Friday, March 30, 2012

Guest Blogger: Steel Mill Adventures Part 2

Here's the conclusion of my brother Ken's reminisces about working at the steel mill in the late 1970's and early 80's.

Steel Mill Adventures Part 2
By Ken Brady

Continuous Buttweld Mill at National Tube Co. in Lorain - 1960
After I moved around and became a millwright apprentice, there was more time for exploring. You could work in a mill where they had an active line, and you would see all kinds of old machinery in old sections that weren't being used anymore – huge old defunct lines. One of them was parallel to the Continuous Weld Mill, but set way down in the ground.

The stairs down to it were chained off, but another apprentice and I took some flashlights and went down there one night when we were bored. We went to the end of the mill, out of sight, and found a door that opened to a tunnel and went down into it. We followed it past old offices and stuff (most of the doors were locked), went through intersections, made turns and got lost.

The tunnels went on as far as you could see. There were more of the old posters and stuff, but we started worrying about getting in trouble for being gone so long.

We finally found some stairs that went up, followed them, hoping for an unlocked door at the top, but it was locked. We stood there wondering what the hell we were going to do, and the door opened! It was a pipe-fitter we both knew! We had come up the back way into his workshop.

He was amazed we had come up there, and said that he had only opened that door once and looked down it, and had never opened it again until that day.

We had to go up another flight of stairs just to get up to ground level, and we were in the wrong building! We had to cross a couple of wide yards to get back to the CW Mill, but at least we had picked up a bunch of old, old tools along the way in the tunnel. Our pockets were full of them, and they went into our tool lockers.


Around 1982, I think, they closed the CW Mill and we apprentices were sent to another department in the rolling mill. They posted the schedules on Thursday, if I remember right, on a wide wall for all of the crews to see. And one Thursday, they had drawn a line through the schedules diagonally, all of them, and had written the word LAYOFF. Thousands of workers laid off just like that.
Management had to open up a whole new unemployment office in the otherwise falling apart shopping center at 21st and Leavitt Road just to process all of us. We were told to show up there on a certain day, and there we all were, in a huge line stretching across the parking lot. I felt bad for the thirty- and forty-year-old guys. I was only twenty three or twenty four, and I could go out and get another job, but those guys – old men, I thought then – what the hell were they going to do?
As for me, I ended up in the Army.

When I got out of the Army in 1994, I tried to put together a resume. I had some questions about the time I was at U. S. Steel, and also wanted to get some kind of proof that I had worked there.

In those pre-internet days, I called information in Pittsburgh, and the operator told me that U. S. Steel was now called USX. After calling around and talking to dozens of people, trying to come up with records for Lorain-Cuyahoga works for the early 1980's, I was finally directed to the Archives Section. There, I talked to a gravel-voiced old geezer who told me he would research it.

After about a week, I got a letter in the mail, just stating that I had been a laborer at the mill between certain dates. Not much use.

Years before, we used to say, "What's good for U. S. Steel is good for the U. S.A." and make jokes about it at the mill. Now U. S. Steel no longer existed!

Ken of course was referring to when U. S. Steel was renamed USX Corporation in 1991. Since 2001, it has gone back to its old name, United States Steel Corporation.

Special thanks to Ken for sharing his anecdotes!


Bob Kovach said...

Great story Ken!The only time I was in the Steel Mill was in 1996 for their open house,till this day I am amazed with this fantastic place.I'm sure you have many more Steel Mill adventures we would love to hear about! Thank you

signage sheffield said...

It was an outstanding story! Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

lindagrashoff said...

These posts are fascinating reading! I was at the steel mills Tuesday, trying to take abstract photographs of the wonderful shapes and textures there, but of course was not allowed close enough to accomplish that. I, too, would love to hear more of your stories. Maybe you even know what the building is that I show on the June 12, 2015, post of my blog,

Alex Figueroa said...


Some more digging through ancient posts. My mother was telling me of lore in regards to there being tunnels at the steel mill. She alleges they used to mine for salt in that area, much like Cleveland. I had never heard of this in all of my readings, but I remember this post about the tunnels your brother speaks of...she also mentioned that they had fallout tunnels at the mill. Have you ever heard of such a thing or can your brother comment on that?

Much appreciated!