University of Michigan-Flint
Frances Willson Thompson Library
Genesee Historical Collections Center
University of Michigan-Flint Labor History Project
DATE: February 22, 1980
INTERVIEWER: Neil Leighton
INTERVIEWEE: Arthur Smith, Flint, Michigan
LEIGHTON: When did you come to the United States? You came from England. Where were you born in England?
SMITH: London, England, 63 Melrose Avenue. I think it's a school now.
LEIGHTON: How did you end up coming to, you know, what age were you when you came to the United Staes?
SMITH: I was born in 1905. And I guess I went through school...I got restless and wanted to do things. I was a runaway and was a cabin boy a couple of times.
LEIGHTON: That's when you went to Tunis.
SMITH: Yeah. Always came back home. Finally I decided I wanted to work in America, so I thought I could only get to Canada. So, anyways, I had the great big idea that I always wanted to be a cowboy, and I bought a saddle in England, and I brought the saddle over and everything. I got as far as Canada and I guess I ran out of money. I worked on a farm then. I enjoyed it. I used my saddle ..., mess around with horses, big horses and everything.
LEIGHTON: This was out west in Canada?
SMITH: No, this was in Ontario. Anyway, I never did get a horse. But, well, I stayed there and, oh, worked on a couple of farms. I worked on a fox ranch. One of my jobs was to---course this was fifty years ago and the roads weren't so good----and I worked on this fox farm, all these people around, you know, they'd have old cows and old horses that were going to die. They'd call us to go get them and, you know, we'd cut 'em up and they'd turn to fox food, put 'em in milk cans and put 'em in a well to refrigerate them. There was no refrigeration then. Well, that was my job. I had to take this horse to a number of farms to pick up animals. I'd had to, if I could, drive 'em back. If it was horses, I could lead them on a rope. If it was cattle, I'd have to keep them in front of me, and sometimes I'd go forty or fifty miles. I'd do that, and then I got a job in a store over there, and I used to take a---of course it's a little four-corners, Burnham Corners, as they call it----and there was this little grocery store, and he had this old Model T wagon that...drive that in the summertime. And in the wintertime they'd lift it over on the sleds and drive a team of horses with it and go to all these houses and sell bread and stuff like that. Then I decided I wanted to come to the United States. So I got up to Port Huron or Sarnia and I managed to sneak across on the back of a ... wagon or something. Anyways, I didn't have any money, so I hitchhiked down to Detroit, and I bummed around there for a while. And then some poor old milkman, he found me starving or something, and he took me home and got me a job in this creamery. I worked in this creamery, and I had side jobs on the side with a bootlegger.
LEIGHTON: Was this in the early '20s, Art?
SMITH: Yeah, '24, '25, '26. And finally I got a whisky route to come up here to Flint. And they gave me a Buick that was '26 ...
LEIGHTON: You say you a whisky route?
SMITH: Yeah, they'd load my back end of this convertible with these bags of whisky and tell me where I'd go in Flint and then leave the car and come back in a couple of hours and don't ask any questions. Then the car would come back to Detroit. And I did that for a while. Then I used to unload---I didn't unload when the boats came over from Canada---they dropped the bags of whisky in the Detroit River, right back of the Chrysler plant. They'd have markers on them. Course we'd go out on this side in rowboats and stuff like that, and we'd pick it up and bring it and load it. For years, for that time I was making darn good money. I finally bought a Buick Roadster. Well, they wanted to get rid of it. We got shot at a few times and had dents in the top of the grille. Every time it got stopped, well, who was shooting at you? So they got rid of it, and they let me take it. And I came up here, and I worked----oh, the first day I came up here I went to every factory. I got a job at Fisher Body, and I got a job at Chevrolet, and I got a job at Buick. And, on the way home (I was driving my big old Buick Roadster), I was coming back by the Buick. There was some guy, dressed up real nice, and he was waiting for a bus. And I picked him up, and I told him I have three jobs to go to. And he says, "What jobs are you gonna take?" And I says, "Well, I haven't made up my mind." He says, "I'll give you a job." So he owned some big farms---it was McLeod---around Grand Blanc, and he owned the Rosedale Farms creamery. He gave me a job there, and I'd get up in the morning and milk cows, go down to the creamery, separate it and bottle milk, and go peddle milk in the afternoon. Had a pretty good job. Then I guess in '26 I went to Fisher 1. I'd already been hired there once, but, you know, I didn't tell 'em I was hired in again. Well, I worked at Fisher 1 from then until '48, I guess it was.
LEIGHTON: When you hired in, what job did they give you?
SMITH: Well, first job I had was kind of a sanitation job. You know at that time at Fisher Body they had a mill, and there was sawdust blowing all the time. They tried to blow it back into the furnaces and burn it, but it would go all over the roofs. And there was two or three guys of us that all we did was just climb up to the roof when we got in and go around with a broom or pick or something, and the drains, you know, got plugged up, we'd uncover them and all that.
LEIGHTON: This was a sawmill, right, because they made the bodies out of wood in those days, did they, the interior frames?
SMITH: Yeah, that's right. See, the mill was right by Fisher Body. I guess at that time I think the Fisher brothers owned the factory, before General Motors took over. Anyways it was when they first started, because when I started there in the South Unit, there was still Durant cars and Flint Six cars, not whole cars, but just motors. And, as I remember then, at that time, you know, all these foremen would take these motors home in the back of their cars. Cars didn't have trunks then; they put 'em in the back there and they'd build up these tractors to work on their...
LEIGHTON: 'Cause General Motors had just bought out Durant, was that it?
SMITH: Yeah, that's right, yeah. So I was there. I guess I was always an agitator anyways. And, of course, when the '30 strike came up, you know, I got quite interested in that. You know, we couldn't seat the damn union, anyway.
LEIGHTON: That's what I wanted to ask you about. When did you first get involved...Who was the first union organizer you ran across? When did you run across the first union organizer? Was it in '26, when you came up, or was it...?
SMITH: Oh, no. It wasn't until probably '27 or '28. Then I can't remember names too much, 'cause we didn't really have a...you know, the guy come around, say names and stuff like that, but, you know, there was no union hall to go to, 'cause you wouldn't dare go to one, anyway.
LEIGHTON: What union was the fellow from?
SMITH: Probably it was District----didn't United Mineworkers have District 40 or something? I think it was a district of John L. Lewis's union. Course I guess it wasn't CIO then.
LEIGHTON: No, that wasn't until 1935.
SMITH: Well, see, there was, you know, the welders too. They were in that, too, because a lot of the fellows didn't like this Walter Coleman. He came up from the mines, Harlan, Kentucky, and I think he was a Wobbly. I'm pretty sure. Now you'd have to ask Al about that. I'm sure he was. See, at that time I was real friendly with the family, because we lived right down the street from him, and he and I worked together at the cushion room.
LEIGHTON: So you worked in the cushion room. In that period, '26, '27, '28, were there very many Wobblies in the plant?
SMITH: Well, really there was no way of knowing. I mean nobody would tell you. You see you didn't know who you were talking to.
LEIGHTON: Okay, the company was spying on you?
SMITH: Yeah, there were spies all over. And then, you know, there was no union, and lots of guys, the only way they kept their jobs was if they bring their boss in a pint of whisky, or something like that, or a chicken every weekend, butter or something. Lot of farmers worked there. That's the only way. You know there's no seniority then, and, after a layoff, you just had to beg to get your job back. You know, it wasn't like it was after the union came in. They had seniority lists, and they showed seniority, and that was it.
LEIGHTON: I'll tell you what I'm trying to do. Trying to figure out, in those early days, in the '20s particularly, where people were coming from into the plants. Were there many Scandinavians from the Upper Peninsula, copper miners, Finns, Swedes, Norwegians? Do you remember?
SMITH: I wouldn't say that they came from Upper Peninsula. Course we didn't know too much, but Polish people and Southern people, General Motors used to advertise and they used to send buses all through the South. And then they'd meet these boats coming over from Europe and take the Polish people. They'd give them jobs before local Flint people, before they could get local people, they'd get these other people.
LEIGHTON: Why did they do that?
SMITH: Well, one thing they could get 'em over here, they'd work a lot cheaper. They're used to wages in Europe and they could pay them wages in Europe, you know. They could make so much more when they came over here, but it was still on the ... You know, they were all the time cutting your job. You know how it is. ... If they happen to see you standing around, they'd say, 'Well, maybe you can do a few more." You know, a few more. Course the fellows, a lot of fellows, kind of killed it for themselves. I mean they'd turn their tickets, maybe have everything in by one-thirty or two o'clock, and then they'd sit around and play cards and stuff like that, right in the department. Didn't hide or anything. So actually, you know, in a way they brought it on themselves.
LEIGHTON: You worked in the cushion department. Did women work in that department?
SMITH: Yeah. Not, see there was a cut-and-sew, too. I used to be a committeeman over the cut-and-sew and the cushion room and the trim line. But most of the women were in the cut-and-sew, you know, actually the sewing machines in that room. But they did have a lot of women, you know, doing things that was easiest to do in the cushion room. You know, like they'd have a machine in the, like over the years ago, with the back to finish off the trim. They'd have this reed that had all these nails in it. They'd cover this with cloth or leather, whatever the jobs happened to be, and they'd have women on those machines, now leading those to the lines. There were a lot of jobs, like staying when the cushions came to the end of the line. They had to hand sew the ends, so they had woman trying to hand sew them, maybe four women, if the line's runnin' fast enough.
LEIGHTON: Now did they use to speed up that line?
SMITH: Oh, yeah, you'd have to watch them. Well, you couldn't do much before the union, but after we got agreements for...
LEIGHTON: No, but I meant in those early days.
SMITH: Yeah, they did. In the cushion room we had four lines. We had a front back, rear back, and a front cushion and a rear cushion, and a bucket seat line. And we'd see the foreman. He'd look down the line, then if anybody'd be looking, he'd reach down and turn that two or three times. The line would go faster. They use to, well, before the union, I mean, there were times that you just couldn't keep up. Now that was when you spit tacks. Didn't have hard ones. They used to say around there that if you happened to drop your hammer, you might just as well go home, 'cause you'd never get caught up. And I mean then they didn't have relief men. You'd have to try and run up the line, and, you know, do your job up the line and then run to the back and then come back, and you'd be, you know, way ... You couldn't hardly catch up. We didn't have relief men before the union.
LEIGHTON: Did you keep the tacks in your teeth?
SMITH: Oh, yeah. I got so as I could eat my lunch, ... I could eat my lunch and spit tacks too.
LEIGHTON: Did you lose teeth as a result of that? Some guys did. They used to get.
SMITH: No, I don't see why they did. Now I was probably one of the fastest tack spitters in there. I never had my teeth...
LEIGHTON: Some of them said, you know, it used to damage their teeth:
SMITH: I never did. I guess that's the same thing you hear about people working in these cut-and-sew departments. The women run needles through their fingers and hands. Now you never see that in there. You know, people say that. There's only one thing about spitting tacks. They weren't sanitary, and you had to have something in your mouth, so's you'd spit all the time. So everybody chewed either Copenhagen or snuff of some kind, Red Man, Beech Nut, or something like that. I did too, but you had to, because if you didn't, you'd swallow all this dirt in the tacks. And I mean there really was dirt there. You could see it right in there, but you had to work so fast, you know. You had your tack hammer.... You didn't even get time to blow through and blow the dirt out. Just stuff it in your mouth and hope you could spit it out with the tobacco juice.
LEIGHTON: In the Trim Department, in that whole operation, were any of the women somewhat active in talking about union or organizing?
SMITH: Well, I can't remember that time, but you probably heard of Mary Nightingale. Well, she was in our department. You know, there were quite a lot. Lottie Crank, she was another one.
LEIGHTON: Now this is back in the '20s, or is this closer to the Sit-Down?
SMITH: No, this is after the Sit-Down. Really, I was kind of an unofficial steward before the Sit-Down, but nobody could call me. I mean I didn't represent anybody. I know I went down, I think... Do you know the plant manager, Whiting? You ever hear of Whiting? I think he was plant manager. Anyways, one time, oh, he came up in the department and that was trying to forestall the union. He says, well, "Anybody that has any grievances, I'll talk to you guys." So these guys all got together and elected me to go down to the office, not official or anything like that. I walked in, and I said, "Mr. Whiting," you know, "I want to talk to you." ... He says, "Well, all right, I'll talk to these fellows." And he says, "You don't represent anyone. I'll talk to these fellows individually." I says, "Okay." So I went back upstairs and I walked across to the end of the room and I shut every damn line off, and we all went down to the main office. Well, when I got out of there, they told me I had more reprimands on my record than any other guy in there.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever, in the days, '27 to '30, did you ever meet Phil Raymond, with the AWUU, the autoworkers' union? Or were they active in the Fisher plant?
SMITH: I can't remember that, no. Can't remember the name. I do seem to remember a fellow that was with the Autoworkers' Union, but I can't remember. You know.
LEIGHTON: Was there any single union or group which was very active in getting the workers to walk out in 1930? That strike took place in the summer.
SMITH: Yeah. No, I think it was more individual in the department. Now, in our cushion room, we did have, you know, quite a group of fellows that were union-minded. And we talked together. I don't think we'd ever meet together. You know, we'd say we're going to do something----this, that, or the other. That was the time when the ... was decided. Well, we wouldn't go in. We'd talked it around and, you know, going out at ten o'clock. That's when we put the sign up.
LEIGHTON: Okay, I want to talk about that. You put a sign on the side of the car, a Ford?
LEIGHTON: What'd the board say?
SMITH: As far as I remember, it was "Strike at 10" or "Out at 10" or something like that. That's as far as I can remember.
LEIGHTON: And it was just a big board that you built?
SMITH: Just a big board and, I think, put on with white paint or something like that. I know it covered pretty near the side. You know how big a Model T Ford Coupe is? It covered just about the side, and we'd go to one end down by the red arrow road and turn around and put the sign on the other side, you know, so when we went back you could see it again. In fact, when I begged for my job back after that strike, you had to go on the Hemphill Road. All the supervision wasn't there. And you had to go by that and try to catch the supervision going in and just about beg for a job. So finally I caught my supervisor, and he says, "Well, I'll take you back, but you'll have to go through the main office." I went down there. Ever hear of Alf Schoepfer? He was on Labor Relations. He had one hand. He had a false hand. Anyway, I went in his office, and he was...you know, I was tellin' him I'd like my job back and I got a family and I need to work. He shuffled down where he was going and pulls out and he says, "Is this you? Is this your car?" And Mary had the rights to the car. I says, "I guess it was." I says, "I'm sorry." You know, I had to kiss their ass. So, anyways, I got back to work. But, you know, I secretly agitated all the time.
LEIGHTON: I wanted to ask you about that. At the time of the '30 strike, did you belong to any union, then?
SMITH: No, we didn't have any buttons.
LEIGHTON: So there was no union that you could sign up with even secretly?
SMITH: No, in fact if we had a meeting after that, it was like a cowshed. There was one place, there was a blind pig just the other side of Grand Blanc, on the hill there, a big, old house there. You know, they sold ... We used to go out there and have meetings there, any place where you could get to a meeting. And you had to be careful and hide your cars and everything, 'cause General Motors had a spy system. They really watched us.
LEIGHTON: Were there any of the, in the couple of years before the '30 strike, were any of the left political parties active inside? Were the Wobblies still active at all, or?
SMITH: Proletarians. Did you ever hear of Doc Maddox [Maddock]?
LEIGHTON: I've heard of him.
SMITH: I belonged to all of 'em. Oh, yes, we used to have meetings at the Blue Moon, right there where the Durant Hotel is. Did you ever hear of that?
LEIGHTON: Was it in the Durant Hotel?
SMITH: No, it was across the street, upstairs. I think it was in the Woodmen's Hall, or something, that we used to have meetings there.
LEIGHTON: And that was the Proletarian Party?
SMITH: Yeah, and all the radicals.
LEIGHTON: Was that at the time of the '30 strike, or was that later?
SMITH: I think that was probably at the time and maybe a litte before and a little afterwards.
LEIGHTON: Was the Socialist Party---the old Socialist Party now---were they very active in Flint by the time of the '30 strike?
SMITH: Yeah, but not in a radical sort of way. I think they were more for changing, like getting the eight-hour day, and unemployment compensation, and like that. I think they were more like that. They were kind of a respectable party. I mean they weren't Bolsheviks. They didn't have bombs.
LEIGHTON: Right. Did you remember a fellow named Carl Johnson?
SMITH: Yeah, I think I do. And I remember the name. I can't place it, though.
LEIGHTON: He was an old member of that. His son, of course, was Kermit Johnson, on the Strike Committee at Chevrolet 4. But Carl Johnson was an old Debs Socialist in town, and I just wondered whether they had any ... Did the Communist Party do any recruiting in the 1930 strike in Fisher?
SMITH: Yeah, because you had Charles Hapgood and Marshall and all them guys. Do you want names? We wouldn't have won the Sit-Down if it hadn't been for the Communists.
LEIGHTON: I know that, but I meant that in the 1930 strike.
SMITH: No, no.
LEIGHTON: They weren't very visible.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember when Louise Morrison came in the 1930 strike?
SMITH: The name's familiar, but...
LEIGHTON: She was arrested. She was one of those women... There were two women, and I think Phil Raymond was thrown in jail.
SMITH: Yeah, I remember something about that. Hey, fifty years is a long time.
LEIGHTON: When you came out of that plant, after you'd gone up and down with a sign, what did you do next? I mean did the fellows come out...
SMITH: Yeah, came out, bunched around, talked, meanwhile got in little knots, you know, just the guys talking and everything. I guess we went home that night and I guess we didn't go back in. I guess fellows just stood around. I think that's when we started meeting at the Cow Shed, because that was pretty close. And I think that we used to have meetings at this Hook's place.
LEIGHTON: The harness maker.
LEIGHTON: Was there a march from the Fisher Body plant into town up Saginaw Avenue the day of the strike? Do you remember being out in the street?
SMITH: Yeah, we went on the street. I can't remember an organized march, though. It's possible. I know everybody was on the street, and I don't know. Like I say, Scavarda came in with his strikebreakers, and they came in horses, and the city made some kind of a rule that more than two men is a meeting. So they seen three men standing around, they'd ride in right into you.
LEIGHTON: The whole police were mounted, then.
SMITH: Well, I imagine, yeah, a lot of them. I think at that time they had a whole horse division in Flint police, I think.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember holding a meeting in Oakland County on a farm?
SMITH: Well, there probably were. Now this one that I'm telling you it's what they call Fish Hill now. It was on top of this ... place on top of Fish Hill. That was about a mile and a half from Oakland County. Oh, wait a minute, yeah. Did you ever hear of Isa's Place?
SMITH: Yeah, he was a black guy. He had a resort, Slack Lake.
LEIGHTON: Slack Lake.
LEIGHTON: And that was in Oakland County?
SMITH: Yeah, that was just across the border.
LEIGHTON: And what was his name?
SMITH: Let me think. It was Isa's Place.
LEIGHTON: Well, maybe it will come back to you. Did the Flint police come all the way out there after you? Did they break up the meeting?
SMITH: They might have, because we did have meetings broke up. But as far as identifying... Mostly they were, like, you know, you see people any place, most like vigilantes. They weren't dressed up. They were just...
LEIGHTON: I see. So they were goons.
SMITH: Yeah, goons, that's what they are.
LEIGHTON: So they just came in with sticks or something like that.
SMITH: Yeah. Ax handles, anything they could get a hold of. Shotguns, too.
LEIGHTON: So you had to beg your way back into the plant after the strike.
SMITH: Yeah, definitely.
LEIGHTON: Did you work straight through from 1930 to 1936, or were you laid off in there, for long periods of time?
SMITH: Yeah, long periods of time. Now between '30 and '31 and '32, I worked two weeks in each year. That was either the two weeks before Christmas or the two weeks after. That was so they'd show how good they were, so you all had a check for Christmas. This happened three years in a row.
LEIGHTON: So you worked four weeks a year?
LEIGHTON: In '31, '32...
SMITH: And, I think, '33, yeah.
LEIGHTON: That was the Depression.
SMITH: Yeah. Anyway, so when it came that...found out you had seniority...when we negotiated seniority, you had to have worked a period in each one of those years to retain your seniority. That way I got my seniority back to 1926.
LEIGHTON: That wasn't really working. As you say, that was just a few bucks.
SMITH: Yeah, that's all it was. You scratch your neck and get something for Christmas. Pretty nice people. And you know between Christmas and the time we came out on strike, you know they gave us a bonus then, figuring, you know, if we take that bonus we wouldn't come on strike. They knew it was coming.
LEIGHTON: Clayton Carpenter. Was he at Fisher 1?
SMITH: Yeah, Fisher 1, him and Jay Green.
LEIGHTON: They weren't working in 1930, though, were they? Didn't they come a little later?
SMITH: I can't remember. I didn't know that.
LEIGHTON: What did you do between '30 and, let's say, '34? I mean you worked a couple of weeks a year, but, other than that, did you have any work at all?
SMITH: No, you'd scrounge around, you'd try...Oh, yeah, WPA. In fact, it started out as CWA and then WPA. And that, that was kind of----course I guess I shouldn't say this----but it was just making work. Now the foreman didn't know what you're supposed to do. He'd get a gang, maybe ten or fifteen men, and give us all shovels, and we'd say, "Well, what are we going to do?" In the wintertime. He says, "Why don't you dig a hole enough to keep you out of the wind?" We'd dig a hole and stand in the hole and get out of the wind.
LEIGHTON: But that didn't come on 'til '33, right?
SMITH: No, I guess that was afterward.
LEIGHTON: So in '31 and '32, that's the real depths of the Depression. What were doing to stay alive?
SMITH: Well, now, one thing. I got a, I won't say it's a job, but I worked at Wynn, Stanley, and Booth, on the corner of Lapeer Road and Belsay Road. And I was living, I bought a piece of property just the other side, and they gave me a job so that I could mess around. They had a grocery store and a gas station, and they had this Gladstone Union Hall. And they gave me a job. No money. If I wanted gas to take kids to a doctor or something, they'd give me money then. Why, if I needed something from the drugstore, like a bottle of Castoria or something, they'd give me money then. Outside of that, they'd give me cans of stuff off the shelves, and Friday night, you know, a lot of the meat it would turn. It wouldn't be rotten, but it would be a color that they couldn't sell. So they'd give me meat and, you know, stuff like that. And then they had a dance floor, the dance, I think, twice a week, and I had the cloakroom in this dance hall and they gave me all the money I could make from this cloakroom, which wasn't very much. But that was it. And then there used to be a welfare truck used to come around, and they'd dump beans and margarine and stuff like that on different corners out there in, well, Burton Township. So you'd have to scramble to get something. If you were fast, you know, if you were aggressive, you'd get more than anyone else. Eventually they got the supervisors, you know, to look us over. So the supervisor would be there when the truck dumped it off, so he could see that people weren't hogging it.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned you bought some property next to a union hall?
SMITH: No, next to this gas station, just the other side of Belsay Road.
LEIGHTON: How did you manage to buy property in the middle of the Depression?
SMITH: I tell you I bought two places. I lost this place I was telling you about. It was an acre of ground, and there wasn't anything on it, and my wife's uncle, he was kind of a builder, and he helped. No basement, or no foundations, and Tim was up and built the house and stuccoed the outside. We lived in then, you know, no inside plumbing or anything, just a wood stove and a gasoline stove.
LEIGHTON: So you put that on the lot that you bought?
SMITH: Yeah. Eventually I lost the lot, anyway.
LEIGHTON: You couldn't keep up the payments on it, was that it?
SMITH: No. I then I bought a place, well, right where Hooker lived, on Connell Street, and I paid $895 for it, I think it was, $10 down and $10 a month. Lots of times I couldn't make $10 a month.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned your wife. When did you get married?
LEIGHTON: And your wife was from Flint?
SMITH: Yeah. I met her in Flint. In fact, I met her on one of my whisky trips, I guess. Then I moved up here. That's when I got the job.
LEIGHTON: In all of this, because of your own background and where you were born, did any of the other members of your family, your parents, ever come over, or did they stay at home?
SMITH: No, they never did.
LEIGHTON: They stayed.
SMITH: Yeah, they stayed. Never had any desire to. Them times, why, they thought after you got outside of New York, it was all Indians.
LEIGHTON: Was your father still alive then?
SMITH: He died in '35.
LEIGHTON: I assume that...You mentioned that they were pretty well off. Did they ever help you out at all?
SMITH: Not very much. I was kind of a black sheep. Not too much.
LEIGHTON: So they never sent you a handy check that tied you over.
SMITH: No. Once in a while I'd really plead. I'd have to have something, and I'd get maybe two or three pounds or something like that. But, you know, they figured I was doing all right. I didn't complain, anyways.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever go back over?
SMITH: Oh, yeah. I went back in '29. We went over a couple of years ago.
LEIGHTON: No, but I meant back in those days.
SMITH: No, only once. I went back in '29, I think it was.
LEIGHTON: Just before the crash you went over, 'cause you couldn't have afforded it, I suppose.
SMITH: Well, I didn't afford it. He said take it and he wanted my wife to go, but my mother wouldn't let her go. So I went alone.
LEIGHTON: Did any other members of the family ever come over? Any brothers or sisters?
SMITH: No, I had a cousin when I was in Canada. I had a cousin that came over, but he went back, and he went to Australia. Then he went to India after that. That was when Australia and India, you know, was British, crown colonies.
LEIGHTON: After '31-'32, and WPA comes along, were there any of the political parties active then in WPA, do you remember?
SMITH: No, I don't. We did know, you know, we'd know if anybody was kind of radical and talked like that. Like I did, but I didn't belong to any party. I mean, you take Hopey, I mean we were real strong and everything like that, but we didn't belong to any party.
LEIGHTON: When did they start the Workers' Alliance? Wasn't that part of...?
SMITH: That was right after the strike was called.
LEIGHTON: That was after the Sit-Down. Okay.
SMITH: 'Cause they had that big meeting.
LEIGHTON: No, I don't mean the Flint Alliance. I may not have the right name. It was the Workers' Alliance. It came out of the WPA. The Unemployed Councils.
SMITH: Yeah, I remember that. Yeah. But I can't remember any officers or anything. I can remember lots of times, you know, when we'd have lunchtime, they'd have some building for us to go in and sit around in. Some fellows would come and, you know, talk. We didn't know whether they were workers or what they were, you know, saying that, not the way they should be.
LEIGHTON: When did you go back to work at Fisher Body for any length of time, other than the Christmas couple of weeks?
SMITH: Well, the strike lasted 44 days, and I guess we were back in four or five days after that.
LEIGHTON: No, I meant... Did they call you back to work before the strike, now, in '34?
SMITH: Oh, yeah. I'd gone back to work. See, after the '30 strike, I'd gone back to work, and, like I say, worked a couple of weeks two or three times, 'til that time. And then things got pretty good and I guess I worked, you know, steady time right up until the strike.
LEIGHTON: Okay, so you went back to work steady time. What, about 1934?
SMITH: Yeah, I think that.
LEIGHTON: When did you meet up with, let's say, Jay Green or Clayton Carpenter, Walter Moore, or Bud Simon, or any of these fellows?
SMITH: That wasn't until the strike.
LEIGHTON: Not until the strike. You didn't know they were in the plant.
SMITH: No. How about Roy Marsa? He was one of us.
LEIGHTON: Marsa. I've heard the name.
SMITH: Yeah, he was one of us. Now he was in the plant. He used to talk strongly about ...He did kind of try to get us to join the Communist Party, you know, try to get us ... I was in it anyways..
LEIGHTON: Did you join the Communist Party then, before the strike?
SMITH: Yeah, I had, yeah.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember who recruited you into it?
SMITH: It was Roy Marsa.
LEIGHTON: Okay. And this would have been '34.
SMITH: Yeah, I'm sure it was, yes.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember running into a fellow named John Dorf?
SMITH: The name's familiar. I just can't place it.
LEIGHTON: Came up from Detroit. Was a General Secretary of the Communist Party of Michigan in about '34, '35.
SMITH: I wouldn't be surprised, 'cause, see, Powers Hapgood came up, Maurice Sugar, and ...
LEIGHTON: They came up before, this is back in '34-'35, before the strike, or did just they come up at the time of the strike?
SMITH: I think it was at the time of the strike.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever run into a fellow named Charlie Killinger? He worked with the Unemployed Councils of WPA.
LEIGHTON: Did you hold any of these meetings, workers getting together holding secret meetings? When did that begin? Before the Sit-Down.
SMITH: Well, I would say we used to have meetings in the Pengelly hall, upstairs from Pengelly hall.
LEIGHTON: Was that still when it was the Federated local?
LEIGHTON: The UAW was still then part of the AFL, and then you had the---the number of the local was 18334 or something like that? It doesn't matter, but.. Who was the Local president then, do you remember?
SMITH: Of the AFL?
LEIGHTON: Was it ... Ed Geiger very active?
LEIGHTON: You met in the Pengelly Building then. The holding of the meetings, though, in people's basements and that kind of thing, did that start much before '36?
SMITH: Yeah, I'm sure it did, 'cause I've met in this Charlie's home, and in Koch's home, and in my house.
LEIGHTON: Was Lorne Herrlich ever in on any of these meetings?
SMITH: Well, he used to come and patch us up after the fights. He used to come around with his black bag. I imagine he did get in the meetings. Yeah, he was a very class bunch. Well, he was a Socialist. He wasn't a Communist, I don't think. Now he might have been.
LEIGHTON: Did you remember when Wyndham Mortimer came to town?
LEIGHTON: Was Mortimer very visible when he was in town? 'Cause he was only here three months. I mean when he came in the summer of '36, you know, and he stayed until about October.
SMITH: Now you've got dates better than I have. Now I remember when he was here and meeting and all. Now that was probably at Pengelly hall. You probably heard of all the riots and fights we used to go in the Pengelly hall. People raided us and everything.
LEIGHTON: No, I didn't. I haven't heard of those. This was before the strike?
SMITH: I think it was. I'm sure it was.
LEIGHTON: Was it the police who raided, or?
SMITH: No, probably goons.
LEIGHTON: So they would come in and break up meetings?
LEIGHTON: What do you remember about Mortimer?
SMITH: A fiery speaker or something like that. Yeah, I think so. I mean all of these fellows they sent in here that's what they were. They helped kind of emotionally, you know, get you to join, stuff like that.
LEIGHTON: Did he hold meetings in basements and go around to bars and things like that to talk to workers, or?
SMITH: Well, I won't say for sure. I don't know. It seemed to me that, you know, if a bunch of workers was going to get ready and get together and talk, they would invite him or something like that. Now that's the way it seemed to me.
LEIGHTON: Were you ever at any of the meetings where he...?
SMITH: I've been to meetings where he was at, the same way like with Maurice Sugar and all these other guys. I've been to meetings where they were at, too. Course at the time we just knew that they were, you know, big labor leaders and things like that.
LEIGHTON: Now Maurice Sugar came up then in that year before the Sit-Down Strike?
SMITH: I won't say it was the year before. I can remember one time...Did you ever hear of Al Devine? One time there was eighteen of us got fired for something and we were off quite a few weeks. And Roy Reuther and all the Reuther brothers came up at different times, and they'd meet with us. Now this had to be after the Sit-Down Strike. Oh, yeah, I don't know whether the 581 hall there...we used to meet in there. Like I say, those things are a little bit hazy.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, that would have been after the strike.
SMITH: You know, at the time, you don't think you'd had to remember like, you know, we're talking right now. You would try to remember fifty years later who was right here. You know it's kind of hard. But I do know one thing, that us eighteen guys that got laid off they put on a benefit for us out at the barn, I think, out on Belsay Road. Bob Evans's place, it was a great big place made into a barn. We had a, put on a stag there, I know that. I think it was goons right at the ...
LEIGHTON: This would have been before the strike, then, or it would have been AFL goons that raided you in the...?
SMITH: It could have been AFL goons, because all these guys like Al Devine and myself, we were all CIO, and we got fired for something. I can't think of what it was. They got eighteen of us, and finally the union did get us back.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned Bob Evans. Was he a ...
SMITH: No, he was just a store owner, but he did let, he had this Bob Evan's---hey, same name as the sausage guy----but he had the Bob Evans's Store, on Lapeer, just east of Belsay, and then he also had this great big barn. You know, it had been a farm. It was a big barn. And he fixed it up and rented it out for things like that. So I know the CIO rented it to raise money for us fellows that had been fired.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember when Travis came?
SMITH: Bob Travis, yeah. Can't remember much about it.
LEIGHTON: You didn't talk to him, or did he ever talk to a group of you?
SMITH: Yeah, he's talked to groups.
LEIGHTON: I mean before the strike, now.
SMITH: Before the Sit-Down? No, I don't think it was before, 'cause, see, outside of the Pengelly hall, we didn't have any union hall around there. You couldn't suddenly come out of work and all go to a hall and meet. Half the guys was scared to go to Pengelly hall because General Motors had all their stooges there, and, you know, they knew the cars and recognized the guys. You didn't know who they were, but they knew who you were.
LEIGHTON: Did you know a fellow named William Perkins or Frank Perkins?
SMITH: I can't recall.
LEIGHTON: There were two brothers that worked at Fisher 1 and they got fired in November of '36. Do you remember anything about that?
SMITH: That was after the Sit-Down.
LEIGHTON: No, Sit-Down started in December. These Perkins brothers got fired, and the fellows in the plant on that shift and in that department...
SMITH: Was that the CV Department, do you know?
LEIGHTON: What's "CV"?
SMITH: Well, it was a vents. They called it a department. When they had these vents on the side, see, these CV vents on the side window, and it was a department. I knew there was some problems down there.
LEIGHTON: These two brothers got fired and the company had to send the Flint police out to find them to bring 'em back, because the department sat down. When did you really first realize that the strike was going to happen?
SMITH: Probably two or three days before, because they warned everybody, you know, to have their buttons with them, but don't put them on until...Now you're talking about the Sit-Down?
LEIGHTON: The Sit-Down Strike, correct.
SMITH: Yeah, they said not to put them on until we started out. And then, of course, when the words go out everybody stuck their button on. We just walked out. In fact, ...
LEIGHTON: Were you at work when the Fisher plant went down?
LEIGHTON: Do you remember what time of day that was?
SMITH: Maybe right after dinner? Something like that.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember if it was before Christmas or after?
SMITH: It was after.
LEIGHTON: Did you sit down, or were you one of the guys that walked out?
SMITH: Well, everybody walked out at that time. Well, pretty near everybody, maybe a couple of hundred, and I did go out at that time.
LEIGHTON: That first night, though, didn't...must have been some guys sitting in, though, right?
SMITH: Yeah, they were, yes.
LEIGHTON: And then did you go back into the plant, or did you volunteer for other duties, or what?
SMITH: No, I was back in the second day, and then lots of times, I went.... You know they had gangs going around scrounging food for the food kitchen and stuff like that. I used to go around to grocery stores, find out what they could spare, you know, bread or cans or stuff like that.
LEIGHTON: Remember any of the grocery stores that helped you out with that?
SMITH: Yeah, I can remember one, 'cause I knew the guy. That was Woodward. You don't remember when Lakeside Park was in its glory, do you?
LEIGHTON: Is that down on Thread Lake? I've probably seen pictures of it.
SMITH: That was really something, like how the Arabian Nights, all the lake was lit up. Anyways, this Woodward down there, he...
LEIGHTON: Woodward was his name?
SMITH: Yeah, it was Woodward's Store. And that was right on the corner of Belvedere and that front street, don't know just what it is. I got stuff there and then ... that was on the corner of Peer Road and South Saginaw. It was one of the streets that led down to Lakeside Park.
LEIGHTON: Was it Hamady?
SMITH: No, it wasn't Hamady.
LEIGHTON: What did you do with the food when you...?
SMITH: At that time, we'd take it back to 581, the local.
LEIGHTON: Of course, it wasn't 581, was it?
SMITH: No, it wasn't.
LEIGHTON: Is that where they set the kitchen up, across the street from Saginaw?
LEIGHTON: Who organized the food scrounging committee? Did they have some people in charge of it? Do you remember?
SMITH: Yeah, they did, but I can't remember who. Her grandmother, my wife, she belonged to the Women's Auxiliary there.
LEIGHTON: Oh, what's her name?
SMITH: Mary Smith. You know, she was in it. I was in the Flying Squadron, and she was in that. Of course, this was formed after the Sit-Down Strike.
LEIGHTON: The Flying Squadron?
LEIGHTON: I thought it was during the strike.
SMITH: Well, it must have been right towards the end. Yeah, because we never had uniforms. In fact, if we went on something where we was going to do something illegal, we didn't wear our uniforms. Like when we went over to Redmond's, we didn't. You know, you'd be a target for the police if you had to wear 'em. Same way when we went to Anderson, Indiana, we didn't.
LEIGHTON: Tell me about the Redmond's again. Is that Redmond, Indiana?
SMITH: No, Redmond in Owosso. It was in Owosso. Who owned it? Some ... guy without any legs. Potter, didn't Potter own it, Seneca Potter own the industry there?
LEIGHTON: What did they do? What was the plant?
SMITH: As far as I remember, they were assembling stuff for General Motors. Yeah, and we went out there, you know, we picketed that a lot of times. Finally they got us back up into this room upstairs. I know we had picket lines all around the place. There'd be salamanders burning, you know, fires burning, goons was comin' to attack us and all. Even company guards did, because you ever heard of Blackie Cox in your...?
LEIGHTON: Gee, I may have heard the name, but I...
SMITH: He was one of our guys. He eventually was in the Flying Squadron, but I seen him take a guard one time and stuff a lighted cigarette down his throat. And they had a warrant out for him. And that was the time they backed us up into the union hall. Well, it wasn't a union hall. It was a room.
LEIGHTON: In Owosso?
SMITH: Yes, in Owosso.
LEIGHTON: And then you went down to Richmond, Indiana, to Guideline? Was that Richmond or was it Anderson?
SMITH: Yeah, Anderson, Indiana. Two or three other ... people and I went, and, oh, Joe Walton, did you ever hear of Joe Walton? He's in that picture right there. Probably a lot of those guys are in that picture.
LEIGHTON: And you went down there to help those fellows out?
LEIGHTON: Somebody got shot, didn't they?
SMITH: Yeah, they got shot. Yes, something else. Somebody got shot on the Hemphill Road in the '30 strike. Can you find anything about that in the newspaper? I think it was ...
LEIGHTON: At Anderson, how long were you down there?
SMITH: Just a couple of days, I think.
LEIGHTON: What was the....
SMITH: Well, we picketed around there and turned cars over in, you know, supervision there, so nobody could get in and picket around there.
LEIGHTON: So you turned the cars to block the driveways.
SMITH: Yeah. Turned 'em upside down. We did that in Pontiac, too. Here's something else. They brought in some guys to teach us street fighting, you know, how to fight dirty.
LEIGHTON: At the time of the Sit-Down, or was this afterwards?
SMITH: No. That was when we were organizing the Flying Squadron.
LEIGHTON: Who sent 'em in, the UAW?
SMITH: I imagine it was. Course we got a lot of help from United Mineworkers, and they had a lot of, you know, union thugs down there, just as good as the company goons.
LEIGHTON: And they came in to show you how to...
SMITH: Yeah, to teach us how, you know... Don't wear anything with a belt on, so they could swing you around, and don't wear loose clothes, 'cause they can pull 'em up over your head, and kind of stuff like that.
LEIGHTON: Did you learn to use a stick or a baton or something like that?
SMITH: Yeah, but usually wrapped in a newspaper, or carry a rock in a newspaper. Oh, once when we were marching around Fisher 1, you'd see the guys walk around, the police standing all around, and they'd have a newspaper, and in it was a brick or a rock in the newspaper. In the night the National Guard came in, all the bushes around Fisher next morning they found all kinds of knives and clubs and everything else there. But our guys had been carrying. See, the vigilantes were supposed to come in and clean us out.
LEIGHTON: So the Guards were really responsible for keeping them away. To get back to the food scrounging, do you remember, did you any, you brought this stuff to the kitchen. Who was responsible for running the kitchen, do you remember?
SMITH: I don't know. Could have been people like Mary Nightingale, Lottie Crank... My wife was there.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember a lady called Dorothy Kraus?
LEIGHTON: Do you remember her?
LEIGHTON: What did she do?
SMITH: I can't remember. Do you know Genevieve Donnely? She was active in there.
LEIGHTON: No, but I will look it up. She worked in the strike kitchen?
SMITH: Yeah, in the strike kitchen. She was always on the picket line, too.
LEIGHTON: Did you remember Max Gazan? He was the chef that came up from Detroit.
SMITH: Yeah, I probably seen him, but I didn't know..
LEIGHTON: What else did you do during the course of the strike? Did you have some regular job that you did every day?
SMITH: Yeah, you did strike duty, yeah. You know the unions let us bring our kids down to it. We'd bring our kids down to it, down to the strike kitchen.
LEIGHTON: Did you go back into the plant at all for any length of time, or?
SMITH: Not any length. I never stayed overnight. I had a wife that didn't approve of it.
SMITH: I worked for Container Specialty on Flushing Road. I got that a hundred percent, and then he fired me. He made the excuse of my job had been discontinued, and he managed after all these people had all joined up and everything and, you know, there was a union. They had a representative, you know, an election, and they won it. And evidently the fellows and the girls there didn't know enough to keep it up. I mean, you know, they just dropped, just crashed and got out of it.
LEIGHTON: What union was it?
SMITH: Well, I was going down to District 6, wasn't it? Seems to me at the time they had a union hall right next to the Zimmerman School on Corunna Road. What was that? Seems to me that I was taking the stuff down there to the...Course that's 20 years ago. It was CIO. I forget what it was out into...
LEIGHTON: I wanted to go back and ask you a couple things. During the strike, now your first child was born in '35? Or were any of the kids in school at the time of the Sit-Down?
LEIGHTON: After the strike, after the Sit-Down is over, February 11th, you mentioned before that you went back to work in what, four or five days?
SMITH: I think so, as far as I can remember. I know we went back to work. Probably we tried to get back as quick as we can, 'cause we were all, you know, probably didn't have any money.
LEIGHTON: Did things change in the plant?
LEIGHTON: What were some of the changes that you recall?
SMITH: Well, one of them was we had relief men, and we bargained on the speed of the lines, and a lot of times, well, before the strike, you know, the guys get behind and the foremen, they were just middlemen, and they'd step in and they'd carry on a worker's job, you know, on and off all day long, so's they'd get by without a worker. Well, one of the things was that the foreman couldn't step up the line and do anybody's job. They just had to be foremen and not probably replace any men. And that made a difference. And like we got relief in the morning and in the afternoon, and...
LEIGHTON: Were you still in the Trim Department then?
SMITH: Oh, yeah, I was always in the Trim Department, except for maybe the first year I worked there that I was up on the roofs. Then I got in the Trim Department. In fact, in that thing those guys are sitting on, that rare road rail on the back reed that goes across from the ashtray, I used to put that on, all the time. Then I moved down the line and I did, you know, corner backs, stuffing ...
LEIGHTON: In the Trim Department, do you recall who the foremen were?
LEIGHTON: Was there a woman over the cut-and-sew?
SMITH: Yeah, Nellie. Nellie Crompton.
LEIGHTON: Nellie Crompton. What was she like?
SMITH: She had a favorite. She could be a bitch. In fact, her husband was made general foreman of the cushion room, too. But she was one that wore the pants. Don't know that she would get to hear that. She was pretty old. She can't be alive now. Yeah, I dealt with her. You know I was a committeeman with Nellie Crompton.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, she had quite a reputation as being a pretty tough cookie.
SMITH: She had her favorites. Some girls there could do anything. I've been called up there and the girls had underpants hanging on the line all wet. You know, call me up and write a grievance, because she wouldn't give them relief, so's they could go to the bathroom. They had to wet their pants. Things like that. In fact, the time that I was committee in the cut-and-sew area, there were a lot of interesting grievances.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned that before. You ran for committeeman against Harold Hubbard?
SMITH: Yeah, as steward.
LEIGHTON: Now, let's start with that steward system, 'cause that interests me. When was that put into place? Right after the strike?
SMITH: Yeah, right after the strike, and they started to recognize us, you know, as stewards.
LEIGHTON: The company did?
SMITH: Yeah, as a spokesman for the line.
LEIGHTON: How many people did you represent as a steward?
SMITH: Well, if you had a steward in the department... I can remember I always had the seniority list of the cushion room, and there was about 175 people on it. But, oh, there were so many improvements made, but now the cushion room has less than half, maybe a third of that. You know, everything was handmade at that time.
LEIGHTON: But what I meant was how many people were you personally responsible for as a steward, not as a committeeman?
SMITH: As a steward. Usually we had a steward on each line.
LEIGHTON: And there were how many people on a line, roughly?
SMITH: Oh, there could be 35 or 40.
LEIGHTON: Okay. When you were a committeeman, how many people were you responsible for?
SMITH: Well, then you had your---what did we call them?---district committeemen and then department committeemen, I guess they were. And then you'd have the whole department, probably 175, something like that. You'd write your grievance, and you could have your district committeeman come in and try to negotiate with you, or else it went to the, you know, the main office, and then you had a committee meeting.
LEIGHTON: The steward system. How did you get to be a steward?
SMITH: Kind of elected by the guys on the line. Kind of decide among themselves, well, he's always, you know, done a lot of talking, let him be the steward.
LEIGHTON: But when you were a committeeman, did you run for election in the whole shop, then?
SMITH: No, like a whole district. A district committee, and then a department committeeman, you know. You'd run like in your department.
LEIGHTON: Well, did the whole district vote on the district committeeman?
LEIGHTON: Or just the department committeemen vote?
SMITH: Yeah, I think it was the department committeemen.
LEIGHTON: So that each department committeeman would then vote for the...
SMITH: As far as I can remember, that was it. But we voted over the union hall. They was, you know...
LEIGHTON: When did the shop steward system go out? Did it last very long?
SMITH: No, I don't think it lasted too long.
LEIGHTON: Did you notice a difference between the two?
SMITH: Yeah, you seemed to have more, well, I won't say you had more authority. See, as a union, we were pretty strong when it first started out. And then General Motors----you know, they had the money; they could hire all these kind of brains, you know, to fight the union----so it got tougher and tougher for the committeeman and, you know, stewards and all that, you know, to do the bargaining, because they had all these brains, you know, that money could buy, and convinced you.
LEIGHTON: But what I meant is you were both a steward and a committeeman. And which kind of setup did you like best? Which did you seem to feel was the most representative?
SMITH: Well, probably for your just group on your line, probably the steward was. But then when they got committeemen, you know, in a department, it was probably more effective that way. You know, you did more paperwork than anything. Like if you were on the line, you could talk to the guy who'd call you and talk to him and you could go talk to the boss and maybe come to some agreement with, you know, just the line boss. But then when you were a committeeman, you go like to the department head and then, if it's not settled there, you go to the department head, and, if it's not settled there, you go to the Labor Relations meetings, you know, with committeemen meeting with Labor Relations and discuss the grievances then. At first they got more business, like. You know that's what it was. There was a time there that, you know, you could almost threaten to people. I remember one time when we threw a guy out of the second...uh, foreman out of the second story window, because there's all those bushes, you know. But we just picked him up and threw him right out the window, right off the trim room.
LEIGHTON: This was after the strike? Right in that summer?
LEIGHTON: What was the first job that you had to do for the union after you went back to work? Was it signing guys up into the union?
SMITH: No, 'cause that wasn't very hard, you know. Most of the guys, you know, got in, you know, when they saw the strike was successful and, you know, got everything. You know, even the anti-union guys, you know. They joined because they could see the advantages. Course there was always some that talked about it, but, I mean, when you get vacation pay and stuff like that, I mean it's pretty hard to fall out the union except this stuff, so eventually, you know, it wasn't too hard to keep them coming. I'd say the first year, you know, you had to do a bit of work around there and, you know, guys would help you if there was somebody there that was kind of anti-union. Everybody would make things hard for him, anyway.
LEIGHTON: Did they lean on him a little bit? Take him over to the second-floor window and show him the bushes? Take him for a little walk on the roof?
SMITH: Yeah, they were pretty radical. And then, of course, it got to the point where you couldn't be radical, 'cause, you know, the corporation moved in.
LEIGHTON: That came, what? Six months or a year?
SMITH: Say a year. I think we had things pretty well our own way for about the first year after the Sit-Down. You know, you could threaten, you know, the line foreman and things like that, and he didn't want to get in trouble. If he could, he'd give in to you. See these foremen, they're kind of middlemen. You know, they're not workers, and they're not supervision, really. They're straw bosses and that what was paid supervision wages, But they feared then at that time, they feared the union just as much as they did the company. You know, about then they probably feared the union a little bit worse, 'cause things, you know, did get radical, you know, done outside the shop. You know, nothing to do at the shop. They'd catch guys sometimes, catch him in a bar and beat him up or something.
LEIGHTON: What about the Black Legion? You mentioned Harold Hubbard. He's dead now, but...
SMITH: They was quite an organization. It was part of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Bund. Did you ever hear of that? Well, it was all kind of in together. They were all together, and, of course, they were against organization. They were against the unions.
LEIGHTON: Why were they against the union, because some of 'em were just autoworkers, weren't they? I mean they weren't bosses.
SMITH: I don't really know. I had a real good friend, and he was very much against the union. Course he joined and everything. He'd wear a button, but he was very anti-union.
LEIGHTON: Is he still alive?
SMITH: Mark Higgins, I don't think he's alive, no.
LEIGHTON: Do you recall any of the Black Legionnaires at Fisher? Were they people that everybody knew they were, or were they proud of it, or did they announce it, or did they just kind of keep it secret?
SMITH: They didn't really keep it secret. You knew who they were.
LEIGHTON: How did you know?
SMITH: Well, you'd see them chummin' around together. They'd be friends. A lot of these----I shouldn't say this----American Legion, it was kind of that way. I remember one time when they went in there and they had an American flag over the time clock, hanging there, and all the guys standing around, mostly American Legion. And they were going to make me salute it. And I wouldn't salute it. They got all pretty hostile. I thought they was going to beat me up and everything. That was when I was a committeeman, I guess. So, anyways, they came in the next morning and the flag was gone. So first thing, the guy calls me, Archie Lowley, one of the big American Legionnaires...
LEIGHTON: Archie Lowley. Is he still around, you know?
SMITH: No, he's dead. But, anyways, he called me. He says, "We want our flag back." I says, "Well, I'll see what I can do," so I went down to the main office and got a hold of the head of the Labor Relations. I says, "I got a grievance." I says, "I didn't write it up." I said the guys up there had brought a flag up there and had it over the clock and came in this morning, and the flag was gone. He says, "Well," he says, "we've got a policy here." He says, "We've got three buildings." He says, "We've got a flag on each building." And he says, "We don't need them in the department." So I went back and told Archie just what it was. You know I had to admit there was always flags on the Fisher, there. So anyways, they decided, well, they were going to give me the flag. I says, "Well, I don't want the damn thing." I says, "I got all kinds of flags. I can get all kinds of flags I want. You don't have to give it to me," so then they decided to auction it off. So they finally auctioned the flag off, and some guy won it. And he had to get a pass, you know, to take it out through the gate when he went home. That was the end of it. I mean those were the kind of guys you knew, you know, that they were American Legion.
LEIGHTON: They were American Legion, then, but Black Legion, were they all the same?
SMITH: Oh, no. They pretended not to be connected. You know what I mean.
LEIGHTON: Were the Black Legion guys mainly Southerners, white Southerners?
SMITH: I know a couple that were. I wouldn't say they mainly were. In fact, at that time, we never got blacks into Fisher Body 'til after World War II.
LEIGHTON: No, I meant white Southerners.
SMITH: No, I can't say as they were.
LEIGHTON: Did they have a headquarters in Flint, or were they headquartered somewhere else?
SMITH: Well, this Flint Alliance, that was Black Legion. Course all that, that was Black Legion.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned, by the way, that you snuck into the Flint Alliance meeting.
SMITH: Well, it was open to everybody. It was down the I.M.A., and they put an American flag on you. I just went in, you know, to see who was around.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember anyone that spoke? I don't mean from the floor, but I mean up on the speaker's platform.
SMITH: Only Boysen, as far as I can remember there.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember a guy named Pelavin? Did he speak at all?
SMITH: You mean the guy that runs... Isn't he on the City Commission? He's a lawyer, isn't he?
LEIGHTON: Yes, right. B. Maurice Pelavin, the old man.
SMITH: I don't know if I have heard him. I've heard Dean talk.
LEIGHTON: Oh, yeah, but not down at the Flint Alliance.
SMITH: And another thing. I don't know if you've ever heard this, but when Homer Martin, you know, was trying to split the union, there was a button out, "I'm for Homer Martin." And the guys would get that Homer Martin button and somehow scrape it, so's they'd have a hood on it. See, Homer Martin was Black Legion. Did you know that?
SMITH: Yeah, he was. Guys would wear these Homer Martin buttons, "I'm for Homer Martin," but, you know, it had the Black Legion on it. They weren't wearing that because they were Black Legion, just making fun of Homer Martin, because Homer Martin, you know, with union men, he really got in disgrace.
LEIGHTON: You remember anything else about the Flint Alliance meeting? I mean was there any special that stands out in your mind about it?
SMITH: Not really, but I'll admit they had big crowds there.
LEIGHTON: Were there a lot of working guys there?
SMITH: Oh, yeah. Yeah, there was.
LEIGHTON: They had a recruiting drive on, in town, too?
SMITH: They did at the time, yeah.
LEIGHTON: Getting people to sign little pledges or cards?
SMITH: I believe that's what it was. I can't remember what it was. In fact, at the meeting at the I.M.A. there, they had cards right there you could fill in. I think it was, you know, pledging ... to the company or General Motors. I don't just remember.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned the split between the Homer Martin faction. Do you remember any of the kind of people that stand out who were Homer Martin supporters in Fisher 1?
SMITH: Yeah, but not important people. I can remember people in my own department. One was Herbert Rosier. He was French-Canadian. I can remember his name. And, of course, these American Legion guys, I wouldn't want to say they were...think like that over a tape. You knew they were, though. I mean you knew they were. No doubt about it. I mean when you see a bunch of 'em lined up watching them; they was gonna knock me on my ass if I didn't salute the flag. You know, you just about know that.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember the names of any of the supporters for Martin? Were any of them in the CPO? Remember the CPO?
SMITH: What's the CPO? Communist Party?
LEIGHTON: Communist Party Opposition. The Jay Lovestoneites.
SMITH: Now that I wouldn't know. Yeah, I know what you mean. No, I couldn't say that I do know any, whether they were in any organizations.
LEIGHTON: In that summer that follows the Sit-Down Strike, were there a lot of wildcat strikes in your department? Did the department ever just walk out or sit down, or?
SMITH: Well, we'd slow down a lot. I can never remember that we actually walked out, because, like I say, the supervision would almost do anything to get along with us. At that time, you know, we gained quite a bit, and, of course later, they tried to take it away from us. See the guys working on these cushion lines----cushion lines come along on barks on the line turns on the ... come up and then they'll put another cushion on that----well, we had guys that smart enough on the line that knew when the last cushion of the day should go through. And they managed...we had enough control of the lines, so if they were going too fast that we could turn 'em back. So's we'd make sure that the last thing, we'd quit at three-thirty, but the last job would be right up by the motor at three-thirty. You know, you'd kind of watch things like that, so... There were a lot of threatened, you know, threatened guys going to sit down, and they'd slow up and things like that, but usually I don't think there was anything... There was a major strike after that, wasn't that tool and die strike in '44, wasn't it?
LEIGHTON: Was it during the war?
SMITH: Seems to me it was. Tool and die strike, there. I can't remember. Have to look up labor history.
LEIGHTON: Were there any big rallies that the union held during that summer of '37? One in Kearsley Park? Did you go to one there?
SMITH: Yeah. Well, I want to tell you something else about Kearsley Park. Another place they had a lot of rallies was up at Flint Park. You know where Flint Park is?
LEIGHTON: I don't know.
SMITH: You know where Devil's Lake is? I think Flint Park Boulevard runs right into it. See there used to be Lakeside Park and Flint Park. Yeah, we used to have a lot of rallies up there. And we'd have speakers there and get big crowds.
LEIGHTON: Who were some of the speakers? Do you remember?
SMITH: Probably R. J. Thomas or Lewis, Darnell Lewis. Or Reuther, he'd come up there, or the Reuther brothers.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever meet a guy at the time of the strike or just before named Will Weinstone?
SMITH: I've heard of him. Yeah, he was a Communist, wasn't he?
SMITH: Yeah, I've heard of him.
LEIGHTON: He was General Secretary of the party.
SMITH: Yeah, that's right. I used to take the Daily Worker.
LEIGHTON: Did you? They used to sell it in the stores, didn't they?
SMITH: There used to be a store downtown on Kearsley Street that you could buy it, but not the regular news places. You'd get it delivered. And I think that everybody, you know, all the big shots, in Flint knew who was getting the Daily Worker. In fact, you know, I'd really like to see my record, because, you know, like in the Flint Advertiser, they ... all the Communists were. Say "Would you want this guy to represent you?" You know, this guy would have his un-American ideas. Say, I was going to tell you something about the Ku Klux Klan. There was a big meeting at Kearsley Park here. Have you heard anything about it? They all had the robes and everything, and all these Grand Wizards and burning a fiery cross. Right down there in Kearsley Park. I remember driving along Lewis Street, and you could see nothing but white robes all lining the whole park. Now I'm not sure if that was '24. It might have been just before the big strike. I can't remember.
LEIGHTON: I've heard about it, but I didn't know when it took place.
SMITH: I know where it took place. Now I'm not just sure when, whether it would be reported in the newspaper at that time, because newspapers, you know, they were all for the Ku Klux Klan. But I remember, you know, driving by, boy, it made me so...well, I'd like to take a machine gun and just go right along, you know.
LEIGHTON: But that was before the strike?
SMITH: Yeah, this was before the strike, yes. In fact, I think it was to intimidate people from joining the union. I think that's what it was for.
LEIGHTON: Do you think it was before the '30 strike?
SMITH: No, I don't think so. Now, you might find out by looking back at the papers, but I don't know. But I remember, because there were thousands. You know, the side of that hill looked just like white with all the sheets and everything. And I can remember it so well.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember when they held the farewell picnic for Bob Travis?
SMITH: I can't remember. I was probably there. I was probably there with the Flying Squadron. Was that up to Flint Park? That's where they had most of their picnics then, because that was a going thing then, just like Lakeside.
LEIGHTON: Could be. I don't remember. I mean I can't recall.
SMITH: That was probably before TV. See, TV changed a lot of things in the country. I mean like these outdoor things. Lakeside, man, that was beautiful. Japanese lanterns hanging all over the lake and gondolas you could rent, gondolas, and they had an island out there in the middle with a big food place. No beer----that was during Prohibition. It was really something. They had a midget racetracks over there.
LEIGHTON: Tell me, in that period following the strike, things got pretty rough, didn't they, in the union? You had the AFL goons and the CIO and the...
SMITH: Yeah, they did. Like I say, I'd take propaganda in, you know, CIO propaganda. They'd take it from me in the plant, and they'd burn it.
LEIGHTON: Were there many fights that went on in that time?
SMITH: Oh, yeah, a lot of fights. Especially, you know, two unions had a right to get together there, and they got one time that we were in there. We just couldn't get out. They were just waiting for us.
LEIGHTON: This is across from Saginaw Street?
SMITH: Yeah. Not where the union hall is now. Do you know where the old halls were?
LEIGHTON: No, I don't.
SMITH: Just a little bit north of there, there were two buildings right together, two big storefront buildings.
LEIGHTON: Are the storefronts still there, or?
SMITH: I think they are, yes. I think they're restaurants or something. That was...I was never in that big one, but after my time, they built that. But they were right together. Yeah, there was all kinds of fights along there.
LEIGHTON: So one was what? Local 581? Or was it still 156 then?
SMITH: No, I think that was when we called ourselves 581. See, I think when it started, the AFL was in the majority, and we had to fight, you know, to win the guys over. That's kind of hazy to me, 'cause I can remember it so well. I remember that guy climbing on me. He had his guns strapped on. You could see his pistol strapped on. He climbed that pole. He cut the Communist flag down----Carl Swanson.
LEIGHTON: Oh. And the Communist flag was what, in front of the AFL?
SMITH: No, the AFL had put it on our mast.
LEIGHTON: I see. So Carl Swanson went up to cut it down. Were the left political parties pretty active in that period following the strike, or did they tend to...?
SMITH: Well, really they couldn't get along with them. We did so much good for the guys, even though, you know, we had Communist leanings. But I mean we were doing more for them than anything else. Now that's when all this came out in the paper. The cushion room had a meeting to kick me out. Did you ever hear of Hinie Wilson?
LEIGHTON: I've heard the name.
SMITH: Well, anyways, Hinie Wilson got up there, and, boy, them guys went out. They were for me a hundred percent after he talked with them.
LEIGHTON: Red-baiting, is that what he was doing?
SMITH: No, Hinie Wilson was one of us. But he talking to the guys that called the meeting to kick me out, and he was talking for me.
LEIGHTON: And you were what, already a committeeman at this time?
SMITH: You know, I was appreciated a lot. See this bookcase? One Christmas the guys all in the department all bought me this bookcase. You know I was appreciated, and, like he told them, he says, well, "Hasn't he done a good job for you?" It was after they'd given me this bookcase. You know, he knew that they'd given it to me, there. They were pretty well satisfied. They didn't want to recall me, and I got treated real good the next day. That was when the Advertiser came out with our names in it. See what happened, I don't know, somebody's around...it was to get the Communist Party on the ballot then. They had to have so many names. Well, you know, we all signed it. In fact, I think I took one around. So then the Advertiser got ahold of it and spread everybody's name on that, all these kinds of guys are ruining their jobs at General Motors, and how good General Motors was to you, and do you listen to these guys with foreign ideas, and stuff like that.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember some of the other things that went on in town at that time, after the strike, now? What happened to the mayor?
SMITH: Boysen? I don't know.
LEIGHTON: No, Boysen was the head of the Flint Alliance.
SMITH: Yeah, he was the mayor of Flint.
LEIGHTON: He came, I think, later, didn't he? Or he was earlier. But there was guy...Barringer was the city manager. The mayor was Babcock? The chief of police was Wills.
SMITH: Now wasn't Wolcott...
LEIGHTON: Wolcott was the sheriff.
SMITH: Oh, yeah. I remember when he came in to read the injunction.
LEIGHTON: What happened then?
SMITH: Well, that was kind of funny. See, a lot of guys carried guns at that time. But when you got through that window, you had a nail to put your gun on. You couldn't take it into the shop. So he wanted to come in, and they said, "Hand me your gun." Evidently, he said, well, he'd never go any place without his gun, and they started to shut the windows, "You're not coming in here." Finally he did hand over his gun and came in and read the injunction, brought his gun, and went out. But that was Wolcott.
LEIGHTON: So a lot of guys carried guns at the time?
SMITH: Well, yeah, but not only... I mean if they knew that a guy was going in there with a gun, you know, you take two or three hundred men in there and arm them all that, not so much against anybody outside. You might get into arguments among yourself, and...
LEIGHTON: No, I understand that.
SMITH: You can't tell me, you know, there was no liquor in there. I knew there was, but, you know, not too much. There were no drunk parties or anything.
LEIGHTON: No, but I meant that the workers in Flint during the Sit-Down, some were carrying guns to protect themselves.
SMITH: Yeah. I don't know if it was general knowledge. I know I always carried a gun.
LEIGHTON: You did have?
LEIGHTON: Was this because they felt their lives threatened by the company, or the police in the street, or what?
SMITH: No, goons more than anything. More than anything.
LEIGHTON: The goons must not have bothered people very much, you know, if they knew they had guns. Did they?
SMITH: Well, they weren't very brave. I mean you'd hear of isolated cases. Course they didn't know who had a gun or anything else. Nobody carried a gun openly. But, you know, there was a lot of guns around. I seen that. Like I say, I carried a gun.
LEIGHTON: Did any of the women carry guns at the time, do you remember?
SMITH: I wouldn't know. In fact, you didn't advertise it. I mean probably a lot of guys didn't know, never knew, that I carried it. You didn't advertise it.
LEIGHTON: Did you notice anything...After the strike things obviously improved in your department, but what about in the city, in town? You know, in '37, '38, '39? Did things improve at all for workers in Flint?
SMITH: Well, you know, here's something about this. You take the small storeowner. I don't mean a big place like Hudson's or something. I don't think Hudson's was right here then, but.Smith and Bridgman's or anything like that. I don't they think they cared too much, but you take all the small businessmen all around---now a lot of these businessmen carried the strikers through the strike for bills and all that and were sympathetic to it too, and they weren't sympathetic, you know, to big business----so most of the small merchants were good to the workers.
LEIGHTON: But after the strike, now, workers obviously got paid a little more, but there were still long layoffs, weren't there, because of downturns?
SMITH: Oh, yes, change of model and things like that. Yeah, there were layoffs.
LEIGHTON: Did the city administration or the police act more favorably to workers after that? Did you notice an improvement in their attitude?
SMITH: Well, probably, because there weren't so many confrontations. I mean there probably were...I think the very fact that Murphy brought the troops in, and they found out that he was, you know, on the workers' side, I think that made a lot of difference to, you know, the organized police and all. And then, of course, it wasn't too long after the police department started organizing on their own. No, eventually everybody found that it was to their advantage to organize.
LEIGHTON: Now did you and your family, though, in Flint----did times get a little easier after the strike for you, or you didn't notice much improvement?
SMITH: You did a hell of a lot of catching up. I mean you went so badly in debt during this, you know, that it took you a long time to pay off your grocery bills and stuff like that. Course we got wage raises quite, you know, up. But then wages even in the cushion room after the strike, they were 90 cents an hour, and then they went up to a dollar, and then a dollar ten. I got out in '48, and I was only making $1.10 an hour in '48.
LEIGHTON: So your wages hadn't even doubled in the ten years.
SMITH: Oh, no. Course I've worked in there for 28 cents an hour. That was way back in '26.
LEIGHTON: After the strike, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, the Proletarian Parties, were they active? Or did they just kind of disappear from the scene? Did the workers who were involved with them just kind of let them slide, or?
SMITH: I think so. Of course I think the Proletarian Party stayed on the longest, especially around Fisher Body, because, oh, Doc Maddox [Maddock], he was the janitor at the union hall there, and, boy, he always had his Proletarian literature and signing up guys and everything like that. Used to have his meetings down the basement there. Oh, I've been to a lot of those meetings. I, you know, I hit all the meetings when they were having them. There didn't seem too much rivalry between the parties, right at the time of the strike.
LEIGHTON: Did you own your own car before the strike?
SMITH: Yeah, a '26 Ford.
LEIGHTON: A '26 Ford. And you kept that for ten years?
SMITH: No, let me see. Next one I went to was a '29 Ford. Course this was in '30, '31.
LEIGHTON: Course you'd been working up until '29, '30.
SMITH: Yeah, but I remember when I had that repossessed. I remember I rented the garage, and I put a chain around the wheel and around the center pole in the garage, and the finance company came with a wrecker and took the wheel off and pulled it on the wrecker and took the car. Another time, right there in the Depression,...Did you ever hear of (this is a car dealer) Erbaugh and Sullivan? They were right next to the court house.
SMITH: Well, one time I bought a car from them, and I made the down payment. I don't know, about $30 down. I think this was about a 1930 Ford, and I never paid for it, and they never repossessed it. Never paid for it.
LEIGHTON: You never paid for the car.
SMITH: No, never paid for it. Things were so bad. In fact, I think maybe Erbaugh and Sullivan went out of business about that time. They were right across from where the city hall is now, a big car lot, a real big car lot. At that time you could get a car for $30 down. Course a new car in those days didn't cost any more than six or seven hundred dollars.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned, of course, you had a house and so on. By the time of the strike, did you still manage to hold onto the house, or had you lost it?
SMITH: No, I had it through the strike. I lost it afterwards. But I'd lost one before that.
LEIGHTON: And you lost it because you couldn't pay?
LEIGHTON: And so after the strike, things must not have improved too much if you couldn't...
SMITH: No, they didn't. That's right, they didn't. In fact, it was common. Most people in the department used to get garnisheed. I know I had to garnish wages a number of times. Credit was no good.
LEIGHTON: What did you do after you lost the house the second time, after the strike? Did you move into an apartment, or?
SMITH: No, I'll tell you where I moved. There was an old feed store on Lapeer Road, right up in that feed store, and it was empty. And the guy that owned it said I could move in there. So we moved in there. In fact, that's where my daughter was born there, right over that feed store. And things were pretty bad then, because I remember we couldn't heat it, and I remember when she had the baby, there was rain pouring through the roof and we had tubs on the floor.
LEIGHTON: And this is after the strike?
LEIGHTON: So the Depression, I know, got worse in '37.
SMITH: Yeah, that's right. I never realized that.
LEIGHTON: Did you have a telephone?
SMITH: No. We didn't have a telephone 'til '45, '46, something like that.
LEIGHTON: So, during the strike or afterwards, if anybody wanted to get in touch with you, they practically had to come out and talk to you.
LEIGHTON: In the strike, did they have guys in cars that came around and, you know, would say, "Hey, there's a meeting here!," or "You're being assigned to go down here"?
SMITH: Well, it was like from one fellow to another, not so much come around, but, you know, most of the people, if they weren't real anti-union, they'd be around there to find out what was going on, because, you know, you couldn't get the truth out of the newspapers. I mean they'd try and find out.
LEIGHTON: At the time of the strike, did you have a car then, too?
SMITH: Yeah. Oh, the Sit-Down Strike. Yeah, I did. I think it was when I had a '30 Ford, then.
LEIGHTON: And so that's how you used to get down to Pengelly Building or something like that.
SMITH: Yeah, although, you know, there were streetcars running then. You know, there were more streetcars on the road than there are now.
LEIGHTON: Okay. During the strike itself, it's very cold out. Did you drive the car, or could you take the bus?
SMITH: Well, where I lived, on Connell Street, that was just the other side of Fisher Body, and I could walk there and back. In fact, Copey and I used to walk to work in the morning.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember anything during the strike about the buses? Do you remember seeing 'em?
SMITH: I can't remember. Well, there were streetcars then.
LEIGHTON: Or did you see the streetcars running?
SMITH: Yeah, because, see, Hemphill Road was the turnaround. They had to end it right there. It seemed to me they came around. They ended right there.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember, though, guys having to walk to the Pengelly Building?
SMITH: You know, to tell the truth, I can't remember.
LEIGHTON: Okay, the reason I asked that is, of course, because the bus company was on strike.
SMITH: Oh, were they?
LEIGHTON: Yeah. And there was a fellow named Fred Stevens, who was head of the bus workers' union, and the UAW supported them and vice versa. But I just wondered. Some fellows...
SMITH: See I never rode buses anyways. I used to do a lot of walking. Do you realize that sometimes we could get ten gallons of gas for a dollar?
LEIGHTON: So gas was not really much of a problem, even in the bottom of the Depression. You could always afford a little bit. Living in the feed store. Let's come back to that. How long did you live in that?
SMITH: Oh, probably a year and a half, and then I used to move to another place just as bad on Forest Street, that had a great big cesspool under the kitchen. I think I got into that kind of rent-free. There's another thing I was going to tell you about this Robinett feed store. They had an enormous freezer in there. I don't know why a feed store would have that. Maybe that had dog meat or something. Anyway, there was a big freezer in there, and I don't mean an electrical freezer. It was one that they'd, you know, packed with ice. Anyways, it was big enough that, when I'd get up in the mornings to go to work, see, you couldn't get coal. We used to steal coal around the coal yards. Anyways, I'd go in this freezer and I'd take a toaster in there, and I'd plug the toaster in and get nice and warm in there and dress in the freezer there and come out and go to work. And then I'd have the fire, you know, I'd have it all laid in there, in the stove. When my wife got out, she'd stay in bed as long as she could, you know, she'd torch the fire off. But, you know, say, you'd save coal.
:LEIGHTON: I'll be darned. When did you manage to move out of these places, like the feed store and the other place?
SMITH: Well, when did the Japanese invade Pearl Harbor?
LEIGHTON: December 7, 1941.
SMITH: Okay. I'd just moved in a nice house in Civic Park when that happened, 'cause I remember I was committeeman, and for some reason a guy wanted to see me. Now that's when I first had a telephone. And I told him to come up to the house, and I remember we were talking over his grievance in the house when the news came over that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. Now that's when I first got into a nice house.
LEIGHTON: So, by that time, you'd been beginning of war production, the auto industry was back on its feet, and...
SMITH: Now here's something else. Did you ever hear of Modern Housing, by General Motors? General Motors put up all these houses in Civic Park? That was one of the houses. And you didn't have a payment. They took one-fourth of what you made. And that helped rarely, because if you only worked one or two days a week, they'd just take a fourth of your pay.
LEIGHTON: That was true even by 1941?
LEIGHTON: So General Motors was still running Civic Park then?
SMITH: Yeah. Modern Housing.
LEIGHTON: So you didn't buy the house, you just kind of rented it.
SMITH: Well, no, you bought it eventually. I know when we got divorced we sold it. No, we didn't sell it. My wife got it. But, no, you got to own it. Of course, I only paid 3200 for that house. Now that same house you couldn't get it for 20,000. It's one house off of Melbourne. In fact, that belongs to Howard School.
LEIGHTON: Anything else you can think of from that period that's important? Did you spend a lot of time, in that period after the strike and up until 1941, do you remember spending a lot of time in meetings about the split in the union, or did you...meetings in the house, or going to other peoples' houses, or doing a lot of recruiting, or did you just mainly go to work?
SMITH: See, we had that hall then. Most of the meetings were there. Now I think that when the split came, we retained the old hall and the AFL rented the place next door, right next door. I mean they were joined together. And it seems to me that most of the meetings and caucuses we had at that time were in the old 581 hall.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned caucuses. Did you belong to one of the caucuses?
SMITH: I suppose I did, but we really didn't have a name for a caucus. Like lots of times, you know, somebody's having a caucus now, but they just call it a group get-together, that all have the same idea, so...
LEIGHTON: You don't remember the Unity Caucus and the Progressive Caucus?
SMITH: Yeah, faintly I remember them, yes, but I don't remember which I was for.
LEIGHTON: Well, one was of course, would have been for a while anyway, Travis and then Mortimer, and the other, later on, I think, was probably Reuther.
SMITH: Well, I was a Reuther backer. Course Reuther got pretty tough on the Communists, too. But I had problems with the shop. Actually they were related to my union activities. In the first place, I was committeeman. I had a lot of leeway to run it. Women there, and every night, some gal, she used to go down with me and where they had the full ... come in on the side, and we'd go in there and get a piece of ass. One night I got caught. Anyways, they fired her, and they fired me too, but the union got me back. That was when Larry Huber, when I got in that trouble, he took my place as committeeman.
LEIGHTON: So you lost your post as committeeman.
SMITH: Yeah, through that. No, wait a minute. No, I didn't lose it through that. I don't think I ran on the next election, but that had a lot to do with it. It wasn't that, you know, that the workers had lost confidence in me, or anything like that. It was, you know, just one of these things that come up, so I thought I'd get out of it. And then I got in trouble with the law, through this girl that I was running around with. Her and her husband and her brother was running an outfit. You know, they were stealing all over and holding up places and all that. They got caught and, course I'd been friendly with her, and lot of the stuff they'd got I had in my house. So when they got sentenced, they started over to Jackson, they squirreled on me, that maybe, well, go see, look at my house, see what I've got. In other words, they were jealous. See, this girl's husband.and brother, they were going to jail and I was out, you know, his wife and all that. Anyways, they came out, State Police came down and they arrested me right in the shop, and I...Well, they didn't really have anything serious against me. Anyways, they held me down there, and somebody came out of the shop to see me and they arranged that I'd get, you know, probation. Well, the union arranged all that, and they would give me back my job at the shop. Well, it came right down to it, and they told the judge that, you know, they wouldn't give me a job back, because they were glad to get rid of me. You know, I'd been a troublemaker.
LEIGHTON: This was in that period right after the strike, I mean before World War II?
SMITH: No, that was in '45, I think. Well, right after World War II. Anyways, I got one-and-a-half to five and I did it in nine months. I got out, and, to tell you the truth, I had a ball!
LEIGHTON: When you were in Jackson?
SMITH: Yeah. Well, I tell you, it's a thousand times better than a county jail. Anyways, I got to be a librarian. They got a beautiful library in Jackson, and I also got to touch first, second, and third grade in the morning and librarian in the afternoon. So they have school in there, all the way up to college. And I did my time and did a lot of reading. I read Crime and Punishment, all those books that I always wanted to and couldn't read them. I did good time. I mean a lot of guys, they can't do good time. It's an awful place in there anyway. It's a terrible place. You can't believe it. But, you know, I kept my nose clean, and having these two jobs, my cell was unlocked first thing, you know, about five o'clock in the morning and never locked up 'til nine o'clock at night, and I had the run of the prison and everything. I did damn good time.
LEIGHTON: Then you got out and you go back to work at Fisher, then, or?
SMITH: Oh, no, I didn't.
LEIGHTON: They wouldn't take you back?
SMITH: No, let's see. I got out...Oh, I had a friend in Fisher that started the Spenseco shop on North Saginaw Street, so he put me to work there, and I worked there. And my son-in-law got out of the Army, and we went into business together.
LEIGHTON: Let me finish up. Is there anything you think we've left out?
SMITH: I don't really think so. No, I'm hazy on a lot of things.
LEIGHTON: That was a long time ago.
SMITH: I've never regretted anything, really, in my life that I did.
I mean I could die right now and, boy, I'd have a ball.