Beyond Steel

In the Age of Steel: Oral Histories from Bethlehem Pennsylvania - Lewis J. Kozo & Mary Kozo

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Bodnar: This is an interview in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on July 15, 1974, with Mr. Lewis Kozo, K-o-z-o, and his wife Mary Kozo, K-o-z-o. Can I ask you first of all, I want to make this more general than just working with the union and things, but Mr. Kozo, where were you born?

L. Kozo: Bethlehem, 1908.

Bodnar: 1908?

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Where were your born in Bethlehem? Where did you grow up?

L. Kozo: On the South Side. On the South Side of Bethlehem.

Bodnar: What can you tell me about that? What street? Where did you live? What type of neighborhood was it?

L. Kozo: I don't know what street I was born—I think it was called 2nd Street at that time. The steel company took it over since then.

Bodnar: How about as you were growing up?

L. Kozo: I grew up on Atlantic Street, South Side.

Bodnar: Where were your parents from?

L. Kozo: Hungary.

Bodnar: Both of your parents were from Hungary?

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Do you know when they came to this country?

1:00

L. Kozo: I'd say 1890's or something like that they came here.

Bodnar: Do you know what village your father perhaps came from, or your mother?

L. Kozo: Saint Godhart (sp?).

Bodnar: You don't know how to spell that, do you, offhand?

L. Kozo: Saint Godhart (sp?).

Bodnar: I see. Okay. Did your father come directly to Bethlehem when he came to this country?

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Why did he come to Bethlehem and not somewhere else?

L. Kozo: On account of steel.

Bodnar: Yes, but why didn't he go to Pittsburgh or Chicago? They had steel there.

L. Kozo: I guess he had friends here.

Bodnar: Yes, that's what I'm getting at. There was someone here that he knew?

L. Kozo: Yes, I think he had friends here. Who, I don't know.

Bodnar: How about your mother? Did she come here for the same reason?

L. Kozo: She came here for the same reason, yeh. She was a weaver, and she came here because of the weaving mills around this area.

Bodnar: She was a weaver in Hungary?

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Did she hear of the weaving mills [Likely refers to the silk and textile mills located in the Lehigh Valley.] here?

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Was she recruited?

2:00

L. Kozo: Yes, she heard. She heard from friends.

Bodnar: Did she work as a weaver in this country?

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Where did your father work in the plant?

L. Kozo: My father was in the rolling mills. He was a heater in the rolling mills. [A heater was responsible for heating without burning the steel. A roller passed metal stock through rolls in order to make the metal into a desired shape.]

Bodnar: What exactly does a heater do or what did a heater do, do you know?

L. Kozo: The steel that is put into furnaces there is preheated so they can roll it, and he had to watch that.

Bodnar: How long did he work as a heater?

L. Kozo: That I don't know exactly.

Bodnar: Do you know when he finally ended his employment at the steel company?

L. Kozo: I think he only worked there about 15 years at the most.

Bodnar: Did he go back to Hungary then?

L. Kozo: No, he died. He died when I was 15.

Bodnar: Did you grow up in a neighborhood that was primarily Hungarian, or were there other people living there too?

3:00

L. Kozo: They had all ethnic groups, all types. Italian, Hungarian, German.

Bodnar: All in that same neighborhood?

L. Kozo: Very nice.

Bodnar: Mrs. Kozo, can I ask you where you were born?

M. Kozo: I was born in Palmerton, Pennsylvania.

Bodnar: You don't have to tell me when you were born, but what was your background? Had your parents immigrated to this country?

M. Kozo: Yes, they did too. They landed in Palmerton because they had friends there, and because due to the Steel, they moved to Bethlehem when an older sister and I were just babies.

Bodnar: Where did your parents come from?

M. Kozo: They came from (inaudible), that's Hungary.

Bodnar: They were Hungarian?

M. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: What was your maiden name?

M. Kozo: My maiden name was Hock, H-o-c-k. They're mostly Austrian, like German, but one grandmother was Hungarian.

Bodnar: What was your father?

M. Kozo: My father was a stonemason and a bricklayer.

Bodnar: Was he Hungarian, too, then?

M. Kozo: Yes, he was the one. His mother was Hungarian. His father was German.

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Bodnar: What brought them to Palmerton? Was there a certain industry in Palmerton?

M. Kozo: No, there were friends there.

Bodnar: Do you know when he came to this country?

M. Kozo: Not exactly.

Bodnar: Around?

M. Kozo: (inaudible).

L. Kozo: Around the same time as (inaudible), 1890's or so.

Bodnar: What type of work was in Palmerton? Did he get a job in Palmerton, you said? Didn't they have a sewing factory there or something?

M. Kozo: Yes, but I don't know if he worked there or not. I don't know.

Bodnar: So when you were a young child, then they came to Bethlehem because of the work in the steel mills.

M. Kozo: Yes, Dad got a job in the steel.

Bodnar: Where did he work in the steel?

M. Kozo: He worked also—he did bricklaying in the steel.

Bodnar: Had he learned that trade in Hungary, in other words?

M. Kozo: Yes, his father was a stonemason, and his father used to travel with a group of men, about five or six, to a big city, to Budapest, and then took his two sons along. One helped, and my father, he learned the trade.

Bodnar: What was your father's first name?

5:00

M. Kozo: Joseph.

Bodnar: Joseph Hock?

M. Kozo: Yes. He was a bricklayer in the Bethlehem Steel.

Bodnar: So then he brought a skill over to this country with him which he was able to use at Bethlehem Steel.

M. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Where did you grow up?

M. Kozo: I grew up on 4th Street in Bethlehem.

Bodnar: South Side.

M. Kozo: On the South Side, not too far from (inaudible).

Bodnar: Did you go to a Hungarian church?

M. Kozo: I went to Hungarian school, and I learned to read and write in Hungarian, yes.

Bodnar: Oh, you did?

M. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: How long did you go to Hungarian school?

M. Kozo: I went for eight years.

Bodnar: What church was it down there?

M. Kozo: St. John's Capistrano. [The Catholic parish was established in 1903 on East 4th Street in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The church closed in 2008.]

Bodnar: St. John's, OK. Did you have to go to work as a young girl at all?

M. Kozo: Yes. It was Depression. [Refers to the Great Depression, a North American and European economic slump, which lasted from 1929 till 1939.] We worked.

Bodnar: Where did you go to work?

M. Kozo: We worked in Laros Silk Mill. [Established in 1921, the R.K. Laros Silk Mill was located at the northeast corner of Broad and New Street in Bethlehem, PA. The Mill specialized in the silk for women's hosiery.]

Bodnar: At what age did you have to go to work?

M. Kozo: Oh, before that I worked in a grocery store right near the steel company.

Bodnar: Full-time or just part-time?

M. Kozo: No, I worked a couple of hours in the morning when the men went to work and before school. Then I'd go home and go 6:00to school, and then in the evening again I worked a couple of hours in this grocery store, confectionary store, that leads right into the Steel. Isn't there anymore.

Bodnar: When did you have to go to work full-time, at what age?

M. Kozo: Oh, I was 16.

Bodnar: How about your sisters?

M. Kozo: And they too.

Bodnar: How many sisters did you have?

M. Kozo: I was one of three.

Bodnar: Three girls?

M. Kozo: Yes. One died and (inaudible)

Bodnar: But you all had to go to work at 15 or 16?

M. Kozo: Yes. We all had to go to school. I went to school and to work. I went to continuation school [Continuation school offered flexible attendance hours to students.] at that time.

Bodnar: Did many young girls go into the silk mill at that time?

M. Kozo: Yes, most of them.

Bodnar: Did the silk mills work through the Depression?

M. Kozo: Yes, they worked in the Depression. It wasn't a high-paying job. We worked long hours. Also, I tried to organize them.

Bodnar: Oh, you tried to organize the silk mill girls?

M. Kozo: The silk mill, yes.

Bodnar: When was this?

M. Kozo: This was—I don't know. Was I married? I guess, yes.

L. Kozo: (inaudible).

M. Kozo: We were married.

7:00

L. Kozo: About 1937, '38 [1938].

M. Kozo: I didn't work on the—what would you call that on there? There was two parts of Laros on either side of the street. One place they sewed like silk ladies' underwear and such, and on the other side was where they did the threads. What would you call that? I don't know.

L. Kozo: The spinning.

M. Kozo: Spinning department. I had worked on that side way back, and after I got married, I got a job on the other side. But when they were trying to organize the thread mill—

Bodnar: Who was trying to organize the thread mill?

L. Kozo: The lady garment workers. [The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) was formed in 1900.]

M. Kozo: The lady garment workers were trying to get their union started there. Well, there was nobody that they could get on the side. They were trying to organize ladies garment workers, so I knew about it, and with other people from the union, his friends' wives, I came out of this job and tried to organize them. I wasn't getting paid, but I was accused of getting paid because I would stand there, hand out literature, and talk to the girls, because I knew the conditions. I'd worked 8:00there too. I used to work in places where there was no windows open, and they'd have a humidifier coming down like fine rain. I thought, well, I wasn't going to work there much longer because I didn't want to injure my health, so I quit after I got married, and went into the other side. But I was trying to get these girls organized. And when it was over and it didn't materialize—

Bodnar: When was this, about?

L. Kozo: About 1937.

M. Kozo: Yeh. It didn't materialize. The girls wouldn't listen. They were all afraid of their jobs.

L. Kozo: She was the only picket.

M. Kozo: I was the only picket.

Bodnar: You were the only one? Wow.

M. Kozo: So what I did was, my own friends that knew me from school and the same church, they were criticizing me for daring to do that. So when it was over and it didn't materialize, I was going back to my job, and I had a police escort, escorting me into my job. As I walked in, all the other girls that knew me and I worked with, they were horrified. They thought that 9:00they were after me, the police, but they were protecting me. It seemed after that, the bosses and the floor ladies would come to me and cater to me and ask me if I liked my job and if I liked my machine.

Bodnar: You weren't blacklisted or anything then?

M. Kozo: No, not at all.

L. Kozo: They catered to her.

M. Kozo: They catered to me instead, you know. But all my friends didn't dare to be friends with me after that. But I felt great about it. I felt good because I tried to help them as well as myself.

M. Kozo: We didn't need the union. L. Kozo: We could have done without. We could have helped ourselves without any union (inaudible).

M. Kozo: But we were thinking of our fellow people, our friends that didn't dare to ask for raises and ask for what was due them. We still feel that way.

Bodnar: What about your first job, Mr. Kozo? When did you start working full-time?

L. Kozo: My first job was a weaver.

Bodnar: At the silk mill also?

L. Kozo: Yes.

10:00

Bodnar: What's the name of this silk mill again?

L. Kozo: The name of the silk mill I worked at that time was called Sauquoit. [Sauquoit Mills was located on the corner of Goepp and Mauch Chunk Road in Bethlehem. The Mill opened in 1886 and ceased operations in 1953.] It's an Indian name.

Bodnar: How old were you when you took this job?

L. Kozo: I was around 17.

Bodnar: Okay, so you're 17 years old now and you began as a weaver. Now, did you say your father was a weaver before that?

L. Kozo: My mother was one.

Bodnar: Did she teach you anything?

L. Kozo: She taught me the trade.

Bodnar: Oh, did she really?

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: That's very interesting. At 17, what did you want to do? I mean, did you have some goals or some long-range things in mind that maybe you'd rather work somewhere else? What did you want to do as your work?

L. Kozo: I wanted to go to school but couldn't. The Depression.

Bodnar: Where did you want to go to school, what, learn a trade?

M. Kozo: Anything.

L. Kozo: College and so forth. But you couldn't.

Bodnar: So then what did you feel you had to do?

L. Kozo: I went into the steelworks. I think I was 19 when I went into the steelworks.

Bodnar: Why did you go into the steelworks?

L. Kozo: That was the only place you could get work around here.

11:00

Bodnar: So it was the best available work, right?

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: So you're 19. How do you get your job in the steel works?

L. Kozo: We used to what they call jump the fence and scout around the whole plant, and whoever hired you hired you.

Bodnar: You mean you'd just walk around and talk to, what, like superintendents or foremen and say, 'How about a job?'

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Did it help, for example, if maybe you were Hungarian and the superintendent was Hungarian?

L. Kozo: There was no such thing as a Hungarian superintendent. They were all a different—they were all either English or Dutch, Pennsylvania Dutch.

Bodnar: They weren't the newer immigrants.

L. Kozo: Newer ethnic.

Bodnar: Where did you get your first job, what department?

L. Kozo: In tool steel. [The tool steel department worked with a variety of carbon and alloy steels that make good tools due to their hardness and their resistance to abrasion.]

Bodnar: Tool steel?

L. Kozo: Tool steel, yes.

Bodnar: What did you do in tool steel?

L. Kozo: Well, we were most in the shipping department.

Bodnar: Now you're 19. How long did you stay there?

L. Kozo: In the shipping department?

Bodnar: Yes.

L. Kozo: Forty-two years.

Bodnar: Forty-two years. Boy, I guess you did stay there quite a while. Forty-two years. Wow. What position did you hold 12:00there in the shipping department? What exactly did you do? Did you change? Otherwise did you get a promotion or they change your job on you?

L. Kozo: No. promotion. I was a crane man [Operates a crane ; The type of craneman correlates to the type of crane being used (example: Skull Cracker Craneman)] till the end of my time.

Bodnar: For 42 years you were a crane man?

L. Kozo: Not forty-two. I was in the shipping department and straightening department, so forth.

Bodnar: Was that a better job, the crane operator, than when you started shipping?

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Did you ever think of leaving, maybe, and going somewhere else to work, or some other job, some other place, city?

M. Kozo: Selling. He had a lot of options.

L. Kozo: Yes, I was a salesman part-time all the time from—how long, Mary?

M. Kozo: During strikes.

L. Kozo: During the first big strike, it started.

Bodnar: Why didn't you decide—why didn't you say to yourself, 'Well, we've had enough of this. Why not go into selling? Why not go into something else?'

M. Kozo: He was good too.

Bodnar: In other words, what I'm after is why did you (inaudible)?

L. Kozo: When I started to sell, I think I had 18 years or something like that in the steel already, and you fall for this 13:00pension business, you know.

Bodnar: What do you mean, pension business?

L. Kozo: Well, they give you a pension when you retire. You see, after you work about 2,000 years then you get so much, then you get a dime.

Bodnar: So in other words, what you're thinking was, though—that's what I'm getting at—you felt why jeopardize whatever pension you might get.

L. Kozo: That's right. That's why most of the fellows stayed so long, because of the pension.

Bodnar: How about when you were a little younger, though? Why didn't you think about leaving then, maybe, when you weren't there so, before your pension?

L. Kozo: There was nothing.

Bodnar: There was nothing, no alternatives?

L. Kozo: No, no alternatives.

Bodnar: What were some of the goals or some of the things—let me just put it this way first. When did you get married?

L. Kozo: We got married in 1934.

Bodnar: 1934. Were there a few things you wanted to do? Were there a few goals you set for yourself? Did you want to go buy a car? Did you want to—in other words, what did you work for? That's what I'm getting at. What were you working for?

M. Kozo: We bought a house.

L. Kozo: We bought a house.

Bodnar: What was the first thing you bought? Was it a car, a house?

L. Kozo: A house. We bought a house.

14:00

Bodnar: Where did you buy a house?

M. Kozo: Hellertown.

L. Kozo: 1939, I think.

M. Kozo: 40 [1940].

L. Kozo: 40 [1940], yes, 1940, yes.

M. Kozo: Because Tommy was born in 1940.

L. Kozo: 1940. We bought a house in Hellertown.

Bodnar: That was your—

L. Kozo: Yeh, we built a house.

Bodnar: Were you still working after you got married?

M. Kozo: Yes, part-time. Yes, part-time until I had Tommy.

Bodnar: So you were working to get a little, kind of, to get..

M. Kozo: Yes, but not steady. There wasn't that much, just part-time.

Bodnar: During the 30's [1930], when you were working at the plant, were you on a reduced work schedule at all?

L. Kozo: Oh, yes, sometimes we worked two days a week, three days a week, four days a week.

Bodnar: Was there any opportunity to supplement your income? Could you go out and do anything else?

M. Kozo: No, nothing.

L. Kozo: No.

Bodnar: When do you start to feel that maybe you wanted to make some changes or make some changes in the plant and the 15:00workers' organization? I mean, does the Depression change your attitude toward things? In other words, if you're going to be active in a union, why weren't you active in '29 [1929]? Why is it '39 [1939]?

L. Kozo: There was no '29 [1929]. There was no union in '29 [1929].

Bodnar: Well, all right, but what I'm saying is that why weren't you motivated towards—see, I'm trying to— (recording paused)

L. Kozo: There was an Employees Representation Plan. [A plan in which employees were able to file grievances and were allowed to discuss problems with employers.] There was the ERP plan. You heard about that.

Bodnar: Oh, yes, I know about it.

L. Kozo: That's if they wanted guys like me, the union wanted fellows like me to get on their side, and I thought it was right that (inaudible).

Bodnar: So the union approached you, then?

L. Kozo: Yes. I signed up. My first union card, I know (inaudible).

Bodnar: Who came to you? Who came to you first of all and talked to you about the union? Do you remember?

L. Kozo: Our shop was the first shop in the steel company to get organized.

Bodnar: What shop was that, again?

L. Kozo: DH Tool steel. We were number one.

Bodnar: H tool steel?

L. Kozo: DH Tool steel, we were the number one shop in the plant and (inaudible).

Bodnar: Who organized you? Somebody must have come there, right?

L. Kozo: No, we all knew about it. It was simultaneous.

16:00

Bodnar: You did it yourself? Once you found out about the union, you took it upon yourselves?

L. Kozo: Yes. That's why there was no problem in DH Tool.

Bodnar: Who was in DH Tool? Was it mostly Hungarian men or was it—

L. Kozo: No, everything.

M. Kozo: (inaudible).

L. Kozo: Out of our little department, we had the first organizing committee. Phil Murray [In 1942, he served as the first president of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) and the first president of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA).] came to town one time and had a speech. He did a—where did he make that talk? At the armory. At the armory he talked. Then out of our little shop, I think we had the vice president of the union, we had the financial secretary of the union, and two guards were from our little shop.

Bodnar: So you have this shop that organizes. What year is this now?

L. Kozo: That must have been around 1937.

Bodnar: What follows from that? How do you start to organize the rest of the plant?

L. Kozo: Then we had our first strike. Our little shop walked out. We had the first walkout. We were not organized yet, and we took our jobs in our hands to do that, and that's how we started. An airplane flew over the steel company. That was the 17:00signal for us to walk out.

Bodnar: In '37 [1937]?

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: What was wrong with the company Employees Representative Plan? Why did you decide that you needed an outside union?

L. Kozo: That was company-dictated. We never got anything. Maybe a new pencil once in a while or something like that.

Bodnar: Did you have any seniority before the Depression? Was there such a thing as seniority in the plant before the union?

L. Kozo: They said they had to the ERP, but it didn't amount to anything. They could kick you out. If you worked there 30 years and a guy they liked there worked two seconds, they would have gave him a better job if they wanted to. There was no such thing as protection by seniority.

Bodnar: Did you get any raises before the union came in?

L. Kozo: Before the union? No, I don't remember. I don't think so.

Bodnar: So what did you walk out for in '37 [1937]? What was your goal?

L. Kozo: We wanted equal time. Like some fellows had come, they were on part-time. Some fellows would get four days. Some 18:00fellows would get two days. We wanted it equalized. Just simple as that.

Bodnar: A lot of this probably started during the Depression, right, where you'd be reduced to four and two, and what you wanted to do was equalize that, is that it?

L. Kozo: Yes. They showed partiality to different people.

M. Kozo: Shifts too. They worked three shifts.

Bodnar: When you say partiality to different people, was it based on ethnic groups at all or was it just individuals?

L. Kozo: I think it was based on everything, who they liked and ethnic and so forth. If you were ethnic, you had no chance to rise in those days.

Bodnar: When you say 'they' showed partiality, this is at the superintendent's level?

L. Kozo: Yes, the superintendent and assistant superintendent and general foreman.

Bodnar: They had quite a bit of control then.

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: What happened after '37 [1937] then? What happened? What was the fate of that walkout? Did you get what you wanted?

L. Kozo: Yes, we got it. We got it.

Bodnar: Would that just apply for you or the whole plant?

19:00

L. Kozo: Got us more enthused about the union and then sort of spread from shop to shop. The fellow that really organized Bethlehem Steel was a man by the name of Jack Lever. [Emil John (Jack) Lever served as Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) director for Bethlehem Steel union members.]

Bodnar: L-e-v—

L. Kozo: -e-r.

Bodnar: Where's he from?

L. Kozo: I think he organized Baldwin Locomotive and Disston, so he came in from Philadelphia. Before that, the Steelworkers Organizing Committee [Formed in 1936 as a union precursor, this organization became the United Steelworkers of America.] couldn't do a darn thing. But Jack Lever had brains. He was smart. He coordinated the steel drive in Bethlehem. What they did in Bethlehem, they did in steel, then they did it—everything was coordinated, you understand? It wasn't haphazard like before.

Bodnar: What was wrong with the SWOC? Why didn't they—

L. Kozo: Well, there was nothing wrong with it, but they had no leaders like Jack.

Bodnar: They didn't have the organization.

L. Kozo: No. They had the organization, but they had numbskulls coming here.

Bodnar: What was so good about Lever?

L. Kozo: Like I told you, he coordinated the whole steel drive, and then when he got about 9,000 signed-up members, for some 20:00reason he was kicked out of here. In comes another guy by the name of Van Bittner. [Van Amberg Bittner was a United Mine Workers organizer who later became involved in the CIO's efforts to organize the steel industry.] They named the steel—what do you call it—union hall after him. He was here about three seconds. They named the hall after him. You know what happens. That's union politics.

M. Kozo: Lever was real.

L. Kozo: When I packed Lever's car, I said, 'I'm quitting this union racket.' He told me, 'Son, that's your only hope. Don't ever quit that.' Still, he wasn't bitter, you know. Today he's up in Philadelphia organizing the consumers.

Bodnar: Oh, is he still at work?

L. Kozo: Consumers organizing. Terrific man.

Bodnar: Do you still see him occasionally?

L. Kozo: He sent me a letter a year or two ago.

Bodnar: What happened then after '37 [1937]? When do you have your first full-scale strike of the entire plant?

L. Kozo: After Lever left, he didn't want the first strike. He said, 'We're not ready. We're not ready to demand. We only can beg.' Phil Murray called a strike, and that's it. Then whatever they did, I don't know. He was a great compromiser. He 21:00was all right, Phil, but he was a great compromiser. Instead of getting a whole loaf of bread, we got a half.

Bodnar: When was this, now? When was this first strike?

L. Kozo: First strike, '39 [1939].

Bodnar: What did they ask for in '39 [1939], do you remember?

L. Kozo: I don't know. I don't know if we got a nickel-an-hour raise or something like that. It was ridiculous.

Bodnar: But what did they ask for, though? What did the union ask for? Recognition?

L. Kozo: Recognition. I don't know exactly what they asked for. Recognition was the first thing that they asked for.

Bodnar: What about in the union itself? Was there any differences? For example, how about were there some Mexicans or some blacks? Was there any conflict within the union between black and white or minority groups?

L. Kozo: There was no blacks working with us at that time, but there were Mexicans, and they were treated the same as the rest of the ethnics.

Bodnar: So they were an active part of the union also.

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: What about, say, were there some Irish in Bethlehem or maybe some German who probably were superintendents? Were 22:00there also Irish and German, though, in the ranks of the laborer?

L. Kozo: Well, that's what I say, in our department we had a fellow by the name of Tony Lynch (sp?). [Project staff were unable to identify this individual.] He was ERP president, I think of the ERP, or vice president, one of those things. He was high up in ERP, and he gave that up to join us. He was a good fighting Irishman.

Bodnar: Now, what was your role in the union itself? Did you assume any position in the local as an officer or an organizer?

L. Kozo: I was an inside guard at a first committee. Now, that's not in the annals of the thing, but the first organizing committee was elected by Phil Murray himself. John Ramsey [John Gates Ramsey was served as a vice president of a local union of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers at Bethlehem Steel in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, president of Steel Workers Organizing Committee Local 1409 in Bethlehem, and later a community organizer with the United Steelworkers of America.] was our president. Tony Lynch, that's the man I'm talking about, was our vice president. Steven Liberich (sp?) was our recording secretary. Johnny Petrillo (sp?) [Project staff were unable to identify this individual.] was our treasurer. Mitchell Shaffer [Schaffer was member of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and was the first president of United Steel Workers of America Local 1409] was our financial secretary. I was inside guard. Another man by the name of Petroski (sp?) [Project staff were unable to 23:00identify this individual.] was outside guard.

Bodnar: What did you do as inside guard?

L. Kozo: Well, nothing much, take care that there was no commotions made in the union meeting. That's all, it was simple you know.

Bodnar: Carry it down further now. Did you—

L. Kozo: (inaudible) our department Mitchell Schaffer, the financial secretary; Vice President Tony Lynch; Petroski, and myself was out of our department. Four of that committee was out of our—

M. Kozo: They approached each man. They did the dirty work. They approached each man at the risk of these men that in other departments, where they would be angry at them. They didn't want to be involved. They didn't want to be seen talking to them. But he, through his personality, got a lot of men interested, and they, in turn, got their friends. But he went to the different shops and talked to (inaudible).

L. Kozo: I got Frankie Velez (sp?) [Project staff were unable to identify this individual.] (inaudible).

M. Kozo: Yes, and how about (inaudible) till today, he claims that you—

24:00

L. Kozo: Yes, McFadden [Project staff were unable to identify this individual.], he's a shop steward now and he's an organizer for there. I got him too. I got a lot of people into it.

Bodnar: As you look back upon the 40-odd years that you spent in that particular department in the mill, how would you evaluate it in looking backwards? I mean, do you think you got overall a fair shake?

L. Kozo: It was all right. It's good. It's good. The union is very good for Bethlehem. It's the best thing that ever happened to Bethlehem.

Bodnar: How did the union actually help you, though? I mean, how did it help? What did it give you?

L. Kozo: After that, we got dignity in the shops. The foremen couldn't ride over you. I remember one time a man whose wife just died, he wanted to go to her funeral, he wanted to take off. 'I don't give a goddamn what you do.' That attitude stopped after the union got in, stuff like that.

Bodnar: What about pensions?

L. Kozo: Pensions are fine. We're living on a pension.

25:00

M. Kozo: We got three annual vacations.

L. Kozo: Yes, we got 13 weeks vacation.

Bodnar: How about, though, your job itself? Not looking at the union now, but how would you evaluate your 40 years there? Would you do it over?

L. Kozo: Oh, absolutely not.

Bodnar: You wouldn't?

L. Kozo: No, I would go into selling. I should have gone into selling a long time ago, because every time I went into part-time selling, why, I was successful and so was my wife, Mary. She's a salesgirl.

M. Kozo: The thing that got him was the pension promises.

L. Kozo: We were afraid to leave. You were in a rut, like, because after you have so many years in the darn thing, (inaudible) this is it.

Bodnar: Would you say that the men that supported the union in the late 30's [1930], did they tend to be some of the older workers who maybe had decided that they were going to be there, this is where they are now, we've been here a long time, so they try to improve their condition, as opposed to maybe younger men who may not have as much of a stake in the company now? 26:00In other words, would you say there was any age differences in the attitude towards the union, that younger men (inaudible)?

L. Kozo: The younger men wanted the union too.

Bodnar: Oh, they did want it?

L. Kozo: Oh, yes. They were very helpful. Today it's a little different, I hear. I don't know.

Bodnar: How about some of the older, the old-timers, maybe the first-generation people of your father's generation who probably were still working there, some of them, in the 30's [1930]? What was their attitude? They had been there a long time.

L. Kozo: Oh, they were behind you 100 percent.

Bodnar: Is that right?

L. Kozo: Yes. They were not afraid. Some were afraid, but I'd say about 95 percent were for it.

Bodnar: Did you have a family later?

M. Kozo: We had just one son.

Bodnar: You said you worked for, what, 42, 43 years?

L. Kozo: 42 years.

Bodnar: Is there anything else? How about were you active in any community church organizations?

M. Kozo: Well, he was always active. He used to manage girls' and boys' basketball and baseball.

L. Kozo: I was a manager during the Depression. I managed the Hungarian Sport Club. We even played the world's champion in 27:00soccer.

Bodnar: Oh, yes?

L. Kozo: Yes, the world's champion, Hungarian MTK. [Magyar Testgyakorlok Köre is the Hungarian Gymnastics Club.]

M. Kozo: And he was a good pitcher in his day.

L. Kozo: Yes, well, that was way back. But in the Depression, that's how we made our—kept alive a little bit, I got my food and things like that.

Bodnar: Was the Hungarian community here fairly well-knit at that time? I mean, were there a lot of activities like that among Hungarians, would you say?

M. Kozo: Yes.

L. Kozo: Yes. There aren't too many Hungarians around here. They're mostly Slavish [Term used to refer to people of Slovakian descent.] and—

M. Kozo: Italian.

L. Kozo: —German and Italian, and then Hungarian, I'd say.

Bodnar: How about during the 30's [1930] and 40's [1940]? Was there any other Hungarian cultural activities in Bethlehem? I mean, did they put on plays in Hungarian or have clubs?

L. Kozo: Yes, she was an actress on the Hungarian stage.

M. Kozo: They used to in the Hungarian Hall [Originally formed to help Croatian and Hungarian immigrants from Hungary and 28:00to promote the Christian Life in the spirit of the Roman Catholic Church.], they'd have all kinds of plays.

Bodnar: Like what? What were some of the plays? Do you remember names?

M. Kozo: Well, (inaudible).

Bodnar: Do you remember titles so you can give me an English translation?

M. Kozo: Not really.

L. Kozo: Squaring the Circle [Published in 1936 Square the Circle: A Play in Three Acts.] is one of them, I think, she played in.

Bodnar: Squaring the Circle?

L. Kozo: Yes. you remember that. That was a famous play.

Bodnar: That wasn't Hungarian. Was it Hungarian?

L. Kozo: No, it wasn't. I don't know. There was a famous playwright that wrote it. I don't know who (inaudible).

Bodnar: But did you perform them in Hungarian?

M. Kozo: In Hungarian.

Bodnar: Oh, in Hungarian. You would sometimes take modern plays and perform them in Hungarian?

M. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Growing up Hungarian in South Bethlehem, did most Hungarians tend to marry other Hungarians?

M. Kozo: No, not really. Would you say?

L. Kozo: No.

M. Kozo: We were unusual. I mean, we're both Hungarian. But like my sisters, none of them married Hungarians.

Bodnar: Would they marry, though, other Catholics?

M. Kozo: Not really, because both my sisters married non-Catholics. One of them turned.

Bodnar: So there wasn't that type of close (inaudible)?

M. Kozo: No, one of them married a Russian, and the other two were Dutch.

29:00

L. Kozo: We had a good childhood and boyhood.

M. Kozo: Happy.

L. Kozo: Boy, that was great. Even though it was the Depression, it was great.

M. Kozo: We didn't have any money, but we were wealthy. We were rich.

Bodnar: What did you do for good times, say, even when you were younger, back in the 20's [1920] or something?

L. Kozo: Baseball, sports, you know, and then dancing.

M. Kozo: Picnics.

L. Kozo: Swimming. Picnics. Anything.

Bodnar: Were they Hungarian picnics, family, church?

L. Kozo: No, any kind.

M. Kozo: Mixed groups.

L. Kozo: Any kind. Not necessarily Hungarian.

Bodnar: Did you have any Hungarian newspapers?

M. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Like what?

M. Kozo: My parents did. It was called Magyar népszava. That means People's Voice.

Bodnar: Was that a Hungarian paper?

M. Kozo: Yes. New York, I guess.

L. Kozo: They had a local one called (inaudible), and that meant—what was that? News Carrier or something like that, Newscaster.

M. Kozo: That was a weekly.

Bodnar: Did your parents ever make any attempt to have you speak Hungarian or ever say that they wanted you to maybe marry 30:00another Hungarian? Did they make any attempt to preserve your ethnic identity?

M. Kozo: Yes, they did, but they weren't strong.

Bodnar: In what ways?

M. Kozo: They would ask you, they would say there wouldn't be as much problems as there are in marriage if your language or your faith is the same, that it would help. But they weren't strong. They were against the other religions. They would just explain to you.

Bodnar: Did you keep or practice any customs as children growing up in your home that would be peculiar to your ethnic group?

M. Kozo: Well, the Catholic part of it, we did, like Fridays and the foods around Eastertime and Christmastime. It would be traditional Hungarian—

Bodnar: What is traditional Hungarian food around Christmastime or Eastertime?

M. Kozo: I guess kolache [Nut roll.] and my parents used to—

L. Kozo: Pastry.

M. Kozo: All kinds of kiffles [Fruit or nut filled pastries.] and—

L. Kozo: Hungarian, they say, is the fourth greatest cookery in the world. They have the Chinese, number one, and the 31:00Italian, then they have Hungarian and then they have one more, French. Chinese is number one.

M. Kozo: Then on Holy Saturday we would take like sausage and bread and kiffles and kolache and all kinds of—

L. Kozo: You have a Hungarian name, (inaudible). Are you Hungarian?

M. Kozo: —take all the food to church and get it blessed. Then we didn't dare waste crumbs, because it was blessed food.

L. Kozo: How old are you?

Bodnar: Thirty.

L. Kozo: You're two years younger than our son, Tom. Where did you go to school? (recording paused)

L. Kozo: Jack Lever in Bethlehem, there's nothing written in the annals, but he made the union. Not Phil Murray or none of them; it was Jack.

M. Kozo: Guys like him did, because (inaudible).

L. Kozo: After he left, the politicians stepped in and took over.

Bodnar: If you're approaching, as you're approaching, the various men, what kind of attitudes were you getting? What were some of the negative attitudes? What were some of the reasons people gave you why they wouldn't join? I'm sure not everybody—

32:00

L. Kozo: Fear.

Bodnar: Fear, mostly?

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: It was not that they—they were supportive of the union, and it's just that they were—

M. Kozo: They'd say, 'I like you and I like the idea, but I'm afraid.'

Bodnar: Of losing their jobs.

L. Kozo: And there was self-seekers that wanted to be foremen. Like I was approached to be assistant superintendent, foreman, general foreman, if I would have just—

Bodnar: Gone along with the company plan?

L. Kozo: By big men, not little men, they asked me. Mr. Cusick (sp?) [Project staff were unable to identify this individual.] was one of them.

Bodnar: You said before you'd never see a Hungarian superintendent, or something, or Windish [Term used to refer to people whose ancestors came from Prekmurje, a mountainous region in eastern Slovenia.] or whatever.

L. Kozo: No, there's no such thing.

Bodnar: When did they start to come? There must have eventually came to a point where you started to see Hungarian foremen or superintendents.

M. Kozo: Yes, foremen.

Bodnar: Might have been a long time.

L. Kozo: After the second strike, then I think they started.

Bodnar: When was that?

L. Kozo: I don't remember anymore. After '40-something [1940]. Every three years I think they had a strike for a while. I couldn't pin it down.

M. Kozo: People that were against it most were the ones whose children were maybe going to college. They thought they were 33:00better than you. Now I think the strongest union now is like the teachers union, but they were against you the most. Your best friends would come up and say, 'There'll never be a union in Bethlehem Steel,' things like that, and they'd be your best friends.

L. Kozo: I know the teachers were against us.

Bodnar: Why were the teachers against you?

M. Kozo: They were especially against us.

L. Kozo: They thought they were somebody. They were getting maybe three cents an hour more than me, but they thought they were—they were professionals at that time. One teacher (inaudible), he did on the side, he said, 'Don't ever be ashamed of doing what you're doing.'

M. Kozo: Well, we weren't.

Bodnar: The teachers were telling your children that or—you're talking about schoolteachers, right?

M. Kozo: Yes. Yes, telling him.

L. Kozo: Friends of mine that I went to high school with.

Bodnar: Were there any other segments of the community that were either for the union or against the union?

L. Kozo: Oh, yes, the storekeepers. 'What do you want?' they'd ask you.

Bodnar: They were against it, is that it?

L. Kozo: Oh, definitely.

M. Kozo: They'd never had to work 11 to 7, 3 to 11, work weekends and have off during the week. We could never socialize or 34:00go anywhere because he was always scheduled to work weekends and have off during the week. Other people that didn't work in the Steel, you couldn't get together with them because they had off weekends and they never had to work nights. The men would work 11 to 7. They'd come home 7 in the morning. Well, if it wasn't quiet or it was very hot, they couldn't sleep, but they still had to go back to work. People didn't live under those conditions that didn't work in the Steel.

L. Kozo: I remember one liberal lawyer said he don't believe in shorter hours, and he was a liberal. He said he was for us. He didn't believe in shorter hours, he said, because he himself worked 16 hours a day sometimes. I said, 'Well, Mr. Lawyer.' I'm not mentioning names. I said, 'Mr. Lawyer, how'd you like to work, come out on a Sunday, 11 to seven, 90 degrees, and stick a piece of steel into a machine for 8 hours, stand on your feet for 8 hours and do that for a whole week, and then the 35:00shift changes to middle shift, and put that same piece of steel in that machine for 8 hours. See if you can work 16 hours.' Then he shut up. I stumped him at a meeting.

Bodnar: Were there things that you did maybe if it became boring or monotonous or hard or hot? Were there things you developed maybe to cope with that, kind of make it easier on yourself? Did you ever, I don't know, you and the guys in the shop, a card game or something or kind of break the—

L. Kozo: Well, we had a lot of things like horseplay and all that stuff and talk, and we took time off.

M. Kozo: At that time.

L. Kozo: Yes, at that time. (recording paused)

L. Kozo: I respected him, but they had to do what they had to do because orders came from main office, not from them.

Bodnar: Was there any leading political figures in Bethlehem that were, let's see, very widely supported by the steelworkers 36:00or by the Hungarians?

L. Kozo: Oh, yes.

Bodnar: In other words, that reflected your point of view and that were on your side, so to speak.

L. Kozo: At first we couldn't get a union hall to have our meetings in. We couldn't get a school, even. The first man that spoke out for us was Frank Buchin. [Francis W. Bucchin (d. 1960) was a State Representative for Northampton County, Pennsyvlania District 1.]

Bodnar: What's his name again?

L. Kozo: Francis Buchim, B-u-c-h-i-n.

Bodnar: What was he?

L. Kozo: He was a school (inaudible).

Bodnar: Was he Hungarian?

M. Kozo: He was Italian (inaudible).

L. Kozo: And he also became a state representative in the legislature in Harrisburg. He was the first one.

Bodnar: Is he still living, do you know?

L. Kozo: No, Frank died.

M. Kozo: He's another beautiful person.

L. Kozo: He was the first one. And after that, the gates are open and we couldn't get any school after that. We elected more liberal school directors.

Bodnar: Was there anyone else you can think of that stands out as a leader?

L. Kozo: You mean locally?

Bodnar: Yes, local political figures.

L. Kozo: Oh, I don't know if there—I don't remember any, do you?

37:00

Bodnar: Who was Francis Walters? [Francis E. Walter served as the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania from 1932 till his death in 1963.] Do you know?

L. Kozo: Yes, he was a congressman, congressman, state.

Bodnar: Where did he stand? Or don't you remember?

L. Kozo: After we won a strike, I think he came over on our—but they never opened our mouth. He was a tool of the Steel, I think.

M. Kozo: It was dreadful during the strike.

Bodnar: What do you mean, it was dreadful?

M. Kozo: Well, everybody who—you know, there was no work. Everybody was out. They had the state cops.

Bodnar: What strike is this, '39 [1939]?

L. Kozo: Yes.

M. Kozo: They had the state cops, they would run you down. I remember my one sister was hit with a switch because you were in their way.

Bodnar: What did you call the state cop? Did you have any names for them?

L. Kozo: Oh, that was wild. I remember the New York Times guy come up to me, he says, 'Hey, son, it's not worth risking your life for, you know. Take care.'

M. Kozo: We marched.

L. Kozo: Yes. He was nice about it, and they were up on the roof with motion pictures. They took motion pictures of the whole damn thing. State troopers were all over. Bottles were flying from rooftops (inaudible).

M. Kozo: They overturned cars, you know.

38:00

L. Kozo: I guess they had a thousand cars overturned.

M. Kozo: Then when they won the strike, then there was a huge parade.

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: During the circumstances you started out in the steel plant, do you feel that you were capable of doing something else?

L. Kozo: My super asked me one time, he says, 'I bet you'd like to have my job. You think you could do my job?' I said, 'Within a week, I would.'

Bodnar: Did you feel a sense of frustration that you knew there probably was this kind of gap there? It was against you, right, in a sense?

L. Kozo: Well, they picked foremens that would conform, you know, and things like that.

Bodnar: But even a superintendent, did you ever feel that you could become a superintendent?

L. Kozo: No, no, no.

Bodnar: Did you realize that because you were Hungarian, for example, that might not have been the only reason, but it was one of the reasons why you could not? Did you feel that way? Were you aware of that fact?

L. Kozo: Yes, I was aware of that fact of never being super.

Bodnar: Or are you seeing that now looking back upon it?

L. Kozo: I knew that I couldn't.

Bodnar: You knew it at the time.

39:00

L. Kozo: Oh, yes, I knew that. They only took college men into that category, assistant super.

Bodnar: How about foremen, though?

L. Kozo: Foremen, they took their pets, you know. That's what they did.

Bodnar: Do you feel that your work benefited your children?

L. Kozo: Did I what?

Bodnar: All the years that you put in there at the steel mill, did it benefit your family, your children, do you feel in the end?

L. Kozo: I think so. We got through all right and the kid got through college, but he didn't have to depend on me. He got a scholarship to Lafayette. [A private, four-year college located in Easton, Pennsylvania.]

Bodnar: Where did you live when you were working at the mill? Did you live where you could walk to work or was it close?

L. Kozo: Yes. We lived on 4th Street for a while. That was only about four blocks from the steel mill.

Bodnar: Was that why you lived there, or was there another reason? Did you want to be near the—

L. Kozo: No, it was nice. It was nice to live there.

M. Kozo: It was nice to live on the South Side.

Bodnar: Did you want to be near work or church or something like that, or was it—

M. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Was that one of the main—

M. Kozo: You did, yes. You wanted to be within walking distance to school, to your shopping center and work.

40:00

Bodnar: Was your job hazardous?

L. Kozo: Yes, the last job I had was very hazardous.

Bodnar: Go ahead. I mean, how do you mean it was hazardous?

L. Kozo: There was only one machine like that in the country, I think. They call it a stacker, stacker crane, and it's in the tool steel department now. They only have, I think, one like that in the whole darn country. They stack steel. It would stack steel in tiers, you know, and you would have alleyways. You had to go through those alleyways, which was about maybe a quarter—I wouldn't say a quarter mile, I'd say about 300 yards, you know, alleyways, and eight alleyways, and they had tiers of steel in between those alleyways, and they could fall on you. When you pull those things of steel out with that stacker, 41:00you had to go maybe 30 feet high to pull 6,000 pounds. I was always afraid of something falling on me.

Bodnar: Go ahead.

M. Kozo: He was hurt a couple of times, but not seriously, fortunately.

Bodnar: Did you ever complain? Did you say to your superintendent or something, 'Let's do something (inaudible)'?

L. Kozo: Yes, we spent about five or six million dollars fizzle, so they couldn't—no matter what you said, they couldn't do nothing about it.

Bodnar: What do you mean it was a five-million-dollar fizzle?

L. Kozo: Well, it's ridiculous. Like the shipping department, they'd ship 62 bars every shift, and that stacker would take 62 items out every shift, and that's all it was capable of. Before the stacker, you could have got 400 items out, but, you know, heads would roll at the main office.

Bodnar: So they didn't spend any more money to try to make it safer?

L. Kozo: They couldn't. It was ruined. They would have had to say they threw five million dollars in the sewer.

M. Kozo: It would break down.

L. Kozo: No, it was no—it was useless. Even if it ran at best capacity, that's all it could do. It couldn't only do—so it 42:00was limited. We were glad. All the guys were glad, but the stacker operator, the guys were glad because they only got 62 items, and before that they could have got 300 items, maybe 500 items if they wanted to.

Bodnar: You said before that you knew in the years you were working there that you'd never become a superintendent or a foreman or something like that. What were the reasons, in your own mind? Why did you feel like that? Why did you feel that they wouldn't make you the superintendent? Or not the superintendent, maybe the foreman, why did you feel that way? Why did you feel that when you were maybe 28 or 29, 30?

L. Kozo: Like I say, because it was hopeless. There was no chance for an ethnic man to get to be a foreman, no chance at all.

Bodnar: There was no chance at all?

L. Kozo: No, no chance at all. No chance.

Bodnar: Did you try? Was there anything you could have tried to do as any of the Hungarians?

L. Kozo: Well, maybe I'm a little bit too—but our group was tied. See, we were the first ones to start the union, and it was like blackballed. That union couldn't move. I mean, those people couldn't move, and had brilliant men in there. The minute 43:00they got out of our department, they became somebody in the other departments. They either became union—what would you call it? Organizers?

M. Kozo: Yes.

L. Kozo: Not shop stewards, but in the organization itself.

Bodnar: But when did you start in the mill, your first job?

L. Kozo: 1929.

Bodnar: How about from '29 [1929] to, say, '36 [1936] or '37 [1937], for those first six or seven years, were you hindered also by maybe the Depression too?

L. Kozo: The Depression was in full swing. It was terrible. The blast furnaces [The blast furnace is a type of metallurgical furnace used for smelting to produce industrial metals.] were down. It was all rusted (inaudible) Bethlehem. There wasn't one blast furnace working.

Bodnar: What were some of the old-timers that worked there, like when you were starting out? Did they use to tell you about how things were years before that with the company?

L. Kozo: Yeh. Well, it was harder. They did more manual work, by hand.

Bodnar: How did they feel? Were they bitter or were they happy with the jobs that they had? Do you remember talking to some?

44:00

L. Kozo: It was just a job. That's all. They were neither bitter or they were not happy.

Bodnar: Was there any folklore in the mills? Were there any stories passed down or tales? You know what I'm getting at?

L. Kozo: Yes, I know what you're getting at.

Bodnar: Were there any particular stories?

L. Kozo: The old-timers used to brag about how hard they had it with puddling mills [A puddler was responsible for turning pig iron into wrought iron. This job required a great deal of skill.], they called it. They puddled it by hand, the hot steel. Now they have open hearths and electric furnaces.

Bodnar: Were there any songs passed down?

L. Kozo: No.

Bodnar: Stories, things like that?

L. Kozo: No.

Bodnar: Can't remember?

L. Kozo: Are you going elsewhere in Bethlehem?

Bodnar: Today? (recording paused)

L. Kozo: (inaudible) they didn't care about that. Jack Lever told me. I told him that. I says Lehigh's [Most likely referring to Lehigh University.] against us and (inaudible).

M. Kozo: Well, they controlled it.

L. Kozo: He told me, he says, 'Son, you just get the donkey in the steel company. Get 8,000 in Lehigh and (inaudible) will fall in line,' and that's what happened. (recording paused)

Bodnar: (inaudible) Eugene Grace [Served as the President and then Chairman of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation from 1913 45:00to 1945 and served as Chairman of the Board from 1945 to 1957.] was—

L. Kozo: Not the '39 [1939] strike. The one after that.

Bodnar: The one strike after that, about '42 [1942]?

L. Kozo: It was cold, bitter, and he asked us if we wanted coal. Mr. Grace asked us if we wanted coal. Then we asked him—

Bodnar: He came out and talked to the pickets.

L. Kozo: Yeh, he was nice to us. I remember one of the boys asked when the strike would end he said he don't know, it's not in his hands; it's in New York's hands, you know.

Bodnar: At that time, was Mr. Grace head of just the Bethlehem plant, or was he head of the—

L. Kozo: He was the boss of the whole thing. You want an amusing story about Mr. Grace? You know, Mr. Grace held a golf tournament at the country club. All the greatest golfers in our land were here, scheduled to come here, and we had Mr. Grace's caddy working in our department. He was Mr. Grace's caddy. And our general foreman, he was a guy that was raised by 46:00the Hitler Youth. [Formed in the 1920, this was youth organization of the Nazi party.] He was a German. We tried to get rid of him for about ten years and couldn't. So this caddy was told that he has to report up at the country club because he's going to be Mr. Grace's caddy that day. So he didn't tell that to the foreman, but he asked the foreman off. He says, 'Can I have off tomorrow?' The foreman said, 'You may not have off.' The caddy said, 'Can I have off?' He said, 'No, you can't have off.' 'Okay, you said I can't have off. (inaudible)' Comes the next day, the caddy is working. Pretty soon our super gets a phone call from the country club, 'Where the hell is Mac?' 'Why?' 'Well, he's supposed to caddy for Mr. Grace.' Oh, my God, the roof fell in. Then this foreman comes tearing over to Mac and says, 'You got to be at the country club.' 'You can go to hell. You go to the country club.' He said he knelt down and was pleading with Mac to go to—he wouldn't go. 47:00Two days later, that foreman was out of there.

Bodnar: Is that right?

L. Kozo: That's great. It's the best thing that ever happened.

Bodnar: He was out because he couldn't get the guy to go up to the country club, huh?

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Would they transfer him to another department?

L. Kozo: Yes. (inaudible).

Bodnar: That's funny. What did you say, this foreman was—

L. Kozo: He belonged to the Hitler Youth and he was trained that way.

Bodnar: Before he came to this country?

L. Kozo: Yes.

Bodnar: Okay. Thank you very much for your information.

(end of recording)

0:00 - Introduction and Lewis Kozo's Childhood

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Partial Transcript: This is an interview in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on July 15, 1974, with Mr. Lewis Kozo, K-o-z-o, and his wife, Mary Kozo...

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer, John Bodnar, introduces the interviewees, Lewis and Mary Kozo. He then asks Mr. Kozo about his childhood. Lewis relates that he was born near 2nd Street in 1908 and grew up on Atlantic Street in the South Side of Bethlehem. A few notes on the interview: The interviewer has a vocal and dominant style. This, paired with Lewis Kozo's wealth of stories, often lead to Mary Kozo being marginalized in the interview. Her voice and contributions are minimal compared to her husband's, however, she provides insightful stories related to life in Bethlehem, as well as the role of women in the Bethlehem community and industries beyond steel. Please also note that the quality of the audio fluctuates throughout the interview.

Keywords: Bethlehem (Pa.); childhood; South Bethlehem (Bethlehem, Pa.)

0:53 - Lewis Kozo's Family Background

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Partial Transcript: Where were your parents from?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo shares that both of his parents immigrated from Saint Gotthard, a village in Hungary, to the United States in the 1890s. His father specifically moved to Bethlehem because he had connections who worked for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Similarly, his mother had heard from friends about job opportunities working as a weaver in a silk mill (which she had done in Hungary, as well). Occasionally, Mary Kozo's voice can be heard in the back ground as she speaks to her husband Lewis.

Keywords: Bethlehem (Pa.); Bethlehem Steel Corporation; factories; family; Hungarians; Hungary; immigration; silk mills

2:07 - Lewis Kozo's Father's Work in the Plant

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Partial Transcript: Where did your father work in the plant?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo explains that his father, Joseph Kozo, worked as a heater in the rolling mills at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. His job was to heat the steel without burning it so that it could be shaped properly. Joseph Kozo worked at the Steel for about 15 years before he passed away. Lewis Kozo states that his father died when he was 15 years old.

Keywords: Bethlehem Steel Corporation; death; family; heaters; roller lines; rollers; rolling mills

2:55 - Ethnic Composition of Lewis Kozo's Neighborhood

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Partial Transcript: Did you grow up in a neighborhood that was primarily Hungarian, or were there other people living there too?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo comments that it was "very nice" to grow up in a multi-ethnic community, which included Hungarian, German, and Italian families.

Keywords: communities; ethnic groups; Germans; Hungarians; Italians

3:11 - Mary Kozo's Family Background

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Partial Transcript: Mrs. Kozo, can I ask you were you were born?

Segment Synopsis: The audio in this segment is somewhat distorted by feedback. Mary Kozo (nee Hock) discusses her family's background. Similarly to Lewis' parents, Mary's parents, Joseph J. Hock and Anna Velas, immigrated from a village in Hungary to Palmerton (Pa.) around the 1890s because they had friends in the area and there was available work. Mary's father worked as a stonemason and a bricklayer in Hungary, a profession that he later continued during his employment with the Bethlehem Steel Corporation.

Keywords: Bethlehem Steel Corporation; bricklaying gangs; childhood; family; friends; Hungarians; Hungary; immigration; stonemason

5:11 - Mary Kozo's Childhood and Early Work

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Partial Transcript: Where did you (Mary) grow up?

Segment Synopsis: Mary Kozo also grew up on the South Side of Bethlehem (Pa), on 4th Street. As a child, she attended a Hungarian school for 8 years, during which time she learned how to read and write in Hungarian. She went to work as a teenager at a grocery store and later at the Laros Silk Mill. She and her two sisters (one of whom passed away) worked from a young age to help their family during the Great Depression. Mary attended a continuation school, which offered flexible attendance hours to accommodate students' work schedules.

Keywords: childhood; children; death; education; family; Great Depression; Hungarians; laborers; Laros Silk Mill; silk mills; South Bethlehem (Bethlehem, Pa.); St. John's Capistrano

6:35 - Mary Kozo's Work at the Laros Silk Mill

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Partial Transcript: Did many young girls go to the silk mill at that time?

Segment Synopsis: Mary Kozo explains that during the Great Depression she worked long hours for low wages at the Laros Silk Mill. Kozo describes that the Laros Silk Mill was divided into two sections, one for spinning and one for sewing. She says that she began work in the spinning department and moved to the sewing department after she was married. She touches upon her efforts to organize the women who worked in the Silk Mill.

Keywords: gender; Great Depression; laborers; Laros Silk Mill; silk mills; unions; wages; working conditions

7:33 - Mary Kozo's Attempts to Organize Laborers at the Silk Mill

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Partial Transcript: Who was trying to organize the thread mill?

Segment Synopsis: Mary Kozo describes her efforts to organize the workers at Laros with the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union during the Great Depression (around 1937). Though Mary picketed alone and lost some of her friends, she believed in advocating for better working conditions. She states, "I felt great about it. I felt good because I tried to help them as well as myself." Lewis Kozo interjects at the end of the segment and Mary responds.

Keywords: gender; Great Depression; International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU); laborers; Laros Silk Mill; organizing; silk mills; unions; wages; working conditions

9:50 - Lewis Kozo's Early Employment

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Partial Transcript: What about your first job, Mr. Kozo? When did you start working full-time?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo recounts his early work history. As a teenager, he worked as a weaver at the Sauquoit Silk Mill. He indicates that he learned this trade from his mother. At 19, he scouted for and began work at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Lewis shares that he wished he could have gone to college, but needed to work during the Great Depression. The interviewer asks if Lewis' ethnicity helped him secure work. Lewis clarifies that most of the higher up positions were taken by English and German (Pennsylvania Dutch) individuals, rather than more recent immigrants, such as Hungarians.

Keywords: Bethlehem Steel Corporation; careers; education; ethnic groups; family; foremen; gender; Germans; Great Depression; Hungarians; immigration; laborers; Sauquoit Silk Mill; silk mills; weaving

11:37 - Lewis Kozo's Positions at the Steel Plant

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Partial Transcript: Where did you get your first job, what department?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo shares that he began working in the Tool Steel Department and went on to work in the shipping department, the straightening department, and as a crane operator. In total, he worked at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation for 42 years. He and Mary recall that during strikes he also worked part-time as a salesman. However, he decided to stay at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation because of the pension he would receive when he retired. Lewis humorously remarks, "You see, after you work about 2,000 years then you get so much, then you get a dime." He adds that he felt there were no other opportunities during, and even after, the Great Depression.

Keywords: benefits; Bethlehem Steel Corporation; crane operators; cranes; Great Depression; pensions; Shipping Department; strikes; Tool Steel Department

13:31 - The Kozos' Early Married Life

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Partial Transcript: What were some of the goals or some of the things... When did you get married?

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, The Kozos discuss their early married life. They were married in 1934 and built a house in Hellertown in 1939. During the Great Depression, their work schedules were significantly decreased; Lewis sometimes was only able to work two days a week.

Keywords: children; Great Depression; marriage; residences; shifts; wages

14:50 - Employee Representation Plan and the Union

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Partial Transcript: When do you start to feel that maybe you wanted to make some changes... in the plant and the workers' organization? I mean, does the Depression change your attitude toward things?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo recounts the early history of organizing workers at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Although there was no union in the 1920s, the laborers had the Employee Representation Plan, which allowed them to file grievances and discuss problems with their employers. Lewis got involved with the union in the late 1930s when his shop was the "first shop in the steel company to get organized." In Lewis Kozo's account, the laborers in the DH Tool Department were all eager to organize themselves into the union.

Keywords: Employee Representation Plan; organizing; Tool Steel Department; union cards; unions; United Steelworkers of America

16:13 - Union Activities in the DH Tool Shop

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Partial Transcript: Out of our little department, we had the first organizing committee. Phil Murray came to town one time and had a speech.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo continues to discuss the important role that his shop played in organizing the steel workers in 1937. His shop also organized the first strike at the plant. Lewis states, "We had the first walkout. We were not organized [in a union] yet, and we took our jobs in our hands to do that, and that's how we started. An airplane flew over the steel company. That was the signal for us to walk out."

Keywords: Bethlehem Steel Corporation; organizing; Phil Murray; strikes; Tool Steel Department; unions; United Steelworkers of America

17:09 - Reasons for Wanting to Join a Union

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Partial Transcript: What was wrong with the company Employees Representative Plan? Why did you decide that you needed an outside union?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo clarifies that the laborers at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation preferred to join a union because the alternative (the Employee Representation Plan) was "company dictated." Lewis also felt that the Employee Representation Plan failed to protect laborers, because they used preferential treatment, regardless of seniority. The laborers organized to advocate for better working conditions, including "equal time" (shifts), better wages, and a leveling of opportunities. The 1937 strike had a positive impact for the laborers, as the company met their demands.

Keywords: assistant superintendents; Bethlehem Steel Corporation; Employee Representation Plan; ethnic groups; foremen; Great Depression; organizing; shifts; superintendents; unions; wages; working conditions

19:01 - Working with Union Organizer Jack Lever

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Partial Transcript: [The 1937 walk out] got us more enthused about the union and then sort of spread from shop to shop. The fellow that really organized Bethlehem Steel was a man by the name of Jack Lever.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo credits Emil John (Jack) Lever with being the main organizer of the union. He says that Lever was able to coordinate the Steelworkers Organizing Committee after his work organizing the Baldwin Locomotive and Disston laborers in Philadelphia. After securing 9,000 signatures, Lever was replaced by another organizer, Van Amberg Bittner. When Lever left, he advised Lewis that the union was "your only hope. Don't ever quit that."

Keywords: Bethlehem Steel Corporation; Emil John (Jack) Lever; organizing; Steelworkers' Organizing Committee; unions; United Steelworkers of America

20:45 - 1939 Strike

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Partial Transcript: What happened after '37? When do you have your first full-scale strike of the entire plant?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo continues to explain more about the early history of organizing the union across the entire plant. After Jack Lever left, Phil Murray organized the first plant-wide strike in 1939, but Lewis was disappointed by the relatively small gains that the laborers made. According to Lewis, the main goal of the 1939 strike was "recognition" of the union.

Keywords: Bethlehem Steel Corporation; organizing; Phil Murray; strikes; unions; wages

21:26 - Race, Ethnicity, and the Union

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Partial Transcript: What about in the union itself? Was there any differences?

Segment Synopsis: According to Lewis Kozo, the union treated workers the same regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality. He also claims that minority workers, including Mexicans, were active in the union.

Keywords: ethnic groups; race; unions

22:22 - Lewis Kozo's Role as a Guard in the Union

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Partial Transcript: Now, what was your role in the union itself? Did you assume an position in the local as an officer or an organizer?

Segment Synopsis: Note that the audio is somewhat distorted in this segment. Lewis Kozo continues to recount the early history of the union. He relates that Phil Murray coordinated the first organizing committee, on which Lewis served as "inside guard." According to Lewis, his job was to "take care that there was no commotions made in the union meeting. That’s all, it was simple you know." Mary Kozo interjects. She points out that Lewis was integral to getting people interested in joining the union because he was very personable.

Keywords: guards; organizing; Phil Murray; Steelworkers' Organizing Committee; unions

24:14 - Benefits of the Union

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Partial Transcript: As you look back upon the 40-dd years that you spent in that particular department in the mill, how would you evaluate it in looking backwards? I mean, do you think you got overall a fair shake?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo shares that he thinks that the union is "the best thing that ever happened to Bethlehem." In terms of benefits, Lewis feels that the union brought laborers "more dignity in the shops." Lewis and Mary also are living off of the pensions that they received, which was the main benefit that kept Lewis working at the company for so many years. As in other segments, here Mary's contribution is minimized by the interviewer and her husband speaking over her.

Keywords: benefits; pensions; unions; United Steelworkers of America

25:42 - Attitudes Among Older and Younger Workers Toward the Union

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Partial Transcript: Would you say that the men that supported the union in the late 30's, did they tend to be be some of the older workers who maybe had decided that they were going to be there... so they try to improve their condition, as opposed to maybe younger men who may not have as much of a stake in the company now?

Segment Synopsis: According the Lewis Kozo, both the younger and older laborers wanted to support the union. Lewis remarks, "They were behind it 100%."

Keywords: family; laborers; organizing; unions

26:44 - Hungarian Community Life

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything else? How about were you active in any community church organizations?

Segment Synopsis: During the Great Depression, Lewis Kozo worked as a manager at the Hungarian Sports Club, where he managed the girls' and boys' basketball and baseball team in order to earn extra income. The Kozos were also active in the Hungarian community. Mary Kozo acted in plays and musicals at the Hungarian Hall.

Keywords: arts; communities; culture; Germans; Great Depression; Hungarian Club; Hungarian Hall; Hungarians; Italians; Slavish

28:26 - Ethnicity and Marriage

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Partial Transcript: Growing up Hungarian in South Bethlehem, did most Hungarians tend to marry other Hungarians?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis and Mary Kozo indicate that there was a lot of inter-marriage among different ethnic and religious groups within the Bethlehem community. Although Lewis and Mary are both Hungarian, Mary's sisters married non-Hungarians and non-Catholics.

Keywords: communities; ethnic groups; family; Hungarians; marriage; South Bethlehem (Bethlehem, Pa.)

29:03 - Growing Up During the Great Depression

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Partial Transcript: We had a good childhood and boyhood.

Segment Synopsis: Despite their lack of financial wealth, both Lewis and Mary Kozo state that they felt "rich" during the Great Depression. They enjoyed social activities with their friends and neighbors, including sports, dancing, and picnics.

Keywords: communities; dance; Great Depression; neighborhoods; social life

29:28 - Preserving Hungarian Identity

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Partial Transcript: Did you have any Hungarian newspapers?

Segment Synopsis: Mary and Lewis Kozo explain that they learned how to preserve their Hungarian cultural values while growing up through Hungarian newspapers and preparing special foods, such as kiffles, especially in connection to Catholic holidays. At the end of this segment, Lewis Kozo begins to question the interviewer. The interview then seems to cut off for a section and to begin again in the middle of a conversation about the union.

Keywords: culture; ethnic groups; family; food; food and drink; heritage; holidays; news; religion

31:38 - Difficulties Organizing the Union

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Partial Transcript: Jack Lever in Bethlehem, there's nothing written in the annals, but he made the union. Not Phil Murray or none of them; it was Jack.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo insists that despite official union history records, Jack Lever was fundamental in establishing the union. When asked what kept people from joining the unions, both Lewis and Mary Kozo explain that some people feared losing their jobs while others were only interested in personal gain.

Keywords: Bethlehem Steel Corporation; Emil John (Jack) Lever; organizing; Phil Murray; unions; United Steelworkers of America

32:27 - Ethnicity and Managerial Positions

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Partial Transcript: You said before you'd never see a Hungarian superintendent, or something, or Windish, or whatever... When did they start to come?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo explains that Hungarians and members of other ethnic minorities did not work in management positions until some time after the second strike (around 1940).

Keywords: Bethlehem Steel Corporation; ethnic groups; foremen; strikes; superintendents; unions

32:56 - Oppostion to the Union

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Partial Transcript: People that were against it [the union] the most were the ones whose children were maybe going to college. They thought they were better than you...

Segment Synopsis: Mary and Lewis explain that some members of the community, including many teachers, did not support the union at Bethlehem Steel. According to Lewis, the teachers did not support the steelworkers' union because "They thought they were somebody. They were getting maybe three cents an hour more than me, but they thought they
were—they were professionals at that time." This statement indicates the struggles that existed between blue and white workers. They also experienced difficulties with some local storekeepers and others who did not believe that the steelworkers were overworked and underpaid. Note that the sound at the end of the segment is somewhat distorted.

Keywords: education; laborers; neighborhoods; organizing; shifts; social life; unions; United Steelworkers of America; working conditions

35:52 - Political Support for the Union

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Partial Transcript: Was there any leading political figures in Bethlehem that were, let's see, very widely supported by the steelworkers or by the Hungarians?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo explains that the union was not even able to find a place to meet during the early days of organizing. However, one of the first political figures that spoke on behalf of the union was Frank Bucchin, who later became a State Representative. According to Kozo, the union organizers had an easier time accessing public meeting spaces following Bucchin's support.

Keywords: organizing; politics; unions; United Steelworkers of America

37:20 - Violence During the 1939 Strike

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Partial Transcript: It was dreadful during the strike.

Segment Synopsis: Mary and Lewis Kozo recount the violence that they witnessed and experienced during the 1939 Strike. According to Mary Kozo, "state cops, they would run you down." She also recalls her sister "was hit with a switch" because she was "in their way." The Kozos describe angry, unemployed protesters marching and even overturning cars. They remember that when the strike was won "there was a huge parade" to celebrate the victory.

Keywords: laborers; strikes; unemployment; United Steelworkers of America

38:09 - Ethnicity, Education, and Managerial Positions

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Partial Transcript: Given the circumstances you started out in the steel plant, do you feel that you were capable of doing something else?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo recalls being aware of the fact that he would never be promoted to being a superintendent or a foreman because he did not have a college education and he did not conform to the status quo. According to Lewis, "they took their pets," meaning workers who would conform to the company's interests.

Keywords: Bethlehem Steel Corporation; education; ethnic groups; foremen; Hungarians; superintendents

39:13 - Son's Education

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Partial Transcript: Do you feel that your work benefited your children?

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer questions Lewis Kozo about the economic and familial value of his work. Kozo replies, "We got through all right and the kid got through college, but he didn’t have to depend on me. He got a scholarship to Lafayette." The Kozo's son went to Lafayette College, in Easton (Pa.), but Kozo seems ambivalent about the importance of his life as a laborer to his son's ability to go to college.

Keywords: children; education; family; Lafayette College

39:33 - Life on the South Side

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Partial Transcript: Where did you live when you were working at the mill? Did you live where you could walk to work or was it close?

Segment Synopsis: The Kozo family used to live on 4th Street in Bethlehem (Pa.), which is within walking distance of the steel mill. Both Lewis and Mary Kozo agree that "it was nice to live on the South Side," because they were close to downtown conveniences, including the school and shopping centers.

Keywords: Bethlehem (Pa.); Bethlehem plant; Bethlehem Steel Corporation; communities; home life; neighborhoods; residences; South Bethlehem (Bethlehem, Pa.); transportation

40:08 - Safety Concerns at Work

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Partial Transcript: Was your job hazardous?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo explains some of the hazards of his job, including operating the "stacker crane," a machine that allows the crane operator to "stack steel in tiers." Lewis recalls that he was always afraid that the stacked steel might fall on him while he was operating the crane. Moreover, Lewis later shares the stacker crane had a flawed design. It was unable to move the amount of steel that they needed it to transport. Mary indicates that Lewis sustained some minor injuries at work.

Keywords: Bethlehem Steel Corporation; crane operators; cranes; safety; Tool Steel Department; working conditions

42:13 - Lewis Kozo's Beliefs about Limited Opportunities

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Partial Transcript: You said before that you knew in the years you were working there that you'd never become a superintendent or a foreman or something like that. What were the reasons, in your own mind?

Segment Synopsis: According to Lewis Kozo, "there was no chance for an ethnic man to get to be a foreman, no chance at all." In addition, he states his belief that the union organizers were unable to advance within the company into higher positions, especially during the Great Depression, when the mill was struggling.

Keywords: Bethlehem Steel Corporation; blast furnaces; ethnic groups; foremen; Great Depression; Hungarians; organizing; shop stewards; unions

43:44 - Older Workers' Stories

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Partial Transcript: What were some of the old-timers that worked there, like when when you were starting out? Did they use to tell you about how things were years before that with the company?

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Lewis Kozo relates the stories of an older generation of steel workers. Kozo notes that the older workers did more manual labor and that they would "brag" about this to the younger workers. Kozo states, "The old-timers used to brag about how hard they had it with puddling mills, they called it. They puddled it by hand,
the hot steel. Now they have open hearths and electric furnaces." While the work remained difficult and dangerous, the younger generation benefitted from technological advancements. Note that the audio cuts in and out at the end of this segment.

Keywords: Bethlehem Steel Corporation; laborers; open hearth furnaces; pig iron; puddling mills

45:04 - Remembering Eugene Grace, former Chairman of the Board

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Partial Transcript: Eugene Grace was...

Segment Synopsis: Lewis Kozo recalls some of his memories of Eugene Grace, who served as the Chairman of the Board of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation for several years. According to Lewis Kozo, "he was nice to us" during one of the strikes. Lewis shares a story about a foreman losing his job when he did not release a worker to caddy for Eugene Grace at a golf tournament. Shortly afterwards, John Bodnar concludes the interview.

Keywords: Bethlehem plant; Bethlehem Steel Corporation; Eugene Grace; general foremen; Germans; Saucon Valley Country Club; strikes

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