California State University, Long Beach

Show simple item record Blair, Margaret Hickman, Vera, interviewer 2020-11-11T03:05:35Z 2020-11-11T03:05:35Z 2020-11-10
dc.description SUBJECT BIO - Margaret Blair was active in many progressive groups in Long Beach. Before coming here, she was a political activist who left the United States when her English husband was deported for labor organizing and anti-Nazi activities before the United States entered World War II. Blair grew up in Spokane, Washington, but went east to school and was living in New York when she met Mack Blair. The lived in the Los Angeles area and engaged in political organizing during the 1930s before he was shipped out with the Merchant Marine during World War II. When he returned and was threatened with deportation, they moved to Mexico. After her husband died in Mexico, she returned to live in Long Beach and continue her political work. In this series of interviews, she talks about her life and political convictions. She was interviewed by a friend who enrolled in a CSULB oral history class through the Senior Citizen's fee waiver program. TOPICS - Mack Blair; work; WWII; political activism; social action; protest action; marriage; Arthur Murray; union activities; unemployment; business ventures; and husband's deportation;reweaving business; Mack Blair's deportation; move to Mexico; travel and tourism; living arrangements; living conditions; family history; political activities; immigration status; teaching; and used furniture busi en_US
dc.description.abstract INTERVIEW DESCRIPTION - This is the fourth of five interviews with Margaret Blair, They were conducted by a friend who she met when she moved to Long Beach; the friend supported many of the same causes and belonged to the same organizations as Blair. The interviewer was also enrolled an oral history class through CSULB's Senior Citizen fee waiver program. The audio quality of this interview is good. 7/2/1984 en_US
dc.description.tableofcontents *** File: cbmblair7.mp3 Audio Segments and Topics: (0:00-2:58)... Brief introduction In 1940, Mack Blair was hospitalized for stomach ulcers. He got worse when a patient with pneumonia patient was put in his room. When he was moved to Bellevue Hospital, his condition improved. They took X-rays of his lungs and he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. During this time, Blair took a job as a statistician with the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. (2:58-6:35)... When Mack was diagnosed with tuberculosis, he was sent to the National Jewish Hospital in Denver. He was treated at the hospital for about a year. The staff was probably relieved to see him recover and leave because he had a tendency to argue with other patients, some of whom were anti-Semitic southerners and anti-union Jewish immigrants. Blair believed that he suffered from black lung disease because he worked on coal-burning ships shoveling coal into the boilers. He was released from the hospital in 1942 or 1943. He joined the Merchant Marine in California and was shipped to New Guinea. When he got home, he worked as a seaman on the West Coast and then returned to New York. (6:35-12:24)... During WWII, Blair worked for Ford Instrument Company as an engineer trainee. She started in the Unit Test Division, but was transferred into the Main Test Division after she tried to organize workers into a union. In the evenings, she participated in political activities and collected money for the war effort. When Mack got home, they decided to get married so she could receive his benefits if he died. They were married at City Hall with her sister and a custodian as witnesses. When she left Ford Instrument Company, she went to work at an electronics plant as an engineer. In this position she earned less pay than the people she managed because she did not have a degree in engineering. There was pro-Nazi sentiment in the plant. She started a petition against a person who threatened to assassinate Franklin D. Roosevelt. When the war ended, she was fired and told that the FBI had made inquiries about her. (12:24-20:48)... During the war, Mack worked as a seaman in the Pacific. After the war, he worked on a ship that brought Nazi prisoners to the US from Europe. When he returned to the US he went to work for the National Maritime Union in the Illness and Injury Department. He was not popular with union lawyers because he negotiated a lower percentage for them of the settlements they won for workers. He suffered another hemorrhage from his stomach ulcers and was placed on bed rest. Blair went to work for Arthur Murray as dance instructor in New York and soon helped the dance teachers organize a union. Murray hired detectives to monitor the work at the dance studio and to take lessons to find out which teachers were pro-union. When she was fired from the studio for her union activities, she joined the dance teachers on the picket line. During the strike, Murray hit women on the head when he threw sacks of water from his car window. He often asked Blair why she supported the CIO, which he believed was directly linked to the Soviet Union. No one from the union who met with Murray was Russian, however, except for Murray himself. He changed his name to Murray when he immigrated to the United States. (20:48-25:52)... After Blair left the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, she and Mack were unemployed. They decided to move to California and live off her unemployment insurance until they found work. In California, they lived in Yucaipa and Mack submitted several short stories to publishers. They were not accepted and he became discouraged. Then they saw an add encouraging them to learn invisible reweaving and decided to pursue it. (25:01-30:40)... Blair and Mack moved to Los Angeles and he signed up for a reweaving class. She volunteered at the headquarters of Henry A. Wallace's campaign for President. Mack 's stomach ulcers hemorrhaged again so she attended his classes at the reweaving school and taught him the lessons at home. When he recovered they opened a reweaving business and ran it until 1952 when Mack was arrested for illegally entering the US. He was imprisoned at Terminal Island and offered US citizenship if he cooperated with the government. He refused and was deported to England. End of tape *** File: cbmblair8.mp3 (0:35-4:47)... In their reweaving business, she did most of the detail work and Mack worked on tweeds and the heavier materials, as well as picking up and delivering their products. They made a fairly good living while they operated this business and saved some money. (4:47-5:50)... McCarthyism started at the end of WWII while she was working for Arthur Murray. The Murrays were excited when the Taft-Hartley Act passed and pinned newspaper articles about anti-union activity on the bulletin boards at the dance studio. The sentiment in the country was anti-union and Winston Churchill's anti-Soviet Iron Curtain speech reflected US attitudes toward communism. (5:50-16:02)... When Mack was arrested in 1952, he was in jail for several days before he was released. He was tried several times and his attorneys advised him to "take the 5th Amendment" rather than incriminating himself. His final deportation order was not enforced until 1954. Between 1952 and 1954, they continued their reweaving business and she was active with the IPP and the Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born. After much thought, they decided to move to Ensenada, Mexico rather than going to England. While in Ensenada they wrote a pamphlet to help people who wanted to live in Mexico and take advantage of the low cost of living. They advertised in Los Angeles newspapers and sold their pamphlets for $1. They also sold them in bulk to public libraries in Los Angeles. (16:02-22:51)... A lawyer in Mexico City helped them get documents certifying them as technicians and they began teaching weaving skills and English to Mexicans. When they moved to Guadalajara they left the reweaving business they established in Mexico City to a Mexican woman who earned enough from it to support her large family. In Guadalajara they met quite a few Americans, including some members of the Hollywood Ten. Whenever Mexican workers went on strike, the authorities assumed Americans instigated the activity and arrested them. As a result, Americans left town for a few days, whenever there was a strike, to avoid arrest. (22:51-24:43)... While Blair lived in Mexico, she visited the US once a year to help her siblings manage the family's grain elevator business. She was the acting vice president of the company. They ultimately sold the business to a farmers' cooperative. (24:43-30:07)... While she was in the US she visited shops in several cities to investigate the export market for her reweaving materials. In Mexico City, she did reweaving work for a secondhand furniture store owner and he encouraged her to start her own furniture business. When she and Mack moved to Guadalajara, they rented a large home and started a secondhand furniture store. End of tape en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.rights This repository item may be used for classroom presentations, unpublished papers, and other educational, research, or scholarly use. Other uses, especially publication in any form, such as in dissertations, theses, articles, or web pages are not permitted without the express written permission of the individual collection's copyright holder(s). Please contact the CSULB Library Administration should you require permission to publish or distribute any content from this collection or if you need additional information or assistance in using these materials: en_US
dc.subject Community Builders en_US
dc.subject Long Beach Area History en_US
dc.title Blair, Margaret (audio interview #4 of 5) en_US
dc.type Recording, oral en_US

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