“I walked in and I was just in awe ‘cause you’d walk in and it was like a city.”
Hear more from this storyteller about the relationship between U.S. Steel and Gary in One Big Family Back in the Day.
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Transcript for You Could Get a Job at U.S. Steel
That’s why Gary was Gary, because of 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.
I started working, when I walked in the mill, I had, it would’ve been in 1968 when I hired in for weekend labor. I walked in and I was just in awe ‘cause you’d walk in and it was like a city. And there was all these cranes and everything and they were hauling all this stuff back and forth and these sirens come up, because it was a crane siren, a warning siren. Well, this siren went off and I didn’t know what, you know, I’m looking up, I was scared to death, so I hid behind this beam, you know, I went over ‘cause I didn’t know what was happening. And then I see they’re, you know, they’re hauling this, they have these big magnets that would haul, you know, move steel, big plates of steel and such, from one place to another. So, it was like a big joke, you know?
If you can picture big furnaces all in a row, I’d say like fourteen furnaces or twelve furnaces in a big row, and if you can imagine like on a ship, where the guy’s shoveling the coal, well, that’s how this was kinda like. And they would, an open-hearth consists of, it‘s a steelmaking furnace, so they take hot metal and they pour it in this open, which they produce in the blast furnaces, they can take iron ore, they melt it down, they make pig-iron and hot metal, they take it over to the open-hearths and they charge this in the open hearth furnace, and then they add all these other additives to make the steel, and back in that day they said it was like making soup, it was an all-day, it was like an eight-hour process. And they had these ladles, and they’d open up these portholes and then pour this molten steel out into the ladles.
Guys would grow beards in the summertime because of the heat from the blast furnaces and from the open hearths being that close. I mean, they had guys, you know, working with this hot metal with no hard hats and things like that until the unions came in and things got a lot better, you know, safety-wise. I remember days where it could be ten below zero outside and you could walk up to the open hearth furnace and you’d just feel like summertime, you know. And you’re 50 feet away from this thing and it’s like summer; as soon as you walk away you’re like freezing again. And then once you got seasoned to that, you just got accustomed to it. Like, when you start out running, when you try to run a mile and you’re half dead, you know? You get finally, it was on a daily basis, you got the hang of it, and it became second nature.