Archive for October, 2016

Movember in the wartime Kaiser shipyards – no launch, no shave

posted on October 27, 2016

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer


Bos'n's Whistle, OSC, 1942-11-26, OHS

Bos’n’s Whistle, 11/26/1942.

Movember (the “mo” is for moustache) is an international charity campaign to raise awareness about men’s health during the month of November. Started in 2003 by two Australians, it has been a huge success. But a hairy face has been a sign of healthy competition long before that.

An article in the Portland, Ore., Kaiser shipyard newspaper The Bos’n’s Whistle on November 5, 1942, was boldly titled “Toil and sweat, steel and whiskers.” The curious headline was not explained until the last sentence:

The launching of the Schenectady was given a pioneer days atmosphere through another idea of Swan Island workmen, who vowed that they wouldn’t shave until the second tanker is launched from their yard. Many a crop of facial foliage is blooming on the old island airport.

Bos'n's Whistle, OSC, 1942-12-10, OHS

Bos’n’s Whistle, 12/10/1942.

A follow up article November 26, 1942, was “Whiskers measure tanker progress.”

Some shipyards get the boys to make bigger and better records with pep talks. But at Swan Island they go native – no launch, no shave. You ought to see it! Thousands of Rip Van Winkles on their island, toiling into the night surrounded by whiskers. Brunettes with red beards, blondes with black beards, goatees, Van Dykes, sheriff’s mustaches, and stubble. The ban on shaving is ruthlessly enforced. In two different kangaroo court sessions fines were levied for failure to comply.

At [a] trial on November 9, Edgar Kaiser [shipyard manager and son of Henry J. Kaiser] was fined a total of $37.10 for failure to comply with the ordinance. His heavy fine included $10 for filing a motion in bad faith, 10c for contempt of court, $20 for failure to grow a beard, and $7 court costs.

Bos'n's Whistle, OSC, 1942-12-10, OHS

Bos’n’s Whistle, 12/10/1942.

The campaign’s end December 10, 1942 was headlined “Swan Island Shaves!”

At Swan Island they literally “work up a lather” over a tanker-launching. When work began on the Quebec the Islanders resolved not to shave until the ship was launched. The Quebec and her Swan Island sisters are the biggest ships ever built in these parts.

Wartime shipbuilding in the 1940s and men’s health today – noble causes that benefit from healthy (and furry) competition.


Bos'n's Whistle, OSC, 1942-11-26, OHS

Bos’n’s Whistle, 11/26/1942.

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Kaiser Motors in Oakland – “We sell to make friends.”

posted on October 17, 2016

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer


Ad for Kaiser motors showroom, Oakland [newspaper archive] 1946-10-15

Ad for Kaiser motors showroom, Oakland, 10/15/1946

Just a few blocks from Kaiser Permanente’s current offices in Oakland (and Kaiser’s main headquarters during the 1950s at 1924 Broadway) at 23rd and Broadway is a new beer garden. It’s a nice place to relax after work, and part of its charm is the faux vintage signage honoring its earlier incarnation as a Dodge dealership. But drink deeper, and lo – back in the day, it was the site of Henry J. Kaiser’s first auto dealership.

The Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was Henry J. Kaiser’s venture into the post-World War II automobile industry, stagnant because civilian vehicles were not produced during the war. Pent up demand encouraged Mr. Kaiser to partner with automotive veteran Joseph Frazer and tackle a new field. K-F was founded on July 25, 1945, and its main manufacturing plant was Ford’s former Willow Run bomber plant in Michigan.

A 1945 promotional article in the Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper gushed:


1946 ad

“The Kaiser and Frazer will be the first new name cars to be introduced by a new company to the American public in more than a decade.”

A news item on June 21, 1946, announced that Henry J. Kaiser Motors had purchased half a square block at 23rd and Broadway in downtown Oakland for $150,000 to distribute Kaiser and Frazer automobiles and Graham Paige farm equipment. That portion of the block had been an auto dealership since at least the late 1920s. H.O. Harrison Co. sold Chryslers and Plymouths from 2321 Broadway in 1928. Later, the Remmer Brothers (1930-1931) and James F. Waters (1932) sold Desotos.

But even before the car lot was opened, the 1947 line of Kaiser and Frazer cars was premiered in the windows of the H.C. Capwell’s department store on Broadway from July through October, 1946. Banker A.P. Giannini, president of the Bank of America, was the proud first Pacific Coast owner of a Kaiser model. Small wonder – it was Giannini who introduced Kaiser and Fraser to stimulate a partnership.

Promo about Kaiser Frazer cars, Fore 'n' Aft, 1945-12-28, RMH

Promo about Kaiser Frazer cars, Fore ‘n’ Aft, 12/28/1945

At last, Henry J. Kaiser Motors, distributors of Kaiser and Frazer cars, was formally opened to the public October 20, 1946.

By 1947 a second lot was opened a block away at 2230 Broadway, where it intersects with MacArthur Boulevard. By 1950 a third lot appeared, at 2600 Broadway – and Henry J. Kaiser and his two sons held a grand showing in the lobby of San Francisco’s elegant Fairmont Hotel.

The dealership’s slogan? “We sell to make friends.”

Kaiser was very proud of his 1950 affordable compact car, the “Henry J.” By 1952, the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was renamed Kaiser Motors Corporation and continued building passenger cars, and in 1953 introduced a stylish sports car called the Darrin.  But it wasn’t enough, and the company ground to a halt in 1955. It was one of the very few failures in Kaiser’s career. In 1953 Henry J. Kaiser had bought the famous but ailing Jeep manufacturer Willys-Overland, which he ran much more successfully until it was sold off in 1970 after his death.


Article on new Kaiser Frazer cars, Fore 'n' Aft, 1946-08-00, RMH

Article on new Kaiser-Frazer cars, Fore ‘n’ Aft, 8/1946.

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Kaiser’s geodesic dome clinic

posted on October 12, 2016

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer


Copy of plans for "Medical office building for Kaiser Foundation hospitals with Kaiser Aluminum dome" by Clarence Mayhew, with Sidney Garfield as consultant.1957-12-18. [TPMG P1283]

Plans for “Medical office building for Kaiser Foundation hospitals with Kaiser Aluminum dome.”

There are hospital rounds, and there are round hospitals.

While researching an earlier article on the Kaiser Permanente hospital designs created by founding physician Sidney Garfield and the architect Clarence Mayhew, I was looking through folders of drawings for the amazing 1962 Panorama City hospital.

Panorama City featured seven double circular floors, the best example of Dr. Garfield’s “circles of service” concept. But one set of plans didn’t quite look right.

We know that Henry J. Kaiser was a geodesic dome pioneer. Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation built two of the first civilian domes in 1957, one in Virginia and one in Hawaii. Geodesic domes are self-supported spherical structures composed of rigid triangles, which became very popular during the 1960s and 1970s as modernists and the counterculture embraced their (literally) “out of the box” features of openness and strength.

Fourth floor plan of tower, Kaiser Foundation Hospital at Panorama City. 1961 [circa]. [TPMG P1283]

Fourth floor plan of tower, Kaiser Foundation Hospital at Panorama City, circa 1961.

We also know that in the 1960s Dr. Garfield was intrigued by (but never followed through on) an innovative project called the Atomedic Hospital, based on a dome structure.

But this 1957 plan, by Mayhew (with Dr. Garfield as “medical consultant”) clearly says “Medical office building for the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals with Kaiser Aluminum dome.” It was to be 18,500 square feet, with 20 physicians on two floors.

As a round design, it had been misfiled with Panorama City. We don’t know why it was never built, but at least we now know that in the infancy of geodesic dome innovation Henry J. Kaiser and Dr. Sidney Garfield were creatively thinking outside the box.

Copy of plans for "Medical office building for Kaiser Foundation hospitals with Kaiser Aluminum dome" by Clarence Mayhew, with Sidney Garfield as consultant.1957-12-18. [TPMG P1283]

Plan credits, “Medical office building for Kaiser Foundation hospitals with Kaiser Aluminum dome,” by Clarence Mayhew, with Dr. Sidney Garfield as consultant. 12/18/1957.

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Henry J. Kaiser’s exemplary record of hiring the disabled

posted on October 5, 2016

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer


“Handicapped workers aren’t necessarily misfits; in fact, they do most jobs better than the average in the three shipyards.” The Bos’n’s Whistle, Oregon Shipbuilding Company, April 22, 1943.

Bos'n's Whistle, OSC, 1943-04-22, OHS

Warner H. Van Hoose, shipwright, 4/22/1943.

November is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The pull quote above was for an article about disabled workers in the World War II Kaiser shipyards, and shows how even though the language has changed over the past 73 years, the sentiment – that everyone, regardless of ability, could contribute to the Home Front production – was consistent with the hiring practices in the seven wartime Kaiser shipyards.

As World War II waned, President Truman announced that the first week in October would be “National Employ the Handicapped Week” (also called “Employ the Physically Handicapped Week”), and a San Francisco Bay Area conference was set for October 10, 1945, which included representatives of industry, the AFL, CIO, and various governmental agencies. Jack Wagner, an AFL representative, declared: “We include in our definition of full employment the disabled war veteran’s and the handicapped civilian worker’s right to gainful employment.”

More from that Bos’n’s Whistle article:

Before the war, most business and industry shied away from hiring the “crippled” man. Although the handicap often had nothing to do with the job, it just didn’t seem like the employer was getting his full money’s worth in hiring a man with a missing arm or leg. Then along came the war with its terrific demand for manpower. The armed forces had the same ideas as business men. They, too, wanted physically perfect specimens. The only difference was that they wanted 10,000,000 of them and they had the Selective Service Act to insure first call and prior rights. Industry must get along on what’s left.

Employ the Physically Handicapped Week announcement, Lawrence (KS) Journal, 10/2/1945

Employ the Physically Handicapped Week newspaper story, 10/2/1945

Then came the great discovery. Under the mass production system, it was found that many so-called handicapped workers could find a place just as easily as the physically fit. Not only were there jobs they could do just as well as the “fit” man, but amazingly enough, they sometimes actually did much better. The secret of all production is to make the best use of the talents that ANY man has.

Eleven workers were profiled, highlighting each one’s disability, the cause of the disability, and the job that each worker now held in the Kaiser shipyards. Here are two of them:

Warner H. Van Hoose, O.S.C. shipwright, lost a leg at the age of 7, but it didn’t even slow him down. He became a carpenter and developed a hobby of hunting and fishing. Now he jacks in bilge plates, and with the aid of one crutch travels easily up and down scaffolds. He doesn’t wear his artificial leg to work, “It just gets in my way,” he says. “I save it for dances or less strenuous activities.”

T.R. Wright, 4/22/1943

T.R. Wright, welder, 4/22/1943

T.R. Wright formerly worked for a lumber company. One day a snag fell on him crushing his shoulder and ribs. It took seven operations, including the grafting of bone from a leg to his shoulder and three years in a hospital, to get him back together again. He still suffers, however, from paralysis of his right arm, but manages to get along nicely as a welder at Swan Island.

A similar article from the Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper Fore’n’Aft, June 18, 1943, was titled “They didn’t know when they were licked”:

The men whose pictures you see on these pages are but a few of the hundreds who are building ships in Richmond. There are a million more like them, eager and able to help win the war. Before Pearl Harbor little attention was paid them. They had two handicaps: one physical on their part, the other psychological on the part of employers. Too often they were not given an opportunity to prove their ability.

As the armed forces and increased war needs drained the manpower market, other sources were tapped. Among them were the physically handicapped. Now the rest of America is learning what that important but forgotten million always knew-they can do almost any job as well or better than the normal man.

Fore'n'Aft, 1943-06-18

Allen Moreland, burner, 6/18/1943.

The article also profiled several workers, including an African American burner:

The Negro race has responded magnificently to the demands of the war, both on the battle fields and on the home front. Allen Moreland is a burner in Yard Three, has been there for nearly a year. An artificial leg has been no insurmountable handicap for him. He takes his jobs in turn, asks for no odds from anyone. His work has won the respect of his fellow workmen.

Making sure that disabled workers had a job that fit required extra effort. In May 1944, the 627-page tome Physical Demands and Capacities Analysis was published as a joint project of the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and the Occupational Analysis and Manning Tables division of Region XII War Manpower Commission. One of the primary goals of the Analysis was to make sure that individuals were assigned to jobs that they could perform without risk to their health. The report detailed over 600 distinct job titles in the shipyards.

The shipyards also hired medical professionals to assist in placement efforts. One was Colonel B. Norris, MD, who had retired from the Army Medical Corps and was in charge of Oregon Shipbuilding’s care for disabled war veteran employees. “Dr. Norris will work closely with the personnel department in placement of handicapped or convalescent veterans in jobs particularly suited to their individual requirements.”

Bos'n's Whistle, OSE, 1945-06-29, OHS

B. Norris, MD, 6/29/1945.

An article in Fore ‘n’ Aft from July 20, 1945, titled “According to a man’s abilities…” described employment opportunities for these disabled workers as the war was winding down.

Because the Permanente Hospitals in Richmond and Oakland instituted vocational rehabilitation services with the cooperation of the State and Federal Bureaus, several former Richmond shipyard workers, who were injured or who suffered serious diseases, have been trained or are being trained in work which they can perform.

The case of Ed Andreas is a typical example. Ed was a painter on the ways in Yard One. He broke both feet, his ankle and pelvis bone when he fell from the scaffolding to the ground forty feet below. Ed was unable to return to his former job and his case was referred to George Sloan, Richmond representative for the State Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation. After an interview to determine his eligibility, Ed was sent to the San Francisco office, where he was given aptitude tests. One of the many counselors in this office discussed employment objectives with him, and today Ed is learning the trade of watch repairing.

… The key to all rehabilitation work is recognition of one cardinal point. Very few jobs require all human faculties. Therefore it is a problem of fitting the abilities of the individual to the requirements of a job. It is a problem of placing a man according to his abilities- not rejecting him because of his disabilities.

Employment without discrimination – The Kaiser way, since 1942.
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