Camera Rolls: 101-105 (Pilot)
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Paul Charette , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on November 11, 1990, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.*
All right, Paul. The, in the first years of the Depression, the country was experiencing, obviously, a big economic crash. What effect did that have in the Ford Motor Company, specifically in the year 1931? What was happening to the Ford Motor Company in that period of time?
Well, that was the first year that really hit, had Mr. Henry Ford very hard. This, he lost from 48% of the market down to 28%, and his production had dropped to maybe 700,000 units, cars and trucks. He had to stop making the four-cylinder engine. He laid off a lot of people. He lost, it was very discouraging for Mr. Ford, because he had had such good years, '30, 1930 was still a very good year for him, perhaps the happiest year of his life was 1929. In 1929, he had regathered the number one place. In 1929, he sold over 1,800,000 cars. His payroll was, well, I think his payroll was about $733,000,000. His employees in the Rouge Plant alone were over 98,000 people. But by, by 1931, it hit him very hard, and he had laid off a lot of people. Well, in 1931, I think he only had 30,000 people working. So it was a very bad year, 1931, for Mr. Ford.
So was there fear that people are saying, "You've got to help us, Henry. You've got to, you're laying off all these people. You have to help us." What could he do?
Well now who was saying, "You have to help us"?
Well, a lot of the unemployed workers were grumbling about this.
Well, it was bad. And it was bad for Mr. Ford, too. He gave a lot of money, he loaned a lot of money to his employees with the idea that when they come back to work, they would pay it back. He had opened food stores, and at that time there were 50,000 people living in Dearborn, and he fed most of Dearborn. He set up, in 1931, he set up a grocery-type store in Inkster, Michigan and doled out food. He himself doled out the food with his son Edsel. So, yes, I can imagine some would say, "Mr. Ford help us," but he was helping a lot of people.
What about Detroit?
Well, Detroit was his prime, it was his home, it was, this is where charity starts, at home. He helped a lot. I think back at that time he offered the city of Detroit $5,000,000. Other men offered money. Senator Couzens offered $1,000,000 if other rich people would help. Mayor Murphy went to Washington and talked to Mr. Hoover, pleading for help. But just to answer these kinds of questions doesn't really give you a picture of how miserable it was.
How miserable was it?
Well, it was very common to see people going behind the stores. Now, they didn't have super, supermarkets like you have today, but the Kroger store, the C.F. Smith, on Saturday morning, when the produce would come in trucks, the people who did have a job, the people who worked at, say, C.F. Smith, which was really a small store, the produce guy, when they were trimming the head lettuce for display, they were discarding the trimmings and people were there just grabbing it. And those who weren't there at the time went into the garbage cans to pull it out. They used to have bananas that were by the bushel. They were small, and they, they were not green, some of them were already ripe. People were taking them right out of the garbage cans, I saw that. I also saw many homes that were closed, and people's furniture were on the sidewalk. I don't know if you know that, but many people were out of their homes. These were probably homes they rented. Some that had bought their homes couldn't make their payments and when it comes a time, they were thrown out. Detroit was in bad shape. Now there were some people in Detroit who had goats at that time, and they had cows, and within the city boundary. I don't know if that answers your question, but things were bad.
[ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] That was great. [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] great. How, specifically, did Henry Ford try to help the city of Detroit in 1930, '31?
Well, you're asking a question that, Henry Ford was, had his own problems, himself. And he was 68 years old. He ran the plant almost by himself. He had Mr. Sorensen and P.E. Martin helping him, but it didn't have an organization like they have today. The men, I think the only people who were prepared to do anything were his craftsmen that had a trade, that knew how to do something. But it, this wasn't going to help him out of the problem that he had, the problem of trying to feed a city. He, he didn't have the money himself, to tell you the truth. They money went into investments. At that time, Mr. Ford had started a plant in Dagenham, England. It was to be the largest plant in Europe. And this was on the Thames River, it's still there. He had a plan in construction in Edgewater, New Jersey.
He had a plant in Chester, Pennsylvania in construction.
So was, was Henry Ford really helping out people, helping out the city of Detroit in 1931?
I think he was. I know that he loaned his employees that were not working money. He loaned them the money. Henry Ford wasn't really the kind to give money; he didn't believe in it. But he loaned them the money. I know that he, at that time, he loaned the city of Detroit $5,000,000. But Mr. Ford also had his own problems. He had bills to pay himself. In 1931, his turbine one and two in Rouge came on, he updated his power house, he had a water tunnel coming into Dearborn from the Rouge, from the Detroit River. These were projects that he had. He had buildings, plants that were being built and ready to be put into production. So he had other, other problems. I don't know, but I think he did very much for a man that was, at that time, he was sixty-eight years old.
Now the other, other car companies. Were they helping out the city of Detroit, or helping out?
I can't really say if they were, but I think everybody that could really tried to help. I don't know about other companies, but other companies were in worse shape than Henry Ford. Other companies went out of business. In 1931, even though there were new cars that came on, some, maybe eight car lines went out of business. At least five that I could tell you were bankrupt, so they can't help either.
Now, in August of 1931, employment at the Rouge Plant falls to an all time low up to that point.
Yes, I think it was about 33,000 at that time. It did get worse.
Yeah, our figures show 37,000. [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]
Well it's hard, it depends.
But Henry Ford is up to something here. What is Henry Ford doing in August of 1931, when he slows down the plant for retooling? What is he really trying to do?
Well, when you're retooling, you're busy trying to get your new equipment in place, the installation of the equipment, trying it out, making preliminary parts.
Can we try again, please, because the stumble's going to be hard to work with.
Was it actually—let me rephrase the question. Was this, was this a, a nasty thing to do, to retool for the V8?
No, it was necessary for the Ford Motor Company to exist. The Model A had stopped. It wasn't selling. Chevrolet had come out with a six-cylinder engine. The four-cylinder Model A was out. It had, it had its day. Ford wanted to come out with a V8. He was working on it. In August, this is normally the time of retooling and installation. It's a downtime as far as production goes, and everybody's working, trying to get new equipment in place, the, all the new tools tried out, parts made, inspected, and make sure that everything works, everything is, as a dry run. And the people that are qualified to do that are the tool makers, the Knights of the Ford Motor Company, and the people that did the work on the line, they weren't needed. So they just, the, they, at that time, they just let them go. Sometimes they were told to go home at 11:00 in the morning, because there was nothing for them to do. You just could not stand around at Ford Motor Company and I'm pretty sure it was like that in the industry. If you're not doing anything, punch out.
You know, actually, in a lot of ways, I'd like you to talk about—could we cut for a second?
[ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] ...Why is he laying off all these people and is there any positive side to this?
I can say only this, then. To tool it, a new engine, to tool a new car, it's not just a V8 engine that he was working with. He had many problems. The early cast, things were too thin. When they make an engine, try it out, you had a failure. The engine, the engine block would crack, would get too hot. Then he'd have to make new molds, new designs, new molds, make a new engine block, machine it, assemble it, get it ready and try it out. He had a lot of problems. And I know people were crying for food, but for Henry Ford, the first things first: Get your tools made, get a product that's going to sell. I think you know, later on in the Ford Motor Company's history, they had an Edsel that didn't go. Well, he didn't, he, he, what Henry Ford did was calculated, and it had to be developed, and it had to be done right.
That's great. Now I'd like to skip now, to the March, the River Rouge March. And you've read the list of demands. What thing about those, that list of demands?
Well, I suppose if I were nineteen years old and knew nothing about the automobile business, or if I knew nothing, it would sound fair to me. Some of those demands were ridiculous. One demand was, I think the first one, that everybody should be put to work. It doesn't happen that way, it can't happen that way. Another demand was that, if you were laid off, you would get half of your pay. Another demand was that everybody would get five tons of coal, or five tons of coal for the winter. Immediately, everyone was to get $50. Well, that was a lot of money. Where was this money supposed to come from? Those were, I don't remember all of the, those were the most important points that I remember.
That was perfect. Moving on, in this march. Could you tell me what, what you, what do you know about this march? Could you tell me everything you know about this march? What happened that day?
Well, the, the March was on a Monday. The people were riled up. It was a very cold, windy day. They had met the Sunday, the day before, on a Sunday, and they were riled up. They were angry to begin with. They were hungry. They marched down Michigan Avenue. They had a police escort. I think Mayor Murphy was very pleased to have the problem out of his city. And when they arrived to the Wyoming and Michigan Avenue, which is the border to Dearborn, the city police of Dearborn had been tipped off, and they were there, demanding that they show a permit to march through. And I guess the City of Dearborn Police knew there were no permits, so they told them that they cannot march through Dearborn, they must disperse. Well, for a moment, it was probably a moment of hesitation, but then it broke loose. They bored through. Streetcars had people on board that didn't pay their fare, and when the conductor commanded to pay their six cents, they told him, "Charge it to Henry Ford." The police were called, and that aggravated the police a little bit. And when they didn't disperse, and now there were 5,000 people there, that's, single-file, one mile long, and they were strung out along Miller Road. The police tried to break it up, they shot tear gas into the demonstrators, or mob, really. It was windy. The Dearborn police were excited. The tear gas affected the Dearborn police more than the protesters, and that aggravated the police. By the time they got to the Rouge Plant, which took about a mile from Michigan Avenue to Gate Four on Miller Road, there was a lot of commotion. They were throwing rocks at the windows, because the factory had, it was all lined with windows on Miller Road. It was, the windows were easy to break. That aggravated the police, too. And then it was just about lunch hour. Harry Bennett, who was the Personnel Director for the Ford Motor Company, was interrupted. He was showing a film to the, I think, Governor Green, you know. We had a governor named Brucker at that time, but Governor Green was the previous governor. So Harry Bennett looked, "Aw jeez," I can just see, I can imagine what he was saying. Five thousand people and the police and the fire department, and as he was going to Gate Four, he was told that the Dearborn Fire Department had turned water hoses on the demonstrators. That I'm sure aggravated him a little bit.
I think it's Gate Three.
No, sometimes they made mistakes on it. Gate Four is that famous Gate Four. It was really Gate Four. Gate Three was south about a half a block. And then there was another gate north, was Gate Five. But Gate Four is the one.
Just go on with your story.
And then Harry Bennett knew this was going on. He had his driver, and his driver hesitated. He didn't want to get out there.
So Harry Bennett told—
[ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]
What was Harry Bennett doing during this time of the, the March?
Well, it was around the noon hour. He was showing a film to the ex-Governor Green, if I remember right. And when he was given the message, he could just visualize a mob in the street. He was told that the, the Dearborn Fire Department had turned their water hoses on the people. He knew it was cold out there. I think it was around, it was below freezing, anyway. It was a wind blowing, and he knew that the newspapers, that the reporters were there with their cameras. Bad publicity, and at that time, Henry Ford needed good publicity, not bad. With all the problems he had in 1931, he didn't need this. You know, they had incidences prior to that. In February, they had some minor ones. They had an idea that something like this was going to happen. I'm, I'm pretty sure they were tipped off. But anyway, Harry Bennett drove out to the crowd, and he tried to get their attention. I think he asked, "Who's your leader here?" And this young man named, I think it was, Joe York, "We're all leaders." I think she was a lady in red. She said that, "We want Harry Bennett, and he's in that building," something to that effect. He said, "No," he says, "I am Harry Bennett." And he shouldn't have said that, because he got a barrage of stones, and almost size of bricks [sic]. And when he went to fall he grabbed Joe York and then York fell right on him. Then, at that time, the crowd is really wild. When York stood up the, at that moment, is when the firing stopped, started, a barrage of gunfire into the crowd. Now, four were killed instantly, there were maybe five or more very badly wounded, and maybe as many as 50 people that were hurt. And all of them were angry because they were all wet and cold. And this, it didn't break up right away, either. Now, it was a real battle. It stretched on to, some of the people were coming out of the plant at, at the shift. And some of the people stayed with, on, on Ford's side, and some joined the protesters. It was a real bad mess.
What, since we'll call it a massacre, was it a massacre?
Well, when people get killed, it's a massacre. We say the Boston Massacre, how few people got killed there. But you've got to have an incident. And this was planned to happen. It's too bad that people were killed, but, yeah, it's a massacre, anybody that gets killed for a cause. The strange thing about it is, what they were demanding, today they have much more than that, much, much more.
Do you think they, the marchers, were right?
Yes, I think so. I've been very lucky myself in my 43, 44, 43 years at Ford. I've always had my job. I, I missed only two weeks. I was laid off in 1937 for two weeks. Then when he found out I was an apprentice... I had turned my lesson in at the Ford school, and my instructor said, "You know, you're going to get 10% off. It's late. What happened?" And I says, "Well, I've been laid off." Well, he didn't like that, because now they were horsing around with Mr. Ford's school, and you just didn't touch Mr. Ford's school. The instructor took me up to the superintendent's office, and he called Gate Four, and they brought my badge right to the school and told me, "Go to work right now." So I reported back to the rolling mill where I was working in the tool room. And that was the last lay-off. When there wasn't any work, I used to mop the floors. When I was done, I was told, "Start all over again, and mop the aisle all over again." In the summertime of 1937, I painted the smokestack at the glass plant. There was a black band. If you had a smokestack twelve feet in diameter, then you had a band, a black band on top to be painted black. And it was fifty feet up. Now, it didn't look too bad up, but when you're up there looking down, it's high. But I painted, painted machines. We were on top of plants with steel wool, cleaning the windows, just to keep busy. But you kept busy, you didn't goof off.
Were these marches that marched that day, were they right in what they were doing? Did they have a right to do what they were doing?
Well, they, the result certainly brought a lot of attention. I think the only thing that stopped that was the state police. I think Donald Leonard was the state police chief at the time, and he got there, where he came out of the blue, but he was there, and he stopped the shooting right away. Yeah, I think they were right. How do you, not, not that it would make Henry Ford do something else. If he could've done something else, he knew this was, he had an idea that people were bad off. It's, it's just that I don't think, what I should say, I think that it didn't make anything different within the Ford Motor Company, and I don't think any other automobile companies, or any other employers could do any more at that moment, but it brought the attention to the federal government. And, it's not charity, it's people need a hand. It was beyond their, it was something that they couldn't, they just couldn't do anything about it themselves.
What did this march really represent? In the larger picture, what did it really represent?
Well, if I were to try to sum it up in a few words, I would say a change in the thinking of the American people.
Could you, could you say what this march really, could you start by identifying the March, what it really represented? So that people know what you're talking about.
Well, it was to try to make known, not just that the people of Dearborn or Detroit or lower Michigan, but the whole nation, that there was something wrong. Detroit wasn't the only part of the United States that was gripped by the Depression. The farmers had a bad time, too. The farmers had it very bad, and it was, say, then, maybe just ten miles from where this happened, the farmers were in trouble. They were, had farmland ten miles from the spot. And all through Michigan, people, the farmers, had the food, but they couldn't get it to market. If they got it to market, nobody could buy it. The farmer needed the money. The farmer had trucks. His trucks were getting old. He needed new trucks. He had a problem, there were a lot of problems. Now what, I don't, I don't think the same way, and I have no reason to be forced to think the same way that these people had in their mind at that time. I have never felt that way. I've tried to read, when I read, I try to put myself in their shoes. Was it justified? Well, no, of course it wasn't justified to kill four people and hurt maybe fifty. But it brought the attention of the country, our leaders, our politicians, to try to do something. Now we eventually got out of it, but it didn't happen overnight. The next year, 1932, was it, I mean, 1933 was actually worse for Ford Motor Company. Ford was down to below 20,000, 28,000 people. That was the lowest that he employed in years. The production in 1931 was about the same figure that he produced in 1915. In 1923 Ford had built almost 2,000,000 cards a day. Just a few years before that, Henry Ford had the happiest day of his life. He had opened up the Edison Institute, he had Mr. Edison there to celebrate it. It was dedicated to Tom Edison. President Hoover was there. Madame Curie was there. He had all kinds of very important scientists, engineers, doctors—the president and his wife of course were there, but—this was a very happy day for Henry Ford. This was something that he wanted to do for his friend Edison. That year, as I think I may have mentioned before, Henry Ford regained number one place, so that, that year was a very happy time for him. And then two or three years, it got about as bad for Henry Ford as it could be for anybody else. Henry Ford was just another person. I don't think he missed a meal, I'm sure of that, but he was up against the wall, too. In 1931, he had to come up with a product because his car had had it. The Model A didn't last as long as his famous Model T, and Chevrolet had come out with a better product. Plymouth came out with a cheaper product. So people were, that had the money, were not going to buy a Ford. That's bad. It's bad because he had had such a nice history up till then. Everything was up, up, up for Mr. Ford.
[production discussion][wild audio]
—invasion of Normandy. The Americans that died there—
I'm very interested in what you said about Joe York. How do you feel about what happened to him? Could you mention his name, too, when you talk about him?
Well, Joe, Joe York, he was a young man. He was a leader in this group. I don't quite remember, it was a young communist group. They were, it was, I think it had to do with unemployment, the organization, by name. And he, he was one of the leaders. When Harry Bennett asked, "Who's the leader here?," that's the way Harry Bennett was, he got an answer, and York says, "We're all leaders." And then, when this woman asked, she said, "Well, we want Harry Bennett," and he, she said that he's in that building, he said, "No he's not. I'm Harry Bennett." Well, as soon as he said, they're the ones he, they want, he is the one he wanted to clobber, and they got him. They almost killed him. He was in a hospital for two days after that. He had a concussion. He had an injury to his neck. He suffered for it for a while. So he really was lucky not to get killed. He was, you know, York was on him when they fell. When he stood up, that's when the barrage opened up and killed him instantly. And the people that were near there and, you know, when you're spraying bullets, you're going to hit a lot of people. One bullet can hit more than one. A lot of people were hurt bad. Then you have to carry these people. The Ford Hospital in the Rouge Plant was just loaded with people.
How did you feel about Joe York?
Well, my personal feeling is that I would pray for him, but I don't know if that's going to do any good. His life was snuffed out at nineteen.
Can you start out, can you start that again and say, mention his name? That's interesting that someone, you know, a specific person, was killed and has a name.
Well, when there's a crowd, it's just a crowd. But when there's a massacre, someone dies. And usually he's at the head of the column. It happened to be Joe York. And he's dead. And right now he, there's a tombstone at the Woodmere Cemetery and nobody knows the story. But he was one of the leaders of that march. So he lost his life, I think. He was an American. He lost his life for a cause. I think I would put him in with the men that died at Valley Forge, the men that died at Bastogne, the men that died at Guadalcanal, people, wives and mothers and children that were killed in a bombing, they were all innocents. For what? That's what's hard to understand, today. If you read history, you can't really get the feeling of what really it's like, unless you're there. And if you're there, you can't talk about it because you're dead. That's what happened to Joe York. He died for his cause. I don't agree with everything he did, or why, because I don't think I'd have done that. I wasn't hungry. That's maybe—I never missed a meal in my life.
Should the federal government have been providing relief?
Well, at the time, the federal government were just people like you and I. We had senators, we had representatives, and we had a president, and we had a Supreme Court, too, and they were all leaders. What, what, what are they going to do? They're not hungry, they were well taken care of. They couldn't get the feeling. They had no idea. But they were our representatives. They were our leaders. Today, if something goes wrong and people need help, the government well step in. And that's us, all of us should help. My father helped in our neighborhood. I used to come back from the Kroger's store, and it wasn't any supermarket, maybe a loaf of bread, and lucky if we had some butter, a few eggs, and if you had a couple of slice of bologna. I'd be walking home, the neighborhood kids would see me with a paper bag and they'd follow me. They were hungry. They would knock on the door. My dad would take a loaf of bread and cut it in half. He knew it was going to feed somebody. Everybody did that in the neighborhood. I don't think it was considered charity, either.
OK, let's cut for a second.
Did you, did you see any evictions?
Yes. I lived in northwest Detroit at the time. They were nice homes. You didn't know people were in trouble. And you, you know, people mind their own business. But, all of a sudden, there was commotion a few houses away, men were pulling furniture of out the house. The mother was crying, children were crying. All the furniture was being put out on the sidewalk. And there she is, no matter if it was raining, or it was cold, and they were there. My mother went over to one lady, I don't want to mention her name, but, brought the lady in our house, and the children, and until the father got home, I do remember that.
What happened to, to these people who found themselves without a home?
Well, some people were fortunate to have relatives that they could move in with. I don't know what happened to all of them. I don't even know what happened to our neighbor. They were just two doors over. I didn't know, of course you're, at that time, parents didn't tell children a lot of things. They kept bad news from their children. But maybe my mother knew about the lady's problem. I don't know. I don't know what happened to this lady, or her family. But I think some finally just moved out of the city, moved in with their own mother. What happens today when people are laid off? Early in 1982 we had a very bad time here in Detroit, and people were laid off, and kids moved back in with their parents. They're lucky. Or their brothers or sisters. Back then, I suppose they did the same thing.
Why were the communists so successful during this period of time?
[ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]
Why, why were they so successful in the, especially in the burgeoning labor movement?
Well, I never really gave it much thought, why they were successful. I, because I don't really think they are successful.
Let's skip it then, because, you, you know, it's true. Can I ask you to do something?
I'm really not qualified to answer that.
What was your feeling about relief and the people who received relief during this period of time?
I think they were very fortunate to get help. Luckily, I don't think we actually ever got need. My had, my father always had work, was lucky. If I, if we did get relief, I don't think I would know about it. People were very proud and they never told. I don't, I can't, I can't really say I know anybody back then that was on relief.
What was behind this proud, being proud? What is behind being proud?
Well, nobody likes to get a handout. I don't think people like to borrow money, either, under certain circumstances. I don't. And I can't imagine me ever borrowing money for a cup of coffee.
I've done that [laughs].
Well, I, see, I haven't gone through that area. I wouldn't know.
Hey, I, strange thing happened, though. I don't think you were there at, at the time. Was he, Karen? Downstairs. Didn't a man ask for a handout downstairs? Here!
—responsible for what happened to those marchers that day?
I'd say no. Henry Ford was five miles away at lunch. He was eating, every noon he would eat lunch at the laboratory in west Dearborn. He was with Charlie Sorensen at the time. And, from what I remember hearing or reading, someone walked into the dining room and handed Charlie Sorensen a note. When it, when Charlie Sorensen read the note, he didn't want to give it to Mr. Ford, so he gave it to Mr. Edsel Ford, who turned around after he read it and gave it to his father. His father just looked at that note and stood up, excused himself, and Sorensen and Mr. Edsel Ford followed Mr. Henry Ford out the door, and Sorensen drove him right to the site. Now, I don't know what Mr. Ford thought, but there's nothing he could do about it. It was a, quite almost like a holocaust in the street, it was a terrible thing to have. And by that time, when Mr. Ford got there, that long, stringing line of the marchers had all gathered at Gate Four, and I don't think they were singing songs. They were very angry then. By that time, York had already been killed, and the others, others had been hurt bad. The state police were there, and I can't imagine what Mr. Ford thought.
But I, I am pretty sure that, what could he do? As a person, he had nothing to do with it.
Well, I'd go back and do it again. Don't, don't let it upset you, Harry.
Was Henry Ford responsible for what happened to those marchers?
I'd say no, and I would say I can't imagine why anybody would ask that question. He could not be responsible for that. No.
Well, it's the, could you, can you explain that he was at lunch and came down there and, to look at the scene? And could you explain that scene again?
Well, going to, I would imagine that, when he saw that note that Mr. Edsel Ford gave him, I don't think the note described a lot. It probably, I don't know what the note said. It probably said that it was a massacre at Gate Four. I can't imagine what Mr. Ford thought, but I, I'd say Mr. Ford could not be to blame for that. If he, if he knew this was going to happen, he'd have done something to try to stop it, but I don't know what he could've done. How does, how does one man stop 5,000 people?
Great, thank you. Well, we can move on to the next question. Was that, what did you think of the increasing political activity in 1931? There was these Unemployed Council people out in the street, there was, you know, communist slogans on the wall, people accusing Mayor Murphy of being a, a fascist, there's people accusing Henry Ford of being a fascist, there's, you know, they've got a Ford/Murphy [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]
Did they have the word "fascist" in '31?
That's what, well, they, they actually had—
I'm, maybe, maybe fascist because of Benito, actually.
They actually accused them of being Ford/Murphy murderous dictators, that sort of thing. But, I mean, how do you feel about that kind of political activity developing in the city in 1931?
I can only tell you about what I've read and what I think. I was, in 1931 I was 11 years old. But, from what I've read and from what I think, I think that those are natural, normal reactions for people. If I were hungry, if my wife couldn't manage the home, my children didn't have food, and if I faced eviction, like many did, I think I would do something. But I don't know what good it would do. I would, now when I look back at it, I don't know what I could do. Nothing, maybe just nothing. They were trying to do something. But I don't know what went through their mind as to what they were trying to get out of this. It, when the Ford Motor Company made cars, they didn't bake bread, so they couldn't expect to get bread there at that time.
Boy, I, I think I'm going to get stoned if, if this comes out and my family sees this, they're going to say, "That old S.O.B.," [laughs], you know?
No, they're not.
[ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]
It, I don't mean to feel cold about it, but what the hell can you do? Nothing. Not a thing.
It's that, it was that bad?
Well, you know, this is being taped, so I would say, years ago, that it was one that multiplied the loaves and the fishes, but that could not be Mr. Ford. He was an automobile manufacturer; he couldn't perform miracles, not this kind of a miracle, and that's what you need at that time.
I don't really have any more questions.
Why, why did they come after Harry Bennett? What, what was his feeling toward Harry Bennett based on?
Well, every organization has a personnel department. A personnel department handles personnel, and when personnel have to be laid off, fired, or dismissed for any reason, the head of the department is the one. And they didn't blame Sorensen for the lay-offs, they didn't blame P.E. Martin or Mr. Ford directly. Bennett was the head of the personnel department, and when you were told to punch out, that became his department. And Harry Bennett was a nice, popular name, and he took it. People hated the word "Bennett." If I had my name Bennett, I would change my name. They hated, they had to hate somebody. They went after Harry Bennett. He was the one that hired and fired. It came under his jurisdiction. They were blamed, Harry Bennett was blamed for favoritism, and it was all trickled down through his organization, so some foremen kept people on that the foremen liked. If the foreman didn't like you, he found something wrong with your work. And you were out. You may work two or three days a week. But everything was blamed on Bennett, and his organization. Harry Bennett had, the palace guards came under Harry Bennett. Some of those men were not gentlemen. And when they manhandled employees, some employees were angry, and if they didn't do what they were told, then they were evicted. Of course, they blamed Harry Bennett. It was his organization, his, it was his department.
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I saw Harry Bennett had a lot of cuts. When they, when he was asked, or when he was told that the crowd was after Harry Bennett and he was in that building, he told then, "You're wrong. I'm Harry Bennett." And that's when they clobbered him. They were out to get him and they clobbered him. Luckily they didn't kill him, but they nearly killed him.
What did Bennett represent?
Well, he represented the Personnel Department of the Ford Motor Company at the time. And he followed the policies and the procedures of the Ford Motor Company at the time. The Ford Motor Company had policies with employees. When you were hired in, you were given a little card, and you were told what you can do and what you can't do. One of things is that you can never, never punch out another person's card. You got fired for that, and it tells you right on the instructions. And Harry Bennett would see to it, by his guards watching, that no, at the time clock, that everybody that had one card, only punched one card.
That's no cheating on that sort of stuff.
Control, well, it was one of the responsibilities of management, to control. And that was a method of control at that time.
If Henry Ford represents a king, and he represents sort of American capitalism, the, you know, the you can make it...what does Harry Bennett represent, and why were they going to that plant asking for him, not Ford?
Well, Harry Bennett was the head of the personnel department. Charlie Sorensen was the head of production. P.E. Martin was the head of engineering. And other, very few executives, but they all had their responsibility, and Harry Bennett was the head of personnel, hiring and firing, and many other things. He was the head of the sociological department, too, for a little while.
Now, was Henry Ford king in Detroit?
I think he was, if, if you want to use the word "king," yeah. They used to say, rather than king, they'd say, they didn't say "lord," they'd say "Ford." But he was the head of his plant, it was his plant. He built it, and it was his.
So, can you start off by, can you say it again and say, "Henry Ford was king" or something like that?
Any word you want.
Well, in Detroit, and in the United States, and worldwide, Henry Ford was, was king. I, I don't know if he used king, president, leader, lord, or what, but he was the top dog. He was Mr. Ford. If you wanted to work for Mr. Ford, you worked for Mr. Ford. OK?