Clyde and his union shop

2011-11-22-024 (1)Another loose photo I found among my grandmother Harriet Prettyman’s old photos. It’s a photo of Clyde Askew, my great-grandfather, and fellow employees at his place of work in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I believe my grandmother said he worked as a machinist at the General Electric plant the utility company (PG&E?) that was just down the street from where they lived in Oakland, CA, at the time.

As with the majority of the family photos I have, this one has no inscription on the back, so I’ll have to rely on details contained in the photo for hints as to where and when the photo was taken.

2011-11-22-024 (1)

Clyde is the chap in the dark shirt in the front row, fifth from the viewer’s right:

Detail of Clyde

From his apparent age alone (compared to other dated photos I have), this photo appears to be from the mid-to-late 1940s or the earliest 1950s. The clothes worn by those in the photo also appear to support this general time frame. Clyde and his wife Gert moved to Oakland, CA, in 1941, after his daughters Mary and Harriet decided to move there. Given the time frame, the photo is almost certainly taken at a place he worked in Oakland, CA.

Looking for other hints as to the date of the photo, the banner stands out as potentially helpful:

Detail of Banner

When searching for this slogan, I came across this near-match in the Duke University Library Archives collection, dated to 1950 (see also this):

Duke University Community Chests

So what is “Community Chest?” According to the Duke University record, it was short for “Community Chests & Councils of America, Inc.”, which was the predecessor of the United Way of America. Community Chests had been around since 1918, but started going by the national name of Community Chests and Councils in 1927. According to California Local History: A Centennial bibliography (entry 63 for Alameda County), the Community Chest was in Oakland since at least 1941.

According to a history of the United Way’s involvement with organized labor,

… on August 17, 1942, an agreement on cooperation was signed by the National Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) Committee for American and Allied War Relief, the United Nations Relief Committee of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Community Chests and Councils Inc. (now United Way of America). This agreement encouraged labor representation on Community Chests boards and councils, and for recognition of union member’s contributions. The agreement sought cooperation between employee solicitation organized by employers and union representatives who jointly stressed voluntary contributions without coercion. 

This agreement came in response to the growing number of fund drives organized to support Community Chests, labor war relief, American Red Cross, the USO, war bond campaigns, plus a number of trade, religious and advocacy groups who wanted to help. To coordinate effective support, organized labor and the Community Chests and Councils, Inc. agreed to join in collaborative fund raising and community development. As a result, labor liaison positions were established on the staffs of local community chests.

Given the association of the banner in the photo with what seems like a workplace staff photo, it seems likely that this photo post-dated the August, 1942, agreement mentioned above.

That’s all I’ve been able to find so far. Please let me know if you can add anything about this photo.

6 thoughts on “Clyde and his union shop

    • Thanks, Dan! I’ll change that now. Do you know anything else about Clyde and General Electric? I have a very dark photo of him in the machine shop there, but that’s about it.

  1. Steve Askew just sent an email explaining your project and providing a link to your website. I immediately recognized Uncle Clyde as we called him. I am one of the daughter’s of Mildred Askew Heinz. We lived in Oakland in the late 40’s and early 50’s. My father was in the reserves after WWII and was called back to duty for Korea. He was stationed in SF but I think my mother must have wanted to be close to Aunt Gerti and Uncle Clyde with her young children while my father was away. When we later moved to Sacramento from Oakland we used to visit Clyde and Gerti occasionally. I have fond memories of these visits as a young child. I will enjoy looking at this history. Thank you so much.

    • Helene,

      So great to hear from you! I remember corresponding with your mother decades ago, when I was just a wee kid, inspired by Alex Haley’s “Roots,” and wanting to learn about my own past. I saved her letters and will keep an eye out for them, so that I can show them to you, if you’re interested.

      I wish I had gotten a chance to know Clyde. I met him a few times, but as I was only months old, the memories just aren’t there. My mother tells me that he held me up just before he died and announced to all present, “Don’t call him ‘Mikey’—never call him ‘Mikey’!” I was much luckier with Gert, though, getting to grow up with her frequent visits. She was an amazing woman. Always cooking, canning, baking…. I’ve got several posts about Gert on the blog, too, and will certainly do more.

      I’m in Berkeley now with my wife; where are you and your family living these days? Still in Sacramento? I’d love to get together sometime and see what bits of family history, photos, keepsakes and such have survived on your side of the family (and likewise, of course). I have lots of unidentified photos that you might be able to help me sort out, if you’re interested, too.

      Thanks for writing!


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