Camera Rolls: 315:38-43
Sound Rolls: 315:22
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Regina Mrkonich , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on December 15, 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.*
Look over here. Now, can you tell me when Mike, your husband, began working at Republic Steel, and what it was like?
Well, I can tell you that it was a dirty, filthy rat hole. It was dirty and you had to carry a lunch bucket. If you didn't you wouldn't have any lunch. It was hot, sweaty. No, no, ice. The ice man used to come twice a day when it was hot and throw a couple of blocks of ice in the tubs that they had there. And they had a ladle in the tub, and the men wanted to use the ladle, they'd use it, but my husband didn't like that. A lot of men didn't. They brought their own cup and took it with them when, you know, to drink. And they were fighting for conditions, and their sweat, their clothes were just awful. One day of wearing them, had to, they were full of grease and sweat, and the only time they got any fresh air was from the opening in the back. They just, they just walked away. They couldn't stand it anymore. Well, the company didn't say nothing', cause they knew conditions were bad. And then they'd come back and, and go back to work after they got the settle [sic]. But the conditions were very bad and very dirty. Oh, dirty clothes! They didn't do the laundry like most places did.
When I was here before, you told me about what you would have to do to Mike's clothes when he brought them home. Can you tell me that again, how you would clean his clothes and what it would take for you to get them clean?
I don't hear you.
When I came here before, you told me about what you would have to do to Mike's clothes to get them clean, how you would clean them. Could you tell me that again?
With a scrub brush—
Yes, tell me that again.
And on, on a washboard and a scrub brush, and we used, we called it "Light" or something. It was like, it was, it was, it was for grease and things. And we'd put his pants, and trousers, and his shirts, and then we'd put it on the board and we'd use the scrub brush to scrub the grease off. That's the only way we could get it off. There was no other way. And nobody would give it—they had a laundry there, but they said that it went to the laundry one time, and you never saw it again because I guess they used such strong solution. And the men were buying their own clothes that, that the wives were doing the washing.
Now we have to stop just a second.
This is good. You're doing very good. Now, what was Mike's job at Republic Steel? What did he do?
He was a second helper in a rolling mill—
I need for you to tell me, "My husband Mike was a—" Can you say and then tell me?
My husband Mike was a second helper in a rolling mill. And when the steel would come, it would go to the first helper, and I don't know what they did. They put something on it, and then it went to the second helper while it was hot. And then I guess when it'd come to Mike's place, then it would fall off, you know, into the, into the order that they got for that type of steel, and that inch of pipe. And then they'd band it with steel, and they'd put it on the, on the side of the mill where the, where all the customers get their, theirs. Then they'd band it and color it. The girls would paint it. If it went to one company, it would be painted blue. If it went to another company, painted red. And then they knew which was which, and they knew which was ten inch and twelve inch. There was ten inch mill and twelve inch mill.
Now tell me about how dangerous it was working in the mill, both for Mike and for other people. How dangerous was it?
How, how what?
The work, was the work dangerous? Tell me about the dangers.
Well it was dangerous, yes, very dangerous. It was red hot steel in front of him. Then, then, them steel bars that they rolled, that, that, from the rolling mills...Tony was a roller, and one day fell into that. That was red hot steel! Very dangerous, and they'd stayed away from it, so many, you know, inches apart and that. And I guess one day my husband got aggravated about something, I don't know, and he took a pipe in his hand and he run [sic] after the first helper, I don't know. [laughs] He would have killed him, I guess. I don't know they, if bars went too fast. I never found out. But Mike would have lost his job. He had a, he had a temper. He was a...I'll tell you what. I worked in a hospital, you know, and the professors, you know, they were always immaculate and clean. And my husband was a very, very clean man, and he didn't like, you know, getting all dirt [sic], or smells or anything sweat, you know. And he says about, you know, the sweat that, that, that the clothes should be washed, you know, by the company, so they could change them every day. I couldn't wash, we couldn't afford to buy seven pair of pants and seven pair of, seven tops for the men, and their underwear, so they had to work in their, in their clothes three or four days, you know. And they'd take them off and put them by where there was a draft, and, and they—they were shift work, you know, so they could do a lot of things that you can't do in the day time. And I worked in a mill so I understand.
Good. Now, when did Mike first hear about the union, and...
Well, the first I heard, they were talking—well, U.S. Steel was already organized. They were on 88th Street and Houston Avenue. They had a local already. And then the organizers went, went after, they wanted to organize Republic Steel, because it was the second biggest mill here. So then my husband told me that they were going to start a union, you know. And he says, "You're going to, you're going to have to help me." And I says, "Me? What am I going to do in a steel mill, you know," I said, "with all that grease and dirt?" He says, "Well, talk to the ladies. We want to get..the ladies are the ones that get most of the men in the union, because they stick by their husbands, and if their husbands want to go out and [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] the, the wife says, you know, potatoes are, are not cheap, and we need more money, you know forty-four cents an hour for the laborers." We're getting forty-four cents, so now we're at that time in 1937. It's unbelievable, yeah. And so then I says, "Well, what can I do?" So then I got some of the women. The community here is Slavic, it's Polish, it's Czech, Yugoslav, and all them. So I was kind of young. My boys were seven and nine when the strike started. And they all wanted me to, me to—the ladies like me, because we met at showers and this and that, and I used to shake them up, you know, and have them dance and that. Their husbands were home with the beer, you know. So we, we went together, and I talked to them, and I said, "Well, Mrs. Evans—," you know, I always addressed them as older people, so, "We, we're were going to have, we're going to make a union. They're going to have a strike, and you tell mister, the mister, that he go out in the strike [sic], 'No stay in the mill,' 'You no be a scab [sic],'" you know. And she says, "Oh, son of a bitch." She would cuss, you know. She says, "He no going to be no scab [sic]! He going to stay, he going to come out. I," she says, "I ain't going to let him stay!" Then I met other women, you know, and, and told them the same thing. And then they met—we had a meeting at my house, because we had to have a meeting to talk in the group. So then Mrs. Evans came, Miss [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] came, all these ladies would get together, and they all assured me that their, all their husbands are going to join the union, you know. They're for the union. They're not going to go in, she says some of them [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] , you know. And then, then I had the, the meeting, and I says to Mike, "It looks pretty good," I says. "All the Slovaks and the Czechs," I says, "Their ladies won't, their husbands won't. And they were, they were true, true, and true union men. None, none of them [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] they wanted more money and better conditions and—they're very clean people, the foreign people. You can say what you want about them, they're very, very clean about their, their appearance, their clothes, their house, their eat [sic], you know. And the women are the way, you know. They scrub and wash every day to be clean.
So what happened after the meeting, after that?
After the meeting, well, then, the organizers, Joe Weber, and I don't know the other organizers that was with Joe Weber...I never got to that. But I know Joe Weber came with another. I don't know if it was George Patterson or there were various men in, in the group that I didn't know. But Joe Weber was the speaker at this meeting at 108 and [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] Avenue in a hall, and they got all these husbands—
We ran out of film. Got to stop.
Now you can begin.
OK. Then they, they had organized a meeting, and my husband didn't tell me that they're going to have the meeting. And he went out one night. And they used to play pinochle at the barber shop. You know, the men get together and they play pinochle. And he didn't say anything about the meeting to me, and I didn't know, you know, and he said, "I'm going to play a couple with Bob" and this and that. So OK, he comes home kind of early and he wasn't himself. He was like shook up and, and I says, "How did the meeting go?" And he says, "Not so good." And I says, "What happened?" And he says, "Well, we were, Joe Weber was speaking," he says, "and all of a sudden somebody threw something on the light in the hall, and the room got dark." And he says, "There was a couple of thugs with them, and they started to, they wanted to get Joe, and beat Joe, and Joe took a chair and put it over his head." So he says, "I took a chair and was fighting back," he says, "with a chair." And he says, "We cleaned them out. We got a, got a, got a couple of punches from those flunkies." He says, "We ain't going to, we ain't going to—they're not going to get away with it," he said. OK. The next day my husband went to work, they told him he ain't got no job, that he's organizing and making trouble. He's one of the—see, he was a group leader, and all the group leaders were there, the ten inch mill, the twelve inch mill, all the different, you, you know, parts of the mill. They all have their name. And OK, Mike didn't get, had no job. So then Mike went back and he says, "No," he says, "you ain't got no job." He says, "There's trouble here with the union and that." Well, then Joe Weber was, he was a touch organizer, he knew his, you know. And so then I guess he, he went to, told Mike what to tell the men over there and everything, and he says, "Well, before we'll take Mike back, we have to give him a physical." So Mike says "OK, there's nothing wrong with me." "I've been home for a couple of weeks," he says, "I ain't got nothing wrong with me." And he says, and when he, he examined him, the doctor, they found a small hernia on Mike, and they says to him that, "Mike, you can't get a job 'til you get a truss," he says, "Then you'll get your job." And Mike says, "Well, I didn't get the hernia sitting home. I got the hernia over here working for you like a, you know, monkey" and whatever he says, you know. And they, they wouldn't give it to him. They wouldn't give it to him, and Mike says well he ain't got the money. He is on strike, and we ain't got the money. "And if I buy a truss," he says, "my children ain't got no milk on the table." He says, "I wouldn't get, get, buy the truss.
That's good. That's good.
That's good. But let me ask you another question. We'll come back to that, OK? We'll come back to that. That's real good. How, tell me about these thugs that came and broke up the meeting. I mean...
These were men from some, from other communities. They're, they're not known here. They're, they're thugs. They work for a company like Tom Girdler worked with the policemen, and that the policeman, probably one of them was a policeman in plain clothes. You know, he changes his clothes when he came home, and then he went in work and they want to break it up right away. So they did a lot of damage in this. It was a dance hall, and a community center like, you know. And they had a bar there. It was a social club, and you know the Czechs do a, do a lot of exercise. And they used to have I guess three or four nights a week, they'd have a, their exercise going on and all that. So one of them chairs was being flung around. They hit the bar and, I guess they broke the mirrors and they broke the glasses, and did quite a bit of...so the man that owned it, well, everybody knew him, he says, "Oh, Mrs.," to me, "I'm, I'm not going to let your husband have no more meetings here," he says. "He break, he breaking everything [sic]." And I says, "Don't worry," I says, "the union going to pay [sic] everything, every penny," I says. "They're going to pay you everything and fix them up just like it was." And Joe Weber told me that they had money in their fund, and they would take care of it, see. So they did right away so there was no trouble. So that, yeah, so he says, "Thank you, thank you, nice, you've been a lady," you know, and patting me and everything.
OK. That's good Now how did these thugs know about the meeting? How did they know that you guys that Mike and them were trying to organize? How did they find out?
Nobody knows how they found out. Somebody wanted these, that was in there, wanted the, the ones that were in the group wasn't an honest man.
So could there have been some company spies?
Tell me about the company spies.
So the company, you know, they have these, these men, and, and they, they pay them just to...and they go around, they spot them. They're spies like, they go around. They're, they're in the three to eleven shifts, the night shift, day shift, see what the men are talking about, about the union and how are they going and all that, see. And they find out where all the meetings are held. And they were all bragging about this first meeting, see, and the thugs found out right away and Tom Girdler's men, the police were out. They were police, I think, in, in plain clothes. You know, you read it today. They're in plain clothes and they drown their wives and everything, you know. So that went on then, you know, they working with the police at the day, and at night they're making extra money for Tom Girdler, you know.
Yeah, how much we got?
You mentioned Tom Girdler. Tell me about Tom Girdler.
I don't know too much of Tom Girdler. The only thing I heard his name all the time, and we had a little songs that we sang. Every time we make a piece of steel, it's a dollar for Girdler, and then there was an ending to it, and it's nothing for the working man, you know. And then, I never saw Tom Girdler, and I went to one of the hearings that was held in Chicago. I didn't attend the ones in Washington cause I wasn't that important. I was in the kitchen and everything. I just went to one hearing which I told you about, and they says that [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] . And then one of the judges asked the organizer from the, the U.S. Steel, he says, "Did you ever try to get in touch with Tom Girdler?" And he says, "Yeah, he'd rather go and pick apples from his farm than sign a union contract." That was his answer. And nobody ever saw Tom Girdler, and nobody never, never met across the table with him. Nobody ever saw him. And he just paid Mayor, he gave, gave him—he was in cahoots with Mayor Kelly, and Kelly got the police together, and that's the way they, we were, they were organized.
OK, I think we're all out, right?
Still got, still got a couple minutes.
I thought we just had a minute.
There's more added to this part.
OK, tell me more about it.
That, that was when we were all protesting. We had to protest. We went to Washington, well, we went to, to the City Hall first. They sent five women, five or six. Most of us were—one was a Spanish, the others were, I think there was one black and three or four white. We had signs. We didn't carry sticks, we carried, because they take your stick, and they break it, take it off the poster and then hit, they started beating you in those days. They hit you. We put the string around and carried the poster, and my poster had—I said, "Give me a real bloody one," so they gave me, "Mayor Kelly Wash the Blood Off Your Hands." So all the people that we went around to let them know from twelve to one, at lunch time...the City Hall, going in and out, what, whichever entrance you went, it was just packed, people going for lunch in and out, in and out. A lot of people clapping for us, "Yay," "Good," "Hope you win," you know, and that. And all of a sudden a man came out, you know, and I'll never forget it because he had a hearing aid. And the hearing aid at that time had like a string on the side of the ear—they did away with that now—and it was like white or gray. And he came and he was after us, and he got the lady in front of me. He didn't get me, but he pulled, he tried to pull her sign, but the string was pretty, pretty hard. And we had four or five men across the street for, that were protecting us in case something happened, they would, you know, come out and help, you know. So then they just broke it up. The police said clear out and that, so then we went back across the street and then they took us home. But we just let the, we had to let the people know—
Well, what I heard about Tom Girdler is that he was a non-union man, and he, he kept telling everybody and saying that he will not sign, he will not sign Republic Steel, his workers won't sign. So everybody became bitter and hated him and called him all kinds of names, obscene names that a woman doesn't use. And we had this little song every time we roll a piece of steel. It's dollars for Girdler's and it's pennies for us. It was the, that, that was sort of the tune. But as far as seeing, it looked like he just disappeared to, from the earth. Nobody heard him, he didn't meet with anyone. I don't know if, when the hearings were heard with, they had the President of CIO, the judge asked him, "Did you try and get in touch with, with Tom Girdler and discuss the union?" He says, "Tom Girdler would not discuss the union. He says he'd rather go and pick green apples off of his apple trees on his farm than sign a union with, with CIO."
Good. Now when U.S. Steel signed their contract, what did, what happened at Republic? How did that, how did that affect Mike and his organizing?
His, well, they, that, well, there was trouble there like I told you. We went to Washington, and we went to protest to our Senators. Senator Douglas happened to be in Chicago then, and we saw, I don't remember, and, and down at the Labor Board we came back with [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] , there was [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] . The Labor Board broke out and came and fighting for the union men, and they were going to investigate all this. And Tom, and then, we were, wanted to see, talk to the Labor men, the Labor Department, and the one Senator, I don't know his name, he had a...if it was Lewis, I'm pretty sure it was Lewis. Lewis always [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] . He had a white beard. And he talked mostly to the men. There was, I was the only woman that went because I was into everything in the front, how it started. And I knew, you know, everything. I knew more than some of the men knew.
OK, but can you tell me that later, and when we get, we sort of get to the end. We'll get back to that, too, OK? But you had told me about your friend, Lucille—
—and how you and Lucille talked to this policeman and found out how Republic was preparing for the strike. Tell me that story.
Lucille and I, we took, as I told you, they had a—it was on 118th Street, the, the opening was at 118th, and they had a guard by the gate, and you had to show your badge when you went in. And for, for a couple of days before, from Friday on, or even a couple of days before, there were two policemen or three walking around there watching the gates. So Lucille and I, Lucille—her husband was the head of the strategy—Emile Cook his name was. He was the head of Strategy Committee, so Lucille and I said let's go and see what we can get out of the cops, you know. They, the fellows..."Go on," he says, "they'll, they'll run us, but why don't you go and dig up a story?" So I says, "My husband is working three to eleven, and I don't want him to stay in that steel mill. I don't want him to be a striker. And I says I don't want no fights in there and all that." And Lucille says, "I got a little girl. I don't want..I want her daddy out of there." We made it, you know, real. And then he says, "Oh, don't worry about that." He says, "The boat starts coming down the river, and there's a dock down there, and they're getting..." He says they got the milk in. Showcroft was here with the ice, bringing blocks of ice for them, and they were bringing the food, the boats, the little river boats were bringing it in, the food. They were getting prepared for it. And he brought carts. That was all then. So we stayed about a half an hour, and then when we got on the streetcar that was coming, one of these trolleys, bump, bump, bump, you know, and then when we got close to it, we were almost on it, we said, "Ha, ha, ha, we know all about it now." He says, I says "We're strikers. My husband's a striker." Oh, the cops could have—oh, if we didn't get on that street car, we would have got a beating. But that's the way we got the news. Then we told the men outside right away when I come home, we told Joe Weber that the river boats brought, were bringing the food in, everything was getting ready. They're planning that, that there would be a strike, and they were ready. And another thing we didn't know until after the strike, one of the men told somebody that knows my husband—very good, a friend—and this man had told him, he says, "You know what we were going to, supposed to do? These heavy canvas holders that the Fire Department uses and that, that we were supposed to let hot steam out of these hoses come if the strikers came back the gate, that they would shoot this hot steam out of these canvas hoses so that they couldn't get through the gate." And we had no intentions of going through the gate. The only thing we wanted to do was go past the gate and turn around, come back and have a little party. We had forty pounds of beef, and we were going to have beef sandwiches. We had soft drinks. We had, the kids had lunch before we left for the parade because they, children were hungry for hot dogs and cupcakes and, and balloons and flags they had. And then he says, "We never..." They ate [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] forty pounds. I bought the pot, pot roast from George [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] butcher, the working man's butcher, and he cut the forty-pound roast in two for us, for me so we could cut. It would be easier to bake.
Yeah. Regina, let me, let me, let me get, let me sort of get back. We're going to come, we're going to get to the, to the rally and all of that, OK. But before you tell me that, tell me about the Friday rally before the picnic.
Oh, well, Friday rally, I was supposed to carry the flag. And Lucille was with me, but everybody bothered me there. That was my trouble, I, "Regina this, Regina that," you know the, and I, I didn't know whether I was coming or going, you know. I, they, they couldn't let me think sometime, you know, so I decided to march. I was brave. I wasn't afraid. I went in. I'm doing nothing wrong, and we saw the policeman, and I didn't think much of it, but I was—Lucille carried the flag. She took the flag. She didn't even—somebody stopped me for something, and I had to straighten it out, and I was late in getting to Lucille, so I run up to where they were, about a block away, and I run up to the line, and before I got there, the police had already stopped them by the line.
Let's stop for a second.
Well, when we got to the, like I say, we never got to the gate. About a block before we—there's like a turn there from the field through, to the gate, and before we got there—and there were scattered buildings, one here, one there, all [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] , and before we got there, the police had already, they had the wagons there. There was two of them, one on each side, patrol wagons, 'cause for the beat up men, that they were starting to beat up their skulls, you know. And then we had our, our men prepared for that, too. There might be a little trouble, and Tony Taglieri was a real, real, real union man. He wanted the union very bad for his people, and he asked his doctor if he would do him a big favor. And the doctor says, "Well what is it?" He says, "Could you come out," he says, "on Friday?" He says, "We're, we're going to have, we want to join the union, and we're having a little trouble." And he says, "We're afraid we're going to have a small parade Friday. We want to see how things will go." And Dr. Miller says, "Sure I'll go." you know. "What time?" And he says, "We'll be there around four or five o'clock, after your office hours." Well Dr. Miller did have about twenty or twenty-five skulls to patch up on Friday. They all, they beat them. They were starting to hit them. And then when I got there, I couldn't get to the line where Lucille was because a policeman was coming. They had their clubs. They all had their clubs in their hands, and they, they were waving them and that. And I turned around, and here I see this 6'2" policeman. He was just ready to hit me in the back, and I turned around and I started to run. And he ran after me for almost two blocks. I would say a block and three-quarters because there was a little house there that I didn't even know was there, and there were people there in that house, and they had a fence. And this policeman ran after me—
We ran out of film. We have to change again. But this is good. OK?
The policeman was chasing you.
Would you tell me—
The policeman was chasing you.
Yeah, was chasing me. Well then I, the policeman was chasing me, and when I told you once I could feel—I had a dress with a collar on—and I could feel that the, his stick probably got close to me, but not...and then I put on a little speed, and I run faster and I guess he, he got slower, and all of a sudden this house appears, and the lady's, "C'mon, c'mon!" and the dog is barking, and, and other man was, "Everybody c'mon!" The policeman turned around and went back, and I went to, I'm a looking and turning, I didn't want to go in the yard. And I looked and I turned around and I see a lady across the street hollering, "Police, police, help! Police, help!" There was a man standing by her gate, and he had a top, a suit on and a top coat, and he was bleeding from his head, and she's calling the police to help, to help him. So I had got to him, and I says to her, "Don't be calling the police." I says, "He's the one that beat him up." I says, "Leave him alone. I'll take him." So I...he wasn't a Republic Steel worker, he was an Inland Steel worker, but he heard of this little parade, and he thought that he'd come and see what's going on. And then I took him under the arm, and I says, "Don't worry." He says, "Don't let the police get me, don't let the police get me," because he was blood all down his top coat and his [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] was in his hand. And I just took him. And the patrol wagon was standing about a half a block away. He says, "You called for the thing, put him in now." So I passed the policeman up on the patrol, and I says, "Don't be afraid, I didn't know the man from Adam." I says, "Don't be afraid." I says, "If they take you in, I'll go with you, and then they won't be able to beat you because I'll stop them." And I says, "They have no right to hit me." So then we passed, we passed them and then we got to one of our workers. They had the Red Cross band on their arm, and they put him in a car and Dr. Miller gave him a couple of stitches on the head. He got a thousand dollars to twelve hundred because he gave me a hundred dollars, and he says, "Here, buy yourself a pair of shoes," 'cause that was Tom Girdler's money. He, he got it [laughs]. He got a thousand dollars for that.
OK, now, and then, Memorial Day.
Oh. Oh, gosh.
Tell me about what happened Memorial Day. You've got to tell me kind of quickly, but tell me completely.
Well, that...I was supposed to go on the front again with Lucille. We were going to, we were bound we were going to carry that flag and get our husbands into the, into the gates, you know, not around the gate and everything. Well, then we had a strategy committee, the group leaders, and you have to have a strategy committee. Otherwise the, the parade is unorganized. So, my, mine, I was going to go in the front with, with Lucille, and hold the flag. My husband Mike was going to go in about the fourth line and watch the photographer when he's taking the pictures of what's going on at the parade, and if anybody attacks him, he's to throw the, his camera to Mike, and Mike would take it and run. Well, it, it was so disorganized that the, the camera was all, well it got so disorganized people were all over it. I didn't. I was supposed to go to the parade, and they called me the last minute that Joe Weber and, and the other organizers were in, 92nd street and Burley Avenue at the, they had that CIO Hall there.
Stop for a second, again.
Joe Weber was an organizer, and they had all these organizers, photos of them, and they knew everything about them because there's always spies in a place like that. And the first thing they do is on Friday they picked up Patterson, the police. The first thing they did was grab him because they knew he was an organizer. He didn't have a chance to even open his mouth on Friday. So the organizers stayed back and we did. So we had no phone in the Sam's Place because we, it was a weekend, and we couldn't get the phone cause it's Memorial Day and, and Saturday, and Sunday. We get the phone on after the holidays. So then I says, Sam says to me, "Here's the keys from my home. I'm going away for a weekend." He says, "And when you go to need the phones, you'll use it," he says, "And here's the keys. Use anything that you need," he says. "Just use it here at my—I trust you and—" he says, 'cause I knew his wife, and I—he gave me the keys. So then somebody decided that Regina should be on the telephone and connect the fellows who were on the roof of the building, and they were watching everything. They could see everything what was going on whether they're fighting, they're shooting or what. And they were on top of the roof, and I was supposed to be, keep in touch with Joe Weber and he had a couple of more men there, and tell him what's, what's going on. And I, and I, well I, they come in and they says, "Nothing, they're not close to the gate yet." You know, "Nothing, nothing." Then all of a sudden, they come in. All hell broke loose. They were, everybody was howling. The first thing I know I says, and I says to Joseph, "What's the, what they doing [sic]?" I says, "Joe," I says, "they're, they're shooting!" I says, "Bullets!" And a lot of key people were shot. I says, "You've got to have ambulances," and I says, "you got to have more doctors. They're beating up the women and anybody that came around." I says, "Got a club [sic]." I says, "They're bringing them all here." And I says, "Would have taken them to South Chicago Hospital, because," I says, "so many were shot." I says, and then I says, this was dumb, but I says, "Joe, don't you hear the shooting, the bullets?," you know because to me, you know, I could hear them real plain. But, and then, well my God, Joe hung up the receiver, and, you know I says, "Get in touch with the lawyers, and," you know, "you have to do, get organized right away." And they were, were organized where they got six attorneys on hand right away and things like that. Well then they, South Chicago Hospital called Dr. Zimmerman -- he's a South Chicago doctor -- to please go to South Chicago Hospital. And Dr. Miller couldn't. He stitched about seventy, eighty heads in the, in the, in the kitchen, in the soup kitchen, and he [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] your shirt off of your back and wrapped your head. He didn't have enough gauze bandage or anything to do these things. And he called his friend Dr. Turick if he would come and help him, give him a hand. And he says, "There are also some men shot," and he says, "You could go to the hospital if you want because there's surgery." Lucille Cook took two bodies. They were thrown in the car. I don't know if they were thrown in by our men or the policemen or what, but two, two men were just thrown in her car, and she had a four-door, I guess Ford or whatever it was. She went right through the railroad there, 106th, Wisconsin Steel, the gates are always down, they're always down there. She went down around the gate, and she went, and she, oh my God, these men were bleeding. One, one was Taglieri. I forget who the other man was. And he was, but they both died. They had surgery, and they were shot in the back. They had about, maybe one had about ten bullets, one had maybe about eight or more. A girl had two, wasn't doing anything, was standing in line there, and they picked up her hand, and they, and he, for no reason at all, shot her in the wrist. A boy was standing there by the bicycle, with his bicycle. He was sixteen years old. He was watching the, he wanted to watch the parade because his two brothers worked in there and wanted to see all of what's going on. For no reason whatever, one of the bullets hit him and killed him. And one was the, now this...our men were taking care. We had Red Cross workers, we called them Red Cross workers, you know, that helped our boys, with the, with the red bands around. They, they were to run to them when they got, if they got hurt. They were running to, to, to these here, and they would take them and pull them away and throw them—
We're out of film.
I was just shocked of, of what I saw and heard and the screaming and the crying, and I, I didn't know sometime what I'm doing [sic]. It takes you time for your emotions to get together because everybody's got blood coming from their head or they were clubbed, and everybody's screaming and looking for their husbands and looking for, for their wives and all, and it was just...so you just take over. You just do—everything that I did that day, I didn't think that I could ever face that much blood. I think that I would, if it was me and somebody talked about it, I would never go into that, but you change completely. You just do it because it has to be done, and this is the way you, you are a completely changed person when you see blood from fifty, sixty men running down their noses and their—just and you see a woman's back all battered up from a policeman's club. And a woman that I knew, her husband was, was in an undershirt running around. They must have tore off his shirt to give to somebody for blood. And, and, he was walking around, and he was asking, and he was calling, "Rosia, Rosia," and he says to me in Croatian, "Dear Rosia," he was calling, calling Rose, "Where's Rose? Where's Rose?" And he was with her, his wife, and she was beat up on the back, and I didn't see him, her, but I saw him. So I run back into the lady's house at Sam's place, and I thought maybe I could find something. I knew he would go into shock because he, he was shaking and turning around. And there was a blanket, a plaid blanket, Indian blanket we called them at that time, and I took it off the bed and I quickly went outside and I put it on Mr. Marcou's back. And I, I told him, I says, "Don't worry." And I says that you'll be all right then. He says that he was worried about his wife, and I says that she probably is in the kitchen by the doctor and so many people there. And I said his name was Marcou, I says, somebody I knew. "Marcou, Marcou, don't worry," I says. "Everything..." And I says to him, "Don't shake like that," you know. I says, "You'll be all right." And he says that they, that they beat Rosia on the back, you know, with the club, see, and she probably was injured, suffering from the little shock, you know, after being beat, beat up she has some pain. So from there, I, I, well then everybody come crying to me. They says, My husband, Regina, where's my husband?" Irene [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] , she came, she says, "Where's...? They says he, they took him to South Chicago to sew his head. He's supposed to be in South Chicago Hospital." I said, "He has stitches." Well, Dr. Zimmerman was our local doctor on the East side there, so he went to the hospital and he, he did the stitching. Some of us needed more, like a hundred stitches and sixty, seventy stitches. And he had him go sit in the front hall. And he didn't know that the police were coming and taking these men that he was dressing to them and arresting them, putting them in prison, till he found out that they were taking them. And then he says, "When you go out, you just yell [groans]. And that..." He says, "They won't take you. Tell them you got to go to the hospital. You know, you got to start singing your song [groans], groan and moan." And they took one man and they kept him for three days, two or three days, and I think they took him to, in Hyde Park to that, there was, that was the nicest hotel. And they wined him and dined him, and was asking him all about the union, and asking him about me, and then they says to [sic], "You better ask Regina. If they can put their hands on her, they want to get her and interrogate—"
—and, and they says, "Don't let her go home, don't let her go home." So then they, while then they, we got in touch with one lawyer, our lawyer, you know that we had at that time. Then a couple lawyers, couple lawyers—this should be put in—volunteered their time, if they could help us in any way. And some of them became lawyers later for the union are working today as union lawyers.
OK, good. Now, when you think about now, when you think about that day now, how's it make you feel?
It makes me feel very bitter, very bitter. I'm very bitter about it because did all the people that got hurt, all the people that were dead. Captain Mooney, Mayor Kelley, Tom Girdler's company, nobody got indicted, no policeman got hurt, and no, they just forgot it, they just beat them up, and it was all paid off, and nobody got, nobody ever—I could never figure out to this day why nobody got indicted because twelve men dead, two in an asylum, amputees, all kinds of beatings, shooting a fifteen year old girl, a fifteen, eighteen, seventeen year old boy got shot for nothing. And out of this, I feel very, very bitter that nobody got indicted, and why didn't they get indicted.
Did it change, that change the way that you thought about police and the way you thought about this country? How?
Yeah, I, well it, it did. Still today, I always say what I see what the police are doing today, I says, "Them dirty brutes," when I read it in the paper to myself, I talk. You know, I'm alone, and I says, yeah, "Another dirty brutes," you know. The one that killed his wife and then put, put her down to the river and that. And I says, yeah and collecting and paying the police to, to, to do, to do the shooting, and then helping them throw—all of this I says, well, they were crooks in 1937, and they're still crooks today.
Now, tell me again. You told me about how after the massacre, you went to Washington D. C. to meet with Senator La Follette.
Can you tell me that story again?
Yes, well we went to the La Follette Committee, and, he met [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] , the men met Lewis first. They, we went in and were here from Chicago, and their—they sit by the counter and they ask you what you want, and your name, and then they tell you, well it says here we're here protesting the 1937 strike and you know the kill and all that. And he says well your Senator is, you know, was, he was in session and that he'll see, a message will be delivered to come to his office and then he'll see you. So, he, they says, "Would you like to listen to a session of Congress?" and, well, all of us says, "Yes, we would," you know, but we had to wait till, we, we saw our Senator first. Well La, La Follette was the head of the, of the Labor Board which was thankful, very thankful to God that he took the Labor Board. And he was born in Milwaukee, and he was a Milwaukee boy. And he took the men, and first—
Regina, Regina, we have to stop here. And I want you to tell me that La Follette was head of the, the La Follette Committee.
He was, he was elected.. The La Follette Committee, he was the President of—
Yeah, tell me that, OK, not the Labor—
Robert La, La Follette was, was President of the Labor Board Committee the first time this was an action. And I says it couldn't came, come in a better time. So then he saw me standing there and, you know, they, at that time the woman all wore gloves and they wore hats and all that. The one man was driving me, "Put your gloves on, Regina! Put your pair of gloves on." Well, I had a green hat and green gloves, and I swore at that cause I'm always putting them on, you know, when you go to see the Senator. So then the Senator talked with them for quite a while with all the men, and they left me alone in the hall, which I was thankful because I needed a rest. We drove all night. Then he took me alone, La Follette. He got the men to go on. He says, "I want to talk to this lady for..." I says, "Yeah, we were both born in Milwaukee, all good people come from Milwaukee," and you know how you do this and that. And then I told him what I did and what I saw. You know, I told him, you know how the, I run the kitchen. And then I says I was going to be in the front line, and it got to the telephone and I says they were shooting and I...
So what did he say?
And, he, he, he says that, he just didn't say much, but the expression on his face was, you know, it shouldn't have been done, as much as to say that. And I says, "Well, I'm worried. I have two children," I says. "One boy is seven and one boy is nine." And I says, "They, they don't want to give Mike a job," I says.
Let's stop a second, let's stop. Regina—
Then I told La Follette, I says, "I have two children and I'm worried." I says, "They wouldn't..." I says, "He was out of work," I says, "since the group meeting when they broke up the group meeting." And I says, "Now they won't hire him. They put him on a blacklist." I says, "He couldn't get a job anywhere," I says, "until the politicians wanted a favor from me, wanted, Alderman [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] wanted a favor from me." He wanted to speak to the union, to the 1033 Local Union because he was running for office, and if I could arrange with, with my, my husband and, the union men to have him speak. And I says, "Well, you want a favor from me, and, and a favor from Mike." I says, "You know Mike is—" I, I says, "This is October, and Mike has been home," I says, "since, since March." I says he got laid off two, two months before the, the strike. "He hasn't got a job?" [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] says, he just stumped by that, and I says, "No he isn't, he doesn't have a job. They won't take him back." And then, La Follette says, he put his hand on my shoulder, and he called me Regina, and he says, "Regina, don't you worry," he says, "we—when you go home and do what you're doing," and he says, "I guarantee you that your husband will get his back pay and he'll get his job," which he did. And that's thanks to the Labor Board. I'm very, very thankful to the Labor Board for that, because it, it all came out that way. [laughs] Out of film, huh?
Yeah, we've got to do that again.
Anybody take shorthand? [laughs]
You're going to tell me about what happened when you saw Senator La Follette.
Repeat what I said?
La Follette says to me, we were going out the door?
No, but before you talked to him, before you said you told him about what had happened— [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ]
I told him the whole story. I told him—
Wait a minute. Now, you have to tell me, "I told Senator La Follette..." and then tell me the story.
I told La Follette that I take care of the kitchen. And I told him what we had in the kitchen was, we were going to have like a little party for the kids, and we were going to have something for the speakers. Joe unintelligible was one of the speakers from Milwaukee Garment Workers, and we were going to prepare a lunch, sandwiches, hot beef. And I said, "Senator, you won't believe it. The whole kitchen was full of blood. The meat and everything we had there had, had to be sterilized and cleaned. There was blood all over." I says, "The men didn't know where to sit." I says, "One of the ministers from the area brought ten cops." I says, "We could have used a hundred cops here." I says, "They were laying on the floor, waiting to have their heads shaved." And then he says to me that I shouldn't worry about Mike getting a job. I says, "At present, he's on a blacklist at the mills. He, he doesn't get a job at any mill." And he says, "Well, when we get through, Regina, don't worry, Mike will get his job and his back pay," which Mike did get his job and his back pay. And about this, the woman coming to my house and, well, certain people coming, she says "I'm a Catholic worker," and she says, "I'd like to hear, attend one of your meetings." And she says, "How are things going in back?" and "How is the strike going?" And I told her it's going pretty good, and I says, "Now we're, we're getting organized and I says now we got Tom, Tom Girdler to, to fight." I says, "The union men got him to fight," but I says, "I'm not worrying." I says, "I was in Washington," and I says, "My husband will get his job back." And this girl was listening to all that. My sister had a little Ma and Pa grocery store—
OK, OK, OK. Stop.
When Mike got his job back, I guess it was announced in all the papers that the Labor Board Committee and all that, that these men all went back to work. And they got their, their, their pay, their back pay and, and according to their position, you know, some got three, five thousand, you know. And Mike was working so they deducted that pay that he got from, from when he worked for the, for the Procter Street that he come from the Alderman gave that job to the, to, to Mike. So I felt much relieved, but there's still a little bitterness, and I think that bitterness will be—and my sons, my husband told, I think this is important for you—my husband's son says [sic—Regina means to say something like "My husband said to my son"], "If you ever go to the mill," he says, "I'll walk out." And my, my son that was teaching to be a bookkeeper and a broker, he says, "Pa," he says, "the only way I'll go to the mill is to go there and figure out their budget as a bookkeeper and see what they make," he says, "and then I'll quit. And he did that."
Good, good. Now tell me about Roosevelt how you all felt about Roosevelt?
How, Roosevelt, the president? Oh, we think he was wonderful.
Now you need to tell me who you thought was wonderful. Tell me about Roosevelt. You have to say Roosevelt.
Well, Roosevelt gave my job, husband a WPA job and fifty-five dollars a month.
OK, we'll forget that. In 1936 there was a big rally for Roosevelt at Soldier's Field when he was running. Did you and Mike go?
I can't remember. I don't, Mike could have gone, and not me because of the children. We don't have, we didn't have babysitters at that time.
OK. Now, tell me about how the union was feeling after the Memorial Day massacre. Did that make you want to fight harder? Did it make you want to give up? How did that make the union feel?
Well I was very bitter, and I was...anybody that slandered me, I slandered back, and I could have almost gone and slapped a couple of faces, but I held back. I says, "Well I'm a lady, and I'm not going to let that dirty scab's funeral make a fool out of me," you know, calling me that I'm a Red. And I says, "Red,' I says, "You got...red," I says, "I got red blood just like you," I says. "But your blood is weak," and I says, "Mine happens to be a little stronger." And I says, "We won the strike and a betterment for you." My husband's friend, they grew up together, and he went out, and my husband held that against him for years. He was working beside him, and he says he had to go because he had so many children. Hell, he had a home paid for. He didn't have to, you know. And things like that, and we, we got bitter, you know. We lost a lot of friends, which we didn't think, you know. So you, you were bitter against them. And you just turned the face, man, when you see a death notice or something, somebody died, and I says, "Oh, that's the SOB that I'm going—he was in the, in the, in the, in the gate, and I was picketing with the men, and he almost hit me in the car."
OK, good. Now let's stop. Just one more time. How much have we got left?
Well when we—
Wait a minute. Go.
When we got through talking and Senator La Follette opened the door and we were leaving, and then he says, "Don't worry." He called me Regina. I tell that to everybody. "Don't call me Mrs., I feel old." So he laughed and I says, "Oh, you know us Milwaukee people, we've got to stick together." And I says, "You got to," I says, "help this girl." I says, "We're from Milwaukee." And I says, "Senator, I have two children," and I says, "Mike is on a blacklist." They wouldn't give him a job anywhere. And I says, and he says, "Regina—" we were outside of the door. I was half way out. He was still in his office. He opened the door knob, and he says, "Regina, you go back and do what you were doing, and don't worry. Mike will get his job back and his back pay. And everything should be OK, and don't worry," he says about it. He says, "You're doing good," and "Go back and do it. Do as you're doing." And that was the end of La Follette. And he met with me alone, and we, I told him when we were alone that I worked in the kitchen and what happened to all the food. It was all bloody and everything. And what we had planned for the children and that. I says, "It was lucky that the children ate before we did, because most of us took our children. There was a lot of fields and that, and there was room for them to play," I says. We didn't have baby sitters and things like that, so I says, "When we come back, we were glad that the children ate," because I says, that the forty pounds of meat, I told him was full of blood, everything was bloody.
OK, that's good. Let's stop again. This is the last time. Now—
[laughs] [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ]
You ready? You ready? We're rolling now, tell me.
After the Memorial Day massacre about how the union—
How I felt?
And how, how the union felt, what they decided to do—
Oh, the union! They went, they were—
Wait, wait. You have to "After the, after the massacre—"
They were, when I—
No, you have to tell me that.
After the massacre, the men still went on, they were fighting a hundred strong. They were organized and working. Some went back to work right away, and some came out from, from after what happened. And my son says that he overheard a policeman, a young policeman say, "That wasn't necessary what they did to, to, to, for just a strike, to shoot all them men." My son was nine years old. And see, he overheard it. And I didn't, well you know, you can't—
But you had told me something that Mike said.
Well Mike says, "We're going to, we're going to fix..." You know what that cuss word was all the time. And he says, "We're going to be stronger." They were stronger. They had that big union hall at 89th and Commercial, and they ran that, and that hall was full every week. Yeah, they had Joe [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] was District Supervisor, and they build it, Joe [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] Housing. Now that's all neglected, now they're going to rebuild again for the people, you know, for make shelters and that, for... Joe [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] was District Manager for...
OK, so now, do you think it was all worth it? Was all, was all the struggle, all the pain, all the bloodshed, was it worth it? And if you think it was worth it, tell me why it was worth it?
Well, I think it was worth it. Somebody had to do it. And if they didn't do it, if the men would just go on and on until the day, nothing come of it. But I felt it has to be done because the conditions were too...but I think it was worth it. If I'm eighty-one years old now. If I had to go through a hardship again, I think I would.