Lost and Found: Photos Tell Stories of World War II

posted on April 24, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Two black workers, “Labor Management,” Kaiser Richmond shipyard #4, 1/4/1944

Original photos of hundreds of U.S. navy ships in San Francisco Bay.  A candid shot of Henry J. Kaiser, laughing while listening to a female accordionist. A color transparency of an unidentified “Rosie” with a cutting torch in front of the ship Haiti Victory before her launch in July 20, 1944.

These are only some of the images from a treasure trove of World War II photographs, many depicting scenes from the Kaiser Richmond shipyards, discovered last year by Fresno photographer Dan Nadaner. The photos have not been seen since the mid-1940s.

Dan was donating the pictures to the curators from the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, located on the former site of the Kaiser shipyards. He found these cartons while clearing out a storage locker, and wanted the photos to join others already on display at the visitor center.

The photos were taken by Dan’s father, Hugo Nadaner (1915–2009), a real estate developer, contractor, private airplane pilot, and Hollywood photographer. But during World War II, he turned his lens to marine vessels, working with the U.S. Navy to document construction, launch and shakedown cruises.

Hugo Nadaner’s trove of 4×5-inch negatives and photos include images of hundreds of U.S. navy ships. Many are copy photos (photos of other photos), but others are original shots from San Francisco Bay. Although few are identified, some ships and locations are obvious.

Hugo Nadaner (on right), circa 1940s (photo courtesy Dan Nadaner)

A cluster of photos reveal how neighboring industries prefabricated ship components for final assembly in the Kaiser yards. Among the Oakland subcontractors documented between June 24 and 26, 1943, were the Graham Ship Repair Company (foot of Washington St.), the Herrick Iron Works, and the Independent Iron Works. Other nearby factories included Berkeley’s Trailer Company of America and the Steel Tank & Pipe Company, as well as the California Steel Products Corporation in Richmond and the Pacific Coast Engineering Company in Alameda. One contractor documented was the Clyde W. Wood Company in Stockton (a deepwater port on the San Joaquin River), over 50 miles inland from the Richmond shipyards.

There are many photos from the Kaiser Richmond shipyards. One set shows the launching of the patrol frigate USS Tacoma from shipyard No. 4 on July 7, 1943. These include the happy sponsor, Mrs. A.R. Bergerson, and two young women, ready with a champagne bottle. Another photo catches three white-bloused singers, while a third is of Henry J. Kaiser finishing a celebratory meal — and is he really singing along with an accordion?

Kaiser shipyard workers are frozen in time. One unidentified Journeyman Maintenance Worker is pumping liquid into a battered bucket; a black welder and a black supervisor share a joke while inspecting an electric arc stinger; the tool control crew from Yard 3 shows home-front women in the trades.

Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources is helping the National Park Service to process this collection. Thank you, Dan and Hugo Nadaner, for your contribution to documenting and sharing the World War II home front.

Click on any image below for a larger view.

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Wasting Nothing: Recycling Then and Now

posted on April 19, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

“Ships From the Scrap Heap” Fore ‘n’ Aft, 1/14/1944

Recycling didn’t start with Earth Day in 1970 — a date that many consider to be the birth date of the modern environmental movement. Reuse of materials has been a practice for many years, especially during shortages of raw materials.

During World War II, the effort to build massive ships also created mountains of industrial trash. And while all resources were prioritized for winning the war against fascism, everyone was encouraged to step up to produce as efficiently as possible. At the Kaiser shipyards, that also meant recycling.

In 1944, the four Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, California, produced more than 11,000 gross tons of scrap steel and 78,000 pounds of non-ferrous metals, as well as 11,400 paint pails, 2,056 carbide drums, and large quantities of rubber scrap, wire rope reels, scrap burlap, rope, batteries, and battery plates.

Much of the material collected was recycled on site. “The idea is to waste nothing,” a writer explained in the Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper, Fore ‘n’ Aft. “Strongbacks (braces), clips, dogs, wedges, bolts, nuts, and the like are dropped down separate chutes into bins to be reclaimed in the shop.” The article pointed out that at the shipyards’ “Yard Three,” during the previous month, a crew of 137 salvage workers had reclaimed 14,800 feet of pipe, sold 318 tons of scrap pipe-ends, made 254,616 strongbacks and clips, and reclaimed over 176,000 bolts and nuts.

Fast forward to the present and Kaiser Permanente is continuing to stake out ambitious goals for recycling. In fact, the organization aims to recycle, reuse, or compost 100 percent of its non-hazardous waste by 2025.

Then, as now, recycling on a massive scale required hard work. At the wartime shipyards, scrap ferrous metals were collected for sending to steel mills for re-melting, but only about 10 percent were ready to go into the furnaces. The rest had to stop off at preparers for sorting and cleaning. And recycling didn’t stop at the water’s edge. The job of salvage even carried on to the high seas where the ships brought back scrap from the world’s battlefields. Aboard ship, cooking fats and tin cans were saved from the galley; flue dust from the boilers and fire boxes yielded strategic vanadium and lamp black; and sailors were encouraged to save every possible rope-end.

“Scramble and scrape to save scrap to scramble the enemy,” the Fore ‘n’ Aft article ends. “Don’t forget your part as a war worker handling vital materials is a big one. Make everything count so you can make more things that count. Try to imagine a price tag on every piece of scrap.”

Creating healthy communities by preserving natural resources — good advice then and now.

 

Short link to this article: https://k-p.li/2K1zNgS

Harold Hatch, Health Insurance Visionary

posted on April 12, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Harold Hatch of Industrial Indemnity Insurance with secretary Bess Girgitch, circa 1940

Insurance visionary? These two words don’t often go together.

Harold Albert Hatch was the exception: He was an insurance agent who had a bright idea that helped change the course of American health care. He did this when he suggested an unorthodox reimbursement approach to a young physician, Sidney Garfield, sometime in 1934 — prepayment.

This novel approach to industrial health insurance kept Dr. Garfield’s practice afloat, and survives as one of the fundamental components of the Kaiser Permanente health plan. It inverts the conventional model of medical economics, favoring prevention over treatment.

Industrial Indemnity Exchange logo

Prepayment for health care was not a completely new concept — the Ross-Loos Medical Group adopted it in 1929 to cover 12,000 employees and their families in the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Water and Power. But the practice for on-the-job care was novel.

Dr. Garfield and his partner Dr. Gene Morris ran a clinic in Southern California’s remote Mojave Desert for the workers on the Colorado River Aqueduct Project. It was standard industrial medical care, which was voluntary for California employers beginning in 1911 (and mandatory in 1914) to keep employees healthy and on the job. Industrial Indemnity was the largest insurer on that project.

The process was straightforward: A worker gets hurt on the job, sees the doctor, and the doctor gets insurance reimbursement. Workers’ compensation insurance worked — until it didn’t.

The issue for Dr. Garfield was that insurance companies challenged full reimbursement for bills and were slow to pay those they accepted. Dr. Garfield also handled medical care not covered by the insurance, and the workers couldn’t afford to pay much.

Nurse Betty Runyen (in car), with Dr. Sidney Garfield, at Contractors General Hospital, circa 1934

Confronted with the lag in reimbursement for care, Dr. Garfield was at risk of losing his practice, and the workers were at risk of losing the local health care they liked. Dr. Morris packed his medical bag and left.

Here’s how Hatch came in to help. Industrial Indemnity Exchange began when several major contractors (including Henry J. Kaiser and Warren Bechtel) banded together to self-insure their industrial health care in 1921. By the end of 1942, Industrial Indemnity would grow to be California’s second-largest writer of compensation insurance. Henry Kaiser’s right-hand man, Alonzo B. Ordway, was tasked with running it, and in 1934, they hired Hatch as underwriter and policy strategist. Hatch had been an engineer who as a child had been partially physically impaired by tuberculosis of the bone.

Hatch befriended Dr. Garfield, and proposed the novel insurance idea — paying 17.5 percent of its workers’ compensation premium back to Dr. Garfield to care for job-related injuries. That was 5 cents a day guaranteed income from each worker. Dr. Garfield accepted. The two men then completed the prepayment equation by adding a voluntary nonindustrial health plan for the workers for another 5 cents a day.

Newspaper account of Harold Hatch fending off a carjacking, 1958

With Dr. Garfield’s practice financially viable, he hired more physicians and built temporary hospitals along the aqueduct’s route. When the construction project ended, Hatch and Ordway recommended Dr. Garfield as the perfect candidate to care for workers at the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington. There, from 1938-1940, Dr. Garfield expanded his model to include a prepaid plan for worker families as well.

Hatch continued to consult with Kaiser and Dr. Garfield until 1948, when he founded the Argonaut Insurance company, which by the time of his death in 1962 was the second largest writer of workers’ compensation insurance in California.

Thank you, Harold Hatch, for your pioneering role in the evolution of health care insurance.

 

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Classic Cars: The Mustang That Got Away

posted on April 4, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Ad for Henry J. car, circa 1950

When Henry J. Kaiser and Kaiser–Frazer Motors released their entry-level passenger car in 1950, its name was the subject of a national contest that raised money for cancer research. The winner? “Henry J.”

But historical interpretation is full of “what ifs,” and recent research has turned up a startling alternate set of names for this humble little car that took on the Big Three automakers. An interoffice memo from Edgar F. Kaiser, Henry’s oldest son, to his father and Gene Trefethen — a lifelong Kaiser right-hand-man and corporate executive — reveals a charming detail of this high-stakes branding challenge.

Henry Kaiser partnered with industry expert Joseph “Joe” Frazer in this automobile venture, and Joe knew a thing or two about sales. While the naming contest was going full bore, Edgar and Joe were trying to make sure that whatever name was selected would have some traction.

Almost two months before the announcement of the winning name, Edgar spent several hours with Joe Frazer reviewing the 2,500 names at the top of the list.

Joe’s preference for first choice?

“Mustang.”

Edgar goes on to tell his father, “At the moment I favor calling the car ‘Kaiser Mustang’ but I am not sure that it will last with me.”

What ifs.

 

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