University of Michigan-Flint
Frances Willson Thompson Library
Genesee Historical Collections Center
University of Michigan-Flint Labor History Project
INTERVIEW: March 3, 1980
INTERVIEWER: Neil Leighton
INTERVIEWEE: Dorothy Harbin [651 N. E. Sistina, Port Charlotte, Florida 33952]
LEIGHTON: Were you born in Flint?
LEIGHTON: Okay, did any of your folks work in the auto plants?
HARBIN: My dad did.
LEIGHTON: He did? What was his trade or occupation?
HARBIN: Oh, gee, I really don't know. It seems to me in the iron works or something like that.
LEIGHTON: In the foundry.
HARBIN: In the foundry, it could be.
LEIGHTON: Did he work at Fisher or was he at...
HARBIN: South Fisher.
LEIGHTON: You went to school in Flint; you went to high school. You mentioned that before.
HARBIN: Graduated from Northern.
LEIGHTON: From Northern? So you must have been one of the first.
LEIGHTON: Oh, okay, well, Northern was opened in '28. You mentioned before that you went to Baker, or you were thinking about going to Baker.
HARBIN: Thinking about going to Baker.
LEIGHTON: So you really had no plans at all to go into the auto plants.
HARBIN: Not really, not really. In fact, I was enrolled in Baker. And when I had access to an application for Fisher and the money looked better to me than the education, I guess, so I just took that.
LEIGHTON: Where did you live in Flint at that time?
HARBIN: Oh, it seems to me it was on Stewart Avenue.
LEIGHTON: On Stewart.
HARBIN: On the North End.
LEIGHTON: Right. Your folks had lived there for quite some time. Did they own their house or rent it?
HARBIN: I think we rented.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned that you had to take the streetcar, the trolley car, to go to work. Did your parents have a car?
LEIGHTON: They didn't have a car at all.
LEIGHTON: Did they have a telephone?
HARBIN: No, not at that time.
LEIGHTON: But they did have a radio. You listened to the news...
HARBIN: I'm not sure about that. Perhaps we did, yeah.
LEIGHTON: The reason I ask that, it's kind of obvious. Today's students, particularly in Flint, can't believe that there were people who lived without a car.
HARBIN: I have a feeling we didn't have a radio until around '37, really.
LEIGHTON: Until after the strike.
HARBIN: Until right around that time.
LEIGHTON: So you were renting the house. You graduated from high school. Did many of your classmates who graduated from high school go to work in the shops?
HARBIN: Not too many that I know of.
LEIGHTON: Most of them went off into some other job, office work, or...
HARBIN: Well, a few went to college, but very few, because I think money was a little scarce then. But I really don't know where they ended up. I had a few close friends; I know one fellow that I went to school with became a dentist, Dr. Billy Mertz. We used to call him "little Billy, little Billy Mertz."
LEIGHTON: Is he still around, in Flint?
HARBIN: Yeah, I think he's still in practice.
LEIGHTON: Oh, really, that's another one I'll have to...
HARBIN: I think he is. He owns property here in Port Charlotte, but I don't think he's retired as yet.
LEIGHTON: William Mertz...M E R T Z?
LEIGHTON: A dentist.
HARBIN: No, not a dentist, a chiropodist. And Vern Parsell is another one that went to school at the same time.
LEIGHTON: Oh, I know he's still around.
HARBIN: Yes, in fact he isn't retired yet.
LEIGHTON: So the people who worked in the plants, could you characterize them as----because you went to school all the way in the Flint system----primarily the men and women who would have dropped out of high school, let's say, around the ninth grade?
HARBIN: I would say the majority.
LEIGHTON: Did most of your classmates then drop out or the majority of them drop out at the time of the ninth grade going into the tenth grade. Or did most students in the Depression go on through?
HARBIN: I really can't answer that. I really don't know. My close friends graduated, but I really don't know.
LEIGHTON: Tell me again how you ended up getting hired at Fisher.
HARBIN: Well, my dad brought home a couple of applications, and in those days there just wasn't much money. I can remember making my money in high school...baby-sitting and doing peoples' hair...doing the ladies' hair at my folks. So, anyway, after I was thinking of the expense of going through business college and thinking of the money I could make. And the money looked a little better to me. So I filled out the application and sent it in with my dad and the first thing, you know, I get a call before it's time to start business college.
LEIGHTON: So that was in '35, then, right after you graduated from high school?
HARBIN: September of '35.
LEIGHTON: So what department did you go into?
HARBIN: The sewing room.
LEIGHTON: The sewing room. And you worked there from '35, well, up until the...
HARBIN: Until '39.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember some of the people you worked with in the sewing room?
HARBIN: Not really. I've been trying to think of...I know a lot of the girls, but now they've married since. I don't know their last names, now. Polly and Gay was one...that Howard Gay...I gave you the name, but that isn't her name today. So I don't...
LEIGHTON: She was his sister?
HARBIN: No, his wife. And today I don't know what her name is. And there was an Ann Juretich. She's married. I have no idea what her name is now. That's about really the only two that I know of that are still living. There was a Cecile Bankie and a Lucille Bankie and Ora Brown, but they're all gone. Stella Hawkins. They're all gone.
LEIGHTON: You remember who the supervisor was of the sewing room?
HARBIN: Yes, Nellie Compton.
LEIGHTON: Was she well liked?
HARBIN: No! You've heard that one before. And she used to have the little guy named Hurley. I guess he was her assistant or something, and he was always trailin' along beside her.
LEIGHTON: She was a real taskmaster?
HARBIN: She sure was.
LEIGHTON: I use that. There were worse terms. Do you remember a fellow named Arthur Smith? Smitty, they called him?
LEIGHTON: He would have worked in the trim room.
HARBIN: Wasn't his wife named Vera?
LEIGHTON: I believe so.
HARBIN: And I think either he or she just died recently.
LEIGHTON: He's still alive.
HARBIN: Then it must have been her. I think I read it in the Journal.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember where he was from?
HARBIN: No, I didn't know him that well.
LEIGHTON: Oh. Were there many men that worked in the sewing room or was it mainly women?
HARBIN: The men that worked in there were either stock boys or supervisors. There was not that I remember any men that really worked in there.
LEIGHTON: About how many women...just a ball park estimate?
HARBIN: Oh, maybe fifty.
LEIGHTON: What did the job entail? What did you do?
HARBIN: I remember putting brads on doors, hammering brads on doors.
LEIGHTON: The doors were wood frame, then?
HARBIN: They must have been. They must have been, because we had a hammer and we didn't have tacks. We had some kind of a hammer that just made stamps in the metal, which dented it into the wood or whatever it was that we were going to put it on. And then I remember having a sewing job at one time, at one of the machines.
LEIGHTON: That was sewing the fabric for over the cushions or something like that?
HARBIN: I'm not sure of it, but we used to have a conveyor right beside us and we'd put these brads all the way around the door and then throw it on the conveyor and then it went up to the next desk or whatever it was and then they would do something else with it.
LEIGHTON: Did they ever speed up that conveyor line on you?
HARBIN: They used to stand and time us a lot with their timers.
LEIGHTON: Were these men or women that did that?
HARBIN: Men, and then if you were...if...first thing you know then you've got to put more...this was all piecework, you know, you got paid by piecework. However, whatever, however many pieces per hour you put out you got paid.
LEIGHTON: Was there a base hourly rate too?
HARBIN: Seems to me that there was, or else they wouldn't have had the timing there. You know what I mean; they wouldn't have been timing you, to get more production out per hour. And the first thing you know...there must have been a base rate, because the next thing you know then there's so many more pieces per hour you're supposed to put out. So...and I mean if you were timed for five minutes then they would times that times the hour and that's supposed to be what you should accomplish.
LEIGHTON: I see.
HARBIN: There wasn't any time for to breathe in between.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, they didn't think that you would begin to wear down.
HARBIN: Right, right.
LEIGHTON: So the more you did the more you had to do. Was that the way?
HARBIN: Right. They would set it up that way so that the more you did then the more was required to do so much.
LEIGHTON: How did you get around that? There's not a worker alive who didn't somehow manage to...
HARBIN: Well, I think when they're timing you, you probably just went as slow as you could so that it wouldn't be at the point where you would really have to work sixty minutes of the hour.
HARBIN: Because no way could you do that.
LEIGHTON: If a new person came in and they weren't clued in did you sometimes have to tell them how the system worked?
HARBIN: No, that was their own business.
LEIGHTON: I meant in terms of speeding up, because wouldn't you have some that, if they were being timed and didn't know any different, that would have raised...
HARBIN: Oh, you knew you were being timed. They set right there with their watch. No, you knew. There was nothing underhanded about that. That was right there. But the only thing about it. I know I'm a fast worker. I work real fast when I do anything and it's hard for me to slow down. And I had a real close girlfriend who was so slow in everything that she did----I mean, this was just her nature----and they put me in front of her sewing one time. And they put her in front of me and I had to do this and then send it up to her. And as slow as I would try to go I would still stock that poor girl up; and she was my best friend. And, you know, I just couldn't slow down enough to keep her looking halfway decent. But, I mean, this was just her nature. She was just slow. And so I asked to be moved from that job because I just didn't want to make her name bad, because we were too good friends.
LEIGHTON: What about layoffs? Ever laid off while you were there?
HARBIN: Oh, yes, oh yes.
LEIGHTON: When did those tend to occur?
HARBIN: In the summertime.
LEIGHTON: That's when they were changing the model over. How long did that last, about?
HARDIN: Oh, let's see. There was one when we were married in '39 and perhaps we were out of work for eight or ten weeks. We were both out. He was out about three and I think I was out about ten. Seems to me it was that long.
LEIGHTON: But you always got hired back.
HARBIN: Oh, yes, oh yes.
LEIGHTON: Before the union...before the sit-down...now in your case your dad gave you the application and so on. But do you remember how difficult it was to get hired or what people had to do to get hired sometimes?
LEIGHTON: No, I wouldn't know because it was real easy for me. I suppose age wise made a difference.
LEIGHTON: Did any of the men ever bother you on the job? So you had no problems that way?
HARBIN: Other than when they wanted you to join the union.
LEIGHTON: No, I didn't mean that. I meant harassment on the job.
HARBIN: Oh, no.
LEIGHTON: There's a lot being written now about women being harassed on the job. Did any of the people you worked with complain about that?
HARBIN: Not that I remember. No, we were just happy to make a little money.
LEIGHTON: Coming up to the strike, do you remember at all? There was a firing of two brothers that occurred in November. Do you remember hearing about that? There were two brothers called Perkins? They were fired at Fisher 1; and the union tried to reinstate them. Of course the union wasn't recognized then. And they tried to reinstate these fellows. And the notoriety of their firing and being rehired, as a matter of fact, the union was able. All the people in that division and that shift sat down. It was kind of a mini sit-down. And so management did rehire them. And they were fired, of course, for wearing union buttons.
HARBIN: Oh I don't remember. I remember them not wanting you to wear union buttons or hiding them or something. I just don't remember. But I don't remember anybody being fired.
LEIGHTON: Was there anybody in your department, any of the women who were what you call very active, very active, pro-union, before the strike? Not after, but before.
HARBIN: Yes, yes.
LEIGHTON: Who would have come over to you and say, "We're trying to start this union." Do you remember who they were?
HARBIN: Well, this one was Ora Brown. That wasn't her name at that time, though. I think she's still living, but as to where she is I don't know. And she was a crude person. I mean the type of people who did this were the type of people which I didn't want to be part of. Maybe this shouldn't be on tape.
LEIGHTON: That's all right. Do you remember anything about them, where they were from? Were they from Flint originally, or...
HARBIN: I wouldn't know, you know, because I didn't get to know them. See, I didn't want to get to know them. They were the hard, just real rough talkers and rough characters and just of the type of person that I didn't care about. And I think that's why I never joined the union until they harassed me so much that I really had to.
LEIGHTON: Were there any others that you remember other than this Ora Brown?
HARBIN: Not really, I can remember faces, but not names.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever go to any of the meetings?
LEIGHTON: Oh, did you. Where was it held?
HARBIN: Across the street.
LEIGHTON: Oh, it was.
HARBIN: I don't know whether they called it a union hall at that time or not. But there was a hall across there that...
LEIGHTON: This was before the strike?
LEIGHTON: Would it have been in old Ray Cook's restaurant? Remember that?
HARBIN: No, I don't remember.
LEIGHTON: There was a hall across the street.
HARBIN: I'm sure it was a hall; it was not a restaurant. It was a hall.
LEIGHTON: Did you have any idea that this strike was coming along?
HARBIN: No, how in the world they could ever keep that such a secret I don't know. And I don't believe anybody else, or at least any of my friends knew it, because we'd all go out to lunch together. And when we came back in, that was a shock.
LEIGHTON: You worked the first shift.
HARBIN: No, second.
LEIGHTON: Oh, second shift, okay.
HARBIN: It happened at night.
LEIGHTON: Right. When you went out to lunch, where did you go? Across the street to a restaurant or did you bring your lunch?
HARBIN: No, we went across the street to a restaurant; it was down on the corner of Atherton Road and I don't remember the name of it.
LEIGHTON: The reason I mentioned that. We're trying to find some of the old spots, or places where they were to put together maybe a history of labor in Flint.
HARBIN: Seems to me it was Box something-or-another where we went that night, but it was down on the corner of Atherton Road.
LEIGHTON: Okay, so that night you went out to lunch, the night of the strike. You had no idea what was happening.
HARBIN: No idea, no.
LEIGHTON: And you came back from lunch----this would have been about what time----just roughly? Second shift would have started what, about four in the afternoon?
HARBIN: Probably four. It was probably eight, nine o'clock that night. And when we came back in, we just, well, you come in downstairs and this happened to be the third floor...well they have these great big...they weren't called elevators...they were huge, big square...well they were really an elevator, but they weren't called that...
LEIGHTON: Lifts, something like that?
HARBIN: Or something, yeah, and you'd maybe put fifty people on it; and it seems to me you'd pull the rope or something and it closed the door and then push the button and away you went. And we got off and started walking in the sewing room and here's all these clubs and sticks and anything you'd want to think of lined up against the wall, against the windows. And of course, the line ran right along there; and I happened to work on the line. And when we walked in and saw all of this, of course we went to our jobs, and then I remember the supervision coming around and telling us that it was a strike and that they were going to try to get the women out, but just to stay still and do not start work, do not do anything until they found out what they could do.
LEIGHTON: So it was the supervisor then who came and told you, was it. Was it this Ann Melick?
HARBIN: No, no. It must have been, well, our boss at that time was Stella Hawkins, so evidently it was her. She's dead. She died this last year. So it probably was her.
LEIGHTON: And you mentioned that there were clubs and things. Were there other things?
HARBIN: All I remember is clubs and sticks along, and I mean they were thick. And how in the world they could get all those things in there, get them all lined up, because men didn't work in that part, as I said, not many to speak of. And how in the world they got all those things in there and to my knowledge nobody knew.
LEIGHTON: Now, the supervisor then told you they were going to try and get you out. Did anybody from the strikers come by and talk to you then?
LEIGHTON: So you didn't see any strikers.
HARBIN: Not really. I think the biggest activity was probably out on the lines, but we didn't see that.
LEIGHTON: And so then the supervisor came along and they did get you out. How long did you stay in?
HARBIN: Probably a half hour.
LEIGHTON: Oh, I see.
HARBIN: I don't think it was long after we came back when they got us out.
LEIGHTON: And then they took you out the same way you came in?
HARBIN: No, they took us out a back door. See as you come in you come off the elevator and then you walk down by the line until you got to the sewing room; then you went in the sewing room. Well, my work was probably half way back. Well when they took us out, they took us clear to the end of the building; they took us out the back of the building.
LEIGHTON: And what did they tell you when they took you out?
HARBIN: To go home.
LEIGHTON: That was it.
HARBIN: Believe me, we had to walk all the way around behind the back of the building. It was dark. And then out in front...However we got home, I didn't know the buses were on strike; I don't remember the buses being on strike. Well, however we got home, we had to walk all the way around there. And believe me, we were frightened, because we didn't know what was going on. We didn't know with all these clubs and everything, we didn't know what was going to happen.
LEIGHTON: You didn't see any strike activity on your way out, when you walked out.
HARBIN: Not a thing.
LEIGHTON: No men sitting down, or no meeting? Any pickets out front?
HARBIN: No, they were all inside.
LEIGHTON: No pickets out front?
HARBIN: No, not that I remember. We didn't see a soul.
LEIGHTON: During the strike while you're laid off, what did you do? What did your activities consist of? Did you participate at all in any of the strike activity? Deliver newspapers or anything...or...
HARBIN: No, I think I worked in a restaurant during the strike.
LEIGHTON: In Flint? In the city?
LEIGHTON: Do you remember people talking about the strike very much?
HARBIN: Oh, yes, I think everybody talked about it; I mean it was unusual. I think everybody discussed it.
LEIGHTON: Now you say your dad was dead by then. But was your mother alive then?
LEIGHTON: What was the sentiment at home about the strike?
HARBIN: I don't think there was anything. I mean I don't think women discussed it, having not having worked in the factory or anything. I don't think that there was any discussion of it at home.
LEIGHTON: Your mother, then, never worked in the shop.
HARBIN: No, and there was four other children at home, so I don't believe she discussed it. She was working at the Durant Hotel at that point after my dad died.
LEIGHTON: Oh, yes.
HARBIN: So I don't remember any discussion about it at all.
LEIGHTON: There was a little activity at the Durant Hotel. Wasn't there a fellow shot over there? I think that follows the strike.
HARBIN: I don't remember.
LEIGHTON: Cook or something, or a waiter. What about your classmates, did they talk about it at all? You know the ones; you just graduated the year before. Were you still kind of close with a lot of the people you graduated from high school?
HARBIN: No, I only had two or three close girlfriends and just the one good one.
LEIGHTON: So you didn't talk about the strike very much.
HARBIN: Not really, no.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember the Flint Alliance, the back-to-work movement that George Boysen had? Did anybody from...
HARBIN: I guess maybe this didn't upset me too much at my age!
LEIGHTON: Well, of course this was before you were married, right?
HARBIN: Right, right.
LEIGHTON: Did anybody try and contact you during the strike?
LEIGHTON: Nobody from the union...they didn't write you a letter or give you a...anybody from General Motors?
HARBIN: But you see, I wasn't a member of the union at that point, so they wouldn't have access to my name and everything.
LEIGHTON: Did General Motors contact you during the strike?
LEIGHTON: When did you go back to work?
HARBIN: This was what I was trying to tell my nurse here. I really didn't know how long the strike was 'til you said forty-four days, so evidently it was right after that.
LEIGHTON: Okay. When you went back did you go in within a few days after the strike was over? Do you remember that?
HARBIN: We perhaps did. I perhaps went back when everybody else did.
LEIGHTON: What kind of condition was the plant in?
HARBIN: I don't remember it being any different.
LEIGHTON: Just the same as it had been all along. Had anything changed on the job when you went back?
HARBIN: Not that I remember.
LEIGHTON: Did the people still stand around and time you as they had before?
HARBIN: I believe so.
LEIGHTON: Did Mrs. Compton's attitude change at all?
HARBIN: Seems to me that she left shortly after that or retired or left or something. And I think, when I'm speaking about this Mr. Melick, I'm just wondering if he came in around that time, or who did take over. There was a Mr. Jeffries there, too, who was on supervision. But I don't think he's living any more, because he was old at that time.
LEIGHTON: Did the attitude of what we call management towards workers improve any? Did you notice? Did the job get a little better?
HARBIN: Well, I guess I never thought it was too bad before.
LEIGHTON: Did the pay go up?
HARBIN: I don't remember that.
LEIGHTON: What did you make an hour at the time? You were mentioning that before.
HARBIN: Well, I think when we started out about thirty-seven cents an hour. And then if you did piecework, if you did more than what was required for the hour, I think you got paid extra for that.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever make out pretty well on piecework, or...
HARBIN: Yeah, I used to make fairly good money for those days.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember what you could put together an hour if you worked at it?
HARBIN: Not really, but I can roughly remember about how much I was making per week in 1939 when I was married. And that was perhaps about only eighteen, twenty dollars a week.
HARBIN: So, well, you couldn't have made a whole lot for piecework. But I remember there was some reason for them timing us because I know there was a definite amount per hour; but you could make over that.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned the union. How long after the strike was settled did they start to push to get you to sign up?
HARBIN: Oh, probably immediately.
LEIGHTON: Did they? How did it happen?
HARBIN: You know this is what I'm not sure of. They might have pushed to get me to join before the strike, but I doubt it, because I didn't know too much about it. But, oh yeah, they used to get you on the elevator and maybe there would be fifty people on that elevator and they would call you goon and everything else until you...
LEIGHTON: Oh really...
HARBIN: Oh, yes, embarrass you to tears and they'd say all kinds of things. So even people who you knew, you know, who maybe used to...
LEIGHTON: Okay, they got you in the elevator. Do you remember anything other than "goon" that they would have said to you?
HARBIN: Oh, "scab," and I mean they would just yell; and they would just all get together, you know, and maybe they'd sing it or say it.
LEIGHTON: Oh really.
HARBIN: "You're a scab" or "you're this" or "you're that" and really, really embarrass you. And they'd get together and get you; it wouldn't be just one person that would talk to you. It would have to be a group of them before...so that you would really be embarrassed. And of course, I wouldn't not be as embarrassed as I would angry. And then this would turn me more against it. Then finally I decided, well, just to eliminate all that, I guess I would join.
LEIGHTON: Did they ever try to soft sell, too?
LEIGHTON: Would a couple of people take you aside and...
LEIGHTON: Did supervision ever pressure you at all to join as well?
HARBIN: No, they never mentioned it. But I got frightened and decided, well, I'd better join. In fact I talked to...well, see, I wasn't married at that time. Anyway, I don't know who I talked to, but they suggested that maybe I should join to avoid any serious trouble.
LEIGHTON: How did you go about joining up? Did you just sign a card and pay your dues?
HARBIN: I probably went over there and signed the card and paid my dues, period.
LEIGHTON: Over there was across the street in the union hall.
HARBIN: Yes, it was a hall. I think that's where we had to go.
LEIGHTON: Did job conditions change after the strike?
HARBIN: Probably not that quick. I do remember supervision calling me in, one of the watchmen or a friend of the watchmen calling me in the office, and they were concerned about Reds or what do you want to call them?
HARBIN: The enemy. Communists, yes.
LEIGHTON: Some called them Communists, some called them Reds, some called them Bolsheviks.
HARBIN: Okay, they called me in and they wanted know if I would----and at this point I was having a few health problems; this was after I was married----and they called me and wanted to know if I would be, well, sort of on their side. I don't know just what you'd call it. But they would like me to walk in the restroom and just keep my eyes and my ears open and report to them anything that I might hear that was Communistic.
LEIGHTON: This was after the strike?
HARBIN: After the strike. Yes, this was in '39.
LEIGHTON: In '39. So the supervisor was the one who approached you on this?
HARBIN: No, it was the head of the traffic control, called me in the office...and a couple of them...and talked to me and asked if I would consider doing this. And of course, it didn't make any difference to me; I mean, after all, I would just as soon not have Communists around, either. So anyway, I suggested that I would. And anyway, in the meantime the doctor suggested that I quit work and so I don't think I was there probably a month after that. So I never did get into that.
LEIGHTON: Oh, so you never made any report.
LEIGHTON: What did they describe to you as being Communistic, or what did you perceive that...
HARBIN: Anything that went against General Motors, I assume it was. I was just supposed to keep my eyes and ears open for anything that might sound that way.
LEIGHTON: Did they tell you certain things to watch out for, because, you know, at that time a lot of people were called Communists because they were joined to the union?
HARBIN: I really don't recall, because I never got into it.
LEIGHTON: In that period, do you remember, did piecework disappear?
HARBIN: I don't remember.
LEIGHTON: Did you go on straight hourly rate?
HARBIN: Possibly we did, possibly did, but I really don't remember.
LEIGHTON: I keep coming back to the work conditions. Did the job get any easier, or did it just stay basically the same?
HARBIN: As I remember after this I was out in the...on the second floor in the sewing room...I was transferred. So I was in a completely different job than I had been previous to this. And so, really, but I can still remember piecework...doing so many per hour. Because that's when I can remember piling this poor girl up and that was just before I quit. And, you know...just because I could not slow down...my reflexes just don't slow down that much...as slow as she was. And it just seemed like I was forever causing her problems because of that. But it seemed to me that we had so many an hour to get out then. And I would try to keep up with...well I didn't want to get fired...so I would try to get out what I was supposed to...
LEIGHTON: You mentioned "try to get fired". Did the job security get any better after the strike or was it still basically that you could be fired fairly easily.
HARBIN: Oh, I think you could be fired...
LEIGHTON: The layoffs still continued...or changeover...
HARBIN: Oh, yeah, because I was laid off in '39, in the summer we were married.
LEIGHTON: Between '37 and '39 do you remember a lot of times when the plant would close or your department would close because of wildcat strikes?
HARBIN: No, I don't think we ever had any there...not where I was.
LEIGHTON: Okay, so there was no closing that you remember the plant being or part of the plant being closed down because of wildcat strikes...small strikes, a day long, a day here?
HARBIN: Not ours, I don't think.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember anything that happened in town? In other words, were you very conscious of what was going on in City Hall in those days or city government?
HARBIN: Not really.
LEIGHTON: No. Basically things stayed pretty much the same up through the time you quit then, don't they?
HARBIN: I would think so, yes.
LEIGHTON: When you quit in '39 and you got married, did your husband and you talk about the union? Had he joined the union?
HARBIN: Because he had to.
LEIGHTON: He wasn't...
HARBIN: No, he was more, well, as I say, he ended up on supervision and sort of climbed the ladder along the way and he was like I was at that point. The type of people that belonged to it, you didn't want any part of it. I mean you didn't want to be associated with them. But I guess it takes this type of people to start things like this, too.
LEIGHTON: So he finished out at supervision at Chevrolet, was that it?
LEIGHTON: I see. How many years did he work?
LEIGHTON: Thirty-eight years...and what position did he finish?
HARBIN: Chief Inspector at Chevrolet Engine, in charge of all inspection.
LEIGHTON: Oh, and what year did he retire?
HARBIN: 1970. He's been retired now almost ten years.
LEIGHTON: Well, I can't think of anything else, can you, that we've left out?
HARBIN: Not really...seems to me that I don't remember a lot of things from back there; but I really don't think there was much change in the two years...well, I must have been there about two years after the strike then. But I really don't remember too much change, because I can remember the layout...as I say I think it was about ten weeks in '39.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember you having personally more money in your pocket...that you could save some?
HARBIN: No, because I remember when we were married...and I'm thinking of him, too...and I can remember the paychecks he brought home. He was working three days a week and eighteen dollars.
LEIGHTON: Yes, '39 was a bad year, I remember.
HARBIN: There wasn't work; there wasn't unemployment or anything. If you worked two days, you worked two days period. And as I can remember the two or three paychecks that he had after we were first married was eighteen dollars.
LEIGHTON: And he wasn't on supervision yet?
HARBIN: Oh no, no.
LEIGHTON: Did you have to rent a place when you got married?
HARBIN: Yes, we rented an apartment.
LEIGHTON: When did you first buy a place; do you remember?
HARBIN: About two years after that.
LEIGHTON: About '40, '41.
HARBIN: About '41.
LEIGHTON: Yes, okay.
HARBIN: But we didn't even have a car in those days; we took a bus. And now I said streetcars...now I remember taking a bus in '39, but we were married. I'm trying to think of this young fellow's...Now he would have been not much older than I am...who used to live in Corunna and he used to give me a ride to work. And if you could contact him, and I've been trying to think of his name and I can't do it. And he would have been not much older than I am; he was on supervision. After forty-three years the names escape you.
LEIGHTON: Oh, sure they do, especially if you didn't stay with it.
HARBIN: Right, I didn't stay with it long after that.
LEIGHTON: Well, I can't think of anything else.
HARBIN: Well, there may be a sentence in there that you can use.
LEIGHTON: I thank you very much. It's been very helpful.
HARBIN: But I think, really, this Mr. Melick, I really think that if
you could contact him, he was there a long time. And he would
supervision, he would know the workers and he could probably give you
names that I can't give you. Because he'd have been there with them
than I was. He was there years after I left. Okay.