“For me it’ll always be there.”
Shardae: I’m Shardae, Ill be your interviewer for this afternoon may I ask your name?
Dudley: Hi Shardae, my name is Ralph Dudley
Shardae: Ok when did you start working at the Bethlehem Steel Mill?
Dudley: In 1955, August the 31st. I was 20 years old
Shardae: Um did you have a job prior to working at Bethlehem Steel?
Dudley: I did, I worked at a slaughter house, for Eskay.
Dudley: I killed 1900 pigs a day, that’s a true story.
Shardae: Are you a first generation steel worker?
Dudley: I am
Shardae: What position, did you first work for at Bethlehem Steel?
Dudley: I started out as a Millwright helper?
Shardae: What did that entail?
Dudley: Well, A millwright helper you were thee uh thee helper on the job for the for the main millwright. You went for thee tools, you went for thee parts, you done all the labor work.
Shardae: Did you have any other jobs after that?
Dudley: After that? No I worked there for 41 and a half years and I retired in 1996.
Shardae: Do you know um how much you made at Bethlehem steel?
Dudley: Oh I squandered just about every nickel I made believe me. Oh about 1,000 dollars, close to a 1,000 a week on average towards the end of my employment there. In my mind I’m still working at Bethlehem steel. I love my job, I worked down there 40 years. I did not hate going to work down there. When I left my house, I was happy that I was going to work, and that’s true. I felt very honored that I could work in a place like that, you know.
Shardae: Could you recall some of the friendships you’ve made over the time at Bethlehem Steel?
Dudley: Oh God yeah I had great friendship with just about everybody, I don’t believe I had one enemy down there you know. Well we all have health issues. I’ve got uh some good uh things I’ve brought out of Bethlehem Steel. I’ve got asbestosis, I got COPD, you know I can’t breathe.
I can’t hardly walk anymore, that goes with the job that I had down there. Like i told you earlier, all the chemicals and conditions that you work under. You know, you opay for that. The abestos was unbelievable that we hard to work, it looked just like it was raining- snow almost, looked like it was raining. Anyway the wife I have now, I have nothing to offer her, you know. My spendings are all gone, only thing I got coming in is a small pension check and social security. I had to go get another job, as a security guard at 79 years old- it’s not a hard job, it’s an easy job but I have to do this to make ends meet thanks to Bethlehem Steel going belly-up. If they hadn’t went belly up I’d be living a comfortable life. They took my medical plan away from me, they took my life insurance away from me, they cut my pension. I mean, that’s some negative things, there are more positive than negative things I got out of Bethlehem Steel.
Shardae: What lives on, what’s the legacy of the Mill for you?
For me it’ll always be there. We drove by there- I’m getting a little teary on this. It was just a good time for me to work down there, and I’m glad I retired in ‘96, I’m not glad, because I got out in it’s glory day- at the end of it’s glory day, so there you go…