, Heritage writer
June is National Safety Month, during which we are asked to pay particular attention to something that we usually don’t think about – our own personal safety and that of our loved ones. Yet reducing our risk for injury at work, on the roads, and in our homes and communities is as vital to our health as diet, exercise, and regular checkups.
Kaiser Permanente has a long history in working to protect its employees from harm and injury in the workplace, a commitment that goes back to the World War II home front. At precisely the same time that the conventional industrial workforce of healthy young men went off to fight, everyone else stepped up to produce the materials to arm the Arsenal of Democracy and win the war. Among these unsung heroes were the almost 200,000 people in the seven Kaiser shipyards. Most of them had never engaged in heavy industrial work before. They were housewives, farmers, the disabled, and those too old to serve in the military.
This January 14, 1944, article from the weekly Oregon Kaiser shipyard newspaper The Bos’n’s Whistle does a good job of explaining the challenges:
Safety pays dividends in shipbuilding production. That is apparent in the safety record of the three Kaiser yards during the past year. In all three yards, from superintendents to laborers, men and women showed more interest in observing safety rules. As a result, sizeable cuts were made in the two major causes of time loss injuries – handling tools or materials, and eye injuries- bring the total percentage of injuries in these two classifications down from 64 per cent to 53 per cent. National Safety Council figures show that, in terms of production, industry last year lost 380 million man days of work because of accidents. And the death rate on the war industry front is still four times higher than on the nation’s battlefronts. First Aid stations in the Vancouver and Swan Island yards treated a total of 704,435 cases during the year.
While hundreds of workers manage to stay on the job after an accident, their efficiency is impaired.
That steady progress is being made in the war on injuries is shown in the drop in accident insurance cost. At the start of the program, the cost was $3.75 per $100 of payroll, and the three yard average is now down to less than $1.00 per $100 payroll.
Before the war was over, the successful health plan for Kaiser shipyard workers was opened to the public. Today at Kaiser Permanente is a leader in occupational health as well as employee and patient safety. “Kaiser On-the-Job,” first started in the Northwest Region in 1991, incorporates prevention, case management, clinical protocols, and return to work programs with impressive results.
Safety still pays. Work safe, be safe.
Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/28Ywcw2
, Heritage writer
The health plan we now know as Kaiser Permanente got its start at the end of World War II, during which industrialist Henry J. Kaiser and founding physician Sidney Garfield, MD, took care of the industrial and nonindustrial health care needs of almost 200,000 workers in seven West Coast shipyards and a steel mill. Almost 400,000 men and women in the U.S. armed services, not to mention the 9,000 serving in the Merchant Marine, perished during this terrible struggle.
On the Home Front, civilians in war industries paid the highest price as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that each year between 1942 and 1945 there were some 2 million disabling or deadly industrial accidents, a total of more than 6 million. More than 75,000 Americans died or became permanently and totally disabled in industry during the war. Additionally, some 378,000 industrial workers suffered a permanent partial disability.
This powerful 1942 photo from Kaiser’s Oregon Shipbuilding Company shows two workers with heads bowed. We don’t know the details of this scene, but we can be certain they were mindful of the wartime casualties that mounted every single day. The observance for military casualties we now call Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” three years after the Civil War to honor those casualties. It became known as Memorial Day after World War II, and was established as a federal holiday in 1971.
Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1TWKsWs
, Heritage writer
One of our patriotic messages during World War II was that our society was better than that promoted by the Axis forces. And part of that messaging was about how we were more tolerant and inclusive than Hitler’s “master Aryan race.”
To Americans of color, all of them keenly aware of our segregated military, the internment camps for Japanese Americans, or the whites-only Boilermakers union in the shipyards, this was a challenging sell. But winning the war demanded huge changes in attitude from everyone. One high profile commitment to honoring diversity was the naming of cargo ships, a task which fell under the direction of the Maritime Commission’s Ship Naming Committee.
Before the war ended, 18 Liberty ships built for the Maritime Commission were named for outstanding African Americans. Towards the end of the war four of them honored black Merchant Mariners who perished under fire. In addition, four of the subsequent Victory-class ships were named for historically black colleges. Six of these 22 vessels were built in Kaiser shipyards; some – most notably the SS George Washington Carver – were predominately built by African American men and women. Ships thus named were a tremendous source of recognition and pride in the black community. Historian Shirley Ann Moore described the impact of one launching in her seminal work about the Richmond (Calif.) African American community To Place Our Deeds:
“Thousands of black people, far more than could be ‘simply be accounted for by black shipyard workers and their families,’ crowded into the yard. As the ship ‘shivered and slid into the water,’ a black woman ‘threw up her arms and raised her voice above the crowd. ‘Freedom’ she cried.’ “
The SS John Hope [#272] was launched January 30, 1944. It was Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2’s 272nd Liberty ship and the 8th ship named after an outstanding African American. Hope, born in Atlanta, was an African-American educator and political activist, the first African-descended president of both Morehouse College in 1906 and of Atlanta University in 1929, where he worked to develop graduate programs. Both were historically black colleges.
Presiding at the launch were Walter Gordon, Elizabeth Gordon, and their daughter Betty Gordon. Also present were Mrs. Harry Kingman, Matron of Honor (whose husband was the chairman of the President’s Fair Practices Employment Committee), Miss Florence Gee (daughter of a shipyard worker), and Rev. Roy Nichols (Associate Minister of the newly formed South Berkeley Community Church).
Walter Arthur Gordon (1894-1976) was the first African American to receive a doctorate of law from U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall law school. He had an extremely long and varied career where he served as a police officer, lawyer, assistant football coach, member of the California Adult Authority, governor of the United States Virgin Islands, and a federal district judge.
The launch proceedings were published in the May 1944 issue of The Sphinx magazine, the second-oldest continuously published African American journal in the United States. The article stated:
Mr. Thomas Pruitt, a baritone and burner on graveyard shift at the Richmond yards, sang two songs: “Water Boy” and “Without a song.”
Mrs. Hope was unable to attend, but sent a message that was read aloud:
“You can imagine how happy it would make me to see that great ship slide down the ways. We hope that it will help hasten the day when liberty, justice, and peace will reign over the entire world. I know that this would be John Hope’s wish. He was a member of nature’s nobility. This ship would not be worthy of his name, if it were not willing to give its all for humanity.”
These pictures of that launching, never previously published, are from the extensive and remarkable collection taken by African American photographer Emmanuel Francis Joseph.
1. SS Booker T. Washington, educator and founder of Tuskegee Institute (#648, September 29, 1942, California Shipbuilding Corp., Terminal Island, CA)
[It was aboard this ship that West Indies-born Captain Hugh Mulzac became the first African American merchant marine naval officer to command an integrated crew during World War II]
2. SS George Washington Carver, scientist (#542, May 7, 1943; Kaiser Richmond shipyard #1)
3. SS Frederick Douglass, abolitionist leader and editor (#988, May 22, 1943; Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Baltimore,)
4. SS John Merrick, insurance executive (#1990, July 11, 1943; North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Wilmington, NC)
5. SS Robert L. Vann, founder and publisher of the Pittsburgh Courier (#2189, October 10, 1943; South Portland Shipbuilding Corporation, South Portland, Maine)
6. SS Paul Laurence Dunbar, poet (#1897, October 19, 1943; California Shipbuilding Corp., Terminal Island, CA)
7. SS James Weldon Johnson, poet, author and diplomat (#2546, December 12, 1943; California Shipbuilding Corp., Terminal Island, CA)
8. SS John Hope, educator (#2742, January 30, 1944; Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2)
9. SS John H. Murphy, founder and publisher of The Afro-American (#2614, March 29, 1944; Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Baltimore, MD)
10. SS Toussaint L’Ouverture, Haitian independence leader (#2780, April 4, 1944; Kaiser Richmond Shipyard #2)
11. SS Robert S. Abbott, founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender (#2785, April 13, 1944; Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2)
12. SS Harriet Tubman, abolitionist and leader of the Underground Railroad (#3032, June 3, 1944; South Portland Shipbuilding Corporation, South Portland, Maine)
13. SS Bert Williams, comedian and vaudeville performer (#3079, June 4, 1944; Todd New England Shipbuilding Corp., South Portland, Maine)
14. SS Edward A. Savoy, confidential messenger for 22 secretaries of State (#2660, July 19, 1944; Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Baltimore, MD)
15. SS James Kyron Walker, Second Cook, lost on the Gulfamerica, torpedoed and sunk (#2982, December 15, 1944; Todd Houston Shipbuilding Corporation, Houston, TX)
16. SS Robert J. Banks, Second Cook, lost on the Gulfamerica, torpedoed and sunk (#2392, December 20, 1944; J.A. Jones Construction Company, Brunswick, Georgia)
17. SS William Cox, Fireman, died when the David Atwater was sunk by enemy fire (#2394, December 30, 1944; J.A. Jones Construction Company, Brunswick, Georgia)
18. SS George A. Lawson, Messman aboard the tug Menominee, torpedoed and sunk (#3097, February 1, 1945; New England Shipbuilding Co., Bath, Maine)
19. SS Fisk Victory, Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee (#749, May 14, 1945; Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2)
20. SS Howard Victory, Howard University, Washington. D. C. (#822, May 19, 1945; Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Baltimore, MD)
21. SS Tuskegee Victory, Tuskegee Institute, Alabama (#682, June 5, 1945, Kaiser Oregon Shipbuilding Corp.; Portland, OR)
[Renamed USNS Dutton, T-AGS-22, an oceanographic survey ship, November 1, 1958]
22. SS Lane Victory, Lane College, Jackson, Tennessee (#794, June 27, 1945, California Shipbuilding Corp., Terminal Island, CA)
The Lane Victory is now a museum ship in San Pedro, Calif., and has appeared in various commercials, movies and television programs.
Photographs courtesy Careth Reid / E.F. Joseph Collection. All rights reserved.
Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1OglXRy
By Steve Gilford, Senior Consulting Historian
First of two parts
Anne Ferreira, a 27-year-old native of Oakland, Calif., and a rapid typist, took a secretarial job in 1939 at the Henry J. Kaiser Co., an enterprise that was just beginning to take off.
Little did she imagine that 52 years later she would be looking back on a career with the Kaiser Companies that took her to New York City in 1941, to wartime shipyards in St, Johns, Ore. (near Portland), where she met President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942, and back to Oakland in 1945 where she became the administrative go-to person at the iconic 28-story Kaiser Center, built in 1959.
Anne married Raymond Ferreira, another Oakland native, in 1938. Ray worked for Pan American Airways as a paymaster, and in 1941 he was transferred to New York City. Anne left her job to go east with Ray and landed a job in the Kaiser Companies’ New York office.
Before the couple could get settled, world events intervened and Henry Kaiser’s son Edgar asked for Ray’s help in urgently mustering a wartime workforce to fulfill Kaiser’s contracts to build hundreds of ships on the West Coast.
On Sept. 23, 1942, Ray Ferreira took on the shepherding of 510 newly hired shipyard workers from Hoboken, N.J., to Kaiser shipyards in Vancouver, Wash. Ferreira was in charge of the first “Kaiser Special” or “Kaiser Karavan” that fed the east-to-west migration that would irrevocably alter the nation’s demographics.
On that exact date, Ray’s wife Anne, already working in the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation office, was taken by surprise when she heard workers shouting that President Roosevelt had arrived. She ran out of the office to join the crowd gathering to see FDR ride by in a white convertible with Secret Service men in suits, hats and trench coats running alongside.
The beloved wartime president was six days into his unpublicized national tour of wartime production sites when he cruised into the shipyard for the launching of the SS Joseph Teal, a Liberty Ship built in a then-astonishing 10 days. His daughter, Anna, wife of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer publisher John Boettiger, was there to christen the Teal.
Shipyard construction crews had adequately prepared for the president’s visit with a special platform with an automobile ramp erected opposite the launching site. Crippled by polio, Roosevelt could view the festivities from his seat in the limousine. He watched as his daughter crashed a champagne bottle on the bow of the Joseph Teal.
Much to Anne’s amazement, while she was standing among the spectators, Henry Kaiser spotted her and shouted to her to come down to the President’s car. He signaled the guards to let her through the security barriers and alongside FDR’s entourage.
Kaiser, son Edgar, and Oregon Governor Charles Sprague were seated in the President’s limousine talking away and greeting notables along the way. When Anne, “Annie” as Kaiser knew her, reached the convertible, the industrialist introduced her to President Roosevelt who chatted with her a bit, mostly about how she liked working for Henry Kaiser.
Recently, after Anne’s death at age 98 in December 2012, her daughter, Jill Suico, summarized her mother’s lifelong affection for the Kaisers, especially Henry: “She loved the man; she loved the company; and she loved her job.”
Over the decades, Anne had many bosses within the Kaiser Companies, including Kaiser Aluminum President Cornell Maier and Dick Spees, public affairs officer for Kaiser Aluminum for 31 years, who was elected to the Oakland City Council in 1979. Anne played the role of Snoopy at the Kaiser Aluminum’s “Salute the A’s Night” in 1980 at the Oakland Coliseum and posed with Maier for an Oakland Tribune photograph.
She was an active critic of Oakland city government, and through the years chided officials for unsafe streets, untidy neighborhoods and at one point urged the addition of a spruce tree to the Oakland city logo, next to the symbol of a mighty oak tree. She pushed that campaign – to no avail – with the donation of 50 spruce trees to the city, trees that had been part of the Kaiser Center landscape.
When Anne retired in 1983, Vice Mayor Dick Spees and the Oakland City Council declared June 15 Anne Ferreira day of appreciation and presented a tongue-in-cheek certificate that read in part: “Anne . . . is duly recognized for her sage advice and persistent admonitions to (the city) to clean its streets, put its youth to work . . . and generally get its act together.”
After her official retirement, Anne returned to Kaiser Aluminum as a contractor filling in for vacationing staffers and coordinating a community service program. She finally retired at age 77 in 1991. In 2009, Anne was honored as the oldest Kaiser Aluminum retiree at age 95.
Next time: More about Anne and Ray Ferreira’s wartime experiences.