By George Keeney,
George Keeney was Employment Manager for Marinship, and he penned the following memoir describing the diversity of the workforce in the shipyard during WWII. We are reprinting it here verbatim, including some of the slang of the day:
There were ball players and football players, wrestlers and boxers, golf pros, tennis pros, an ice skater, and a fencing master.
There were actors, singers, artists, cartoonists, composers, writers, carnival men, vaudeville stars, musical comedy stars, theatrical producers, night club entertainers, band leaders, and more than half the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
There were attorneys, teachers, newspapermen, chemists, nurses, tailors, insurance brokers, cameramen, veterinarians, morticians, and a puppet maker.
There was a casket salesman who was put on the graveyard shift, and a bulldogger who became a rigger.
There were assemblymen, former chiefs of police, ex-mayors, a fire chief, and a consul-general who became a shipfitter helper.
There were clergymen, and a rabbi who worked as a pipefitter helper.
There was the first American to join the Lafayette Squadron in World War I, and a man who took part in the Battle of Jutland.
There was an old Sourdough, and a relative of the Pope was a timekeeper.
There was an American Indian ballet dancer who became a slab helper.
There were over 300 Chinese, a large group of Latin Americans, and refugees from Europe.
There was a man whose first name was General, there was one whose first name was Colonel, and there was another whose first name was Baron.
There were ex-convicts who had got shipbuilding training from models in San Quentin.
There was the composer of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart," and there was a pie-eating champ who once consumed twenty-six lemon chiffon pies at one sitting.
There were men who were at Midway, Honolulu, Pago Pago, and Surabaya during Japanese attacks.
There was a man who had been torpedoed twice, a man who had spent eleven days in a lifeboat after Japs had sunk his freighter, and a former tail-gunner in a B-24. There was a welder called Miss Weld.
There were retired men who used their past experience in some related craft, and wives who replaced their drafted husbands.
There was a 72-year-old painter with twenty-one sons, step-children and relatives in the armed forces, and a 35-year-old electrical worker who had a son in the Navy.
There were fourteen deaf-mute chipper s in the Plate Shop, and a welder three feet eleven inches tall in the double bottoms.
There were a Mr. Dew and a Mr. Dont.
There were thirty Australian sailors, welding while their ship was being repaired, and fourteen members of one family: father, sons, daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandson and granddaughter.
After helping to build the first Mission tanker one worker joined the crew and sailed away with her.
There was the man who reported for work but had to go back home to get his tools—and his home was in Oklahoma.
The man with the shortest name was Mr. Ng, and the man with the longest was Mr. Papachristopulos.
The shipyard personnel included: a scrap-paper baler, a traffic cop, a refrigerator man, label stampers, window washers, a keymaker, a man who recharged flashlight batteries, locomotive engineers, a hard-hat repairer, goggle repairers, a deep-sea diver, a saw filer, a boiler-petcock checker, a fingerprint taker, a rat exterminator.