Ed M. House Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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TRACI DRUMMOND: This is Traci Drummond, archivist at the Southern Labor Archives in Atlanta, Georgia and I am in Arlington, Texas with Ed M. House. Today is May 25th, 2012 and we are in the offices of the IAM southern territory and this oral history recording is for the archives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers oral history project. Good morning.

ED M. HOUSE: Good morning.

DRUMMOND: We're going to jump right in. I'm going to get started with some background information. Where and when were you born?

HOUSE: Was born on June 14, 1932 in Dallas County, Arkansas.

DRUMMOND: And what did your parents do?

HOUSE: My parents were farmers.

DRUMMOND: They were farmers?

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: Um, what was -- did you have, and I suspect you did have to help them out with the, the whole family sort of worked together to --


HOUSE: Yeah, we did. My father owned a nice farm before the Depression hit and he lost it all and from that time on he had to sharecrop and actually he had just bought another farm about three years before he developed, or had, excuse me, had colon cancer and he died a couple of years later. I was 15 years old when that that happened.

DRUMMOND: OK, so he lost his farm and he was able after the Depression to buy another one?

HOUSE: He was.

DRUMMOND: And did you have brothers and sisters?

HOUSE: I had, actually it was nine in our family. We lost three at very early ages with different, actually one of them burned to death, rocked into a fireplace and burned to death when I was a baby. The other two died with diphtheria and stuff like that. And they were older than I was. I'm the youngest 00:02:00of the --

DRUMMOND: Of the nine?

HOUSE: Of the nine.

DRUMMOND: And so of the six kids did everybody sort of pitch in and help out on the farm or while sharecropping?

HOUSE: Yeah, they did until they, you know, left home and either married or went in the service or something like that. But my daddy only, actually he only got to farm about two years after he bought this last place and the kids, you know, helped out, brothers and sisters helped out when he was around, but after he passed away there wasn't any farming going on. I was the only one left at home at that point.

DRUMMOND: And what was your moms role? Did she sort of hold things down at the house while everybody worked on the farm or?

HOUSE: She worked on the farm in her garden and did all the housework, cooking and --



HOUSE: Yeah, she was a strong lady and one of the best human beings that's ever been on this earth.

DRUMMOND: And so with it being a functioning farm you had gardening but then you also had animals, livestock?

HOUSE: Oh yeah. We had, we always had at least one good team of horses and then we had milk cows and hogs, you know.

DRUMMOND: How many acres would you say?

HOUSE: Pardon?

DRUMMOND: How many -- how much land?

HOUSE: About 80 acres.

DRUMMOND: So after your father passed away how did that affect how money was made for the family or how --

HOUSE: They just, there wasn't any money. The brothers and sisters helped out what they could. I went to work when I was 16 and just on jobs that people would let me have, you know, and so we could get by. And of course my mom never worked 00:04:00outside of the home and even if she had wed probably, you know, at that point in time it would have been rather hard for her to do.

DRUMMOND: How did growing up on a farm and while your family was sharecropping, how did that affect your education in the early years? What was your education like?

HOUSE: I was able to attend school during this period of time until he passed away. I think I went to three different schools and when he passed away of course that was the end of my being able to go to school. We just didn't have the money to do it.

DRUMMOND: Did you have, I'm assuming this is a very rural community, mostly farming.

HOUSE: It was rural. Yes, it was rural.

DRUMMOND: So was it, you always hear the stories about the one little schoolhouse in the middle of the country that has, teaches all grades and --


HOUSE: Yeah, we had, when I started first, second and I guess third grade it was a two room schoolhouse. Still standing, by the way.

DRUMMOND: Oh, really?

HOUSE: Yeah, has two teachers, you know. And I think it went up to the sixth grade.

DRUMMOND: And you said at 16 you had to leave home and go to work?

HOUSE: Well, I didn't exactly leave home, I just, different ones around the community let me do different jobs. And a lot of it was just working in saw mills and stuff like that.

DRUMMOND: What year did you, let me back up a little. So what were the hopes and expectations for someone coming from your family, from your, or the I guess 00:06:00income level that your family was at, what were the expectations? Were you expected to continue school or to just get a job or to go into the military? What were the --

HOUSE: Actually trying to get a job so we could, you know, get by.

DRUMMOND: And what was your first opportunity to do that?

HOUSE: I guess my first opportunity really to make any money was working on construction at about 18 years old, helping build, as a laborer helping build a dam for Lake Ouachita over near Hot Springs, Arkansas. But that didn't last too long and then I came back and at 19, I was 19 when I went to work for International Paper Company and that's when I --


HOUSE: Yeah.


DRUMMOND: And what was that experience?

HOUSE: Well, I didn't, when I went I really was not expecting to be hired because, you know, job market was tight then too and I wasn't expecting to be hired but he hired, the personnel man hired me, hired me as a laborer. And some time during, I can't remember the exact date, during 1951, I hired in in January of 51 and some time during that year they took me out of the labor crew and put me into the paint crew. And I wasn't very well cut out for a painter so I asked to be transferred somewhere else when there was an opening and they let me. Let me move into the, at that time they called it a millwright but later on 00:08:00they changed the name to outside machinist and I worked in there as an apprentice. I guess I was an apprentice for, actually it must have been about four years.


HOUSE: But in the meantime in 1953 I was drafted into the military.


HOUSE: And came back and our union contract, matter of fact I think it may have even been a law back then when you come back from military you return your seniority and move back into the, where you were when you left.

DRUMMOND: Let me ask quickly, what city was International Paper Company in?

HOUSE: Where was it?


HOUSE: Camden, Arkansas.


HOUSE: 20 miles from where I grew up.

DRUMMOND: And so you were working as an outside machinist helper and at the time did the, the machinists were organized at --

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: Was it an open shop or a closed shop?


HOUSE: It's closed. I mean open shop.

DRUMMOND: It was an open shop?

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: The machinists were organized there and were the painters also organized in a different union --

HOUSE: Yeah, they were under a different organization.

DRUMMOND: OK, so a couple of different unions were there.

HOUSE: I never belonged to any of the others. I never belonged to any of the unions except the machinists and that was, well, you know when you hire in and you go into the labor crew and then they take you out and put you into something else, usually it's just for a short period of time until you get established in there and decide that's where you're going to stay. Then they invite you to join a union.

DRUMMOND: And you said you were a helper for about four years.

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: Well, were you, because I know that sometimes there are separate helpers unions or --

HOUSE: The apprentices, which were the helpers, the apprentices were all, and the journeymen were all in the same organization.


DRUMMOND: OK, OK. Did your dues book have the word helper on it though?

HOUSE: Beg pardon?

DRUMMOND: Your dues books, the little books with your (overlapping dialogue; inudible).

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: Did they designate like whether you were a helper or --

HOUSE: Yeah, they did. They sure did, yeah. And well, also the machinists at that time represented, well they did until the plant closed, they represented the outside machinists, the inside machinists and the apprentices and the welders and the welder apprentices too. And of course the welders and millwrights and outside machinists, they did all kind of work. They did a lot of the metal work, you know, stuff like that, building tanks and stuff like that. Stuff besides just working on machinery.

DRUMMOND: OK. And what were the big products that came out of International Paper?


HOUSE: It was mostly, in the plant that I came out of it was brown paper that they used to make butcher cloth, I mean butcher paper, bags, all kind of bag, grocery bags. But we never, there was another division of that company on the same property that made these bags. They made fertilizer bags, they made all kind of different types of bags, even made the ones that, you know, at the end the fertilizer bag would have the, just the top of it tucked in and it was sewn across the top but this, all you did is reach in and pull that tuck out and then pull whatever was in it out. And it was kind of a nice operation. It was interesting, very interesting operation and after I became into the millwright or outside machinist crew you get to know all about and work on all that 00:12:00machinery that starts from chipping the wood out on the wood yard to putting it in the boilers and the things that turn it into pulp, you know. And then they send it on through different processes, you know, to get it down to, you know, just a real watery deal to make it come out into paper. And of course they got these dryers that are filled with steam that just so hot you can't touch it but it's just different section of dryer, about three section of dryer to each machine and these dryers were like 48 inches across and that papers going in and out, in and out, in and out, till it gets all the way to the end, it's completely dry by then. Wraps it and they sit it in and have it cut to whatever the customer might want and it's still in rolls and they ship it out and that's 00:13:00when they make the bags and whatever it's used for.

DRUMMOND: And you said there were several divisions on the same property that handled different parts of the process.



HOUSE: Where they make the paper itself and then where it's sent over into, they called it the bag pack division. (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) bag pack division and then they converted it into whatever type bags they were using or wanted to run or whatever. And then they sold an awful. Well, they probably sold as much of it to the outside as they did, that they did to keep on site there because it was the other companies that was making these bags and things like that and I would imagine that it was probably split evenly, the paper that they used to process their bags and what they sold to the outside.


DRUMMOND: OK. About how many employees total do you think were there when you were there?

HOUSE: Well, in both sides it was about 1,200.

DRUMMOND: And how many, do you have any idea of what percentage was organized?

HOUSE: Well, all of them were organized.

DRUMMOND: All the workers were organized?

HOUSE: In one union or another. You know. I think it was five unions in there at the beginning. I believe that's what it was. It was us, the pipefitters and the electricians and the paper workers and one other --

DRUMMOND: Painters?

HOUSE: What?

DRUMMOND: Painters?

HOUSE: No, painters were in the, they were in the paper workers union. And they even represented the [oilers?] in that which we should have had but anyway they had it. (laughter)

DRUMMOND: That leads me to ask, was Camden, Arkansas a union friendly town?

HOUSE: It was at that point.

DRUMMOND: It was at that point?


HOUSE: Yeah, because that was the best paying jobs around. Now, early on they had an ordnance plant that came in and that was back in the early 40s and that thing was built to build all kind of military stuff, talking about mostly bombs and stuff like that. And some of the people, they even worked at International Paper, went to these plants and they paid about, they paid a little more than our company did but anyway they went and the problem was, you know, when the war was over that things just shut down. And the LBJ family bought most of that property out there and to this day [Highland?] Resources owns a lot of it and they've built back up to where there's a lot of [bun?] manufacturing and things 00:16:00like that out there. Lockheed even has a plant over there.

DRUMMOND: OK. And is it organized?


DRUMMOND: No. So this makes me wonder what it was like for you coming from an agricultural background growing up working on a farm to going to Camden and starting work with International Paper and going, you know, into an area that was very supportive of the unions, if only for a certain period of time. How did you feel about unions? What did you know about unions going into that job?

HOUSE: The only thing, my daddy, even though he was a farmer he listened to the radio a lot and back in those days it was battery operated radio and he always liked to listen to John L Lewis.

DRUMMOND: Oh really?

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: Interesting.

HOUSE: And he would listen to him and always was fond of John L Lewis, even 00:17:00though he never knew anything about a union at all but he knew what John L Lewis was about and what he fought for, and he liked that.

DRUMMOND: OK. And so that was sort of instilled in you, would you say?

HOUSE: I dont know. I didn't pay that much attention. I'm young, you know, at that point, I'm a pretty young man, ten, 11 years old.

DRUMMOND: OK. So in 1955 you were still a helper and you were drafted for the military.

HOUSE: 53.

DRUMMOND: 53, oh, I'm sorry.

HOUSE: Back in 55.

DRUMMOND: And which branch of the military?

HOUSE: Pardon?

DRUMMOND: Army, Navy?

HOUSE: Army. Dogface.

DRUMMOND: Dogface?

HOUSE: Yeah. (laughter)

DRUMMOND: What does that mean?

HOUSE: That means you're a ground trooper. You know, you just, actually I was in the armor division which was tanks, military stuff like that. I was a mechanic 00:18:00and I worked on the motor pool. I was a mechanic on the M47 tanks.

DRUMMOND: And where were you stationed?

HOUSE: Fort Hood, Texas.

DRUMMOND: Fort Hood, Texas.

HOUSE: And I was in, they sent me to Fort Wayne, Michigan to train to be a mechanic that later I became, you know.

DRUMMOND: OK, so you started at Fort Hood and then went up to Fort Wayne.

HOUSE: Yeah, they sent me over there. That was about a two month stay and the rest of my time was in Fort Hood and we were the next unit out when they declared a truce in Korea.

DRUMMOND: OK, OK. So you were never actually deployed anywhere. You stayed stateside the whole time?

HOUSE: That's right.

DRUMMOND: And you got more experience working on, working with machines, you got more experience.

HOUSE: Yeah.


DRUMMOND: And when you returned to work, well let me ask, was there anything outstanding about your time in the military that sort of helped you, prepared you to return to work or?


DRUMMOND: No? It was just --

HOUSE: It was just, it was, back in, see, this was 53, 55, back in those days it was just, and besides that it was during a messy war, you know, and it was just a lot of bad feelings, you know. So I didn't really, I dont think I really learned anything in there that would help me when I went back to International Paper.


HOUSE: Except to size wrenches and stuff like that.

DRUMMOND: Right. So you returned in 1955 and went back to International Paper. How long after you returned did you become active in the union? I mean --


HOUSE: Oh, I was active soon as I got back because they gave me military --

DRUMMOND: And you were no longer a helper once you returned?

HOUSE: Well, probably for six months maybe. But when I returned they, we had a, back, our local at that time they gave, when anybody had to leave, you know, f you had to leave to go in the military they gave you a military withdrawal card that could be redeposited when you got back and put you back in good standing.

DRUMMOND: OK. And after about six months you became a fully (overlapping dialogue; inaudible).

HOUSE: I think it was about six months, something like that, I became a journeyman.

DRUMMOND: And did you, a lot of folks get started as a steward, did you, was that how you got started being more active in the union?


HOUSE: No, actually I got started really as an officer in the local.

DRUMMOND: Oh, really? So you were elected before --

HOUSE: Yeah. And I was on the grievance committee but I wasn't a roving steward so to speak. Now, I did have some problems that people would come to me with but usually when I picked up a problem like that I took it to the chief steward or anything. But I set on the grievance committee too.

DRUMMOND: What were some of the issues that would come up in the plant? Did you all have women working there or was it mostly men?

HOUSE: Back then in our particular group it was all men. Now, when this, later on they had several women that came in, a lot into the electrical department too. Of course that was represented by the electricians, IBEW.

DRUMMOND: So what were some of the issues that people were having?

HOUSE: Well --


DRUMMOND: I guess and then the bigger question would be, was it pretty friendly between labor and management or were there --

HOUSE: Yeah, it was all labor and management. We didn't have any problems among ourselves. But a lot of times it would be making them live up the contract as far as overtime was concerned, about call-in pay was concerned, about the vacations and things like that. And seniority would enter into it quite a bit. Matter of fact, when I came back there was another fellow that was formerly in the paint crew, had moved over into our crew when I left and he was upset because I returned my seniority when I got back. But anyway that didn't, it wasn't a grievance or anything like that.

DRUMMOND: Were there ever any strikes there? Were there ever any issues so big that --


HOUSE: There was one strike that I was involved in and I can't even remember, to tell you the truth, what year that was. Seems to me like --

DRUMMOND: Was it after the military or before you left?

HOUSE: Oh, after that.

DRUMMOND: Was it over pay, was it over basic - basic things.

HOUSE: It was pay. Most of it was always over pay or health issues, you know, insurance issues.

DRUMMOND: Was it a long strike?

HOUSE: I think it was a 26 days, I believe.

DRUMMOND: That's not the longest strike ever but that's a good long strike.

HOUSE: No, that's (overlapping dialogue; inaudible).

DRUMMOND: Were you all prepared with a strike fund? Was the local prepared?

HOUSE: Not the local, no, the local wasn't. We had to depend on the international and of course that, back in those days I can't remember what it was but it wasn't much.

DRUMMOND: It wasn't much?


DRUMMOND: Were there, was it a pretty civil strike or were there (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) did they bring in scabs, did they --


HOUSE: No, they didn't even try to run the plant at all.

DRUMMOND: Oh, really? So everything just shut down?

HOUSE: Yeah, they just shut it down. And it wasn't any violence on the lines or anything like that.

DRUMMOND: OK, interesting.

HOUSE: So it was a civil thing.

DRUMMOND: Did you all have support from the electricians and the pipefitters and --

HOUSE: Oh, yeah, they was in it.

DRUMMOND: So everybody? Everybody.

HOUSE: Everybody was out.


HOUSE: Actually we had not, as our machinist group, had not even completed our negotiations when the big unions like the paper workers, when they decided to strike. So we went out in support of them.

DRUMMOND: And you said you were on the grievance committee but then you were elected. Do you remember what year you were elected? And for which position?

HOUSE: You know, I'm not sure.



HOUSE: I'm not sure what it was. I know I was elected, I was the secretary treasurer.

DRUMMOND: That's a big job.

HOUSE: Yeah, it was and then I became president in, seemed to me like 61, 62, something like that.

DRUMMOND: OK. And what were your experiences, did you enjoy being an officer and having a role in --

HOUSE: Yeah, I did, I enjoyed it. And you go in kind of green, you know, and then you kind of learn as you go. Its not one of those things that is, at that point in time there wasn't any school for it. Wasnt any schools at all for it. Then so, but being an officer a lot of times you got to go to the state 00:26:00councils which was the State Council of Machinist deal, and then you would go to the state AFL/CIO conferences and things of that nature. And back in those days we had a four states conference of machinists. We had Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana at one time and we moved it from one state to the other each year and it was, that was a good organization. That's really where I met Roe Spencer.


HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: Because he was out of --

HOUSE: Lake Charles.

DRUMMOND: Lake Charles, Louisiana. OK. When you were secretary treasurer and then when you were president, you said you were elected around 61 or 62, 00:27:00did you, how was meeting turnout? Did you have a lot of, were a lot of your members really participating in the union and coming to meetings?

HOUSE: Quite a few back in those days. A lot of it depended on what the issues were. You know, if there were some issues in the shop sometimes that would draw more than other times. And if things were going smooth you didn't have a lot of participation but when problems started developing in the shop people would come out, you know.

DRUMMOND: When you ran did you run on the ticket or did everybody sort of run individually or were there a couple of people who ran together?

HOUSE: Well, actually very few times, I dont recall, except maybe one time and I wasn't involved in it, I dont know of except one time that we had a contested race in the local.

DRUMMOND: Really? So --

HOUSE: Most of the time it was pretty well cut and dried, you know, what, 00:28:00because a lot of people, theyd participate but they didn't want to be an officer.

DRUMMOND: And at what point, was that part time work?

HOUSE: Oh yeah.

DRUMMOND: So you were still on the shop floor full time and then doing --

HOUSE: Well, yeah, it was all part time. We didn't have a full time, I mean we wasn't represented. We had a grand lodge representative that came in and helped us with negotiations and, you know, grievances when it got to his level.

DRUMMOND: At what point did you start moving up from your local? Did you go to a district or did you became a --

HOUSE: No, I went right out of the shop as a special representative for the machinists union.

DRUMMOND: And you were, where were you, not stationed but sort of where was your office at? Were you still in the same area as a special rep?

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: And were you working only with your local? Which would have been --


HOUSE: 1365.


HOUSE: No. I worked statewide back then and that was in 1966 and I worked statewide with going into different shops and handling grievances and stuff like that and meeting with folks and going to union meetings and things like that.

DRUMMOND: So you had been for about 15 years, with the exception of your military service, living in the same place, doing things --

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: And then you started traveling a lot.

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: And that's when you, and you were no longer in the shop at that point.

HOUSE: I worked 15 and a half years for International Paper. I left there in July of 1966 and went to work as a special rep.


DRUMMOND: And did that put, just the transition from being home every night and, you know --

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- to traveling more, I mean were you on the road a lot at that point?

HOUSE: I was gone most all week.


HOUSE: And a lot of times on the weekend because youd have a lot of meetings would be held on weekends, you know. And at that tim I was divorced. I didn't, you know, that didn't hinder anything.

DRUMMOND: What were some of the other machinists locals? What were they working, like you had been at a paper mill but what were some of the other industries the machinists represented in the state?

HOUSE: We had the Timex Corporation which made watches in Little Rock, you had a plant in Newport that made aluminum and then you had one up in Harrison 00:31:00(inaudible) it made parking meters. And all kind of stuff and it wasn't just confined to Arkansas. A lot of times I had a shop over in Mississippi I had to service, then I had another one, I had two, I guess two shops over there, one up near Memphis and one down in Greenville area. And then I had the paper companies in Natchez, Mississippi and Spring Hill, Louisiana as well because they were International Paper Company plants too.

DRUMMOND: OK. What were some of the issues? I mean were you helping out with strikes, were you helping out with negotiations?

HOUSE: Most time I was involved with grievances. You see, when we had negotiations all of our locals in all these plants were in the same negotiations. All the machinist group. We would negotiate sometimes alongside, 00:32:00not in the same meetings with the bigger, like the paper workers and like that. But most of the time we were the last ones to negotiate.

DRUMMOND: And did you enjoy that next step, did you enjoy --

HOUSE: Yeah, I did, I enjoyed, I guess to tell you the truth I dont know of anything I had rather done in my life.


HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: OK. How long did it take for you to become a grand lodge rep, to go from special rep to grand lodge rep?

HOUSE: I think it was six months.

DRUMMOND: Six months, wow, that's short.

HOUSE: Yeah, it wasn't all that long, you know. And they just, that was a period they either decided they wanted you or you wanted to go back or whatever. Matter of fact, when I left the company the company told me that if I decided, at that point we just had six months legally we could take and then if you didn't come back to the plant in six months you were out. That was the end of your, but they 00:33:00told, you know, when I left I could have a job when I come back if I wanted to.

DRUMMOND: And once you became grand lodge rep were you then sort of working out of a particular area or did you --

HOUSE: It didn't change.

DRUMMOND: It didn't change?

HOUSE: (inaudible) it didn't change at all. I did, the only thing, in 69, no, 67 and 69 we had a bad situation up in McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis and we had some Teamsters raids and things like that.


HOUSE: And I had to go up there and stay for about three months the first time. I think the second time, no, the first time it was probably about six months and the second time was I think about two months.


DRUMMOND: What's it like going into an area, if there were Teamsters raids I suspect there was a little bit of violence and just real nasty.

HOUSE: Yeah, it was. It was, you know, it was quite tense, really tense.

DRUMMOND: How do you prepare for that? Like what happened, what, you know, who (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) within the union who did you work with to sort of prepare to go in and deal with things like that?

HOUSE: I just reported to the people up there that was on the scene, you know. And they showed you and told you what you wanted to do, whether you were going to be handbilling, visiting people, holding meetings or whatever. You just kind of, you did basically the same thing you did back at home but you would do it dealing with different, lord, we're talking about 18, 20,000 people in the plants there.

DRUMMOND: And how did that, do you remember how that turned out?

HOUSE: Yeah, we, the machinists prevailed in both of those.


DRUMMOND: There were no strikes or anything happening, it's just the Teamsters were trying to come in and take over the shops?

HOUSE: Beg pardon?

DRUMMOND: The Teamsters were trying to come in and take over the shops?

HOUSE: Yeah, they were trying to take over. They were raiding us, trying to get the union. And the UAW was in that too.


HOUSE: Yeah. See, they were out of the AFL/CIO at that point and so was the Teamsters. But they was just, you know, trying to get our shop.

DRUMMOND: And you were a grand lodge rep from 66 to 89?

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: That's about, let me do that quick math.

HOUSE: You'll have to do it, I can't right now.

DRUMMOND: 22 years.

HOUSE: Something like that.

DRUMMOND: Does that sound right?

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: And at which point were you, well I guess in 89 you were asked to be general vice president.

HOUSE: Well, I came down and worked for Mr. Spencer as his administrative assistant about six or eight months in that period of time and then they put me 00:36:00on the ticket to run, you know, for the vice president spot.

DRUMMOND: And he was GVP at the time so he was getting ready to retire and you ran?



HOUSE: No, we had two, the international president was leaving, which was Mr. Winpisinger, and you remember George Kourpias, George was taking that spot, he had already been nominated. And I was nominated for, I can't even remember whose spot I was nominated for, but anyway I went to headquarters, you know, when I got elected I went to headquarters. I was up there for I guess two and a half years and then --


DRUMMOND: Were you like --

HOUSE: I was the resident vice president.

DRUMMOND: Resident vice president, OK.

HOUSE: In November of 91 when Mr. Spencer retired I came back to fill that spot down here.

DRUMMOND: And how did the work change going from grand lodge representative to resident GVP?

HOUSE: It was easier.

DRUMMOND: It was easier?

HOUSE: Yeah. We had, you know, you had people up there that, you know, the resident vice president would change from time to time but usually the people that were in those spots as the assistant or the secretaries and people like that, they just kind of carried the work for you and basically the vice 00:38:00president there has a lot of traveling to do. You know, you do a lot of PR work. And of course you have a lot of, you have tons and tons and tons of paper work that come through. But you dont necessarily have to sign all that. First thing you do is build you a stamp. (Laughter) And then you go from there.

DRUMMOND: Who were some of the people that you were, I mean I guess while you were special rep and grand lodge rep you were still in the field but once you got to headquarters, and it was still in DC at the time or had they already moved to --

HOUSE: Yeah. When I left they were getting ready to move into new headquarters.

DRUMMOND: Who were some of, you said Winpisinger was getting ready to retire about that time. Did you get to work with him at all?

HOUSE: Did I what?


DRUMMOND: Did you get to work with him or was he already retired by the time you --

HOUSE: Who, Mr. Spencer?

DRUMMOND: Mr. Winpisinger.

HOUSE: Oh yeah. No, I didn't get to work directly for him because before he retired I was the assistant down here.


HOUSE: And when he retired Mr. Kourpias took his spot. And of course Mr. Kourpias had been the resident vice president then and he brought me to headquarters to be his resident vice president.

DRUMMOND: During this time can you think of anyone who would have been especially important in terms of maybe being a mentor or somebody you could go to for support or if you had questions about the work or maybe there were a couple of people?

HOUSE: A bunch of people.


DRUMMOND: A bunch of people? Do you want to take a few minutes and we can talk about a few different folks?

HOUSE: My first, I guess for lack of a better word, hero was my grand lodge representative when I was in the shop and his name was CH Applewhite from Mobile and he handled all the paper company locals that we had. He handled all that. And he would come in from time to time and I would spend some time with him and he asked me at one time, said why dont you try to apply for a job with the organization and I said well, what do you do? And at that time they had chaged up the territories and our territory vice president was in Chicago at that time. 00:41:00And I just wrote a letter asking to be considered, you know, and what my limited experience and everything was and really just thought well, you know, this is probably not going to happen. But anyway they called me and I went to work. Applewhite was one of them and of course Gene [Glover?], the guy that hired me and then --

DRUMMOND: And he was?

HOUSE: He was the vice president in Chicago at that point. But we were in his 00:42:00territory. And then I would have to say Mr. Spencer and of course Kourpias and Winpisinger.

DRUMMOND: So Gene Glover hired you and at the time that was the Great Lakes territory, right?

HOUSE: Beg pardon.

DRUMMOND: Was that the Great Lakes, Chicago was the --

HOUSE: That was the Midwest.

DRUMMOND: That was the Midwest territory, OK.

HOUSE: At that time.

DRUMMOND: And um, how did you -- What was it like working with him?

HOUSE: Oh, great.

DRUMMOND: What kind of experience did he share with you?

HOUSE: It was great because he was, and his assistant, I'm trying to think of his name, he was one that you talked most all the time when you, you know, had a problem. I can't think of his name now. That's one of those things, you know? But anyway Gene was just, he was just a fine person to work for. Of course he was originally from Arkansas too.

DRUMMOND: Oh really?


HOUSE: Yeah. Neither one of us knew that until after I went to work for him.

DRUMMOND: And he was, did he ever work in the southern territory or only in the Midwest territory? But did he go to headquarters? Did he move up into headquarters?

HOUSE: Yeah.


HOUSE: From general vice president. He was a rep in district nine in St. Louis when he was picked for a general vice president spot.

DRUMMOND: And can you tell me about a little bit about working with Roe Spencer?

HOUSE: Oh, it was great.

DRUMMOND: When did you first meet him? Do you remember when you first met him?

HOUSE: Must have been in 60, 61, something like that. Met him at a four states conference.


HOUSE: And he, I believe, went on, I believe he went on the staff in March and I went on in June, July.


DRUMMOND: For grand lodge rep?

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: And president Kourpias? But you moved up even after general vice president, or you were general vice president, resident general vice president at the machinists headquarters until 91 so for two years you served in that capacity and then you became the general vice president for the southern territory here in Dallas.

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: And was Mr. Spencer GVP right before you came on?

HOUSE: Right, I took his place.

DRUMMOND: And once you got to that position what were some of, because that was 97 and that was about --

HOUSE: No, that was 91 when I came down.

DRUMMOND: 91 when you came. OK, I see.

HOUSE: To Dallas, yes.

DRUMMOND: So that was ten years after PATCO and two years after Eastern. Because 00:45:00I always like to think of PATCO as a real shift in the way the public thought about unions.

HOUSE: Absolutely.

DRUMMOND: And so what was it like sort of during that time sort of taking over the southern region, which has always been such a traditionally difficult area of the country to organize?

HOUSE: Well, it had its challenges, just like it does today. Really, really it's hard to organize down here and of course the Eastern thing was going on while I was in headquarters.

DRUMMOND: Did you help out or do anything with that?

HOUSE: Well, yeah, the council had to make a lot of decisions even to the point of declaring the strike off, you know. And then the company of course going belly up. But anyway we, as a council you had to, and we all, you know, the 00:46:00council never had any problem supporting what the airlines did because that was a difficult area of our organization at that point and a big, big membership, you know. But I really, after I came down here I didn't have that contact with them except, you know, when wed have our executive council meetings, things like that, and Id run into the general vice president, you know, of the airline industry. Back then it was Peterpaul. Did you interview him?

DRUMMOND: Is he still -- ?

HOUSE: Hes in Florida.

DRUMMOND: Hes in Florida, really?

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: We have not interviewed him.

HOUSE: Yeah, hes a piece of work. I'm telling you, hes funny.

DRUMMOND: That's great. That's good to know.

HOUSE: John Peterpaul.

DRUMMOND: He came up a lot in the interviews that we did at the harbor back in December. He came up a lot then.

HOUSE: Oh, did he?


DRUMMOND: Like he didn't come up physically but his name came up a lot.

HOUSE: Oh, OK, I got you.

DRUMMOND: Yeah. So that's good to know because we are trying to get as many, you know, executive officers as possible. Well, when you were, because I know that Frank Lorenzo, who was ultimately in charge of Eastern Airlines, had been also in charge of Texas Air and I dont know if he had any ties left in Texas once you would have gotten back to the southern territory.

HOUSE: Well, see, there again all the airlines were under a different vice president and all we did was if they had a strike or something wed, you know, support them or whatever.

DRUMMOND: So what was the big, both sort of in coming to the southern territory as the general vice president and it being 91 and it was just a few years after the, also after the 100th anniversary of the machinists which would have 00:48:00been 1988 --

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: And with that kind of going on right around the same time as Eastern happening, which a lot of that happened in Miami and Atlanta --

HOUSE: It did, yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- were the main places. Was anything going on in Atlanta? Do you remember when you all were there for the centennial?

HOUSE: No, it really wasn't except, you know, they had the pickets going out around the headquarters and things like that and around their facility out at Hartsville.

DRUMMOND: OK, but not a lot of activity at the conference about that?


DRUMMOND: The convention rather. And so you get back to Dallas in 91. What were some of the biggest, can you remember some of the biggest challenges you were facing or was the union as a whole sort of shifting its focus or trying to find new ways to recruit membership or retain membership or?


HOUSE: See, we always, the number one thing that, would always be trying to organize but the biggest challenge that I had when I came back is that wed changed the territories up some and we picked up North and South Carolina.

DRUMMOND: Virginia?

HOUSE: Virginia, we picked up Virginia, we picked up Kansas and that was a real headache up there because Wichita had been just in turmoil for ages.

DRUMMOND: Because of?

HOUSE: Well, it's because of conflicts within the organization up there. Nobody could get along. That was a big district.

DRUMMOND: So it was more internal than it was --

HOUSE: Oh yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- issues with local, like businesses or --

HOUSE: Boeing was the big deal up there but we could always get that worked out. 00:50:00Those strikes, we had a couple of strikes while I was down there but anyway when they gave us Kansas it was our job then to go up and try the best we could to see if it could be some stability achieved in that district. And the first thing we had to do is to take it under supervision and get rid of all the officers that was in there except I believe one. Got rid of all the business agents and put new folks in there and of course that was hard to do.

DRUMMOND: Well, getting people in but also training them and getting them up to speed on --

HOUSE: Pardon?

DRUMMOND: Not only getting people in but then having to train them or get them up to speed on --

HOUSE: Well, a lot of them, actually one of the, the guy that came in and really 00:51:00did the best job of all of them had been in there once before and the former vice president had taken him out because of his drinking problem. Well, during this period that he was out he went cold turkey, went on the wagon and became really, really a good rep. Because he knew what to do. Wegot a lot of our information from him even though he was back in the shop when we were trying to feel our way along to see what we was going to have to do to straighten the thing out. And there was all kind of stuff going on up there that these guys, the business agents, would accumulate vacation time and stuff like that, wouldn't take it but theyd want the money and theyd pay them the money for it. We had to get rid of all that kind of stuff. And it was just turmoil all the 00:52:00time. But anyway, and to this day it's a good run district.

DRUMMOND: Really? And is the Boeing plant still operational there?

HOUSE: Boeing and Hawker and what's those other air, the plane manufacturers? Lear. Lear jets are up there. Lear and, good gosh. Hawker, I can't remember what Hawker used to be. Oh, it was, I had it on the end of my tongue and I lost it. Cessna? And about five plants up there but Boeing was the big dog.

DRUMMOND: And were machinists organized in all those plants?

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: OK. So what was your membership like in that area?


HOUSE: Well, in the total thing I think was about 25 or 30,000 people.

DRUMMOND: Wow, that's a lot of members for such a small area.

HOUSE: And I never understood but they, I guess I did understand it too because, you know, it's real flat and it's where they can test all kind of planes and everything and of course McConnell Air Force Base is there too. So but it was, and they had a lot of other little stuff around there, small plants organized too. But that was the biggest challenge we faced when we came back down here.

DRUMMOND: How long would you say it took to get all that straightened out?

HOUSE: A year.

DRUMMOND: OK. And anything else significant that happened either with the union or with the southern territory during that time?

HOUSE: Well, we had to combine a lot of districts and locals and stuff like that.


DRUMMOND: So there was a lot of merging of locals one into the other?

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: OK. And was that just because you couldn't keep membership up or it was --

HOUSE: A lot of it was because we didn't have quality of leadership and some were too small to have a full time rep and we had to merge them in. Matter of fact, 776 over here in Fort Worth, we put the district in Dallas over there and, I'm trying to think. We used to have a district up in Oklahoma and we put that in there too and Wichita Falls and all that. But we had to merge a lot of the stuff together.

DRUMMOND: What happens when you have to close a local and merge it into another? What is that process like?


HOUSE: Most of the time it goes pretty smooth because something happens that caused it to take place and usually it goes pretty smooth because that's, and sometimes because you can't get leadership in there to do what needs to be done and most times that's pretty, it's a pretty easy transition.

DRUMMOND: Because people are ready to have somebody --

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- lead them and --

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: OK. Anything else about your time as general vice president of the southern territory? Anything significant or anything you --

HOUSE: You know, of course there was a lot of different episodes around but one of the things I remember real well was having to go into, in Virginia to the tobacco people. And at that time Clinton was in office --


DRUMMOND: Was that near Richmond? Was that around Richmond?

HOUSE: Yeah, I think it was Richmond. I'm pretty sure it was Richmond, yeah. But anyway, and you know he wanted to put tariffs on the cigarette people and did and of course you know, those folks over there all knew we supported Clinton (inaudible) boy, I tell you what, they tried to eat our lunch when we would go in there and talk to them about trying to handle the problems and all that kind of stuff. And at that time we had a rep over there that was in the back pocket of some of those tobacco companies and --


HOUSE: -- it was hard to get that straightened out too.

DRUMMOND: I imagine when there's, I dont, maybe corruptions too big a word but when something like that's going on is it pretty easy to figure out that it's happening?

HOUSE: Yeah. Well, if you dont we've got people thatll tell you. You know, 00:57:00you've always got people that dont like what's going on, they'll mention it.

DRUMMOND: And so if the rep was in their back pocket then he wasn't --

HOUSE: He wasn't taking care of the people.

DRUMMOND: He wasn't taking care of the membership. And then of course definitely you would have the membership (overlapping dialogue; inaudible).

HOUSE: And they were big jobs, you know, and people, big money paying jobs and people, you know, they would put up with a lot if it didn't affect their money. But then when they did (inaudible) it was bad, you know. They didn't like it. And of course you know, you had to do things to take care of it. But anyway it was, to tell you the truth it wasn't, we didn't have real big problems down there. And most of the problems, like I said, were because of the territories 00:58:00had been revamped, you know. Because if I would have come back down here with the territories just like it was to begin with when Mr. Spencer was here wouldn't have been any problems at all. Would have just been business as usual but when you put all these other, and a lot of them, they didn't want to be in the southern territory. Like Kansas, they didn't want to be in the southern territory, they wanted to be in the Midwest where theyd been all those years.

DRUMMOND: Did they want to not be part of the southern territory because they preferred, what was the reason behind that? Did they not like --

HOUSE: In Kansas they thought because of most of the states down here were wide open shop states that they didn't, they thought that they were a little bit better I guess, for lack of a better word. That's what they kind of thought.


DRUMMOND: But once you got in there and got everything worked out --

HOUSE: Oh yeah, it was good.

DRUMMOND: You got a better response after --

HOUSE: And right now, as I know it, unless something changed since, well, in the last few years, everything worked out just fine for them.


HOUSE: And they liked it, you know.

DRUMMOND: Did they still have, you said there were maybe 25, 30,000 members one time. Do they still have those numbers now?

HOUSE: They dont. I dont even have an idea how many they might have now. I know it's way down.

DRUMMOND: And so you retired in 97. And have you remained active with retirees?

HOUSE: No, I haven't because in my area there's not a lot of retirees.


HOUSE: If they had established a retiree club it would have had to been in the 01:00:00Little Rock area where we had the big group out at Timex and things like that. But like the town I live in, we dont have a lot of retirees. Of course it's a small town, I mean 13,000 people, and we dont have a lot of retirees in it. Of course they closed the plant that I came out of. Its been gone for about seven years, seven, eight years now. And the people that would have been getting close to retirement were offered jobs other places and a lot of them left and moved, you know. So there's just not a lot of opportunities around there for retirees.

DRUMMOND: Looking back over your career what are for you personally the most important things you were able to accomplish?

HOUSE: Well, you know, that's hard to judge. You feel like every day that maybe 01:01:00you've helped somebody, helped somebody have a better way of life, get their job back or, you know, something that made them feel better. And it's just you really dont, I can't, I dont know. Every day was pretty rewarding.


HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: You never had a day where you were like I can't do this any more?

HOUSE: Yeah, you have a few of those but most of the time.

DRUMMOND: Most of the time.

HOUSE: Most of the time, like I told you earlier, I couldn't have been ever have picked another job that I would have enjoyed more than I did that. But I'm glad that we have to, pretty well have to retire at 65 because, you know, even with things going good youre on the road all the time. You know, you're gone 01:02:00somewhere constantly and you get pretty well burned out. I dont think that anybody that is at full capacity after 65.

DRUMMOND: Really? If they've moved on up and they've traveled a lot and --

HOUSE: Yeah.


HOUSE: Just kind of burns you down. Even though you enjoy it, it still --

DRUMMOND: It takes a toll. And I suspect that part of toll, even in the best of situations, it affects your family life.

HOUSE: Well, it does, yeah. And of course, like I told you earlier, I was divorced and that was in I guess 61, something like that and I never remarried till 94.

DRUMMOND: Oh, really? OK.

HOUSE: And you know, the other thing too, and we didn't touch on this much but 01:03:00our organization has always been for the most part pretty active politically.

DRUMMOND: Right, very much so.

HOUSE: And I enjoyed that part of it too.

DRUMMOND: Were you ever part of the --



HOUSE: Yeah. Of course being at headquarters you're pretty well involved with a lot of MMPL stuff. And even, you know, most of the guys just like Mr. Spencer, he was on what you call a police jury in Louisiana which is I guess equivalent to (inaudible) court, you know, in (inaudible). I dont know what they do in Georgia but in Louisiana they call it a police jury for some crazy reason.

DRUMMOND: Police jury?


HOUSE: Police jury, JUR. And up here it's (inaudible). Things of that nature. So he was involved in that. And when I was a rep of course we couldn't talk about it much but had to do a lot of political stuff.

DRUMMOND: What was the hardest political, which political campaign did the machinists fight hardest for when you were --

HOUSE: We fought the hardest for Bill Clinton.

DRUMMOND: The first time or the second time?

HOUSE: First time.

DRUMMOND: First time?

HOUSE: And of course it was all in place, you know, the second time.

DRUMMOND: Yeah, he didn't have much competition.

HOUSE: Yeah, he was my governor, see.


HOUSE: Matter of fact, saw him three weeks ago.

DRUMMOND: Oh really?

HOUSE: Yeah, he was in the [Eldorado?], a town about 30 miles south (inaudible).

DRUMMOND: Was it a speaking engagement?

HOUSE: Yeah, he spoke to the seniors down there. We have a granddaughter that's graduated from down there and he was down with that.


DRUMMOND: OK. Do you have, I know that before PATCO some of the unions were bipartisan and they would go with whoever promised them the most support and it seems since PATCO labor unions in America have been exclusively Democratic.

HOUSE: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: Do you have any memories of the machinists, have they always leaned more toward Democrats or?

HOUSE: We've supported a few, like Jake Javits when he was --


HOUSE: Jacob Javits when he was senator for New York, they always supported. He was Republican and they always supported him.

DRUMMOND: And did he have presidential intent or any efforts towards the president or --


DRUMMOND: -- becoming president or was he Congress or?


HOUSE: He was a senator, a US senator. But they supported, you know, they supported him. Depended on the record, you know, how they treat the workers.

DRUMMOND: Is there anything else about your career or your work or the people you've worked with that we haven't covered that you have -- ?

HOUSE: I dont really believe so, tell you the truth.

DRUMMOND: OK. And you said the most rewarding part of this job was helping people?

HOUSE: That's been the most rewarding part of it is thinking that maybe you've accomplished something in helping folk. And you know, that's really what a union is all about.

DRUMMOND: Right. That's the answer I get every time I ask that question. That's consistently across the board.

HOUSE: Yeah, it is. It's what it's about.


DRUMMOND: OK, anything youd like to add before we -- ?

HOUSE: I can't think of anything.

DRUMMOND: You can't think of anything?



HOUSE: I'll sign your deal, I guess.

DRUMMOND: Well, I appreciate that.

HOUSE: (laughter)

DRUMMOND: Well, let me thank you on the record before we end the interview. I do appreciate the time you took to come down to Dallas or Arlington.

HOUSE: I appreciate the opportunity to get to set with you and talk about it because it is, it's been my life and it's been a great life, it really has.

DRUMMOND: It sounds like it.

HOUSE: It really has. I've enjoyed every bit of it. And if I had it to do over that's exactly what Id want to do.

DRUMMOND: Really? No changes?

HOUSE: I dont know of any, no. Dont know of any.

DRUMMOND: OK, fantastic. Well, on behalf of the Southern Labor Archives and the Archives of the IAM and Georgia State University Library, thank you for joining me today and --

HOUSE: It's been my pleasure, it really has.

DRUMMOND: Mine too, very much so.