The Flint Sit-Down Strike Audio Presentation


They called it the Goon Squad, if that's what you want to call it, but uh... we didn't think it was a goon squad, that was uh... the regular members, you know, that was getting this thing, helping us people out. And they come through and they says, "Every body out! Everybody out!" walking up and down the buildings.

A lot of people shied away, "what do you mean they're going away?" yeah they're going out on strike. "Well, they can't do that?"

"What do you mean they can't do that? They're doing it."

Yeah, so I was all ready to go out. Boy, the trim shop, they went out a hundred strong, and they went through the cushion department, went through the cut and sew, and of course, a lot of them girls in there, they were ready too, cause they had their belly full of things that was going on; underpaid, and overproduction and all that stuff. So we got them all out, a lot of them thought it was just going to be a vacation, you know, but they didn't know the thing was going to be as long as it was.

So, I went outside, I got on to a committee that went around gathering up food, and uh... we went to all the local grocery stores in the south end, you know, soliciting for food, and then we'd take it back to the kitchen and Mary Nightengale, she was the cook, she run the kitchen out there. She had a lot of the sisters - they called them sisters then - and boy, they had a soup line there everyday, and you'd go there three or four times a day and they always had something for you to eat, twenty-four hours a day if you was hungry, and most of us got hungry before the thing was over with.

But anyway, why, we kept going around, and finally we kept going back and hitting each of the stores and they got tired of feeding us, so then we started hitting the farmers out in the country, getting produce, you know, potatos - boy we got a lot of potatos - and a lot of beans. Sometime... this one time we got... a guy said we should get some dried corn, and uh... boil up the corn and think they'd let it... make hameny out of it, then fry the corn. I'd never heard of it, so he told us how his wife did it, so we took it back to the kitchen and Mary, she tried that out and that worked out pretty good, for some people that liked it, you know.

And, the local farmers around, you know, well you might get some here and you might get some there, you know, from this guy... "why don't you go down here and ask John Brown, he's a pretty good guy, he might give you some." So, we'd go down and maybe get a half a bushell of potatos, maybe get a bushell of potatos, maybe we'd get a bag of beans or something like that - not a big bag - but we'd get five or ten pounds of beans from a guy, you know, of course all these comodities, they all helped out too.

Sometimes we'd get fresh eggs from the farmers, and uh... Heck, Harold... not Harold, his brother... I can't think of his name right now, but one of the Heck brothers, he was with me, and it was four of us that went out in the car, and uh... from the union they'd give us the gasonline to put in the truck, and uh... we'd go down and so we'd pick the stuff up and we'd go about three times a week.

We'd go to bakeries and we'd get second day bread, you know, they'd give us the bread, second day bread, and some of the doughnut shops around, they'd give us doughnuts for the picketts and stuff like that, you know, coffee.

[inaudible] central werehouse, they were pretty good people, this Mister F, Frarrah, F-A-R-R-A-H, or something like that - he's dead now - but uh... we went and saw him, and he'd give us fifty pounds of coffee, ground coffee and boy that's one guy, we had some pretty good fellas.

But that's the part that I was involved in.

[interviewer] Is that what you did during the strike, with the whole strike, is you helped collect food?

Yeah, I helped collect the food, and I helped on the outside, I wasn't one of the sit-downers, but I was involved in the outside of it.

Show Transcript Speaker: Joe Fry. Interviewed by U-M Flint Labor History Project. Date of interview: 7-27-1979. Edited by Michael Van Dyke.

Copyright: ©2002 Michigan State University.