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Jack Grossman

Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan

May 04, 2010

Call number: 2010.003.031

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SADY SULLIVAN: Hello, is this Mr. Grossman?


SADY SULLIVAN: Hi, this is Sady from the Brooklyn Navy Yard Oral History project.

JACK GROSSMAN: Oh, how long have you, what happened to you? I heard you announce yourself, and I didn't hear from you again. Anyway, how'd you find out?

SADY SULLIVAN: Well, is, is right now an okay time to do an interview?

JACK GROSSMAN: Yeah, why not.

SADY SULLIVAN: Okay, great. So, I am recording uh, this phone call. Do I have your permission to record?


SADY SULLIVAN: Okay, great. Um, and so for the archive, I will, I just have to say the date and everything. So, today is May 4th, 2010, and I am Sady Sullivan 2:00with the Brooklyn Historical Society. This interview is for the Brooklyn Navy Yard Oral History project. And then if you would introduce yourself to the recording.



JACK GROSSMAN: My name is Jack Grossman. Uh, I was employed by the Brooklyn Navy Yard twice. The first time I was about seventeen years old. And I went to work as a, as a helper trainee, because I was actually too young to be hired by them and, in order to make it okay, they, they announced a new, uh, title. I was a 3:00trainee. And uh, that was my first time being uh, accepted by them. And I went to work. They sent me to a, a school for three times a week, in which I learned how you actually can take steel. The school was full of huge ovens, they had about six, seven, in a row that did nothing but heat steel until they were 4:00flexible enough to bend to the shape that you need, or you put steel on a ship because on a ship, the steel has to have shapes in order to, to plow through heavy mortar. So, I learned how they do it and how they measure it and that gave me a good insight into what it takes to put a ship together. It's not like a house. Anyway -- for the first uh, for three days a week, I worked at school and 5:00I studied. The way they, lay out the shapes, and that was done by Irish kids who came over here from Ireland, because Ireland had been doing this for many years, and nobody ever knew about it. But the Navy Yard knew about them, brought them to the United States, so they could do what they knew best. And between these k--guys and very smart uh, American guys, who went to college and studied how to 6:00work with steel, we were able to assemble all the parts that go o -- on a ship. And the ship that I was assigned to wasn't even, they hadn't even started. But it was gonna be called the uh, um, I can't even figure, can't think of the name of it, uh, USS -- whatever. It was gonna be a, a big American ship.


JACK GROSSMAN: The Missouri.


JACK GROSSMAN: USS Missouri, was to be the ship that we were gonna build. Now, 7:00there was a ship already for launching right at the same time, and in the next uh, in the next dock, and I forget the name of that ship. They were sister ships. And in the end, there were five sister ships. But uh, the Missouri somehow got to do all the things that they needed at that time. And the Missouri became very famous. And the other four ships, I have no idea where they wound up. But --


JACK GROSSMAN: -- there were four more. Each one, they were the same size, same 8:00abilities. But the Missouri got all the high bylie [phonetic], hoy buloy, anyway. Does that answer your question?

SADY SULLIVAN: It does, yes. So, what year about was it that you started at the Navy Yard?



JACK GROSSMAN: Well, I was actually, I was not yet seventeen.


JACK GROSSMAN: If I was seventeen, I was born in 1923.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, it was about nineteen--uh-thirty-nine when I went to work in the Navy Yard.

SADY SULLIVAN: Ah, and for the archive, what is your, what's your date of birth?

JACK GROSSMAN: [date redacted for privacy] '23.


SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, so you have a birthday coming up in a, in a couple weeks.

JACK GROSSMAN: Yeah. I'll be eighty-seven.

SADY SULLIVAN: That's awesome.

JACK GROSSMAN: If you saw me and see what I s--still can do, you'd say that guy's, he's a walking miracle.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

JACK GROSSMAN: That's, I can still walk. I, I use a, a walker. But uh, I can walk without it. I just use it just in case.

SADY SULLIVAN: That's great.

JACK GROSSMAN: Because my eyes are not that great. So, if I trip, I got the walker to steady me. But usually I, just walk along. I keep my legs in shape that way -- because I hate doctors.



JACK GROSSMAN: I hate, medicine. I never take any kind of pills, except two uh, two pills, because I had open-heart surgery. And when, when I made it through the operation, the head doctor said to me, "To be honest with you, Jack, I never thought you'd make it. But since you did, for the rest of your life, I want you to take two pills." That's like five years ago, I had open-heart surgery. And nobody gave me a chance except the head doctor. And he said to me, "I'm giving 11:00you the shot only because of your attitude. I never saw anybody who was so strong mind. And I think you can make it." He was right. That was five years ago.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, that's wonderful.

JACK GROSSMAN: And I'm still walking.

SADY SULLIVAN: That's great.

JACK GROSSMAN: Still, my favorite expression is, I'm still walking, and squawking.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter] Very good. And so, you're in, you're in California now, is that right?


SADY SULLIVAN: When did you move out there?

JACK GROSSMAN: Oh. Went to California when I was, let's see, I was in my 12:00late-forties. Say about half-way to forty-one, forty-two. I nearly forgot, but I left New York because tragedy hit me, left me without a business. I felt, that it was time for me to try something else in a different place.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, I had a good friend who had gone to LA. And he had built a huge business with catering trucks. He had forty of them. So, one night, I was 13:00visiting with a friend of mine, who knew him through, and he called, and they were talking. And then my friend said, "Hey, I got Jack." Oh, he knew me very well. So, we got on a boat and we talked, I said, "I'd like to come to California. You got a job for me?" He says, "Get on the next plane." So the next day, I was gone.

SADY SULLIVAN: That's great.

JACK GROSSMAN: And I went to get --

SADY SULLIVAN: So, what kind of -- oh sorry.

JACK GROSSMAN: He put me in a catering truck. You know what they are?


JACK GROSSMAN: Sure. And he put a lady in there with me. And for a week, we 14:00roamed around to the different companies that I would service. And she taught me the ropes. And then, uh, after a week, I took it over. And from that point on, for the next twenty years, I was in the catering b-business.


JACK GROSSMAN: I wound up with three trucks of my own. And along came a guy in Washington who, if I got the chance, I would've shot him. In fact, somebody tried to shoot him.

SADY SULLIVAN: Who was that?

JACK GROSSMAN: And missed. He uh, the ex-movie actor.


JACK GROSSMAN: Yeah, Reagan?



JACK GROSSMAN: One day in office, he put me out of business.

SADY SULLIVAN: What happened, what kind of, what kind of business were you doing?

JACK GROSSMAN: I was, most of my business was with uh, companies that were doing defense work.


JACK GROSSMAN: Two of them were huge companies. And, in the same, sort of, complex. They were like four or five buildings in that complex. And he just shut them down completely. So, I was out of business.


JACK GROSSMAN: And that uh, ended my career. That was about twenty years in the catering trucks. And uh, I was out of business. But I was getting up in years. I 16:00was already in my sixties.


JACK GROSSMAN: And I said to myself, you know, Jack, twelve years in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, twelve years, were you ever in the Brooklyn Navy Yard?

SADY SULLIVAN: Yes, I've been there many times. My office is not very far from there.

JACK GROSSMAN: Well, did you ever watch anybody working, doing what you do in the Navy Yard?

SADY SULLIVAN: Um, doing, well, what do you mean, shipbuilding?


SADY SULLIVAN: No, I, I didn't move to Brooklyn until after it was, there was, it was decommissioned, so there was no more shipbuilding.

JACK GROSSMAN: Oh, well, if you ever had the opportunity to just watch what's 17:00involved in shipbuilding, you would say to yourself, these guys are nuts. Nobody would even attempt to do, do that.


JACK GROSSMAN: That's how dangerous it was. And that's how hard it was.


JACK GROSSMAN: To work with steel that you have to manipulate and move it. How you gonna move steel? Some of the steel was maybe a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch thick.


JACK GROSSMAN: How you gonna bend it?



SADY SULLIVAN: What power, you said that there was ovens that, that heated the steel so that it could be bent. What was, what was fueling the ovens?

JACK GROSSMAN: The uh, the ovens were placed in a building on the premises of 18:00uh, where the uh, the whole project was.


JACK GROSSMAN: They had like a huge area right on the river. And uh, so that the ship can be built on the plank that went from land into the river. I think it was the East River.


JACK GROSSMAN: And, uh, you could, when you built the ship, as you started, the, the ship starts at the front-end and works its way into the center. And, by the time it gets to the center, you almost over the water. So, it's built on planks 19:00of wood that lift it, so that it can go, you can build the whole length of the ship from front end to the rear end. And the rear end, by the time you get there, it would just about meet the water. So that when you're finished, in order to launch the ship, all they had to do is, what they used to do, is put grease on the plank, as they were building, and cover it. And it would let, until the ship was completed and ready to launch. Then they would remove the covers and the grease, and the ship would sink into the grease and slide -- from its weight, at this angle.



JACK GROSSMAN: It would slide into the water, rear-end first. That's how you launch a ship.


JACK GROSSMAN: That's why when you watch the christening of the ship, they built -- the front-end was up in the air. I mean pretty high up. So, they had to build special platforms. One on the front. That was Eliz--Elizabeth, the President's wife.


JACK GROSSMAN: She hit the ship with the bottle.


JACK GROSSMAN: She christened it.


JACK GROSSMAN: And uh, she was on a platform right in front of the nose. Then 21:00around the right side, from the nose was the next President, Herbert Hoover. After Roosevelt. And

then on the left-hand side was another platform with four kids or five kids who started building the ship. And I was one of them.

SADY SULLIVAN: You were on one of the platforms?

JACK GROSSMAN: I'm on that platform.

SADY SULLIVAN: Wow. How did, how did you get to be there?

JACK GROSSMAN: Because I was the original, we were four kids, when we got hired, they sent us to school, the lay out for the Missouri was being put together. There was nothing there yet. So, we went to school for two weeks to learn how to 22:00weld. In order, see, a house is put together with nails and hammer. A ship is built with steel and welding.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, you have to know how to weld.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, we, before we went to work, they put us in school, where we went to, to learn how to weld. However, I was underage. So, they had to find a different uh, t -- name for me.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, they called me another learner, they had a special name for me, which indicated that I was there to learn.


SADY SULLIVAN: I think did you say, is it, was it trainee, is that --

JACK GROSSMAN: Something, it was trainee, but not that particular name. They gave me a different name.


JACK GROSSMAN: I was a learner trainee.


JACK GROSSMAN: But when I left there, I had a title that I was just not a trainee, to learn how to weld. But they also trained me to read blueprints. I watched how they laid out things on, they did this -- uh -- a bunch of Irish guys were working there. Those years, the Irish had built a lot of ships. That's why the Irish and the English controlled the oceans around Europe, around all 24:00the countries in Europe. And that's why in those years, England was so powerful.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, a lot of those kids couldn't make a living. That's how they migrated to the United States. And when they came here, they knew that trade. So, when I went to work in the Navy Yard, all the guys that were there were Irish.


JACK GROSSMAN: They were American, but they came from Ireland.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, they knew how to lay out the uh, they used special kind of -- soft wood to lay out uh, the sizes of the plates that were made out of steel. 25:00And lot, see the ship, nothing is absolutely straight and flat, because it needs to be curved, because when a ship is plowing through water, it has curves. And years later, they referred to those curves a woman. A ship, when you talk about a ship, you talk about she.


JACK GROSSMAN: Because it has the curves like a woman. That's how it got the name.

SADY SULLIVAN: I never knew that.


SADY SULLIVAN: Right, that makes sense.


JACK GROSSMAN: Why didn't they call the ship he?


JACK GROSSMAN: Because a he don't have those curves. Just the shell alone, up front, is huge curves, to make it come to a point. So, when it plows through the water, the very front-end of a ship, comes to a point, just cuts the water.


JACK GROSSMAN: You know, everything has a meaning. When you don't know about it, you take it for granted.

SADY SULLIVAN: Right, that's really true.

JACK GROSSMAN: But the guys that built it, we had to build it with those curves. So, you had to know how to read the blueprints. I had to know how to weld. So I could recall that tack welding, whenever I got a steel plate or a steel beam 27:00into place, I would put a weld about two inches, three inches long, several of them, to hold it until the regular wilder -- welder came, and weld it to hold there.


JACK GROSSMAN: That's how we got it together. Does that explain something?

SADY SULLIVAN: It does, yes. Um, and so --

JACK GROSSMAN: Okay, uh, it was 1939 when I went to work in the Navy Yard.


JACK GROSSMAN: As an apprentice.


JACK GROSSMAN: Ships, ship apprentice. That's when I went to work, and they paid 28:00me fifty-eight cents an hour.

SADY SULLIVAN: Fifty-eight cents an hour. Wow.

JACK GROSSMAN: And I worked in the Navy Yard for two years. It was just about two years when the War ended. That was the Second, or the First World War, I forget which -- the War, that war ended, we won that war when Germany surrendered --

SADY SULLIVAN: Right, so you were working there until the war ended?


SADY SULLIVAN: Okay, so --

JACK GROSSMAN: --Until the war with Germany ended.



JACK GROSSMAN: But then, we got into another war after that with the two, uh, countries Iraq and Iran. No, no, no. There was another war that started. And I had been ready to be laid off and they called me to the office, and they said, "We're only gonna put you on temporary leave, because it looks like we're gonna be in another war." And we did. We got back into another war. And they called me back. So I did all together, I was in my twelfth year of service in the Navy Yard. So --


SADY SULLIVAN: Wow, so you started when you were seventeen, and you, and you worked there for twelve years?


SADY SULLIVAN: Wow. So, was that second war, so there was World War Two, and then was it Korea?


SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, okay. So you, when, how early did they know that there was going to be something going on in Korea?

JACK GROSSMAN: They knew all along --


JACK GROSSMAN: -- but they didn't want to uh, let it be known that they knew we would have to get into a war. And uh, we did. And when we did, they called me backup, and I went back to work. And all together, this is what bugs me, bugs me, all my life. I started as an apprentice.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, I got less pay than anybody else.



JACK GROSSMAN: But inside of two weeks, I was so good learning between being in the place where I worked -- oh, it was cold -- called a mole's loft. They named it that because that's where they laid out on the floor. They laid out the sizes and the plates, shapes that become steel, that become part of the ship.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, the mold loft, M-O-L-D?

JACK GROSSMAN: M-O-L-D. How they did mold it was these Irish guys, that's how they used to make ships in Europe, when they were living in England and in Ireland.


SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, so was that not how ships were built in the U.S. until that time?

JACK GROSSMAN: Well, we didn't build ships until they came to America.


JACK GROSSMAN: And then with their knowledge and the way they used to lay out the plates, the curves plates on the floor, with bals -- balsa wood that they c -- they can bend any which way they want. And they would bend, they would lay it out with chalk, the shape that the plate would take. Then they would take the balsa wood and they would nail it and bend it to that shape. And when it was all finished, they would seal it, so it keeps that shape. Then they would take it to 33:00the ovens where there was just flat steel. And heat steel to those shapes. And when they had it like that, they would let the steel cool off. And when it got real cool, it took, that was the shape that went on the ship. You follow me?

SADY SULLIVAN: Yes, yes. And so, what, how, what was making the steel hot? How did that, because I mean that --


SADY SULLIVAN: Those were huge pieces.

JACK GROSSMAN: Huge ovens.


JACK GROSSMAN: They were eight steel, they had about eight ovens in a row. That's why they called it the mold loft, because they were molding the shapes ---


JACK GROSSMAN: -- of the steel that go on a ship.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, and were they um, coal-fired stoves? What was, what was, uh, 34:00what was burning in the ovens?

JACK GROSSMAN: That I never, I think it was coal. But I'm not sure, because I never bothered to ask. It was too God damn hot around those ovens.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. [laughter]

JACK GROSSMAN: So, I stayed away from the ovens. But I used to watch the Irish guys mold the balsa wood into the shape that they needed and nail it. And then nail it to each other, so it looked just like the plate. But it was empty in the middle.


JACK GROSSMAN: It had the outside shape. Then they'd give it to the guys that were running the heat -- the hot ovens, and were, they would take a flat piece 35:00of steel, stand it up in the ovens, and then when the steel got real hot, they could bend it to these shapes. And when they got that okay, they'd hold it like that till it, hit a certain degree, and length. Then they would let it cool off and it would remain like that cold.


JACK GROSSMAN: And that's what they sent to the ship and it fit. That's how they can make the outside of the ship, the shell, which is curved, to a point.

SADY SULLIVAN: Right, right.

JACK GROSSMAN: That's how they got those big steel plates got to be curved.

SADY SULLIVAN: That's really neat. And so how did they, what did they use to 36:00bend the hot steel? I mean were they holding it with their hands or how did they, how did they touch that hot steel?

JACK GROSSMAN: Well, it was, it was, they had uh, these guys made templates out of balsa wood, to the shape that the steel plate needed.


JACK GROSSMAN: And they would num--number it. And then --- but they'd get flat steel and heat it, all they would do was take these plates and lay them against the steel that was being heated and bend it to that shape. You follow me?

SADY SULLIVAN: Uh, well I do, but I'm wondering, like how did they, was there a tool that could grab onto the big steel plate or ---

JACK GROSSMAN: Oh, they had all kinds of tools, and gadgets, and claws that 37:00could keep everything in the shape they wanted.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm. And then what about like gloves and stuff?

JACK GROSSMAN: You had to wear very thick gloves. I used to wear two pair on each hand. If you saw me, and you looked at my arm, my arm is full of potholes, both arms. Because when you're welding, you have to cover your face with a shield that you can see through. But the, but the sparks that fly up when you're welding, instead of hitting your face, they hit this shield, which covers your whole face. But it doesn't cover your arms. So, unless you wore very thick uh, 38:00gloves which I did, it went right through the gloves.


JACK GROSSMAN: Both my arms are just spotted, still to this day --


JACK GROSSMAN: -- with little, tiny little things that look like holes.

SADY SULLIVAN: And what was the treatment for that? What did people do?

JACK GROSSMAN: No treatment.

SADY SULLIVAN: No treatment?

JACK GROSSMAN: No treatment. No.

SADY SULLIVAN: Huh. [laughter] That sounds like a tough job.

JACK GROSSMAN: If you got sick, they would say, thank you. They would lay you off, pay you for the week, and hire s-somebody else.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, you had, like me, I said, in a pig's you-know-what, they're 39:00not gonna do that to me. I'll find a way to cover myself enough so I don't have to get laid off, because being laid off from the Navy Yard, where are you gonna get another job?

SADY SULLIVAN: Right, right.

JACK GROSSMAN: I made sure that that wouldn't be a reason for them to let me go. It would have to be something more drastic --


JACK GROSSMAN: -- like no more work, which happened after the War.


JACK GROSSMAN: Would settle that war. But then we got into another one, and they called us all back.

SADY SULLIVAN: Right. Um, and so when you, after you had been there for -- twelve years, at that point what was your title, job title?


JACK GROSSMAN: Oh. At that point, what happened was in my twelfth year, I finished eleven years.


JACK GROSSMAN: In my twelfth year, my daughter was born.


JACK GROSSMAN: And I said to myself, I can't continue to work for peanuts.


JACK GROSSMAN: Um, I'm becoming a family. I'm a family man. And I gotta go and find a way to make some more money.


JACK GROSSMAN: And that's what I did.

SADY SULLIVAN: And what did you do?

JACK GROSSMAN: Well, that's when I bought a New York, I had to, 'cause in those years, everybody used to belong to a club. There was a lot of people, lot of 41:00young men. And we formed clubs. And I belonged to one of those clubs. In fact, I was the president. So, I was talking to a couple of guys in my club, one the evening. And then it occurred to me, these guys are always in the club. They never, morning, noon, and night. So, one day I walked in, they were there. And I said, "Hey, where do you guys work?" "We don't." So, I said, "So where do you get your money from? You're not a bookmaker. I know that. So where are you getting your money from?" And they told me, they both had their own taxicabs.



JACK GROSSMAN: New York City taxicabs.


JACK GROSSMAN: And I said to them, "Are you kidding me? Those cabs cost a fortune." So, they told me what to do, how to do it, so I could get one. That's what I did. Exactly what they told me, and it worked. And I wound up with the medallion, that gives you, you put the medallion on the hood of a car and automatically, that becomes a New York City taxicab.


JACK GROSSMAN: So I did that about, oh, four, five years. Had my own city 43:00taxicab. But that was not a good idea, because that taxicab cost me 27,000 dollars at a time when people were lucky if they made 100 dollars a week.


JACK GROSSMAN: It was too much money.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, I never could pay it off.


JACK GROSSMAN: I was paying some money to a bank, because I was a veteran, the banks gave me ten grand to buy it --


JACK GROSSMAN: -- towards the cab. And the Shylock gave me the rest. So, I spent most of my extra money paying off the Shylock and the bank, I never paid it, 44:00till I sold the cab. Then I gave them back the ten grand. So that's how I went through that.


JACK GROSSMAN: But that came four, five years later. So, I had a lot of experience doing different things.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah, and so what was it that you were doing um, that ended when Reagan became president?

JACK GROSSMAN: When Reagan -- I was in the Navy Yard.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, that was in the Navy Yard.

JACK GROSSMAN: Yeah. He was the guy, the whole, I was just, I was, no, I was in the catering truck business when Reagan became president.


JACK GROSSMAN: And one of my companies was, um, three huge buildings, joined 45:00together, right outside city limits. And they employed the whole, all three of them employed people who were working for the government. And they were making, I never did figure out what they were making. But they were making products for the government, for the Army, Navy. And they were busy. And I was cleaning up serving them.


JACK GROSSMAN: And then Reagan comes along, the day after we elected him, he shut down the three buildings. Shut them down.


JACK GROSSMAN: Laid everybody off and put me out of business.


SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

JACK GROSSMAN: So, when that happened, that was after other disasters that hit me, I had lost my wife and my little girl. She was four, four years old. No, she was eleven years old when her mother passed away. And I couldn't take care of her. So, I, I had her go to live with my brother, who lived in New Jersey. And he had a home. And they were business, doing good. And he told me, "Jack, send her to me. We'll take care of her."



JACK GROSSMAN: I said, "okay." So that's, my daughter went to live with them. That's when I went to California.


JACK GROSSMAN: And got into the catering truck business.


JACK GROSSMAN: Then I spent twenty years in that business, until --- uh -- I forget what disaster hit me.


JACK GROSSMAN: That was my middle name, Disaster, follows me around. Another disaster hit me eventually. That's when he came along, that new President, and he shut down the companies that were making products for the government. Shut 48:00them all down. How stupid could that have been.


JACK GROSSMAN: That's years ago, and all the years that came after that, we were in trouble. If it wasn't Iraq, it was Iran. If it wasn't Iran, it was some other country, giving us problems. We been fightin' wars on and off all those years.


JACK GROSSMAN: So actually, we needed those buildings and the products they were making, was all for war.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, but they were shut down, so it turns out that the government had to have products for war made by foreign countries. That's why we owe so much money to everybody all over the planet.



JACK GROSSMAN: Because we stopped producing ourselves. Anyway. That about uh, covers how I did what, where, and uh, story of my life.

SADY SULLIVAN: We, I forgot to ask, um, where you were born. I know you were born in 1923, but where?

JACK GROSSMAN: I was born in New York City, Lower East Side --


JACK GROSSMAN: -- on the street called uh, Henry uh, Grand Street. G-R-A-N-D.

SADY SULLIVAN: I know Grand Street.

JACK GROSSMAN: Grand Street.


JACK GROSSMAN: I was born, we lived in, on Grand Street. Uh -- and uh, across 50:00street was Attorney Street, which ran one block to the bridge. And the bridge that went over into Brooklyn.

SADY SULLIVAN: The Williamsburg Bridge?



JACK GROSSMAN: A block from the Williamsburg Bridge.


JACK GROSSMAN: That's where I grew up.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh. And tell me a little bit about your parents.

JACK GROSSMAN: My father -- was the pickle man. Well known all over. My father came from Europe and, uh, when he came, he got a job working for a company that makes, still to this very day, when you buy pickles, you buy them in little 51:00bottles or jars with the soup still in it.


JACK GROSSMAN: And the name on it is the name of the guy who hired my father, when he came from Europe.


JACK GROSSMAN: And my father and this guy, they learned the business at the same time. They worked for some outfit that made sours, they made pickles out of lettuce, different kind of food that you could eat. It was the sour flavor that sold it.


JACK GROSSMAN: Once you ate it, you had to get a little more that's how good they were. So, my father got into it. And owned his own little company. And he 52:00was doing great, until my mother passed away.

SADY SULLIVAN: And did he meet your mother in the U.S. or in Europe?

JACK GROSSMAN: In the U.S. They were married in the U.S. and they had four children.


JACK GROSSMAN: I got two brothers who have all gone, and a sister, and myself. And I was the youngest. So, my sister is still alive. She's two years older than me. She lives in Brooklyn.


JACK GROSSMAN: She lives a block about from the entrance to Prospect Park.


JACK GROSSMAN: You know that well.




SADY SULLIVAN: Um. And where in Europe was your father from?

JACK GROSSMAN: My father came from uh, Austria.


JACK GROSSMAN: Very peculiar, but this always has bugged me, for many, many years.


JACK GROSSMAN: And this is very, it's very close to what this country did in later years, for the war efforts. My father came out of a country called Austria, which is the next country south of Germany.


JACK GROSSMAN: And there was a guy in Germany. His name -- let's see if I can 54:00think of his name. He was born and raised in Germany. He was Jewish. And he was the guy that came up with the theory of rel -- relativity.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, Einstein.



JACK GROSSMAN: He was born in Germany. And when he came up with the theory, he was a genius.


JACK GROSSMAN: At imagining and putting these things together, in his own mind.


JACK GROSSMAN: But he needed someone to make it official. So, he got this guy Grossman, same name as I got, who lived in Austria.


JACK GROSSMAN: And they -- knew each other, because the guy in Austria was a 55:00mathematical genius.


JACK GROSSMAN: And he was a teacher. So, he got in touch with him. Explained the theory to Grossman, and he told him, "I want you to go through it like a fine tooth, and figure out the, the uh, uh, what has to be done to prove my theory correct arithmetically, so we can put it on paper."


JACK GROSSMAN: "And then we can probably get enough money to follow through, follow my theory through, so that we can uh, put it into a good use, for the 56:00public." Anyway, to make a long story short, that's how we got the atomic bomb.


JACK GROSSMAN: Einstein's theory was the Theory of Relativity, which explains what happens when atoms are not too together. If you get a product where the atoms are like one here and, one uh, not in the same line, but half-an-inch away, to the side, like zigzag, zigzag. If they're singular and they're zigzagging, and you light a fire, it'll become a bomb.



JACK GROSSMAN: The normal way, when it goes, when the atoms, are two, one each the same, then two more, then two more. If you light them up, all you'll get is a little fire.


JACK GROSSMAN: But if there's a zigzag, it becomes a bomb.


JACK GROSSMAN: That's what made the atomic bomb. They found uranium.


JACK GROSSMAN: Uranium, there's atoms in uranium are zigzag.


JACK GROSSMAN: That's why they were able to make the atomic bomb. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: And so is that, that other Grossman, do you know is that person related to you somehow?



JACK GROSSMAN: No. It wasn't their -- not relatives, but coming, it appears to 58:00me, coming from the same country, there must've been a lot of people in that Austria named Grossman.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yes, yes. And so why did your father leave Austria?

JACK GROSSMAN: Well, he was only a young kid. And in those years, there were, you know he was probably couldn't get a job. There wasn't much work. And it was a trend, there were a lot of people at that time, starting to go to take the trip and go across the ocean to the U.S.A. And that probably sounded like a better chance for the future, get a job. So, it was a young kid, he took a shot. 59:00It worked.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. And so, was he, was your father um, was your father Jewish?


SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm. And were you raised, were you raised going to a synagogue?

JACK GROSSMAN: I was raised, but I didn't go. Because I had one question. I was a smart kid, maybe they would say I was a smart-ass. But I happened to have been a brilliant kid, and I wanted an answer. Because when I was eleven years old, my mother died.


JACK GROSSMAN: No, I'm sorry -- I was four years old.


SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, you were only four.

JACK GROSSMAN: Yeah, when my mother died. And when they took me to synagogue, I asked the head rabbi, "Where's my mother?" He gave me a story, "She's in Heaven and" -- you know what they tell little kids. And I said, "Why would she go to Heaven when I'm here?"


JACK GROSSMAN: And he couldn't answer me.


JACK GROSSMAN: So that cured me from religion. So, I spent my years growing up, and my father used to tell me, uh, "Yanke [phonetic]," he used to call me, "you want to go to the show?" And I'd say, "No." And he says, "Sometime, you're gonna 61:00have to go." And I said, "Pop, you taught me yourself: nobody, nobody is bound to do something that someone else said he must do. You gotta make up your own mind, what it is they want you to do and whether or not you want to do it. You taught me that yourself. And I have not gotten an answer yet why my mother died. And until I do, say, say goodbye for me." So, we left that at that. My father never asked me again.



JACK GROSSMAN: And, but we became so very close. Everything he did, he used to call me and he'd say, "Where's Yanke [phonetic]? I need him." And I, I helped my father through the next ten, fifteen years of whatever he did, I was there. I was a delivery boy. My father, when my mother passed away, my father tried to stay, he was, he used to make sour pickles, tomatoes, lettuce. So, he was known as the pickle man.


JACK GROSSMAN: And uh, as the pickle man, one day, he used to make the sour 63:00pickles himself, in the cellar. And he had a little stand outside. That's why my mother, she took care of the stand. So, in those years, geez, how'd I get into this story? This is a good story.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

JACK GROSSMAN: In those years, there was such a thing called the Mafia. Did you ever hear of the Mafia?


JACK GROSSMAN: Okay. So, you know what the Mafia was.


JACK GROSSMAN: Okay. So, the Mafia was around in those years. And on that street, that corner, cellar, where my father used to deliver the pickles, he 64:00used to make his own barrels and make the pi--pickles dilled in the barrel. And everybody in that block, the name of the block was Suffolk. Suffolk.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, I know Suffolk, yeah, yeah.

JACK GROSSMAN: Yeah. It was on one corner of Suffolk, where it got near a park. Okay. So, in the cellar, he made the pickles, the barrels, and everything. And uh, when it came to a certain point, where the Mafia were starting to spread out, what they did was anybody that had a store or a business, or any kind of outlet, pushcarts, the street, Suffolk Street was full of carts that they named 65:00pushcarts. It was just two wheels and a box and a handle that you pushed. And they were lined up one behind the other, all along the block. And each, each one had a box on top, big enough to put a product like any product, like fruit, one guy would sell apples. Another guy would sell tomatoes. And all through the block, the pushcarts had different products. And the women used the street plus the stores, they were like uh, bakeries, were there in the stores. And there 66:00were some stores where, where, that were little restaurants, where you could go to get a sandwich. And uh, that was the whole street, very known, very well known. So, when the Mafia was getting together, they were looking for people that they could rob. So, they went to those, that street, and they shook down all the vendors and told them, "In order for you to stay in business, you're gonna have to give us so much money every month. Otherwise, somebody'll come and wreck your pushcart."


JACK GROSSMAN: Yeah, that's how the Mafia got started. So, these guys, they were 67:00older guys. They saw a couple of guns and they said, to each other, "Hey, we're making a living. So we'll give them a couple bucks every month and maybe instead of fighting us, they'll protect us."


JACK GROSSMAN: So that's the way they did it.


JACK GROSSMAN: However, they came to the corner, and they said, "What's on the corner?" They went around the corner, and there's a stand where my mother had the sour pickles and tomatoes and all that stuff. And they said to my mother, "Who's the owner here?" And she said, "I am." They said, "Well, do you have a 68:00husband?" She said, "Yeah, he makes the pickles." And uh, they sent two guys to the cellar to get, talk to my father. So, when they got halfway down the steps, my father had already heard about these guys, who were shaking down all the peddlers.


JACK GROSSMAN: He knew about it. So, when they got halfway down the steps, my father looked up and he sees these two guys dressed to kill, like they're going to a wedding.


JACK GROSSMAN: And it hit him immediately, these are the crooks that are shaking down all the, all the peddlers. And he stopped them, and he said, "What do you 69:00want?" [laughter] I remember him telling me this story. He said, "What do you want?" And they began to explain to him in a nice way that he has to give them so much money every month, or else. So, my father didn't ask them what else. He grabbed both of them by the head, I remember him telling me. And he knocked the two heads together, boom. [laughter]


JACK GROSSMAN: And he almost killed them both. And then he grabbed them by the throat, and he says, "You come down here one more time, I kill, kill you both."

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, my goodness.

JACK GROSSMAN: My old man had guts. So, they staggered back up -- and up there 70:00is a couple guys waiting for them. And they said, "There's a maniac down there."

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

JACK GROSSMAN: So, they left. And uh, about a week later, they came back again to collect from all the other peddlers. So, they sent the two guys again, and two more guys again, to see my father. So, this time, when my father saw them at the top of the steps, he says, "Hey, you come down here this time, I let you come down, and I kill you down here. What do you think?" So, they said, "No, Mr. -- " they knew his name. They said, "This time, we want to taste your pickles."



JACK GROSSMAN: So, he says, "Are you crazy?" So, they wound up, my father gave them each a bunch of pickles. And they took the pickles, and when they went home that night, the women tasted the pickles, and they couldn't get over them. So, they said, "Next time, you go to that street," all the women on Mott Street put an order in.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

JACK GROSSMAN: So, my father had to make packages and send them to them and I became the delivery boy.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, uh, it get, they got me a hand truck, a little hand truck. 72:00And he used to wrap the packages, put the name of the lady that ordered it, and he'd tie everything to my hand truck. All I had, I walked over the railroad tracks, down to Mott Street, two blocks more. And the first time I did it, the minute I got into Mott Street, all the kids were playing in the street, the kids that lived there. And they saw me. And they all gathered round me and started to smell the pickles. And they said, "Hey, what you got there?" And they started grabbing. So, I grabbed a few hands and ripped them away. I said, "This is not 73:00for you. This is for the lady." In the meantime, the first building where someone lived was a tough woman. She heard the noise outside, and she took a look. And she comes running out with a broomstick, holding the sweep end of the stick was on the loose end. And she's holding this stick on the wooden end. And she hollers out, "You let that kid go, or I break everybody's neck."

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter] She wanted her pickles.

JACK GROSSMAN: Right, she wanted the pickles. "Let him go!" she screamed. So, they, they were scared to death of this lady. They let me go, and she said, 74:00"From now on, don't be afraid to come. Everybody's gonna know you're coming with pickles." And they all went crazy over the old man's pickles. And that's how he got to know the Mafia. But years went by, and he gave his business away to, he had couple of brothers who came back from the War. They weren't doing anything. And he was disgusted. So, he gave the business away. And then the Mafia liked him so much, that they said to him, "You got a job." About that time, the Mafia 75:00got into trouble with the cops. The cops would try and shake them down, just like they were shaking down the peddlers. The cops started shaking them down, telling them, "If that's what you want to do, then you gotta pay us. So, we'll turn our backs and you can go keep doing it." Cops were just as crooked as they were.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, when that began, the Mafia said, we ain't gonna do this, and gave the money away to the cops. Let's shut down and go across the river to Jersey. What are you gonna do in Jersey? Jersey in those years, very poor people 76:00lives. They were, you know, they got there, how they got there, nobody knows. They came from Europe [inaudible], but they were all poor. And there was a lot of empty houses. So, the Mafia said, "Let's buy one of these houses. We'll own it and we'll start running the games that we were running." They were running poker games for women. Blackjack for the men.


JACK GROSSMAN: They were doing it for some time. And while they were doing it, they asked my father to make food including the pickles and all that, to be 77:00there at the games, and feed the players, so that they were worried, they were worried mostly that if these people get hungry and we let them go out to eat, they ain't coming back.


JACK GROSSMAN: But if we keep them here and feed them here, with things like Mr. Grossman can make, they'll be here all night.


JACK GROSSMAN: And that's exactly how it worked out. My father had to stay there practically half the night feeding them. And so, they made money and my father became, he was never one of the Mafia, but he was always included some way, making food for what they were doing.



JACK GROSSMAN: That, the following years went by, eventually the cops get too heavy, so they went to New Jersey. And New Jersey got too busy, so they had to start looking for other places to go and along came a guy named Bugsy Siegel. Did you ever hear of Bugsy Siegel?

SADY SULLIVAN: Uh, not off the top of my head, no.

JACK GROSSMAN: Okay, Bugsy Siegel was also part of the Mafia. He was a killer. If they wanted to uh, eliminate somebody, quickly, fast, and nobody know what 79:00happened, there was Bugsy Siegel's job. That's why they called him Bugsy. He looked like a nice guy, but he was a maniac. So anyway, Bugsy Siegel, they sent to actually they were doing so good in Jersey, and at that time, the movies started, the first pictures ever made came about that time.


JACK GROSSMAN: And people flocked to the movies. So, the Mafia figured out that we gotta get into this racket, because this is gonna eventually wind up all over the country.


JACK GROSSMAN: And there's gonna be big bucks. So, they sent Bugsy Siegel across 80:00the country to Hollywood to get friendly with the people who were making the movies.


JACK GROSSMAN: And see what can be done. So, that's how Bugsy Siegel got to Hollywood. And when he did, he, he didn't just ask questions. He'd meet people, get friendly, and shake them down. But they were making so much money that he just, terrific. So, the mob loved it. It was great. However, one day, Bugsy Siegel fell in love with this lady. She was gorgeous. And I forget her name, but 81:00she became very popular. And uh, she was a redhead. And one day, they had nothing to do, so they got in a nice big limo that they had, and they drove out into the country, going east. And when they got across that state, that state, what's the name of that state, I forget, state right next, next to uh, the coast state. The coast state, where they made the movies.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, next to California, Nevada?

JACK GROSSMAN: Nevada, right. They went across Nevada to the, they were building 82:00in Nevada at the very bottom, joined two states at the bottom. And right in that area, they were building the Hoover Dam. You remember?


JACK GROSSMAN: The Hoover Dam --


JACK GROSSMAN: -- was being built, in the process. So, they needed a lot of people. So, the people that worked building the dam all had little houses. And when they were off on the weekend, they would go north uh, some distance, maybe an hour north. There was a little town, whose name I forget. And the guy running 83:00this little town used to have things for them to do. And restaurants and all that. So when Bugsy Siegel was going across the country, he came to that little town and when he got out, he saw a place that looked like he could get food, he and the g--lady got out and went in to get something to eat. Instead, they walk in and they find a big roulette wheel, you know what that?

SADY SULLIVAN: I do, yeah.

JACK GROSSMAN: A roulette wheel, two craps tables.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

JACK GROSSMAN: People shooting craps. And about six or seven tables where they're playing poker. And the women are playing, men are playing, and Bugsy 84:00says, he started laughing, he says, "This is, it's a crap joint, just like we got back east." So, he asked the guy, asked one of the uh, guys that were well-dressed, he figured that the guy's running the thing. And he asked him, "How much you pay the cops for this?" So, the guy says, "What do you mean pay the cops?" He says, "Well don't you pay the cops off, so they'll let you operate?" He says, "We're not breaking any laws here." So, Bugsy almost fell on his face. He says, "You mean to tell me that there's no laws regarding 85:00gambling?" They said, "No." "You mean the state doesn't control anything?" "No, they don't bother us and we don't bother them." So, he went crazy, he says, "I can't believe it." And so, he calls back to Jersey and he told them, he says, "Gambling is legal here! It's legal. You can build anything you want and make it a casino." That's how they built, got to build Las Vegas.


JACK GROSSMAN: That's where it started, with Bugsy Siegel. He got the idea. He picked the location, which would be near enough to the dam to get them to come 86:00to his casino. And

it wasn't that far from LA, two hour drive. And you're in a casino, which is legal. And they were right.


JACK GROSSMAN: And so, they put Bugsy in charge of construction. He got it going. But he was such a nut that uh, the woman, she was after the money. And so, he kept giving her the money that they were sending in to build the casino, which ran into millions. She was putting in the bank in her name, an account in 87:00her name. And whenever he asked for some money, she would tell him, "You ran out of money. You need some more." And he kept sending back, "We need some more money to finish the place." And so, the windup was, they sent a couple guys out there to see what was going on. And at the end, they saw the money was disappearing and they figured he was stealing. And to them, that was a no-no. You don't do that to them. That's why they killed him.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

JACK GROSSMAN: He was sitting, reading a paper. They got into the back of the 88:00house, and they killed him. And they gave the project -- they couldn't get the money outta her. She skipped out. But they sent other people to finish it. And that's how the place got built. But he named it after her, and she was a redhead. So, he named it The Flamingo. That's how The Flamingo got its name.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, that's great.

JACK GROSSMAN: It was the first hotel built in L -- Las Vegas.


JACK GROSSMAN: And after they opened, they realized what a boom that is, it was all legal, they could build as many casinos as they want. And that's what they did.


SADY SULLIVAN: So, going back to, to New York, was there anything like that going on in the Navy Yard, I mean in terms of who was able to get a job there and who couldn't get a job there?

JACK GROSSMAN: No, because the Navy Yard opened up on account of the war effort. So, the government was behind it. And they said, you hire as many men, at one point, there was three -- three, 30,000 men and women working for the Navy Yard.


JACK GROSSMAN: That's a big, big thing.


JACK GROSSMAN: But it was other, I mean it was work all over. So, after a while, 90:00there were nobody looking for jobs. Everybody was working, doing something.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, I worked there the first trip, I did, I was in my twelfth year. And I couldn't make a living. Because then I was married and I had a kid. And I said, Jack you gotta do something else.


JACK GROSSMAN: So that's when I got to using, I had served just under two years in, in the service. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: So, did you like the work you were doing at the Navy Yard?

JACK GROSSMAN: At the Navy Yard?


JACK GROSSMAN: I loved it. Man, just right down my alley. I was a natural. The 91:00first uh, I wasn't there um, a month, first month I was there, I, they were doing a job. And they had six guys doing this job. We were laying keel plates, for the M--Missouri. Just the beginning of the ship. And six guys it took to pull that plate into where it belonged. And I said to myself, six men, six men to do one plate. It's gonna take forever. So, I just forked away and in my own mind, I figured, what I, I would do, to get it done quicker. And then it -- a 92:00bell lit up in my head,

that used to happen to me all the time. I think about something, and a bell would go off. And I'd figured out how it can be done. Just me, myself. I wouldn't need any help.


JACK GROSSMAN: And so, I worked on Saturday and Sunday that weekend. And those guys were off. So, I went on a job and there were two loose plates laying, ready to be pulled into where they belong. And then tack welder, then the welders come 93:00along and weld it up for f--final. And that's the keel of the ship. The very bottom. And then you gotta do, then they, on the Missouri, there was two layers of, of boxes, one on top of the other. Each box was four feet high, so all together, eight more feet high before they would lay the second layer of keel. Only the Missouri has that, for extra strength. So, when nobody was around on 94:00Saturday, I went down myself and there were two loose plates. So, I did what I thought I could do. And it worked. So, I pulled, pulled plates into position, and I tack-welded them. And when Monday rolls around and the crews came back with their tools and their -- they had a huge uh, pipe, which they called a turnbuckle, that could pull plates like that. But it requires six men, three on each side, to make it work. [laughter] So, when they came, they saw two plates pulled into, and tack welded. And so, they called the master. There was a guy, 95:00Epic Shop [phonetic], had a master, so we were called shippers. Then the master shipper came down, took a look, and he says, "What's the problem? I don't see anything wrong." He says, "Somebody did this, 'cause we were wrong." So, the master said, "Well, who did it?" And they said, "We don't know." And he says, "Are you nuts? These plates didn't get up by themselves and walk and weld themselves."

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

JACK GROSSMAN: "Somebody had to do it. I want to know who did it." And oh Lord, oh Jack, I was scared out of my pants. He was angry. And I said, if he ever finds out that I did it, goodbye job. So, I was way up front anyway. I hid down 96:00where they couldn't see me. But the Master said, "I gotta find out who did this. Somebody find out. Think who else works around here." Well, nobody. Well, one guy said, "Well, there's that young kid Jack. He works around here. He's down the front of the nose."

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

JACK GROSSMAN: "He's a helper." So, they, they called out, "Hey Jack." Uh oh.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

JACK GROSSMAN: So here I went up and I walked up and they're standing right on the plate. Anyway, make a long story short, I had to explain to the Master how 97:00it happened. And I am the one who did it. He wanted to know how I did it. And after I told him, he says, "Come with me." I was a helper. Come with me. He took me to the office. And in the office, he said, "Change this status of this man. He's a helper. Make him full-fledged shipper. And he gets fifty-eight cents an hour. Give him -- pay, top pay for shippers." So, I went from fifty-eight cents to a dollar, seventy an hour.


JACK GROSSMAN: And he made me a ship builder. And he said, "From now on, Jack, 98:00you only answer to me, or I'll come looking for you myself."

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]


SADY SULLIVAN: That's great.

JACK GROSSMAN: Twelve years, he's the only one that I had to obey.

SADY SULLIVAN: And who was that? Who was the master shipbuilder?

JACK GROSSMAN: He was an Irishman. I never could spell his name. But I used to call him McGregor.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

JACK GROSSMAN: McGregor. That was his name.


JACK GROSSMAN: I was the only guy that he would talk to personally. And he gave me some real great jobs that I did on the Missouri. After the Missouri, there 99:00were two aircraft carriers. That I did other work on. And all through my career until they shut the Yard down, and my biggest beef was, I couldn't, by that time, I was married. And I had a little girl. And I couldn't make a living. So, I quit.

SADY SULLIVAN: What were other people doing? I mean why did they, were they getting paid more, or why --

JACK GROSSMAN: No. The Navy Yard was hard work, and the pay was not really, it didn't really cover what you were doing.


JACK GROSSMAN: They were getting away with murder.

SADY SULLIVAN: Was there any like unions or anything?

JACK GROSSMAN: There was no union.


JACK GROSSMAN: Just got what they paid you. So, it was okay for the government. 100:00They got the work done that they needed. And, it worked out good for the government. And a lot of the guys had jobs on the side. But eventually, they shut the place down. Now, I put in, I was in my twelfth year when I found that I could make more money running a catering truck.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, I resigned. I resigned. And uh, they beat me, when they decided in my twelfth year to shut the Navy Yard down completely, they said, "How are you gonna, a lot of these guys are eligible for pension." Like me, I 101:00was eligible. I was one of the first guys that ever worked there.


JACK GROSSMAN: So, because I had resigned, even though they could only pay up to eleven years of service, because of the twelfth year, that's when they shut the Yard down. So, they eliminated paying the people anything for twelfth years. They made it eleven years. They would lay these people off and give them their pension. When I found out about it, I went down to the office and I said, "Where's my pension?" They said, "You don't work there anymore." I said, "Hold 102:00everything. I worked eleven years full. I put in eleven years. This is my twelfth year, and I put half of that year in before I resigned. You owe me for eleven years. And that's what the pension calls for." Then they gave it to me.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, so you did get the pension in the end?



JACK GROSSMAN: I never got it. Not a nickel.

SADY SULLIVAN: Did that happen to other people also?

JACK GROSSMAN: I don't know about other people. All I know is, that was 1940. You know how many years that is they owe me for?


JACK GROSSMAN: They never gave me a nickel. But I did good without them. So, I 103:00said, that's right. Meantime, I did ten times as good working for myself in a catering truck, and I made a lot of money. So, so I didn't get a pension, so what. I'm still here.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

JACK GROSSMAN: Anyway, that's kind of uh -- uh, there's a word for, explaining things to have a lot more say about --- but uh --

SADY SULLIVAN: That's the short, the short version.

JACK GROSSMAN: That's a reference to my experience.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah, yeah.


JACK GROSSMAN: My experience in ship building alone is worth talking about, how, how did they figure out that uh, you had to be able shoot when the Missouri went, after Japan, the Missouri went twenty miles off the coast of Japan. Twenty miles. And they bombed the coastline for twenty-four hours around the clock. How did they know that they would need a gun big enough to do that ---


JACK GROSSMAN: -- if they didn't plan that, long before it ever happened.



JACK GROSSMAN: This thing couldn't have been done overnight. It had to be ready. And they were making it ready in the Navy Yard.


JACK GROSSMAN: I was making it ready.


JACK GROSSMAN: I was putting together the work in that frontend, to the boxes where you put, the Missouri has one big gun that can shoot accurately, accurately. Twenty-five miles. That's why they were offshore twenty miles. They knew it could shoot accurately at that distance. They knew that, they built it that way. Because they knew when they had the idea to someday get to that point, 106:00that's what was gonna be needed. You know, you may think Americans are kind of loose, we're kind of cuckoo sometimes, and we're, we're fun-loving people, there's nobody smarter on this planet than an American.


JACK GROSSMAN: We proved in that war. They thought they could take us easy. Especially in Germany. Hitler thought he would take everybody easy, until we got there. So, that's my conclusion. Everybody always underestimated us, because we're fun-loving people. I mean, who invented the music that we have? You go 107:00into even now where I am, if I go into the auditorium, one day, I go, and a guy is playing a big bazooka, oh ah, oh ah. I says, "Jesus, doesn't he ever hear of playing music?" We've had that for centuries. Bands, band leaders, singers, that's what made the country great. It's a great country. Because we've learned how to live the people's way. Not the government's way.


JACK GROSSMAN: And even as late as this, we got people running our country who 108:00don't know their ass from a hole in the wall. That's why we're in trouble. This country shouldn't be broke. No way, no how, would anybody that got good sense. We should be booming.


JACK GROSSMAN: We got all the natural resources known to mankind. And we're buying it from somebody else. What kind of sense does that make? Well, you know, I think these thoughts that go through my head go there because I always was a doer. I used to think of something, that's why McGregor loved me. He'd give me a blueprint and [inaudible] and he'd tell me, "Jack, see what you can do." And he, 109:00he always knew I'd find a good way to get the job done.

[Interview interrupted.]

JACK GROSSMAN: You know we got 160,000 troops in Iraq. What are they doing there? We got 70,000 troops in Germany. That war ended seventy years ago, they're still there. They belong here. Just having that many people here, getting paid here, you know what that would do to our, to our, to our country? We'd be booming. Businesses would be perking. Families would have money to buy 110:00clothing, food. If they were all here instead of all over the planet. Am I wrong or am I nuts?

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter] I don't know, that's a big, it starts to get global and complicated there.

JACK GROSSMAN: Shouldn't be. It shouldn't be global. We got a country. We gotta take care. Charity begins where, you tell me. That's a famous idiom. Charity begins at where? Home.


JACK GROSSMAN: We used to say that all the time when we were kids. Don't be giving your money away to everybody. Charity begins at home. When you got 111:00everything you need at home, then you can go and distribute, give your money away.


JACK GROSSMAN: But we don't listen anymore. We do, but some idiots who are running our country think it's best, for the best, for the world? The world gives us nothing, never did.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm. Well, we've been on the phone for almost two hours, so I should, I should wrap up the interview. But I wanted to tell you about the release form. Can I mail you a release form, and what will happen is, if you sign the release form, then this interview that we've recorded will become part of the Brooklyn Historical Society's archives, and also the Brooklyn Navy Yard's archives.


JACK GROSSMAN: Why not? I'm probably in the archives of the Navy Yard.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yes, I'm sure in some way, but not an interview before. Um, so, I can mail this to you. What's your what's your address?

JACK GROSSMAN: I don't know. Uh --

SADY SULLIVAN: I have your, I have Lisa's email. Should I ask her the address exactly?

JACK GROSSMAN: Could you hold on for a minute?



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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Jack Grossman

Jack Grossman (1923- ) was born in New York on the Lower East Side near the Williamsburg Bridge. His father emigrated from Austria and was known as the Pickle Man because he made and sold pickles. His mother passed away when he was four years old and he is the youngest of four children. In 1939 or 1940, Grossman was hired at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a Trainee - he was only 17 years old so they had to give him a special title and paid him only 58 cents per hour. He later became a shipbuilder and attended classes three days a week to learn how to tack weld and read ship blueprints.

In his interview, Jack Grossman (1923- ) talks about growing up in Brooklyn in a Jewish family and his experience working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He describes in detail the Mold Loft at the Navy Yard, where balsawood models were made from the blueprints and then steel was heated in large ovens and shaped to match the models, forming the curved pieces that would become part of the hull of the ships. He says that ships are known as "she" because of their womanly curves. Grossman explains that the master shipfitters were Irish and had learned the skills in the United Kingdom. Grossman worked on the USS Missouri and was one of four "kids" on a platform for the christening and launch. In addition, Grossman talks about his father's interactions with the Mafia while selling pickles, the founding of Las Vegas, and other jobs he has had including driving a taxi cab in New York and running a catering truck in California. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection is comprised of over fifty interviews of men and women who worked in or around the Brooklyn Navy Yard, primarily during World War II. The narrators discuss growing up in New York, their work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, their relationships with others at the Yard, gender relations and transportation to and from work. Many narrators bring up issues of ethnicity, race, and religion at the Yard or in their neighborhoods. Several people describe the launching of the USS Missouri battleship and recall in detail their daily tasks at the Yard (as welders, office workers and ship fitters). While the interviews focus primarily on experiences in and around the Yard, many narrators go on to discuss their lives after the Navy Yard, relating stories about their careers, dating and marriage, children, social activities, living conditions and the changes that took place in Manhattan and Brooklyn during their lifetimes.


Grossman, Jack, 1923-, Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan, May 04, 2010, Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection, 2010.003.031; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • Grossman, Jack, 1923-
  • New York Naval Shipyard


  • Blueprints
  • Cab drivers
  • Christenings
  • Food
  • Launches
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)
  • Model ships
  • Naval ships
  • Organized crime
  • Peddlers
  • Religion
  • Shipbuilding
  • Shipyards
  • Street vendors
  • Taxi drivers
  • Taxicab drivers
  • Work
  • World War, 1939-1945


  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • California
  • Lower East Side (New York, N.Y.)


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Finding Aid

Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection