Regular Americans Speak Out Part 1 Steelworker and Convict

A series of essays from various regular Americans on love, work, and life in these United States including works by a steelworker, factory worker and convict.

America Speaks

MIKE LEFEVRE, steelworker, Cicero, Ill.

"You can't take pride anymore. You remember when a guy could point to a house he built, how many logs he stacked. He built it and he was proud of it....

"It's hard to take pride in a bridge you're never gonna cross, in a door you're never gonna open. You're mass-producing things and you never see the end result of it....

"Pyramids, Empire State Building--these things just don't happen. There's hard work behind it. I would like to see a building, say, the Empire State, I would like to see on one side of it a foot-wide strip from top to bottom with the name of every bricklayer, the name of every electrician, with all the names. So when a guy walked by, he could take his son and say, "See, that's me over there on the 45th floor. I put the steel beam in.'" (From: Working by Studs Terkel. New York, Pantheon Bks., 1974.)


vending machine factory worker,

Cincinnati, O.

"I worked in the restaurant for a long time. The man who owned it and his wife were hillbillies too, so I didn't have too much trouble there. I was making a dollar an hour. Some days I'd get good tips and other days I didn't do so good....

"While I was working in the restaurant.... there was this guy come in there and he was drunk. He ordered ham and eggs. He ate about half the eggs and then he just laid his face right down in the plate, right in the eggs. I went over to him and I said, 'You better get your face up out of those eggs.' Well, he raised up and looked at me, then he reached over and pinched me. So I hit him over the head with a ketchup bottle. I never did have too much trouble when I worked in the restaurant." (From: Hillbilly Women by Kathy Kahn. Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1973.)

JAMEY McDONALD, convict, San Diego, Calif.

"I ended up in the joint because I wanted to keep up with the Joneses. All my life... I'm only 30 years old, been in since I've been 18. I started off with the Georgia chain gang. I ran away with a girl to get married, and we stopped at a motel. Now this may sound funny, but I didn't have no thought of stealing. I went down to get a Coke and when I came back my wife said to me (we'd only been married a few hours), 'When we get home to Philadelphia, we won't have no television in the apartment. If we take this, they won't even know it.'

"I did take it, you know. I'm not going to say she made me take it, but I did take it, and I ended up getting 3 years for that. I knew it was wrong, but when I pulled in to the motel, the sign said, 'Free TV.' I told the judge this and he laughed; then he sentenced me to 3 years." (From: Paroled but Not Free by Erickson, Crow, Zurcher, and Connett. New York, Behavioral Publications, 1973.)

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