“You were proud you were part of the organization that was part of your city.”
Hear more from this storyteller about the relationship between U.S. Steel and Gary in You Could Get a Job at U.S. Steel.
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Transcript for One Big Family Back in the Day
I grew up in the Glen Park, south section of Gary, and it was like, if you want to call it a subdivision it was Junedale. Glen Park was a mixture of Polish and Macedonian, Lithuanian, Greek, German, Slovak descent, and it was families that had, after the war, were looking for housing, and it was a housing development within the city. Now the downtown section, the old established section, you had your Tolleston, you had Aetna, your Miller area. It was a big melting pot of steel workers and industrial workers, the mainstay was U.S. Steel. There was always jobs at U.S. Steel, even when you were in high school, if you were old enough, you could get a summer job at U.S. Steel.
U.S. Steel was like a one big family back in the day, and that’s how Gary was. But U.S. Steel, you had Good Fellow Club, they had camps, and I went a couple years, I think I went three or four years to the Goodfellow camp. They had the boys camp and they had the girls camp and that was out by Chesterton. They had a U.S. Steel concert production where they had dancers, singers, full orchestra. Picture that memorial auditorium down in Gary, and it was U.S. Steel’s spring concert, and that was just professional people that worked there. You had the U.S. Steel Carolers that went around. A lot of people don’t remember ‘em now because it’s been so far back, but back when we were elementary school the Carolers would come and they’d dress up in the Dickens era, with the top hats and stuff, and it was just like a big family. They’d have tours of the steel mill where you could bring your families in, they’d have hotdogs and Cokes for everybody, and you were proud, you were part of, you know, part of the organization that was part of your city. See, that’s what is hard to explain because U.S. Steel and Gary kind of like went right together. ‘Cause they, back in the old days, U.S. Steel even they would supply power to the neighborhoods near the steel mills, you know, in downtown Gary, and they also supplied coke for people to burn in their coal furnaces and stuff. So it was all, you know, a community thing.
I remember it vividly when Armstrong first put his foot on the moon. It was 1969, that July. After United States landed on the moon, the technology just changed everything, and you can see it, it just took months after that and, you know, it wasn’t that long. Because I remember going, after things started getting smaller, radios that they made with tubes and everything, started being, you know, solid state. Because cars back then were just like big tanks, everything was just huge, you know, and heavy, and, but the steel mills that was their mainstay, the auto industry and everything, but when things started changing to plastic, in cars like the buttons that went on, that all used to metal, or your window crank arms and that, that was all metal, it was all plastic. The dashboards were metal, that became plastic. And I still believe that strongly today, that was the big turning point when the United States went on the moon. People don’t realize that the technology that came to get those people there, that they had years before, but then that was released out, and that’s part of the reason, I think, when the change was in, you know, with Gary and other cities.
When I first went on management back in the seventies, we’d watch a video in a classroom, and how we have to fight and be top number one steel producers and everything, and we have to beat Japan at their own game, and we can do it and everything. And it would get you charged up, and then I remember one day I had like this feeling how you get in your stomach that something’s not quite right. And this is just my own personal experience, but I walked out, it was right down on Broadway by the main gate there, our main office, I walked out and we’re all pumped up, yeah! you know, it was like team, let’s go, let’s win the Super Bowl. And there was these two big tour buses, and they let ‘em out and I saw all these Japanese people. They were nice people, they were all “oh oh” and they’ve got the Nikons with the [laughs] and they’re going to take a tour of the mill, and they’re taking pictures. That was the beginning that I thought of how we’re, you know, this country is spread out with the industry with different countries and you know, putting their assets, and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.