Camera Rolls: 311:31-32
Sound Rolls: 311:19
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Sally Booth , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on February 20, 1992, 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.*
I don't know how to start. When I was in grade school, in about second or third or fourth grade we used to take field trips to the Ford assembly line at the Rouge plant. I remember we would walk on a catwalk way high up above the assembly line and look down on it so you could see the cars moving along and you could see the people working on them. At one point along the line, there was a blast furnace where they made steel and that was really exciting because it was dark and the men were down there poking great long sticks into this oven, and they'd open the door and the flame would fly out and it would be terribly bright and the molten metal would pour and the sparks...it was like, I don't know that I had a vision of hell in those days, but, because of all the scary fairy tales that I had grew up and loved, it was very dramatic to me and very exciting. It was one of the things that when people came from out of town to visit, why you'd take them to the Ford Assembly Line, because that was the special thing about Detroit. It was new enough that nobody else had it. We alone did, and I guess Henry Ford was the one who made it up, didn't he?
That's great, fantastic. Could you feel the heat?
When we walked over these big flaming furnaces it was terribly, terribly hot. We always wondered how they managed in the summertime, because in the winter it was so hot that we could feel from way, I don't know how high up we were, but way up high. You could even feel this blast of heat when the furnace door opened up, and we always felt sorry for them working in the summertime.
We have to change film.
Tell me about visiting the Rouge assembly line.
When, when I was a little girl in grade school, when I was in second or third or fourth grade in grade school in Detroit, one of the trips that we always took was to the Rouge plant, to the assembly line in the Rouge plant, the Ford plant. And, and we would walk on a catwalk, some kind of a catwalk over the assembly line so that we looked down on the workers that were, that were working.
** We could see them doing, as the cars passed along, they would be, each one would be doing something, and they would do the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, and that was, that was apparently the point of the assembly line. But the thing that I remember the most was the blast furnaces, which were great, big dark furnaces with men standing in front of them and they'd open the doors and the fire would just shoot out and it would be, it would be this bright, molten-looking fire, and the sparks would fly and the heat would come up. We could feel the heat over the catwalk as we were walking along over the... It would be terribly, terribly hot. And, and we always felt sorry for them in the summertime because we thought "How could they stand it in the summertime?" They'd still have to do it no matter what. More?
I mean, want more?
Yeah, let's keep going. Out of town visitors.
Oh. And, and because this was such a, a special thing for Detroit, whenever anybody came to visit us from out of town, why, they would always want to see the assembly line. And so we would go, and I guess they must have had tours because we could always go and take people to visit the assembly line, and this was, this only happened in Detroit. It was a typical Detroit thing, and so we were, we were very proud to show it off, because it was special for us.
Great. Let me remind you, you can look anywhere, but don't look right into the lens. It will steal your soul. It's fine to repeat, by the way, to do stuff over and over again. Tell me the story again, and let's, as long or as short as you feel like and let's try to talk about fairy tales and hell.
The...I probably remember the blast furnaces the most because it was so dramatic, and it meant more to me perhaps than just the people doing their, their repetitive job because I grew up on fairy tales and I predicated everything through fairy tales. I, I understood everything via fairy tales I think, and it seemed like dungeons, hell. I don't what at seven I thought of, but it was a very dramatic thing to see, and, and scary and exciting and I felt very sorry for these chaps that had to do it all day long, even though it may have been, it was also exciting. It was also very scary, to, to me. Hard work.
The assembly line workers, as I say they did the same thing over and over and over again, and to see it from on top, looking down, was a sort of a strange feeling, because, in a way, they weren't, they looked more like automatons or marionettes than real people, and yet we knew they were people, but even their arm motions would be exactly the same, over and over. It was like, it really was like a human machine, I think. That's what it seemed like to us.
** In fact, I guess that's what it was.
Fantastic. Great. Let's cut for a second.
Again, it's OK for you to repeat. Remember, people will not hear my voice. Can you tell me, whatever, as much of the story as you like, but incorporate once again that you were seven years old. Can you also just talk about the notion of the king's kingdom?
I'm not sure that fits in here except in teams of the fairy tale. I thought—
Or a magic kingdom.
Well, no, it wasn't that so much. I think I remembered the concept of the, of the, of the king in terms of the poor beggars that came around. That certainly fits in with the fairy tales, with the poor beggars who come to the door and, and who are, who knows, princes in disguise, but certainly because my mother had said to me always, "These are people just like us." So that certainly is... somebody in disguise and, and, and having to do something as humiliating and kind of as begging was a hard thing. And I always.. So they were, what, servants of the king in effect, like maybe the people on the assembly line were too. It was like... I could put anything in terms of a fairy tale, but it did seem like there was a man who was very powerful and he owned all these people. He was in charge of them all. Airplane, yeah. Interesting how every bit of sound matters so much.
Let's just keep rolling. I'm going to have you start with, "It seemed as though there was a man."
Oh the, the, the—I probably sort of figured it in terms of there was a, there was a powerful man in charge of all these things, all these peoples on the assembly line who, he could, he could wind up and make do all these things and, and, and who had, who all the, who had something to do with people being poor and being not...how do I think about it?
Not their own masters?
Well, no, I'm trying to think how that would be. They were poor and they, well, it doesn't really connect as much as it did before.
Let's come back to that. Let's, let's once again do the assembly line. Let me throw out this idea of black and red.
The colors. I don't remember so much the light on the assembly line. We could see the people very well and the, the, the furnace doors opening, being so bright was a great contrast, because it looked like it was very dark and very black and then the doors would open and this red gold thing would burst out that would be fire, and then they'd do something and they'd close the doors and they'd close it all off again. It was a very highly dramatic thing in terms of, those colors I remember. I don't know what color, the assembly line didn't seem to have any color to me that I could remember, but the, but the furnace did. The furnace did.
Great, Great. I'm going to have you say once again just this little introductory sentence to make sure we have it.
That I was a little girl?
That you were a little girl, yeah, and that one of the things that you did was school field trips to the [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] ... Just one or two sentences.
When I was a little girl in Detroit in grade school, in second and third and fourth grade in the early '30s, we went, always, every year, I think, to a field trip to the Rouge plant, to the assembly line, because this was something that was special for Detroit, and nobody else had it, and it was a new and wonderful thing, and this was the only way we could get to see it. So we'd be taken by our teachers and we'd go to the Rouge plant in Highland Park and walk over the assembly line on a catwalk, on a catwalk up in the air. We'd climb up and look down on the assembly line. And, and there would be these people doing, making cars, and each one would do one thing and one thing and one thing and one thing, over and over and over again, moving their arms in the same way and, and, as the car moved along the line, each person would do one special thing to it. And at one point, at some place along the line there were blast furnaces making steel. As we walked over those we could feel the terrible heat coming up from them, and they'd open the doors and the fire would blaze out in this black darkness down below and this bright red gold fire would blaze out. And they'd do something and poke it with great, big, long things with handles and the doors would shut and the fire would stop again and it would be black. And we could see these figures down below moving around the blast furnaces, and then they'd open the door and all stand out of the way. It was very dramatic and very exciting, and that part I remember the most about, because we felt sorry for these men that were in this terrible, terrible heat down below. In the summertime we thought, "What did they do in the summertime? How could they...?" It was like, to use one of my fairy tale's analogies again, it was almost like the dwarfs down in the caverns under the mountain working for the, for the, for the king who made them make gold.laugh Maybe that's too...