Carol Cuenod Oral History Transcript
Interview conducted by Harvey Schwartz
August 9; August 18; August 29; September 9; September 19, 1994
Labor Archives and Research Center, San Francisco State University
1994, revised 2014
Copyright © 2014
This oral history was conducted as part of the Labor Archives and Research Center Oral History
Project. The audio recording has been transcribed, lightly edited for continuity and clarity, and
reviewed by the interviewee. Where necessary, editorial remarks have been added in square
All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement between the Labor Archives and
Research Center and the interviewee. The transcript and the audio recording are made available
to the public for research purposes under fair use provisions of copyright law. All literary rights in
the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved by the Labor Archives and Research
Center, San Francisco State University. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication
without the written permission of the Director of Labor Archives and Research Center.
All requests for pennission may be directed to:
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TABLE OF CONTENTS - Carol Cuenod
INTERVIEW HISTORY - NOTES ON TRANSCRIPTION
AND ACCESS iv
I CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FAMILY
Father, mother, brothers and sister 1
Childhood on the ranch 2
San Francisco - Mother joins the Communist Party 3
Return to the ranch 6
World War II and move to Los Angeles 9
World War II ends - return to the ranch 10
Margaret Cuenod 11
San Francisco, 1946 15
II POLITICAL LIFE: THE CALIFORNIA LABOR SCHOOL
AND THE COMMUNIST PARTY
Student and chorus member at the California Labor School 16
Getting out "on my own" 16
Youth for Wallace 17
#1 Volunteer at the California Labor School 18
Joining the Communist Party 20
Mother's illness and death 22
Peace congress in Mexico City 23
Becoming a member of the industrial concentration 25
III THE COMMUNIST PARTY AND THE LABOR YOUTH LEAGUE
A typical Communist Party meeting 28
The Korean War, 1950 - 1953 31
Making Howitzer shells at Simmons Mattress Factory 33
Starting at the top - Chairman of the San Francisco
Labor Youth League 33
Cadre training 37
Marriage, children - merging two political lives 36
The FBI tracks me to the East coast 37
Retired from the Labor Y outh League -
party membership just got lost 38
A single mother starts work at the ILWU 40
IV A CLERICAL WORKER AT THE ILWU
The benefit fund office - structure and personalities 41
The ILWU International Office - its officers and staff 44
Anne Rand - founder of the ILWU library 48
On the job training with Marge Canright 49
The clerical staff at the ILWU - being one of "the girls" 50
Our first strike - to support our sisters at local 10 51
Working for Harry, working for Lou 53
Negotiating our clerical workers agreement with Lou Goldblatt 53
Negotiations break down - out on strike again 56
V FINAL YEARS AT THE ILWU
Full charge of the library 57
Herman, Rubio and McClain - new international officers 58
ILWU archives gains importance 59
St. Francis Square - ILWU-sponsored housing cooperative 62
Early retirement and a move to Boston 64
VI BOSTON, LARC AND A LOOK BACK
Working at MIT's industrial liaison program 64
Return to San Francisco - begin as archivist at LARC 66
A look back on the California Labor School 67
Responsibility of a fonner communist 67
APPENDIX - Carol Cuenod: chronology for oral history
Carol Cuenod (interviewee) and Harvey Schwartz (interviewer) began their friendship in 1969
when Carol worked as Assistant Librarian at the ILWU Research Library. Harvey was beginning
the research of his Ph.D. dissertation on the Warehouse Union Local 6, ILWU, later published as
“The March Inland: Origins of the ILWU Warehouse Division, 1934 - 1938” (Institute of Industrial
Relations, UCLA, 1978). Their association continued when Harvey brought his Labor Studies
classes to the ILWU Library, when he administered the ILWU Oral History Project and Carol
served as its archivist, and most recently at the Labor Archives and Research Center where Carol
was a part-time Archivist and Harvey served as its oral historian. In total, it is a thirty-year
friendship [as of 1999] which has included social ties with their families in addition to their
When Lynn Bon Held suggested this oral history, Carol stated she thought such a history would be
a waste of tapes and shelf space, but Lynn argued that Carol’s experience would be of interest to
researchers as she was a former student at the California Labor School and as a clerical workers at
the ILWU spanning 14 years under Harry Bridges and Louis Goldblatt and nine years under Jimmy
Herman. Carol agreed to the project and prepared an outline to assist Harvey on the many turns of
her 65-year-old life. Harvey makes many references to that outline during the interview. The
complete outline together with Harvey Schwartz' notes forms the Appendix.
TRANSCRIPTION AND ACCESS
This oral history was transcribed by Carol Cuenod, the interviewee. If a verbatim transcript is the
goal, do not allow the subject of the interview to transcribe her own narration. This oral history has
had the narrative modified to fonn readable sentences and paragraphs with constant run-on
sentences connected by "and (pause)" and "ah (pause)" replaced by periods.
Most researchers will be interested in the activities in which Carol was engaged rather than Carol
as a subject; therefore, a detailed table of contents was prepared which will guide the researcher to
the section of their interest. The arrangement and style of the transcription is patterned after that
used by the Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
February 23, 1999
Labor Archives and Research Center
San Francisco State University
Interviewer: Harvey Schwartz (HS)
Interviewee: Carol Cuenod (CC)
I CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FAMILY
(Interview 1: August 9, 1994)
(Tape 1, Side 1)
Father, mother, brothers and sister
HS: Today is the 9th of August, 1994. This is Harvey Schwartz. I am in San Francisco
and this is Carol Cuenod. Can you pronounce your name Carol?
CC: Cuenod. [Quay~no]
HS: Cuenod. First of all, we can ask you a couple of background and serial number
questions - where you were born, where you went to school, a couple of things like
CC: I was born in San Francisco in 1929. Lived here for four years. My father was from
Switzerland. He immigrated over about 1920; came to San Francisco, met my mother and
married. When I was four years old, my family returned to Switzerland - father, mother,
my older sister - my half-sister. The four of us went over for two years and then returned
to Southern California in 1935.
A little bit on my mother because she had a rather complex life. She was married three
times and had children by each marriage. I might refer to various brothers and sisters.
Her first marriage had three children - my oldest brother, Joe, who is deceased, my second
brother, Drew, and my sister, Nancy, who died when she was 29. Then my mother
married her second husband and had one son, David. Her second husband was a socialist
and it's the influence of that family, and my mother, that gave me my political direction.
HS: What was his name again?
CC: Richard Wasdahl was the husband, David Wasdahl is the son. Richard was from North
Dakota, Norwegian, and they were - the whole family was socialist. His younger sister is
still alive and her family are like cousins to me, but they're only my half-brother's
[David's] cousins. I actually did an oral history of her, and she talked about the fact that
Eugene Debs used to visit and stay at their fann when he was touring. They were
involved in the socialist agrarian - 1 can't remember the name of the organization that
managed to elect a governor of North Dakota at one time. They made a movie about it,
but the name escapes me. Anyway, there is old socialist background. The marriage,
unfortunately, didn’t last.
My mother then married this young Swiss immigrant, who was my father. He came from
a very large family in Switzerland, French speaking, from Geneva and Lausanne. I think
my father was the only one who ever escaped [the family]. He had four sisters and two
brothers. The four sisters spent all their time writing letters to their nieces and nephews. I
have never had a birthday when I didn’t get letters. I was removed from that family, but
they always kept in touch. In the last 20 years or so, there's been a lot of visits back and
forth. I've gone over there about four times and every year I get a visit from a cousin - 1
currently have one visiting right now. So, with all of my mother's marriages and children,
I thought I ought to sort of lay out a score card.
Childhood on the ranch
When we returned from Switzerland in 1935, we didn’t come back to San Francisco. We
moved to Southern California to a town called Castaic which was on old Highway 99 right
at the beginning of the Ridge Route about 50 miles northeast of Los Angeles. We actually
bought a ranch 10 miles up a canyon from Castaic. I started first grade. Actually, I had
started school in Switzerland and when I came back I did not speak much English. Within
six months, I had completely lost all my French and regained my English. My father
would never speak French over here, and my mother never was comfortable with the
language so it was never spoken. I lost it and I've never been able to get it back.
I started school in Castaic which was a union grammar school, first through eighth grade.
CC: Union in that they had eliminated all the one-room schoolhouses. It [the union school]
incorporated an area about 30 miles in all directions. Two buses would go and collect
children from all the different canyons around Castaic. There were, from the first to the
eighth grade, about 100 students - anywhere from 80 to 100. There were eight to twelve
children in each grade. Generally, the first, second, and third grade were in one room;
fourth, fifth, and sixth in one room; and seventh and eighth in one room. The seventh and
eighth were taught by the principal. There was a principal and two teachers in the whole
school. That was my primary school except for a year and a half when I was in San
Francisco. My mother had a half-sister in San Francisco and she frequently left the ranch
and would come up. This was during the 30s, during the Depression. We tried to be
fanners, but were very unsuccessful, and pretty soon, there was just no cash. My father
was a carpenter by trade, but was not very assertive and he had a strong French accent. It
was difficult for him to go out and get work. My mother, on the other hand, was a
crackerjack white-collar worker - a secretary and every place she ever worked, they
welcomed her back. From time to time, she would come up to San Francisco, work a little
while and get money, and then usually return to the ranch cause she did love it there. The
marriage - well my parents fought a lot, but there was still - everything was out in the
open. They would argue, but there wasn't hostility. I remember a lot of argument, and
then the separations. Part of it was that my mother had other children who were having
hard times. Her two older boys were raised by their father, but in 1937, he died. They
were in high school by then and an aunt kind of looked after them, but my third brother,
was raised both by his father and my mother. He was bounced back and forth and had
some pretty hard times. My sister was mostly with us, but when she became high school
age, she had to leave the ranch. You could not go to high school from the ranch. She
went to live with other relatives and there was no money to give them to pay for her room
and board. So that was one reason why my mother would go get a job from time to time -
that was the excuse she gave. My mother always had a noble excuse for all her moving
around, but she really was a nomad at heart.
San Francisco - mother joins the Communist Party
When I was ten years old, I came to San Francisco and lived with nry mother for a year
and a half, fifth and sixth grade, and then I went back to Castaic, finished school there.
That was the year my father died from an accident.
HS: What year was this now?
CC: The accident was the end of 1941. I was 12 and he died the beginning of 1942. It was an
infection that turned to gangrene. A minor accident, but it was fatal due to poor medical
care and the absence of antibiotics - it was before antibiotics were available.
So from then on, the ranch became a place that was not a working ranch. By this time
World War II had started and my older brothers were in the navy. We would go to the
ranch as much as we could. My mother was working in Castaic for a while. We had a
place to live there, and then we moved to Los Angeles in 1943. It was there that she first
got a job working for labor attorneys.
I should backtrack a little bit.
HS: Yeah. I was going to say, is there more of a political background?
CC: Yeah, I need to backtrack to 1941 - 1940, 1941. When my mother left the ranch and came
to San Francisco. That was the time she was there almost two years. I joined her after
about six months after she got a job and a place to live. She had joined the Communist
Party by then. The influence may have been her former husband, but the real tie was with
HS: Which husband's sister?
CC: Richard Wasdahl's sister.
A woman named Imogene Wasdahl Robertson. My mother had met her when she was a
young woman, and they were life-long friends. They had lived together on and off, in
between marriages. She was the socialist, and she was a member of the Communist Party
in Alameda then.
CC: When my mother came up, it was to help pay support for my sister who was living with
HS: So there was a very close tie there.
CC: There was a life-long tie. It was like a third sister, really, except it was a relationship of
choice, and they shared common ideals and political involvement and so forth. So, my
mother joined the Communist Party, probably in 1939, and was active here in San
Francisco until 1941. I believe the Party changed from a Party to a Communist Political
Association. It was the Browder period. That was my first exposure to political activity.
My mother went to hear John Pittman lecture every Wednesday night. Wednesday night,
I either went with her or I was left home alone. Thursday night was her night to go to the
Party meetings. The whole blooming county - all [members] in San Francisco had
Communist Party meetings on Thursday nights. I always went to stay with my Aunt
Isabel on Thursday night and listen to all the radio programs ‘cause she had a radio. I was
only ten years old, but there was an occasional [political] event I went to. I remember
going to hear Archie Brown at a street meeting. That's when he was running for governor.
I remember once when I went to hear John Pittman, Mamma pointed out Mike Quin and
his wife who were in the audience. That's the only time I ever saw him, but he looked just
like his picture ‘cause he used to have [his photograph on] the little masthead in the
People k World. Before my mother came to San Francisco, she was a charter subscriber to
the People ’s World and it used to come down to the ranch every day - every weekday - in
the mail. (Pause) That sort of gave me claim to being a red-diaper baby, I guess.
HS: I should think so. Do you at all remember the parade for Mooney in 1939?
CC: No. I only came up in 1940.
HS: OK. At that time, you're going to school in the city. Did you have any interaction
with other children over politics that influenced your thinking?
CC: I remember two campaigns. My best friend was a young Japanese girl from a wealthy
family. We lived on a rooming house on Pacific Avenue and Laguna Street— a very ritzy
area - but it was an old rooming house and we had a housekeeping room with a bath down
the hall. But I went to the Pacific Heights School and met her there. Two campaigns
were going during that year and a half. One was a boycott of anything made in Japan. It
was to support the Chinese who were under attack from Japan. I had this Japanese
girlfriend who gave me a few gifts and I had to hide them because they were made in
Japan. One was a Japanese box which I still have. It was a lovely family and they were
very generous with me. My mother was working and didn’t get home until 5:30 or 6. I
was terrified when I first came up because I had never been left alone in the city before. I
was alone on the ranch, but that - 1 was comfortable there. That Japanese family took me
in. I used to go home with this girl every afternoon and play at her house 'till 5 or 5:30
when my mother came home. It made the whole experience much better. Her mother was
English and her father was Japanese. He was an executive in the NYK shipping line. He
had a chauffeured limousine and once, on an afternoon when I went to stay at Aunt
Isabel's - when my mother went to Communist Party Meetings (chuckles) - the limousine,
on its way down to the financial district to pick up the father, dropped me off where my
aunt lived! The chauffeur was a very friendly, jolly-type person.
I was only at that school for one semester and then my mother moved in with Gladys
Atzeroth, who was a Communist Party member who lived on Nob Hill - Washington and
Taylor. She was the mother of Felice Clark Stratton. I later knew Felice when she was a
Party functionary, then was secretary of the Labor School. She finally went to work at the
ILWU until she retired. Gladys was a dressmaker and, amongst her customers were many
young women including Carolyn Decker, who I met. That was in 1940 before she married
Gladstein, but she was, at that point I think, an organizer for fann workers.
The other campaign, did I mention, was The Yanks Are Not Coming ?
HS: You didn't mention it yet, but you said there was a second issue.
CC: The Yanks are Not Coming. That was a campaign to keep us out of World War II up until
June of 1941 when the Soviet Union entered the war. I used to wear a button to school. I
don't think it caused too much comment, but that was my only political expression that I
We stayed with Gladys about six months and then we moved into the Sentinel Building
[Columbus Towers] down at Kearny and Jackson, which had studios for a lot of transients
and artists. My mother always loved the building and she had a way of moving into
places that she liked. We rented a room there. She furnished it with furniture she got real
cheap in Chinatown stores and I went to a school at Broadway and Powell called Jean
Parker. It was almost all Chinese - 1 was one of three children in the classroom that wasn’t
Chinese. I went to the sixth grade and graduated and I would have gone on to junior high
in San Francisco, but we returned to the ranch at that point.
HS: OK. Can I ask you, what happened to your Japanese friend?
CC: Her father was arrested after Pearl Harbor. I did come up and visit her. He was put into
detention. Her mother, her older sister, and she were still living on Pacific Avenue, but
they relocated to Minnesota and we corresponded for awhile. If you didn’t live on the
coast, you didn’t have to go into a camp. During the war they went to Japan with her
father. For my friend, her name was Rahnny, it was her first trip to Japan. They went on
the SS Gripsholm - it was the exchange ship that went back and forth.
HS: When was this?
CC: I don’t remember the exact date. It might have been 1943, somewhere around there. I saw
her in 1942 before relocation took place or while it was taking place. I remember when I
went to visit her they had set up - there was a room and a bathroom in the basement and
they had put blackout curtains and padded the windows and filled it up with food, in
anticipation of a bombing. One reason her father was put immediately in detention or jail,
I don’t know what you want to call it, [it was alleged] he knew of the attack. All NYK
ships had been pulled out of the area.
HS: By the attack, you mean Pearl Harbor?
CC: Yeah. It was assumed that he knew. Of course, everyone knew that war was imminent,
but they felt that he had prior knowledge [of the bomb attack]. I heard through other
friends that she returned to this country after the war, but I never had any contact with her.
Her father had worked in Seattle before they came to San Francisco and I had friends who
said they knew her after the war in Seattle.
Return to the ranch
HS: Do we have your mother's name?
CC: No. My mother's - my father's name was Robert Cuenod and he was known as Robert
[Rohbere] here. Even my non-European cousins called him Rohbere [laughter]. My
mother's name was Margaret, her maiden name was Mary Jean Hickey, but she was
kn own as Margaret Cuenod.
HS: What about your dad's politics? Did your dad have any political slant on the world
like your mom did?
CC: No. Basically, my father was not political.
[Tape 1 - Side 2]
CC: [Narrative lost at end of side 1] My father was very accepting of all her kids [mother’s]
and those were the years when the ranch was filled with people who were unemployed
who would come and stay. We had three cabins there, well two cabins and a bunk house,
but one cabin was frequently filled with families that needed a place to live for a short
time. My brothers lived in Los Angeles but would come up to the ranch whenever they
could and usually bring a Model A full of kids with them. It wasn’t unusual on weekends
to have 10 to 15 people up there. The only requirement was they had to bring food. We
couldn’t afford to feed them all. But they were welcomed, and my father made them feel
welcomed. The kids all, really, were very fond of my father. He was not demonstrative,
but he was very accepting. [He] seldom became concerned or worried about their
behavior. They'd drive up any time of the day or night. Sometimes we’d wake up and see
them sleeping on top of the haystack [laughter]. It was a very unconventional, infonnal
lifestyle, and he came from the exact opposite. He came from a highly-structured,
Calvinist family and hated it - never was homesick. He ended up in the exact opposite -
out on a desert canyon, away from the lush beauty of Switzerland and seemed perfectly
content. Even though times were hard, he never complained.
HS: A couple of things. What was the product that was supposed to be produced at the
CC: When my mother and father bought the place, my mother never saw it as a fanning ranch.
And it wasn't; it was mostly sage brush. There was a little bit - a couple of fields. But she
thought they could raise bees and sell the honey. I don’t think they ever could have made
a living out of it, but have a garden and raise their own - you know, raise chickens,
provide some of their own food, and then, as a cash, for cash flow, sell honey and maybe
take in guests, paying guests. They built two cabins. I mean, there wasn’t even a well on
the place when we bought it.
My father saw all that land, and for a Swiss person, it seemed large. It was 160 acres. He
immediately started building a farm and that is what they fought over an awful lot. He
tried to become a fanner to a few cattle, a few horses, a few pigs. We got the pig bam
built in 1937 and a flood came along and washed it all downstream. It also took away half
our wheat field - oat field, not wheat, washed the road out completely. We were high and
dry [laughs]. We still had some stock, but the ranch never was a going concern.
When my parents came back from Switzerland, they had an inheritance. My grandfather
had died - they had close to $20,000 which was a fortune in 1936 and they spent it all. I'm
guessing at that amount. Figures were thrown around, but they bought the ranch for
$1600 - ten dollars an acre. They installed a well, they fenced it, they cleared it, they built
three houses, they built a reservoir which we used to call our swimming pool, put in an
alfalfa field, built a pig barn, a cow bam. Did all those things. It ate up all the money and
then there wasn’t any more in about three years. So, with no regrets though. It became a
happy place to be even though it wasn’t a success. All my brothers, sister, friends,
cousins, that came to spend their vacations there, thought of it as a great place. We had a
family reunion there a couple years ago, joined with our neighbors that had the closest
ranch to us two miles down the canyon. A big Mexican, well actually California Spanish-
Indian family, 16 kids. There were playmates, boy friends or girl friends, for every one of
our family [laughter]. Anyway, the ranch was a happy place. My father played a big role
in that in being so accepting of all the children and friends of former marriages. He was
very affectionate with me and I had a very close relationship with him. When my mother
went to San Francisco, I stayed with him for six months and it was a very traumatic time
for me because first, she left, and then I left and I really thought we had deserted him.
You know, it took me a long time to realize that, having a ten-year old girl leave [laughs]
wasn't exactly a desertion. He probably took a deep sigh of relief and went on about what
he was doing. But it was a happy event when we returned - for me to have everyone back
on the ranch again.
HS: Is this when you...
CC: This was in 1941.
HS: We're back to that point.
CC: Yeah, and then, unfortunately, six months later he died. Now in that period, we were
coming out of the Depression and he was working. He was earning good money. He had
come into his own again. He was in his early 40 ’s by then. He wasn't working on the
ranch. He was working on constructions jobs away from the ranch and just came home on
weekends. My mother, we were living on the ranch, but then we moved into Castaic
where she had a job too. So, they weren’t living together as husband and wife, but we
were all pretty much in the same environment there.
I'm lost as to where we were, I think...
HS: You're about 12 or 13. You've come back from San Francisco. The war is just over
CC: After my father died, my mother moved into Los Angeles and went to work for a law firm.
This didn’t happen right away, this was actually about 1943 - there's a lapse in there, I was
quite ill after my father died. I had the chicken pox, I had the measles. My older sister
lived in Alameda. She had married and had a baby by that time. I went to live with her.
Then I returned to Castaic and graduated from the eighth grade, and then moved into Los
World War II and move to Los Angeles
If you were back in Castaic when your mom was in LA, who was the adult with you?
CC: She was still in Castaic. It was somewhere between ’42 and ’43, my mother remained in
Castaic, but I went up and lived with my sister for about three or four months or longer. It
was quite a long spell that I stayed up there. I kind of got more on an even keel.
CC: Came back, moved into LA, she went to work for labor attorneys - a firm called Katz,
Gallagher and Margolis. She became secretary to Leo Gallagher who defended Dimitrov
in the - 1 don't know, some trial over in Europe.
HS: Gallagher? Leo Gallagher's quite a prominent figure.
CC: She was thrilled when she was told she was going to be Leo Gallagher's secretary.
And this was sort of a return - she never joined the Party again, but the job itself had
political overtones. They were attorneys for the "Sleepy Lagoon" boy - Margolis was. It
was the period when Roosevelt was everyone's hero, including all of the Communists.
What later became characterized as the Teheran period where all militant Party - the Party
as a vanguard was sort of blurred, I guess. My mother established friendships with other
office workers who were politically active. She worked for about a year there, and then
worked with the corresponding firm - Gladstein, Andersen, Resner and Sawyer here in
San Francisco. It was a perfect arrangement for her because she had a sister in Los
Angeles, and the ranch. She also had a sister in San Francisco, and she loved San
Francisco. But she could bounce back and forth, which she did. If I had moved with her,
I never would have remained in one school for more than a few months. As it turned out,
I learned to make my own way when she moved - go stay with a relative, or in some cases,
stay by myself and finish out the school year and then move on. I went to school for a
year at Central Jr. High, which was in downtown Los Angeles. This was in the time of the
Pachuco gang warfare and the "Sleepy Lagoon" case. I was exposed to some gang fights
there, but also got to know the Mexican kids and, of course, developed a crush on half of
the boys. I went from there to Belmont High School.
Politically, we were involved in the fourth Roosevelt campaign. I remember going to a
meeting with Helen Gahagan Douglas who was then a congresswoman. It was before she
ran for senator, but I went to a big meeting with Helen Gahagan Douglas, I think Jimmy
Roosevelt might have been there, Edward G. Robinson was the emcee, Henry Wallace
was there as Vice-President. That was before Truman became the running mate. It was
the 1944 campaign, but Henry Wallace was at that meeting. Other political activity at that
time - 1 don't think I was actively involved in terms of going to meetings and
demonstrations. My mother was in tune through her work because that was an area where
she was aware through political legal cases such as the "Sleepy Lagoon" - that's the one I
World War II ends - return to the ranch
I dropped out of school at the end of the war because my brothers were coming home from
service and my mother wanted to be up on the ranch and have it as a place for them to
come home to. So she quit work, I dropped out of school and we went back to the ranch
and got it kind of revved up and cleaned up. We tried to get the old windmill working
again and get a water supply in and really, it was quite primitive up there. We had a wood
stove, no electricity, but we’d go dragging wood in and got the place livable. First my
oldest brother returned, then my youngest brother. My middle brother had married a girl
in Florida and they came back. We stayed there for about a six or eight-month period.
I fell in love with one of our neighboring young men. My mother was appalled - 1 think I
was 16 years old by then, and we were going to get married! My mother never told me
that I couldn’t marry him, but she wanted me to wait a year and come to San Francisco. If
after a year, I still wanted to marry him, I could come back.
HS: This is one of the neighboring families?
CC: The Cordova family. There were some wonderful young men in that family.
HS: Sounds like it...
CC: But the one that I picked was not one of the better ones [laughter], but he was the one who
made a play for me and that was my first love.
HS: Right. Would they technically be called Californios? Were they the old generation?
CC: They actually were. They were related to the Pico's.
HS: Yeah. They were Californios.
CC: Yeah. Now the mother's father was Gennan - she had kind of auburn hair, blue eyes, but
her husband, she married a Californio, he was the Cordova. Her mother was Indian -
California Indian and her father was Gennan. When I was in grammar school, the
Superintendent of Schools used to come visit our school once a year. He always used to
comment on the illustrious relatives the Cordovas’ had. That's how I found out about it -
that they came from a great early California family and were related to the Pico's. I only
knew Pico as a street - Pico and Sepulveda where my brothers lived [laughs]. Later on I
learned a bit more about the Californios.
HS: Did you go to San Francisco then, when your mom said go to San Francisco for a
year? You mentioned, she actually wasn't in the Party at that point.
CC: I think she’d had enough and she wasn't really - she never joined the Party again. It was an
experience, but she considered herself more of a trade unionist. I don’t think she had deep
political differences but I suspect she thought they were just a bit too rigid.
She involved herself in other things. After my father died, we became very friendly with
a Spanish/Mexican family that lived as caretakers at San Fernando Mission, and she
became involved with the "Friends of San Fernando Mission." We used to go out there. I
was converted a Catholic during that period. All the years in Los Angeles, I was a
practicing Catholic. This family included a brother, Frank Gutierrez, a sister, Josie
Gutierrez and their mother. They lived in an adobe house right next to San Fernando
Mission. The brother - he and my mother had a sort of relationship - and he used to
restore - he worked for the County restoring old historic buildings. He was able to do all
of it. He would rebuild the adobe, you know, reinforce it, rebuild it and then he would
uncover some of the old painting on the walls and then he would redo the painting. He
restored the big church behind San Fernando Mission. He restored La Purisima Mission
with convict labor. He restored the El Tejon Stagecoach Station and a couple other ones
that I never saw. And then we kind of lost touch, but he was my godfather and his sister
was my godmother. My mother involved herself in a variety of things.
HS: It sounds like your mom was almost like a pioneer that came before the Beatnik, that
came before the communes and the Hippies of the sixties. She almost sounds like a
pioneer of some sort.
CC: Yeah. Intellectually, she was a free thinker and always curious. She wasn’t promiscuous,
I think she married every man she kissed, almost [laughter]. But she moved in and out of
things. As I said, she had children kind of scattered all over and that prompted her to
move around. She was just a nomad, and an intellectual nomad too.
HS: By free-thinker, anything more specific do you have in mind, or do you mean that in
a general sense?
CC: Well, she enjoyed astrology. She used to be the hit of all the parties. She could tell a
fortune with the astrological wheel, but she didn’t take it very seriously. She did it for fun,
but she had her horoscope read. As a matter of fact, one of the best chronologies I have of
her life is what she prepared for an astrologer to draw up a chart for her.
Her attitude toward the medical profession was pretty much to reject it. She was anti-
medical and used to go in for all kinds of drugless practitioners - sometimes chiropractors,
sometimes naturopaths, but rejected most medical treatments.
She kept journals and I copied and put together a selection of her journals which has been
very much appreciated by people like Tillie Olsen and Lynn [Bonfield], people involved
in the women's movement. They find a lot of her writings something they appreciate.
HS: That's something I was trying to grope for when I said, "a pioneer."
CC: A pioneer? But the 30s was a period of great - of coming of age of women. It was
stopped a bit by the Depression, I think, and then flourished again during the war, and then
stopped completely in the 50s. Then in the 60s - 1 think women in the 60s think they
HS: You're right, right.
CC: And, in fact, it had existed in one form or another - well, of course down through the
suffrage movement. My mother came from a family of women. Her mother was married
twice and divorced twice, and basically raised two of her three daughters by herself. They
were bom and raised in Texas. She brought them to California when my mother was 14
years old, and my mother began working as a secretary by telling them she was 16. She
was the main breadwinner. She had office skills that her mother did not have. But her
mother was an interesting woman. A real "hell on wheels" in a lot of ways. She became
housekeeper for a man called Loomis, who was the founder of the Southwest Museum in
Los Angeles, and they lived at a home which now is a historical sight, I forget the name,
but it's right below the Southwest museum. They lived there for awhile when she worked
as his housekeeper. Anyway, there were three daughters. There were no fathers around.
The mother, at one time, was a telegrapher in Texas. I think one of the first women who
worked as a telegrapher. My mother started working when she was 14 as a secretary, and
married when she was 17, but worked on and off all her life.
HS: She was married three times, right? Just a tiniest bit on the first husband - do you
know anything to flesh it out?
CC: He was an attorney, but I don’t think he ever worked as an attorney. I think he worked as
a clerk. She had three children very quickly. I think there may have been a drinking
problem with that husband. I don't know for sure. I know there was later. He was killed
in an automobile accident because he was inebriated.
(Tape 2 - Side 1)
CC: We were discussing my mother's three marriages (laughter)
CC: The first one was a bit too dull and she’d had three children in probably four years. And
here came this iconoclastic, I guess you could call him, who - they weren’t going to have a
traditional marriage, they weren't going to live together. I don't know, some kind of wild
ideas. None of it worked out. They did live together long enough for her to get pregnant.
She said that was the only child she ever planned, and she did it for spite [both laugh].
But all the rest of us grew up with the knowledge that we were "accidents," and, unlike
others - now my husband was an "accident" and that was a life-long tragedy with him.
With us, it wasn’t. It was a joke! We were totally accepted, but we definitely were
"accidents." I think her idea of a humorous story was how hard she tried to get rid of me
because she found out she was pregnant, like the first week aboard a ship to go visit the
Swiss family. It was to be a prolonged honeymoon and here she was pregnant. She had
every steward on the ship bringing her pails of hot water [laughter] trying to sit in a hot
bathtub and abort - abort me. But, anyway, so it goes.
The second marriage was, as I said, for adventure. It never worked out. The friendship
with Imogene continued and, as a matter of fact, Imogene moved to San Francisco when
she was a widow with two very young children. She moved out here on Geary Street,
around Geary and Fillmore. She got a big rooming house and rented rooms in order to
make a living. My mother moved in and my mother's sister moved in, and that's where
they all met new husbands. They used to go to Fillmore Auditorium for dances. And
that's, I believe, where my parents met. So, she married an Anglo-Saxon - Frank Park was
her first marriage; the second was Richard Wasdahl, very Norwegian, though bom in
North Dakota; and the third was Robert Cuenod, a Swiss immigrant.
HS: Before we go on, there's one little question. You mentioned the journals, the journals
that your mother kept, and some of the people interested in feminism and other
issues have been interested in these journals. Are they located somewhere like the
CC: No, they're not. They're mostly here and my oldest brother and I were going to try to get
them placed somewhere. She kept journals on and off. They weren't a regular diary,
though when she was on the ranch, she did start writing diaries on a regular basis and she
said it was to keep accounts. How much money was spent here and how much money was
spent there. But very quickly, it just became a running story of ranch life.
HS: Which is actually more important in a lot of ways. The other is important too, but
different, in a different way.
CC: Yeah. Anyway, they weren't personal. They just told about what happened. Whenever
visitors came to the ranch, the first thing they did was grab her diary to see what happened
since they last were there. They were very much public. But in addition to those diaries,
she wrote journals in earlier years. The earliest I have is 1932 which is when I was 3 and
4 years old, and we lived in San Francisco. She’d taken a journal that my grandmother had
started when my father was born. The first part of that notebook is in French with some of
my grandmother's entries, and then my mother picked it up and had occasional entries
from 1932 to 35. She made some entries during the two years we lived in Geneva.
When we moved to the ranch, she started keeping a daily diary. She’d get these diaries
from the real estate lady who would give them out annually, like calendars. We have four
of those— 1936 through 1939. Beyond that, it gets very sketchy, but from time to time, she
would write down things that were important to her. Some of it kind of philosophical.
Then she wrote poetry, and she would copy it on the fly leafs of her favorite books. All in
all, there's not a large body of writing, but a variety that kind of describes the woman.
HS: Yeah. That's nice.
CC: I put together two little booklets of her writing for the family. Cleaned them up a little bit.
I didn’t really edit them, but I made them a bit more literal. God knows, she was a much
better writer than I was, but she was writing for a different purpose. I sent it around to
family and friends, and everyone responded so favorably. We always talked about doing
more in tenns of copying them and then putting the originals in some archives. I had
thought that the Huntington would have been a suitable place for the ranch diaries because
- you'll appreciate this - because the ranch had a dam built at the mouth of the canyon and
is under water now. 1 They recall a little bit of one period of history which is now. ..the
locus of it is now completely removed. But I never had the nerve to walk into that austere
place and say, "you want my mother's diaries?" [laughter] Now Lynn would have no
sympathy with that. I think she was the one who had suggested the Huntington as a
possibility, or the Schlesinger Library, back at Radcliffe. But I never followed through on
any of it.
Picking up on the chronology of where I left off - at the end of the war, we went to the
ranch, my brothers came home from service. They all had arrived and then went off in
different directions. My brother, David, became a seaman, and an organizer for the NMU.
My oldest brother, Joe, moved to LA and married. My second brother, Drew, had married
already in Florida and moved back to California. He stayed on the ranch a short time, but
then got a place and a job in town.
San Francisco, 1946
My mother and I moved back to San Francisco. That was the beginning of 1946. She
started working again for Gladstein, Andersen, Resner and Sawyer, as the firm was named
then. They were the forerunners of Leonard and Carder. Actually, Leonard was a junior
attorney - maybe not junior, but his name was not on the masthead; however, I believe, he
and his wife were in the firm when my mother started. And that was my return to San
Francisco, and I've never really left since, except for my five-year trip to Boston.
I came up and I put in another year and a half at Galileo to finish high school. My brother
'The State of California commissioned Harvey Schwartz to create a historical record of
the area where the New Melones Dam would create a lake.
was an NMU organizer, my mother worked for labor attorneys and though she wasn’t
politically active, she was in touch with the movement. She was an active member of the
United Office and Professional Workers Union and from time to time, she’d volunteer in
I became aware of the Labor School - I’d actually gone to a class when they were still on
Market Street - to sort of see - it must have been my brother who told me about it. I went
once by myself. I think I was still in high school. I didn’t feel - you know, I felt a stranger
there. But I remember hearing a chorus rehearse and I remember how beautiful they
sounded - that stuck in my mind. I graduated from high school in 1947. I did go back to
the ranch briefly, and then my mother sold it.
I came back up to San Francisco and started - 1 got my first job doing clerical work.
I think this is probably a good place to stop.
HS: Yeah. It makes sense. We're on side three. We're wrapping up for now - this is the
end of our session.
II POLITICAL LIFE: CALIFORNIA LABOR SCHOOL
AND THE COMMUNIST PARTY
Interview 2: August 18, 1994
Student and chorus member at the California Labor School
HS: This is Harvey Schwartz. It's the 18th of August 1994. We are continuing and
entering a phase of the California Labor School, and the Wallace campaign. Can
you tell me how you got rolling?
CC: I think some of the motivation was from my brother, David, who was in San Francisco in
early '48 and quite active in getting the Independent Progressive Party started, soliciting
signatures to get the party on the ballot in preparation for the [presidential] campaign for
Henry Wallace to run against Truman and reverse the progression of the cold war. He
[David] was active in the left-wing community and I kind of looked up to him as my big
brother and respected his political activity. The logical place for entry into political
activity was the California Labor School. At that time, it was a social, cultural,
educational center. It had moved from Market Street to its own building at 240 Golden
Gate Avenue and was a place where you could go take classes, and a place where you
could hang out. Whenever a new face appeared, you got a lot of attention from the
regulars, you know, "what brought you to the Labor School?" and so on. You were
welcomed with open arms.
I signed up for a class in Political Economy, entry-level Political Economy which was
taught by a man named Andrew Zirpoli. On a visit a year or two before, I'd heard a chorus
rehearsing. I thought it sounded very nice, so I signed up as a member of the Labor
School Chorus. It met once a week, but it was a performing group and very popular, both
for performances at the Labor School and other places. We performed in the 1949 Local 6
strike from the back of a truck, we performed at union meetings, at political meetings,
Progressive Party meetings. There was a large one at the Cow Palace where we
performed. It was in the Spring of '48 I began attending the Labor School and
immediately became involved in a variety of other activities. One was Youth for Wallace,
another was as a volunteer at the Labor School.
Getting out "on my own"
By summer, I was looking to "get out on my own," which was, I guess, the goal of a lot of
young people. It was the tenn which was very popular when I was a teenager, but I don’t
hear it that much anymore. But being "on my own" was a goal I had really looked
forward to. In my case, it was to get a little stability into my life. The opportunity came
when Peggy Sarasohn, who was the Registrar at the Labor School, invited me to move
into her apartment. She lived with three other young women in a great big apartment
down in the Marina, just a block off Marina Blvd. One of their members was moving and
she [Peggy] asked if I would like...
(Tape 2 - Side 2)
CC: [continued, but dialog lost] ... I wasn't at all happy working there [at my current job with
an insurance company], but it paid the rent. If I recall, my share of the rent was
something like $25 and we put $10 a week into "the kitty." That bought all our food, paid
the telephone bill, paid a laundry for linens and sheets which were provided. It was for me
a very nice place to live and it was very economical dividing the expenses four ways. I
shared a room with a woman named Ruth, Ruth Maas I think her name was. Then she
married an Indonesian named Daroesman. I kept track of her for many years - Ruth
Daroesman. No. It was Ruth and Mas - her husband's name was Mas. Anyway, I forget
her maiden name, but we shared a room.
That really brought me with both feet into the left-wing community.
HS: Can I ask you a couple questions? What was it like at work at that time - in 1948.
You had a secret life as it were. How does one cope with that? How do you go about
your day-to-day business? What did you talk about at lunch with people? Things
CC: I don’t remember too much, but I did lead a double life. I don’t feel that I tried to influence
any of those people politically. I probably expressed my point of view on a number of
things. I did join the office workers union [UOPWA, Local 34]. Once a month, they had
leaflet distributions in front of the Bank of America on Montgomery Street. It was mostly
to make our presence known on Montgomery Street. I did distribute leaflets, so to that
extent, I was not worried about my work. On the job, I found I had little in common with
these women. I, of course, was on this exciting new track and I considered them slightly
deprived - just having ordinary lives. Well, I remember one woman was newly married,
another... I can only vaguely remember a couple people there. I do recall that there was an
office Christmas party and I invited a friend from Palo Alto, who was active in Youth for
Wallace. He was able to handle the whole social situation and had a good time. He was
very outgoing and enjoyed talking to everyone there. It kind of startled me a little bit and
made me realize that I had been kind of snooty about my own ideas and attitudes and how
much I could share with folks. That’s about all I remember. My goal was to find another
job as soon as possible.
Youth for Wallace
The activity of Youth for Wallace expanded my circle of friends. The main activity I
remember is that we all agreed to canvas precincts and went door-to-door with literature. I
did a couple precincts on Russian Hill with another young man and we’d meet a variety of
responses. I remember only a couple of occasions where we were... sort of lectured about
our politics. I remember one woman saying... it's strange I should remember her actual
words, but she looked ever so sweetly at us and said, "I have a daughter your age, and
young man, I have a son your age, and I am so happy that they're not going door-to-door
like you two are." [laughs] I thought, Jesus, I’d much rather have her just come out and
say, "get the hell off my doorstep," but this supercilious sweetness and then sticking the
little daggers in, I thought, was rather poor taste on her part, and for some reason, that kind
of stuck in my memory. I think a couple times we got money donated and that was just a
big, big excitement for us. That really is all I can remember of the Wallace campaign, but
Youth for Wallace was a kind of vital organization for the few months in 1948 before the
election. As I recall, we must have had neighborhood meetings and participated in the
larger rallies, and so forth. By that time, the [Independent Progress] Party was on the
ballot so we weren't collecting signatures anymore. There were statewide rallies, and, as I
mentioned, the big one at the Cow Palace. As I recall, they just about filled the place. I
think that was about when the Wallace campaign peaked. Truman hadn't really gotten
started yet, and, of course, Dewey was the Republican. In any event, it was the peak of
excitement and there were large crowds when rallies were held.
HS: OK. How did you take Wallace's defeat in 1948? Did you expect him to win, or to do
CC: I didn’t expect him to win, but we expected him to do far better. I think he barely got a
million votes and our low-level estimation was something like three million. It was a
bitter disappointment. Of course, the Republicans were bitterly disappointed too because
they thought Dewey was a shoo-in and that Truman was the lame duck sitting in office. I
guess lame-duck isn’t right, but they never expected Truman to be re-elected. We never
expected him to be re-elected either. We expected Wallace to cut seriously into his vote
and probably be stuck with Dewey. But even with that as a prospect, the idea of
supporting Wallace, reversing the cold war - expressing the sentiment that we wanted to
reverse the cold war was very important. And it was building a movement, a world-wide
peace movement even if he didn’t get elected. The fact that it didn’t build a labor-
supported peace movement was also a bitter disappointment.
# 1 Volunteer at the Labor School
The classes at the Labor School continued, and the Chorus, in particular, provided another
big social gathering because it was not only Monday nights, when we rehearsed for two
hours, but it was a lot of performances which meant traveling together. So that became a
group of friends, though it didn’t extend into my personal life too much. Because I was
around the Labor School so much, and living with Peggy - believe me, I was involved in
every major activity - the preparations, running the mimeo machine, cutting leaflets. I
learned to use those old gelatin-covered stencils and draw or trace pictures, and do
lettering. I met most of the regular staff people at the Labor School, developed
friendships. People came to work there at 10 in the morning and stayed 'til 10 or 1 1 at
night. Once I walked into the School, I didn't leave until they locked it up. It had that
kind of vital attraction. There were people involved in cultural activities such as Gloria
Unti and Jerry Walter; the Chorus frequently perfonned in concert with the dance group.
Judy Job was still was around, and Mimi Kagan - 1 forget if she was a dancer or with the
theater group. The Art Department was down in the basement where the chorus rehearsed
so, just by being down there, I got to know those people. One young woman of the group
was Lilli Ann Killen, though there were several others that I got to know fairly well -
though their names are not on the tip of my tongue right now.
HS: Carol, would you go in after work?
CC: Yes, and meanwhile I changed jobs. I forget exactly when, but it was a job that Peggy
Sarasohn told me about. A friend of hers, named Sam Bloomfield, was director of a group
called the Mental Health Society. He was a left-wing fellow, though did not come around
the School too much. He wanted to replace his part-time secretary. Peggy said, "if you
take a part-time job, you'll still be able to pay your expenses, and then you can devote the
rest of the day to the Labor School!" [laughs] Which is what I did. The School had
become a second job for me - a second unpaid job. I would go to work mornings at the
Mental Health Society, and then go over to the School and take over at the switchboard or
whatever needed to be done. The job was at 7th and Market and the school was all of
three or four blocks away.
The Mental Health Society was an interesting job and Sam became a good friend. He was
quite a bit older, but he became sort of a cultural, literary mentor for me. On the job, he
allowed me to take over as much work as I wanted. The Mental Health Society was an
educational organization for promoting mental hygiene. Actually, it originally was called
the Mental Hygiene Society and then they changed it to Mental Health. The members
were mostly professionals in the field. It held conferences, annual meetings, lectures and
things of that sort. So I was still cutting leaflets and we started putting out a newsletter
which I did all the technical work on. We planned an annual meeting at Asilomar which
was a weekend conference. The two of us organized the whole thing. It involved a lot
more responsibility than I had typing insurance fonns [at the previous job]. Within a few
months, they made me full time. Unfortunately, [sigh] the cold war intensified, the anti-
left attitudes became far more prevalent. This is going into 1950 and the Board of
Directors of the Mental Health Society decided the best way to get rid of this "red" office
staff of theirs was to shut the office down. That job came to an end. They gave us a good
recommendation - Sam had done a very good job for them, but we were a liability at that
point. A lot of liberals were active in the group - it wasn’t a unanimous decision, but we
were shut down.
HS: OK. Can I run you back just a tiny bit. You've got down here on your outline,
"joined the Communist Party - youth section and Labor Youth League, 1949" which
predates, I gather, the phasing out of your job. Can we fill-in on that? You
mentioned a little earlier, when you were living with Peggy, and involved with her
and with other colleagues, that you jumped with both feet into the left community.
When you took the decision to join the Communist Party, what was your thinking at
the time? Did it seem like a big deal or a big decision at the time? or not? Do I make
Joining the Communist Party
CC: Yeah. My thinking about the Communist Party was that it - to sound trite - it was the
vanguard of the left-wing movement. I felt that I had to earn my right to become a
Communist. I had to study Marxism, I had to become a so-called leader. I did not feel, at
age 19, shortly after I entered the left-wing community, that I had earned that stature, or
the privilege. I wasn't qualified to be member of the Communist Party at that point. That
was something you did after you became very learned, and I did not consider myself
learned. Neither was I ever a big reader. I wasn't terribly curious about Marxism. I did
try to read a little bit of it, but I found it very dull and tedious and irrelevant to what I was
HS: Was that Capital or the Communist Manifesto or do you remember?
CC: Oh, it probably was a series of pamphlets. I frequently thought, "well, I guess I better go
get Das Capital, but I never did - 1 mean, it was a four-inch book! It was hard enough to
read the pamphlets, but let alone a four- inch book! I remember there was one young man,
Jerry Stoll, who had a tremendous library and somebody said, "...and he's read every book
on his shelves!" And I thought, "oh, my God, that’ll never be me." I kind of justified it by
thinking, "well, I guess this is the lot of red-diaper babies." The sentiment and the
inclination is put on you at a very young age so you don’t have to really convince yourself
intellectually that this is the right way to go. The glories of the Soviet Union were
drummed into us daily, and they had communism; therefore, communism was good. You
know, it was the successful socialist country and socialism, of course, made wonderful
sense on the face of it. You didn’t have to study Das Capital to understand that if you
didn’t have people getting rich off of your work - 1 mean, my classes in Political Economy
at the Labor School convinced me that capitalism was not the way to go. It led to
unemployment and increasing division between workers and the rich people.
HS: Did they have reading material?
CC: Yes. They had - we had our "heavy" text which was Leontiev's Political Economy and
then we had a lovely pamphlet full of graphics that the Labor School produced - 1 think it
was called Why Work for Nothing? It ran out of print and in later years, copies were hard
to come by, but I found a couple of them out at the Labor Archives.
In any event, I felt I definitely would join the Party when I felt I could match brains with
other Party members. Somewhere along the line some of the young people got to me and
said, "you don’t have to wait until that happens, join now." It must have been before I
moved to North Beach, but it was through some of my friends who were Party members in
North Beach that I was "recruited." I’d made contact with them through the Labor School,
through Youth for Wallace, and they were all members of the North Beach Youth Section
of the Communist Party. I remember I told Peggy I had joined the Party and she said,
"well, it's about time. We were calling you a dues-cheater." Which was the name for
people who were supportive of the Party, but wouldn’t join. "You were really becoming a
dues-cheater." She wasn’t being critical of me, it was just a joking remark. Then I
realized all the people I had been associated with were all members of the Party. I wasn't
quite aware of that. I suspected it, but not quite.
Anyway, I joined the North Beach Youth Section of the Communist Party in 1949. There
were geographical clubs - North Beach, Fillmore, etc. By that time, I was planning to
move into my own apartment in North Beach. It was a three-room apartment on Kearny
Street - a living room, kitchen and bedroom right on the street floor. I would pay $40 a
month for it, which was considered expensive. My friends were paying $25 a month for
garret places and so forth. It was great and I was excited! I intended to get a roommate
to help pay this expense. At that time, I think I was earning about $50 a week so it was
less than that 25% which budgets indicated was necessary. In that two block area of
Kearny Street, there must have been about 10 or 12 young people who were in the Party,
or close to it. It was a very active little community.
HS: Did you have meetings?
CC: Yeah. We met in people’s homes - bounced around from one to the other. Unfortunately,
shortly after I joined, I think within a couple of months, the Party decided that the "Youth"
needed to form their own independent organization, and that Party members would be
attached to "Adult" clubs, but only attend meetings - oh, I don’t know - once a month,
once every three months or something like that. The Youth would form an independent
group and, of course, become responsible for that group. Now, not every member of the
Youth Section did. A lot just went on to adult clubs. The independent group, of course,
was the Labor Youth League and a number of us were assigned there. Our Party affiliation
was still to the neighborhood group which, for me, was the North Beach [adult] Club.
About that time, I'm trying to think about what else happened. This brings me up to my
20th or 21st birthday. We moved into 1950 and the beginning of the Korean War. The
prosecution of the Communist Party leaders in New York was going on. It was extended,
I believe, to the California Party leaders. It was before people started going underground,
but things were getting pretty oppressive. Attendance at the California Labor School fell
off sharply. And with my activity - when you joined the Party the first thing is that you
had to become active in a "mass org" - that is a mass organization. You had to involve
yourself in a larger group. Your mass org might be a union, it might be a neighborhood
(Tape 3 - Side 1)
HS: You were talking about "mass orgs."
CC: OK. As I say, my memory dims a bit as to what my mass org assignments were. Actually,
it was the Labor Youth League, but I was not active in it at first because I began to have
family problems and had to leave San Francisco. I remember Ella Hutch was county
chairman. She was from the Fillmore group. I don't remember who else was in the county
leadership, but it was all rather provisional at that point. They hadn’t even had a national
conference yet. It was something that was being established nation-wide, but it was all
I was always in conflict during that year with the Chorus. I had dropped out of the
Chorus, and, as the School itself was losing members right and left, and there was always
a strong pull, "oh, we've got a performance, and we need altos." But I would have too
many commitments in too many directions. I didn’t like to say "no," but I was kind of
being pulled around. Peggy was quite annoyed because I had given up the Labor School
as far as being No. 1 volunteer. I did continue my friendship with Lilli Ann. We lived a
block from each other on Kearny Street. We’d get very involved with things like the
Christmas Market where she - 1 remember we worked, literally, for 24 hours framing
pictures and things like that. It was more through her that I continued to be involved. She
was Art Director of the School by that time. She succeeded Giacomo Patri who retired, I
Mother's illness and death
At that point, my mother became critically ill. She developed an illness called
disseminated lupus erythematosus. It started like a flu that she could not shake off and
had dreadful, dreadful, weakness and painful episodes. All of this happened before it was
diagnosed. Part of that might have been that she never went in for medical treatment. She
went to drugless practitioners. Her favored doctor was a naturopath who recognized the
seriousness of her illness and urged her to go to an osteopathic clinic up in St. Helena.
She went and stayed for a week or two and they diagnosed it as lupus. They told us that it
was terminal and basically sent her home. She lived with my sister for a while and then
was admitted to Stanford Hospital because she was in terrible pain. They diagnosed the
pain was because she had fluid in her lungs. After they drained her lungs, they gave her a
few months to live. They never told her though. That was not the age of infonning the
patient. She was released from the hospital - that was just when I got my apartment in
North Beach. She and Imogene came to live with me as soon as I got my apartment. [My
mother was living with Aunt Isabel when she was taken ill, but that arrangement was not
continued when her condition became terminal.] The family told me Imogene was going
to take care of my mother and both would stay at my apartment. That was the summer of
1949. I’m kind of backtracking because all these concurrent things were going on. You
kind of have to go back and forth. So all this period of when I started in the Party, all of
that was at the same time that my mother was in a tenninal illness in my apartment. She
actually did not stay more than four to six months because she decided that what she really
needed was the desert air, and my oldest brother lived in Tucson. She informed him that
she was coming down to live with him.
Imogene took her down - she was bedridden by that time. Her nonnal weight was about
135; she was down to 80 pounds. She went to Tucson. Imogene stayed with her a short
time and then came back. My brother, his wife - they had one young child - took care of
her. I made a trip down to visit and it became obvious that she needed full-time nursing.
So I came back to San Francisco with the knowledge that I would have to go back to
Arizona and take care of her. This sort of is the reason that my new involvement as a
Party member and a member of the Labor Youth League was very spotty - my memory of
it was very spotty. By July of 1950, 1 went to Arizona and stayed for six months until my
mother died. She died the following January of 195 1 .
Peace Congress in Mexico City
One positive thing happened in September of '49. Lilli Ann, myself, a woman named
Cuca Rodriguez, and a woman named Neva Unti, who was sister to Gloria Unti, we all
went to Mexico City for a Peace Congress for the Western Hemisphere. It was one of the
first major conferences of what became a world-wide peace movement. We didn't go as
delegates. We decided it would be a great, exciting and fun thing to do. Lilli Ann was
very interested in connecting with the Taller Grafica [Graphic Arts Workshop] in Mexico
City. Pablo O'Higgins of the Taller had visited San Francisco a short time before and
taught a lithograph class at the Labor School. Cuca was going back and forth to Mexico
all the time. She was a beautiful woman from New Mexico, but had a strong desire to live
in Mexico. She was always looking for a [prospective] husband from Mexico - which she
found. Neva, like me, just sort of came along.
We went to this Congress which was full of illustrious people. I don't think Lazaro
Cardenas attended, but he recorded a speech and the recording was delivered. Diego
Rivera was there, Pablo Neruda was there. A whole delegation from Cuba, and this was
before the revolution. They came and we sort of hung out with them. Lilli Ann fell madly
in love with a cigar worker union leader called Lazaro Pena, who later became a key
figure in the government after the revolution. I met a number of the artists from the
Taller, and one from New York - Antonio Frasconi. I believe he was Uruguayan and
Italian. Anyway, I loved his work. He had a big exhibit concurrent with the Congress in
Mexico City. Pablo O'Higgins used to take us to his favorite restaurant for dinner and
Antonio Frasconi joined us. One night, it was the Mexican national holiday in September
- 1 never heard so many firecrackers, and I'm terrified of firecrackers. After that night, I
got over it somewhat because they were thrown at our feet, they were everywhere. We
ended up in a huge dance hall just having a wonderful, exciting time.
I had an interesting political experience down there. I volunteered clerical work and they
gave me a speech to type. I don’t remember who I typed it for, [Bartley Crum wrote it] but
I remember the horror! It was one that took an independent position, and included some
red-baiting. I remember I surreptitiously took it to Holland Roberts who was part of the
delegation. He thanked me and said he was aware of it. They had met with the man 'til
midnight trying to get him to change his mind, but he insisted on going ahead. It was just
sort of a forerunner of - well no, not a forerunner, that's the wrong tenn. It was sort of an
indication that if it was not doctrinaire, it was dangerous, wrong, independent ideas. I was
already fully involved in that kind of intellectual confinement that, if one broke with the
Party position, that person was dangerous. That person was divisive. He may have meant
well, but basically, he was an enemy. I had to go report him. We couldn't just let it
happen, and have things fall where it may.
The Congress, and the following week in Mexico was a great experience. I met people
like Leopoldo Menendez, who I think was head of the Taller Grafica - a very imposing,
handsome figure. Pablo O'Higgins took us on a personal tour of all the murals in Mexico
City. While we were there, Orozco died, and it was huge headlines. People were in
mourning over his death. It was surprising because artists aren’t given that kind of
attention in our country. One other major event was that the Palace of the Belles Artes
had a retrospective exhibit of Diego Rivera - of his whole life's work. The whole visit was
quite an event in my life, and though I wasn’t an artist, for that time, it put me in the center
of it all. We didn’t see much else in Mexico City. The other two - Cuca and Neva - left at
the end of the Congress and went to Guadalajara and Mazatlan. I remained as I had gotten
"la tourist" and was out of commission. Also I really wanted to hang around with Lilli
Ann and go on the tours she planned with Pablo O'Higgins. We reunited with the two
girls in Mazatlan and finished our trip together
I came home to a very, very sick mother. She was running high fevers and having
hallucinations for a period of time. Then she settled down again. It was a few months
later that she went off to Arizona and I followed her.
My time in Arizona was exile. I was living with a sister-in-law, Jean, who I knew very
well, had a lot of differences with, but we had to get along and we did it. I was very fond
of my oldest brother, Joe, and we became very close sharing the burden of caring for my
mother. We also shared common ideology about politics. They were not Party members,
but Jean was raised in a Communist Party family. But I had been at the peak of my
Bohemian, left-wing, life. My life had been very exciting and I was just pulled out of it.
(Tape 3 - Side 2)
Becoming a member of the "Industrial Concentration”
HS: On your outline, you list "factory work - the Industrial Concentration, 1951" I don't
think we've managed to do that.
CC: Yeah. When I returned from Arizona after my mother died, I decided that I would become
part of a campaign the Party called "the Industrial Concentration," and get a blue-collar
job. At the time, blue-collar work was paying more than white-collar work - so it had that
attraction. There was something of a recession going on and more than that, left-wingers
were being fired for political reasons. A whole group at PG&E were fired. The general
atmosphere amongst the young people was that you did not tell anybody where you
worked. That became your private business. You did not talk about where you worked
because people were losing their jobs.
I had to look quite a while before I finally found a blue-collar job, but I went to work in a
horrible place called Electric Manufacturing Co. It was organized by the Machinists
Production Workers Local, which is their unskilled local. The Company made plastic
keys for typewriters, adding machines, juke boxes and telephone dials. We operated these
plastic injection molding machines with dies that opened vertically. The dies would close
and a torpedo of hot plastic would come into the side of the die and inject hot plastic into
the mold. It set very rapidly and when it opened and you could take the plastic frame out.
For the first color, you just took the frame out. For the second color, you had to put the
frame into the die and then inject the second color which meant that your hands had to be
inside the die twice as much and it wasn’t so easy to get all those keys into the right place.
It was a dangerous job. The safety precautions were terrible. The smell was unbelievable.
Hot plastic is - well, we described it as sour milk in an outhouse. We had to bathe when
we went home to get the smell off, and we kept our work clothes separate. On top of
which I worked graveyard shift and I never did accustom myself to it. You got very
sleepy because it was hot and smelly and you worked by yourself with the machine. I
learned to take 10-minute cat naps on our breaks to revive myself.
What was interesting though, not too long after I got there, I got a phone call from a man
named Estolv Ward who said he worked on the day shift. I had never known him before,
but he infonned me that there were four Party members working at the Electric
Manufacturing Co. and we fonned the most elite of all Party organizations, the industrial
shop club, [laughs] There were either four or five of us, I forget. Anyway, Estolv
brought us all together. It was short-lived, needless to say, because none of us stayed in
that job any longer than we had to [laughs]. One woman worked in the office, another
woman worked the day shift, Estolv worked the day shift drying the plastic and loading
the machines. It was sort of the lowest job there. Here was a brilliant journalist and writer
who was doing this work.
HS: Was he doing this work because of the cold war?
CC: Yeah. He had been unemployed. It was a place which had gotten a contract from
Western Electric because they did have a few good tool and die makers there. They were
able to create this two-color dial. It was a dial that was introduced in the early 50s where
the dial was inside the numbers - the numbers were around the outside of the dial.
Originally, they were black with white numbers and then tan - they didn't get into too
many colors, but that was the "big bucks" contract they had and they hired a lot of people
because of that. Word got to me that they were hiring, and it must have got to other left-
wingers and we flocked down and got jobs. It was only Estolv that discovered our Party
affiliation. I once went to a meeting at Civic Center, and this dapper man walked up to me
and said, "hello, how are you?" I looked at him and there was an element of recognition,
but I couldn’t place him until he told me we worked in the same place! You know, we
used to call him "Mr. Wet Plastic" because he started just about the same time I did and
learning to dry the plastic is a very tricky business. Feeding wet plastic into the machines
caused the stuff to bubble and spatter rather than go into your die. When you got plastic
that wasn’t quite dry [laughs], you remembered who brought it to you. So we called him
Mr. Wet Plastic - he was kind of elderly and stooped. Which is why I never recognized
him in his Harris tweed jacket and blue shirt and tie. He was just an entirely different
man. That was our connection. He knew I worked graveyard shift, and he was able to
pull us all together.
Meanwhile, I did get involved in the Labor Youth League. I worked there one year and
then I had another family crisis which was with my sister, Nancy and her husband Don.
Don developed tuberculosis and had to go into a sanitarium. He’d worked at the
Richmond shipyards all during the war and it was felt that there was a connection between
that and his TB. The doctors said they caught it early and he was taken to a sanitarium in
the Oakland area. It wasn’t too far to get there. Nancy was pregnant. She had two boys
and was very uneasy about living without another adult in the house. So I gave up my
apartment and I moved in with her in Alameda and I commuted to my job. I worked all
night, but just having me there helped her, but it kind of eliminated my ability to remain
politically active. So I dropped out again.
HS: You sister was also sick at this time?
CC: Nancy was pregnant and she was suffering from toxemia. I wasn’t aware of that. I knew
that her legs were swollen. What happened is that when she was in her eighth month or
so, Don came out of the sanitarium. He was in complete bed rest, but I moved back to San
Francisco because there literally was no room. They lived in a three room bungalow. I
was still working graveyard shift. I decided it was time to leave North Beach and I left
that little apartment there. I ended up in a rather nice apartment on Turk Street between
Divisadero and Broderick.
After Nancy delivered her baby, she died. She died of toxemia and eclampsia. She went
into convulsions after she delivered and she survived four days and then died. It was very
tragic. Don was still in complete bed rest. There were two boys, Craig was five and
Steven was ten, and Alain, a healthy baby. Don had two sisters and a mother and father
who all came. The mother and father had a fann up in Paradise, California. They came
down. The two sisters lived in Oakland, I think. I was reluctant to volunteer to take care
of the family, but someone had to. I had barely gotten over my exile in Arizona when my
mother was sick. But after a week of all the family being gathered there, no one
volunteered so I did. Also, I felt I was the closest to the boys. I guess I was 22. That was
in July of 1952 and I stayed with the family until November. It was just a four or five-
month time. Meanwhile the parents sold their farm in Paradise, came down to Alameda,
and put the down payment on a house for Don. I stayed with them until we moved into
the new house. It wasn’t all that big. There was a big hallway which we closed off and
the baby slept in the hallway. The living room was converted into Don's bedroom and the
two bedrooms were for the grandparents and the boys. I guess I had a cot in the kitchen.
Anyway, it was temporary. They wanted me to stay. I said "no, you guys are set up."
I had sublet my apartment and I returned to Turk Street. It was at that point that I was
dubbed for leadership. I went into a cadre-training program by the Party.
HS: I think our time is up. Just one little question. What was the name of that first
insurance company you worked for?
CC: It was the Pacific Marine Insurance Company.
Ill COMMUNIST PARTY AND THE LABOR YOUTH LEAGUE
(Interview 3: August 29, 1994)
A typical Communist Party Meeting
HS: Today is the 29th of August, 1994. This is Harvey Schwartz. I am in San Francisco
with Carol again. There are some questions that we were going to deal with that
arose from prior discussions. What happened at Party meetings?
CC: I joined the Party when I was about 20 years old. I was recruited into the Youth Section.
It was the North Beach Branch of the Youth Section. That included people from 18 to 30
approximately. I think the legal end for Youth assignments was 35, but 30 was a more
realistic high level. I really only remember one or two meetings I attended because
shortly after I was recruited, the Youth Section disbanded and we either were assigned to
the adult Party Branch groups or we were assigned to work in the Labor Youth League
and attend adult Party meetings once a month. Otherwise I think meetings were routinely
held once a week. A typical adult meeting included anywhere from eight to ten or twelve
members. I would say closer to eight members and there were various responsibilities that
we each individually had. Some of us that were young had the Labor Youth League as an
assignment and we would usually give a brief report of that. There always was the
question of support for the People ’s World. Most Party clubs were assigned to make a
delivery of People ’s Worlds once a week. Not to people who subscribed, but to people
who were contacts and who we thought might subscribe. So there was the question of
assignments for circulating a pack of People ’s Worlds that were picked up by each club.
Usually one person was responsible for bringing, not only People ’s Worlds, but making a
visit to the International Bookstore on Market Street near Van Ness, which was the Party
bookstore although it wasn’t publicly identified as such. Going to the Bookstore and
picking up the latest topical pamphlets on major issues and copies of Political Affairs.
That person would spread out their collection and sell. There might be discussion of
community work, or as we called it, our mass orgs. People who were either involved in
organizations in the community or unions.
(Tape 4 - Side 1)
The main event would be the "educational." That would usually be a theoretical subject
that the Party was involved in. Generally the basis of an educational would be an article
in Political Affairs. Some of the major topics that I recall were "Self-Determination for
the Black Belt," which was sort of a hot topic in 1949 when I was first recruited. It was a
bit idealistic - that if Blacks were allowed to vote they should be able to constitute
themselves as a separate government from the United States if they so chose. "The
Woman Question" came a year or so later. "White Supremacy" as a topic was right in
there too. The Party really examined themselves with criticism, self-criticism, and a lot of
breast-beating to identify and root-out the white supremacist attitudes that were assumed
to be prevalent in every white member. That kind of followed the "Self-Determination for
the Black Belt Counties of the South."
The question of who gave the educational was a rotating responsibility - it went from one
member to the other, though I think each club kind of worked it out on their own. There
was usually a pretty full discussion after an educational was given where everyone jumped
in and said quite a bit. The more theoretical amongst us, even though they may not have
prepared the educational, were relied upon to expand on the subject. In the club I
belonged to, it seemed a handful of people dominated that area and the rest of us struggled
to make a presentation, but we really relied on the more so-called articulate folks.
I don't really remember if there were dues as such. There must have been. There must
have been regular dues, but there was also routine pledges. I know at one time it was sort
of one day's pay a month. That was at a time when one day's pay didn't amount to all that
much money - our over-all income wasn't that much. Certainly, that wasn't required. I
could be wrong - that may not have been a month, but you know like for the PW drive
which came every year, you tried to commit yourself for a day's pay - not each month, but
for the drive. That "day's pay" is something I remember went back even to when my
mother was in the Party in 1939 and 1940. I'm a little fuzzy as to how it was applied in
the late 40s and early 50s when I was a member.
The Labor Youth League, I was more in the leadership end of it. Really, I was in and out
of the city so much with family crises that, for the life of me, I can't remember a
neighborhood club meeting that I went to. My memory was based on the leadership
meetings that we had and dealt pretty much with the same subjects. I don't think we
peddled the People ’s World, but we peddled a Labor Youth League magazine that came
out. We had educationals. We probably had more recreational activities and a more vital
recruiting. It was a bit easier to recruit into the Labor Youth League than into the
Communist Party. Nevertheless, in substance, the fonnat was the same.
HS: Do you want to go on with the Labor Youth League, or go back to some questions we
were going to cover?
CC: I think we could go back to questions.
HS: I had a question here... on the industrial shop club, what kind of things did you
discuss and do there. What happened at those meetings?
CC: I don't remember too much. I'm sure we talked about the local union. I'm afraid it was a
short-lived group. I don't think there were too many meetings. For the most part, I think
we talked about our little factory, but over-all, we talked about Party responsibilities as
HS: OK. You mentioned the "Woman Question" at Party meetings, and you said there
was a story about that?
CC: There was a journalist in our club who, after the educational on the Woman Question had
been given, and I don’t remember at all what the specifics of it were, but there was quite a
heated discussion. One young woman got very irate at the attitude of one of the comrades
- a male comrade - and got very argumentative with him. She put it in a political context -
I wish I could remember what the issue was, I don't. But, I’ll tell you, I’m positive it was
mild compared to some of the issues and attitudes that came forth in the 60s. After the
meeting, I hung around. After the woman left, there was this conversation between the
two men there, and the journalist said, "well, she really put my ass in a sling, didn’t she?"
And I thought, "that’s a political response?" [laughs] But that was the level of response to
the "Woman Question" in our particular club by this one particular male. I don’t think
others took him on at all in tenns of straightening his political perspectives out. I just sort
of sat there with my mouth open and was equally quiet about it. So much for the Woman
Question. The fact that it was an issue that was discussed I think is commendable. How
seriously it was taken is hard to say.
HS: Sometimes I nod instead of talking. That's because I want your words more that
mine. Was anybody like a chair of the Party meetings?
CC: Yeah, I think we had chainnen - ongoing chainnen. I don’t think that job circulated.
There were either chainnen or org-secs - organizational secretaries. There was someone
responsible for getting people - if not getting them there, calling the meeting to order,
conducting it. I don’t really remember how many people had titles. Certainly there was
someone who met with other org-secs of a Section. A Section was usually a
neighborhood - a geographical entity - the North Beach Section, the Fillmore Section, or
the Industrial or the Professional Sections, the Student Section, and the Youth Section,
that kind of thing. There were representatives [from each club] which then became the
HS: Were the meetings held in people’s houses?
CC: Yeah. At the time I was in the Party, they were held in a revolving way at people’s
houses. I think earlier years, like in the 30s, they might have been held in halls.
HS: OK. There is an important question that we kind of skirted somehow. The question
of making friendships for life. Some of the people you met in the Party became life-
long friends and that seemed important to you.
CC: Despite the fact that our political activity went in many, many different directions, I was in
the Party Youth Section a very short time. I was in the Labor Youth League and then after
I had my second child, it fell apart in 1956 after the 20th Party Congress. But I made
friends when I was 19 and 20 years old that are still my closest friends. In some cases it's
been a continuous relationship. In another case, there was a hiatus of 25 years, and as
soon as I met that person again, I was immediately able to renew a close, ongoing
relationship. One of the reasons there was a hiatus, is that there was a political difference.
We went in different directions politically in the early 50s. Now this is 40+ years later. I
don’t know if this is true of everybody, but I put a certain political evaluation of it that we
shared strong feeling, we shared a time of persecution, and bonds were made that, for me,
were lasting. I have made friends since then [chuckles], but I think it's a bit remarkable
that I still maintain [those older] close ties.
The Korean War, 1950 - 1953
HS: You were a young person in 1950. How did the Korean War strike you?
CC: Some people saw it as the beginning of World War III. This was it. I didn’t accept that. I
think I felt somewhat optimistic. I mean I was terribly depressed that fighting was going
on and people were being killed. Of course, our feeling was that the United States was
solely responsible for the beginning of the armed hostilities. But I was an optimist and I
wouldn’t accept the idea that it would lead to World War III. Even though the Chinese
were brought in, I really felt that it still was going to be contained. The fighting did move
into China - 1 think there were bombing raids that went over the border, but the Korean
war went on...
HS: ’50 to ’53.
CC: ...a bit over two years. I might add that was a period of all my personal family problems.
I never was consistently in one place for more than a few months. I never did more than
follow the headlines. I was living in San Francisco when it started. Very quickly, I
moved to Arizona. I came back. I moved to Alameda. I came back. I moved to Alameda
again - this is with my mother dying, my brother-in-law being sick and my sister dying. I
came back after the 1952 elections when Eisenhower was elected and he agreed to go to
Korea and initiate the peace program. And it was at that point that I began to get
politically involved again. By that time, I think we were all pretty optimist that it was all
going to wind down. I certainly was aware of it. It came as a crushing blow when
hostilities started, but I never saw it as the beginning of the end.
I remember running into a friend the day that the news really came through that we were
in an - whatever they called it - an anned conflict. The friend was a young comrade and
he said, "this is it. This is the beginning." And I just rejected it out of hand. I remember
that conversation. It’s not that I had any information. I just couldn’t accept that this was
going to turn into a world war, or a major conflict between the Soviet Union and the US.
Making Howitzer shell parts at Simmons Mattress Factory
HS: Going back to our outline - return to political life, 1952.
CC: At the end of 1952, after my sister had died and I had taken care of her family, I came
back to San Francisco. The first thing I did was get a job at Simmons Mattress factory in
North Beach which was one of the two big factories in San Francisco. CanCo was one
and Simmons was the other. It was organized by the United Furniture Workers which was
a CIO union. A number of comrades worked there. It was considered hard work, but the
reason I got hired is that they had an ordnance contract - this was still during the Korean
War. They had an ordinance contract to make primers for howitzer shells and I was hired
- about 10 or 12 women were hired and put into a section of the steel department and we
had these little pipes that we punched holes in and reamed the tops out of and shaped and
faced. I had no idea what I was making. After being there a few days, I said, "what part
of a Hide-A-Bed does this go into?" They happily informed me that this was a war
HS: What did you think when you found out, "hey, I'm making weaponry for weapons
that are going to be aimed at the comrades over there in Korea, or in the People’s
CC: That didn’t bother me. Don’t ask me why it didn’t, but it didn’t [laughs]. It didn’t really
surprise me either. They had a big steel department where they shaped - Simmons had its
own steel rolling mill. They made the beds from railroad ties. I mean the steel that came
in was railroad ties and it was rolled and reshaped and pounded. It was an old-fashioned
factory where everything was done there. Cotton came in bales, I guess the fabric was
woven somewhere else. Steel came in the shape of steel rails and it came out Hide-A-
Beds and springs. It was a great big place. The fact that they had a small Army contract
didn’t seem unusual. World War II was still pretty fresh in our minds. It was only about
seven years after World War II when everything had an Anny contract connected with it,
or a war contract connected with it. The political implications connected with it? I don't
remember being the slightest bit upset about it. By the end of '52 the war was winding
down and it seemed apparent that it wasn’t going to spread. It was narrowing. You know,
they had peace talks for a long, long time before they finally achieved a cease-fire.
Another thing I didn’t think about, but I remember Phil Bock's wife commenting about
was that we didn’t have any friends that were soldiers in the service. I didn’t know one
person who was fighting in Korea. Later on I met people who were veterans, but I did not
know anyone that went over. I don't quite understand why I didn’t, but I didn’t.
Starting at the top - chairman of the San Francisco Labor Youth League
I returned to a political life too and started attending meetings of the Labor Youth League.
Very quickly, Phil Bock, the county chairman, had a heart-to-heart talk with me and said
that he had come up from Los Angeles to provide leadership for San Francisco's Labor
Youth League. The Party did not feel that there was strong enough leadership here. He
took on a temporary assignment to cultivate leadership to take over the San Francisco
[Labor Youth] League. He said that I should consider becoming county chairman. It was
never questioned that I wouldn’t be elected. The League was still pretty young and I
suppose it had maybe 80 to 100 members - I’m guessing, but it was in that range. There
was a Fillmore Club, a Mission Club, a Student Group at San Francisco State which was
down at Buchanan near Market so geographically they were really in the center of town.
Each club had 15 to 20. ..oh, we had a teenage group too - mostly children of Party
members, but they were active and lively. The numbers of our membership were
respectable. These were very repressive times. McCarthyism was getting a strong hold.
The Bridges Trial had been lost. The Communist Party leaders were either in jail or on
appeal. The court cases for putting Party members in prison were going on - or they were
being subpoenaed and put in prison because they wouldn’t answer questions - all of that
was happening. The Los Angeles 10, the New York 1 1 and so on. People were losing
their jobs and not given a reason. There was a law in California - 1 can't remember the
name [the Levering Act] - but teachers were required to sign loyalty oaths.
(Tape 4 - Side 2)
HS: That's about the time that you become chair.
CC: Yeah. At the same time I was talked into becoming county chairman of the Labor Youth
League. It was a decided and accomplished fact before anybody else knew about it. I was
sort of presented as the designated heir apparent and no one else said "hey, I want that
job." There wasn't a contested election. I think there was a County-wide meeting and the
troops approved, but that was about it. I did make a strong pitch that I had little or no
experience with that kind of leadership, and I wanted a very experienced person to be the
second in command - namely the organizational secretary. I suggested a friend - Johnny
Wakefield - who accepted. For a couple of years I think we worked together very well. It
was a difficult job for me and I didn’t like it. I dislike political work that requires me to
motivate other people. I don’t mind the mechanical end of it, but if I have to convince
people to go out and do this and do that, it takes a tremendous amount of energy and I
never seemed to have a big reserve of it.
HS: Can I ask you what all was involved being a chairperson?
CC: You know I blanked it out pretty good! It meant having regular meetings with the
chairpeople of each club. That sort of formed a leadership committee. It meant getting
them committed to carrying out political campaigns such as the defense of the
Rosenbergs, the Willie McGee lynching, various national campaigns.
The League also mirrored the Party in rooting out the "White Supremacy" that was alive
and flourishing in each and every one of us. I can remember that we were dealing with it
in an objective, almost reasonable way. Then Leon Wofsy, the national head of the Labor
Youth League, came from New York and spoke in such fiery terms that I realized we had
barely been scratching the surface of the issue and had to get much more serious. Me, as
chairman, and Johnny, as the org sec, were both white. The State chairman was Black.
LA's county chainnan was Black. So statewide we had a mix, but I think we were
considered vulnerable on that subject.
Recruiting was always a major thing, and a program for teenagers and student group.
They had very special problems and you couldn’t just impose the Party program on them
in the same way as you sort of could with your neighborhood clubs. The Party did not
deal with those special circumstances. So as county chairman I was involved with
meeting with all the club leaders as a group and meeting with the teenagers and students
individually. I remember with the teenagers, we had a meeting with the parents who were
upset by some things their children - their children who were still in high school by the
way - were touting - programs they were taking to school with them. There was also - this
was still the period of "Industrial Concentration" and our young people were not
encouraged to go to college. They were encouraged to go out and work in a factory!
When they made that decision - you know, I don’t think we ever told them, "you can't do
this, you can't do that," but I remember the head of the teenage club - a darling young girl
- came and told me she made the decision, she wasn’t going to go to college, she was
going to go work in a factory. And, you know, we just quietly cheered, and patted her on
the back. God! It's frightening when you think of some of the things we did! I think most
of the people recovered, ‘cause the League didn’t last too long and there was still time to
regroup and continue your life [laughs]. For me, it took longer. I waited until I was 50
years old [to go to college].
In the midst of all this, the Party had started a program of cadre training. I think - I'm
absolutely guessing, but I think this was at the time the Party went underground. All the
leaders disappeared and the few that were left started a program of cadre training. I was
dubbed for that. Basically, it was educational programs in people’s homes with a select
group of usually four members and a leader. It lasted about a year and a half. I had three
different leaders. One woman I had a lot of respect for. The other man was a well-
meaning type. I don’t feel I ever got anything out of it. We studied dialectical materialism
and other basic theory. When we had material to read, I could come up with the answers,
but basically I never had any great inclination for theory. I came into the Party as a red-
diaper baby influenced by my older brother who I greatly looked up to, and my mother. I
always had it in the back of my mind that it would be nice to read the basic works of
Marxism, but other than a few pamphlets from the Little Lenin Library, I never got too
deeply into theory. It wasn't theory that attracted me and it wasn't theory that kept me
there. And it wasn’t really theory that drove me away, but we'll get to that later. So, I had
cadre training along with a number of other people. It was supposed to be very hush-hush,
but a few of my friends were also involved outside of my immediate little group.
HS: Was the cadre training under the auspices of the Party?
CC: Yes. Absolutely. I think I was the only Labor Youth League person involved. I think it
started before my first baby was bom which would be in ’54.
HS: ...that the cadre training started?
CC: Yeah, but I’m not sure, I'm not sure. I know it continued into ’55 because we had a couple
sessions at my apartment and I remember the leader holding my baby. I was afraid my
baby might have had a fever and I remember she put her lips up to the temple to give her a
kiss, and she said, "yes, I am giving her a kiss, but your mouth is the most sensitive to
heat, and a good way to determine whether or not your baby is feverish is to put your lips
against her temple." My child was born in March of '55, so it continued beyond '55.
Marriage, children - merging two political lives
HS: We come now to the section - marriage, merging of two political lives, return to Eddy
Street, 1953 - 1955, so it's concurrent with this period.
CC: I really don't remember if I became chairman of the Labor Youth League before or after
my marriage, but if it wasn’t before, I’m sure it was shortly afterwards. My husband,
Monroe, was active in the Party. He was a member of the Lithographers' Union and was
very active in his Union...
HS: What was his last name?
CC: Schwartz. We both had our various assignments and he wasn’t terribly supportive of what
I was doing and was not at all interested in the youth organization. Nevertheless, we
would set up our schedules - how many meetings do you have this week and so on. While
we were childless, there was no problem. Once our baby, Rita, was bom, we had to
coordinate pretty carefully. I was very fortunate in having a very happy, well-behaved
baby. I was pretty relaxed with her because I had brought my sister's baby home from the
hospital and taken care of her so mine was almost like having a second infant. The child
was in bed and asleep by 7:30 'cause if I had a meeting, I had to be out of the house by
7:30. She was in bed before I left. I put her to bed. If we both had meetings, baby-sitters
were brought in. Sometimes it was friends - other comrades.
With the birth of our first baby, my husband got an assignment of providing transportation
for some of the underground leaders and that created a very difficult situation because his
schedule was not a defined one. It could be early morning, late at night, most any time.
There was no regularity to it. But I packed Rita up in a little car carrier or a stroller. I was
able to have a number of meetings in the daytime and she came along with me. Bill
Lowe, the LYL state chainnan who I met with frequently, was very supportive of me -
very supportive of the problems of women in leadership. I must say whenever I had a
political battle, he was right there to back me up. Now usually I was fighting his political
battles, but nevertheless, he gave me a lot of back up. That did not extend to Johnny. He
never had that kind of relationship with Johnny.
HS: Johnny was the...?
CC: He was the second. ..the organizational secretary of the LYL.
HS: Johnny Wakefield.
CC: I think after the first two years, we had a convention and I think it was at Bill Lowe's
suggestion that Johnny be retired from youth work. I had the assignment to infonn him of
this, which I did. It was one of the things that I was really ashamed of. I carried out Bill's
decision, and it was a very, very hurtful situation between Johnny and me. I realize
afterwards, I had betrayed him. I had sought him out and when he needed support, I had
not provided it. We remained friends - it didn’t break up our friendship, but it was
something I was ashamed of.
The FBI tracks me to the East coast
I went back to New York a couple of times. Once for the founding convention. That was
after I was married, but before I had a baby. When my baby was nine months old, I went
back for a national council meeting. One of the reasons I did this was that my mother-in-
law lived in Baltimore and it was agreed that I would take the baby with me. She had
broken her hip and wasn’t able to come out when my daughter was bom. I took her and
spent a week in Baltimore visiting and getting to know her. I had met her once, but this
was a real visit. She lived with her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. I left the
baby there for three days and went up to New York for this meeting, and then I came
back, spent a few more days and then went home.
After that, the family was visited by the FBI, and their neighbors were visited by the FBI
and shown pictures of them picking me up at the airport in Washington, DC. That was the
first time that innocent people were involved that way because of my activity. They took
it very well and they palmed off some story to their neighbors which satisfied them that
[laughs] something to do with "I Led Three Lives" - it was a TV program. The neighbors
thought that I was a double agent! I really forget the exact story they told them, but the
family never held it against me. They knew I was going up to New York [for a meeting].
My mother-in-law's oldest son had been an active political figure and a Party member and
she knew Monroe was too. It was no surprise, but the fact that they were visited and their
neighbors were visited certainly upset me. I didn’t anticipate that. That was in the fall of
I got pregnant shortly after that with my second child and it was allowed that I would
continue in leadership until I took my leave to give birth and then I would be retired from
the youth movement. Bill Lowe as much as said, "one baby is OK. Two is too many
(both laugh) for youth leadership."
HS: OK that's interesting. One little detail you've got in there, "return to Eddy Street."
Is there significance in Eddy Street?
CC: Only that I returned to the same block and next to the same apartment where I lived when
I was four years old. That's where I had my two daughters whom I took to the same park
where I have pictures of my dad and myself playing when I was three and four years old.
I only live about three more blocks away from that location now. So that's why I put
down "return to Eddy Street." We lived there about two and a half years. The building is
still there; it's been refurbished. We rented a two bedroom apartment - $40 a month. It
was old, but it was very clean. It was very well maintained. It had a super who came and
collected the garbage every night. We just put a little can out in the hallway and he
relined our little garbage pail and put it back [laughs]. Imagine, never having to carry out
the garbage. It was kind of a neat place to live. We had friends who lived there too. It
was a happy place.
(Tape 5 - Side 1)
Retired from the Labor Youth League - party membership just got lost
HS: You have on your outline here, "end of LYL Chairmanship and also end of Communist
Party membership, 1956.” Can we go on with this?
CC: Yeah. Going back a little bit. I don't remember exactly when it was. Somewhere near the
end of 1955, 1 was asked to sit in on the County Committee of the Communist Party.
Now, I know it wasn't when I was terribly pregnant with Anna so it must have been early
'55. I can only remember one or two meetings that I attended, but I was reminded of it
when, under the Freedom of Infonnation Act, I sent for my FBI file and very clearly they
recorded a street comer meeting that I had with Oleta [O'Connor Yates]. I picked her up
in my car or she picked me up in her car and we just parked and talked for a while about
my sitting on the County Committee. Then she went on her way. Anyway, I did a
meeting. I remember Bigge [Clarence] Patton, who's still my neighbor here, and Oleta,
Loretta Stack, and Harry Williams. I don't remember too many other people that were on
the County Committee. But, for whatever reason, they asked me, as chairman of the
Labor Youth League, to become a member of the County Committee. That was a real
reversal from their earlier position - the Labor Youth League was Marxist and initiated
through Party action, but it had been separate from the Party.
I don’t remember the date I pulled out of leadership, but I was very pregnant with my
second child. Rita, my first child, was barely 15 months old so I took a leave, not only
from Party activity though my attachment to an adult Party club was not an active one.
That business of attending Party meetings once a month was really done only at the
beginning and did not sustain itself. It particularly didn't sustain itself after I was in
leadership because I was having meetings all over the place. I took my leave, I graduated
the hard way from the Labor Youth League, from youth work and figured after my second
child was born, I would become active as an "adult" Party member.
Something happened on the way to the hospital! Kh rushchev delivered his speech to the
20th Congress of the CP-USSR deposing Stalin which had unbelievable impact on the
Party here in this country. That together with the Soviet Union's military interference in
Hungary - those two things had people leaving the Party in droves.
I had my second child - my daughter Anna - 1 had a physical problem after - what they call
post-partum phlebitis, and had to have minor surgery. I had kind of a long convalescence.
We had a visit from my mother-in-law; we had gotten a bigger apartment out in Bernal
Heights. Everything kind of delayed my getting involved again.
My husband had left the Party. He made that decision and it was a fonnal separation. He
went to a meeting and told them and so forth. I was trying to find someone to talk to so I
could make my own decision because I wasn’t attached to any club. I called Oleta saying,
"Oleta, I have to talk to someone." My recollection is that we set up a time and place and
before that meeting took place, Oleta left the Party. I remember doing the same thing with
Loretta Stack, and the same thing happened. It became almost a comedy. I didn’t know
who else to turn to on a County level. They told me someone I should call and it was
someone I didn’t know. I’d never even heard of him. Someone told me, "oh, you don't
want to talk to him." So, by default, I left the Party. I never went back in. I never had
any kind of ideological discussion with anyone. I had my own ideas about it, but that
really was the end of my active political, organizational life. I went from county
leadership to being a non-active person. That was near the end of 1956, maybe early
I remained a very busy mother. I took temporary, part-time jobs because we really
couldn’t live on my husband’s income alone. He was a semi-skilled lithographer who had
periods of unemployment from time to time. The offset printing industry was a major one
in San Francisco, but he was not a journeyman and that's where the big money was, or, I
should say that's where the good money was - not big necessarily.
We moved. ..I was very unhappy living out in Bernal Heights. I felt like I was in another
town. I lived on what had to be one of the steepest streets and I had two kids in a stroller.
We moved from there to Potrero Hill which made me feel like I had come back to the City
again. That's where I got pregnant again and gave birth to my third child, Bill. That was
my third child in about four and a half years. I continued working on and off. After my
third child I got a housekeeper. I had a job three full days a week and I had a housekeeper
come in three days a week. It was just a perfect situation. I had two days off where I
could enjoy them with my kids. My Rita was in kindergarten, Anna was in one of the
Rhoda Kellogg nursery schools which was very good.
All in all, it was a pretty good time except my marriage was again going through more
problems. They'd been chronic from the beginning; they didn’t get any better. When Bill
was three years old, I knew my marriage was at an end. I had stuck it out a long time. It
did have a few good periods, but they were short-lived. When I finally made up my mind
after ten years, and I was 34 years old, I was absolutely definite and calculating about it. I
was not going to move out in a huff. My husband was going to have to move. I had three
kids to take care of. I had to get a good, supportive job and that's when I started looking
for an opening at the ILWU.
A single mother starts work at the ILWU
I had a friend across the street, Peggy Ohta, who worked at the ILWU; another friend
down the block, Evey Wakefield, worked there; and another friend, Vera Fouke - all
worked there. They would be my conduit. Whenever a job came open, I was going to be
notified. I had registered with Local 29 [Office and Professional Employees Int’l Union in
the East Bay] so I was in line to be assigned there. I told Local 29 I wanted a job in San
Francisco, and the ILWU was their only shop in San Francisco. Sure enough, a job came
open in the Dispatcher office. I went in and interviewed and was turn down because I was
a friend of another woman who worked in the office, and that dear office manager did not
like to hire "friends" because we would become "cliques." Within a week, I got a call
from Local 29 telling me there was temporary work in the Benefit Fund Office. I went in
for a two- week replacement job which immediately stretched out and pretty soon they
asked me to stay permanently. I worked in that office for three years.
My marriage did end. My husband moved out. We went through about a six-month
period of crises; he was under psychiatric treatment. Then he met up with an old friend, a
young woman. They fell in love and planned to marry. He readily agreed to a divorce
and that sort of got me out of what had been, for a few months, a very, very traumatic time
with suicide watches, death threats - only over the telephone, but it was a difficult time.
Although the separation wasn't easy, I did have a supportive situation at work and it
extended to the families of the women who were my neighbors.
HS: This is the end of our discussion on August 29, 1994.
IV A CLERICAL WORKER AT THE ILWU
(Interview 4: September 9, 1994)
The Benefit Fund office - structure and personalities
HS: Today is the 9th of September, 1994. I'm in San Francisco again with Carol Cuenod.
We're going to discuss today your ILWU period of employment, 1963 to 1986. What
was it like working in the Benefit Fund Office?
CC: The Benefit Fund Office was in the basement of the building at 150 Golden Gate Avenue
which the ILWU owned. It was a warren of partitioned-off offices. I think the Fund
started in 1950 with a staff of two or three, but it had grown to about 30 people. Except
for secretaries whose desks were lined up in a long, long room, almost every one or two
people had little cubicles that they worked in. It took me quite to get used to finding my
way around. The other problem was that the ventilation was very bad down there. The
ceilings were low and when we had hot weather, it almost became unbearable. We found
that we really needed our coffee breaks to go upstairs and get fresh air. You tended to get
headaches toward the end of the day.
Henry Schmidt was Pension Director. Anne Waybur was over-all director of the Benefit
Funds and Toby Jones was her assistant. I don’t remember exactly what Toby's title was,
but she worked directly under Anne. As soon as I got permanent status there, I was made
Toby Jones' secretary. Everyone thought I was a stoic to take that job. I got along fairly
well with Toby once you got used to her manners which were very poor. She didn’t really
treat you like a person on the job. You could walk into her office and she never would
acknowledge your presence. Initially, you sort of shifted from foot to foot waiting for her
to look up from her "very important" work. That wouldn’t happen so it became a contest,
sort of a waiting game, I thought, "well, I'm going to stand here as long as you keep
reading." After a while that game got tedious so I learned to walk in and started talking,
whether she was reading or not. Eventually that would make her look up, and then she
would ask you to repeat everything. But that, at least, saved some time. Those kind of
games were always part of Toby's personality. Interestingly, off-the-job she was warm,
friendly, and outgoing. It was just an on-the-job routine that she’d go through. She was
not very sharp at what she did, but she eventually got the job done. She would dictate, and
then, as though it was an afterthought, always tell me to "put it in draft, please." Usually a
document had to be re-drafted three times before she got it right. But eventually she did.
She was not incompetent by any means, just an incompetent personality.
I had friends in the Benefit Fund Office. Friends from previous years - Evey Wakefield
was one. Vera Fouke and I became real buddies down there. I made good friends in that
office. Linda Kuhn, now Executive Assistant to the President, and still a very good friend,
came to work in the Benefit Funds shortly after I did. Several people who worked there in
1963 still work in the Benefit Funds - Shirley Morris, but she's got a different last name.
Several others - Katie Myers came as a high school intern about the second summer I was
there. Susie Patrick came to work a week after I did and is working now as an
HS: Katie's family background is quite interesting. It's interesting that all these people
have come together here - Blackie Myers' daughter.
CC: I never knew Blackie Myers or Katie's mother. I knew of them but didn't know them.
Katie was and is just a very exceptionally nice, good friend.
The work.. .for the first time I was being paid well for what I did. I had full family health
coverage plus dental coverage for my children which was a big improvement. As I was
now divorced, or at least separated in the initial period - 1 did get child care support from
my ex-husband. It was a nominal amount and it paid my housekeeper. All other expenses
I paid out of my salary. We lived with a certain amount of frugality, but we managed.
That was true the whole time I was at the ILWU. We lived from week-to-week. Before
school started my kids never got new wardrobes or anything like that. I know one year, I
sort of jokingly said they would get new shoe laces to go back to school this year. They
were adequately dressed, but there never was enough to get new clothes for all three. I
utilized Christmas to buy them what they needed. They got toys too, but they got a lot of
clothes for Christmas and birthday presents because that's what they needed.
Six months after I went to work for the ILWU, I moved into St. Francis Square. At that
time, it wasn't any cheaper. As a matter of fact, my monthly payments were a little bit
more than what I was paying before. It was in the following years that it became much
less expensive than the rental rates. In the late 60s and particular in the 70s, rents started
climbing sharply. St. Francis Square monthly payments remained pretty much where they
HS: Can you briefly note what St. Francis Square is for somebody who might listen to
CC: Yeah. St. Francis Square opened in 1963. It is a 299-unit cooperative housing
development in the Western Addition which was sponsored by the ILWU-PMA Pension
Fund. It was not specifically for ILWU members. They sponsored it with the objective
goal of providing low to moderate-cost housing for families in the City. It provided an
alternative for families which were moving to the suburbs to find affordable housing. It
was integrated, almost scientifically. The percentages were 52% white, 25% Black, 15%
Asian and 8% mixed. No one realized what was going on except the people responsible
for the sales office. But they did a fantastic job; not only was the Square as a whole
integrated, but each apartment building, which had six units, had a good mix of ethnic
groups. Ruth Maguire and Revels Cayton were the two key people here. The sales staff
included a number of other people who worked very hard as well, but those two people
were the ones I knew the best.
Back to the Benefit Funds. At the time I went to work there, the Coast Committeeman
who was the Administrative Union Trustee was Howard Bodine. He really was the
godfather of the Benefit Funds office. He was down there every day. He knew every
employee and their families and a lot of - he made it his business to know everything that
was going on. He was consulted on every aspect of the Fund, worked with Anne Waybur
and Toby. I developed a tremendous respect for him and I don’t think there has been
anyone who has taken his place in the same way. There was another Coast
Committeeman, L. B. Thomas, but he was more the man who dealt with the waterfront.
Howard Bodine also dealt with the Longshore Division - by waterfront I meant Longshore
Division, but he was the man in place in the Benefit Funds.
HS: How long did he carry on this way?
CC: Well I don't know. I think he might well have been Administrative Trustee almost from
the outset, but I don’t know how long he was there.
HS: In your experience, you transferred a few years later.
CC: I transferred in 1966, three years later, but Howard was still there. He was there until he
died and I don’t remember when he died. I think it was in the 60s still. He died of
emphysema, but I don’t remember the date.
There was a sense of groundbreaking to some extent in the Benefit Fund Office
particularly with the Dental Plans. I believe it was the first dental plan in the country.
(Tape 5 - Side 2)
CC: OK. Goldie [Krantz] was the Fund's first director. She became, I think, almost a national
figure in group health coverage. Later on, she moved to Washington DC and married a
Dr. Miller, who was head of the United Mine Workers Medical Plan. I believe she
became very active or even a staff member of the Group Health Association of America;
anyway, she was with one of the professional organizations in the field. When I first
started, Goldie had just left, but was still a consultant for the Fund. She and Howard
Bodine had been the big guns down there. Anne Waybur was relatively new in '63. She
had worked under Goldie, but did not have the same stature. The ILWU was on the
cutting edge for health benefits. It was an incredibly complicated structure to provide all
the health benefits in all the different ports up and down the coast. The contract, I think,
pretty much provided for a choice of service plans, such as Kaiser, or indemnity plans
such as Blue Cross, and dental plans. In Seattle, you had three service plans plus an
indemnity underwritten by an insurance company. That plan was supposed to give similar
benefits or as close to similar as possible. All the little small ports had other plans.
Certain plans in Washington, certain plans in Oregon and then California. The Benefit
Funds also provided plans for members in Alaska which was even more complicated,
though up there I don't believe there was any service plan, it was all indemnity type. That
was one aspect. That was for health benefits. Then there was the Pension Department.
We had a lot of claims examiners in Pension because for every longshoreman who retired
in '63, you had to do investigative work to compile his qualifying years. It had to be done
by hook or by crook. Claims examiners had to provide some kind of verification of their
early years' employment. No computer-generated records were available. Henry
[Schmidt] was responsible for that, and though Henry was honest, fair and square, he did
everything - everything possible to qualify these pensioners.
HS: You say "by hook or by crook" there must be some stories there.
CC: There are, and I wish I could remember them, but I can't - too far back. We had some
dedicated claims examiners. These were old-time union office workers who were suppose
- you know, we were supposed to be working for both PMA [Pacific Maritime
Association] and the ILWU. But their allegiance was to the members they served and
they did everything they could to qualify these old timers who put in the bulk of their
years before there was any kind of automated compilation of hours. As I say, Henry
would go to the extreme limit to qualify them. [One claims examiner was Elaine Black
Yoneda.] It was a much, much different attitude than existed ten years later, believe me.
Later it was up to the member to prove they had the hours. If they didn’t, no way.
HS: How did this change come about?
CC: When Henry retired, that was part of it. Certainly after Anne moved on - she didn’t retire,
she left. John Dee replaced Anne Waybur and had no union background as far as I know.
The general atmosphere changed. Also, by that time mechanization and the record
keeping - the men who were retiring fell more into a time period where records of their
hours worked were available. So it was kind of a combination of both, but the early
claims examiners had very interesting jobs, and each one - each certification was kind of a
small victory or at least gave them a feeling of satisfaction.
The ILWU International office - its officers and staff
Upstairs, Harry [Bridges] and Lou [Goldblatt] were the officers - Bob Robertson was the
Vice-President in charge of organizing. He was a lightweight compared to Harry and Lou.
A nice fellow, but didn’t pull the weight in the same way. Bill Chester was Northern
California Regional Director. I think 1963 was when the rift between Harry and Lou
began to sharpen up a bit. Up to that point, Harry and Lou used to have Sunday
afternoons social session, sort of a salon where there would be discussions. It involved the
wives. It was an indication that there was, not only a working relationship, but a social
relationship, an ideological connection. Gossip had it that there was a blow-up and those
sessions stopped. It was just about the time I started working there.
HS: What was the blow-up about?
CC: I have no idea. This was hearsay. It was not anything I was personally involved in. It
was gossip. But if there was any validity in it, it showed that there had been a closer
relationship; and it stopped. From the time that I was there and became aware of what
was going on upstairs, there was little or no social involvement between the two. As a
matter of fact, even the watering holes were divided - after work watering holes. Harry
and his company went to Harrington’s; Louie went to another bar, what was its name -
Oreste's. It was also a restaurant, but it was used more as a bar - a place to go after work
for drinks. Originally, we all went to Harrington's for coffee breaks, we went there for
lunch. It was the gathering place for - well during caucuses or any meeting when other
members came from other ports, that was where you went and socialized regardless of
politics. Later on in the split the other bar was the gathering place for Louie and Barry
Silverman who was the Research Director by the end of the 60s. Although Jack Hall
didn’t drink at the point when he came to San Francisco as Vice-President in 1969 - oh,
he’d have a glass of wine, but he was not drinking at the same level as he did in his earlier
years. He was part of the Goldblatt faction.
When I worked downstairs though, I didn’t have too much connection with the second
floor except we [all clerical workers in the building] were considered one shop unit. We
were members OPEIU Local 29. All the ILWU offices in the Bay Area constituted one
bargaining unit, but the Benefit Funds and the International Office were one shop within
that bargaining unit. At our union meetings, we gathered together. Now that was true in
the late 60s, later on it changed. Whenever a job opened, whenever a job was posted, as
one shop, we all had access, we all had the right to bid if it was a promotion. If a side way
move, then it was not viewed in the same way. Whenever the switchboard at the
International Office needed extra coverage, they would call down to the Benefit Funds and
there were several of us who would go up and work the switchboard in relief. During
conventions, any kind of special meetings, they called on us to help with the paper work.
There was that kind of contact, but not on a day-to-day basis and I really didn’t know the
people too well. I did have a personal friend up in the Dispatcher office - Peggy Ohta and
I developed a close friendship with Sid Roger who was Assistant Editor at that time.
That’s about it for my Benefit Fund years.
HS: What about Sid? Is there anything you can add on Sid Roger because you knew him
CC: Sid was Assistant Editor, it was not a full-time job. Morris Watson was still Editor of The
Dispatcher. Sid was always a fascinating person. He was involved in Shakespeare
productions at UC Berkeley. I went and saw him in Hamlet. He played the king. He
played Caliban in The Tempest. I took the kids to see it and they enjoyed it. I think he
also was in Antony and Cleopatra. He was also on the radio as the KPFA Labor Reporter.
I don’t know if it was labor, it seems like it was broader, but he did a regular commentary
on KPFA in those days. He liked to think of himself as a Renaissance man which he was
in many, many ways. He was a wonderful raconteur. He always had great stories to tell.
He could remember them - incredible memory. I think when I first started work there, it
was the beginning of the Delano Grape Strike, 1963 . Sid had made a trip to cover
that, and I remember sitting at lunch with other friends when he joined us. He was
describing the experience in a vivid way. So I kind of sought out his company. I just
found it - he was always full of what was happening and described it with a lot of
enthusiasm and color. We became pretty good friends for the time I was there.
HS: How about Line [Lincoln] Fairley, He was the Research Director. Did you know
Line at all?
CC: I got to know Line over the years. In 1966 I applied for the job of Assistant Librarian.
Line was Research Director and he was the person who hired me. Marge Canright was
Librarian and I interviewed with her, then I interviewed with Line, and then I was hired.
He said, I'm hiring you, but you will be directly supervised by Margery. Line had a heart
attack just after I went upstairs, or before. Anyway, after he recovered from his heart
attack, he came back to work and very shortly after that, he left to become Northern
California Area Arbitrator. I didn’t work under Line's direction very long at all. Barry
Silverman was there already.
HS: Before we go to Barry, which bar did he go to?
CC: Barry? Barry was a Goldblatt man all the way.
HS: And then you mentioned that shortly, Barry Silverman came on.
CC: Barry was already there as Assistant Research Director. It was projected that Line would
retire, but it was going to be like a several-year period when Barry would learn the work.
And that wasn't a change. There had always been a Research Department with more than
one professional in it. There was a red-headed guy when I first started. His name was
Phil Eden and he had worked with Paul Pinsky. When Barry came on, the idea was that
he and Line would work together for a long time. But due to Line's illness, and due to his
taking a different job, Barry came on as Director much, much sooner than anticipated.
This was much to Marge's distress because from the beginning, there was friction between
the two of them. Barry had no real appreciation for the work of the Library. He felt it was
something of a white elephant. Why should the Union be providing all of these services to
the public at large, or the trade union public at large, or the trade union students and
scholars at large? What good did it do the members was his bottom line. That was from
the beginning, and as soon as Barry took over, the work of the Library changed
HS: Can you characterize this?
CC: The question of acquisitions, which is a major professional job of a librarian, went down
the drain. Occasionally, Barry would say, "buy this book, buy that book," but the idea of
having a scope defined where you routinely selected the books that would update the
collection went by the board. Slowly but surely, a lot of periodicals were dropped. The
ones that Barry didn't use - they weren't all dropped, but they were reduced. Barry didn't
use the Library. His work methods were different from Line's. Line and Anne Rand had
built that Library and they envisioned it as a center that served far more than the ILWU. It
was a public relations wing of the ILWU. At one time, I'm sure it was seen as a service
for all CIO unions because Harry was the Regional Director of the CIO. Many unions saw
the ILWU as the cornerstone of the CIO in California. The Library was, or at least it
touted itself to be, the largest labor collection in the western states. That would have been
in the 50s and 60s. I don't think that was true much beyond that. In terms of a labor
collection, it was very good and it had kept up to date. It also provided large collections
on shipping and on sugar. The big periodicals in the field were kept. We had the
periodical Sugar Y Azucar going back as far as I can remember. Barry had no interest in
maintaining that. Barry was very disdainful of Marge's professionalism. He thought it
was a waste of time and money. All he needed was someone to cut and clip the articles
that he wanted and basically, all he wanted was a clerical person up there. Marge's job
had all the professional duties taken out of it. Not all at once, but over a period of time.
When she was given a research job, she did it meticulously, but whereas Line used to
come upstairs after he had sat in on officers' meetings. He'd come up and discuss with her
what the issues were before the Union; she would be included in terms of collecting
material for the officers, marking the newspaper article to circulate amongst them. Line
did that as well but Marge was brought into the loop. Barry never did it. Rarely did he
use the Library. He was more of a statistical - well, he got a master's degree at Berkeley in
Business Administration. Line had a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard. I don’t mean to
put one on a pedestal and degrade Barry because Barry did a very good job and he did
provide the services the Union needed.
(Tape 6 - Side 1)
Anne Rand - founder of the ILWU Library
CC: I wanted to go back a little bit and talk about Anne Rand.
CC: I never worked under Anne Rand. She retired about a year after I started working in the
Benefit Funds. Marge Canright had been Anne's Assistant Librarian. As Anne
approached retirement age, it was decided that Marge would go to library school at UC
Berkeley and get a library credential. She took a leave of absence for a year and did that.
When she came back, Anne retired.
Anne was responsible for building the Library. I believe she came on in 1945 or shortly
thereafter. She and Line worked very closely together to make it one of the outstanding
labor collections in the western states. Anne was devoted to her job. It was her life, and
she had a tremendous influence on a number of people.
HS: Can you mention any of them?
CC: I can think of two right away because they are people who I later got to know, and they
told me of the influence Anne had on them. One is Archie Green. He worked as a
shipwright, I believe. He went on to become a nationally-acclaimed labor folklorist. He
gave Anne a lot of credit for pushing him in that direction. The other is Michael
Slobodek, who was a member of Local 34 - a ship clerk. He made a major contribution by
compiling a bibliography of California labor history which is still, I believe, referred to as
the primary bibliography on the subject. I think Anne was totally responsible for moving
him in that direction.
Marge used to be very critical of Anne because she spent so much time talking to people
and helping them and doing that kind of time-consuming work in the day time. Then
she’d take work home or she would come in and work on weekends to keep up with the
day-to-day routine. Marge, as her successor, was not willing to do that. She said, "I have
a husband and two children." She’d add, "Anne was an absolute rat-fi nk to create this
massive job, and those of us who come along in her wake have to keep up with it." The
Library at that time had two full-time people plus the help of a woman who used to come
in to clip and paste news articles.
Anne Rand created the Library for a much larger community than the ILWU officers. It
was a place where lay historians and historians came and did a lot of research. It was a
place where political activists would come up and ask questions and always get the
answers they needed. Anne welcomed them all.
Anne organized the Library in a way that served the Union. It was not always organized
along library school standards and Marge was very critical of that. Though she didn’t
make major changes, she certainly tried to bring it up to date in terms of what she learned
in 1963 in library school. She was critical in that Anne kind of made herself a mat for the
officers whereas Marge wanted to stand on her own professional ability. Although I never
worked with Anne, I felt her presence after she left the ILWU. And by the way, the
general gossip was that Marge pushed her out once she got her credential. Anne hadn’t
planned to retire that early.
After Anne left she worked in the library at Golden Gate College which was at the YMCA
which was half a block away. She would occasionally send us a patron, always calling
first to make sure that it wouldn't upset our schedule. To my knowledge, in the couple
years that she worked there she never set foot in the ILWU again. We had some
professional contact with her, but not any kind of a social one. She died shortly after - 1
think it was the late 60s when she died. The ILWU had a memorial for her in the building
and it was then they named the Library the Anne Rand Memorial Library. I was amazed
at how many people came. Not only was she liked at the Golden Gate College, she did
volunteer work for a number of groups and a number of those people came and spoke
very, very warmly of the kind of help she had given them. Louie represented the Officers
at the memorial. I always remember the phrase he used, "Anne Rand had the ability to
expand your mind." Whenever he asked for information, he always got the infonnation he
asked for and then a little bit more. She more than provided, she expanded on what she
was asked to do. I once quoted Lou's statement about Anne in a speech before the
Southwest Labor History Conference. Someone in the audience, as soon as I said that,
his head just nodded up and down [chuckles]. He must have been one of those earlier
patrons. Anyway, I worked under Barry and Marge. I managed to develop a very warm
friendship with Marge over a ten-year period. But I often wonder what life would have
been like if I had been working under Line and Anne Rand.
On the job training with Marge Canright
HS: From the outline we'll continue with "training with Marge Canright - librarianship."
CC: When I went to work for Marge, I was warned that she was a difficult woman to work for;
nevertheless, it was a very interesting job. Far more than working as a secretary in the
Benefit Funds office. It offered an opportunity to learn indexing. The most skilled job I
did was to index The Dispatcher. Every issue had been indexed since - just about since
the paper started. The index provided a working index to the activity of the Union as well
as some general activities of the labor movement. It was our first stop on any research
project and was quite valued by the officers who knew they could find time and place for
any event that had happened.
Marge trained me to do the index, but much more than that. She shared with me all the
work that she did. Whenever there was a major research project, she discussed it with me
and always let me know what her process was. We frequently shared the research - she
would do one aspect of it, I would do another. The work in the Library was specialized -
it was a "special collection." Many of the skills that I learned were not really applicable,
at least in the specific sense, in other libraries. But it provided me the basic tools on how
to go about getting the answers you needed. We used different methods of doing that,
ours were pretty old and archaic, but they worked, they worked for us. I replaced Marge
whenever she went on vacation. Over the years, I was very, very grateful to her for openly
and in a free sort of way, sharing all that she did there. When she left in 1976, 1 had
worked for her for ten years.
Although there were times when things were a bit stressful, by and large, we established a
camaraderie. We had very common points of view about what went on in the Union, the
problems and benefits of working for various officers. She bitterly resented the de-
professionalizing of her job by Barry Silverman and saw - 1 think early on realized that her
days there would be numbered. She’d only take it so far, and no farther. When she finally
left, it was on the basis of principle. I felt she did it with dignity. She had been relieved
from the last measure of professional duties, and in a sense, had been humiliated by Barry
who made her a clip and paste person. She had trained me and given me all the tools
necessary to assume full charge of the Library, and she recommended that I take her place.
That was, I felt, very generous on her part. I’ve worked with professionals before and
never found one that freely shared her expertise. Not only the decisions, but how to do it
and how to get there.
Just sort of "the proof of the pudding.” Later in my life, I worked at MIT as a research
analyst doing corporate research. I was able to walk into that job and work right along
with a professionally-trained research staff. Based on the skills I had gained with Marge, I
was able to move into a professional job. Over the years, we established a personal
relationship. We both enjoyed cooking and certain homemaking experiences - sewing and
so forth. I was her guest at the opera - she and her husband had season tickets, and when
her husband traveled, I was invited along. I received many invitations for dinner at her
house, and vice versa. One Christmas she and her husband came here.
The clerical staff at the ILWU - being one of "the girls"
HS: You mentioned you were called "one of the girls." What does that mean?
CC: The titled officers referred to the women who worked for the ILWU as “the girls.”
Almost all of them worked in a clerical capacity. What went with that was an attitude that
we were working for an organization that - that we should be grateful to work for this
noble organization. It should motivate us to consider it much more than just a job. It was
commitment to unionism, to all the ideals that they held dear and that we should also hold
dear. We were pretty much expected to fill-in wherever we were needed, to support the
Union in everything it did, including support to other unions such as a UE strike. I
remember we were asked to come down, stuff envelopes and get a mailing out to support
the UE on our own time - after hours. Not everyone did, but being "one of the girls"
meant you did that sort of thing.
We were not members of the ILWU. We were members of an AFL-CIO union, Local 29.
There's a slightly interesting story on why we were members of Local 29 which was an
East Bay local, not the San Francisco local. The bargaining unit at the ILWU had been
represented by a CIO union, the United Professional and Office Workers Union of
America or UOPWA as it was called. When UOPWA was expelled from the CIO along
with the ILWU, it did not survive and the bargaining unit was left without a bargaining
agent. In San Francisco, Local 3 of the AFL Office Workers Union was run by a business
agent called Phyllis Mitchell who was a real red-baiter, and she wouldn’t have anything to
do with the ILWU. Local 29 in the East Bay had as its senior business agent a woman
named Leah Newberry. She was much more progressive or liberal in her attitudes and
welcomed the ILWU bargaining unit into Local 29. We were the only unit they had in
San Francisco and Leah Newberry was our business agent for many years.
HS: Had Local 29 been CIO before the merger?
CC: Local 29 was AFL and always had been. By the time I got there it was AFL-CIO. We
were members of Local 29, but the officers really expected our first allegiance to be to the
Our first strike - to support our sisters at Local 10
All of this came to a crashing halt when we had a grievance at Local 10 and this was about
1968 or ’69. One of our sisters had a grievance at Local 10 under an officer named Carl
Smith who was using what later became known as sexual harassment in the most
unprincipled way. He also played around with the bargaining agreement, twisting it,
turning it, and interpreting it in ways that made any kind of resolution of grievances
almost impossible. There were no time limits in our grievance procedure at that time, but
there were several grievance steps. He played the role of several of the steps - immediate
supervisor, department head, officer in charge - he played all those roles. The grievance
was filed by a woman who had worked there many years named Aurora Dawson. God, I
forget what the original grievance was, it got so turned around. In any event, as one
bargaining unit, all the shops got involved. We let Smith know we all were supporting
Aurora in her grievance. We reached the point where we called a stop-work meeting. All
the members from all the ILWU offices came to a meeting room at the Whitcomb Hotel,
including members from Local 10. Smitty fired them all for attending the stop-work
meeting! All six were fired including people with 20 years seniority. The next morning
we had picket lines around Local 10. When I say "we," we were the office workers at the
International, the Benefit Fund Office, Local 6, Local 34 and Local 10.
Harry - 1 don’t think Harry came out openly and supported Smitty, but basically he did.
As his critics said then, "Harry had learned Black politics." Smitty was a Black member
of Local 10, an ally of Bill Chester who was also Local 10. He was using his Black
members - that may be a strong term. It's a tenn I can't back up so I'll pull that one back.
But other Local 10 members could speak to that and on how Harry fonned an alliance
with Black members of Local 10 to strengthen his political position in the Union, and that
included Carl Smith, who was considered a real no-goodnik. One of our biggest problems
the first day we were out on strike was to get the Local 10 members off our line. Many
were walking with us because they hated this guy. I mean, their whole office staff was
fired and it was outrageous! They were taking us to lunch. All kinds of support, both
socially and politically, was being shown. By the second day, we realized this was - no
way could we allow it. We made a ruling that we were the only ones that could walk our
HS: How come you felt that way?
CC: It muddied the issues. They were trying to throw their grievances against Smith onto our
HS: Ah, yes.
CC: They just had no right being there. It was our picket line and it wasn't a mass picket line
and it just wasn’t - it just confused the issues. We were happy for their support and we
happily did go off and have lunch with them, but when it came to walking the line, we did
it on our own.
I think the third day, a settlement was reached. It wasn’t a clear-cut victory. All members
were reinstated except Aurora Dawson. Her grievance went to arbitration. Evey
Wakefield was our prime mover [for this settlement] and a lot of bad feeling followed.
They felt we should have stayed out until Aurora got back on the job. They managed to
stretch out that arbitration for more than a year, but Aurora won, and got back pay and got
her job back. I think by that time Smitty was gone - they have a rule that you hold office
for two years and go back to work for one year. She went back to work at Local 10 and
retired from it many years later.
That was the first strike, and we stopped being "the girls" after that. It was well into the
late 1960s and the attitude toward women was beginning to change. From that day
forward, there was no camaraderie between Harry and the office staff. When we came
back to work, Louie was there, at the switchboard where we signed in, to greet us warmly.
Barry and Martha Amyes, our office manager, were there too.
Working for Harry, working for Lou
Harry never forgave us for that strike. From then on, he never had social conversations
with bargaining unit women. When he was at work and called for me to get something for
him in the Library, he was the most considerate, thoughtful person to work for. He always
started out with a statement, "now don’t take too much time, but I’d like the..." His
memory was impeccable, "1938 Convention, I think it was on the third day, " and he
would name the delegate and "I’d like to see the Proceedings." And he’d always end up
with, "don’t waste too much time on it. If you find it, fine." He was always right on the
nose; he’d always give you as much infonnation as he could at the time. It made working
for him a real joy. Compared to Louie, our supporter, he was the exact opposite. Never
had anything right, sort of threw it over his shoulder as he walked away. I always had to
puzzle and puzzle and it was very hard to get back to him if you didn’t get it the first time.
The research always had to be presented in sparkling form. You may have supported his
position, his principles and his sterling leadership, but to work for him was difficult.
Harry was the opposite, but from that day on, there was no social interchange. We
(Tape 6 - Side 2)
That pretty much went on until he retired. Then, at least for me, he changed. He became
an ardent patron of the Library and I became a very good friend which I enjoyed very
Negotiating a contract with Lou Goldblatt and the local officers
HS: Let's go back a little bit. You've listed "Shop steward. Negotiating with Lou
CC: Yeah. Negotiating with Lou Goldblatt was a rare experience. I was on the negotiating
committee for our bargaining unit which included the six offices. We usually had a
member from each office and our business agent who served as our spokesman. After
Leah Newberry assumed more responsible positions in Local 29, we were assigned a
variety of business agents who were very impressed with the fact that they were
negotiating with Lou Goldblatt who had a reputation for being a hard and brilliant
negotiator. The first committee I was on, I don’t remember his name but he had a low
boiling point and Louie could really set him off. At one point, he lost his temper and he
got up and walked out of the room. He left the committee there, batting our eyes, not
knowing quite what to do. But anyway...
HS: Was this the negotiator?
CC: This was our negotiator, our B.A. I had a theory about the whole negotiating experience.
The ILWU was represented by an officer from each local, usually their secretary-treasurer.
The problem was, they were union members, but in this case, they were the employers and
they were wearing a hat that they didn’t know how to wear. The union is the moving party
in a negotiation, and that's the only thing they knew. They didn’t know how to let us be
the moving party.
We would present our demands. They would throw them back at us and say, "fix it!"
That was their response. They didn’t know how to respond to our committee being the
moving party. They had to always be the ones that were pushing, not receiving and
responding. The sarcasm and the insults were designed to shame us, "why don’t you stay
home and we’ll just mail you your checks." That was how negotiations always started.
We approached it as bargaining. We were always very inclusive in our demands. If
anybody had a demand that just maybe affected them, we put it in. We knew we would
bargain back and forth and drop certain things. We always started out with a request for a
reduced work week. They always looked at it and had one response, "when we get it for
our members, you'll get it." Basically, that's what they wanted us to do. Just take what
they had gotten, usually in warehouse, and accept it - not really bargain. They'd say,
"we’re bound. How can we give you anything we can't get for our members?" There were
all kind of constraints on our negotiating process. Of course, when we suggested that
warehousemen's hourly pay was much higher than ours, that was ignored. The
comparison with warehouse usually dealt with vacations, the fringes - the benefit package,
on down the line. They said, "we get it for them; you get it. That's how generous we are.
But we can’t justify to the membership giving you anything else.” Louie set a tone. He
would be, believe it or not, he was the "good guy." Chili Duarte [Warehouse Union, Local
6] was the "bad guy," and they did "good guy/bad guy" routines.
HS: Can you characterize this?
CC: I never negotiated with Chili, but I was told he would be insulting and even vulgar
according to the gals who did. Louie would have to go through the game of quieting him
down. I negotiated against George Valter [Local 6] who tried to play the same role, but he
was [laughs] he was a pussycat by comparison. He would sound gruff, but he never could
be insulting and degrading. I gather Chili could and was. George, after a few negotiating
sessions - 1 remember smiling back at him when he did his gruff routine and saying,
"George, I talk to the women who work in your office. If you ever have an opening, I
want to come work for you. I understand you are the nicest man to work for." And he’d
sort of smile [laughs] and try to be gruff again. Local 6 was the second largest employer
of office workers so they played a key role in negotiations, though Louie, the Inf 1
Secretary-Treasurer, was the spokesman up through 75 or whenever the last negotiations
were before 77 [when he retired]. Curt [McClain] replaced George Valter. He was
trained in this routine in the same way. Curt was always a bit more difficult than George
was. When Curt became Int'l Secretary-Treasurer, and was the spokesman, we ran into
real problems because he was not a skillful negotiator.
HS: Why would he cause trouble?
CC: He would forget what he’d said in the previous session! Curt never was able to - 1 mean
the new job diminished Curt. Curt was, I think, a good local leader, but when he moved
onto the International level, it was my opinion that the job diminished him. He could
never fill Louie's shoes and he became unsure of himself in almost everything he did.
That uncertainty reflected itself in forgetting the issues that had been discussed. We had
to go to mediation once. With Curt we went to mediation more than once, but once on a
committee that I served on. It was a prolonged, prolonged negotiations. At that time we
had a very skilled, very cool, woman business agent. She was meticulous in her note-
taking and never got ruffled, never ruffled them. Even so, Curt was not able to handle it in
any kind of efficient fashion. We ended up meeting with the craziest mediator [from the
U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service]. It's a wonder we ever got any
settlement ‘cause he couldn’t remember from one walk down the hall to the other what the
hell [what message] he was carrying back and forth.
HS: Who was that?
CC: The mediator? I don't remember his name. He just was not very reliable. He’d tell them
one thing. He was supposed to bring back their position, and half the time he was slightly
HS: About Lou's style. It sounds like he wasn't doing the sarcastic bit, that was left for
other people - Chili in the beginning...
CC: Well, negotiations went through stages. Initially they were all outraged...
HS: Everybody's outraged. I've not met many people in my life who were more
proficient with sarcasm than Louis Goldblatt. I wondered how he used that ability?
CC: First, they're outraged - "fix it" - that’s what it was. Not, "we reject all your demands." It
was, "this is ridiculous. Fix it!" And they'd get up and walk out. Basically, they meant
take that demand for reduced hours out. Next, you go through the stage where they'd take
our demands item by item. "We agree to this. ..we reject that.. .this we’ll negotiate... we
don’t like that." In other words, we then began sincere negotiations. Louie, being the
spokesman, could not continue his sarcasm and blustering role. He had to address the
issues, but Chili or George or Curt could. They could continue right up to the end, but
Louie had to address - as the spokesman, he had to address the negotiable issues.
Generally, the settlement was what the ILWU would have been prepared to give us at the
beginning, with maybe an extra twist here and there. But generally, it was pretty much
proscribed by what Local 6 had gotten the previous time around.
Negotiations break down - out on strike again
HS: Your outline lists, "a strike, all ILWU units."
CC: That was a strike over negotiations. That’s when the old officers were still there. We had
a business rep called Bob Hipps and this was into the 70s - a period when we had a new
militancy within Local 29 and within our bargaining unit. We had our own little set of
young Turks, particularly in the Benefit Funds, and they were tight with our business
agent who was not a very good business agent.
The problem was that Louie had reached really a low point in his battles with Harry and
his effectiveness as Secretary-Treasurer. I think with Harry probably playing a role in the
background, Louie was having trouble getting his negotiating committee together. We
had met once or so, but he couldn't call a negotiating session because the Local 10 rep was
never available. Louie was something of a victim. In the process, however, they pushed
our bargaining unit and its new militants too far. We couldn’t set a negotiating committee
meeting with them. They kept putting it off, putting it off, putting it off. We took a strike
vote and then asked for a meeting at a specific time and place. When the ILWU did not
respond, our business agent announced that we were out on strike. It was a pretty weak
position, but I think it was a strike waiting to happen in a way. All the bargaining units
were out. We had moved to the new International Headquarters, but it wasn’t just a one
office, it was at all the Bay Area ILWU locals. I don't remember how long we were out, I
think it was like eight - more than a week. We finally had a negotiating session over at the
Unitarian Church and our final settlement gave us a nickel more than we had on the table
when we went out. It was a face-saving settlement for us. We only got a little bit more,
but basically, we got them back to the table. They had an International Executive meeting
scheduled and we had a picket line outside. Executive Board members at first refused to
go into the building. I believe Harry and/or Chester, maybe Lou, I don’t know, had a
meeting with them. They asked them to come up [through the picket line] just to have an
explanation of why we were out on strike. We didn’t know what they told them, but after
that, the Board members said OK, if those are the issues. Basically, the money wasn’t an
issue, but it was the fact we couldn’t get them to the table - they were prolonging and
treating us contemptuously, which was their habit. We boxed ourselves into a strike, and
once out, we had to have a face-saving settlement. After about a week, we got it.
Harry delighted in the whole thing. He used to come out and watch us picket. We had a
good routine going. We allowed staff people to go to work and they promised not to
perform our work. We had a Volkswagen camper set up in the alley with food in it, so we
had a little soup kitchen going and a place to rest. The women's legs were getting used to
walking. We were feeling real good about it - a lot of nice fresh air and the weather was
perfect. I remember Harry saying, "the weather report says it's going to rain. But that’s
OK, girls, you can walk up here under the cover." At that time, the ILWU Building hadn’t
been remodeled yet and there was a inside walkway— it was outside the door but it had
cover. Anyway, that was the second strike which we settled honorably. It re-established
again the fact that, as a bargaining unit, we were strong at that point. In subsequent years
Local 6 pulled themselves out of the bargaining unit; they wanted to negotiate separately.
I think to this day they still do. I think the rest of the units bargain together, but it kind of
broke up our bargaining unit which, I think, was a real shame.
HS: What did Local 6 do then?
CC: I don’t remember. I wasn’t shop steward anymore or involved in negotiations. I don’t
remember the reason.
V FINAL YEARS AT THE ILWU
Interview 5: September 19, 1994
(Tape 7 - Side 1)
HS: This is Harvey Schwartz again in San Francisco with Carol Cuenod. Am I still
pronouncing your name wrong?
CC: You're pronouncing it right.
HS: I'm finally learning. This is the 19th of September, 1994. OK, you have down here
on the outline, "full charge of the library, 1976 to 1986 - Librarian, Library
Technician or Archivist."
Full charge of the Library
CC: I took over the Library in 1976. That was the last year that Harry Bridges, Lou Goldblatt
and Bill Chester were the titled officers. Louie Goldblatt, with tacit approval from Harry,
had done nothing for the administrative staff. They hadn’t had a raise in three or four
years. I'm not sure of how long, but it was a good, long time. They were not under any
contract. The bargaining unit, working under a contract, continued to get the contract
raises that had been negotiated.
I was asked to take full charge of the Library, but no change was made in my
classification. For almost a year, with a sort of ironic smile, I'd sign every message to
Barry and the officers as "Assistant Librarian" which is what I still was. I had made
several recommendations as to what I thought I should be, but it never got beyond Barry.
He agreed that something should be done, but we'd do best to wait until after the new
officers were in position. Actually Barry didn’t want me to have anything more than a
clerical or technical position there. He had a difficult time working with professional
women; he had a difficult time working with almost everyone. He did not want to have to
supervise anyone with - the lower the standing, the better. I finally got a red-letter rate
which gave me something like 13% over my previous classification of "Assistant
Librarian." I forget how we arrived at that 13%. I think I’d asked for 15% or more and
Barry negotiated it down. I questioned what my classification should be and he agreed on
Meanwhile, the records of the Union, the Archives of the Union were enjoying a lot of
attention primarily due to an increase of activity in the labor history community with a
focus on the "new labor history" - one that was not just trade union history, but history of
working people. The Library was getting more students, the labor studies programs had
extended from City College to San Francisco State University. We were getting a lot
more patrons who were more interested in the Union records than in our book or
periodical collection. I was very much aware of how poorly our Archives had been
maintained. And I'll add, that wasn't my responsibility prior to my taking charge.
A series of events happened in my life in the late 70s. I had the opportunity to go to a
labor history seminar in New York funded by the National Endowment for the
Humanities. It was a one-month seminar under Herb Gutman of the CCNY Graduate
Center. It was a rare experience. He was a wonderful lecturer, very exciting. By the time
I finished that, I decided I wanted to get my credentials as an archivist of labor history. I
started going to workshops and seminars on archival administration and paper
conservation. I took a class from UC Extension and along with that I decided I should get
a BA in history. I investigated a lot of external degree programs and ended enrolling in
Goddard College which had one of the oldest external degree programs, and was pretty
highly recommended. Also you could develop your own major and I was able to develop
a program for myself in American Social History - 1 guess they have a new name for it
now - American Studies?
I was working full time and by the end of the 70s, I was also in a full time college degree
program. I received credit and life experience credit for two and a half years. This was
based on labor studies classes I had taken plus a one-year arbitration training program for
women and minorities I participated in at the Institute of Industrial Relations, UC
Berkeley. I put in three full semesters, actually four semesters because my life-experience
petition was a paper in itself and I took a term off to do that. From 1980 to 1982 that was
what I was doing. Every six months I went back to Goddard College in Plainfield,
Vermont for a two-week residency. I developed a love affair with New England which I
was able to satisfy later.
Herman, Rubio and McClain - new International officers
HS: You've got here "Bridges, Goldblatt and Chester retiring in '77, changes made by
Herman, Rubio and McClain." Maybe you could tell us about the changes you
CC: We all welcomed the change in leadership. Over the years, of course, the historical roles
that Goldblatt and Bridges played were nothing that our attitudes could add to or detract
from, but the relationship between the staff and the titled officers had become locked into
a - 1 mean nothing was done. I used to say, half humorously, that, "the biggest tragedy
they feel was that they have to leave and they are not able to kick all of us out before they
leave." There was a lot of resentment about Goldblatt having to retire with Bridges, not
being able to succeed him as president. He was bitter about it and took it out on the staff.
Barry Silverman was very involved in the election of Herman, McClain and Rubio - Rudy
Rubio as Vice-President. He saw himself as assuming a tremendously important role with
the new officers, and he made sure that they were totally dependent on him for almost
every move they made. Whereas the old officers knew what they wanted, Barry assumed
the position of telling the new officers what they needed. The research changed
dramatically. My role in the Union changed as well.
These officers had no background in what a Library could provide except as a place to
send visitors and members down to show what wonderful services the International
maintained and could provide. I invited the new officers to come down and be given a
tour of the Library so they would have some sense of what's there and what might be
helpful to them. It never really happened. I kept nagging at them, but after a while, I
found I could only push so far. They never developed their own knowledge of research.
It all went through other staff people upstairs. Barry was a do-it-yourself guy for the most
part. If I got a research assignment once every three months, it was remarkable. Mostly I
maintained everything as orderly as I could so that it was available for him to come down
and get. We also provided material for The Dispatcher and that continued. When they
put out an issue, they would ask for material on certain subjects and I would provide files
which had all the latest infonnation. The new officers were a sharp change from the
previous officers who had made the Library services part of their work. It never was a
part of the new officers' work. Other than, "I saw an article three weeks ago, see if you
clipped it." It was "bring me this. ..bring me that," but never, "we’re coming up for
negotiations and there's a certain grievance on 'overtime.' Bring me what the United Auto
Workers have done on it, give me all you can find." There was none of that. Barry
occasionally would relay something down to me in great detail so that it was still just a
matter to delivering documents.
ILWU Archives gain importance
The only real expanding area in the Library was the Archives. It appealed to my interest
in history. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the serious students, doctoral students
working on their dissertations. We would have two or three working from time to time. I
was asked to give a talk on the Union's Archives, at the Southwest Labor History
Conference and the Labor History Workshop. I had never done that sort of thing before,
but I was pleased to make contacts with other historians and labor archivists in the field. I
decided that if I were to assume any kind of professional status, I wanted it to be along
those lines more than as a professional librarian.
HS: In this period that you referred to when there was a great deal of activity with all
these Ph.D.'s about, maybe you could go into a bit more detail on how you were
CC: Over the years, there were special projects such as the NEH Oral History Program, such as
the various serious researchers who came and worked - like when Sandy Zalburg came, it
was usually for a month and he put in a 9 to 5 day. I should say he started about 1970.
You also worked in the 60s, Kimeldorf came a bit later, Bruce Nelson also. I think he was
a contemporary of Kimeldorf. But it made me realize - it was very instrumental in my
decision to become an archivist because by having these historians come, who were much
more learned than I was, I began to realize what the gold mine the ILWU Archives
contained. Zalburg worked page by page out of the Archives each summer for five years,
just on the material we had on Hawaii. I frequently would say, "do you want to
photocopy?" He was a journalist and he’d say, "no, I can get the essence if I type what I
need and what I want immediately, not read it and take it to be photocopied." Only in the
last couple of years of his research did he photocopy because he’d gotten arthritis in his
fingers so bad that it was difficult for him to do long, long hours of typing. He was
unique. I developed such a respect for these people for the diligence of their research.
They all appeared to put in as much time doing their research as their writing. Even after
they started writing, they continued to come back and do research. I think Chuck
Larrowe, who wrote Harry Bridges: Rise and Fall of Radical Labor did ten years of
research. Now that was prior to my coming to the Library. But I was there when his book
was re-issued with a new preface, and he used to visit regularly so I got to know him. Ed
Beechert was doing research when I first started in the Library. That was my first
introduction to a serious academic researcher who just would go in a corner and work
without interruption except to go get a file, or have us get a file. In those days, the
Archives were on a different floor in about five different rooms, so we would go find the
material for him. It was always the most interesting work I did. The discussions and the
friendships I've developed with these people continued. I still go see Bruce Nelson when
I'm in Vermont or near Dartmouth. The work with these people had a great deal to do
with the new focus on my work.
I learned that the Labor Archives [at San Francisco State University] was being considered
by a group called the Labor Foundation led by Dave Jenkins and David Selvin. I
introduced myself as one who should not be overlooked [laughs] which Dave Je nk ins sort
of - 1 think he wanted to be the sole representative of the ILWU, but when I came with a
letter I had typed for Jimmy's [Hennan] signature designating me as a delegate for the
officers to the Labor Foundation I was accepted and met with them.
I did not pursue archivist work when I left the ILWU, but happily, I am back in it now. A
lot of it goes back to those years when I worked with patrons who focused on the archives
(Tape 7 - Side 2)
St. Francis Square - ILWU Sponsored Housing Cooperative
HS: This might be a good time to talk about St. Francis Square, the project sponsored by
the ILWU. I know you've been active in it. Can you tell us about it?
CC: It was conceived by Louie Goldblatt. The idea of providing housing for families, low-to-
moderate income families as an alternative to moving to the suburbs. I moved in at the
beginning in 1963 right after my divorce and live here still. In 1963, the monthly cost was
comparable to rentals in the city though people who bought homes certainly paid more. It
was subsidized housing by FHA [now HUD], but not public housing.
It attracted a lot of people that were into community work - old progressives and liberals.
It attracted Black families, Asian families and white families. It was considered an
optimum racial mix. One that would not allow it to go all Black or all white. It was a bit
more than 52% white, 25% Black, and the rest Asian and mixed. The problem in the 60s
was that interracial housing in a city soon became all Black. The whites did not stay, and
more Blacks moved in. We never had that problem, but some families, both Black and
white, did move away and were replaced by Asians to some extent. But we still managed
to maintain a fairly healthy mix.
It was exciting for all of us to move in at the same time. A lot of social, political and
community-building activity immediately followed. Baby-sitting co-ops were organized
and a nursery school became a part of it. We sent our kids to the neighborhood school
which was terrible. We worked to improve it.
HS: What was that school.
CC: Raphael Weill Elementary School. We did improve it to some extent by the end of the
For me, moving to the Square was something of a godsend. After my divorce, as with all
divorces you have property settlements, but you also have "friend settlements." This
group of friends remains with the husband, and this group of friends remains with the wife
[laughs]. That's never written on paper, but it happens. I was able to move in and establish
many, many new friends which I welcomed. I maintained my old friends most of which I
worked with at the ILWU. But I had a new, social involvement with people younger than
myself. I was 35 then; most of my friends were in their late 20s which now seems
insignificant, but at that time, it seemed pretty significant.
Political activities and political battles took place very quickly. Revels Cayton was our
manager and he stimulated more controversy [laughs] than most people. The first big
battle was to decide if Revels should be a community leader or just a maintenance man.
Of course, Revels never thought of himself as a maintenance man. It ended up with a
recall of the second Board of Directors and a new one elected which supported Revels and
a community outlook for the Square. It was a significant campaign and brought together
many, many families. After the recall, I knew every one of the 300 hundred families that
I became a Board member in 72 after another recall. I won’t go into the reasons for that
one. It didn’t have the impact that the first one did.
HS: Can you briefly go into it?
CC: OK. After that first recall, being a Board member became a tremendously demanding job.
You had to be willing to give - someone tallied up at least ten hours a week to being a
Board member. As a result, it did not attract a lot of candidates. After electing a Board
that, I believe, were five candidates for five positions, they decided to handle the transfers
of membership shares differently. When a shareholder wanted to sell, they would exercise
the Co-ops option to buy if it was a low-equity share and then raise the price to the
maximum equity and sell it at a higher price. In other words, they were into buying and
selling with a profit. They were going to do good with that profit and make it available to
poor families coming in, but it was an outrageous violation of the Bylaws and we recalled
them. Also they hired a manager who was suppose to be a resident manager, but he didn’t
live here. He could be found, if you made an appointment, in this apartment with no
furniture in it, but he actually lived somewhere else. That Board was recalled and that
manager was replaced. I became a Board member for the first time and continued for
another five years. It was a long run.
In the early years, political activity in the Square was usually focused on bringing our
group together with the rest of the community. We had a committee opposed to the
Vietnam War. We opened a headquarters on Fillmore Street when there was a city
campaign to put "Proposition P" on the ballot. That was a memorial to Congress or a
memorial to the President demanding a peaceful solution of the war. It was a lively
campaign involving publicity and precinct work. Our headquarters was manned by people
from St. Francis Square. We would go open it up every night. There was a city-wide
headquarters, but we were one of the few community headquarters. We had activity two
or three weekends before the election where we canvassed the precincts. Our office was
the focus for not only our people, but other people in the community. I was one of the
main people there along with Tom Tsukahara, who was a retired Local 6 member. It was
my most active involvement in the anti-Vietnam war
CC: Yeah, you're right. It was 1967. Those are just a few highlights of what it meant to be a
member of this Cooperative.
This Cooperative maintained all along a very close tie to the ILWU. Louie Goldblatt was
considered our godfather. We usually had annual picnics where he came. He provided
support to our political battles on how our tax assessments were made, and was always
there to counsel when help was needed. So, that's St. Francis Square, and still remains in
my life. I've been president of the Board for the last two years though I will retire this
HS: I see. How come?
CC: It's too demanding a job and the nature of it has changed to the point where the rewards
are few and you just begin to be rather negative. We face a lot of lawsuits now. Battles
that have no significance. There are good things that happen here, but to be on the Board
much more than two years you begin to focus more on the negative than the positive.
Early retirement and a move to Boston
HS: In 1986, having been at Goddard College in the early 80s, you go to Boston from
1986 to 1992.
CC: Mostly I found from the early 80s on, I had been living in one place and working at one
job for 20 years. At St. Francis Square many of the friends I made earlier had moved on.
I felt that a lot had passed me by. Both my job, and the social life that I had around my
home had sunk into a rut. I had a strong desire, once my youngest child graduated from
college and moved out on his own, to move out on my own too.
I had re-established my friendship with Lilli Ann Killen Rosenberg - a friend that went
back to my Labor School days. I had visited her and her family in Boston a number of
times. She offered me a place to "land" if I wanted to move back there. They had a big
house in Newton Centre.
V. BOSTON, LARC, AND A LOOK BACK
Working at MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program
I decided to take early retirement - 1 was risking a smaller pension, but I figured I’d be able
to continue working full time. I was young enough to be able to go out and get a job. I
planned to funnel my pension for five years into something that would provide me
additional income once I took full retirement. Moving to Boston became my goal and I
worked at it for a couple of years. Both in getting the Library and Archives in the best
possible condition, finding a replacement and fighting with the Union for at least a three
month overlap to train that person. My daughter and her boyfriend, with whom she had
been living for about a year, were planning to get married and were happy to move into
this apartment. So I added her name to my share and was able to maintain my cooperative
apartment indefinitely. My goal, before I went, was to go to Boston and work there a
year. I was also interested in working in Washington DC, or just moving from one city to
the other. My pension was around $550 a month which I felt provided me with a nice
little buffer so that if I wanted to use some of it for a year, I could do that. I had a lot of
accumulated vacation time. I actually had the biggest ba nk account when I left that I’d
ever had in my life. It was about $6,000. Some of that I had accrued on my own, but I did
get quite a big chu nk of money when I left the ILWU.
I landed in Boston when every office was screaming for help. In two weeks, I had made
application at about five places and I got job offers from all five. I chose to go to work at
MIT in the Industrial Liaison Program. I met a group of young women and entered into
an entirely new working environment where officers and support staff, as they
euphemistically called clerical workers there, were on a much more equal basis than I’d
experience in the trade union movement. I became computer literate. I was a secretary,
but all the officers I worked for typed their own letters and would send it to me by
computer and I just put them in proper letter format, checked their punctuation and
spelling mostly and sent them out. We were given a lot of administrative duties, and the
social interchange was a very free one. I enjoyed it. I was a tourist every weekend. I
found a number of friends who enjoyed doing things. I think I made a bit of an impact on
a circle of friends there. We began planning weekend excursions and a number of young
people really enjoyed it. MIT had a lodge up in Vermont and we developed a tradition
that one weekend in August, we’d all go up, about 10 or 12 of us. MIT also had a social
program for the MIT community which involved everyone from professors to janitors. It
would include excursions to Tanglewood for a concert, to New York City, to Martha's
Vineyard. Wonderful, very inexpensive outings. I would latch onto it and usually it
would end up with four or five of us going.
So, one year stretched into five, and I was able to launder my pension into a TIAA
account, a tax-deferred annuity. I did use some of it. I was making about $25,000 a year
when I left the ILWU. My beginning job at MIT was $18,000 a year. It went up very
fast. I was back - in five years, I was back up to $25,000 though the big increases were
the first two or three years. After that, New England went into a recession and our
I developed a friendship with a retired professor. Initially it was a serious one and we
contemplated marriage. That did not work out, but it remained a close friendship and that
influenced me to stay a bit longer. Basically, I was quite happy there. I visited San
Francisco once or twice a year and maintained my contacts here. The Labor Archives had
opened just months before I left. Lynn Bonfield became the director. She was a good
friend and my number one mentor as an archivist. I had one or another of my kids visiting
me three or four - 1 had three or four visits a year from them. So it was a happy time. As I
approached 62, 1 decided that would be the end of it. I would retire, take my Social
Security. I had set that time because vesting time had been reduced from ten years to five
years, and after five years, I was able to pick up a small pension from MIT. That brought
me right up to my 62nd year. At 62 I took my MIT pension, my Social Security and of
course, continued my ILWU pension. I had not been covered by the ILWU health
coverage while I was under early retirement, but I had a written agreement with the ILWU
that my health coverage would start at nonnal retirement age which under the ILWU
Clerical Workers Contract was 62.
Return to San Francisco - begin as Archivist at LARC
I came back to San Francisco with a pension income of $ 1400 a month, full health
coverage, my apartment waiting for me. I felt it was a good move. It was time for me to
be back and I was happy to be back. In retrospect, I think my decision to retire early and
go to a new area was a good one. I experienced the east coast, New England. I made two
trips to Europe while I was there— one to England, one to visit my family in Switzerland. I
went to Florida, I went to Canada, Bennuda, Prince Edward Island.
(Tape 8 - Side 1)
It was a lot of adventure with new friends, but it was also a time where I learned that I had
the ability to live alone, to spend a lot of time doing things alone. It was gratifying to
know that I could build new friendships which I did. I just recently took a very nice three-
week tour of Portugal with a woman I met there.
I was worried about coming back to San Francisco and falling into the same rut. To some
extent, I suppose I have, but not entirely. One of the good things that's happened is that
immediately I started as a volunteer at the Labor Archives. I started volunteering one day
a week. They asked me if I could start coming two additional afternoons a week, so I am
now working three afternoons a week [and getting paid for two]. It is a very
professionally run Archive. It has lot of labor studies students, and serious writers. I have
validated my skills as an archivist. The training I had early was not professional, but was
professionally applied, and is holding up as an archivist in an institution that is staffed by
people who have been trained in academic setting. I love the work. I'm a workhorse out
there, I might add. I'm somewhat involved in reference work, serving the patrons that
come in, but mostly I process collections. As such I’ve processed collections of unions,
papers of individuals, and most recently, one of the California Labor School which has
been a very nostalgic trip for me, but also a very thought provoking one in lieu of the
changes in world events - the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the dissolution of the
socialist countries of Eastern Europe.
A look back at the California Labor School
I felt as I was processing this collection created by the California Labor School, that it was
one of the richest ones in showing some of the weaknesses and problems of the old left.
The School had taught that everything in the Soviet Union was good and wonderful.
McCarthyism and government prosecution of the Labor School made it retreat into
narrower "leftist" circles. Certainly the collection revealed the battles that the School
faced just to exist, but it also revealed the weaknesses of the left and how vulnerable the
School was. You know, the government closed the School, but the School was falling
apart. It hardly had any support near the end except from the old, old left. From the Party
left. It closed in 1957, one year after the Kh rushchev speech when the Party itself was
falling apart. And though it very carefully distinguished itself from Party control, it was
the Party that kept the School going through these difficult times. When the Party could
no longer do that - that, combined with the IRS and its tax problems, caused it to be
I read Holland Roberts' memoirs and found glaring inconsistencies with what he wrote and
what we were told as students. Some of it was sort of trivial, but we were told that this
man "walked away from a professorship at Stanford to become Educational Director of the
California Labor School." No one ever said that he was fired from Stanford. He was fired
from that job, and he came on staff at the California Labor School after that. There were a
few other inconsistencies that I found very interesting and revealed some of the worst
problems of the left. I recently spoke briefly to a woman who is doing research in that
collection to write a book on the California Labor School. I asked her a few questions on
how much research she had done to see where she was coming from. The only response I
got was, "oh, it was such a wonderful, wonderful institution." I said, "yeah, it was
interesting how it responded to political oppression." She said, "oh yes, they just focused
more on arts, music and dance and culture." It was somewhat true that they continued
that, but there were other differences [laughs] that seemed more significant to me.
Responsibility of a former Communist
Out of that experience, and my thinking about that, it occurred to me that I too have not
done very much thinking about my role as a Communist. My responsibility, not
responsibility, but duty to myself about some of the things I did that I never felt very good
about at the time. I think I said earlier in this interview that I was not an intellectually
convinced Communist. I was a red-diaper baby. It was handed down to me at an early
age that socialism was the ultimate answer to all the problems of the world. I mean from
the time I was eight years old! I never questioned it. But it became obvious as early as
the 50s that it was not the answer to the problems of the world. I don't feel that I ever
really thought that one out carefully.
What was my role? I was a leader of a Marxist organization. I didn’t know beans about
Marxism. I read the People ’s World where everything the Soviet Union did was
commendable and everything that capitalism offered was suspect. I always was uneasy
about converting anybody, to recruit anybody into the Party. For the one person who I
think I may have been instrumental in recruiting, I felt very guilty. In general, I always
was uneasy in trying to convince anyone to become part of the left. It was an uneasiness I
never explored; I never thought it out even. I just know how I felt about it. It was
something I accepted.
I'm rambling a bit, but I feel anyone who is into radical politics has got to analyze and
think things out for themselves and move on their own instincts and not on something
that's handed down. And that’s what I didn’t do. I never moved on my own instincts. I
did what I was asked to do. I respected the people who were asking me. I liked them.
My problem was an inability to think for myself and have faith in my own feelings about
things, and a willingness to act on them. I have one friend who rejected the Party's long
before 1956. And she talks about the pain that she went through with her family and
friends. But she reached the point where she couldn’t buy it anymore. Had I really
thought, I don't know that I would have reached the same point, but I would have acted
differently and some of the things that I did that I was quite ashamed of afterwards, I
wouldn’t have done. It was by following the leadership and not responding to my own
reaction to things that I'm least happy about.
HS: Most people couldn't explore such an aspect of their life so fully and honestly. It's a
good thing to do. I think it's got value and will be appreciated.
CC: I think if I just walked away, I wouldn't have. I have walked away from a lot of political
activity, but my experience at the Labor Archives recently kind of brought all this back. I
still have friends who are very political in their thinking so it stimulates me. I'm basically
an apolitical person. I just happened to get caught up in a lot of this. I'm a good organizer
- good at administration. I guess I speak with a certain amount of authority cause I see
here in my recent two years in St. Francis Square, well there's not much challenge, but
people tend to follow what I say. Sometimes they shouldn't, but they do [laughs]. I've
gotten pushed into leadership or supported for leadership in certain situations where I
wasn’t equipped or never took the time out to examine what I was doing.
HS: I think it's commendable for you to look back and analyze it the way you've done
CC: I never would have done it if the events of the last two years had not occurred. The idea
of socialism I accepted, and I still do. I don't know about the "dictatorship of the
proletariat" and all the other trappings of Communist-led socialism. But I still feel that
our fonn of government has got a long ways to go, and certain aspects of socialism may
provide a better solution. But the glorification we practiced was dangerous ignorance. I
read this morning and it kind of brought this all back. The young in Hungary are shaving
their heads and sounding like the young in Gennany - the skinheads. Now this was a
socialist country. What did they do? The destruction of socialist governments in Eastern
Europe, from everything I've heard, was almost total - the environment, the young, the
economy. It’s something I'm afraid to read about and yet this is something I touted and
supported - blindly. And I think anyone who doesn’t look back and say, "How did I do
this?" is irresponsible.
HS: I want to reiterate our appreciation of your sitting for this interview. OK. This is
the end of the interview, Tape 8, Side 1.