  We were living a mile out the Bray Road and then about two miles north.  I had five acres a place out there, and when the kids got into high school, the boy decided that----there was no school buses then----and we had to get him into town, so we just sold that place and bought this one.

WEST:  So I see, but you’ve always lived out of the city.

G. MOTTER:  Oh, we lived in Davison the first five years we were married.

MOTTER:  Davison, in Genesee County.

WEST:  Where were you living at the time of the strike, then?  Was it out here?

MOTTER:  Out on Bray Road.

WEST:  You had land, then.  I guess you could grow food for yourselves, could you?

G. MOTTER:  Well, we’d grow some potatoes and a bunch of that.

WEST:  Was that quite a help during those years?

MOTTER:  Oh, it helped in one way.  [Inaud.} potatoes, have a bunch of potatoes.  Somebody would come and say, “Would you like a bag of potatoes before you go home?”  Then you’d go down and bag ‘em up!

WEST:  But I’m wondering, during the Depression, when things were hard, it must have been an advantage for people to be able to grow their own...

MOTTER:  Grow just like the rest of ‘em.

WEST:  Oh, you were.  How did that work, then?

MOTTER:  Well, about the same as it did today.  Go down and they gave you maybe a few little [inaud.], whatever you needed, and some people got more than others.

WEST:  So you did have a family.

G. MOTTER:  We had six children.  We had nine.  We lost three.

WEST:  How did you get into the plant, then?  Did you have a car?

MOTTER:  Yes.  Had an old car.

WEST:  Did you have trouble making the payments on that car?  ‘Cause some people we talked to did have trouble, lost the car.

G. MOTTER:  That car was paid for.  I think it was an old car.  It was paid for.

MOTTER:  Well, some people, they...  Now, when we did our shift, we’d go right down to the [inaud.] bill and the fuel oil bill and the gas bill and all the bills were gotten.  Whatever we got left, that’s gonna last us now for thirty days.

G. MOTTER:  Well, that’s now.

MOTTER:  Yeah, that’s now.  Well, it was about the same way then. Had to last ‘til the next time...

WEST:  But you really didn’t have much difficulty making payments on utilities and house...

G. MOTTER:  No, our rent was cheap, and we got by.  You know.

WEST:  Were you working then, Mrs. Motter?

G. MOTTER:  No, I wasn’t.

WEST:   Was there any union background in your family at all, Mr. Motter?

MOTTER:  Well, no, not that I know of.

WEST:  Your father wasn’t involved in...

G. MOTTER:  His father died when he was five months old.

WEST:  Oh, so you didn’t.... But when did you first hear talk about a union in the plants in Flint?

MOTTER:  Well, it started way back when...I can remember days when we had two union halls.  One was AFL, CIO both, right across the road.

WEST:  I heard that, but I wonder as far back as the ‘20s, I understand, there were some efforts at forming unions, carriage workers’ unions.  Do you remember any of that?

MOTTER:  Well, at that time, until the Reuthers got in, that is, Walter Reuther and them guys, why, there didn’t seem to be much leadership.  Start somethin’ and then they faded away.

WEST:  The AFL did try to come in in the ‘30s, didn’t they, after Roosevelt’s...?

MOTTER:  They had a hall right across the road, one right beside the other one there, and I seen many a man out there...

WEST:  Between the AFL and the CIO.  Well, the CIO comes in about ’35.  When did you join the union?

MOTTER:  I was probably in the CIO when they was about, well, I guess our names would have been on [inaud.].

WEST:  Oh, so you one of the earlier ones to join.  What prompted you to join the union?

MOTTER:  Well, I heard about it, and what I’ve learned some of the older days, back farther, I thought, well, it might be a good thing, and I thought, if they can do what they say they can do, well, I’m all for it.

WEST:  What did they say they could do, then?

MOTTER:  Well, the only thing they felt about, you know, speeded line, this and that, and the other thing.  In them old days, lines, if it had to be gapped, or too far gap comin’ in, the old boss, he’d see that, he’d go down and he’d turn up that crank, and the line would just take off like a racehorse down there.  Giddup or get off!

WEST:  Was it tough to keep up then?

MOTTER:  [inaud.]

G. MOTTER:  Said it was hard or difficult a lot of times to even go and get a drink of water.

WEST:  I’ve heard that.  The fountain might be close by, but you couldn’t take a break to go to get...  What sort of a foreman did you have?

MOTTER:  Well, I always tried to make the foreman.  He done somethin’ that I’d never like, well, I didn’t tell anybody.  We got into many arguments.

WEST:  Can you recall any, what they might have been about?

MOTTER:  Things like, you know, [inaud.] not working, and the old [inaud.] man come down one day and tell me to [inaud.], and I says, “Get right over here on the side and I can do just as many as you can now.  If you want to try it, get over.”  That’s the answer I gave.

WEST:  How would you characterize your foreman?  Was he pretty tough?

MOTTER:  Oh, in them days, a foreman has to be, ‘cause they were under pressure all the time from the higher-ups, you know, and higher-ups would come down and get on the phone with the foreman, and then he and the whole house would take it out on you.  {inaud.]

WEST:  How did a person get to become a foreman in those days?

MOTTER:  I don’t know.

G. MOTTER:  His brother was a foreman.  He was superintendent at one time.

MOTTER:  He was the boss at {inaud.} when I was.  That’s when I left for Chevrolet.  He got on supervision.  I moved out.

WEST:  You moved out.

MOTTER:  I moved out.

WEST:  In what way?

MOTTER:  Well, in a way, the guys that worked for him, I don’t believe they had a friend in the shop.

WEST:  Your brother was pretty tough, then.

G. MOTTER:  Yeah, he was...

MOTTER:  He thought he owned the shop and all that was in it, and I didn’t think so.

WEST:  How do you think he got to be foreman?

MOTTER:  I’ll get it.

WEST:  Were you expected to do jobs for the foremen, do favors for him, to keep your job?  You’ve heard of that.

MOTTER:  Oh, I don’t know.  I think sometimes that they thought maybe it would, but I didn’t want no part of that, either.

WEST:  But you kept your job, even though you were willing to talk back to the foreman.

MOTTER:  I went deer huntin’, and they told me one time.   They said... Well, they said, “We will let nobody go deer huntin’.  I happened to ask you whether you were goin’ deer huntin’.  I’m just tellin’ you we’re going to be short a man next week.”  I said, “I’m goin’ deer huntin’.”  She got all excited.  We were supposed to turn in a three-day notice.  She got all excited that somebody was gonna owe some of her relatives over to Battle Creek or somewhere. She went over there and she forgets to call in.  So they calls up the [inaud.}, they called up there, the union called up there and said, “You’d better get back!  You didn’t call in.  You’re fired.”  So the guy I was with, he---well, Clayton Johnson, you probably have heard of him, he worked in an office in Detroit---he said, “We’d better pack up and go back.”  “Hell with that.  We came for deer week.  We’re gonna stay.”  And when I got back, Monday morning, to work, the first guy I met was the boss, and he said, “You’d better go upstairs [inaud.].”  I said, “Okay,” so I went up [inaud.], and the first thing he had to say, he said, “What kind of deer you got [inaud.}?  Why didn’t you call in?”  I said, “My wife was supposed to call in,” I said.  “She got all excited, forgot about it, and went over to some of her people.”

WEST:  Did that incident take place before the strike, then, or was that after?

MOTTER:  That was after.

G. MOTTER:  Yeah, that was after.  But Hans Larson and Clayton Johnson was the two guys that spoke up for him or got him back.  They were both CIO.

MOTTER:  The head foreman belonged to the same lodge.

WEST:  Did you have any premonition that a strike was coming before it did?

MOTTER:  Oh, there was always that kind of feeling in there, because the guys was always dissatisfied.  And then when the Reuther brothers come in, started handlin’ it, we had other guys in there, they didn’t seem to be just exactly...  When they come in, they stood back.

WEST:  Now, some years before that, the Sit-Down Strike, I understand there was a strike in the summer of 1930.  Metal finishers, I think, and some others walked off.  Do you remember anything of that?

MOTTER:  Well, not too much of that, because that was just a little flourish, you know.  I probably was out there in the Fisher plant, I imagine.

WEST:  You were a pretty strong union man, then, were you?

MOTTER:  I don’t really remember a strike that I wasn’t in.

WEST:  So you joined the union, then.  Particularly how were you recruited into the union?  Someone talk to you?

MOTTER:  [inaudible]

WEST:  Conditions, but, I mean, specifically at the time.  Do you remember how it was you got into the union, because it must have been quite a tough decision to make.  If they’d found out about it, the foreman, would you have been laid off?

MOTTER:  Well, I haven’t heard anybody really gettin’ laid off or gettin’ fired for it, but there was a time when there was only a few of us that had the card.

G. MOTTER:  Seems like he’d get to work and then just about the time we’d get caught up, they’d get laid off again.  That was before the union.

WEST:  That was before the union.  But I wonder whether there was anybody particularly that spoke to you, talked to you, and said, “Let’s join the union,” or if you just had heard about it.

MOTTER:  No, I was talkin’ to them more than they was talkin’ to me.

WEST:  But the word was, in the plant, then, that there was a union that you could join.  Where did you go to hold meetings, then?

MOTTER:  Well, sometimes we’d just gather at somebody’s house or something.  And then at one time, up from where our union hall, Fisher 1, it was a little old buildin’ there, and they had a little office in there.

WEST:  I see.  Did you know Bud Simon?

MOTTER:  Oh, Bud...  He’s the one guy that I’ll give that man credit for holdin’ us in that Sit-Down Strike.

WEST:  Was sort of a person was Bud Simon?  Can you characterize him, or...?

MOTTER:   Well, I wouldn’t know what to say.  It’s hard to say, but he believed in the union, and he made a lot of union people, talked to them, explained it to them...

WEST:  Did he talk to you, then?

MOTTER:  Oh, sure he did.

WEST:  Did you know Joe Devitt and Walt Moore?  ‘Cause apparently they...

MOTTER:  Oh, Devitt and Bud Simons, and those... Well, Bud Simons [inaud.], I’ll say that he is the one that, when we’d been on the Sit-Down Strike, everyday we had a meeting.  And along about such a time, he’d come out and tell us what was goin’ on, what [inaud.], and talk to us and explain the details to us.  Then, when we were in on the Sit-Down Strike, old Tom Wolcott, he was the sheriff, and he called down there one night, and he says, “I’m comin’ out and get Bud Simons.”  So we sent the ball back to him and told him to come out and bring one man.  And, when we’s in on the Sit-Down Strike, we had it all divided up.  We had a squad, see, and each squad had about ten, twelve men, you know, and they had the layout that they had to do in the plant.  Then we had the Flying Squadron on the outside, guys in cars drivin’ around all the while, keepin’ watch.  So, the Flyin’ Squadron went out to meet him.  They escorted him into the plant and [inaud.] into the dining room and everybody know he’s comin’, everybody down there, you know.  When he come in, why, his hands was shakin’.  He couldn’t hardly read his paper.  So everybody hollered at him, “Come on!  Get up on the table so we can take a look at you!  We may want to vote for you next time you run for election.”  He got up there, and he raised a little speech talk.  They told him old Bud was settin’ on his table where he’s talkin’, and Bud had just left for a conference and he’d may be gone part of the night we don’t know when he’ll be back [inaud.].  So he just took his little paper and walked out.  Escorted him out to his car.

WEST:  What did you think of Wolcott?

MOTTER:  Well, I didn’t think too much then and after then I never had much to deal with him.  Other than that, I don’t know as I ever saw him.

WEST:  Can you describe what things were like, when the...?  Were you working, were you on the job when the strike was actually called?

MOTTER:  I was workin’, yeah, but the strike, they went out at night.  When the night crew set down, and we went down in the morning, well, we went with one of the fellows to the restaurant and got ‘em doughnuts and stuff, and took over, carried them into the...

WEST:  But you weren’t in the plant when it was actually shut down, then?  You came on...

MOTTER:  Came on the next mornin’ when they opened it.

WEST:  And did you sit in, decide to sit down?

MOTTER:  I stayed [inaud.].

WEST:  You stayed.  What persuaded to stay, because some stayed, some left?

MOTTER:   It was just like it is today.  You had some union people, and you had some [inaud.].

WEST:  But you had a family and all.  Did you get word to your wife, then, that you were gonna...?

MOTTER:  Well, I thought it wouldn’t be any better for them, why, than time lost.

WEST:  What were things like, then, when you first got there?  Did things settle down then pretty much, or was there still some confusion?

MOTTER:  After we went back?

WEST:  No, when you first came to work after the strike had been called, and you came to your job and you discovered the plant was shut down.

MOTTER:  Well, that’s... Not too much confusion, I don’t think.  We almost knew it when we went out at night.  [Inaud.} talk to ‘em, and  the day shift would come in [inaud.].

WEST:  So when you came back the next night, you weren’t surprised that...

MOTTER:  No, I wasn’t surprised at all. I thought I’d go to work and they wouldn’t have nothin’ on.

G. MOTTER:  Some guy came out and got you, didn’t he?  [Inaud.].  He was out there a couple times.


G. MOTTER:  Oh, that guy that used to run the poolroom out there, uptown.

MOTTER:  McNeese?

G. MOTTER:  McNeese, yeah.

MOTTER:  Well, he wasn’t at that point.  He was the other point.

G. MOTTER:  Well, he came out there a couple times.

MOTTER:  Well, he come out there, yeah.

WEST:  You say that the plant was organized.  It was divided into squads, about ten men.  And each of you, each squad would have a squad leader?

MOTTER:  Each squad had his job to do.  After we got organized----it took us two or three days to get organized, of course.  When we first went, we had the whole shop.  Then we moved up into the north end of the Fisher Body, and we had the north end.  Oh, it’s quite a big buildin’ there, and then we had the wall and through this door, you could close the doors.  And we just closed them doors and locked ‘em.  And then the cafeteria, all we had to do was go to the other end, right down to the other end and then go down and there was a whole cafeteria.  One squad was down in the cafeteria with us.  And they’d change shifts, just like we do now.

WEST:  Who was your leader of your squad?

MOTTER:  Uh, I can’t think of his name.

WEST:  Well, it’s been a long time ago.  It may come to you.  What job were you assigned, then, to do?  During the strike.

MOTTER:  Well, we was mostly tendin’ doors.

WEST:  Checking people in and out?

MOTTER:  In and out.

G. MOTTER:  Tendin’ windows, I thought.

WEST:  I understood most of the people went in and out the windows.  The doors were...

G. MOTTER:  Yeah.

MOTTER:  [Inaud.] It took us a few days to get settled.

WEST:  So you checked on the people goin’ in and out of the window.  Was it easy to get in and out?  But you had to have a pass.

MOTTER:  Oh, yes.  It was the best after...after old G. Mennen Williams, when he sent the National Guard in. When they come in, they told us, “Now, when we come in here, just keep trouble down” [inaud.].

WEST:  But I’m thinking before that.  Did you go home at all?

MOTTER:  Oh, yeah.

WEST:  You did go home.

MOTTER:  Oh, once in awhile, and check out things, and, you know...  If you wanted a pass, all you had to do was go to the squad captain and get a pass, go out and show it to the guard out there.  They was the best tickets we ever had.

WEST:  They didn’t know you’d come back, though, did they?

MOTTER:  Yeah.

WEST:  Aside... But they had no way of checking on you.

MOTTER:  No, they didn’t have anybody checkin’ me.  Just go get a pass, and we had a pass to go out through the picket line.

WEST:  Did you have any trouble at the window where people tried to get in who didn’t have passes and who weren’t authorized to get in?  Did reporters come in from other newspapers?

MOTTER:  Not to my knowledge.

G. MOTTER:  I went out there a couple times, but I never went in.

MOTTER:  One time the kids went out there.

G. MOTTER:  The kids out one day, and they went in.  They treated ‘em with ice cream and stuff.

WEST:  Oh, inside the plants.  So the families could get in, because we’ve seen pictures of women and kids outside the building talking to the husbands.

G. MOTTER:  Our kids went in.

WEST:  Did you bring food, then?

G. MOTTER:  No, I never took any food out.

MOTTER:  After we got the idea  [inaud.].

G. MOTTER:  We had all the food out there, I guess.  I don’t remember.

MOTTER:  You could go down night or day and get coffee, sandwich.

WEST:  What did you do to spend the time?


WEST:  You braided blackjacks.

MOTTER:  After you got off your duty, why, and other shifts took over, well, play cards or whatever.

WEST:  Did you have a radio in the plant?

MOTTER:  Sure.

WEST:  They had radios, so you could hear what was going on.

MOTTER:  What was going on.  And old Bud Simons, he kept posted every day, you know.  Through the day, he’d [inaud.] what was goin’ on, and then along about one o’clock or so, he’d have a meeting.  He’d get up and tell us all about what was goin’ on and how things was goin’...

WEST:  That was a mass meeting, then, of all the sit-downers.  Where did that meeting take place, then?

MOTTER:  Nearly every afternoon about two o’clock.

WEST:  In the cafeteria, then?

MOTTER:  No, it was up in the other part.

WEST:  How was the organization set up?  You said there were squads and then there were captains.  Did you elect people to be your captains or were they appointed, or?  How was that set up?  By Simon, sort of a head committee?

MOTTER:  Well, no, they’d just get the squad together, and they’d pick a squad captain.  Pretty soon somebody’d point to somebody, and...

WEST:  Oh, I see.  So it was the men did pick their squad captain, presumably somebody whom you had confidence in.  How was the morale in the plant?  Did it get pretty low at times?

MOTTER:  I don’t think so.  Forty-five days, you know...  Course most everybody had a chance if they wanted to go home, or they wanted to go, they could go and come back and have passes back and forth, you know, so...

WEST:  Did the numbers get down pretty low at times?

MOTTER:  Well, there was times when, you know, they’d be low, and then there was times when...


MOTTER:  Up until, up until they brought the National Guard in, we didn’t know when they’d come.  But after they come in...They didn’t [inaud.]...

WEST:  Could you get in and out just as easily, when the National Guard came in?

MOTTER:  [Inaud.]

WEST:  Did you have to show your pass to the National Guard?  No attempts were made to interfere, then, with delivery of food.  Did they ever shut the heat off in the plant? They did at Fisher 2.


WEST:  ...from that point of view.  Mrs. Motter, how were things at home, then, when your husband was inside?

G. MOTTER:  Oh, I had all the kids to watch.  [inaud.]  Take the car and go down.  I don’t know where we got our food from exactly.  I can’t remember whether they furnished money or whether the union paid money or what, but we never went without eating.  But it wasn’t too bad, I mean.

WEST:  How old were the children at the time?

G. MOTTER:  Well, our oldest boy was... When was that?  They were probably anywheres from six years old on to ten years old.

MOTTER:  Right at school age.

WEST:  Did they ever have any difficulty at school with kids, you know, saying that your husband, their father, wasn’t doing right?

G. MOTTER:  No, most of the kids’ fathers was in the union too.  I know Mr. Severance out there, the kids chummed with, he was in the union.  And they was most of ‘em.  I never noticed anyone being cross with ‘em or, you know, ornery with ‘em because he belonged to the union, because I think it was one of the things that was goin’ on right then, that everybody belonged to it.

WEST:  The teachers, then, ...

G. MOTTER:  No, the teachers never said anything.

WEST:  Were all of your neighbors, then, supportive of...?

G. MOTTER:  Well, quite a few of ‘em was.  It was different ones that belonged.  There was probably some that didn’t.  I don’t know.  I never noticed too much.

WEST:  I wondered, because there was a group of people who were not members of the union that formed that was called the Flint Alliance.  George Boysen, I guess, headed that group and I wondered if there was any pressure on you from either the company or these...?  Nobody from the company then got in touch with you and asked questions about it.

G. MOTTER:  No. No.  And I don’t know of any of the neighbors that had anybody that was bothersome to ‘em.  There was several around that had belonged.  But it was mostly farmers.  There were quite a few farmers that lived out there.

WEST:  Did the farmers support the union?

G. MOTTER:  No.  They were friendly with it.  I mean they never counted against you for doing it.  They were neighborly.

WEST:  You wanted to say on there.

G. MOTTER:  What were you gonna say?  You’ve probably forgotten.  If he’s anything like me, I was gonna say something, and I forget what I was gonna say.  When you get up in your seventies, you don’t remember much.

WEST:  It is a lot of years ago.  You mentioned a Mr. Severance.  Was that John Severance?

G. MOTTER:  No, Claude.

WEST:  Claude Severance, I see.

MOTTER:  Claude may have a brother Jim who lives in town.

WEST:  He is also alive, then?

G. MOTTER:  Claude isn’t.  I don’t know about the other, about Jim.  Pete, Claude and his son, lives over on Clio Road.

MOTTER:  A lot of them old-timers, you got to remember, they don’t exist anymore.

WEST:  Now the strike, then, was settled on the 11th of February, I guess, after you’ve been in 44 days.  Do you remember how you felt at that time?  What was going on in the plant when you got notice that the strike was settled?

MOTTER:  Well, the only thing then we had to start re-organizing the whole bit, you know.  We had a general election and all this and that.

WEST:  I was going to ask you about that.  Did you have a steward system for a while, then? How did that work?

MOTTER:  Not too good.

WEST:  Why?

MOTTER:  Well, I’ll tell you.  Most of the guys, they really didn’t know what they was doin’.  They was a little bit afraid to go talk to management.

WEST:  The stewards were supposed to handle the grievances, then.  Did the foremen come around, after the strike, and you had this contract, negotiation, and you had the steward system?  How did the foremen adjust to that?

MOTTER:  I think most of ‘em, like, it took a lot of pressure off of them.  After we got the line adjusted to the speed.  Before that, they had so many jobs to get out.  The line was set, and the line was locked at a certain speed, and it was up to them to keep it running, and they wouldn’t stop [inaud.].

WEST:  So, in a way, it eased the burden of the foremen.  There were, as I understand it, some wildcat strikes called afterwards.

MOTTER:  Well, they didn’t amount to much.

WEST:  Did you ever take part in them?

MOTTER:  No, after I joined the union, I [inaud.] head boss then.  So you can’t work against yourself.

WEST:  No.  So I understand there was some trouble with work stoppages and things.  Did you have any grievances that you took up with your steward?

MOTTER:  Oh, several times.

WEST:  Do you remember what they were about?

MOTTER:  Oh, speed of the line.

WEST:  Still?

MOTTER:  Just a short time ago, maybe you remember reading in the paper that, I think it was Fisher Body, that the line was runnin’ about two or three more jobs an hour than we was supposed to?

WEST:  Yeah.

G. MOTTER:  He retired at 47 years.

WEST:  After 47 years.  A lot of time.  What year was that?

G. MOTTER:  When he retired?  I don’t know.  Wasn’t it about twelve years ago, was it?  He would have been 65.  In ’67.  Right around ’67.

MOTTER:  The trouble they’ve got nowadays in the shop with these younger... I got grandsons that work in there that don’t even know where the union hall is.  I go down to the place every once in a while.  When you start grumblin’ how much money they take out of the union dues, and I says, “Buddy,” I says, “if you go with me you’re gonna be well paid back.”

WEST:  Did you notice much change on the job after the strike?  You talked a bit about the foremen.  Did things improve then?

MOTTER:  Oh, yeah.  Well, it took the pressure off the foremen and everybody.

WEST:  Did the wages increase?

MOTTER:  Every time there’s been a... You know, certain times, then we get more on our pensions.

WEST:  You mentioned earlier on the disputes between the AFL and the CIO, and I understand that came on pretty strong in the years after the strike.  Did you line up on one side or the other then?  Were you pro-CIO or pro-AFL?

MOTTER:  Oh, I was just a CIO and as far as the others, I didn’t mind what they done.

WEST:  I meant to ask you.  Did you know Bob Travis at all?

MOTTER:  Yeah.

WEST:  What sort of a person is he?

MOTTER:  He was a nice sort of a guy, as far as I’m concerned.

WEST:  But he was the head of the... You had chief organizer, along with Roy Reuther, I understand, and towards the summer and the fall, he was eased out of the leadership in Flint by Homer Martin, who was the president of the UAW.  What sort of a president was Homer Martin?

MOTTER:  I didn’t seem to like him.  He didn’t seem to  [inaud.].

WEST:  Now, first there was this big local, 156, that, I understand, was an amalgam of all the plants in Flint, and then they split up.  Do you remember why that was?

MOTTER:  No, I haven’t any idea why he done it, but [inaud.].

WEST:  What was the basic issue between this AFL and CIO among autoworkers and the Martin struggle?

MOTTER:  [Inaud.}  I think there was both of ‘em that just keep in power.  That’s all.  One over the other.

WEST:  Did you take part in any fights?  I understand things were pretty hot for a time in Flint.

MOTTER:  Well, the CIO never been on strike [inaud.].

WEST:  Did the AFL ever set up a picket line that you crossed?

MOTTER:  I never crossed nothing, no picket lines.

WEST:  You weren’t involved in any battles, then, physical battles.

MOTTER:  I’ve seen a lot of ‘em, but I didn’t just get involved in ‘em, ‘cause my weight that I had, I didn’t belong in ‘em.

WEST:  There were some other strikes, then, I understand, that took place after the Sit-Down Strike, too, when UAW was thinking of organizing other areas of life in Flint.  Do you remember any of that?  There was a strike at Penney’s, I guess, a sit-down strike, the Durant Hotel.

MOTTER:  No, we never had problems there.

WEST:  Mrs. Motter, did any of the women... There was a group known as the Women’s Auxiliary and, I guess, the Women’s Emergency Brigade, too.  Were you ever approached by any of the women to get involved?

G. MOTTER:  No, no.  I lived too far out to be...

WEST:  Did you know any of those women, Genora Johnson?

G. MOTTER:  Who?

WEST:  Genora Johnson.  She was pretty prominent, I guess, in the Battle of Running Bulls.  Genora Johnson.  Her husband was Kermit Johnson, who was one of the leaders at Fisher 2.

G. MOTTER:  We knew a Leora.  Clayton Johnson’s wife was Leora.

MOTTER:  Clayton Johnson worked for Walter Reuther’s office after he got [inaud.].  When he first went in on the Sit-Down Strike, his wife was right down there.  “You get out of there!  You ain’t gonna have no place to come back to!”  [Inaud.]

WEST:  That’s interesting.  There were some family splits, then, apparently, over that issue.  We heard that there were.

MOTTER:  I tell you, the Battle of Bull Run over there, that night was a hot night of war.

WEST:  You were in the plant, in Fisher 1.

MOTTER:  [Inaud.] Our squad went over there just to be on the outside.

WEST:  Oh, were you on the outside, then?  Can you describe that?  That’s interesting.  I guess I assumed that you were in Fisher 1.

MOTTER:  Mighty cold night.  And they were ready for it.  They had up on top of the building hinges, and they had everything else up there, and fire hose.  Cops, they come down in there.  Well, everybody knows that something’s going on.  [Inaud.] ...the river and the fences.  And then pretty soon the street is full of people.  The cops can’t even get out.

WEST:  How did you get involved in that, then, get down there?

MOTTER:  Oh, we’d just go over with the flying squadron.

WEST:  Now that interests me, the flying squadron.  Just how did that work?  Did they take you out of the plant, then?

MOTTER:  No, that was another [inaud.].  As I say, we divided up in groups.  They had their cars on the outside, and their job was to circle that plant.  Now they was to go off, and somebody....

WEST:  I see. I just wondered if you went down there yourself personally...
MOTTER:  Oh, yeah.

WEST:  ... outside of Fisher 1.  Did you go down in the car, then, with the flying squadron?

MOTTER:  No, no, we drove our own personal cars.

WEST: You drove your own personal cars down.  Were you at home, then, when you got news of the...?

MOTTER:  No.  We was in the plant out there.

WEST:  And your car was parked down there, was it?

MOTTER:  We parked outside of there and wandered down the street and wandered through the crowds.

WEST:  You drove.  Did you have any difficulty getting there?   Did the police try to stop you?

MOTTER:  No, I don’t think, because they was tryin’ to get out.  After they got locked in, then they had the fire hose up there the whole night and they just started givin’ them a bath.  Old Tom Wolcott’s car, that was out there.  Everybody had [inaud.].

G. MOTTER:  I guess it was pretty bad, but I never was near enough to know...

MOTTER:  Old Whitey the cop wrestling [inaud.], that used to be on the corner?  You probably wouldn’t remember that.

WEST:  I’ve heard.  Was that Whitey Basinski?

MOTTER:  Yeah.  He come a-sneakin’ up there in the window, and he got some tear gas around [inaud.], and the guys standin’ just couldn’t have been standin’ in a better place, just standin’ right above there, and you had a fire escape.  When he got up there, he lined that thing up and let her drop, and old Whitey seen it comin’.  He ducked like that, and the corner knocked him out of the fence.

WEST:  Must have been exciting.  You didn’t get involved, then, at all in the action.

MOTTER:  Just went down and seen the action.

WEST:  You just saw the action.  What about the takeover at Chevy 4?  There was some action there, too, when the women lined up, knocking out the windows of Chevrolet 9 as a diversion.  That took place later.

MOTTER:  Well, I don’t know anything about that.  I know they come along and breakin’ windows and all that, but I guess the cops and everybody chased them away, I’d imagine.

WEST:  But you didn’t see that.


WEST:  Now, when you were at Fisher 1, just afterwards, there was a construction company, I understand, called the Utley Construction Company.  They were in charge of an expansion program at Fisher 1, and there was a strike there.  Do you remember anything about that, end of the summer of ‘37?

G. MOTTER:  I don’t.

MOTTER:  No, we had a few little [inaud.] there, but what it’s for, I don’t know.

WEST:  And then there was a Consumers Power shutdown.  Well, it’s been good.  I thank you for the conversation that we’ve had.  Can you think of any other names?  Any people that are living that we could see that you know of?  I know that many of them are gone now, because it has been so long.

MOTTER:  No, I can’t think of anybody.  Is Jim Sullivan still alive?

G. MOTTER:  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  This is our youngest son.

WEST:  Well, I want to thank you again, Mr. and Mrs. Motter.