, 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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2dsvBLo
, Heritage writer
One of the innovations that emerged in the World War II Kaiser shipyards was the application of prefabrication on a massive scale. Unlike the way ships had been built for centuries, piece by piece from the keel on up, prefabrication used assembly line processes to dramatically speed up output. Ship parts – such as bow sections, double bottoms, deck houses – were built in separate facilities in the shipyard and brought together for final assembly on the launching ways.
It made sense on paper, but when dealing with massive hunks of steel that was easier said than done.
Enter the whirley crane.
Before entering the ship building business, Henry J. Kaiser had recently finished building Grand Coulee Dam on the mighty Columbia River in Washington, a project made possible through the efficient flow of heavy materials. During the six years Grand Coulee was under construction, a new type of crane was developed to get the job done. It was called a “whirley crane,” a fast, readily moveable beast capable of handling large steel supports, pouring big batches of concrete, and positioning heavy dam conduits.
The whirley was invented by Clyde Wiley (president of the Clyde Iron Works, established in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1889) in the early 1920s. He designed it so that the boom and “A” frame would turn in a 360 degree circle – thus the “whirley.” Before Wiley’s crane was developed, rolling bridge cranes and “hammerheads” had been used almost exclusively for building bridges, unloading ships and other heavy construction, but their function was limited.
When California’s Kaiser Richmond yards were built, seven “Clyde” Grand Coulee whirleys were disassembled and shipped down from Washington. Yard Two had four of these former dam-builders; Yard Three had two, and Yard Four had one. As the yards expanded, other manufacturers – Colby Engineering, American Hoist and Derrick, Browning – also manufactured whirleys. Eventually Yard One had 17 whirleys; Yard Two, 23; Yard Three,19; and Yard Four, four.
The whirleys held bragging rights in the yards. Just as the giant container-ship cranes dominate today’s Port of Oakland skyline, the whirleys defined the wartime shipyards. The Kaiser Richmond shipyard magazine Fore’n’Aft, described their appeal in their January 8, 1943 issue:
Whirley crane work is the most spectacular in the shipyards and always is one of the things visitors find most fascinating to watch, especially when two cranes get together for a big double lift.
They had a 200-horsepower electric motor for the hoist cable and another 50 HP motor for swinging the boom, which allowed the whirley to lift as much as 60 tons. The control cabin was 90 feet in the air, and skilled operating engineers communicated with riggers on the ground by telephone.
As shipyard production processes evolved, some assemblies began to use two, three, and even four whirleys operating together. Sometimes this was simply because the object was too heavy for a single whirley, and sometimes it was to gracefully flip over a subassembly that had been built “upside down” to speed up welding. Whirleys also were used for dropping and removing the giant dry dock gates in Richmond Yard number 3. The continual drive to reduce the number of pre-assembled components depended on the efficiency of whirleys. For the Liberty christened the Robert E. Peary (produced in a record four days, fifteen hours, and twenty-nine minutes after laying the keel), shipyard workers were able to pre-assemble hundreds of parts into a total of 97 units that the whirley cranes lifted onto the way.
Whirleys were used to bring in major hull components such as the fore peak and the stern, as well as engines and boilers. Once the main deck was in place, the ship was ready for five deck houses. These were prefabricated in the Assembly Building (where a complete set was turned out nearly every other day) and transported to the erection ways by truck.
Here’s a description of the efficiencies achieved in the Swan Island (Portland, Ore.) shipyard, from The Bo’s’n’s Whistle 11/25/1943:
Swan Islanders have clipped another week per vessel off their high-speed tanker program by prefabricating forward cofferdams on jigs and then installing each entire section as a unit on the keel. The huge 82-ton section is built as nearly complete as possible at some distance from the ways. It is then lifted easily by two whirley cranes and dropped neatly on the keel in the ways.
The new [construction] method saves 784 man hours on each unit compared to the old method which consisted of erecting 13 separate sections plus eight tons of piping, all of which had to be fitted together piece by piece on the hull.
Other types of cranes filled different niches within the yard. Bridge cranes (or gantry cranes, which move back and forth on a track but cannot turn) were the tallest at 84 feet high and rated at lifting 100 tons. A special hammerhead crane used two “arms” to sort and feed raw steel in the plate shop. Locomotive cranes were used in the steel storage yard. Other cranes performed mobile duties on caterpillar-tractor bases or on trucks.
Whirleys were even depicted as anthropomorphic characters in the shipyard magazines. Emmy Lou Packard featured a drug-addled whirley as part of a Nazi sabotage plot in the cartoon strip “Supermac” as well as an emotionally wrought character in the single-frame cartoon “Shirley the Whirley.”
Today, a lone whirley crane remains at Richmond shipyard #3 near the S.S. Red Oak Victory, guarding the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park Visitor Education Center.
It’s the last remnant of a mighty breed that ruled the yards during World War II. Crane CW-3204 was a Clyde Iron Works machine, built in 1935 and shipped down from Grand Coulee to Richmond in August, 1941. After the war the crane was purchased by the nearby Parr-Richmond Terminal and used until 1998; a companion crane is still in use by that company (now known as the Levin-Richmond Terminal Corporation). In 2005 the crane was donated to the City of Richmond for use in the Rosie the Riveter Park. The City of Richmond, the Rosie the Riveter Trust, and numerous local businesses and organizations raised funds to move and install it at shipyard #3.
Short link to this article: http://bit.ly/1uFCoh9
As of March 2017 a webcam monitors an osprey nest at the top of the crane at right!
Thank you, Golden Gate Audubon Society.
, Heritage writer
Kaiser Permanente is partnering with The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose (Calif.) on a new exhibit that shows how technology can help people understand and manage their total health. We’ve been sharing that message with our members for decades, and The Body Metrics exhibit makes it accessible to anyone.
But before Kaiser Permanente became a leader in electronic health records, even before Kaiser shipyard doctor Dr. Morris Collen first used an International Business Machines mainframe computer to analyze medical test results in the 1960s, Henry J. Kaiser relied on IBM to process payroll records in the WWII shipyards.
At the time, these behemoths weren’t even called computers – they were elaborate electromechanical devices called “machines.” In the Richmond yards, IBM assigned seven engineers to keep them in working order.
The use of punch cards to process simple alphanumeric data began with the 1890 U.S. Census, and was a success. This led to the Tabulating Machine Company, founded in 1896, and then the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (IBM’s precursor) in 1911. In 1928, IBM introduced an updated version of the punch card with rectangular holes and 80 columns, which became the industry standard for years to come.
The Richmond shipyard magazine Fore ‘n’ Aft described the complicated payroll calculation process in July, 1943:
Six days a week the time checkers and IBM thrive on the sticky detail of keeping track of the thousands of men who work on
Richmond ships, breaking the man hours down according to each job, and compiling tax and security reports for Uncle Sam. It takes about one man in each hundred hired to keep track of the other ninety-nine.
An electric accounting machine-familiarly called a “printer” by IBM operators–is just one step short of a robot. On the basis of intricate telephone-like lines hooked up to a board on the left side of the machine, it will do virtually anything but think.
The field time checker turns in cards marked with hours worked by workmen. The time office force sorts them by number, and posts earnings in a board control book, sends cards to the IBM operators in neatly wrapped bundles of 500. IBM gang punches the cards with holes corresponding to rate and hours worked, then sorts them by badge number of each workman, files them away for a week. At week’s end, six daily time cards are translated into a single master time card from which your paycheck is written.
Further steps involved printing out the paychecks on a continuous fold form and delivering them to the paymaster’s office, where the checks were mechanically signed. Finally, the checks were sorted according to badge number, trimmed out to individual pay stubs (thus the expression “cutting a check”), and taken to payroll booths for distribution.
IBM and KP would maintain a strong relationship over the years. In 2001, Dr. Collen recounted this story to Kaiser Permanente contract historian Steve Gilford:
IBM made all their money in punch cards and then eventually got into computers. We got some of their early systems, 1440’s [for early efforts to process medical data]…Relevant to that is that [Thomas J.] Watson Jr., the son who took over IBM, came through and made rounds [during the late 1960s].
I wanted to get him to put up money to go into the overall system. I remember telling him, “If you support this, it will be good for you, good for us, and IBM will stand instead of for International Business Machines, they’ll be called International Blessed Machines.” He laughed but nothing ever came of it although eventually we did develop contracts with them.
Short link to this story: http://bit.ly/1wIJrHB
, Heritage writer
It’s not every day a first lady visits a Kaiser facility, but it happened in the middle of World War II – and she visited two.
Eleanor Roosevelt came to the Kaiser Company shipyard on the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington to personally launch the U.S.S. Casablanca, the first in a new class of small, versatile and inexpensive aircraft carriers.
The class was named for the Battle of Casablanca, fought November 8-12, 1942, where the U.S. Navy fought vessels under the control of Nazi-occupied France. The 50 ships the Kaiser yards produced comprised almost a third of the American carriers built during the war and were launched in less than two years.
The ship was known as the Alazon Bay while under construction and renamed the U.S.S. Casablanca two days before she slid down the ways on April 5, 1943. Five of the “baby flattops” were sunk in action during the war, and none survive today.
Health care, not warfare
But Eleanor wasn’t just there for the latest in military technology. She was more interested in the social programs affiliated with the massive shipbuilding projects, including child care, prepared meals for double-duty women, and health care.
Henry J. Kaiser listened to her and responded by introducing two controversial (at the time) programs for shipyard workers – model child care facilities near two of the shipyards and pre-cooked meals for working moms.
As for health care, Mr. Kaiser needed no convincing. Mrs. Roosevelt was given a grand tour of the state-of-the-art Northern Permanente Foundation Hospital built in September, 1942 for the shipyard workers.
Eleanor wrote a regular newspaper column, “My Day.” Her April 7, 1943, entry included this reflection on the Portland visit:
A little after 9:00 o’clock Monday morning we were met in Portland, Ore., by Mr. Henry J. Kaiser and his son Mr. Edgar Kaiser. A group of young Democrats presented me with a lovely bunch of red roses at the airport and then we were whisked off for a busy day.
Our first tour was in the Kaiser shipyard itself. It is certainly busy and businesslike. Everything seems to be in place and moving as quickly as possible along a regular line of production. I was particularly interested in the housing, so I was shown the dormitories and then the hospital, which is run on a species of health cooperative basis costing the employees seven cents a day. It looked to me very well-equipped and much used, but I was told there were few accidents in the shipyards owing to safety devices. The men come in for medical care and some surgery and their families are also cared for…
The ship went safely down the ways at the appointed time and was duly christened. It was interesting and impressive to see all the workers and their families gathered together for the occasion and I felt there was a spirit of good workmanship in this yard.
Mrs. Roosevelt was so intrigued with the new medical care program that she wrote Permanente’s founding physician, Dr. Sidney R. Garfield, who happened to be away at the time of her visit. “What is your plan for preventive care?” she asked.
“This is the solution of medical care for the majority of people in this country”
Dr. Sidney Garfield replied in a letter May 25, 1943, in which he took the opportunity to explain how aligned the first lady’s vision was with that of the Permanente Health Plan:
I regret very much not to have been present during your recent visit to Vancouver, Washington, and not to have had the opportunity of showing you through our medical facilities and hospitals in the Oakland-Richmond, California area.
Your expression of interest in preventive medicine is rather closely allied with our thoughts for medical care. Mr.Kaiser and I believe that preventive medicine is more important than the curative side. Our medical programs have always been developed with this fact in mind…
Because of the economy of such a medical plan the cost of medical care to the people is lowered. For the small amount charged at Coulee Dam we were able to provide the best of medical care and pay for the hospital facilities provided in a period of four years. When the cost ofthe facilities is paid for the charge per week to the people can be reduced, or the money used to provide more facilities, added equipment, and for research. Mr. Kaiser and all of us who have had a part in these programs feel that this is the solution of medical care for the majority of people in this country. It is self-sustaining and unites the medical profession, the employer and employee all in one common objective – “to keep the people well and to prevent their illness.”
Your interest in our organization is greatly appreciated. If we can be of further service in answering your questions please do not hesitate to call on us.
Sidney R. Garfield, M.D.
Medical Director, Kaiser Co., Inc., West Coast Shipyards
Years later, Eleanor Roosevelt’s light would shine on KP again.
In 2007 Kaiser Permanente was one of three recipients of the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award from American Rights at Work, an advocacy and public policy organization responsible for promoting and defending workers’ rights since 2003. Kaiser Permanente received the award for “creating a management-union partnership based on mutual trust and respect.”
Short link to this article: http://bit.ly/1r3YZUW
, 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.