Work and Family


"Oh, this was a busy little town once, my gosh, I mean. When you graduated from high school, the fellas usually automatically know they'd go to the job with Bethlehem Steel, you know, good wages, lousy hours, but good wages." --Mary Bratina, Steelworker's wife
With industrialization, the institutions of home and work were physically separated, but they still intimately affected one another.

The life of a steelworker was always centered around his or her work, because of the rotating shifts, the dangerous work and the constant presence of dirt and noise.

"You had to be a sort of special person to be the wife of a steelworker, because your time was always, your whole life was planned around your husband's work"
--Helen Stubljar, Steelworker's wife

Children grew up without a constant father figure in the household because of the intense work schedule. Mary Bratina, the wife of a retired steelworker remembers her husband's shift schedule.

"That's what I hated. He was never home, and when I worked, we seldom saw each other. He didn't know the kids as well as I'd liked him to...I used to introduce them as a joke."

Shifts were made up of three different times: 11-7, 7-3, 3-11. These awkward time slots often interfered with the social lives of the workers. Mike Stubljar, a retired steelworker stated that the shifts kept him from doing the things he wanted to do.

"Half the time I wanted to go somewhere, like to the baseball game or something, I couldn'tgo...I never had a Christmas off until five years, then I had my first Christmas."

Noise from the mill was a constant in the lives of Steelton residents. Dirt and grime billowed out from the immense smokestacks that came out of the mill. Women had to arrange cartain chores such as laundry days around the mill's schedule.

"Every so often the company would...blow off the blast furnaces...where they made pig iron. They would blow it off and there would be this flaking. It was like little steel flakes...We'd hurry up and get it out, 'cause when it was dry, you could almost shake that stuff off, but if it was wet, you had to wash it all over again."
--Mary Bratina, Steelworker's wife

The mill not only affected families, but attracted families. It was common for sons to follow in father's, even grandfather's footsteps in seeking employment at the mill.

"

It was father and son, and all that. My dad worked there, so I worked there, and my brother worked there and then my son, when he was home from school, he worked there...It was family-oriented." --Michael Stubljar, retired Steelworker

The strong ties within the mill in turn yielded a better working atmosphere which promoted greater productivity; Everybody knew everybody. Mill culture revolved around family as much as family was influenced by mill culture.

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