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Guide to the Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection ARC.003

Brooklyn Historical Society
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Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Amy Lau, Mary Mann, Aliki Caloyeras, and Margaret Fraser

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on  , September 3, 2020
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Brooklyn Historical Society
Creator: Sullivan, Sady
Creator: Egan, Jennifer
Creator: Romano, Daniella
Creator: Filene, Benjamin
Creator: Esses, Diane
Creator: Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation
Title: Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection
Abstract: This collection includes oral histories conducted by the Brooklyn Historical Society from 1986 to 1989 as well as oral histories conducted in partnership with the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation and Brooklyn Historical Society from 2006 to 2010. The interviews were conducted with men and women who worked in or around the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the majority of the interviews are with people who worked in the Yard during World War II. During the interviews, the narrators discuss their lives before working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, their work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, their relationships with others in the Yard, and transportation to and from work. While most of the interviews focus on work experiences in and around the Yard, some of the narrators describe gender, racial, and ethnic relations at the Yard and at various neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Many narrators also describe their lives after the Navy Yard.
Quantity: 2 Linear Feet in 6 boxes.
Quantity: 7.49 Gigabytes in 94 files; Running time (in described records): 77 hours, 3 minutes, and 53 seconds.
Call Phrase: ARC.003
Sponsor: This collection was processed and described with funding from the New York State Documentary Heritage Program.

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Historical Note

The origins of the Brooklyn Navy Yard (officially known as the New York Naval Shipyard) date back to 1801, when the United States Navy acquired what had previously been a small, privately owned shipyard in order to construct naval vessels. By the time the Department of Defense ceased shipbuilding activities at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1966, eighty-eight vessels had been manufactured at the facility. In 1967, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was acquired by the City of New York and was converted for private commercial use.

The oral history interviews in the collection come from two different collecting efforts one from 1986 to 1989 and another from 2006 to 2010. The interviews dating from 1986 to 1989 were the result of an effort to collect oral histories of Brooklyn residents associated with the Brooklyn Navy Yard and people who lived or worked in Brooklyn prior to the Shellens Gallery of Brooklyn History installation. The effort from 2006 to 2010 was part of the Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history project, a grant funded partnership between Brooklyn Historical Society and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. The goal of the project was to capture the voices of the people who worked at the Yard during World War II and document the evolution of women joining the labor force during the War.

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Scope and Contents

The Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection is comprised of over fifty oral history interviews with men and women who worked in or around the Brooklyn Navy Yard, primarily during World War II. The assembled oral histories in this collection date from 1986 to 2010.

In the interviews, narrators discuss growing up, their work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, their relationships with others at the Yard, gender relations at the Yard, and transportation to and from work. Many narrators bring up issues of ethnicity, race, and religion at the Yard or in their neighborhoods. Several people describe the launching of the USS Missouri battleship and recall in detail their daily tasks at the Yard. Many of the narrators worked as welders, riveters, office workers, mechanics, electricians, and ship fitters. While the interviews focus primarily on experiences in and around the Yard, many narrators go on to discuss their lives after the Navy Yard, relating stories about their careers, dating and marriage, children, social activities, living conditions and the changes that took place in and around Brooklyn during their lifetimes.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged alphabetically by narrator's last name.

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Oral histories (document genres)
  • Transcripts
  • Interviews (sound recordings)
  • Video recordings

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)
  • Iowa (Battleship)
  • Bon Homme Richard (Aircraft carrier)

Subject Topics

  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x History
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Women welders
  • Labor unions -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Civilian employees of the United States Armed Forces
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- War work
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipfitting
  • Rivets and riveting
  • Tailoring -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans
  • Judaism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Typists
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Irish Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Economic conditions |y 20th century
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x History |y 20th century
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x History, Naval

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers with varied restrictions according to narrator agreement. Many oral histories can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of these oral histories for purposes other than private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of Brooklyn Historical Society. Please see the Oral History Note for guidelines on using Brooklyn Historyical Society's oral history collections. For assistance, please contact Brooklyn Historical Society at library@brooklynhistory.org.

Preferred Citation

[Narrator Last Name, Narrator First Name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer First Name Last Name], [Month DD, YYYY], Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection, [Object ID]; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Related Materials

In addition to this collection, Brooklyn Historical Society has other collections with materials related to some of the narrators who appear in the Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection. Among these are:

• The Alfred and Lucille Kolkin papers, 1942-1965, ARC.048

• Veronica Kieffer Brooklyn Navy Yard photograph and badge, 1944-1945, V1988.047

• Frank J. Trezza Seatrain Shipbuilding collection, 1861-2011, 1988.016

 

Oral History Note

Oral history interviews are intimate conversations between two people, both of whom have generously agreed to share these recordings with the Brooklyn Historical Society archives and with researchers. Please listen in the spirit with which these were shared. Researchers will understand that:

1. The Brooklyn Historical Society abides by the General Principles & Best Practices for Oral History as agreed upon by the Oral History Association (2009) and expects that use of this material will be done with respect for these professional ethics.

2. Every oral history relies on the memories, views and opinions of the narrator. Because of the personal nature of oral history, listeners may find some viewpoints or language of the recorded participants to be objectionable. In keeping with its mission of preservation and unfettered access whenever possible, BHS presents these views as recorded.

3. Transcripts created prior to 2008 serve as a guide to the interview and are not considered verbatim. The audio recording should be considered the primary source for each interview. It may contain natural false starts, verbal stumbles, misspeaks, repetitions that are common in conversation, and other passages and phrases omitted from the transcript. This decision was made because BHS gives primacy to the audible voice and also because some researchers do find useful information in these verbal patterns.

4. Unless these verbal patterns are germane to your scholarly work, when quoting from this material researchers are encouraged to correct the grammar and make other modifications maintaining the flavor of the narrator's speech while editing the material for the standards of print.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These oral histories were conducted by Brooklyn Historical Society and Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation staff or consultants over the phone, at Brooklyn Historical Society, and at narrators' homes and businesses from 1986 to 1989 and 2006 to 2010.

Processing Information

This collection was initially cataloged at the item level by Margaret Fraser in 2010.

The collection was processed by Amy Lau, Archivist, Mary Mann, Project Archivist, and Aliki Caloyeras, Project Archvist, in 2020. Interviews were processed to the item level and catalogued records were updated by Lau and Mann after processing. Due to privacy concerns, the specific birthdates and home addresses of all narrators or other named individuals were redacted from transcripts and audio recordings. Interviews were cataloged using Library of Congress subject headings.

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Container List

Oral History Interview with Leonard Beck, June 11, 2008

Biographical / Historical

Leonard Beck (1928- ) grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He was drafted into the Marine Corps in 1952 during the Korean War, after which he became an obstetrician and remained in Brooklyn. Leonard Beck's father, Julius Beck was born in 1894 in Woodhaven, Queens. He ran his own clothing business with his brother, then worked at Brooks Brothers Clothier as a designer cutter until he was asked to work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during WWII. Following the war, Julius Beck bought into the luncheonette business with his wife. 

Scope and Contents

During the interview, Leonard Beck (1928- ) focuses on his father's work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a tailor. Beck also discusses his own childhood in Brooklyn and how his father made an Eisenhower jacket [military uniform shortened coat] for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He also mentions American sentiment towards Japanese Americans during the war, the decommissioning of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Roosevelt's visit to Ebbets Field, and American patriotism. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Beck, Julius

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Business enterprises
  • Ebbets Field (New York, N.Y.)
  • Clothing and dress -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Clothing trade -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Military uniforms
  • Restaurants
  • Security systems
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Tailoring -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Working class -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)
  • Woodhaven (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Solomon Brodsky, August 6, 1987

Biographical / Historical

Solomon Brodsky (ca. 1905- ) grew up in Brooklyn. After eight years at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he worked for US Customs until he retired in 1977.

Scope and Contents

During the interview, Solomon Brodksy (ca. 1905- ) recalls his work as a packer in the supply depot at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He was called to service but was given 4F status due to an earlier operation. During his interview, he recalls working long hours, seven days a week, even on Jewish holidays. Brodsky also remembers the launch of the USS Missouri, boxing matches during lunch and the presence of Marine guards for security. He describes the items he packed, including automobiles, the equal treatment of men and women workers and his wages. Interview conducted by Benjamin Filene.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Brodsky, Solomon

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)

Subject Topics

  • Ethnicity
  • Friendship
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Local transit -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religion
  • Security systems
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Transportation
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Judaism
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Sands Street (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Oral History Interview with Ellen Bulzone, March 20, 2009

Biographical / Historical

Ellen Hanlin Bulzone (1923- ) grew up in Pennville, Indiana on a farm. In 1943, she joined the US Navy with a friend from Indiana, and moved to New York to begin training at Hunter College. After further training and work in Stillwater, Oklahoma and in Sampson, New York, Bulzone was transferred to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1946. She married later that year and remained in Brooklyn working at Macy's in Manhattan while her husband served as a commissary officer in California and China. When he returned in 1948, they moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where Ellen Bulzone worked at the Norfolk Navy Yard until her son was born. They later moved to Pensacola Florida, Bayonne, New Jersey and finally Staten Island, New York.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Ellen Hanlin Bulzone (1923- ) details her various duties at the receiving station near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She also talks about her life before joining the Navy, her uniform, her and her husband's first date at Ebbets Field, her family and in-laws and her marriage inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital's chapel. She explains how Catholic churches refused to marry them because her husband was Catholic and she was Protestant. She also discusses her feelings about moving from a small town in Indiana to New York City. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan and Jennifer Egan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Macy's (Firm)
  • Hunter College

Subject Topics

  • Security systems
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Military uniforms
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Working class -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Catholics -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ebbets Field (New York, N.Y.)
  • Ethnicity
  • Transportation -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women -- Education
  • Friendship
  • Dating (Social customs)
  • Religion -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Red Hook (New York, N.Y.)
  • Fort Greene (New York, N.Y.)
  • Naval Base Norfolk (Va.)
  • Pennville (Jay County, Ind.)

Oral History Interview with Eleanor Capson, November 3, 2009

Biographical / Historical

Eleanor Beiler Capson (1922- ) grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn. She attended Erasmus Hall High School and graduated from Brooklyn College in 1942, after which she worked at the US Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth. Capson became a teacher and principal in Brooklyn after leaving the Brooklyn Navy Yard. After retiring, she moved to Riverdale in the Bronx.

Scope and Contents

In her interview, Eleanor Beiler Capson (1922- ) explains her work in the materials testing laboratory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where she tested the strength of materials used on ships and how to insulate wires used on the ships so they did not mold. She worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard from January to September of 1943 and was paid a yearly wage, rather than by the hour. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Erasmus Hall High School

Subject Topics

  • Security systems
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Military uniforms
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnicity
  • Transportation -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women -x Education -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • United States -- Armed Forces -- Civilian employees

Subject Places

  • Flatbush (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Bettie Chase, September 8, 2010

Biographical / Historical

Bettie Virginia Emory Chase (1922- ) grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. She is African-American and her mother was from Virginia and her father was an orphan. She attended PS42, PS9, and graduated from Girls High in 1940. Bettie worked in the Navy Yard from 1942 to 1946 as a tack welder and later in the Tool Room. She married in 1948 and has three children. Chase was the supervisor of transcriptions for the Episcopal Church in New York for 24 years, from where she retired. She currently works as an organist and choir director at Evening Star Baptist Church in Bedford Stuyvesant.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Bettie Virginia Emory Chase (1922- ) describes how she came to work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and her experiences as a tack welder and working in the tool room over the next few years. She thinks she was chosen because of her small size, which allowed her to get into small spaces that needed welding. Chase explains that she did not receive much training but was good at tack welding because she has a steady hand. She describes the role of tack welding as similar to a basting stitch in sewing. After six months, Chase was transferred to the Tool Room because of throat problems caused by welding smoke. She goes into detail about her work and coworkers in the Tool Room, including her clothes, time cards, tools, interactions between men and working the night shift (10pm-6am). She also discusses issues and events that took place in the Yard, such as interactions between men and women, sexual assaults, safety concerns, and the overall war effort, which she knew contributed to the deaths of her friends and neighbors. At the end of the interview, Chase talks about her life after the Yard and describes her role as organist and choir director for the Evening Star Baptist Church. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Evening Star Baptist Church

Subject Topics

  • Baptists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Methodist Episcopal Church -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Warships
  • Navy-yards and naval stations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Sex role
  • Sexual harassment of women -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Welding
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Clayton Colefield, October 6, 2009

Biographical / Historical

Clayton Colefield (1921- ) was born in Jamaica but grew up in the Bronx. After working for 25 years at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Colefield taught industrial arts at a high school while earning his bachelor's degree. He eventually moved from the Bronx to Long Island with his family. Following his retirement from teaching, he spent many years traveling with his wife in trailers that he constructed himself. After the death of his wife, Colefield moved to North Carolina.

Scope and Contents

During his interview, Clayton Colefield (1921- ) gave detailed accounts of the construction of carriers, destroyers and cruisers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, as well as repairs made on damaged warships. Because he was able to read blueprints, Colefield was soon promoted to quarterman shipfitter, overseeing other supervisors. Colefield recalls the fatal fire that took place on the USS Constellation (CV-64) when a drum of oil was knocked over into a shaft where welders were working. He also discusses his work on the USS Missouri, the USS Iowa and the USS Wisconsin, for which he was sent to Bayonne, New Jersey to repair. Colefield fondly remembers testing catapults, where the launching pads on the carriers were tested with large weights to see if they could reach a certain speed. He also recollects being invited by a ship captain for a sea trial, when the ship's speed and breaks were tested, as well as and the launching of the USS Missouri. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)
  • Iowa (Battleship)

Subject Topics

  • World War, 1939-1945
  • United States -- Armed Forces -- Civilian employees

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Donald Condrill, December 29, 2006

Biographical / Historical

Donald Richard Condrill (1921- ) grew up in Brooklyn on Sands Street. His father was a plumber and his mother ran a store right outside of the gate of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Condrill sold newspapers in the marine barracks as a kid and later became the mascot for the basketball and baseball teams before enlisting in 1942. His parents moved away from Sands Street in 1943.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Donald Richard Condrill (1921- ) mostly discusses spending time with the marines and soldiers in the Navy Yard and on Sands Street when he was growing up. He explains that he stopped selling newspapers after less than a year because marines did not want to spend their money on newspapers. He also talks about the neighborhood and the changes that took place during the twenty years that he lived there. Condrill goes on to describe his experience in the Army and his difficulty with color blindness. Interview conducted by Jennifer Egan and Daniella Romano.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Childhood and youth
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Marines
  • Military life
  • Warships
  • American newspapers -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Waterfronts -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Sands Street (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Helen David, May 7, 2010

Biographical / Historical

Helen Robertson David (1923- ) was born in Montreal, Canada and grew up in Brooklyn. Her father moved to Canada from South Africa and her mother was born in Lithuania in 1890 and came to New York around 1902. David's parents met in Montreal and were prevented from moving to the U.S. in 1925 because there was a cap on immigrants from South Africa [until 1935 a wife lost her American citizenship at that time if her husband was not US citizen]. They were able to move to the US in 1926 and settled in Brooklyn. David attended PS 161, PS 241 in Crown Heights, Junior High 210 and graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in 1939 when she was 16 years old. She attended Brooklyn College as a science major and graduated in 1943. David worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the Sound and Optics Laboratory. She left because she decided to pursue a career in teaching. She got her Master's in education from Teacher's College at Columbia University. David met her husband while attending Brooklyn College. She eventually taught at Valley Stream High School on Long Island for 29 years and has lived in Arizona since 2005.

Scope and Contents

Among the many topics Helen Robertson David (1923- ) discusses during this interview are the work she did in the Sound and Optics Lab, memorable events in the Yard such as the building of the USS Missouri and another ship (the Bonhomme Richard), an explosion in the power station, and D-Day. She explains that people were not allowed to quit working in the Yard because it was war time and in order to leave to pursue a teaching career, she had to get permission from the Admiral. She remembers smelling the chocolate factory in the neighborhood while working at the Yard. David discusses gender relations within the Yard and the Lab, telling one story about keeping milk in the Lab's refrigerator; she and the other women would label their milk as if it contained bacteria cultures to keep the men from drinking it. She also talks about her life after the Navy Yard as a woman science teacher in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Valley Stream (Long Island). Davis is friends with two other interviewees in this collection: Eleanor Capson (2010.003.006) and Mimi (Mildred) Leipzig (2010.003.016). Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Brooklyn College
  • Columbia University
  • Bon Homme Richard (Aircraft carrier)
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)

Subject Topics

  • Warships
  • Teaching
  • Laboratories
  • Accidents
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Teachers -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • United States -- Armed Forces -- Civilian employees

Subject Places

  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Oral History Interview with Angelo DeSalvo, April 28, 2010

Biographical / Historical

Angelo DeSalvo (1931- ) grew up in the Bronx. DeSalvo began working at the Navy Yard in 1955 after serving in the Air Force during the Korean War. Following classes at a Math Institute, he became a radio mechanic and later an electronic mechanic for the Navy ships. He became a supervisor in 1962 and was also a member of the union IBEW Local.

Scope and Contents

During his interview, Angelo DeSalvo (1931- ) talks about enjoying the work he did, especially sea trials, and the camaraderie (and playful pranks) felt among coworkers. At the time of the USS Constellation fire, he recalls, he was home sick and saw it on TV. When he returned to the Navy Yard, he found his toolbox had "melted into one lump." DeSalvo also discusses the feeling in the Yard when its closing was announced and what happened to him and his coworkers afterward. At the end of the interview he remembers hearing of John F. Kennedy's assassination with his coworkers onboard a ship. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Constellation (Aircraft carrier)

Subject Topics

  • Warships
  • Accidents
  • Labor unions -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Shirleyann Dramer, April 1, 2009

Biographical / Historical

Shirleyann Mansdorf Dramer (1925- ) grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where she attended James Madison High School. After high school, Dramer attended Cooper Union where she studied science and later became a science teacher. At the time of the interview, Dramer was living in Merrick, Long Island.

Scope and Contents

In the interview with Shirleyann Mansdorf Dramer (1925- ), she remembers stories about living and working in Brooklyn, with many additions from her two daughters, Kim and Brooke Dramer. Dramer remembers riding horses in Brooklyn on Ocean Parkway and taking hikes in the country after crossing the George Washington Bridge. She was on the bridge when she first heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Dramer recalls writing letters and sending food to soldiers overseas, as well as helping her mother drive an ambulance to pick up wounded soldiers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and bring them to New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She remembers the security she encountered at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and interacting with injured soldiers at the Hospital. Dramer also reflects on the significant changes that took place in Brooklyn in the 1960s. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
  • James Madison High School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Family
  • Hospitals
  • Local transit -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Security systems
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Transportation -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Long Island (N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Wesley Fagan, March 11, 2011

Biographical / Historical

Wesley Fagan (1910- ) was born in Portsmouth, VA and has lived in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn since the 1950s. Fagan began playing the clarinet as a teenager and took up photography when his father gave him a Kodak box camera. He attended Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University), an historically black college, for two years but could not afford to continue. He moved to Buffalo, NY to play music with his uncle in the 1930s.While in Buffalo, Fagan attended a trade school and subsequently worked in the precision gauge lab of Buffalo Arms Service where he worked his way up from a porter to a machinist. He was in the Army from 1944-1946 and played in the Army band in Hawaii and Japan. After the war, he moved to Brooklyn because his sister was living there working as a nurse. Beginning as a messenger in the mailroom at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Fagan later became the official photographer in the 1950s until the Yard closed in 1966. After the Yard was decommissioned, he went to work at the photo lab of the Fort Hamilton Army base. He later worked for the Manhattan Transit Authority as a railroad clerk.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Wesley Fagan (1910- ) talks about his youth and education, including his time at Clark College, The Julliard School, and Jermaine Photography School. Fagan goes into detail about his life as a musician, his work and colleagues at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, his family, marriages, raising four foster children, and his life in Brooklyn since the 1950s. At the Navy Yard, he photographed ships, damages and repairs, visiting dignitaries, ship christenings and launches, and the fire on the USS Constellation. During this time, he received many commendations for his work. Fagan also details the process of developing the photographs and the Navy's reluctance to catalog and store negatives and photographs, which were eventually discarded. He spent time as the lab photographer for the Materials Lab, which required a high level of clearance. Fagan often brings up ethnicity and race, including how this affected his work at the Navy Yard, and wishing that he had done more for Civil Rights. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Constellation (Aircraft carrier)

Subject Topics

  • Accidents
  • Adoption
  • African Americans
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -y 20th century
  • Musical instruments -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Musicians
  • Indians of North America
  • Warships
  • Photographers -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Racism
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Soldiers
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Michael Faiella, July 31, 1987

Biographical / Historical

Michael Faiella (1928- ) grew up in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn on Sands Street. His father opened Reliable Naval Tailoring, Co. in 1927 at 191 Sands Street. The shop moved several times, but always remained close to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Scope and Contents

In his interview, Michael Faiella (1928- ) describes how Reliable Naval Tailoring, Co. changed over its 60 years tenure. The store sold uniforms to sailors, not the workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Faiella also describes the important relationship between the Navy Yard and the Brooklyn community, and how much the neighborhood deteriorated after the Navy Yard was decommissioned. As the bars, restaurants and other uniform stores closed around Faiella, they were able to maintain business by diversifying their products and clientele. Faiella was also interviewed in 2007. Interview conducted by Benjamin Filene.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Ethnicity
  • Ethnicity
  • Friendship
  • Immigrants
  • Tailoring -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Military uniforms
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • United States. Navy

Subject Places

  • Sands Street (New York, N.Y.)
  • Gravesend (New York, N.Y.)
  • Vinegar Hill (New York, N.Y.)
  • Downtown Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Emigration and immigration

Oral History Interview with Michael and Vincent Faiella, January 23, 2007

Biographical / Historical

Michael Faiella (1928- ) grew up in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn on Sands Street. His father opened Reliable Naval Tailoring, Co. in 1927 at 191 Sands Street. The shop moved several times, but always remained close to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Michael Faiella's son, Vincent Faiella (1960- ) grew up in Gravesend, Brooklyn and currently lives in Red Bank, New Jersey.

Scope and Contents

In this joint interview, Michael (1928- ) and Vincent Faiella (1960- ) look back on the Reliable Naval Tailoring, Co.'s history in Brooklyn before Vincent Faiella moved the business to Red Hook, New Jersey in 2006. Michael Faiella talks about his Italian background, growing up in Brooklyn close to his extended family, and his fondness for the area around the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Michael and Vincent Faiella also discuss the commercial and social activities on Sands Street and how much the neighborhood changed after the Navy Yard was decommissioned and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was built. Michael Faiella was also interviewed in 1987. Interview conducted by Daniella Romano.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Faiella, Vincent

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Business enterprises
  • Family-owned business enterprises -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Local transit -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Military uniforms
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Tailoring -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Transportation -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Yacht clubs -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Downtown Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Gravesend (New York, N.Y.)
  • Sands Street (New York, N.Y.)
  • Vinegar Hill (New York, N.Y.)
  • Flatbush Avenue (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Emigration and immigration

Oral History Interview with Anthony Ferrara, June 23, 2008

Biographical / Historical

Anthony Ferrara (1915- ) grew up in Lower Manhattan in Little Italy. His family owned a restaurant on Coney Island that they ran during the summer season. Anthony Ferrara moved to Brooklyn in 1944 and spent most of his life working in restaurants. Because of an ear injury, he received 4F status and was unable to serve during WWII.

Scope and Contents

Anthony Ferrara (1915- ) began working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1941, after meeting a Navy Yard supervisor at the restaurant he worked at on Sands Street. During his interview, he discusses his duties as a fire warden and how the cleanliness of his job often separated him from the other workers. He also expresses his disappointment and embarrassment about being unable to serve overseas due to his 4F status. Ferrara's position allowed him to observe many of the things happening in the yard, including the progress of the USS Missouri, the USS Iowa and several Landing Ship Tanks. Ferrara also describes security at the Navy Yard, and how on one cold day, a security guard's nose dripped into the lunch container he was inspecting for alcohol. He left the yard after a little over a year and after attempting to get rid of his 4F status, he returned to working in restaurants. Ferrara remained in Brooklyn until 1996 when he moved in with family on Long Island, New York. An excerpt of this interview is used on a tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Iowa (Battleship)
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)

Subject Topics

  • Cranes, derricks, etc
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnicity
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Restaurants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Security systems
  • Shipfitting
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • East Flatbush (New York, N.Y.)
  • Long Island (N.Y.)
  • Sands Street (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Emigration and immigration

Oral History Interview with Lucille Ford, December 11, 2007

Biographical / Historical

Lucille Butler Ford (1922- ) is an African American woman who grew up in Harlem and the Bronx. Soon after graduating from Wadleigh High School, Lucille Ford looked for work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard with a friend who was also from the Bronx. Two of Ford's brothers served during WWII. After leaving the Navy Yard in 1945, Ford began working for New York Telephone (now Verizon) and now lives in Long Island, New York.

Scope and Contents

Lucille Butler Ford (1922- ) began working as a messenger at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and was soon trained as a clerk typist in Building 77. The interview focuses on social life at the Navy Yard and the close friendships that Ford formed during the three years she worked there. She also discusses the ethnic backgrounds and interaction between the female workers in Building 77, sharing a story about a Jewish friend wanting to visit Harlem and how her mother made greens when she visited. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan and Jennifer Egan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar Apartments, Inc.
  • Wadleigh High School (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Dating (Social customs)
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Food
  • Local transit -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Navy-yards and naval stations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Security systems
  • Transportation -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • African American women

Subject Places

  • Harlem (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Helen Gagliardi, August 11, 2010

Biographical / Historical

Helen Sullivan Gagliardi (1925- ) grew up in Brooklyn. She was given her mother's last name (Sullivan) because her mother returned to her maiden name after getting a divorce because it was easier for unmarried women to find work during the Depression. Gagliardi attended PS203 in Brooklyn and then Saint Brendan's (Midwood, Brooklyn) for high school. She studied Chemistry at Brooklyn College where she earned a Master's and PhD, finishing all but her dissertation. She worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard's chemistry lab from 1944-1945 when the war ended. After marrying, Gagliardi went on to teach science at PS208, an elementary school with a program for gifted students, from the 1960s until she retired in 1984. Upon retiring, she moved to California, near San Diego, where one of her two daughters lives. The Brooklyn Historical Society connected with Gagliardi because her other daughter, who lives in Boston, took her on the Brooklyn Navy Yard tour lead by Urban Oyster.

Scope and Contents

In her interview, Helen Sullivan Gagliardi (1925- ) talks about her parents' marriage (Catholic - Protestant) and how both her mother and grandmother were strong, independent women who raised children on their own. She discusses the often limited opportunities available for women when she was in college, especially in her field of chemistry. She describes in great detail her work environment at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, including her coworkers and the lab in which she worked. The lab was trying to discover a method for creating synthetic rubber, which was much needed during WWII. When the war was over, the Navy discontinued the project, but private industry went on to use similar techniques to eventually discover hard and soft plastics that are abundant today. Gagliardi also discusses her recent experience visiting the Navy Yard, comparing the congestion of workers in the 1940s with the emptiness and open space she saw in her recent visit. She also recounts her experiences as a science teacher at PS208 in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Chemistry
  • Chemistry
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Navy-yards and naval stations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Warships
  • Religion and ethics
  • Sex role
  • Sexism
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Long Island (N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Jack Grossman, May 4, 2010

Biographical / Historical

Jack Grossman (1923- ) was born in New York on the Lower East Side near the Williamsburg Bridge. His father emigrated from Austria and was known as the Pickle Man because he made and sold pickles. His mother passed away when he was four years old and he is the youngest of four children. In 1939 or 1940, Grossman was hired at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a Trainee - he was only 17 years old so they had to give him a special title and paid him only 58 cents per hour. He later became a shipbuilder and attended classes three days a week to learn how to tack weld and read ship blueprints.

Scope and Contents

In his interview, Jack Grossman (1923- ) talks about growing up in Brooklyn in a Jewish family and his experience working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He describes in detail the Mold Loft at the Navy Yard, where balsawood models were made from the blueprints and then steel was heated in large ovens and shaped to match the models, forming the curved pieces that would become part of the hull of the ships. He says that ships are known as "she" because of their womanly curves. Grossman explains that the master shipfitters were Irish and had learned the skills in the United Kingdom. Grossman worked on the USS Missouri and was one of four "kids" on a platform for the christening and launch. In addition, Grossman talks about his father's interactions with the Mafia while selling pickles, the founding of Las Vegas, and other jobs he has had including driving a taxi cab in New York and running a catering truck in California. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)

Subject Topics

  • Blueprints
  • Taxicab drivers -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Food
  • Ship models
  • Warships
  • Organized crime
  • Religion and culture -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Street vendors -- New York (State) -- New York
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • California
  • Lower East Side (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Frances Haber, November 13, 2009

Biographical / Historical

Frances Haber (1923 - 2010) grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Both her parents moved to the United States at young ages, her mother from Russia and her father from Austria. After graduating from Eastern District High School, Haber attended beauty school and worked briefly in her mother's beauty salon. Shortly after, she took an exam with the United States Civil Service Commission and worked for a short time before she moved with her family to California. Haber worked as a riveter for the Douglas Aircraft Company for a few months, after which she returned to Brooklyn, where she stayed with family until she found her own apartment at the age of 20. After leaving her position as a clerk typist for the pipefitter supervisors at the Navy Yard in 1945, Haber was one of the first two women to become a transit police officer. She also worked for the US Customs Service and eventually moved from Brooklyn to Croton-on-Hudson, New York.

Scope and Contents

Frances Haber (1923- 2010) worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for several years, until she was laid off just after the end of WWII. In her interview, she recalls many details about her life in Brooklyn and the short time she spent in California, recollecting specific names, job titles, addresses and dates. Haber talks about growing up during the Depression, listening to the radio, her relationship with her mother and sister and local foods and restaurants. She also describes the ethnic makeup of her neighborhood and school and often brings up her Jewish background. Haber also describes the work she did at the Navy Yard as a clerk typist for the pipefitter supervisors, where she was often the only woman and fondly remembers eating lunch with the friendly supervisors. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Eastern District High School

Subject Topics

  • Beauty parlors
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Friendship
  • Great Depression -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Judaism
  • Local transit -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race discrimination
  • Security systems
  • Transportation
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • California
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Robert Hammond, September 9, 2010

Biographical / Historical

Robert S. Hammond (1926- ) grew up in Philadelphia, PA, in a predominantly Italian neighborhood. His mother is African- and Native- American from a tribal-owned island off the coast of South Carolina and his father is African- and European-American and also from the South. Hammond enlisted in the Navy in 1943 when he was 17 years old. After joining the Navy choir, he was selected as one of seven African American men from his group to be enrolled in the Hospital Corps School. This was the first group of African American men to be enrolled in the medical training. He was later transferred to the Montford Point Marine base in North Carolina, the first base for black marines. After he left the Navy, Hammond moved to Brooklyn and completed high school at Boys High. He opened a restaurant and nightclub on Fulton Street in Bedford Stuyvesant. Hammond went to a historically black college and got his Master's in Public Health from the University of Michigan. He has had a long career in public health in California and elsewhere, for which he credits his medical training in the Navy and experiences at Montford Point.

Scope and Contents

During his interview, Robert S. Hammond (1926- ) discusses his experiences working for the Navy in Brooklyn and North Carolina. He mentions that he did not experience much racism until he spent some time in South Carolina when he was a teenager and talks about his shock and anger during these experiences. He explains that the Navy training at the time was segregated and that he experienced racism from some of the commanding officers. Navy hospitals were also segregated at the time and, Hammond explains, that black men in the military were not receiving equal health care. He describes his experiences at the New York Naval Hospital in the Brooklyn Navy Yard where he received further training before being transferred to the Montford Point Marine base in North Carolina. At Montford, Hammond took on many healthcare initiatives for the thousands of black Marines whose health was neglected because of the segregation and discrimination in southern healthcare. These initiatives included education and awareness about vaccinations, parasites, venereal disease, hygiene, and many other public health missions. While on leave, Hammond came down with appendicitis and was taken to the New York Naval Hospital where he had trained. While he was at the Hospital, a curtain was pulled around his bed to segregate him from the rest of the (white) ward and he recalls the hospital staff's reaction to his mother's visit since she looks white. He also describes visits from Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, and the actor Frederic March. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • U.S. Naval Hospital (New York, N.Y.)
  • Boys' High School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African Americans
  • Health education
  • Hospitals
  • Military hospitals
  • Jazz
  • Marines
  • Musicians
  • Warships
  • Race relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Racism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)

Oral History Interview with Pearl Hill, February 20, 2007

Biographical / Historical

Pearl Margolis Hill (1923- ) grew up in the Middle Village neighborhood of Queens. She attended Grover Cleveland High School and two years at Queens College. After her husband joined the Army in 1940 or 1941, Hill decided to work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in order to contribute to the war effort. She has two sons and currently lives in Florida.

Scope and Contents

In her interview, Pearl Margolis Hill (1923- ) details her work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a shipfitter in Building 4 and her later work in the mold loft after an injury. She fondly remembers her friends at the Navy Yard, seeing them in passing on Sands Street and working alongside other married and unmarried women as welders. She also talks about working the graveyard shift, writing to her husband, what she wore to work and her longtime friendship with Sidonia Levine (2010.003.035, shipfitter). Interview conducted by Jennifer Egan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Work
  • Welding
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipfitting
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Restaurants -- New York (State) -- New York
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Mary Hogan and Anne Hannigan, July 28, 2008

Biographical / Historical

Mary Hannigan Hogan (1923- ) grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn with five siblings. Hogan attended Manual Traning High School, now known John Jay High School. Shortly after graduating from high school, she began working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a welder and adding up costs for ship parts. Hogan married in 1944. After leaving the Navy Yard, she worked at various office jobs and moved with her family to Long Island, New York./n/nAnne Mastrion Hannigan (1922- ) grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn near Mary Hogan. Anne Hannigan married Mary Hogan's brother, Johnny Hannigan, in 1944. Anne Hannigan also attended Manual Training High School, where she learned typing and stenography. Hannigan began work at the Navy Yard around the time of Mary Hogan, working as a lathe operator and reading blueprints to determine the number of parts needed. After leaving the Navy Yard, Anne Hannigan worked in the claims department of Pilgrim Laundry and later moved to Long Island, New York.

Scope and Contents

The interview with Mary Hannigan Hogan (1923- ) and Anne Mastron Hannigan (1922) also includes their niece, Maureen Hawkins and Mary Hogan's daughter, Debbie Hogan Russ. The women discuss their upbringing in Brooklyn, getting jobs at the Navy Yard, commuting to work, safety issues, uniforms, salaries and marriage. While Mary Hogan began working as a welder and Anne Hannigan as a lathe operator, both women began doing office work shortly after they started. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan and Jennifer Egan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Hannigan, Anne Mastrion

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Manual Training High School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)

Subject Topics

  • Blueprints
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Friendship
  • Irish Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Local transit -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Sailors
  • Security systems
  • Transportation -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Laundry industry -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Park Slope (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Clarence Irving, September 26, 2008

Biographical / Historical

Clarence Irving (1924- ) grew up in New York and Washington, DC. His father worked in the Newport News shipyard. Irving moved from DC to New York to live with his brother and became a machinist at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Scope and Contents

During his interview, Clarence Irving (1924- ) talks about his family and educational background before coming to work at the Navy Yard. He says that the best option at the time for African Americans was to work for the federal government because there was less discrimination and more protection for minority employees. He also talks about his work as a machinist, describing the facilities he worked in and the tools he used, as well as working conditions, yard safety, accidents and security. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Accidents
  • African Americans
  • Baseball -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Warships
  • Neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race discrimination
  • Security systems
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)
  • Washington (D.C.)

Oral History Interview with Richard Johnson and Geraldine Johnson, February 12, 2009

Biographical / Historical

Geraldine Kiernan Johnson (1925- ) was born in Norfolk, Virginia, but moved soon after to the Washington, D.C. area. As her father (James Eugene Kiernan) was a member of Governor General Frank Murphy's staff, the family lived in the Philippines from 1933-1936. Kiernan was transferred to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1940 after spending a few years at the Camden Navy Yard. In 1941 the family moved to join Kiernan in Brooklyn Navy Yard housing on Flushing Avenue. Geraldine Johnson attended the Packer Collegiate Institute. Richard Johnson (1919- ) grew up in Leominster, Massachusetts and Newark, New Jersey where he attended the Newark College of Engineering where he signed up to be an engineer for the Navy. He graduated in 1941. After college, Johnson went to the Navy Post-Graduate School in Annapolis, Maryland and then began work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a naval engineer and assistant hull superintendent. Geraldine and Richard Johnson were married in 1944 at the Officer's Club at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, after which they spent a few years in San Diego. At the time of the interview, the Johnsons were living in Connecticut.

Scope and Contents

The interview with Richard (1919- ) and Geraldine Johnson (1925- ) focuses on Richard Johnson's work with the US Navy and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, as well as James Eugene Kiernan's work as a naval officer and a supervisor at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Johnsons talk about their family history and lives before they moved to Brooklyn. Geraldine Johnson describes her life growing up at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Richard Johnson describes the layout and organization of the shipyard, his day to day activities, how materials were moved around the yard, wood storage, promotions within the US Navy, his education and the launch of the USS Missouri. Richard Johnson also describes books and other materials he has collected about the history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan and Daniella Romano.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Johnson, Geraldine Kiernan

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Bon Homme Richard (Aircraft carrier)
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)
  • Iowa (Battleship)

Subject Topics

  • Cranes, derricks, etc
  • Dating (Social customs)
  • Dry docks
  • Engineering
  • Engineering and construction
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Naval operations
  • Sailors
  • Security systems
  • Sex role
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipfitting
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Transportation -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • New Utrecht (New York, N.Y.)
  • Park Slope (New York, N.Y.)
  • Newark (N.J.)

Oral History Interview with Veronica Kieffer, August 19, 1987

Biographical / Historical

Veronica Marino Kieffer (ca. 1920- ) worked at Sperry Gyroscope in Brooklyn with drill presses and gyroscopes. After Sperry moved to Long Island, Kieffer began working at the Navy Yard. While working at the Navy Yard, Kieffer lived in Sheepshead Bay.

Scope and Contents

During her interview, Veronica Marino Kieffer discusses her relationships with the other workers and her supervisors, her work cleaning and repairing binoculars, her Italian background, her family and the work she did before coming to the Navy Yard. In one instance, Kieffer was sent home for not wearing her hat while working on a drill press because of the danger of getting het hair caught in the machine. Interview conducted by Benjamin Filene.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Kieffer, Veronica Marino

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Sperry Gyroscope Company, inc

Subject Topics

  • Ethnicity
  • Friendship
  • Binoculars
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Immigrants

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Sheepshead Bay (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Emigration and immigration

Oral History Interview with Alfred Kolkin, July 15, 2008

Biographical / Historical

Alfred Kolkin (1918- ) grew up in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx. After graduating from high school, Kolkin worked for the Sperry Gyroscope Company in Downtown Brooklyn, after which he applied to be a mechanic at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he began working in 1940. He married his wife, Lucille Gerwitz Kolkin (who was interviewed in 1989 and has since passed away), shortly before enlisting in the army and moving to Chicago to receive special electronic training, and then to California, where Lucille Kolkin joined him.

Scope and Contents

During his interview, Alfred Kolkin (1918- ) discusses his life growing up in New York and trying to find a job after graduating from high school during the Depression. At the Navy Yard, Kolkin worked as a machinist in Building 128, where he made ship parts and used a horizontal boring mill to finish the surfaces on castings for ship artillery. Later, he was promoted into a managerial position. During his time at the Navy Yard, Kolkin was also an editor of a local union newspaper. Kolkin joined the army in 1944, and relates his experience on a repair ship in the Pacific at the end of WWII, where he witnessed Japan surrendering aboard the USS Missouri. During the interview, he also speaks about his various jobs after the end of WWII, working in machine shops, a tool and dye factory and a printing factory. Kolkin discusses his union involvement, and the difficulties of getting by with a family during union strikes (something that his wife also discusses during her interview). Also present during the interview was Alfred and Lucille Kolkin's daughter, Judy Kaplan. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan and Jennifer Egan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Kolkin, Alfred

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Sperry Gyroscope Company, inc
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)

Subject Topics

  • Family
  • Labor unions -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Navy-yards and naval stations
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipfitting
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Transportation -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Oral History Interview with Lucille Kolkin, March 16, 1989

Biographical / Historical

Lucille Gerwitz Kolkin (1919-1997) grew up in Borough Park, Brooklyn and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and attended Hunter College. She began working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1941 or 1942 at the age of 23 as a tack welder. She remained at the Navy Yard for about 2 years before she moved to California after her husband went into service. Kolkin returned to New York to raise her children. At the time of the interview she was living in Long Island.

Scope and Contents

n the interview, Lucille Gerwitz Kolkin (1919-1997) discusses the dangers and uncomfortable conditions she faced working as a welder, the camaraderie she felt with the other workers, her wages, her union involvement and her relationships with the other workers and her supervisors. She also describes the clothing she wore to work, vacations she took and her Jewish background. After leaving the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Kolkin talks about her experiences as a mother and wife, and about returning to work after her kids had grown up. Interview conducted by Diane Esses.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Kolkin, Lucille Gewirtz

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Erasmus Hall High School

Subject Topics

  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Navy-yards and naval stations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish women

Subject Places

  • Borough Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bensonhurst (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Emigration and immigration

Oral History Interview with Helen Kuhner, December 26, 2006

Biographical / Historical

Helen Kuhner (1918- ) grew up in Brooklyn in the Prospect Heights neighborhood. She lived in North Carolina working as a secretary at Fort Bragg when her husband went into service. After he shipped out, she came to live in Brooklyn with her mother and began working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a stenographer. Kuhner left the Navy Yard when her husband returned. The family moved to Staten Island and then Long Island. Kuhner now lives in Florida and has five grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

Scope and Contents

In her interview, Helen Kuhner (1918- ) discusses her work as a stenographer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and life as a mother during WWII while her husband was at war. She talks about interactions between men and women working at the Yard and how she dealt with the whistles and attention from the men. Kuhner tells a story about staying home sick and remembers someone from the Navy Yard coming to check and make sure she was at home. She also remembers a woman who would check the bathroom stalls to make sure workers were not smoking or resting while on the job. Her interview brings up working conditions for women, her Irish-American background, and being a working mother. Interview conducted by Jennifer Egan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Warships
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Working mothers
  • Military spouses
  • Stenographers
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • United States -- Armed Forces -- Civilian employees
  • Sex discrimination
  • Irish Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Sands Street (New York, N.Y.)
  • Fort Bragg (N.C.)
  • Prospect Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Mildred Leipzig, September 16, 2009

Biographical / Historical

Mildred (Mimi) Levin Leipzig (1923- ) was born at the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital across the street from her father's pharmacy in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Leipzig attended Girl's Commercial High School (now Prospect Heights High School). She began working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1940 or 1941 shortly after marrying Arthur Leipzig, a photographer for the New York City newspaper PM. Mildred Leipzig left her job as an assistant shipfitter at the Navy Yard in 1942 when she had her first child.

Scope and Contents

Mildred (Mimi) Levin Leipzig (1923- ) remembers many detailed stories about her childhood and life in Brooklyn, New York, as well as the experiences of her sisters and parents. She describes her and her two sisters helping her father at his pharmacy and tells stories about visiting the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the Botanic Garden and Prospect Park with her father and sisters. Leipzig discusses growing up in a Jewish family in an Italian Catholic neighborhood, where her father often distributed medicines for free to families who could not afford them. Leipzig took a mechanical aptitude test for the Navy Yard shortly after finishing high school, and began working as a shipfitter's assistant where her main job was as an arc welder. There, she recalls using an asbestos blanket while welding as protection from burns. She also discusses her unique role as a woman at the Navy Yard and that men were often uncomfortable doing the same work as the women. More specifically, she discusses issues with the women's bathroom in her shop and an instance when a woman offered to give her a skirt while she was on her way to work in her coveralls (implying that Leipzig was dressed inappropriately). Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Leipzig, Arthur

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Brooklyn Children's Museum

Subject Topics

  • Family
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish women
  • Local transit -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Photographers -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religion and culture
  • Sex role
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipfitting
  • Transportation
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Welding
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Prospect Park (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Sidonia Levine, November 18, 2006

Biographical / Historical

Sidonia Kessler Levine (1919- ) began working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in November of 1942. She worked as a mechanic helper and shipfitter in Building 4 while her husband was deployed. Levine currently lives in Florida.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Sidonia Kessler Levine (1919- ) talks about how she came to work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard after spending some time at Western Electric. She mentions that she did very well on the Navy Yard test, on which she received the 15th best score out of 500 participants. While at the Navy Yard, Levine had her picture taken for the Shipworker and did an interview with the Brooklyn Eagle. She talks a lot about the camaraderie in the yard and the lasting friendships she made with the women she worked with in Building 4. She also details her job where she converted blueprints into wooden templates and attended extra school at Pratt for blueprint reading. She made her work uniform herself. Levine describes her visit to the Navy Yard in the 1990s as "sterile" compared to the liveliness of the atmosphere while she worked there. Interview conducted by Jennifer Egan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Warships
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipfitting
  • Blueprints
  • Friendship
  • Mechanics (Persons)
  • Baseball players -- United States
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews, American -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Audrey Lyons, May 2, 2009

Biographical / Historical

Audrey Garbers Lyons (1924- ) grew up in the Cyprus Hills neighborhood of Brooklyn. Lyons attended Brooklyn College before she left to work at the Navy Yard in 1943 to help support her family after her father's business closed. Unlike some of the other workers at the Navy Yard, Lyons was a federal employee.

Scope and Contents

Audrey Garbers Lyons (1924- ) worked as a parts inspector at the Navy Yard for the federal government from 1943 until WWII ended in 1945. Lyons used a micrometer to measure ship parts. During her interview, she remembers that the women mostly tested the smaller parts. She also recalls talking and singing with the women she worked with, who were mostly college educated, and many of whom were married and worried about their husbands in the War. Lyons described her section of the Navy Yard as a little village, explaining that she recognized everyone in her own building, but no one else at the Navy Yard. She also remembers the christening of the USS Missouri, smells from a nearby chocolate factory and the jumpsuit she wore at work. Also present at the time of the interview was Susan Lyons, Audrey Lyons' daughter. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan and Jennifer Egan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)

Subject Topics

  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Local transit
  • Neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipfitting
  • Transportation
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Cypress Hills (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with George Martinez, June 24, 2008

Biographical / Historical

George Martinez (1933- ) grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with two sisters. His parents were both born in Columbia, as well as his older sister Grace Martinez De La Rosa (1923- ), who worked as a welder at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during WWII. After marrying, Grace Martinez De La Rosa moved to Mexico City, while George Martinez worked for the US Postal Service and currently lives on Long Island. Grace Martinez De La Rosa (1923- ) was studying to become a teacher in college when WWII began and she left to work at the Navy Yard.

Scope and Contents

In his interview, George Martinez (1933- ) discusses his own experience growing up during the war, as well as what he remembers of his sister's work as a welder at the Navy Yard. He remembers collecting scraps for the war effort and his sister returning home with a burned uniform or eye injuries. George Martinez explains that many people who could not get jobs before the war, because of disabilities or race, were able to get jobs at the Navy Yard during this time. He also recalls the block party with his neighbors to celebrate the end of the war. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • De La Rosa, Grace Martinez

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Family
  • Neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipfitting
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)
  • Long Island (N.Y.)
  • Mexico
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Emigration and immigration

Oral History Interview with Antoinette Mauro, July 31, 2006

Biographical / Historical

Antoinette Irrera Mauro (ca. 1925- ) began working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard just after she finished high school at the age of 18. She worked as a draughtswoman from 1943 until she was laid off just a few weeks after the war ended in 1945. Mauro was called back in 1947 and again in 1950. Her husband (Louis Mauro) worked at the Navy Yard after he came back from the War with blueprints and then in the technical library until the yard was decommissioned. Mauro left in 1951 when she was pregnant with her son.

Scope and Contents

In her interview, Antoinette Irrera Mauro (ca. 1925- ) details the work she did as a draughtswoman in the electrical department at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She emphasizes how nice her coworkers were, even though there were only two women working in her department of 27 workers. Mauro started working in Building 3 and later in Building 77 when her department was moved. She also discusses her commute, Yard security, friendships with coworkers and watching various ship launchings. Interview conducted by Jennifer Egan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)

Subject Topics

  • Warships
  • Blueprints
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Security systems
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Draft -- New York (State) -- New York
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with William Obitz, May 18, 2009

Biographical / Historical

William Obitz (1926-) was born in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. He grew up on a farm about 10 miles outside of Plymouth, PA. His father worked in the coal mines for approximately thirty years. Obitz enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and completed boot camp at Sampson, New York. He worked as a mess cook, gunner and deckhand on the USS Missouri out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. After his work in the Navy, Obitz worked as a welder in New Jersey for twenty-two years.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Obitz primarily discusses his experiences aboard the USS Missouri, where he was a deckhand, mess cook and gunner from 1944 through the end of World War II. While on the Missouri, he witnessed a kamikaze plane attack. Other topics covered include his upbringing on a Pennsylvania farm; his enlistment and training in the Navy; his time at the Brooklyn Navy Yard preparing the Missouri for deployment; and how he met his wife. Interview conducted at the U.S.S. Missouri Reunion in Virginia on May 18, 2009. Interview conducted by Daniella Romano.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)

Subject Topics

  • Cooking
  • Military life
  • Cooking for military personnel
  • Warships
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Jersey City (N.J.)

Oral History Interview with Ida Pollack, March 20, 1989

Biographical / Historical

Ida Pollack (1922- ) grew up in the Bronx in a Jewish-American family. Her father was active in the International Workers Order (IWO), a Communist Party fraternal organization. Pollack was active in both the IWO shula (school) and the Young Communist League. She briefly attended Brooklyn College, but left to begin working, initially for a greeting card factory, then for Gimbels department store and eventually as a welder at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Scope and Contents

Ida Pollack (1922- ) married in 1941 and began working at the Navy Yard shortly after her husband went into the service in 1942. During her interview, she discusses how she chose to be a welder in order to help the war effort, her training at the Navy Yard, working conditions and injuries, welding equipment, her fear of heights, and wages. Pollack remembers how her friend Sylvia [Honigsman Everitt] found out about her husbands death during their shift at the Navy Yard. Everitt was interviewed along with Pollack in 2008 (2010.003.019). During the interview, Pollack also recalls the death of another woman worker who fell into the dry dock. Pollack was laid off at the end of WWII and moved to Troy, New York for a few years where Pollack attempted to be a welder for again but had trouble because of her gender. Pollack later returned to New York City where she and her husband were very active in political organizations. Interview conducted by Diane Esses.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • International Workers Order
  • Gimbel Brothers
  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Communism
  • Communists
  • Ethnicity
  • Friendship
  • Jews, Americans -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Labor unions -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • General strikes -Z New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Welding
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women welders
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Troy (N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Ida Pollack and Sylvia Everitt, April 24, 2008

Biographical / Historical

Ida Pollack (1922- ) grew up in the "Coops" or the United Workers Cooperative Colony, a predominantly Jewish and communist leaning housing cooperative built during the 1920s. She briefly attended Brooklyn College, but left to begin working, initially for a greeting card factory, then for Gimbels department store and eventually as a welder at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Pollack was very active in political groups through her life, including the Young Communist League and the Local 22 of the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America (IUMSWA). Sylvia Honigman Everitt (1921- ) was born on the Lower East Side but grew up in the Bronx in a Jewish family. Her father was a furrier. Everitt began working at the Navy Yard in 1942 after she graduated from Brooklyn College. She met her husband while working at the Navy Yard. Shortly after, he was drafted into the army and died in Germany just after the War ended.

Scope and Contents

During their interview, Ida Pollack (1922- ) and Sylvia Honigman Everitt (1921- ) share stories about growing up in the Bronx and working together as welders at the Navy Yard. The two women discuss their long commute, socializing on Sands Street, union involvement and antagonism towards union organizers, uniforms, wages and working conditions. Pollack mentions getting a foot injury when a coated rod used for fusing metal accidentally dropped onto her shoe. She also discusses having to sign a loyalty oath, which was likely due to her involvement in radical political organizations. Both women discuss what it felt like to be a woman working at the Navy Yard and having to leave at the end of WWII. Also present at the time of the interview were Al Kolkin, Judy Kaplan (the daughter of Al Kolkin and Everitt and Honigman's good friend Lucy Kolkin) and Penny Lathars (Ida Pollack's daughter). Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan, Jennifer Egan and Daniella Romano.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Everitt, Sylvia Honigman

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Communism
  • Communists
  • Family life
  • Judaism
  • Labor unions -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women welders
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Sands Street (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Leo Reitman, August 7, 1987

Biographical / Historical

Leo Reitman (ca. 1910s) grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He moved to Brooklyn after he began working at the Navy Yard. After leaving the Navy Yard, Reitman opened a grocery in Brooklyn.

Scope and Contents

In his interview, Leo Reitman (ca. 1910s) discusses his work issuing stationary and hardware supplies to naval ships and shops at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He also talks about his supervisors, wages, and gender relations and camaraderie within the Yard. Interview conducted by Benjamin Filene.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Reitman, Leo

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Grocers
  • Naval operations
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Warships
  • Navy-yards and naval stations
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Charles Rocoff, July 24, 2006

Biographical / Historical

Charles Rocoff (1923- ) began working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1942 shortly after finishing high school in Brooklyn. He worked for about one year as a pipefitter before going into the service in 1943.

Scope and Contents

In his interview, Charles Rocoff (1923- ) explains his job as a pipefitter (plumber) for the ships at the Navy Yard, for which he primarily worked on repairs. He noticed that the British ships that he worked on were much dirtier than the American ships he repaired. Rocoff also talks about working with asbestos, training, security at the Yard and his coworkers. Interview conducted by Jennifer Egan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Warships
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Security systems
  • Plumbers -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Asbestos
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Draft

Subject Places

  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Rubena Ross, November 3, 2008

Biographical / Historical

Rubena Rhodes Ross (1918- ) was born in South Carolina where her mother was a teacher and her father was a farmer. Her family moved to Flushing, Queens when she was eleven and later settled in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, where she heard about work at the Navy Yard through her neighbors. Since Rhodes had learned to sew at an early age from her mother, she signed on to work as a seamstress in the flag loft at the Navy Yard.

Scope and Contents

Rubena Rhodes Ross (1918- ) worked as a seamstress in a few factories before beginning work at the Navy Yard. During her interview, Ross describes the process of sewing the flags and her work environment. She remembers enjoying her work at the Navy Yard, relating that her supervisors did not just see her as a just worker, which was a different experience from her previous factory jobs. She also talks about her family, including her brother who was in the Airforce with the Tuskegee Airmen and her husband, who spent some time as a photographer for the Army. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan and Jennifer Egan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • African Americans
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Friendship
  • Local transit
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Tailoring -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Clothing and dress -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • African American women

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Catherine Sarnowski, November 4, 1987

Biographical / Historical

Catherine Sarnowski (ca. 1920- ) lived in the Bronx while working as a welder at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II. She began as a tack welder and later was promoted to first class.

Scope and Contents

In this brief interview, Catherine Sarnowski (ca. 1920- ) discusses her work as a welder, her long commute, working conditions at the Navy Yard, day trips and training for the job. She also talks about her experience working the night shift while going to school during the day. Interview conducted by Benjamin Filene.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Sarnowski, Catherine Hennings

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Ethnicity
  • Friendship
  • Welding
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Accidents
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • United States -- Armed Forces -- Civilian employees
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Frank Siragusa, June 24, 2008

Biographical / Historical

Frank Siragusa (1928- ) grew up in uptown Manhattan in an Italian family. He quit school at 16 to work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, since his father would not let him join the Navy. Siragusa worked at the Navy Yard for about six months. Before joining the Navy in 1945, Siragusa worked at a cheese factory and the Hotel New Yorker. He served four years in the Army, after which he went back to school on the GI Bill and became a musician and a music teacher. He later lived in Queens, Great Neck, NY and eventually retired and moved to Florida.

Scope and Contents

During his interview, Frank Siragusa (1928- ) remembers his six months working as a painter at the Navy Yard. When he started, he painted pipes using lead paint, which injured his hands. After he recovered, he began working with a trompe l'oeil painter, who could make iron look like wood. He talks about his friendship with this painter, and the two of them discussing philosophy, spirituality and history. Siragusa worked a few other jobs before joining the Navy, including at the Hotel New Yorker, where he saw the plane crash into the Empire State Building in 1945, shortly before he enlisted. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Buddhism
  • Family
  • Immigrants
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Religion
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Transportation
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Great Neck (N.Y.)
  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Emigration and immigration

Oral History Interview with Leo Skolnick, August 14, 1987

Biographical / Historical

Leo Skolnick (1909- ) worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard from 1936 until 1948, when he left to study design and worked for several naval architects. He began working as an apprentice, and then as a sketcher in a sheet metal shop where shop drawings got fabricated. By the time Skolnick left the Yard, he was coordinating design drawings and supervising 200 to 300 workers.

Scope and Contents

In his interview, Leo Skolnick (1909- ) details his job as a sketcher and supervisor of shop drawings at the Navy Yard. He also talks about several workplace accidents, working conditions, and feeling pride in his work at the Yard. Interview conducted by Benjamin Filene.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)
  • Iowa (Battleship)
  • Franklin (Aircraft carrier)

Subject Topics

  • Warships
  • Friendship
  • Accidents
  • Supervisors
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with James Smith, June 27, 2008

Biographical / Historical

James H. Smith (1927- ) grew up in Canarsie, New York, where his mother worked at a bakery and his father worked at a gas station. Smith was unable to serve in WWII because of his 4-F status, but instead began working at the Navy Yard at 16 or 17 as an outside machinist. He left when his family moved to Long Island, New York, where he worked at his father's gas station. Smith ended up working at Grumman Aerospace doing flight testing and remained for 39 years until he retired.

Scope and Contents

During his interview, James H. Smith (1927- ) discusses his work at the Navy Yard as an outside machinist. He describes his job as a "gofer," running to get tools and coffee for others, and lending a hand where needed with mechanical work. Smith talks about security at the Navy Yard, seeing the progress the ships made when he left every day, and similarities between working at Grumman Aerospace and the Navy Yard. He also describes damaged ships returning from war, getting tools from the tool crib, social interactions during his lunch hour and being in awe of the size of the ships. Smith was upset with his 4-F status and explains how disappointed he was to leave the Navy Yard, where he felt he was contributing to the war effort. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Aircraft industry
  • Engineering
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Machine shops
  • Security systems
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipfitting
  • Transportation
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Oral History Interview with Henry Tatowicz, July 29, 1987

Biographical / Historical

Henry Tatowicz (ca. 1920- ) grew up in Brooklyn, NY. He worked as a third class machinist at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, working his way up to first class and eventually becoming a layout inspector, laying out castings for the machinists. His two brothers also worked at the Navy Yard. Tatowicz wanted to join the Army, but was asked to stay and work at the Navy Yard where his skills were needed.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Henry Tatowicz (ca. 1920- ) goes through the different positions he had at the Navy Yard, explaining the tools, supplies and work involved in each position. He also talks about workplace safety, working the night shift, women at the Yard, his feelings about the reductions in the workforce after the war, and changes in Brooklyn his lifetime. Tatowicz remembers working at the Yard and hearing about the events at Pearl Harbor. He was able to use his skills from working on the machines at the Navy Yard in future positions after he left. Interview conducted by Benjamin Filene.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Tatowicz, Henry

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Warships
  • Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Ernest Thompson, May 18, 2009

Biographical / Historical

Ernest Thompson (1917- ) was born in Byronville, Georgia and grew up as the oldest of six children in Americus, Georgia. For the first five years of Thompson's life his father worked as a farmer. When the family moved to Americus Thompson's father worked for a lumber company. Upon graduation from high school in 1936, Thompson enlisted in the Navy and went to boot camp in Norfolk, Virginia. Before World War II, Thompson was assigned to the Tennessee battleship. In 1940, Thompson left the service and got married. He took a job as a laborer in Los Angeles for the Sub-Pacific Railroad and was promoted to boilermaker apprentice where he learned about steelwork and ironwork. He then went to work for the city of Los Angeles and got called back into service as a second class petty officer and was quickly promoted to first class based on his work experience. He was given orders to go to Philadelphia to take classes on engineering spaces in Navy ships. Upon completion of school, he chose to work on the Missouri and moved to the Flushing Avenue Barracks in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in March 1944. Thompson worked on the engineering spaces of the Missouri throughout World War II in No. 4 Boiler Room and was onboard Missouri during the surrender of Japan.

Scope and Contents

During the interview, Ernest Thompson (1917- ) talks about growing up in Georgia and why he decided to enlist in the Navy. Thompson describes the jobs his brothers did during World War II. He discusses how his work as a boiler apprentice helped his career working in engineering spaces in the Navy. He describes life at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and living and working in the engineering spaces of the Missouri. He recounts, in great detail, eating breakfast onboard the Missouri the morning of the surrender of Japan. He also recounts his experience trying to get home to southern California at the end of World War II. Interview conducted at the U.S.S. Missouri Reunion in Virginia on May 18, 2009. Interview conducted by Daniella Romano.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)

Subject Topics

  • Engineering
  • Engineers
  • Warships
  • Navy-yards and naval stations
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Virginia

Oral History Interview with Frank Trezza, October 9, 2009

Biographical / Historical

Frank J. Trezza (1952- ) was hired by Seatrain Shipbuilding as a Mechanic Helper at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1973 and eventually worked his way up to the position of First Class Marine Electrician. He worked at the Navy Yard until 1978 when he was injured on the job and told by doctors that he would never work in the shipbuilding profession again. Following rehabilitation from his injuries, Mr. Trezza relocated to Maine where he resumed working as a First Class Marine Electrician at Bath Iron Works, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire, and in South America for a European defense contractor. In 1999, Mr. Trezza earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from the University of Southern Maine, and in 2007, he published the book, Brooklyn: Steel-Blood Tenacity, a memoir of the years he spent working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Frank J. Trezza discuss his experiences as a marine electrician for Seatrain Shipbuilding in the Navy Yard in the 1970s, the injury that lost him the job, and his subsequent career at other shipyards. Through this discussion, he also touches on national and international politics of shipbuilding, his photography of the Yards, and the writing of his book. He also talks about his training at the Food and Maritime Trades Vocational High School. He tells about his family's four-generation history in Brooklyn, including several family members who worked at the Navy Yard. His wife, Millie, was also present for the interview, and she told the story of their courtship and marriage. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Names

  • Trezza, Frank J.

Subject Organizations

  • International Workers Order
  • Seatrain Shipbuilding Corp
  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Dating (Social customs)
  • Accidents
  • Family
  • Labor leaders
  • Labor unions -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Shipfitting
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ships
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Welding
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Sheepshead Bay (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Abraham Weintraub, July 8, 2008

Biographical / Historical

Abraham Weintraub (1910-2010) lived in Brooklyn for his whole life. In addition to working at the Navy Yard, Weintraub worked for his brother-in-law who manufactured education toys and handler for the US Post Office. He also participated in several marathons and races after retiring from the Post Office.

Scope and Contents

During his interview, Abraham Weintraub (1910-2010), explains his work as a chipper and caulker at the Navy Yard, where he made sure rivets were watertight. Along with his daughter and son (Florence and Irwin Weintraub), Weintraub talks about working on the USS Missouri, the other workers at the Navy Yard and competing in marathons and other races in New York and Massachusetts. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)

Subject Topics

  • Family
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipfitting
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Sex role
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Milton Wurtzel, February 12, 2009

Biographical / Historical

Milton Wurtzel (1919- ) was born in Manhattan and grew up in the Bronx and in Stuyvesant Heights, Brooklyn on Kosciusko Street. Wurtzel worked at Lieberman Shoe Factory as a foreman and at a slipper factory before he started working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a welder. Wurtzel left the Brooklyn Navy Yard when he was inducted into the Navy, in which he worked on the USS Humboldt. At the time of the interview, Wurtzel was living in Long Island.

Scope and Contents

In his interview, Milton Wurtzel (1919- ) gives many details and stories about his experience at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and in the US Navy. He describes the process of welding, the tools he used, his training and supervisors, the sickbay, the cafeteria and lunchtime, driving to work and theft at the yard. In one story, he explains how he made jewelry using the Hammerhead Crane. In another, he discusses the unhygienic conditions on French ships. He also discusses his Jewish background, growing up in Brooklyn and the Bronx, meeting his wife and Navy life aboard the USS Humboldt. Wurtzel's grandson Jason Wurtzel was also present at the time of the interview. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)

Subject Topics

  • Cranes, derricks, etc
  • Dating (Social customs)
  • Ethnicity
  • Fishing
  • Friendship
  • Judaism
  • Labor unions -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Local transit
  • Sailors
  • Security systems
  • Sex role
  • Shipfitting
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Transportation
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Stuyvesant Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Howard Zinn, December 8, 2008

Biographical / Historical

Howard Zinn (1922-2010) grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He began working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as an apprentice after taking a civil service test in 1940. Because he worked at the Navy Yard, his family was able to move into a housing project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Zinn left the Navy Yard to join the Air Force in 1943. He later went on to become an historian, author and activist.

Scope and Contents

During his interview, Howard Zinn (1922-2010) explains how he ended up working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and details his work there as an apprentice shipfitter. He says the best part of his time at the Navy Yard was organization the Apprentice Association, which was an organization of apprentices who were not allowed to be a part of the American Federation of Labor unions at the Yard. He also talks about his salary, organizing a basketball team, commuting to work from Fort Greene, uniforms, witnessing a workplace accident, and race and ethnicity. Interview conducted by Daniella Romano.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Warships
  • Labor -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Labor unions -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Ethnicity
  • Apprentices
  • Accidents
  • Public housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipfitting
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Fort Greene (New York, N.Y.)

Oral History Interview with Carmela Zuza, July 3, 2008

Biographical / Historical

Carmela Celardo Zuza (1924- ) grew up in Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, with eight siblings. Her parents moved to the United States from Naples, Italy after they were married. Carmela worked in small factory jobs before she began working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1942 as an arc welder.

Scope and Contents

In her interview, Carmela Zuza (1924- ) discusses her experience growing up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood in Brooklyn. She describes in detail the garden that her parents kept, the beer and wine her parents made, and other local foods. She expresses the pride she felt doing her work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and seeing the christening of the USS Missouri battle ship. Zuza also talks about transportation to and from work, security at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, discrimination, uniforms and clothing for women, gender relations, social activities and dating. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)
  • Franklin (Aircraft carrier)

Subject Topics

  • African American women
  • Dating (Social customs)
  • Cranes, derricks, etc
  • Ethnicity
  • Friendship
  • Labor unions -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Local transit
  • Italian Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Wages -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipyards -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipfitting
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women -x Employment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Gardens
  • Family life
  • Welding
  • Race relations -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Coney Island (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Dean Street (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Washington Avenue (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Sands Street (New York, N.Y.)

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