Bud Melvin Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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RACHEL BERNSTEIN: So we’re back. Bud, if you don’t mind, can we start at the beginning?

BUD MELVIN: Sure.

BERNSTEIN: Tell me where you were born.

MELVIN: Southgate, California, September 20, 1930.

BERNSTEIN: Which is?

MELVIN: Southgate is part of Los Angeles.

BERNSTEIN: And what did your -- what were your parents doing there?

MELVIN: My father was a machinist with the Santa Fe Railroad, and my mother had owned fur stores.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

MELVIN: Mm-hmm.

BERNSTEIN: Huh. And you grew up in Southgate?

MELVIN: Uh, yes, in -- in that general area. I -- uh, I went to grammar school in Southgate, and then, uh, my mother opened a new store in, uh, Walnut Park, and so I went to, uh, junior high in Huntington Park, next community. And, uh, 1:00my mother, uh, started having health problems, so they closed up the fur shop. She didn’t do that anymore. And we returned to Southgate, where I went to high school, and graduated there.

BERNSTEIN: And did you learn about their, uh, professions as -- as you were growing up?

MELVIN: Well, of course, uh, all the fur shops, we lived on the property. Uh, the one in, uh, Walnut Park was a huge, old mansion, and, uh, so the lower floors was the fur shop. And -- and, uh, there was a great room and a -- uh, a kitchen area and so forth on the first floor, and then the second floor was the, 2:00uh, sleeping areas. And, uh, so, uh, I knew about the fur business, of course, because it was there all the time, and then I knew my father worked for the -- the -- the railroad. Uh, a story -- a side story on that: um, back in the ’30s, 1930s, people didn’t ordinarily own cars. The average workman in the United States walked to work, or took a streetcar.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

MELVIN: That’s how we got around. And so consequently, the people lived closer to work in those days, in most cases. Uh, so anyhow, uh, we had a car, and -- but on days that my mother needed the car, or was using the car, we would go 3:00pick up my father. So we would drive on the railroad property, and there was -- there was a huge building there that was a machine shop, and a blacksmith shop, and the welding shop. And my father had been hired in 1923 because he was a -- he could weld, electric weld, which was extremely new then. He had learned electric weld at the Rock Island Arsenal in World War I, so that’s why they wanted him there. And so he was a welder. My mother would pull in the parking lot and say, “Go in and tell your daddy we’re here.” So I’d go in and I’d tell my dad, “We’re here,” you know. So I started -- and then when I first went to work for the railroad, that’s where I worked, the Santa Fe --

4:00

BERNSTEIN: The same shop that he was --

MELVIN: Well, the round house area, yeah. By then, my dad was foreman, and, uh, so -- but he was working -- he was working, uh, a split shift. He was relieving the other foremans. Uh, and, uh, as a consequence of that, I went to work as an apprentice. Uh, well, back step on that story. I had completed two years of college at, uh, Compton Junior College, and there was no work. This was 1956 or -7, and we were in a little slump like we are now, and there was no work. And I found work in a cabinet shop, and then one night at the dinner table, my dad said, “Would you like to go to work as an apprentice? Uh, we have an opening down at the shop.” In those days -- this is an interesting point -- in those 5:00days, in the union rulebook, it said that relatives of employees would be given first opportunity at any vacancy. And of course that way, they got people that they knew a little bit about, background and so forth, so I said yeah. And I think it paid 50 cents an hour when I first went to work, and so I took an apprenticeship and -- uh, at the Santa Fe roundhouse in Los Angeles, working on steam engines.

BERNSTEIN: And so did you have any skills to get that job, or you mostly got it --

MELVIN: I was very mechanical from the get-go.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah?

MELVIN: Yeah, and I -- you know, I had got A’s in all the shop classes I ever 6:00took, and I built things that nobody else built. I built a kayak in junior high.

BERNSTEIN: Wow!

MELVIN: And uh --

BERNSTEIN: Out of what?

MELVIN: It was, uh, a wood frame.

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

MELVIN: And it was covered -- uh, covered with canvas.

BERNSTEIN: We’re -- uh, we’re big kayakers, so --

MELVIN: Oh -- oh, are you?

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, yeah, I love to kayak.

MELVIN: Oh, my God. Well this was -- I’m trying to think. I think it was a two-placer. I don’t remember. But I built, uh, this kayak. What in the hell for, I don’t know. I just wanted to. Uh, so anyhow, uh, I built a surfboard in -- uh, in junior high. I built, um, a toboggan. We heated the stuff, and bent it and all that stuff. So I -- and I forget what I did in metal shop, but I had good grades all -- all along, but I was always mechanical. So -- uh, and I took 7:00to it. I went, you know, uh, there on the steam engines and everything, and I just thought it was fine. And, uh, so that’s -- then I went to uh --

BERNSTEIN: So you went to two years of junior college?

MELVIN: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: And then you got the apprenticeship.

MELVIN: Yes, and then --

BERNSTEIN: And so that means that you had -- tell me what you had heard about the union and the railroad before you got there.

MELVIN: Nothing.

BERNSTEIN: Nothing from your dad?

MELVIN: Nothing. And I’ll tell you about that, too.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

MELVIN: OK, so I got -- I -- I went to work at, uh, the shop in, uh, Los Angeles in 1950. I think it was August in 1950, and I’m living at home. So the first paycheck I got, my father said, “I want you to go over to see Pete Smith. Give 8:00him five dollars and join the union.” And I said, “Why?” And he says, “Because it’s a good thing to do, and it keeps people off your back.” OK? So dutifully -- I was a young kid, you know, I was 20, actually, then. I went over and looked up Pete Smith and I said, “I want to join the union,” and he said, “OK, its five dollars,” da, da, da, da, da, da, and so I became a union member. It wasn’t till many years later that I got to doing the math. The strike on the railroad started in 1922. The railroad industry busted the 9:00shop craft unions, and the railroad immediately started hiring strikebreakers. And my dad came to Los Angeles from Iowa, where he worked for the -- M&StL (Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway) was the railroad, and he came to Los Angeles in 1923. And to this day, I’m not too sure. He may have been a strikebreaker.

BERNSTEIN: He never told you that.

MELVIN: Never spoke of the union or anything, never. In -- in his whole life, he never spoke to me. And, uh, I became a union rep in the shops. He never said anything. I became a union, uh, representative, uh, general chairman on the whole system, never discussed union at all.

10:00

BERNSTEIN: But he told you to join when you started.

MELVIN: He was the one that told me to join.

BERNSTEIN: That’s so interesting.

MELVIN: Uh, they -- they keep them off of your back.

BERNSTEIN: That’s interesting.

MELVIN: [to dog] Now, get away.

BERNSTEIN: Go sit down.

MELVIN: Get away. Go on. Hurry up. So I suspect --

BERNSTEIN: It makes sense.

MELVIN: And, uh, my mother died first, so I couldn’t ask her. My sister’s still alive. I could ask her. She might remember. I don’t know, but my sister’s 90, and so her memory’s not good either. But anyhow, he may have been a strikebreaker, but, uh, he never discussed unions with me, ever, on any level, never said a thing. So I don’t know.

BERNSTEIN: He was happy you were in the shop? I mean --

11:00

MELVIN: Well, I -- I -- I missed part of the story, too. Uh, my dad was relieving the other shift’s foremans. He had been a foreman oh, since about the beginning of World War II. And he was what we called a steam head. He was -- he worked on steam locomotives.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

MELVIN: Uh, then diesel came in, and almost all the steam foremen were set back to mechanics.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

MELVIN: Yeah, but my dad, they kept on, and, uh, as a foreman, and so he was relieving the other shifts, so it meant that ten days a month, I worked under him, or my journeymen did, and I worked for my journeymen.

12:00

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And I guess they were worried about favoritism or something, but of course, he saw to it that I got the toughest of the assignments, you know, as not being favored. But in the union book, you -- the -- the new union -- there was a company union before, and we can go into that if you like. Anyhow, the -- in the union book, you couldn’t work for a relative.

BERNSTEIN: So you get points toward being -- uh, increasing your chances to get the job, but you couldn’t actually work for the, uh, relative.

MELVIN: For your relative.

BERNSTEIN: Both of those things make sense.

MELVIN: OK. So they come to me and said you can’t be a machinist. And, uh, at 13:00the dinner table that night, my dad said, “OK, here’s the story. There’s a thing in the book, and you can’t be da, da, da, and uh --

BERNSTEIN: How long had you been there?

MELVIN: Just a couple of months. It hadn’t been long.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

MELVIN: Somebody complained.

BERNSTEIN: Right, right.

MELVIN: So, uh, somebody just wanting to make trouble. It had no effect on anything, you know. He said, “We can change your apprenticeship over to electrician, or you can go to San Bernardino as a machinist.” Well, I’d been living at home for 20 years, and I was going with Virginia.

BERNSTEIN: You had already met Virginia?

MELVIN: Huh?

BERNSTEIN: You had already met?

MELVIN: Oh, yes. We’d been going together three years. We -- we started going together at 17.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, my goodness. That’s impressive.

14:00

MELVIN: And married at 20. We’ve been married 61 years. So anyway, uh, I kind of liked the idea of moving away from home, so I went over that night and proposed to Virginia. And at first she said no, and I said OK. And she said, “Well, you can come back, you know, on the weekends and everything,” and I said, “No, I’m not going to do that. I’ll just move out there.” And I’d had a girlfriend out in San Bernardino that she was aware of, and so she changed her mind and decided maybe she wanted to get married after all. Her excuse was she had to get her teeth fixed.

BERNSTEIN: Before she got married?

MELVIN: Yeah, pretty lame. Anyway, so we were married, uh, in December, December 8, 1950, and, uh, I was already working in San Bernardino by them. I’d been 15:00there two weeks. And, uh, so then about four months later, I got drafted into the service, and I did my two years in the military, uh, was a military policeman at an atomic test series out in Nevada where they dropped the bomb, and we walked through ground zero an hour later.

BERNSTEIN: Did you have any sense at the time about the --

MELVIN: Nobody did, including the scientists. They walked with us. And then -- uh, then I was -- uh, went to Korea for a year in -- with an artillery unit, and come back unscratched. This was during the Hot War. We lost -- 58,000 killed in three years. And, uh, so anyhow, I come back from that, uh, continued my apprenticeship.

16:00

BERNSTEIN: So Virginia stayed in San Bernardino while you were --

MELVIN: No, she went back to, uh, Linwood area, where she was from. That’s right next to Southgate. And, uh, she stayed with her parents part of the time, and my parents part of the time for the time I was in the service. So then, uh, my parents had owned, uh, vacation property in a community called south, uh, Crestline, and Crestline is adjacent to Lake Arrowhead.

BERNSTEIN: I love Lake Arrowhead.

MELVIN: Yeah. OK, so they’d had property up there, and I wrote Virginia and I said see if you can find some place to buy in Crestline. And she and both parents went up there, and they found a place and, uh, put a down on it. And she 17:00was working at a savings and loan then. The real estate agent owned the property, and evidently, he got a better offer, and he never put it -- put it in, and he had some money, some of their money. So she went to her loan officer at the savings & loan and said, “I don’t know what’s going on,” and he said, “Let me see.” So he made a call to this guy’s bank, and the bank said he’s behind I don’t know how much money to the bank. We accept the offer on your terms, and they did. (laughs) And I think we had a payment like $50 a month, or some damn thing.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, that’s great!

18:00

MELVIN: So anyhow, we -- I come back from the service, went back to work, and after a while, Virginia didn’t like, uh, Crestline and uh...

BERNSTEIN: So you -- that was where your parents had a vacation home, but you all lived there while you worked?

MELVIN: Yeah, yeah, in Santa Fe.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

MELVIN: I drove up and down the hill. It was 15 miles. The people at the shop thought I was crazy.

BERNSTEIN: To go that far.

MELVIN: And I said it’s quicker than when I lived in Los Angeles and drove 15 miles to work, so it’s nothing to me.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, right.

MELVIN: Anyway, we moved down the hill and da, da, da, da, da. So then in -- uh, I became, uh, assistant local chairman.

BERNSTEIN: But wait, I -- I want to backtrack a little bit.

MELVIN: Sure.

BERNSTEIN: You get the job. You’re only there a few months. You go off to the service.

MELVIN: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: You come back. You get a similar job still waiting for you?

MELVIN: My job is waiting for me.

19:00

BERNSTEIN: Your job, exact job is waiting for you.

MELVIN: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: And your interaction with the union after you gave the guy the five dollars, what happened after that?

MELVIN: Nothing.

BERNSTEIN: Zip.

MELVIN: Nothing. I paid my dues every month.

BERNSTEIN: And was there something going on that you just didn’t participate in, or are you just not much presence?

MELVIN: I just didn’t -- I just didn’t know anything about it, and didn’t care.

BERNSTEIN: And nobody asked you. Nobody said come…

MELVIN: Oh, they said oh, you’ve got to come to the meetings, but I didn’t go.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

MELVIN: You know.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: So, uh, I get to San Bernardino, and, uh, some of the committee come to me and said we think you’d be a good local chairman, uh, but, uh, there’s assistant local chairman opening. We’d like you to run for it, so...

BERNSTEIN: And they asked you that without having ever been to a meeting.

20:00

MELVIN: Right. So I said OK, and so I ran for it. I got it, never been to a meeting. So anyway, uh, then they had a big meeting. The -- the guys were all riled up about, uh, negotiations. And you know I don’t know if you have it any of your stuff, but the negotiations on the railroad is quite a to-do. And in 1926, they passed a railroad -- Railway Labor Act, and, uh, wherein, you basically can’t strike. And, uh, so the guys were all riled up about that, and I told two of the big talkers, you know, look it, you get the guys all together. We’ll get somebody. We’ll get the vice-president of the union out from 21:00Chicago. So I’ll be damned if these (laughs) two guys didn’t rile up the troops, and, uh, we wrote -- or talked, uh, demanded, actually, which was stupid. We demanded that the Vice-President of Transportation come out and explain to us what the hell was wrong. And so that night, there was, I don’t know, 100-plus at the meeting. It was pretty well attended. And they sent out the Grand Lodge Representative fr om the railroad. I can’t think of his name now. Anyhow, he came out, and everybody got up and said stupid things, you know. 22:00And, uh, I had -- uh -- at -- when I was living in Crestline, I had, uh, been encouraged to join the Toastmasters group up there. And there was no television in those days up in the mountains, so there wasn’t a lot to do. So I joined, and I got to where I could speak comfortably. You know your knees weren’t knocking, and you’re shaking and so forth, and I could speak comfortably, so I got up and made a pitch. Uh, and all these other guys were saying terrible things, and I said you know we -- we’re trying to understand what’s going on here, uh, and so this guy explained the Railway Labor Act, and how we’re restricted and da, da, da, da, da. So anyhow, later on, the financial secretary come to me and he said, uh, so-and-so asked who you were and said we need more 23:00like him.

BERNSTEIN: OK, we’re back, uh, (laughs) sorry about that.

MELVIN: Why don’t you just put a fresh tape in there and forget it?

BERNSTEIN: Sorry about that technical difficulty.

MELVIN: OK, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Um, there’s no tape. It’s -- uh, you know it’s all digital.

MELVIN: Oh, my.

BERNSTEIN: So it’s -- you’ve got to get -- be sure the memory is doing the right thing.

MELVIN: Oh, dear.

BERNSTEIN: That’s why I’m using my glasses and my headphones. (laughs)

MELVIN: How long -- how long does that record?

BERNSTEIN: It should record about four hours.

MELVIN: Really?

BERNSTEIN: And I thought it was empty, but apparently, what was supposed to have been taken off wasn’t. But -- but now we’re back on, so we can go back.

MELVIN: OK, we’re back on, and we’re talking about my first election.

BERNSTEIN: Yes.

24:00

MELVIN: So they asked me -- uh, my local committee said you should run. And, uh, again, I didn’t know anything about anybody. I hadn’t been to any of the conventions or anything. So I said OK, I’ll run. So then I put out the word that I’m running, and you notify all the locals that you’re a candidate, and ask for their support. You needed three locals to nominate you to be put on the ballot. And, uh, so I didn’t know anybody. I keep emphasizing that. So I -- I went to -- of course, my home local nominated me. I went to Barstow, and I got them to nominate me. Then I went to Los Angeles, which is a little, bitty local, and it has -- it’s very late in the month, so the information comes in later 25:00-- and I got their nomination. I had the three. Uh, and I was playing possum, basically, is what I was doing. And, uh, in the meantime, the man that was supposed to retire come out. He wasn’t going to retire. He’s running. And this was all a political intrigue thing that I’ll tell you about. So -- well, I’ll tell you now. The -- uh, the assistant general chairman is going to retire. Bill Erwin was the, uh, directing general chairman, and he had a very good buddy named Dub Dohoney who had supported Bill, and been with him, and so 26:00forth and so on in Cleburne, Texas. I found out many years later that they figured to have the, uh, incumbent run again. And in those days, you only had a one-year term. So he would run again, and then at the appropriate time, he would resign, and Bill Erwin would appoint Dub Dohoney to the job, and here I come, ruining everything.

BERNSTEIN: Ruining the scheme.

MELVIN: So the directing general chairman, he put out fliers and stuff opposing me, and derogatory remarks about the son of a foreman, et cetera, et cetera, you 27:00know. Well, I was working at this liquor store, second job, and I had this figured out from the get-go. And what I did, I took every machinist in San Bernardino, and I contacted him personally and asked for his vote, every one.

BERNSTEIN: Wow! How many people was that, more or less?

MELVIN: I think it was 500-and-some.

BERNSTEIN: Wow!

MELVIN: Every one of them, and I talked to and asked for their vote.

BERNSTEIN: How’d you get their phone numbers?

MELVIN: Well, I’m -- I’m with the union.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

MELVIN: But I -- I talked to them in the shop, everyone I could talk to personally, talked to in the shop.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: So then OK, you got the promise of everybody, right? But how many are going to make good on it come Election Day? So what I did, I carpooled everybody, and I would put five guys in the carpool; one driver and four riders. 28:00That meant that the driver had to be there, because he admit -- he agreed to all these people to the vote. And the voters had to be there, because the driver was waiting for them. And everybody showed up.

BERNSTEIN: That’s amazing, good strategy.

MELVIN: Everybody -- everybody showed up, including the incumbent. He showed up to watch the election. And these guys were lined up out in the street, and they all had this little slip of paper with who your driver is, and the other ones, your -- the people. I -- I made all this out while I was sitting in the liquor store, a little tab, said, uh, your riders are.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And so he would know who he -- so forth. And then the day of the election, I went through and talked to everybody I could again to remind them. 29:00The vote came in. And I had studied the prior elections, how -- what’s the average vote, uh, system-wide, how many votes and so forth. And I got more votes in my local than was average election all the other locals. And there’s three guys that voted against me, and I’m still looking for them.

BERNSTEIN: Oh.

MELVIN: I don’t know who in the hell they were. I got all but three votes, OK.

BERNSTEIN: That’s not a bad record. That’s a good strategy. Turnout is everything, huh?

MELVIN: Then the -- then I went up to Barstow for their meeting, and here’s the incumbent again. And you’re not allowed to campaign within 100 feet or something, you know, but he was there. Well anyway, uh, I got 95% of the Barstow 30:00vote. So I had more votes in my home local than normal. Now, I had another 40% more votes than that. Cleburne came in. I got half of their votes. I got half of the votes from Argentine, where the incumbent was from. I got 50% of the votes in almost all the locals that I’d never been to, never heard of, or nothing. They’re just voting against whatever. So it turned out -- uh, when the election count was in, it turned out that I’d beat the incumbent five to one. And I was too young and too dumb to realize it at the time, but that was some accomplishment, and it went through the damn union big time.

BERNSTEIN: People noticed.

31:00

MELVIN: Yeah, five to one out of nowhere! Nobody knew me.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: So anyhow, that was my first election. Well then Bill Erwin, of course, he’s a politician. He’s going to get -- try to get along and so forth. So now, I got the next elections coming, and here’s the guy that supported the loser, so forth and so on, and the first thing he said to me, “What is the first duty of a general chairman?” I said, “Represent the membership.” He said, “No, it’s to get reelected. That’s your first duty.” So comes the --

BERNSTEIN: Such a common approach.

MELVIN: Yeah. So it’s coming along, and going to have another -- another, uh, 32:00convention. And he said, “You got anything for the bylaws?” And I said, “Yeah, I got several.” He said, “Well, write them up and send them to me, and we’ll include them in, uh, propositions for change.” And, uh, the one thing that was always, always hampering the lo-- the district was money. And the first time Bill Erwin visited San Bernardino after I had won the election, uh, we’re driving over to a restaurant to have a bite to eat after the meeting, and he said, uh, “I wondered, um, um, um, um,” mumble, mumble. “I wondered if you could support, uh, a nickel a month increase in the per capita tax.” 33:00And I said, “Absolutely not.” And he said, “Why not?” And I said, “I wouldn’t fuss with it for less than a quarter.” So OK, right then, we’re going to be friends, you know. So I had five propositions I wanted to put forward. One was that, uh, the term of office was four years, instead of one, because you were always in the midst of a campaign. It cost the district money, da, da, da, da, da. I laid out all the excuses, and I put that one in. I put in -- um, and this one, I can’t remember the words just right, and it’s important, but I put in there shall be no more per capita increases -- that was 34:00the lead line, except for every -- for each nickel raised per month -- for each nickel raised per hour per capita -- per capita we’ll raise one nickel a month. So you get a nickel an hour raise, it’s a nickel a month, big deal.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: Put that one in. Turns out I had -- oh, another one was they were starving on the road. They got $15 a day per diem.

BERNSTEIN: This is a union --

MELVIN: That’s the -- the support --

35:00

BERNSTEIN: The reps who -- traveling around.

MELVIN: The rep out in the travel.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: Fifteen dollars a day for meals and room and everything was ridiculous. And they were staying in $3 and $4 hotels; I mean ratty stuff in Chicago. So I put that the -- the per capita would be $15 per day, plus receipted expenses, which meant your hotel, and your cabs, and stuff like that was receipted. I forgot what the rest of them were. Anyhow, Bill called me. He said, “You’re never going to get the -- all those to pass,” and I said, “I know it, but give them something to throw away and, you know, we’ll go out and sell it -- try to sell it.”

BERNSTEIN: How’d you come up with them all? Were -- was it because you were talking to people?

MELVIN: No, it was out of my head.

BERNSTEIN: Were -- you were just observing.

36:00

MELVIN: It’s stuff that was -- well, it was annoying me, $15 a day, and staying in ratty places. I didn’t like that. It was my theory that I should not have to stay any -- anywhere less than my own home, and preferably better, if it was available, you know. But we didn’t go crazy and start staying at the five star hotels. But anyway --

BERNSTEIN: So -- so as soon as you got elected, you stopped working as a machinist and started traveling around.

MELVIN: Yes, when -- when you’re elected, then you go on full-time.

BERNSTEIN: Got it.

MELVIN: And I still ca-- carried seniority in the shop in San Bernardino, and I -- I had 41 years’ seniority when I retired. And, uh, so you’re -- all the time I was a union rep, I still had seniority.

BERNSTEIN: You were still collecting the senior -- accruing the seniority.

37:00

MELVIN: Yeah. So anyway, uh, we go out and visit all the local lodges, and explain, and answer their questions. And -- and of course, these are the people that vote, the one that comes to the meetings, you know. All five of them pass with flying colors. I attended -- one of the last things I did as a, uh, union rep -- and I was then operating the guide dog school -- was I attended a District 19 convention in St. Louis. And that’s got to be 20 years ago, because -- at least, because I’ve been retired 20 years. But all the other dis-- railroad districts have been merged into District 19. District 19 is the surviving district. There is only one railroad district now, and guess why. 38:00It’s the only one that had any money. The rest of them all went broke. And I asked for the rulebook, and it’s still there the way I wrote it.

BERNSTEIN: The five cents a month, or five cents an hour?

MELVIN: And that -- yep.

BERNSTEIN: So it’s a very effective --

MELVIN: And they got -- they got $5 million in reserve, because --

BERNSTEIN: That’s astonishing.

MELVIN: Yeah. And, uh, so that’s the reason that they’re all together is because they had, uh, a financial base to work out of.

BERNSTEIN: Right, to -- to build on.

MELVIN: And that’s what gave them the base.

BERNSTEIN: Huh, that’s fantastic! And that was your first convention.

MELVIN: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: And your first set of resolutions.

MELVIN: Yeah. Well, my first convention was when I was, uh, sworn in. This was the second convention, actually, uh, that I attended was the one that these 39:00things had passed.

BERNSTEIN: Got it.

MELVIN: They passed in a vote. So anyway, I did that, and, uh, I went -- went on, and I was a general chairman. And, uh, Bill Winpisinger, the international presidents retired, was our vice-president of the railroads retired, and Bill Winpisinger was the new vice-president of transportation. He come out of the auto industry. And, uh, he and I hit it off right away. I don’t know why. We just did. And, um, later on, he come to my house in San Bernardino with, uh, Joe Manners, who was our, uh, lead attorney, and asked me -- he had just -- uh, Bill 40:00had just been elected, uh, International President, and he asked me to come and be on his staff. And I don’t like Washington, D.C. I think it’s a cesspool, the politicians, and all the political manure that goes on there, and everybody’s screwing the wrong person, and so forth and so on. I just didn’t like Washington, and I passed. And I thought well, that takes care of any promotion, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Now, how far into your career was that? I want to clear the timing.

MELVIN: Oh, Jesus.

BERNSTEIN: More or less.

MELVIN: About halfway.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: So, uh, I passed, and felt that that -- I burned my bridges, and that would be the end of that. So somewhere along in here, I had been nominated and 41:00elected to the board of directors of International Guiding Eyes, and that was a, uh, school that provided guide dogs for the blind. Machinist Union members had started it, supported it, and so forth.

BERNSTEIN: Had started the school.

MELVIN: Yeah, the Machinist Union members at Lockheed started the school in 1948, when one of the Machinist Union member was denied a guide dog because he was too old.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

MELVIN: He was 56. So they started a guide dog school on the basis of that. And, uh, they had, uh, started out training a dog at a time, or two, you know. It had all the early teething problems. Well, then I became a member of the board, and 42:00that was --

BERNSTEIN: Now wait. How did you get involved? You couldn’t have become a member of the board. Were you involved before you got on the board?

MELVIN: No.

BERNSTEIN: Not at all.

MELVIN: No.

BERNSTEIN: Just because you were a rep, a union officer, and they put you on the board.

MELVIN: Just because I was -- somebody -- somebody on the board recommended me.

BERNSTEIN: OK, OK.

MELVIN: Jack.

BERNSTEIN: You seem to be drafted everywhere you go.

MELVIN: Well, I kind of was. Jack -- uh, I can’t think of Jack’s name. But anyhow, I was on the board. And, uh, the guide dog school decided to build a new facility. [And the guy heading up the board -- and this is not for publication -- the guy heading up the board was a God damn crook!] And the construction job got in deep trouble. They ran out of money, and everything else. It was terrible.

43:00

BERNSTEIN: Where were they building it?

MELVIN: In Sylmar, California. And, uh, the Grand Lodge loaned them, I don’t know, tons of money to finish up. Then the guy that was stealing -- and I had proof of it -- uh, retired, and, uh, so was due to retire. In the Machinist Union, you have to retire at 65, and he was going to retire. And Wimpy wanted me to take the job, become a Grand Lodge representative, and run the guide dog school. That was my sole assignment.

44:00

BERNSTEIN: And you wouldn’t have any other --

MELVIN: Assignments, no.

BERNSTEIN: Assignment, other than the guide dogs.

MELVIN: No, right.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, that’s interesting.

MELVIN: Right, well that was part of the Machinist Union contribution to the s -- school. So it goes through that, and I become director of the guide dog school. When I took over, they had $700 cash in the bank, and the operating cost was $70,000 a month.

BERNSTEIN: This is for the new facility that had been so over cost.

MELVIN: This -- this new facility was now operating.

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

MELVIN: Uh, they had a fundraiser. Moskowitz, I can’t think of his first name now. And he was good. I talked to him several times about how he was doing it, and so forth and so on. And, uh, he died of a heart attack on the road for the 45:00guide school.

BERNSTEIN: Oy.

MELVIN: He was in Phoenix. And, uh, the people tried to throw dinner parties, or fundraisers, and they fell on their ass each and every time.

BERNSTEIN: You got to know what you’re doing.

MELVIN: No, you don’t steal off of the top, and they were stealing.

BERNSTEIN: So it wasn’t just the one guy.

MELVIN: No, he had confederates. Uh, they threw a -- a dinner in Hawaii. The president of the guide dog school, the, uh, secretary -- the president and his wife, the secretary and her husband, and the, uh, financial secretary and his 46:00wife went to Hawaii for seven days for a one-day dinner, and they charged every bit of it against the school, six people.

BERNSTEIN: That’s so sad, isn’t it?

MELVIN: Went to all the outer islands and all this other shit, and I had all those receipts. Uh, after I’d taken over the job, they come to me with a big, big bag of receipts and said, “What do you want to do with this?” I said, “Set it down there, and I’ll go through them and see what we’ve got.” And that’s what it was all about. At Christmastime, they went to Trader Joe’s and bought $500 of liquor, and signed it off against the dinner in Hawaii of which had failed six months before. Well, now what do you do with some 47:00information like that? I could have some people put in jail, but what kind of publicity is that for your charity? You’d never be able to raise nothing.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, that’s true.

MELVIN: So just let it go, and ease the people out. And, uh, so when --

BERNSTEIN: You couldn’t threaten them, and tell them they had to give you some money back?

MELVIN: No, I didn’t even tell them I knew.

BERNSTEIN: Really.

MELVIN: I told Duke Lee I knew one time, and he said, “Who told you that?” And I said uh -- geez, I can’t say his name, first name -- “Moskowitz.” And he said, “He talks too much.” But he knew that I knew, and that kept him off of my back. So anyway, I’m sure his confederates knew I knew too by then, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And they had bingo games, and they were stealing. From every bingo game, they took a skim. Anyhow, so...

48:00

BERNSTEIN: So were you put into that job in order to clean up the place? Yeah, that’s not a very easy task.

MELVIN: Wimpy said he never knew anybody as God damn honest as I was. (laughs) It was ridiculous, you know. And he told -- Vir-- Virginia says, “You know Bud gets up in the middle of the night, 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, and just sits there and stares at the wall, thinking things out.” And he said, “Boy, I used to lose a lot of sleep, but now I don’t. I’m sleeping swell,” you know. (laughs) So anyhow, when I retired, we had a million dollars in reserve, so we got it done. It took ten years, but we got it done. My first -- first fundraiser, I -- uh, I asked Wimpy if he would stand for, uh, a dinner. Yeah, wherever you want to hold -- “When’s your -- when’s your birthday, 49:00Wimp?” And it was in November sometime. “Where do you want to hold it?” And I said, “How about Las Vegas? Everybody likes to go to Las Vegas, you know.” And the people coming will be union reps or something. The first dinner we threw was at Caesar’s Palace, and we actually encouraged people not to come to the dinner.

BERNSTEIN: You wanted them to buy the tables and then stay home and, uh, save some...

MELVIN: No, buy -- buy an equivalent in the journal.

BERNSTEIN: Ah yes, journals are always the best.

MELVIN: Well, the thing is, if I had a table, we had to pay for the food.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And that was the idea was not to pay for the food. So anyhow, that first dinner, I think we made $100,000. And the guys before was losing money on every 50:00-- he tried three times, and lost tons of money, and so mine was a -- a success.

BERNSTEIN: A success, huh.

MELVIN: So anyway --

BERNSTEIN: So that -- you made $100,000, and almost everybody who came, and who bought ads was a machinist?

MELVIN: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: Or it was a broader audience?

MELVIN: All machinists.

BERNSTEIN: All machinists.

MELVIN: And another thing I did --

BERNSTEIN: That’s impressive.

MELVIN: Another thing I did too was I put all the vice-presidents against each other. Who could raise the much -- most money? And some went out there and killed to be first, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: Well, you know, the first dinner we raised, we made, uh, $100,000, and I thought I was in hog heaven, you know. But anyhow, that dinner has continued to this day around the 32nd or 33rd, and the last two dinners that I attended, they 51:00had, um, 1,000 people at the dinner.

BERNSTEIN: Wow!

MELVIN: And this has been for several years, so it’s sustaining.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: It’s not just one fluke.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And for the last three years, they have raised $1 million at dinnertime.

BERNSTEIN: That’s impressive. No kidding.

MELVIN: And the people get up and give the checks over at the dinner. So that dinner is still doing. It’s still going. But I think I’ve attended my last one. To go drive out there for a lousy dinner, you know, shit.

BERNSTEIN: It’s a long ways.

MELVIN: Yeah. (laughs) Anyhow --

BERNSTEIN: And is the facility --

MELVIN: Anyhow, that’s the -- the story of the guide dog school.

BERNSTEIN: That’s so interesting. I think we should take a break, because it’s almost lunchtime, right?

MELVIN: Yes, it is.

BERNSTEIN: OK, so we’re back after lunch and Virginia’s going to sit in for a little bit. And, uh, hey -- dogs are going to go sit down.

MELVIN: You hope.

52:00

VIRGINA MELVIN: Dogs go lay down.

BERNSTEIN: Go lie down.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Go on!

MELVIN: He’s -- he’s kissing her. She -- she smells like puppy.

BERNSTEIN: Yep, I have a puppy. So I want to go back to when you first (coughs) ran for the position that made you a full-time union --

MELVIN: Rep.

BERNSTEIN: -- rep, and left the job as a machinist.

MELVIN: OK.

BERNSTEIN: You knew it was going to involve travel.

MELVIN: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: And maybe different hours.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: Was it a hard decision? Was it any decision? Was it obvious?

MELVIN: No. Virginia and I -- Virginia and I talked about it. I was going to have to be gone, um, probably at that time -- and it turned out to be that way -- about two weeks a month.

BERNSTEIN: That’s a lot for a potential family.

MELVIN: Yes, but -- but the -- but the -- there was a plus side of that too, because when I was at home, I was home all day. That’s where my office was. 53:00You know I could run and pick up the kids, or we could do this, or that, or whatever.

BERNSTEIN: You had your home in your house.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yes, we had the office in the house.

BERNSTEIN: Your office in your house, right.

MELVIN: Yeah, I had the office in my house, so I would be home to greet the children, and so forth and so on. And I worried about the children being without their dad for two weeks at a time, but the two older ones, they were old enough. They adjusted well.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: And Matt didn’t seem to have any trouble with it.

VIRGINA MELVIN: No.

MELVIN: And uh --

VIRGINA MELVIN: He called home, and then they talked to him.

MELVIN: Uh, I was not a -- a normal traveling man. I hated every minute I was away from home. Uh, a friend of our -- mine at that time, another general chairman told Gin, “I got homesick halfway up Cajon Pass, and I got on at San Bernardino on a train. And I was homesick before I was up here.” I just -- it 54:00was a job that I had to do, and traveling was part of it, and that was that. A lot of guys enjoyed the traveling.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And -- and I did maybe the first year, saw new things, new places and so forth, but...

VIRGINA MELVIN: And I traveled with him as much as I could because of the kids, but my mom would come over and stay with the kids.

BERNSTEIN: So that you could go.

VIRGINA MELVIN: So that I could come.

MELVIN: So she could travel.

VIRGINA MELVIN: But she would not babysit so I could work. She absolutely would not do that --

MELVIN: So anyway...

VIRGINA MELVIN: -- because she wanted to be a grandmother, and didn’t want to be one that, you know, had to put the screws to the kids all the time.

MELVIN: So anyhow, I traveled. I traveled, and, uh, I called -- called home almost every night, and I’d talk to Matt. You know how are you doing, buddy, 55:00da, da, da, da, da, you know. So yeah, we just made the adjustments that was necessary. Now one --

BERNSTEIN: And what -- how far did you travel? How -- your territory was?

MELVIN: My territory, that’s an interesting point. I felt that, you know, well, I wanted the job. I lived in California. I would probably take care of the territory from Albuquerque this way.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: The directing general chairman that opposed my election lived in Albuquerque, and he could take the eastern part just as well.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: But when I come up with the idea, he said oh, no. You ran against whatever his name was, and that was his territory. You take his territory, which was from Albuquerque to Chicago.

BERNSTEIN: Ah, that’s why you mentioned Chicago.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

56:00

MELVIN: And then between, um, Newton, Kansas and Galveston, Texas, all the points in between. And -- uh, and Cleburne, Texas, there was a very large shop, almost the size of the one in San Bernardino. Kansas City had a large shop. Topeka had a large shop that manufactured, um, box cars. Um, that was all the larger shops. Argentine, Kansas, Kansas City had a big shop.

BERNSTEIN: And so you would fly to these places?

VIRGINA MELVIN: No, he’d go on the train.

MELVIN: No. See, at first, I rode the --

BERNSTEIN: You rode the trains.

MELVIN: -- rode the trains, because it was free.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: I’ve still got a pass in my pocket. I can ride the trains today.

BERNSTEIN: No kidding.

MELVIN: Uh, the Amtrak.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: Anywhere Amtrak goes on Santa Fe rails, I can go. Uh, but, uh, then after -- I don’t know -- I’d been on the job five or six years, maybe, 57:00somewhere around in there. Uh, the time that it took to travel by rail got to be too much. You couldn’t do that anymore, so then we flew. See, it used to take, uh, three days to get to Chicago from San Bernardino.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And in those days, you could make it in three and a half hours by plane. They’ve cut the speed of the planes way back now. It takes longer. But, uh, anyhow, yeah, the -- the rule of thumb over was, uh, three days opposes three hours, so then I started flying.

BERNSTEIN: That’s a huge difference.

MELVIN: So then we flew all the time.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Bud, go take that away from him.

MELVIN: A pain in the ass.

BERNSTEIN: It’s noisy.

VIRGINA MELVIN: He’s making so much noise.

BERNSTEIN: And it’s probably not that good for you, either.

MELVIN: No more, no mas.

VIRGINA MELVIN: No.

58:00

BERNSTEIN: Really not healthy. (laughs) Did you have any doubt about the choice to take the traveling job?

VIRGINA MELVIN: No.

BERNSTEIN: No, it made sense.

MELVIN: That’s the reason we were married so long. I was gone half the time.

BERNSTEIN: Must have helped. Yeah. (laughs)

MELVIN: Oh, there’s a -- there’s a side story here though that’s really kind of funny.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Will you stop it? Go lay down.

MELVIN: When I started flying, and I would get up in the morning in Chicago -- the Santa Fe’s headquarter building was in Chicago, so we went there for all the final conferences on our cases that we were handling. And I’d go in the meetings in Chicago. I’d -- you know you have to get up at about 6:30 maybe, Chicago time. You get to go in the meetings, da, da, da, da, da. And, uh, we used to cut off the conferences at 12 o’clock, and then I’d go check out of 59:00the hotel, and get, uh, the bus to the, uh, airfield. And they had a plane at, uh, Continental called the Skyway Highway, and -- uh, and get on that at like -- I think it was 6 o’clock Chicago time, which would be 3:30 -- 4 o’clock, maybe, California time. And they had a -- a cart that came through and they made sandwiches for you, fresh bread and -- and uh --

BERNSTEIN: Really?

MELVIN: Yeah, and they had all kinds of cuts, you know, roasted turkey and so forth, and then make sandwiches for you.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Lay down. Lay down.

MELVIN: Anyhow, so you get through with your conferences. You’d run for the airport. You get on the plane. You’d fly home, get off the plane. And Virginia would be there to meet me, get in the car, and start home from the Ontario airport. And I heard every problem, grievance, complaint, anything that happened 60:00in the 30 minutes it took to get home. I mean I got unloaded on. And while you were out there having a good time, I had to --

BERNSTEIN: With everything.

MELVIN: She was always bitching at me about out there having a good time, so I took her on a trip one time, and then she didn’t do that anymore, because there’s some places in Texas where I’d have to get up at 2 o’clock in the morning and make the train, a little, bitty place, and a train come through, and you had to -- you know. And, uh, so she found out that going from point to point, uh, every second day or something was not that --

BERNSTEIN: Not all it was cracked up to be, yeah.

MELVIN: -- not that much fun, no, no.

61:00

VIRGINA MELVIN: No. But it was funny. He had -- they had a -- he had a hard time with the guys down in Texas accepting him, because he was a Yankee.

MELVIN: Yeah, damn Yankee from California.

VIRGINA MELVIN: And so he took me down with him.

BERNSTEIN: And you put on your best Texas accent?

VIRGINA MELVIN: No.

MELVIN: She didn’t. She just said the word that she was a Texan.

VIRGINA MELVIN: I was born in Texas.

MELVIN: Do you know what? This is an honest God’s truth. For the first year I was in -- on the job, I’d get off the train in Cleburne, Texas. And there was only one taxi in town. And I’d take my bag and walk over to the hotel, never a soul to meet me, never. So we had, uh, that convention I told you about. Well, the next convention was held in Wichita, and I told Bill, “You know we ought to have a dinner for all the attendees here on the district.” “Yeah, 62:00that’s a great idea. Why don’t you set it up?” “OK.” So I called Virginia and I said, “You need to come out here. We’re going to have a dinner. It’s kind of a good thing to do.” “Oh, I don’t have a pass.” I said, “I’ll get you one.” And so I called Chicago and told them what I was trying to do. Shit, they had a pass for her right now.

BERNSTEIN: No kidding.

MELVIN: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: Now, that was the union, or the railroad?

VIRGINA MELVIN: Railroad.

MELVIN: Railroad.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

MELVIN: I was a union rep, and I called and I said, “Hey, I’m at the convention, so you take care of it.”

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: So she got a pass. She rode out. And then, after the convention, we went down. I was that far east, visit the rest of the shops. [phone ringing] Excuse me.

BERNSTEIN: That’s OK.

63:00

MELVIN: Walgreens. [on phone] So anyhow, uh, we hop on the train and go down to Cleburne. There’s three carloads of people to meet us in Cleburne, never been one before, but the Texan lady had come home. We had breakfast, tea, luncheon, all kinds of --

VIRGINA MELVIN: Dinner.

MELVIN: Dinners every day we were there, nonstop. The poor Texan was having to suffer with this Yankee. They -- they treated me different, absolutely different after that.

BERNSTEIN: After that one dinner.

MELVIN: Do you know there’s a new book out called The Help, and they just made a movie about it?

BERNSTEIN: Yep, yep.

MELVIN: Have you read the book?

BERNSTEIN: I have.

MELVIN: It’s a little bit of a downer to me. I felt sad about how those people were treated. I was down there traveling Texas during the period that that book, 64:00in ’63.

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh, yeah.

MELVIN: I was in Fort Worth, Texas, the first day the blacks sat in at the white counters.

BERNSTEIN: No kidding.

MELVIN: And I didn’t know anything about it. I was from California. I go in the shops. The water fountains are, uh, colored and white, and they’ve got a pipe coming up, a T comes out, and there’s two, uh, water fa -- fountains.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And one has got a sign that says colored, and the other says white. It was -- it was so ridiculous and stupid, uh, the -- the thing in the book about having separate toilets and all of this stuff, and yet, they had them prepare their food.

BERNSTEIN: And maybe more importantly, raise their babies.

65:00

VIRGINA MELVIN: The babies.

MELVIN: Absolutely!

BERNSTEIN: And teach them everything about life.

MELVIN: And -- and I just -- and it was true. It was...

BERNSTEIN: Did you notice it the first time you went there, or was it after --

MELVIN: Oh, oh, oh, oh, yeah, oh, yeah.

BERNSTEIN: -- you heard about the protests?

MELVIN: The first -- first time I was in the shops, there was a whole bunch of guys crowded around, unions reps here, and -- uh, and I said -- they said something, and I said something about colored. And one of the guys said, “Hey, wait a minute. Are you talking about niggers?” And I said, “Well, I guess I am.” “Well, if you don’t call them niggers down here, we won’t know who you’re talking about.” And I -- you know I was just a little upset about that, but what you -- hell you going to do? I’m new. I’m trying to find my way. So I go to the meeting that night. Up front’s all the whites. In the back is the blacks. They had black helpers. They could be a laborer or a helper. They 66:00could not be a journeyman.

BERNSTEIN: But they were still in the local.

MELVIN: Yes. OK --

BERNSTEIN: It was union practice, if not a rule, but they couldn’t be a journeyman, or did it...

MELVIN: Well, early on, it was a union rule they couldn’t even belong in the union. I’ll tell you about that.

BERNSTEIN: And that’s true, yes.

MELVIN: But anyway, so I go to the meeting, and I’m making my spiel, you know, first time down there. A black guy stands up in the back and I said, “Yes, brother, what?” And he said, “You know everything you say, Mr. Melvin, is just fine, but what are you going to do for us niggers?” You know, where are you with that? They called themselves niggers. Uh, I never did, but I -- you know, it’s -- what the hell are you going to do? And I told him. I said, “Well, they’re -- they’re working on that.” By then, the Fair Employment Practices Act had passed, or somewhere along in there. Anyhow, they -- they 67:00started making journeymen out of them. I -- my -- one of my --

BERNSTEIN: You said they’re working on it. Who did you mean when you said they’re working on it?

MELVIN: The unions.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: Uh, you see, everything in the railroads was worked at the higher angle, the higher departments because of the Railway Labor Act passed in 1926. But let me go back to this. I don’t know if I got one of the books or not. I got a bunch of union, um, agreements.

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

MELVIN: And, uh, I don’t know if have one far -- far enough back, but it says in the agreement you have to be free, white, and 21, in the agreement.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, yeah.

MELVIN: And guess where that --

68:00

BERNSTEIN: Unions have a long tradition of racist --

MELVIN: Guess where that phrase came from.

BERNSTEIN: Where?

MELVIN: It’s Masonic, because I’m a Mason, and I know. You have to be free, white, and 21 to be a Mason, and that word-for-word.

VIRGINA MELVIN: And a lot of -- a lot of the stuff that the union has is --

MELVIN: Masonic.

VIRGINA MELVIN: -- is -- is -- they were all, um, Masons.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

VIRGINA MELVIN: The -- and so in the agreements and everything right then, some of that came into it.

BERNSTEIN: Some of the language and the rituals, both, I think.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: Well, the -- the Machinist Union was started by Masons.

VIRGINA MELVIN: By Masons.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN They were all Masonic.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: Because in those days, if anybody found out you were talking about a union, they fired you.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: So it had to be secret.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And the Masons were big on keeping secrets.

VIRGINA MELVIN: [to dog] Stop it, Osa.

69:00

MELVIN: So anyway, uh, I was kind of a quandary what the hell to do about this. What happened down south is as the blacks became more equal -- when I first went down there, if a black would have a flat tire alongside the road, the white would stop and help him change it, or change it for him. And when that went through, whites would run right by a black. They could sit out there and starve to death. They wouldn’t help. It just was -- when I went to Cleburne, Texas, on the lawn of the courthouse was a monument to the confederate dead of the Civil War, and it had been put in place in 1957. They were still -- and this Dub Dohoney I mentioned earlier, he was a park commissioner in Cleburne, and the 70:00park in Cleburne was like a scraped over piece of stuff with some grass. It wasn’t much of a park. And -- but he -- they were very proud of their swimming pool. They had a swimming pool.

BERNSTEIN: Whites only?

MELVIN: And I said, “What are you going to do when the blacks come to the swimming pool?” He said, “We’re going to fill it full of alligators.” He also told me, “Have you ever been to a Ku Klux Klan meeting?” I said, “No, I don’t know any Klan neighbors -- the Klan people.” And he said, “Oh yes, you do. And anytime you want to go, you let me know.” This was in ’64. And that’s the way they looked at things down there. I’ll tell you.

BERNSTEIN: Did you feel like you had any good influence?

MELVIN: Did I what?

VIRGINA MELVIN: Have any --

BERNSTEIN: Have any influence.

71:00

MELVIN: No, hell no. Those people are still fighting the Civil War. Uh, you -- you understand the state of Texas, at one time, was a country, a republic.

BERNSTEIN: I do.

MELVIN: And it’s true, they were a c -- country and they still tell you about it, too.

BERNSTEIN: But isn’t there something about becoming -- being a part of the union?

VIRGINA MELVIN: That didn’t make a difference.

BERNSTEIN: That as the union changes, the -- there’s something that’s going to change?

MELVIN: Well, you see, you and I -- you and I are born, and our parents raise us, and we’re affected a lot by what our parents say at the table, and so forth and so on, but we’re most affected by the schooling we’re -- we’re getting.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

MELVIN: We get schooling eight hours a day from the time we’re about five or six, whatever, and that’s where we get it. Well, they taught this stuff in school about being a country, and they -- they would remark we can always go 72:00back to being a country, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, right.

MELVIN: And uh --

VIRGINA MELVIN: But let me tell you something. The most whipped men in the world, uh, were the Texans. Their whites...

MELVIN: Big, tough Texan. When mama speaks, daddy jumps.

VIRGINA MELVIN: I just was so flabbergasted that it wasn’t funny.

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

VIRGINA MELVIN: They just -- uh, we were in, uh, New Mexico.

MELVIN: Albuquerque, New Mexico.

VIRGINA MELVIN: And, uh, they had a topless bar.

MELVIN: Topless was just starting in those days.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah. And so of course, I always went with Bud, you know, and if they -- if they go to the topless bar, I went to the topless bar. (laughs)

MELVIN: Yeah, we wanted to see what was going on.

VIRGINA MELVIN: So anyway, uh, when I got back to --

MELVIN: Cleburne.

VIRGINA MELVIN: -- Cle -- Cleburne, the wives said, “I know when my husband is down there he’s doing things he shouldn’t.” And I said, “Your 73:00husband’s always a perfect gentleman.”

MELVIN: That was a husband we met in a topless bar.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah, they -- they were at the topless bar. They weren’t doing anything wrong.

BERNSTEIN: Right, they were just watching.

VIRGINA MELVIN: And they were just at the bar, yeah. And so I said -- and I tried to tell these gals, “Well, if you want to know what your husband is doing, then why don’t you go with him?” “Oh, well I don’t want to do that.”

MELVIN: So we’re in this topless bar, and we’re just seeing what the hell’s going on, you know. And the waitress comes over and said, “May I help you?” She’s got big boobs, and Virginia does this with -- (laughs)

BERNSTEIN: (laughs) She covers up the glass?

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah. Well, I didn’t care, but I didn’t want her boob in my glass. (laughs)

BERNSTEIN: (laughs) That’s very funny. Aye, aye, aye, that’s very funny.

VIRGINA MELVIN: But I’ll tell --

74:00

MELVIN: Oh, shit. Oh well, so what? But I -- I learned a lot of lessons from being in those places, you know.

BERNSTEIN: In the southern --

MELVIN: No, in a -- in a topless bar.

BERNSTEIN: In the topless bar, OK. What’d you learn?

MELVIN: That not all breasts should be shown. (laughs) There’s a lot of them out there that ain’t that pretty.

VIRGINA MELVIN: But, uh, anyway -- but I just -- like I told these gals, if you want to know what your husband’s doing and all of this --

MELVIN: Make the trip.

VIRGINA MELVIN: -- then go with him.

MELVIN: That one gal, I can’t think of her name, but she didn’t have any children. She didn’t have a job.

VIRGINA MELVIN: No.

MELVIN: It would have been just as easy for her to travel. Of course, he may have discouraged her.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Oh, he probably did, but I -- I just told her just go, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Go for it anyway.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah. That didn’t -- that never discouraged me.

MELVIN: Well, that’s true. (laughs)

BERNSTEIN: You told me about the guide dogs. You told me about the financial disaster you started --

MELVIN: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: -- you faced when you started, and about the dinners that you started 75:00that were so -- that are still going on.

MELVIN: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: What about the actual -- were you involved in the facility, and the dogs, and the actual --

MELVIN: Well, I had an office there, yes. I -- and that was --

BERNSTEIN: In Sylmar.

VIRGINA MELVIN: In Sylmar.

MELVIN: And that’s one thing that I did that my predecessor didn’t. I was there every day.

BERNSTEIN: You drove out to Sylmar?

MELVIN: Well, we -- we bought a house in Valencia.

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

MELVIN: So I drove about 10-12 miles every day. But I -- every day I wasn’t traveling, I was at the school. And that was -- part of it was just that I was there was my presence.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And -- uh, and so I was watching over everything, and, uh, learned a lot of things. I -- I brought over -- we didn’t have a proper trainer, and I brought over a trainer from England. Well, he was over here, but he had come over from England, and had been taught at their guide school, which has been 76:00going for years, and it was quite advanced and everything. And, uh, so one time, I’m going through the bills and adding up stuff, and it was costing us about $13.75 a day to feed the students.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Each student.

MELVIN: Thirteen seventy-five each student.

BERNSTEIN: The dogs?

VIRGINA MELVIN: No, students, students.

MELVIN: No, the students. The student has to come for 30 days and stay at the facility while they’re trained to use the dog.

VIRGINA MELVIN: And then -- and then the staff would eat, too.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, oh, oh, I didn’t realize they -- they came to the -- OK, I didn’t -- I didn’t understand.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: Yeah, we have a dormitory there, and a dining room.

BERNSTEIN: So somebody who’s going to get a dog from you comes and stays for 30 days, and gets matched with a dog.

MELVIN: Learns.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yes, yes.

BERNSTEIN: And learns how to --

77:00

MELVIN: The dog is -- there’s a match. There’s a definite match program goes on, and, uh, then they work together for 30 days and -- before they graduate and so forth. So anyhow, it was costing me $13.75 a day to feed the -- the students, and, uh, that seemed high to me. I’m figuring out how much a meal, still high. And I used to go in and eat with the students, mostly breakfast, uh, once or twice a week, just to kind of look at things, see how things were going.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Make sure they were being fed correctly.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: And so forth and so on. Well anyhow, it comes to a time. Uh, my trainer that I brought in is cutting my throat behind my back, and students are calling and telling me about it, and so forth and so on. So I’ve got to figure a way 78:00to ease this guy out without being brutal about it and so forth. Anyway, so along with everything else, I have a -- um, I want to say accountant. What the hell was she? Financial --

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah, uh --

MELVIN: She was an accountant.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Accountant.

MELVIN: And I would ask -- uh, what was her name now? I can’t think of it. Anyhow, she was a Jewish lady, and, uh, very heavy. And I’d ask her every Monday morning how are we doing. You know what’s the dollar count? And she’d say we’re just fine, just fine. OK, so I took her word for it. And then, uh, things are slowing down. We got a recession going and so forth, and I start 79:00looking closer. We’re $300,000 short of the year before. The fundraising is down.

BERNSTEIN: Expenses are --

MELVIN: The money coming in is down.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Was that when Virginia was the --

MELVIN: No, Virginia’s thievery was different.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah, OK.

MELVIN: So anyhow, we’re $300,000 short, so I took that opportunity to lay off the head trainer, because he was drawing the most money, and I could save the most with one dismissal, keep everybody else on. And I wanted to get rid of him, because he was cutting my throat.

BERNSTEIN: What was he doing?

MELVIN: Oh, he was bad-mouthing me when I was gone, and bad-mouthing the way the school was being operated, and all this other stuff. He was running his own 80:00show. He would have, uh, parties where he would invite only certain people from the school, which I object to. If you’re going to have a party, everybody goes, or nobody goes, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: And just a lot of things, and insubordination on occasion. So I took the opportunity and I dismissed him, and all hell broke loose. His wife was a fire eater, and -- and a lot of her friends, and they wrote to all the board of directors. And Roger Penske of the Penske Corporation was one of our board members then.

VIRGINA MELVIN: That Bud brought on.

MELVIN: Huh?

VIRGINA MELVIN: That you brought on. (coughs)

MELVIN: Yeah. Anyhow, as an end result of all the stink, Roger Penske call -- called, uh, Bill Winpisinger and said what’s -- what’s the story, and Winpisinger says I got an investigation started. And he sent out the retired 81:00president of the Firefighters Union to investigate, and it was a whitewash job, you know. Wimpy picked him, and Wim -- Wimpy sent him, and probably wrote the report. I don’t know. But anyhow, I got a clean bill of health, because I covered my tracks. What I did, uh, was I went back and reviewed his personnel file, and times I’d had him in and talked to him, and it was all noted there, so it was an ongoing problem, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: Well, that’s another sign. So then --

BERNSTEIN: But you still have money problems that --

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: You used that as an excuse, but there’s another issue here.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Well --

MELVIN: Our -- our money problems were fast being healed. Uh, that $300,000 wasn’t horrible like it was before. I had to go and borrow -- I think it was 82:00$200,000 from the union when I first went in, just to keep going.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And we -- we sold a piece of property that we had in north Hollywood, and I paid the $200,000 back. But anyhow, on -- on more than one occasion, I had to go to the union and borrow money to keep it afloat, but our fundraising was doing better, et cetera, et cetera.

VIRGINA MELVIN: You were saying, though, that it was costing you $13.

MELVIN: Oh yeah, well the story there. So anyhow, as soon as -- uh, what was his name, anyhow? Anyhow, as soon as I got rid of the --

VIRGINA MELVIN: Pain in the ass was his name.

MELVIN: The pain in the ass uh --

BERNSTEIN: Trainer from England, yeah.

MELVIN: -- trainer. The cost of my food in the kitchen dropped from $13.75 a month -- a person per day to about $6-something, so I started asking around. He 83:00was feeding his whole family every night up at the dining room with the students. And of course, he had control of the kitchen. I didn’t do that. So he was telling the cook --

BERNSTEIN: He just tell -- told them to split it up so that it looked --

MELVIN: Yeah, told the cook to cook extra. And -- and also, I found out that he was taking food home. He was stealing from the goddamn school.

BERNSTEIN: Oy.

MELVIN: So anyway, that cured my food problem, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Being a manager is not an easy thing.

VIRGINA MELVIN: No.

BERNSTEIN: Did you want your children to be -- go into the union?

MELVIN: Yeah.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: Yeah, I think the union’s a good thing.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Our daughter’s in a union. Our youngest son is a union. In fact, he’s a uh --

MELVIN: Shop chairman, or griever.

84:00

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yes, he’s the chairman or something. And -- but our oldest son, they had a union.

MELVIN: They had a union and they de -- decertified.

VIRGINA MELVIN: They decertified, so --

BERNSTEIN: What happened?

MELVIN: We -- I don’t know.

VIRGINA MELVIN: We don’t know. It was the um --

MELVIN: Teamsters.

VIRGINA MELVIN: -- Teamsters Union and they didn’t like it.

MELVIN: I think, you know, to me anyhow, and my experience with the -- the Machinist Union, the only time there’s a successful decertification is a union representative wasn’t doing his job. They had a decertification down in San Diego.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: The lo -- the lodge hall was across the freeway from the plant down there. That was Consolidated, or Douglas, or somebody. Well anyhow, they had a decertification over there. Their union rep never come by to see them, and he was across the God damn -- he wasn’t 300 yards from them, and they just 85:00didn’t get off of their ass, and go over there, and go through the shop and talk to people.

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

VIRGINA MELVIN: See, Bud visited the shops every so many shops.

MELVIN: The large shops once a month.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yes.

MELVIN: The medium-size shops once every other month, and the very small shops, like six guys in Cut and Shoot, Texas, out there -- I forgot the name of that little place.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah, the little town.

MELVIN: But they actually had a water fountain with alligators in the water. (laughs) And those guys, once a year, we’d go by and say howdy, anything you need, got problems, whatever.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And don’t forget we’re just a phone call away and, you know, do the 86:00whole thing, never had an election. When I took over from that job; never had an election. I figured part of it was after the five to one win, people were afraid to try that on.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: They didn’t know what the hell I did, but they wasn’t willing to buck it, so I never had an election until --

BERNSTEIN: That’s impressive.

MELVIN: -- until they merged the Union Pacific, the Southern Pacific, and the Santa Fe. Then we did have an election. Of course, I won my section. I was a general chairman.

VIRGINA MELVIN: But Bud never -- I mean if -- if they called -- a guy called and needed a representative, he was there. Uh, and sometimes, it was -- uh, the SP guy, uh, he would never go, and so Bud would go, even though it wasn’t his particular area.

BERNSTEIN: His -- his person, yeah.

87:00

MELVIN: Yeah, I got called, uh, on the railroad system in 1926 with the Railway Labor Act. You could not fire a man on the railroad without a hearing, because it was being abused so badly by the railroad. So when it come to a hearing, some people are better than others, and I was really better. So they would call me, uh, our directing general chairman, Bill Erwin. “Hey, can you go up and, uh, help Auberry? They got an investigation up there, and it involves diesel locomotives, Bud, and I don’t know anything about diesels, and Auberry don’t know anything about anything.” So I’d truck off to Salt Lake City to represent a guy, not my territory or nothing, but I do.

BERNSTEIN: But you’re doing it.

88:00

MELVIN: I do it. And that was an interesting case, too. They had a -- a locomotive and, uh, a -- uh, can’t say it now -- caboose. A locomotive and a caboose was going up outside of, uh, Salt Lake, Utah. They got a big, um, ammunition depot, so the locomotive and the caboose is followed by another locomotive and caboose, protection. I’m going to sneeze here in a minute.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

MELVIN: (sneezes)

BERNSTEIN: Bless you.

MELVIN: So the -- the thing is they’re going up to pick up poison gas from World War I. It’s leaking in the containers, so they’re going to take it out and do a burn somewhere, but they’re going to take it away from the depot. The 89:00way they do that is the first locomotive, they go up, and then they hook up to the cars and everything. The second locomotive now is the lead locomotive, and it’s going across the tracks in front of this highly toxic waste to make sure there’s no breaks in the track, no derails, no nothing, that everything’s clear in front, and then the others can come behind it.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

MELVIN: They get up to the depot, and they have to go in some gates, and then there’s a -- a building there, and they go in and are fitted with gas masks. A habit of engineers, they have in a locomotive -- they’ve got a real 90:00sophisticated system now, but in those days, in a locomotive, they had a dead man pedal, and you had to keep your foot on that pedal, because if you died and your foot came off the pedal, it applied the brakes on the train. Well, some of the old engineers are tired. They don’t want to do it or whatever, and they take a toolbox and set on the pedal, and that’s what this engineer did. So they get up there. They get off the locomotives. They’re all shut off. The -- the engines are left running. They always do. They go in to get fitted with the mask. The box slips off the pedal, and the locomotive starts to go, run away. So they see it. They run out. They jump on the other locomotive. They run after it, 91:00and they try to couple-up to grab the other locomotive.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And the couplers are like this, and then when they’re open, they’re like this. And they come together, and the couplers shut like this.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: Well, the one coupler was closed. They couldn’t get it to lock up, and they chased that thing forever. One guy was thinking about trying to jump over, but shit, if you fall, you’re ground up into hamburger, so he didn’t. And the locomotive ran away, and it meets a train coming the other way, just going like hell. The control tower controller way over in Salt Lake City is trying to derail this locomotive, and they turned the switch and switch it off, and hopefully, it’s sharp enough that it’ll lay over. But they said it’d raise 92:00up. There’d be three foot under the wheel, and it’ll fall back down. So it hit this other train full on, and it destroyed, uh, five locomotives, because after they hit and was bent all to hell, huge steel beam frames bent upright. They had a guy there from the wrecking crew. And, uh, the foreman says cut here, and he’s cutting there, and he said no, no, there’s, uh, diesel leaking here. Cut over here. So he’s cutting over there, sets it afire and those five locomotives burned up --

BERNSTEIN: Oy. How -- how many people?

MELVIN: -- with 3,000 gallons of diesel.

BERNSTEIN: Aye, aye, aye.

MELVIN: Uh, no people on the train, but the first two cars had -- uh, one had --

BERNSTEIN: How could there be no people?

MELVIN: Well, it’s a freight train.

VIRGINA MELVIN: It’s a freight train, not --

BERNSTEIN: But there’s a --

93:00

MELVIN: Well, they -- they were talking and told them shut the train down and get the hell out of there.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, I see. They had enough warning to get off.

MELVIN: So they stopped the train, ran like hell.

BERNSTEIN: Got it. OK, good.

MELVIN: So anyhow, and -- and the two cars, one held pigs, and one held sheep, and they all got out and was running across the freeway, (laughs) and it was a terrible mess, I guess. And the fire department, you know, is 100 miles away or whatever. The thing burnt up. So anyhow, they had a -- um, a hearing, and I had to go represent them. So I go there, and I go in, and I announce myself, and tell them I’m representing. And then we go through a big brouhaha about I’m not from the s -- Union Pacific Railroad. I said I’m a union representative from District 19, and I’ve been assigned to do this. I am representing so-and-so. Well, they had to make a bunch of calls and finally, that was all 94:00right. So I go into the hearing. Now, there’s people from the FBI there. There’s people from the Department of Transportation there. There’s people from the Department of Defense there. We got a big room full of people. And the engineer gets up there and take -- says I take full responsibility. I put a, uh, tool chest on the dead man’s pedal. I left the thing, and so forth, and so on, and so on, took full responsibility. It comes time for the machinist. He conducted the inspection, and the big brouhaha was that there was a -- um, a valve left open that should have been shut, or something or other. It would have 95:00automatically shut itself down. And my guy said I shut it. When I asked any -- everybody that had a connection, well, did you see the valve? No, I didn’t look at the valve. I said I -- you know I’m trying to say that the valve was changed, either in the wreck, or with the wreck crew. It didn’t make any difference. I proved reasonable doubt, for sure, but they gave him like 30 days’ suspension, which wasn’t anything, you know. And he was a young guy, and so forth and so on. So we kept him from being fired, but, uh, it wasn’t my district. I was just sent over to do it, so we did.

BERNSTEIN: Hmm.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Half the time, they -- uh, people would say that Bud was a 96:00lawyer, and, uh, they -- uh, you know, put him in instead, uh, because he was a lawyer. He wasn’t, but they – they --

MELVIN: No, I had backhanded compliments. We had -- uh, a train came out of LA on Amtrak, and everybody on the dome car got sick, because the dome car was rocking like a boat. And a wheel was out of round, and it had been on a truing machine, and trued out of round in LA. There’s no damn defense for that, really. The only thing you can claim is there was something dirt -- or something got in there to make the center -- make it all around on the wheel, but it’s up to the operator of the lathe to make sure that’s all clean, and goes together right.

BERNSTEIN: Right, yeah.

97:00

MELVIN: I went to Cleburne and borrowed a manual for the machine, the truing machine from a friend of mine I used to work with, and I was tooling up for this, you know, and nothing happened, and nothing happened, and nothing happened. Finally, I got a hold of the local chairman. I guess I went in. I said, “What the hell happened to the investigation?” He said, “Oh, they called that off. They said they didn’t have anybody tough enough to go against you.” (laughs) And -- and they had -- they tried --

BERNSTEIN: So you know, I was going to ask you if your approach to the job was a lawyer’s approach, which is you defend people no matter how guilty they are.

MELVIN: Oh, yeah. There’s a couple reasons for that, though.

BERNSTEIN: And you just presented -- you just answered my question before I asked it.

MELVIN: I had -- uh, they had one guy that I defended, and it cost them -- I 98:00think it was $80,000 in back pay. That was before the truing thing, and that’s when they decided they didn’t want to fight it, you know. And, uh, this guy was wrong, and I got him $80,000, you know.

BERNSTEIN: And you were happy about that?

MELVIN: It’s -- it’s very difficult when you’re defending somebody you know is wrong; however, the railroads had a habit of taking these guys that you say look it, you don’t have any case here. And the railroad liked to play harass, too.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: And so they would pay for an attorney for the guy to sue the union for failure to properly represent. So consequently, we represented everybody, everybody.

BERNSTEIN: That’s the reason you did it?

MELVIN: Huh?

BERNSTEIN: That’s the reason?

MELVIN: Yeah, that’s my reasoning. I didn’t want to get sued, and so I 99:00represented everybody.

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

MELVIN: And sometimes I won, when I really hated the guy, (laughs) didn’t like him at all.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: Oh, yeah.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, my goodness.

MELVIN: But I’ll tell you something else now. This is almost off the record. I enjoyed hearings, and I maybe should have been a trial lawyer, because I really liked it. I’d go in there with a dry mouth. My God, I was just a wreck. And boy, once I got engaged, I was like a snake. I snapped at everything that moved, you know. I knocked the hell out of everybody. I had a guy -- I had a case in San Bernardino. Uh, there was five guys, and they had an engine fail on a load test. And this engine had just been rebuilt, brand new engine, and it, uh, burnt 100:00up a bearing. And when you start a new engine, a fresh built engine, you run it for one minute, and you go in and you feel all the bearings to see if they’re heating or not. And then you run it for 5 minutes again, 15 minutes again, and you work up to an hour, and you run it an hour, and you hand check all these bearings to see that they’re not heating. So this engine failed, burnt out a bearing. And a bearing can burn out if a piece of rubbish goes through or something, you know. So, um, they called a hearing. They’re going to -- they’re not going to fire these guys they got. That was my own fault, too. They got to where if they were offering them, uh, 30 demerits -- in the railroad 101:00system, they called them brownies, and if you got 60 brownies, you were fired, but they’d give them out at 20, 10, 30 at a time, 40 at a time, whatever. And I think this was a -- uh, a brownie deal, but you don’t know, because you’re going in there. They don’t say this is for this much, and they hadn’t offered these guys anything. And these guys were second shift guys. The hearing officer was a guy named Barry, who I liked. We got along very well. And, uh, the main -- the -- the main, uh, witness was uh -- God, I can’t say his name. I had worked with him as an apprentice, and he was now general foreman -- no, assistant superintendent -- uh, assistant superintendent, Bill something or 102:00other. Anyhow, so we get in there. And I’m a great trapper, so I said now for the hearing, uh, how long does it take a bearing to fail? I said this is going to be reviewed by people that don’t know anything about mechanics. He said about a minute, his first mistake. Could it take five minutes? No, it can’t go that long. It’d have to be a minute. And I’d ask him a bunch of questions, and I’d come back to are you sure that it’s only a minute?

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: (coughs) Well, you know the game you’re playing. He decides I want him 103:00to say it can take longer than a minute, and he ain’t going to give it to me. He’s going to -- you know.

BERNSTEIN: He’s going to --

MELVIN: So we dance around this for the God damnedest longest time, and old Bill shit. Anyhow, he’s not giving me a -- nothing. It’s a minute only, not over a minute. Oh, a minute. “For the record, and for everybody in this room, will you explain why this locomotive went through bearing runs, and it ran eight hours that night for horsepower runs, and they couldn’t get horsepower, and it didn’t fail until the next morning?” And the hearing officer said, “What? (laughs) Wait a minute. Stop the recorder. Uh, will everybody excuse us for a 104:00little bit?” So we went outside, come back in, and he takes up the hearing again. I said, “What the hell you doing here, Ron?” He said, “I’m closing out this hearing.” “OK.” And that was the end of it. They couldn’t explain it.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: I don’t know when it failed, but it not getting horsepower was probably failing that.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Would you like a piece of, uh, cake?

BERNSTEIN: That’s so funny.

MELVIN: Banana split cake?

BERNSTEIN: You know I am still quite full, but thank you.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Oh, OK.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Thank you.

MELVIN: Well --

BERNSTEIN: Also, I need to get a move on, too.

MELVIN: I’ll take a cup of tea. And so anyway --

VIRGINA MELVIN: Would you like a cup of tea?

BERNSTEIN: You know I’m good. I’m happy. I’m full, and I’m a water drinker.

MELVIN: OK. So anyway, that’s -- those things got me in trouble in the long run, because they’d lay in wait for me, but it also saved a lot of hearings, because --

105:00

BERNSTEIN: They’d give up before they started.

MELVIN: Well, the guys in Chicago, who I knew well because of working with them and everything, and I learned their pattern, if there was any chance of me winning, they’d settle. They would not let it go to a referee.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: So in that respect, you know -- but the settlements, sometimes, they were terrible. They did awful things to people. And, uh, I had one guy. He -- they had screwed him over, absolutely, terribly, and it was about Thanksgiving. They come back and we said -- they said we’ll put him back without back pay. It’s my duty to call the guy, and I said, “That’s what they’re offering.” “Well, what do you think?” I said, “You know what? I can’t predict what a referee will rule, uh, so I’m just -- all I can do is tell you 106:00the offer. And I’ll fight like hell for you, if you want to go on with it.” And he said, “No, my kid’s got to have Christmas gifts. I’ll go take it.” So they saved themselves six months of wages that this guy should have got.

BERNSTEIN: That’s terrible.

MELVIN: So that’s the way of it, but I used to -- I used to look forward to hearings. I -- I was really combative when that come to that, Jesus.

BERNSTEIN: So do you have any advice for the current labor movement?

MELVIN: I wished I did. We --

BERNSTEIN: I wished you did. (laughs)

MELVIN: We -- it’s very difficult to organize when they’re sending your jobs 107:00overseas, you know. Uh, the union movement in its -- the movement, itself, is dying, and it needs to get healthy and going. Uh --

VIRGINA MELVIN: Everybody’s afraid.

BERNSTEIN: That’s certainly part of it, yeah.

MELVIN: Well, the one -- you know the one that -- that broke the back of the union movement --

VIRGINA MELVIN: Was. --

MELVIN: -- was Ronald Reagan --

BERNSTEIN: Reagan.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Reagan.

BERNSTEIN: PATCO.

MELVIN: -- when he -- he, uh, got the air traffic controllers.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Mm-hmm.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: And I had seen the letter. It was a reproduction, of course, but I seen the letter where he wrote to them and told them they had no reason to fear the President of the United States. He was with them 100%, and then he did that. And, uh, then I had -- I’d had hundreds of people say hey, there’s no use joining a union. The president will just throw it out. And that’s what made 108:00the turn there.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: But uh --

VIRGINA MELVIN: And these people just think Reagan was the...

MELVIN: They still think he’s wonderful.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: And he’s the guy that deregulated everything. You know what I used to get on?

BERNSTEIN: Yes, we are still suffering the consequences.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yes.

MELVIN: Oh, yeah. I used to get on a plane, or go to get on a plane. Maybe I missed the plane. I got caught in traffic, and I was five minutes late. The plane’s gone. I could take that ticket to any other airline, and they would honor it for a flight from Chicago to Ontario.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: Any airline that was going would accept that ticket. Then they deregulated. Everybody’s got a different price. They won’t honor the other guy’s ticket. They don’t feed you anymore, because the other guy’s not feeding you anymore, and all these damn things. Now they’re charging you for luggage, and da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da. Well, that’s my other pet peeve. Do you know where 90% of the fault lays with all of that? The oil industry. They 109:00raise the price of fuel so damn much; the airline’s got to raise the airline tickets. And they’re s -- struggling to try to keep it down, and so they cut out everything else. And it’s tough enough to travel for a living without having all this other garbage, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, yeah, it’s really difficult.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: You know so I used to pick airlines by how they fed, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Back in the day. (laughs)

MELVIN: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: I’m going to turn this off. I thank you so much. (57:50)

MELVIN: Wait a minute. I’m just getting started. What the hell’s going on here?

BERNSTEIN: (laughs) We’re going to take a break anyway.

VIRGINA MELVIN: He’ll talk all night.

BERNSTEIN: Oh yeah, then I won’t get to my next…

MELVIN: Well...

BERNSTEIN: This has been great. I need to take your photo.

MELVIN: Terrific.

110:00

BERNSTEIN: If you don’t mind, I want to take you, and then I want to take the both of you.

MELVIN: I -- uh, that’s terrific. I photograph so well.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah, I hate my picture taken.

MELVIN: Oh, yeah.

BERNSTEIN: You do? What’s a good, uh, spot?

MELVIN: Hmm?

BERNSTEIN: You just want to just do -- you want to stand somewhere, or do you want to sit right there?

MELVIN: I’m sitting here.

BERNSTEIN: You’re sitting there. I’m going to do my best. (laughs)

MELVIN: Well, is the light wrong or --

BERNSTEIN: I don’t know. Let me -- you know you’re not supposed to take it into the window, but maybe if I just --

MELVIN: Well, we can --

BERNSTEIN: No, that’s OK. I think I’ll just stand over here. There, that’s good.

MELVIN: You about ready?

BERNSTEIN: Well, you look like you’re mad at me. (laughs)

VIRGINA MELVIN: He’ll stick his tongue out or something.

111:00

MELVIN: No, no, here we go. If I’m elected, ladies and gentlemen --

BERNSTEIN: (laughs) OK, excellent, and then let me get another one. Sorry, I’ve got to figure out how to -- there we go. I’m just going to circle around you. (laughs) OK. Oops, right, it’s red, for some reason.

MELVIN: Why don’t I just send you an 8x10 glossy, and let it go at that?

BERNSTEIN: (laughs) Send me a headshot, absolutely, the one you did for the modeling agency.

MELVIN: Yeah.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Oh.

BERNSTEIN: OK, I’m going to get you all together.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Why -- why do I -- you want me?

MELVIN: Because you ran your mouth on the -- on the recorder.

BERNSTEIN: Well, if you don’t mind.

MELVIN: She’s got to have a record.

BERNSTEIN: Do you mind? Is it --

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: Do you mind?

112:00

VIRGINA MELVIN: No.

BERNSTEIN: Can I push you?

VIRGINA MELVIN: No.

BERNSTEIN: I could -- you could scoot right over.

MELVIN: Come around this way, Gin.

VIRGINA MELVIN: OK, bring this chair.

MELVIN: Oh, dear.

BERNSTEIN: I’m sorry.

VIRGINA MELVIN: That’s all right.

BERNSTEIN: Bring this chair?

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah. [dog whining] No, not you.

BERNSTEIN: No, you guys don’t need to be in.

MELVIN: No.

BERNSTEIN: Or they can, I guess, if they want.

MELVIN: You weren’t a union rep. You didn’t even get here before I retired.

BERNSTEIN: (laughs) Hey, guys.

VIRGINA MELVIN: You’re being babies.

BERNSTEIN: OK, say how many years this is?

MELVIN: Sixty-one.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Sixty-one.

BERNSTEIN: Sixty-one is amazing. I am so impressed, OK.

MELVIN: It’s the product of fear. (laughs)

BERNSTEIN: Perfect.

MELVIN: OK.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. (laughs) Thank you. Thank you.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Sixty-one, yeah.

113:00

BERNSTEIN: Sixty-one is so impressive, I just have to say. So...

MELVIN: Well, there was some pretty close ones there where it might have not been 61.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yeah.

MELVIN: A couple overseas in Korea might have -- (laughs) only one or two. (laughs) Then I got sick, got out of that. I found out from Holly the other day Matt thought I was dying when I come home from heart surgery and I had no voice.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Oh, did he?

MELVIN: Remember?

VIRGINA MELVIN: Oh.

MELVIN: Jesus. Anyhow --

BERNSTEIN: Thank you so much. I would uh --

MELVIN: Well, have you got everything you want? We’ll meet with you again.

BERNSTEIN: I am sure I have everything. I could just say that you have a lot of stories, and we’re going to have to --

MELVIN: Go home, make notes. Let’s see. You’re out of New York, right? No.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, I’m in New York.

VIRGINA MELVIN: New York?

BERNSTEIN: I’m at NYU, so I am in New York, but I was going to meet you in --

VIRGINA MELVIN: Oh.

114:00

MELVIN: OK, uh, you make all your notes. We’ll be to Placid Harbor again someday, and that’s an easy run for you.

BERNSTEIN: That is easy. Anytime you come to Placid Harbor, you let me know.

MELVIN: Well, OK. Here we go.

BERNSTEIN: I’m serious about that --

MELVIN: Here we go.

BERNSTEIN: -- because we can’t -- Charlie is a busy guy, and he may or may not remember to tell me.

MELVIN: Maria --

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: Do you have a business card?

BERNSTEIN: I don’t, but I can --

MELVIN: Jesus, what kind of business lady are you without a card?

BERNSTEIN: I’m an historian. (laughs)

MELVIN: Oh, geez. Well, make notes.

BERNSTEIN: I’m going to write it right here.

MELVIN: Make notes for me, historian.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

MELVIN: Uh, Maria is trying to get together a group.

BERNSTEIN: The Rat Pack.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Yes.

MELVIN: The Rat Pack.

BERNSTEIN: Yes.

MELVIN: To -- uh, that would probably be very good for you, too, historian, because all the Rat Pack is us old guys. (laughs) But she’s trying to get together a group for August 25 through 29.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

115:00

MELVIN: Um, I talked to her the other day, and she said well, it depends on what kind of response we get. If we don’t get enough, we’ll cancel it out, and do it another time. The time before she tried to do it was in -- was in connection with a -- um, a program she had going there.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: And only two responded. It was me and some other guy. But it was February. It was cold. Nobody wanted to go up there, you know. They’re talking to you about this at Christmastime.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

MELVIN: So they’re trying for August now, and, uh, if she gets the group, then she said there’ll be 10-12, and August 25 through 29. There is a thing here you might -- no, that isn’t going to work either, because...

116:00

BERNSTEIN: This is the form that donates this interview to the Machinists Archive at the Southern Labor Archive.

MELVIN: I’m donating?

BERNSTEIN: And it was written by a lawyer.

MELVIN: And what value is my interview?

BERNSTEIN: Enormous historical value.

MELVIN: No dollar value?

BERNSTEIN: Not --

MELVIN: I can’t take it off my taxes? Jesus!

BERNSTEIN: (laughs) I’ll tell you what I tell people is if we figure out a way to write a book, make a movie, do -- make a website that makes a lot of money, you’ll get your share. (laughs)

MELVIN: We’ll -- we’ll hear from you. Oh, yeah.

VIRGINA MELVIN: Our son is going to go with him. The kids have decided that we can’t travel alone anymore.

BERNSTEIN: Oh.

MELVIN: Advanced years.

VIRGINA MELVIN: So I -- I think our son will go if they have this one in August.

MELVIN: No, he’s not going.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, really?

VIRGINA MELVIN: He’s not going?

MELVIN: No, he can’t get changed.

117:00

VIRGINA MELVIN: Oh, he can’t get changed, OK.

MELVIN: So Holly will go.

VIRGINA MELVIN: So Holly will go.

MELVIN: But that’s if, and when, and all of that. Do you want me to call you if they decide it’s a go for August?

BERNSTEIN: That would be great. I’m not sure what I’m doing in August, honestly.