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Audrey Lyons

Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan and Jennifer Egan

May 02, 2009

Call number: 2010.003.017

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AUDREY LYONS: Well that's something familiar.

JENNIFER EGAN: That's 288. Do you remember when you would come in, if you had to walk a long distance --

AUDREY LYONS: Well, it seemed to me we were right near the entrance.


JENNIFER EGAN: Right near the entrance?

AUDREY LYONS: I think so. And then I remember, I think when I took that bicycle, it was in this direction with all these ships in here.


SUSAN LYONS: That was the Missouri when it was in dock?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, I -- I don't think the Missouri was -- these were other ships that were being repaired --

SUSAN LYONS: These are dry dock, yeah, and then I guess --

AUDREY LYONS: Mm-hmm. Right.

SUSAN LYONS: -- these are actual docking--

JENNIFER EGAN: Um, Daniella could tell us better.


JENNIFER EGAN: And machine shops --

AUDREY LYONS: I was there when the Missouri was, uh --

JENNIFER EGAN: -- central tool shop --

AUDREY LYONS: -- christened. That's a good story.

JENNIFER EGAN: Oh, did you see that?


JENNIFER EGAN: All right, so--

AUDREY LYONS: It's a good story. I'll tell you that when we get to it.

JENNIFER EGAN: All right. So, uh, were there ships docking here?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah. I -- I mean --

AUDREY LYONS: Where would the U.S.S. Missouri have been, you know?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Well, uh, it was built in Dry Dock Six --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- so it should be --

AUDREY LYONS: So that's where it went, down the ways there. Yes.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah. Or the shipbuilding ways were here, so actually, that's something that we're trying to figure out. If ships were launched from the dry docks, or from the shipbuilding ways.


DANIELLA ROMANO: Because I think that's been the idea, is that this is all sub-assembly manufacturing. So basically it starts, there's a transfer bridge that's outside the window here, and that's where all the materials would be floated onto the yard by barge, because we weren't synched up to any municipal lines. And then there's -- this was the classification yard. So my assumption is that this would be where cars would be float -- or, brought onto the yard and their contents identified, and then they'd be distributed. And then this leads to a sub-assembly, the mold loft's over here, and there's twenty-five miles of rail track just around the yard, so essentially it would be the sub-assembly of just parts. And then a final launch at the shipbuilding ways. But there was also the assembly inside the dry docks, so...

AUDREY LYONS: But they would never have built the ship there and then moved it over to there to --

DANIELLA ROMANO: I wouldn't think so.


AUDREY LYONS: No, it's too huge.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Unless -- but these, so these are building ways and these are dry docks--

AUDREY LYONS: Mm-hmm. So I think it must have been there and this was where they repaired the ships that they brought in that needed repairs. That's what I thought.


AUDREY LYONS: Because it was moored, it wouldn't ship there. And that's the only one that I know that was built there, actually.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Hmm. I don't know, because somebody -- somebody just told me, "Oh, that's where the Missouri was built, in Dry Dock Six," but then that --

AUDREY LYONS: Well, it's possible --

DABIELLA ROMANO: Unless it didn't fit.

AUDREY LYONS: -- I don't know about that, but I know I saw it go down the ways. So would that happen here?

DANIELLA ROMANO: No, here, here.

AUDREY LYONS: No. So that's where it happened, then. Because I was standing, like, right here. [laughter]

SUSAN LYONS: When it was launched -- when it was christened, you mean?


SUSAN LYONS: When it was christened?

AUDREY LYONS: When it was christened. Yeah.


JENNIFER EGAN: And do you remember --

AUDREY LYONS: And it went down the ways the same day.

DANIELLA ROMANO: When it was launched, yeah.

JENNIFER EGAN: And do you remember whether where you were standing to see that ship was near where you worked?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, I'm sure it was somewhere in this area right here.


AUDREY LYONS: But I don't --

JENNIFER EGAN: Daniella, do I have a copy of this map? Is that in the bundle you 3:00gave me?

DANIELLA ROMANO: I'm sure, yeah.


AUDREY LYONS: This doesn't really even look big enough for a great big --

SUSAN LYONS: I'm sure it's big once you get down there. [laughter]

AUDREY LYONS: I'm so mad, I brought a great book that had a picture of the thing -- and then I left it in my suitcase. I wasn't expecting to come, so.

SUSAN LYONS: Well, I'll make copies and send them over to these guys.

AUDREY LYONS: But there's a funny story about that, and I'll tell you when -- when you're interested in hearing it.

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah, okay. So Daniella, what, what is our plan?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Let's go. I was just trying to see if there's anything inspect --

[interview interrupted]

DANIELLA ROMANO: Um, really interesting variety of tenants.


DANIELLA ROMANO: Steiner Studios is probably our tenant with the most cachet. Um, that's five sound stages and a million square feet, um --

AUDREY LYONS: Oh my goodness.

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- of stage space, and they're acquiring -- they've just acquired our historic Building One --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- and they're, um, re -- refitting that to serve as a media complex.


AUDREY LYONS: Wonderful.

DANIELLA ROMANO: And let's see. Our other showcase tenants are Duggal Photo 4:00Processing. Um, we have a sustainability initiative on the Yard, so our showcase tenant for the sustainability -- sustainable manufacturing is a company called the Ice Stone, and they do recycled --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- countertop manufacturing.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, wonderful.

DANIELLA ROMANO: And then aside from that, we have everything from set -- set design companies, and, um, to, like, there's a little 19th century type setting press called Woodside Press that's here within the Yard. Yeah, so that's like two guys.


DANIELLA ROMANO: We have Crye Associates. I'm going to go out and into Cumberland to try and just see where we can orient you that way. These guys, Crye Associates, they were two Cooper Union students who, on a lark, submitted a Department of Defense, um, proposal for uniform --- or for armament, for personal armament design.



DANIELLA ROMANO: And now their space has just grown from I think 2,500 to 25,000 feet.


DANIELLA ROMANO: And they're the source for this particular type of armament. They got the bid.

AUDREY LYONS: Did you say it's 99% rented?


AUDREY LYONS: That's amazing.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Um, some open spaces are like -- that, Building 77 --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- which might be familiar to you?

AUDREY LYONS: No, I don't remember that one.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Oh, I love that.

AUDREY LYONS: I don't remember that.

DANIELLA ROMANO: That's a favorite of mine. Um, those upper floors are some -- I think a couple of them are untenanted now, but --


DANIELLA ROMANO: Um, because that's --

AUDREY LYONS: And that was, uh, that was there from the beginning? I don't remember that building at all.

SUSAN LYONS: Maybe you didn't get down to this end --

DANIELLA ROMANO: Went up in '44.

SUSAN LYONS: -- too much.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, that could be.

DANIELLA ROMANO: I think that's what we're finding out. That everybody --

AUDREY LYONS: It was such a huge place.

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- was so localized. Yeah.

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. It was sort of like a little village, and, you know, and you were more or less in your own little cocoon, sort of. [laughter]

DANIELLA ROMANO: And would you, if you tried to explore, were there guards?


AUDREY LYONS: Not once you came in. I think the security was very lax, really. We had badges, and we came through, and the Marines were at the gate, there were Marines there. And, uh, we used to bring cakes. [laughter]. Good thing nobody ever looked at them to see if there was anything in them.

DANIELLA ROMANO: A key! Or a saw! Right.

AUDREY LYONS: [laughter]


JENNIFER EGAN: Where were you taking a streetcar from, to get here?

AUDREY LYONS: Uh, I was in another part of Brooklyn, it was out toward Queens, really. It was only two blocks from Queens, so it was really sort of the outer edge of Brooklyn.


SUSAN LYONS: Near were where all the cemeteries are.

JENNIFER EGAN: Right, right.

AUDREY LYONS: So that, well I took this elevated line which went to Jamaica, Long Island. That was where that one ended up. So I came in -- coming in this 7:00direction, I think I had to change somewhere, and then get on the Myrtle Avenue line, that's what I remember is the Myrtle Avenue line was what I took to come here. Then I had to walk quite a bit to get to the entrance. But then --

JENNIFER EGAN: Right, because if you were on Myrtle, that's several blocks.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. And there was no transportation coming that way.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Would you come right down the hill along Cumberland into the Yard?

JENNIFER EGAN: Do you remember?

AUDREY LYONS: I -- wherever I came off, it was a straight walk right down.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Okay, so that would have been Cumberland.


SADY SULLIVAN: What neighborhood did you grow up in?

AUDREY LYONS: Cypress Hills.


AUDREY LYONS: Do you know where that is?


AUDREY LYONS: Where all the cemeteries are? [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: Our own Naval Hospital Cemetery remains were disinterred for the most part and moved up to Cypress Hills.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh really? Did it? Oh. I didn't think they'd have any more room there. My parents are -- are buried there, but I don't get there very often.

[interview interrupted]


DANIELLA ROMANO: So then you would just go right to school after work?

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. And I really can't remember how I got there. Must been -- must have been go back to Myrtle Avenue and get on there and change somewhere, because Brooklyn College is way over --


AUDREY LYONS: -- in Flatbush.

JENNIFER EGAN: And then you had an incredibly long ride back home after that.

AUDREY LYONS: Yes, then I did! I didn't get home till ten, eleven o'clock at night.

JENNIFER EGAN: And then you were back on -- at -- on the job early.

AUDREY LYONS: Next day, right, I know.


JENNIFER EGAN: How did you do that?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, I don't know. You know. We had -- I belonged to a sorority, so we would -- in fact, we even had a house in Brooklyn, which was amazing, and you would spend time in between classes, you know, there visiting with friend 9:00and what have you. And I had one other friend -- not too many people that went to Brooklyn College came from that part of Brooklyn, so I had one friend, and that was Anna.


AUDREY LYONS: So -- and I still see her.

JENNIFER EGAN: This is going to be the museum, right?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah, that's -- I was going to point it out.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh is it? Yes.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Well, we can see it from inside the Yard, too. So you would just do your homework on the train? Because it sounds like you had plenty of time on the train.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. Right. [laughter]

DANIELLA ROMANO: So here's Cumberland Gate.


DANIELLA ROMANO: Reconfigured now.


DANIELLA ROMANO: Let's try and see just how you would walk in.


DANIELLA ROMANO: Did you take a left?

AUDREY LYONS: This was more of an entrance --


DANIELLA ROMANO: How you doing?

AUDREY LYONS: Wasn't like this. Nope. And I don't remember that great big hulking building.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Oh, okay. This has been here for yonks.

AUDREY LYONS: Seam shop.

DANIELLA ROMANO: There's Electrical Trades on the left.

AUDREY LYONS: Mm-hmm. Hmm. Is there another entrance?

JENNIFER EGAN: I wonder if it was the Sands Street entrance.

AUDREY LYONS: It's possible. I -- but Cumberland sort of sounds more familiar. 10:00But Sands Street...

DANIELLA ROMANO: Would you come in through a gate house?

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. There was like a --

DANIELLA ROMANO: Did it have crenellations? Did it look like a little fort?

AUDREY LYONS: No. Well, it might have, it might have.

JENNIFER EGAN: Can we pull back out?


AUDREY LYONS: But it wasn't open like that, where we just came through.

SUSAN LYONS: So it was really like a porta -- you had to go through --

AUDREY LYONS: It was, like it had a cover --

SUSAN LYONS: -- a portal?

AUDREY LYONS: -- over it.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Okay. I think we're talking about Sands Street then.

AUDREY LYONS: Okay, it's possible.

DANIELLA ROMANO: And I wonder --

AUDREY LYONS: This looks more familiar, too.

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- if you would have been in the mold loft. Okay. Um, were you near the shipbuilding ways?

JENNIFER EGAN: The mold loft had a lot of floors, though.


JENNIFER EGAN: Didn't you say it was a two-story building?

AUDREY LYONS: It was. Well, unless some of it was underground, but I think it was two-story because the huge parts were downstairs and then we just did all the upstairs -- I think that was a new section that they built during the war --


AUDREY LYONS: -- to do this, because it was all -- I think it was air-conditioned if I'm not mistaken.


DANIELLA ROMANO: Oh, that's nice.

AUDREY LYONS: So because of the parts, I guess. Because some of the parts were very intricate.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Is that my car making that sound? Okay, so then we'll go out Sands Street. But that's all --

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. I'm sorry I can't remember any more.

DANIELLA ROMANO: No, that's okay.

AUDREY LYONS: But all I know is we came in and it wasn't too far to the building from coming in, where we came in.



DANIELLA ROMANO: Sands Street has changed a lot. The gate -- the gatehouse is still up --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- but the way -- you don't access directly into the yard anymore.


DANIELLA ROMANO: Now it's this --

AUDREY LYONS: I don't know, somehow Sands Street doesn't sound familiar.



DANIELLA ROMANO: How you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: All right. [laughter]

SUSAN LYONS: And there wasn't any kind of covered entrance at Cumberland that might have been taken down?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Not that I've ever seen.



DANIELLA ROMANO: But Sands Street was the --was the main entrance to the Yard --



DANIELLA ROMANO: -- for many -- until World War II, they started using Cumberland.


JENNIFER EGAN: Ahem. I think except for Ida and Syl -- these are two ladies we interviewed last week --


JENNIFER EGAN: -- most of the people I interviewed have come in, came in through the Sands Street gate.

AUDREY LYONS: Through Sands Street?


AUDREY LYONS: Do -- do you know where they came from?

JENNIFER EGAN: Um, different places.


JENNIFER EGAN: Um, Ida -- well --

AUDREY LYONS: Because where they came from would have had something to do with where they --

JENNIFER EGAN: Ida and Syl were coming from Queens, and they didn't come in the Sands Street gate either, so they might have been doing the same thing that you were.


DANIELLA ROMANO: This is the Sands Street gate.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, that sort of looks like it, I think.


AUDREY LYONS: I would say that was where we went in, yup.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Okay, I'm going to go up here and do a U-turn, then.


DANIELLA ROMANO: So now that orients us a little bit better --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- but it's not going to feel very natural because we can't go through the gate.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. No, that's definitely more what I remember. Because it had a 13:00cover over it.


AUDREY LYONS: It's pretty amazing.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Okay, so it had a cover over it.

AUDREY LYONS: Now, none of these buildings were here then.


AUDREY LYONS: I don't think.

DANIELLA ROMANO: This was all Sands Street.


DANIELLA ROMANO: These went up in the '50s.


JENNIFER EGAN: And Sands Street --

SUSAN LYONS: Oh look ahead, Mom, does that look familiar?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, it does.


AUDREY LYONS: That's more what I remember. And we'd go right through here, and it's -- at that time, there were a lot of places where you could go through, and there were Marines at each one. So it seemed to me then --

DANIELLA ROMANO: Oh, okay, so different entrances--

SUSAN LYONS: And then you would bear to...

AUDREY LYONS: Then I think we were right off to the left there --

SUSAN LYONS: -- veer to the left?

AUDREY LYONS: -- but I could be wrong. I'm -- but that definitely looks like where we went in.

DANIELLA ROMANO: So maybe, like, Building 12 --

AUDREY LYONS: It may have been that the elevated didn't have a stop on Sands 14:00Street, I think that's a, uh, an underground stop. So maybe I came off at the other one and walked over here. Could be. I don't know, I just don't remember Sands Street, but--

DANIELLA ROMANO: All right, see, it would be easier if we could just go through --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- and then, but -- maybe, we'll take you over to where the old paymaster's house is and see if that's at all familiar, too.

AUDREY LYONS: Gosh, this is amazing.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah, it's all changed a lot.

SUSAN LYONS: What's this that they're building?

JENNIFER EGAN: New tow pound building. Oh, this is new tow pound, this is NYPD.


AUDREY LYONS: See, now that brick building over there could have been it.


AUDREY LYONS: Could have been. I'm not sure, though.

DANIELLA ROMANO: That would be Building 11 and 12.

SUSAN LYONS: It looks like, on the map, she was describing as walking off to the left a little bit.



DANIELLA ROMANO: So then the shipbuilding ways were up this way.


[interview interrupted]

AUDREY LYONSWas this something that was taken down right here, or is that why they have that closed in?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah. Um, and I don't know who's in there now and why it's closed off. So...

AUDREY LYONS: Can they rebuild if they want to? Can they take an old building and rebuild it if they wish?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Well, that's our goal, is to reuse as much as we can.


DANIELLA ROMANO: Um, so these are all reused. Now, this is what looked kind of familiar to you, Buildings 11 and 12 here.

AUDREY LYONS: But where would that second story be?

DANIELLA ROMANO: I don't know. Unless it was built in as a mezzanine, you know what I mean?


DANIELLA ROMANO: Not into the --

AUDREY LYONS: It's possible.

DANIELLA ROMANO: This is Ice Stone in here, so this is the countertop manufacturing.



DANIELLA ROMANO: So see how there are these mezzanines -- is it--


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- was it that type of second floor?

AUDREY LYONS: No, this was all enclosed. It was all enclosed.


AUDREY LYONS: As I said, these were -- you know, some of these were very delicate parts, and --



SUSAN LYONS: Not -- not a dusty environment, either?

AUDREY LYONS: No, it wasn't -- this was not a dirty job at all. No.


AUDREY LYONS: Downstairs was. [laughter] That's where the --


AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. But we all had jumpsuits, we all wore jumpsuits.

SUSAN LYONS: Mom, when you would go in --


SUSAN LYONS: Then you would take a stairway up to your floor?

AUDREY LYONS: I -- you know, I think there might have been an elevator but I really couldn't say for sure.


AUDREY LYONS: How about that one? [laughter]

DANIELLA ROMANO: This familiar at all?

AUDREY LYONS: It's not big enough. No, I really don't think -- what was here, now? What was in here?

DANIELLA ROMANO: There were three buildings that stood here, 23, 24, and 64.


JENNIFER EGAN: When did they get torn down, Danielle?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Oh, years and years ago.


AUDREY LYONS: This isn't big enough --

DANIELLA ROMANO: I don't know exactly when.

AUDREY LYONS: -- this building, no, that wouldn't be --


AUDREY LYONS: Maybe it was one that's --

SUSAN LYONS: What about this one up on the right here? It looked like a two-story building.

AUDREY LYONS: That was just the end of that other one.

SUSAN LYONS: No, on --

DANIELLA ROMANO: No, on the right.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, the one -- no.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Um, this is tenanted by Cumberland Packing Corp. now. Sweet'N'Low.

AUDREY LYONS: Mm-hmm. Yup, yup. This is a two-story. That could have been it.

JENNIFER EGAN: Do you know what this was, Daniella?

AUDREY LYONS: I really couldn't tell you --

DANIELLA ROMANO: I don't, but I can look it up. Twenty-two--

AUDREY LYONS: -- which one it was, but I mean, it could have been this one, it could have been that one.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Okay, we'll look up 22 and 127.

AUDREy LYONS: But I couldn't say for sure.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Well, Operations Shop.



AUDREY LYONS: Hm. That was another thing. We had a lot of glass windows up where we worked. It was very bright.

JENNIFER EGAN: And you were on the second floor?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. And it was very bright. And it was -- and it seemed new-ish, so I, I think they built it in an old building, but they made it work for what 18:00they needed at the time.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Mm-hmm. Yeah, they were all reused over and over and over.

AUDREY LYONS: Mm-hmm. Right.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Um, I'm just going over the dry dock one for a quick second, and then we can go back. Did you ever get out to any of the dry docks? Did you ever try and do any exploring?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, the one story that I have to tell you, which I think is funny -- it was very casual, you know, and people -- I think we had a half hour for lunch -- everybody brought their lunch because there was absolutely no place to buy food. Maybe there was a truck that came for coffee in the morning, but it was usually, you brought your lunch. So one day, I knew a man who was out in the shop, and he had a bicycle. So I -- I asked him if I could borrow it, and he said, "Sure." So I took my lunch hour and I got on the bike, and I went out. And I think it was out toward where you showed all those bays, those bays. And there 19:00was a ship in there that was actually a working ship, and huge! And all these sailors were up there. And of course, as I'm going by, I was only eighteen at the time and, uh, they're all whistling, you know, and woo, woo! And saying all kinds of funny things. And I got so nervous that I wasn't paying attention, and I went through sand and fell off the bike.


AUDREY LYONS: [laughter] So then it was even worse, because then they were saying, "Oh, too bad!" You know? I felt like a fool, I had to get up, you know, I had scraped my knees. So I don't think I did that again.

DANIELLA ROMANO: That's awful.

AUDREY LYONS: But that was a funny story.

JENNIFER EGAN: Anyone can identify with that. [laughter]

AUDREY LYONS: Right, right!

AUDREY LYONS: I can just see them, I can see all those sailors up there. You know, it was way up! I mean, it was like, like they were on a three-story building, you know. [laughter]

DANIELLA ROMANO: Oh, woman on the Yard. All right. Well, we can go over and have a look at dry dock one. So that was over by the old, the large dry docks, then?


AUDREY LYONS: Where that happened, you mean?


AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, I'm sure it was, because that was out that way.


[interview interrupted]

AUDREY LYONS: We socialized a lot.


AUDREY LYONS: Oh yeah. We used to go -- well, first of all, as I mentioned, there were no men around. They were all drafted. So the only men that we knew were the men from here, and we used to go out for dinner sometimes, a big group of us. Or we -- we used to go a lot to up underneath the George Washington Bridge and have picnics.


AUDREY LYONS: And the whole place would go. And I don't -- I'm trying to figure out how we got the food there, because we must have brought it here. We didn't buy it.

SUSAN LYONS: How'd you get over there?

AUDREY LYONS: I don't know how we did it. [laughter] But we went --

JENNIFER EGAN: Probably by subway, no?

AUDREY LYONS: I don't know whether anybody had cars --

DANIELLA ROMANO: It seems like such a long haul

AUDREY LYONS: Not many people -- you see, it's so different. You just don't realize, people -- not a lot of people had cars then. Everybody used public 21:00transportation, so I think we must have gone on a train some way. I only knew one, this Charlie Herman had a car. That was unusual [laughter] for anyone to have a car.

DANIELLA ROMANO: So he was everybody's best friend?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, he was. [laughter] But no, we did socialize. And in fact, I had brought a picture -- but unfortunately I left it in my suitcase -- of some people who were there. There was another name I had from there, it was Cooney. But I don't remember his first name. C-O-O-N-E-Y. Was, uh -- and oh! And then there was an operation in Maspeth, Long Island.


AUDREY LYONS: You know about that one? That -- he was from that group. So it was like one big happy family, really.

DANIELLA ROMANO: But he was from the Maspeth --

AUDREY LYONS: He was from the Maspeth operation.

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- installation.



AUDREY LYONS: Then another thing was a lot of the girls who worked with us, they were mostly girls who had just graduated from college or were in college and 22:00quit because of the war --


AUDREY LYONS: -- and, uh, a lot of them married men that they met here who were working out in that outside part.


AUDREY LYONS: You know. So -- not a lot, but two or three that I remember.

DANIELLA LYONS: That's what we heard from Ida and Sylvia, right?

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. Really?

SUSAN LYONS: The same thing. Sylvia met her husband -- were you in a union?

AUDREY LYONS: No! This was -- [laughter] This was the United States, uh, you know, the government. So there was no union.

DANIELLA ROMANO: So you were working for the Federal Government?

AUDREY LYONS: Yes, right. It was -- it was a government job.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Okay Yeah. That is a little different, because these other women that we've been interviewing --

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, really?

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- have been civilian employees.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, oh were they? I thought everybody in here had a government job.

DANIELLA ROMANO: No. A lot of civilians built the ships.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh. Mm-hmm. I see.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Uh, here's Building 92 --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- which is going to house the exhibit for the Historical Center.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh yes, oh good.

DANIELLA ROMANO: And then the Historical Center is going to be a 20,000 --



DANIELLA ROMANO: -- square foot building also in the extension to the back of 92.

AUDREY LYON. Mm-hmm. Good.

DANIELLA ROMANO: And that'll house classroom space, community meeting and event space --

AUDREY LYON: Wonderful.

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- um, research center, and mission-related, not-for-profit tenant space.


JENNIFER EGAN: When is it set to be completed, Daniella?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Well, the design's meant to be done in November for both the exhibit and the buildings. And then they break ground in January of '09, uh, and then it's meant to all be done by March, 2010.

AUDREY LYONS: My goodness.

JENNIFER EGAN: That will be a miracle!

DANIELLA ROMANO: Don't say that!

JENNIFER EGAN: We all begin construction with such optimistic voices.

DANIELLA ROMANO: [laughter]This is the can-do Yard!

AUDREY LYONS: Oh my goodness.


AUDREY LYONS: I don't know how you keep it all straight, it's so huge.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah, well I've been getting -- getting schooled now. For a while, there, I was the only one who really was studying all of this, and 24:00talking to -- talking about it within the Yard. But now the more people that we interview --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- the more I'm getting educated and it's great to have the body of knowledge distributed. As long as we can provide access to it


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- all through the Historical Center. So you don't remember 77 at all? That went up in three months in 1944.



AUDREY LYONS: No, I don't remember it at all. Well, you see, by '44, we were really winding down. No, I guess it was more '45. Yeah. So maybe it wasn't completely built by then, in '44. Oh, you say it went up completely?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah, it went up in three months.


DANIELLA ROMANO: Really fast. And then now we're going to go into Dry Dock Five.

AUDREY LYONS: There really is nothing here that really -- it all looks familiar, but I couldn't say any one building looked familiar.


JENNIFER EGAN: And this must have been kind of where you had your bicycle incident.


AUDREY LYONS: Might have been. It was right wherever the ships were because they were up there. [laughter] Another thing was, among the gals that I worked for, quite a few of them had husbands. Uh, they were a little older.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Hey, how's it going?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Good, how are you doing? Development Corp?


DANIELLA ROMANO: BNYDC. Does it say it on the side?


DANIELLA ROMANO: Okay. Navy Yard Development Corp.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: All right, who are you going to see?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Just going in to look at Dry Dock Five.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Do they know you're going in?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Alex Gomez, he knows us. If you want to check in with him. We're just going to be two seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: All right, go ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: We'll just put you down as a visitor.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Okay, thank you.


DANIELLA ROMANO: Usually there's another guy working, so I'm -- I'm spoiled and used to just being able to roll right in.

AUDREY LYONS: [laughter]

DANIELLA ROMANO: So there's some activity going on in here today.

JENNIFER EGAN: Is this the Hammerhead?

DANIELLA ROMANO: No, the Hammerhead was torn down in '66.




JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah, this is amazing. This is bigger than the other one.

AUDREY LYONS: Isn't it? Yeah.

JENNIFER EGAN: Oh, much bigger. This is -- there, there were two. Dry Docks Five and Six. And like I said, the Missouri was supposedly to have been built in six.

AUDREY LYONS: Mm-hmm. Well it's -- well I'm sure that's right then. So it must have been launched from there.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Well, it might have been partly assembled within here and then -- but you'd think that they --

AUDREY LYONS: I can't imagine they could have moved it because it was so huge.

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- float it out and float it into the shipbuilding ways, yeah.

AUDREY LYONS: But it definitely did go down this way.


AUDREY LYONS: I mean, I watched it.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah, I'm sure it launched from the building ways because those were the big --

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, I think that's --

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- skeletal, black structures, right?

AUDREY LYONS: Right, right.

DANIELLA ROMANO: But when you fell off your bike...?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, I think that was over here.


AUDREY LYONS: It could have been right along here because if there was a ship in there--


AUDREY LYONS: Although it seemed to me I was bicycling along the side of the ship.

DANIELLA ROMANO: It could have been berthed at one of the piers.

AUDREY LYONS: Maybe. Maybe. But that's a true story. [aughter] What I did want 27:00to say about these gals who had been married -- were married before the war -- and it was very hard for them. They were always worried about their husbands, they were in, you know, Europe or Asia, whatever. And, uh, they were always so worried. The rest of us didn't have those close connections to anybody, so we were more enjoying ourselves.


SADY SULLIVAN: Would they get telegrams and stuff delivered to work?

AUDREY LYONS: No, not that I remember. But they, you know, watched the news. Lots of times, you didn't, uh, get telegrams, you'd just hear the news from the newspaper, or the radio, or whatever.

JENNIFER EGAN: Was the radio always going? Was everybody kind of always tuned into what was going on?

AUDREY LYONS: No, no. You -- because you could -- you wouldn't be able to have a radio on because you had to concentrate. [laughter] See those windows up that, 28:00that looks like something like where we were. But I couldn't say that it was.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah, just here, these are new buildings.

AUDREY LYONS: Are they? This was an old brick building. Over there, it had the kind of windows that I kind of remember.

JENNIFER EGAN: Okay. Well, let's -- okay. We'll just do a quick skirt through.

AUDREY LYONS: But I could be taking you around on a wild goose chase, really.


DANIELLA ROMANO: That's okay. Um, and they -- the buildings were all very similar.

AUDREY LYONS: Yes, they were.

DANIELLA ROMANO: So you could see parts of them that would be familiar to you.


DANIELLA ROMANO: But that's a brand new building.

AUDREY LYONS: Not that modern one, no, no.

JENNIFER EGAN: It was something behind that.


AUDREY LYONS: This was an old, brick -- red brick one.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Okay, the big -- the like five or six story one?


AUDREY LYONS: Well it looked like it was maybe five stories. And it had a lot of windows, which is what, you know, I remember, windows.

DANIELLA ROMANO: That's Building One, um--


SUSAN LYONS: Back here?

AUDREY LYONS: Down here, see, there, where those -- all those windows were. But 29:00that --

DANIELLA ROMANO: That's the foundry.

AUDREY LYONS: -- whether that could be it or not, I don't know.

DANIELLA ROMANO: That plan that you saw in the archive --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- that said new foundry --

AUDREY LYONS: That was the foundry.

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- that's it.

SUSAN LYONS: That would be a long walk from Sands Street.


AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, it would've. But I'm not sure that I came -- although I'm sure I came through that building that you pointed out, that looked familiar.

DANIELLA ROMANO: The Sands Street gate? Okay.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, that entrance. And all of those entrances were open at that time?


AUDREY LYONS: All of them were?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah. There were a lot of entrances.


DANIELLA ROMANO: Pedestrian entrances and car entrances.

AUDREY LYONS: Well, the only reason this struck me was because of the windows, because I do remember a lot of windows like that.

JENNIFER EGAN: The one to the right?

DANIELLA ROMANO: With the steel frame.

AUDREY LYONS: This one, straight ahead. You know, like that, or that.


JENNIFER EGAN: Daniella, what's the one to the right of it?

DANIELLA ROMANO: That's Building One. Um, that's the building that Steiner --

AUDREY LYONS: Or even that one could have been it. You see, with all the -- that's what I remember. Banks of windows.

DANIELLA ROMANO: That was Supervisory Ship Building Command offices, the Yard 30:00photographer was in there -- no, he was in 77. Um, a lot of admiralty offices inside, these were like the administrative buildings. And also in 77 there were administrative offices. But this kind of style, the steel-frame windows --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- were pretty common.

AUDREY LYONS: Common, were they?


[interview interrupted

SUSAN LYONS: Ahem. Is it possible the building she was in might have been torn down, or not likely?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah, it's very, very likely and possible. More possible than -- more likely than possible. Just because the Navy kept -- I mean, they would consistently reuse a site --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- and tear it down and build new. Or refit.


AUDREY LYONS: Now, what was this section?

DANIELLA ROMANO: This was the naval hospital campus.


DANIELLA ROMANO: It used to have a lot more buildings on it.

AUDREY LYONS: This is lovely.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Actually, in your time, it would have been densely packed with buildings.


DANIELLA ROMANO: But it's nice to come through here --

AUDREY LYONS: Yes, it is.

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- because it's got vestiges of the old landscaping.


DANIELLA ROMANO: The dock woods.

AUDREY LYONS: Very pretty.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Beautiful, huh?

AUDREY LYONS: Very nice.

SUSAN LYONS: Wow. Look at this. It's so funny, attached to this--

AUDREY LYONS: It's in the middle of nowhere.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Uh-huh. [laughter] You can see it, too, from the BQE. It just looks so bucolic. And at night, it's just a black --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- sea of black.

JENNIFER EGAN: And Daniella, what's going to happen to all this land?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Well, we put in a request for expressions of interest, um, to find developers who can reuse the site --

AUDREY LYONS: Look at that lovely building.

DANIELLA ROMANO: It's got a lot of infrastructure, um, needs, like for new -- for new infrastructure, and a lot of preservation requirements for all of the buildings. So we're hoping to -- and anybody who --

AUDREY LYONS: It's beautiful.

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- anybody who uses this site, um, they have an option to work 32:00with Steiner Studios, or I think they -- it's a requirement to work with Steiner Studios. So the goal is to increase the media presence. You know, so if we can get a grad school in here, or a production company --


DANIELLA ROMANO: Steiner would love to have it as a back lot.

AUDREY LYONS: Well, this is great.

DANIELLA ROMANO: But these were nurses' quarters.


DANIELLA ROMANO: There's an officers' club --

AUDREY LYONS: I never even knew this existed.

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- smack in the center of the nurses' quarters. You didn't know that this existed?


DANIELLA ROMANO: Did you go to -- did you see much admiralty, many officers yourself -- ?AUDREY LYONS: No, no.

JENNIFER EGAN: -- if you were working --

AUDREY LYONS: I saw a lot of sailors [laughter], but no, I didn't see any officers. Goodness. Isn't that amazing?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah. These were stables that were turned into automotive sheds.

AUDREY LYONS: Goodness. There certainly is lots of history here.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah. The hospital itself was built in 1838.

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. This is the hospital building here?



AUDREY LYONS: Beautiful. All marble.

DANIELLA ROMANO: And the surgeon's -- chief surgeon's house is behind us. And the birds chirping. [laughter] It's so lush.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, isn't it, though?


AUDREY LYONS: Beautiful.

DANIELLA ROMANO: That's a 19th century monument to, uh, sailors and Marines who died at the beginning of the Opium Wars. Their commandant -- their commander became commandant of the Yard a few years later and erected that. And he was interesting character. His name was Andrew Hull Foote, and, um, and he was a big presence in the abolition movement. Uh, in 1854, he wrote a book called Africa and the American Flag, and he was on a speaking circuit.


DANIELLA ROMANO: He was also big in the temperance movement, and he killed the grog practice on the Cumberland, the U.S.S. Cumberland.

AUDREY LYONS: I just thought of another thing, was the, um -- there was a 34:00chocolate factory near here. You know about that one?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah, I've heard a little bit, but tell me. What, what --

AUDREY LYONS: Well, you could smell chocolate all -- always. Everyday, you smelled chocolate cooking, yeah. It was over toward, uh, where we came in, and that -- that was there for years and years and years. But I remember that chocolate smell.

JENNIFER EGAN: That must have been a nice thing to smell while you working.

AUDREY LYONS: It was! It wasn't bad. [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: Or it must have racked your -- your brain waiting for that lunch hour. [laughter]

AUDREY LYONS: [laughter] But we had very good food. We were eating a lot, it seemed to me. And one interesting thing, one of the girls', uh, father was a rabbi up in some very wealthy congregation somewhere, New York City, I think. Well, she used to bring the best food because all of the parishioners would 35:00bring the food to her father, being the rabbi. And she brought delicacies that I had never set my eyes on, you know? [laughter] Funny.


AUDREY LYONS: Oh, I can remember she would bring prunes that were that big.


AUDREY LYONS: I've never seen a prune that large in my entire life until then. And kinds of fancy fruits, and she would bring them and share them with us, because they were a small family that couldn't possibly eat it all. [laughter]

DANIELLA ROMANO: That's lovely.

AUDREY LYONS: It was interesting because, you know, there was so much rationing that these, I don't know how these people got a lot of these things. We had to have rations, points of whatever for everything that you, uh, bought.

DANIELLA ROMANO: This was the Classification Yard that I pointed out on the map, with all the rail lines.


DANIELLA ROMANO: And that's the transfer bridge where everything was floated on.

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. Right. It's much bigger than I remember. As I said, I only 36:00saw a small part of it.

DANIELLA ROMANO: There was a sub-assembly, um, yard right here on our left, that blue-sided building --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- was actually all opened, and I imagine looked a lot like the shipbuilding ways. Very open with just a crane. Now, I'm coming through the back of the building so that I can show you the foundations of the hammerhead crane.

AUDREY LYONS: How long have you been working here?


AUDREY LYONS: Four years.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Since January of '04.

AUDREY LYONS: [inaudible] time to really learn a lot about it.

DANIELLA ROMANO: I've learned how much I don't know.

AUDREY LYONS: [laughter] I'm amazed that the Navy doesn't have more information on it, on the background of the Navy Yard.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Well, there is a lot of material in the National Archives and 37:00down at the Naval Historical Center.


DANIELLA ROMANO: It's just been distributed. You know?


DANIELLA ROMANO: They haven't kept all of the Brooklyn Navy Yard materials together, they've distributed it, and their various, you know, paperwork goes off to one group, and artifacts and art go off to another group.

AUDREY LYONS: Mm-hmm. Right.

DANIELLA ROMANO: So this is the foundation of the hammerhead crane. These little grommets in the ground right here.


DANIELLA ROMANO: So directly opposite us is Dry Dock One, that tiny little dry dock.


SUSAN LYONS: The first one we looked at?


SUSAN LYONS: When were Five and Six built?

DANIELLA ROMANO: '44. Like you said, as the war was winding down.



AUDREY LYONS: It's pretty amazing --

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- not really I guess.

AUDREY LYONS: -- when you really think of the whole thing. Because when the war started, nobody was prepared for anything, especially a war. And all of a sudden, everything was changed from -- the place where my mother went to work 38:00had been making numbering machines for -- since the 1800s.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Numbering machines?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, they were -- well, it was, if you want -- had a business and you didn't want to be writing out the date all the time, this would give you the numbers, and the date, and -- it was like a stamp. But at any rate, like overnight, they became a war parts company.


AUDREY LYONS: You know? And all of a sudden, uh, they changed everything. So they did that all over the country, and somehow or other they did it.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Everybody was re-purposed. Oh, here!


[Interview interrupted]

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah, exactly! When you look at my blueprints. [laughter] So um--

AUDREY LYONS: That's cute.

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah. All right, let me just see what's -- what's going on with Daniella and hopefully we can get started.


SUSAN LYONS: I think this -- I'm so happy you're on this projects of oral 39:00history thing.

AUDREY LYONS: It is, it's wonderful.

SUSAN LYONS: The story of the war, and it's so great, because so much is important.

AUDREY LYONS: That's true. I -- even I, when I think back to my mother and father, I should have asked so many more things than I did.


AUDREY LYONS: I know quite a bit, but, uh --

SUSAN LYONS: Wasn't Mimi a riveter during the war? Didn't she, I thought she --

AUDREY LYONS: No. We called her that, but no -- she did work in the war plant, but she, no. Actually, she was inspecting, too.


AUDREY LYONS: [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: I keep wishing I had been doing this ten years ago, because I just feel like, you know, we lost a lot of people --

AUDREY LYONS: Yes, of absolutely.

JENNIFER EGAN: -- who could have been really, really useful sources.

AUDREY LYONS: Right. I'm sure the average age of the person has to be, if they worked here during the war --

JENNIFER EGAN: Mid to late 80s.

AUDREY LYONS: -- would be in the 80s.



SADY SULLIVAN: So before we start, could everybody turn off their phone and Blackberry and things like that, because I'm hearing a little --

JENNIFER EGAN: I'm going to close the -- this door, too.

SADY SULLIVAN: -- electric something.

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah, it's the light, that overhead light.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh no, no, that's okay. I mean the -- there's like a phone 40:00ringing buzz.


AUDREY LYONS: It could be mine.

SADY SULLIVAN: It's -- my Blackberry does it -- it's, it's the electrical-- I don't know.

JENNIFER EGAN: I'm just wondering what all those vibes are doing to our bodies.

SADY SULLIVAN: Exactly, yeah. It's really weird when you hear it on there, because it really does go, "twitchy twitchy." And you're like, oh, every day I'm having that like ten times a day. [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: I say -- I really dislike florescent light. I find it has a strange physical effect on me.


JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah, it's not very good.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh I do have some, good, thank you.

JENNIFER EGAN: That is a loud, loud buzz.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: So as soon as -- I mean, should I wait for Daniella?

SADY SULLIVAN: Sure. Or -- yeah. Up -- up to you. Um, but maybe we could just -- just do the --

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah, let's just do the basics. If you could just start by -- this is very basic ii um, just giving us your full name and the spelling, and also your name at the time that you worked here if it was different.


AUDREY LYONS: Mm-hmm. Audrey. My maiden name was Garbers, G-A-R-B-E-R-S.


AUDREY LYONS: And the name is Lyons now. L-Y-O-N-S.

JENNIFER EGAN: Okay. And could you give us your date of birth?

AUDREY LYONS: [date redacted for privacy]-24.

JENNIFER EGAN: Okay. Um, alright. I sort of feel like I should wait for Daniella before we really get into it, but I don't know.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah, yeah.

JENNIFER EGAN: Do you feel like the sound levels and everything are right?

SADY SULLIVAN: Yup, yup, we're good. And let me just -- uh, it's May 2, 2008, and we are at the Brooklyn Navy Yards in Building 292.


SADY SULLIVAN: If we can -- um, would you introduce yourself for the recording?

SUSAN LYONS: Oh, sure. Um, Susan Lyons. Daughter of Audrey Lyons.


JENNIFER EGAN: (laughter) Should I go see what she's up to --

SADY SULLIVAN: I can do it.

JENNIFER EGAN: -- or do you know what she's doing?

SADY SULLIVAN: I don't, actually.


SADY SULLIVAN: It's rolling, so if you just, you know --

JENNIFER EGAN: Okay. So basically, just so you, you know, I'm going to kind of move slowly through your arrival at the Yard. Some of the real nuts and bolts of what it was like to be here. So I know you feel like you've told all your stories, but in some ways, it's the really mundane stuff that can be really helpful and useful.

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. Right. Mm-hmm. Good.

JENNIFER EGAN: And what's kind of exciting is we've never talked to someone who had the job that you have. Um, the two -- I -- there were two ladies in Florida I interviewed who were both in the mold loft.


JENNIFER EGAN: And, um -- which that no longer exists, that building. Um. But we've -- and we've had a few people working in offices, but no, uh, no inspectors.

AUDREY LYONS: No. [laughter]


SADY SULLIVAN: Daniella is right here. She's just printing out the release forms and everything.

JENNIFER EGAN: So we've got to try to find Charlie Herman.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. Gosh I don't have any address for him. We used to exchange Christmas cards for a while, I haven't heard --

JENNIFER EGAN: But do you know where he ended up?

AUDREY LYONS: I just, I know he's somewhere out west, but I just don't know where.


SUSAN LYONS: It's kind of an unusual spelling.

JENNIFER EGAN: Yes, I'm thinking he'd be findable.

AUDREY LYONS: Right. Right.


HOWARD: Hello.


HOWARD: Uh, I heard somebody was here since 1943, is that right? You worked here in 1943.


HOWARD: When did you -- how long did you work here?

AUDREY LYONS: Until the end of the war, whenever that was. '45?

HOWARD: Oh, that's when I came. I came at the year -- I came in at '45, and I'm still here.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh did you? And you're still here!

HOWARD: I'm still here, I'm still working.

AUDREY LYONS: [laughter]

SADY SULLIVAN: That's great.

AUDREY LYONS: Good for you.


SADY SULLIVAN: We're actually recording. Will you introduce yourself for the recording?

HOWARD: Yeah. Howard [inaudible]. And I've been here 63 and a half years, and, uh, I like it here, that's why I stayed so long. And they seem -- they seem to want me more now than I -- when I was young and I was directed here.

AUDREY LYONS: [laughter]

HOWARD: This is my girlfriend. [laughter]

HOWARD: So what are you's doing? Trying to , uh, recollect things that happened in 43' and 44'?

AUDREY LYONS: Right. And I'm afraid I don't remember that much. But I do have some highlights. [laughter] It was a fun place to be.

JENNIFER EGAN: See, we're -- we've already done name and spelling and we're ready to roll.

HOWARD: Was you here when Rosie the Riveter was here?


AUDREY LYONS: Well which one? There were lots of them. You mean the Rosie the Riveter?


AUDREY LYONS: No, I don't remember that. So. But I do remember lots of people who, you know, did that work. I didn't know them personally.


JENNIFER EGAN: So I'm going to jump into the interview now.


JENNIFER EGAN: Um, can you tell us how you came to work at the Yard?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, as I told you before, my father had closed his business which he had for over forty years, because his help was being drafted. And he had to stand on long lines to get the food, have the points and whatever that you needed. So he just overnight closed the business.


AUDREY LYONS: And I was at the time going to Brooklyn College in the daytime. And, uh, so then we decided that we had to have some income, so my mother went to work and I went to work. My brother was -- was still in high school.


AUDREY LYONS: And then he was drafted in, uh -- not drafted, he joined the Marines in his senior year. But, uh, so that's how I started to look for a job. I think I read about the job in a newspaper or something. And you had to go 46:00downtown and take a test to see if you had mechanical aptitude. Which I'm not sure I had, but... [laughter] Anyway, so that's how I got the job. But it was a good job for the time, really. I think I made about $40 a week, something like that.

JENNIFER EGAN: And was it clear from the outset that you would be a federal employee? That -- you were making the point -- see, I didn't know that there was that distinction, that some employees were --

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. No, it was definitely a federal job. And then there was, uh, a designation, like a G-something, GP, so -- and you made so much money, and then you went up to a G-something else and you made more money. You know, that kind of thing.

JENNIFER EGAN: Hmm. Do you remember anything about the training? How, how -- how it all began? How did they get you ready for this work?

AUDREY LYONS: All I know, we went for a week, I think it was, and mostly took these tests, aptitude tests. And when we came here, I guess we start -- learned 47:00on the job. That's all I could say.

JENNIFER EGAN: Mm-hmm. Um, can you describe the kind of work that you were doing, exactly? What your position was and what, what the -- what it involved?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, we were inspecting small parts for the ships. And mostly, we used a micrometer. And I can't even tell you what that did, it measured --

HOWARD: Centimeters.

AUDREY LYONS: Centimeters, right. And uh -- so that's been mainly the job that I did. And most of the women that I was working with were doing the small parts. But a few people --

SUSAN LYONS: So you were given like a standard, and you had to make sure that the parts matched the standard, right?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, yeah. And I'm sure they didn't test every single bolt, but I'm sure they did a certain amount of them -- of every group. And then the larger, uh, pieces were done downstairs where they had those huge pieces, and that was mostly men working there. I don't remember any women being there.


JENNIFER EGAN: So how exactly did you do the job? Where would the parts be -- ?AUDREY LYONS: Someone brought them. There was three -- uh, the superintendent of our department was sitting right in that same room. It was a big, big room with the light -- windows in the rear. And, uh, he sat at his desk and he had a secretary. Then there was another man, and I, I know his name was Bernie, but I -- oh, wait a minute, it's coming. Bernie Craven was his name. But I'm sure he's not still alive. Because he was a drinker, unfortunately. [laughter] He was -- it was very obvious that he was really, pretty much under the influence of liquor all the time. But he was a lovely man.

JENNIFER EGAN: Even at work?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, yup.

JENNIFER EGAN: And what was his -- ?AUDREY LYONS: I think he had a very unhappy home life.

DANIELLA ROMANO: He was inspecting parts for the ships.

AUDREY LYONS: He had a sick wife, but at any rate, he was -- and I think he was the one who brought the work to us, and would say, "Do this," whatever.


JENNIFER EGAN: Did he bring it in a container?

AUDREY LYONS: I think he'd bring it in, like, a tray. A tray with so many bolts and so many of this or that. And then we would measure it. Maybe you know more about it than I do. [laughter]

HOWARD: About your work? I -- I think I know the building, but I can't promise.

AUDREY LYONS: Do you? Which one?

HOWARD: 38 and 39.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, because I don't remember the building.

JENNIFER EGAN: We couldn't figure it out. That's --

HOWARD: 39. And, um, I worked in Building 41.


HOWARD: And I'm still going into Building 41 --


HOAWRD: -- but now it's co -- it's cogenerational.

AUDREY LYONS: So 39, you think, was where the inspections were?


AUDREY LYONS: Is that where they did the inspecting of the small parts?


AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. Well, it could be.

JENNIFER EGAN: That's helpful.

HOWARD: I never -- I never did that work.


HOWARD: I -- I was in charge of power plant maintenance.

AUDREY LYONS: But you came in later, anyway, after.

HOWARD: I came in '45.

AUDREY LYONS: '45, yup. That was after the war ended? Yeah.

HOWARD: I was in the war for four years, and then --

AUDREY LYON: Yeah. Ah, I see. So you were --

HOWARD: I worked for -- do you want to, uh, record this? [laughter]



HOWARD: I worked for 52/20 club, and instead of getting my $20 a week, they sent me to here.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, right.

HOWARD: And I never did get $20. [laughter]

DANIELLA ROMANO: We're going to have to interview him. Again.

AUDREY LYONS: We had one employee who had been a soldier and had lost his arm. And he came back and I guess he had therapy. Didn't have a prosthetic -- is that what they call it? Um, he just went with -- without the arm. But he worked in our department. But he was in the -- I think he worked downstairs, and whatever he did, I don't know. But he managed. He could ski, also.


AUDREY LYONS: We all went skiing one weekend, and he skied with one arm. Yeah. See if I can remember his name.

JENNIFER EGAN: Um. Yeah, that's amazing. So Bernie would bring you a tray of parts.


JENNIFER EGAN: And you remember bolts?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. Bolts. Screws. And -- and probably a lot of other things that I wouldn't know the names of.

JENNIFER EGAN: And what did you -- were you sitting down or standing?


AUDREY LYONS: Yes, we were sitting on these stools. These were high seats, almost like an architect's table or something, but they were flat.

JENNIFER EGAN: And what -- and you had a table in front of you?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. We each had our own table and a light. And, uh--

JENNIFER EGAN: Okay. And what did you do with the parts exactly?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, we measured them for the width, depth, and so forth.

JENNIFER EGAN: And you used the, the --

AUDREY LYONS: This micrometer is mainly what we used. There may have been other things, but I don't remember what they were.

JENNIFER EGAN: And that was a machine, or like a ruler, what did it -- ?AUDREY LYONS: No. It was like a little clamp. You know what they are?


HOWARD: Yeah, it's about this big.

AUDREY LYONS: It's about that big, it was like a little clamp, and you screwed it.

HOWARD: Screwed it, and then bring it down, so, not too tight, then you read the --

AUDREY LYONS: Do they still use them for anything?

HOWARD: -- then you read the, uh, the readings.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, right.

JENNIFER EGAN: Aha. So you get precise measurements.

HOWARD: And it's very accurate, very accurate.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, right.

DANIELLA ROMANO: To measure thicknesses of things.


AUDREY LYONS: Mm-hmm, right. That's mainly what we used --

HOWARD: I have one at home now.


AUDREY LYONS: Do you? I've never seen or heard of one since. [laughter]

HOWARD: I've got a lot of pieces she wants but I don't give them to her. [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: So after you took the, the, the -- the measurements, how did you record them? What did you do with that information?

AUDREY LYONS: I think we just tested them, and if they were what they were supposed to be, we would put them to the side, and then they'd bring, probably, another one over. I -- I don't really remember how that went exactly, but it -- I'm sure Bernie was in charge of doing that.

JENNIFER EGAN: And do you remember getting, do you remember whether they were the right size or were not? Did you have the experience --AUDREY LYONS: Usually they were, usually they were. There were some that were not.

JENNIFER EGAN: And what did you do with those?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, they would be rejected. I guess we had a rejection place in there, so --

DANIELLA ROMANO: What about the stamping? Wasn't there some stamping involved?


DANIELLA ROMANO: How did they --

AUDREY LYONS: Whether we did that... I guess, maybe, we had to stamp for each grouping. We had a stamper that we put on to say these were okay. That's right.

JENNIFER EGAN: And what did you stamp?

AUDREY LYONS: It was a little, uh -- it was sort of like the numbering machine, 53:00actually. It was just a stamp that said US Navy or whatever. I don't remember what it said.

DANIELLA ROMANO: And you had a piece of paper that you stamped?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, right on the, yup. So there must have been a piece of paper that came with each tray, I guess, and we'd stamp it.

JENNIFER EGAN: Mm-hmm. Do you remember how long it would take you to do a tray?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh gosh. It would depend on what it was. If it was just screws, it wasn't too difficult. It certainly didn't take too long. But if it was another part that was a little more complicated, it might take a little longer. But we would do quite a few in a day.

JENNIFER EGAN: How close were you sitting to the people around you?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, very close. Like I was here, next table would be where Susan was.

JENNIFER EGAN: But each of you with your own tray?

AUDREY LYONS: Yup. And our own table.

JENNIFER EGAN: How many to a table? Do you remember?


JENNIFER EGAN: Oh, okay, I see.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, one.

JENNIFER EGAN: Um, and, uh, did you -- were you able -- did you talk, did you converse while working?


AUDREY LYONS: Oh yes, oh yes. We did. [laughter] We sang, too.

JENNIFER EGAN: Really, what did you sing?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, you know, college songs, things like that. I mean, if it was -- depending on what it was.

JENNIFER EGAN: What -- were they mostly women around you?

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. All -- almost -- I think all of them were women in that department.

JENNIFER EGAN: And how many women would be sitting near you in this situation? Near enough to talk to?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, I think there were like three rows, and maybe, this way, five maybe.

JENNIFER EGAN: Mm-hmm. Um. And were -- so, I'm imagining an air of great conversation as this work was going on.

AUDREY LYONS: Well, not too much. I mean, we weren't really supposed to be talking that much. Imagine today, with cell phones. I can imagine what it would be. They were unheard of then. [laughter] But, uh, no, we did talk but we didn't talk constantly. It wasn't -- that wasn't allowed.

JENNIFER EGAN: But you got -- were able to get to know the people around you?

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. Oh, definitely. Definitely. We socialized, yeah, after work.


JENNIFER EGAN: Um, give, give us a sense of what kinds of women they were. Do you remember anything about their backgrounds? You mentioned one was a rabbi's daughter.


JENNIFER EGAN: Get, get -- I would love to get a sense of, culturally, who was around you.

AUDREY LYONS: Well, I, I, I mostly remember the married girls who were, you know, so worried about their husbands. And, uh, one in particular really was a nervous wreck. She, she was so uptight about where he was and what he was doing and, you know, she didn't know. And it was -- it was really pretty pitiful, really. She -- I really think she was very close to a break down.


AUDREY LYONS: But then there were others who, you know, were like anybody else. They, they just took it as best they could.



JENNIFER EGAN: Were -- do you remember what their ethnic backgrounds were?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, I think they were everything. There were two girls who came from Minnesota, and they -- I think they just decided they wanted to come to the 56:00big city or something. They had originally worked up in Connecticut at, uh, that famous mental hospital where all the -- and they had a lot of stories to tell about all the famous people that came there who were a little crazy.


AUDREY LYONS: And so they had worked there. Maybe they had had enough of that, and they came down and took the test. And they were the two who married men from the other department.


AUDREY LYONS: It was also an inspection --

JENNIFER EGAN: I'd love to talk to them.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. Then -- let's see. Those -- they were, I would say, typical Midwesterners, like Swedish or something like that. And then the rabbi's daughter of course was Jewish. A couple -- three or four were Jewish. And the rest were just like myself, just Protestant or Catholic or whatever.

JENNIFER EGAN: Um, do you remember an African-American women, working with them?

AUDREY LYONS: No. Nope, none.


JENNIFER EGAN: Uh, and then what about men? Were there men mixed into your group?

AUDREY LYONS: Nope. The only men was the superintendent, and Bernie. But the other, there were men outside the door in the other department upstairs who were also, I think, inspecting. But they were working on bigger things. And they may not even have been inspectors. I'm not sure what they did. But, uh, they were working on parts.

JENNIFER EGAN: And you mentioned men downstairs as well.

AUDREY LYONS: And then the men, that's where the big, big things were. Very, very large.

JENNIFER EGAN: And they were all measuring this stuff? It was --


JENNIFER EGAN: -- measuring is what was happening?

AUDREY LYONS: -- I assume that's what they were doing. I know you had to take ladders. Once I went up one. You had to take a ladder to get to the top of some of these parts.

JENNIFER EGAN: Wow. Um, okay. You mentioned wearing a jumpsuit. Can you describe that a little more fully?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, I'm trying to think if it was blue or green. I, uh -- [laughter] It was either one or the other. And it was just a thing that you put 58:00on over your clothes, baggy, you know, you wore that when you got in. And I don't remember, I think we took it home and washed it ourselves. I mean, it wasn't something they came in a truck, like they would do today, and bring you clean ones.


AUDREY LYONS: We took them home and washed them. So we must have had more than one, I'm sure.

JENNIFER EGAN: Did you keep it here, though?

AUDREY LYONS: I guess I did for a few days, and then when it got dirty, we'd take it home and wash it and --

JENNIFER EGAN: Do you remember a locker room, or the circumstances in which you would change into your --

AUDREY LYONS: Nope, no, I don't remember any locker room at all.


AUDREY LYONS: Simple. Very simple. [laughter] Brought your own lunch. [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: So talk about that. A little bit about the routine. So you walked in. You, you -- we think you came in through the Sands Street gate. A little to the left.


JENNIFER EGAN: Do you remember how long it took you to get to your building from the entrance?

AUDREY LYONS: It wasn't very long. That's what made me think it was right near there. It wasn't very long.


JENNIFER EGAN: Uh, and then, uh -- and so do you remember how the day would begin?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, we would just go to our desks and they, they would start bringing these parts. And maybe sometimes, we'd get in a little early, and that was when we would visit back and forth, talk about whose husband was where and whose boyfriend was where, and that kind of thing.

JENNIFER EGAN: And then were there breaks other than your lunch break?

AUDREY LYONS: I -- I'm sure that we did have a coffee break. I don't remember, but I think we did.

JENNIFER EGAN: Um, and so, then now talk about lunch break. What, what would happen?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, we all brought our lunch so we just sat at our desks or, like the day I told you about, on a nice, spring day, I went out and took the bicycle.


AUDREY LYONS: But, um, mostly we just sat at our desks and had our lunch.

JENNIFER EGAN: You mentioned that, um -- and your shift, you thought, was about 60:00eight to four?

AUDREY LYONS: I think it was earlier, because it was so dark when I left and it was dark the whole way, so I just, I think it must have been seven to four, something like that.

JENNIFER EGAN: Do you remember what you were paid?

AUDREY LYONS: I think I made about $40 a week. But I -- it was a yearly salary as I remember. Maybe $5,000, something like that. I forget. Does that come to $40? I don't know. I can't remember, but... [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: And you were contributing that to your parents?

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. I had to, because we had to live on something, so...

JENNIFER EGAN: And so -- and your mom, meanwhile, was working too.

AUDREY LYONS: My mother was working. My brother might have had part-time jobs.

SUSAN LYONS: Her father had polio, so he --


SUSAN LYONS: -- owned this diner, but it got to the point where he couldn't wait on line for the rationing.


SUSAN LYONS: And so he had to close it very abruptly.


AUDREY LYONS: Overnight. I came home from school one day, and our entire front porch was filled with food. Like up to the ceiling. And I said, "What happened?" They never said a word that this was going to happen.


AUDREY LYONS: So we had company for three weeks in a row coming to eat steaks or hamburgers or whatever were there, just to use it up.


AUDREY LYONS: [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: And that was in your home in Brooklyn?


JENNIFER EGAN: Do you remember the street?

AUDREY LYONS: Yup. Logan Street. 84 Logan Street.

JENNIFER EGAN: Um, so after lunch, you would go back to work doing the same stuff.

AUDREY LYONS: Mm-hmm. Right.

JENNIFER EGAN: And, how -- how would the day end?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, I think they had a bell rang, that's if I remember correctly. And so everybody got up and went off home, or, I went down to school, and uh --


HOWARD: You didn't punch your time card?

AUDREY LYONS: Pardon me?

HOWARD: You didn't punch your time card?

AUDREY LYONS: You know, we might have. I can't remember that. We might have. I think maybe we did. Yup, I think we did.

JENNIFER EGAN: In your -- in you building or at the gate?

AUDREY LYONS: Yup. Right in our room, was the -- there was one. I'm pretty sure we did. I'd forgotten about that. Good for you. [laughter]

HOWARD: I know I did. [inaudible]

JENNIFER EGAN: Um, and so -- and do you remember how you got to school? Transportation?

AUDREY LYONS: No, I can't remember because it was -- to get to Bay Ridge -- not Bay Ridge, Flatbush from here, I don't know how you'd get there. So I must have taken two trains -- a train and changed to a trolley, or something. There were a lot of trolleys in those days.


AUDREY LYONS: That was before buses.

JENNIFER EGAN: You mentioned that sometimes you would hang out with some of your coworkers.


JENNIFER EGAN: So talk about that. How did that happen? What did you guys do?

AUDREY LYONS: Well we -- well, we went to these -- had these picnics a lot. And that was a big, big group. I'd say maybe thirty people would go. And we -- I 63:00can't remember where -- how we got the food there or how we even got there, but it was underneath the George Washington Bridge, there was a picnic place. I'm sure it's not there anymore, but it was there then. And it was a great place. The river was flowing right by, and we would cook hamburgers and what have you. So we did that, and we'd sometimes go out to dinner together.

JENNIFER EGAN: Do you remember where?

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. [laughter] It was a place called the Fraternity House on 17th Street and 3rd Avenue. That was a great place. Everybody loved to go there.


AUDREY LYONS: They used to sing college songs. People would get up and sing one song and then sit -- they'd sit down and somebody else could get up and sing another one. It was fun. Did I -- ? You never were there, no.

SUSAN LYONS: Didn't --

AUDREY LYONS: It's probably long closed.

SUSAN LYONS: -- was this the group that you used to go to Asti's with, too?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, we used to go to Asti's. That where -- that's where they sang opera.

JENNIFER EGAN: How do you spell Asti's?

AUDREY LYONS: A-S-T-I. I think that's still open. Do you know?


SUSAN LYONS: It was open, um, but I'm not sure it still is.

AUDREY LYONS: That was all opera singers. All the waiters were opera singers.

JENNIFER EGAN: Where was that?

AUDREY LYONS: That was in, uh, Manhattan somewhere.

SUSAN LYONS: Like around 11th Street?

AUDREY LYONS: I think so.

SUSAN LYONS: Remember we walked by it one time? You were visiting fairly recently.

AUDREY LYONS: Right. I think it is Greenwich Village.


AUDREY LYONS: We used to go to Greenwich Village quite a lot. That was the place to go.

JENNIFER EGAN: And who do you remember being part of this gang that would -- that would go around, um, having picnics and going out?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, it was my friend Peg Skipper. She's gone, so couldn't help, you can't get in touch with her. I had another friend named, uh, Eileen Brady. She's still alive. She lives out on the West Coast. But she went into the, uh, WACS, and, uh, so she didn't -- or I guess she was a WAVE, actually, a WAVE. And so she wasn't here very long. So the whole department would go. And then there were --

JENNIFER EGAN: So it was really, that was the unit. Your department was kind of the --

AUDREY LYONS: Yup. It was that. Definitely that.


JENNIFER EGAN: Including the men?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. The men would go, yup. And there was never anything going on between any of them that I ever knew of. [laughter] Although we did suspect our superintendent and his secretary. [laughter] But I don't know that it was true. But I mean, as far as any of the others, I -- I know nothing ever happened there.

JENNIFER EGAN: So even though some of the girls were seeing men that they met elsewhere in the Yard --


JENNIFER EGAN: -- not within the department?

AUDREY LYONS: They were outside, uh, that -- our room, but they were in our building, yeah. But that was well known, where they were engaged already.



JENNIFER EGAN: Um, so with the picnics, would those happen on work days or were those --

AUDREY LYONS: No, it was after work.

JENNIFER EGAN: -- days off?

AUDREY LYONS: I think we went right after work. We didn't do anything on weekends.


AUDREY LYONS: It was always after work.



HOWARD: Ahem. If you'd excuse me, I'm going to go. If you want to question me --


HOWARD: -- I'll be here Monday.

JENNIFER EGAN: That would be great. Thank you.

SUSAN LYONS: Nice to meet you.

AUDREY LYONS: Nice to sto -- [laughter]

HOWARD: I have [inaudible].

SUSAN LYONS: I can imagine [laughter].

JENNIFER EGAN: You mentioned that, that you felt like it was a little village --


JENNIFER EGAN: -- your, your small area of the Yard. Can you give a little more of a sense of just what that village felt like?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, it was just as you came in, there were all these individual buildings, and you went to your building, but there were other buildings. I never knew a soul in any of those other buildings. So it was strictly, like, that was your spot. And I knew people in that building, downstairs and upstairs, just from being there so much, you know --


AUDREY LYONS: -- for so long. So I may not have known their names, but I would know them by face.

JENNIFER EGAN: Mm-hmm. Um, did you ever feel like you knew -- did you see other -- were you walking in a crowd when you would come in? Do you remember --


AUDREY LYONS: Yes. Oh yeah. It was always a crowd. Yeah. Although we didn't have to wait to get through, but they had quite a few posts there.


AUDREY LYONS: I would say there were like four to six openings where you could go through. And they -- I -- they may have checked our bags, but I don't even remember that. And I know we often brought cakes, you know, and they didn't check any of those. So they weren't too fussy about it.

JENNIFER EGAN: So you were bringing cakes to share at lunch?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. Well, we'd have somebody's birthday I suppose.


AUDREY LYONS: Or something like that.

JENNIFER EGAN: Um, do you -- you -- it sounds like you had some movement around the yard. You mentioned not feeling a lot of security, not feeling hemmed in.


JENNIFER EGAN: Talk about, about that. You -- actually, if you would tell your bicycle story again, or that -- well, no, we have that on tape, don't we?


AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. That's good.

JENNIFER EGAN: So you rode alongside, and you saw some ships. Do you remember other, other, um, trips to --AUDREY LYONS: No, I just remember all the buildings 68:00as I was riding along, and this one ship -- and I was going along the side of the ship, so where I, that's where I would have been. Here was the ship, this way --


AUDREY LYONS: -- and all these sailors up on top, and I'm riding along here. And as I said, they were whistling and yelling, and, and all of a sudden there was a sand patch which I didn't see because I was getting nervous, and I went flying off. [laughter] It was so funny.

DANIELLA ROMANO: So they could -- they were close enough to clearly tell that you were a female?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh yes, oh yes.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Was it your hair that gave it away, or --

AUDREY LYONS: They knew, but they were whistling. I mean, they don't whistle at men.

SUSAN LYONS: Did you have your jumpsuit on? Or did you have your civilian clothes?

AUDREY LYONS: I'm sure I had my -- no, I'm sure I had my jumpsuit on. I wouldn't have had time --

JENNIFER EGAN: Did you wear anything on your head when you were working?



AUDREY LYONS: We were in a very pristine place. I mean, it was all -- I even think it may have been air conditioned, but I'm not absolutely certain about that. But it was very light and bright, and lots of lights, lots of window. And so it wasn't like most factories at all. The outside, once you got outside, it 69:00was different. And downstairs was different.

JENNIFER EGAN: That's interesting. Do you -- were there times when you visited any other parts of the Yard?

AUDREY LYONS: No, just -- we could if -- I mean, I could have gone out any time. If I wanted to take a walk at lunch, I could do it. But we were too busy socializing --


AUDREY LYONS: -- so we didn't do that that much.

JENNIFER EGAN: It's interesting. I feel like I get so many different answers to that. A lot of people felt very much that they couldn't leave their place --

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, really?

JENNIFER EGAN: -- and that it wasn't allowed.


JENNIFER EGAN: So that's interesting how that, um, the sense of security seemed to be felt very differently --


JENNIFER EGAN: -- in different places.

DANIELLA ROMANO: I wonder if the -- your -- the fact that you were a federal employee makes any difference.

AUDREY LYONS: May -- I don't know.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Because you were also making considerably more than --


DANIELLA ROMANO: Well, what were the other women saying? $27 a week, right? And if you were making $40 a week --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- then that's a whole different echelon of --


AUDREY LYONS: Well, I, I got the feeling this was sort of an elite group.


AUDREY LYONS: I mean, they were all college-educated girls, you know? Uh. And I think they thought it was a job that, you know, you needed a little more education for. I don't know. That, that was just the feeling I got. I never really met anybody outside that department --


AUDREY LYONS: -- or that building, you know.

JENNIFER EGAN: Right. How, how much of the actual ships did you see? Did you have a sense of how your work connected to the ships? What ship you were contributing to or working on?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, we knew the Missouri. That was the main one that they were building at that time. And everybody was very interested in that because it was a big thing to get that built. In the middle of the war, particularly. And we were all invited to the, uh, christening. We were able to take time off, and we went down. We had a very good location, and I remember that I was able to look 71:00up and there was a platform built for the -- where they were going to, uh, christen the ship. So I was down here, and here was this platform up here, and it was, uh, Truman's daughter, Margaret, was the person who christened it. And she had a -- had to hit it three times before it happened. [laughter]

SUSAN LYONS: The bottle didn't break.

AUDREY LYONS: Didn't break. She hit it once and nothing happened. Then she hit it again, and nothing happened. So finally, some man stepped up, whoever it was up there, and helped her and took her arm and pushed it hard enough that it broke. It took three times. [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: Where -- what was the feeling down where you were?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, it was exciting. I mean, it was really a big day. I mean, when that ship went down, I don't think I've ever seen anything so thrilling, it was so huge.

JENNIFER EGAN: Talk about what it looked like to see that. What -- what -- what --

AUDREY LYONS: Well, I wish I brought that book because it had the picture of the ship in the --

SUSAN LYONS: We'll make copies and I'll make sure they get them.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, I'll make -- it shows the ship, you know, right in this, 72:00almost like in a cradle.


AUDREY LYONS: And then the whistles blew, and, you know, it was a big hullabaloo. And there, this huge thing, went down and then right into the water, and splashed all over.

SUSAN LYONS: Did people applaud?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, they were screaming. They were like --

SUSAN LYONS: Screaming.

AUDREY LYONS: -- jumping up and down. Oh, it was a really thrilling moment.

SUSAN LYONS: Was there music?


SUSAN LYONS: Did they have a band?

AUDREY LYONS: They might have. I -- I can't remember that. But they -- but I know it was very exciting. People were, you know, hoorah-ing, and they were thrilled with the whole thing. It was very exciting.

JENNIFER EGAN: Did you feel a sense of having helped to make that ship?

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. Very definitely. Because everything -- practically everything -- we got was the U.S.S. Missouri. There were other ships, too, that were being repaired. But that was the one that was being built right there, you know.

JENNIFER EGAN: Right. I would love to see that.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, I know.

JENNIFER EGAN: A huge ship sliding into the water.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, it's amazing. It really was amazing.

JENNIFER EGAN: It seems so satisfying.


JENNIFER EGAN: Did it make a noise?


AUDREY LYONS: Oh, I'm sure it did, but it was, it was -- you couldn't tell, because there was all this fanfare. The -- they had the -- the, uh -- what do they call it on a ship that, not a bell -- what is it? What is it?

SUSAN LYONS: Like a whistle, kind of?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, but that's that deep, that noise, that, "Ooh!" Whatever that is.


AUDREY LYONS: What do they call that?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Air-compressed?



AUDREY LYONS: That's what it was.

DANIELA ROMANO: -- compressed air horn.

AUDREY LYONS: And they, you know, were blowing those horns, and-- Horns, I guess, is the best description.

JENNIFER EGAN: Were there pe -- there obviously must have been people on the ship, too.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh yes. All the sailors were on it, yeah. They were lined up along the edge, and then all the big, uh, people who were there with Margaret Truman were up there.

JENNIFER EGAN: On the platform?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. They were on the platform. So she didn't go up on the ship. She was still on the platform. Heh.

JENNIFER EGAN: And then the ship was gone --


JENNIFER EGAN: -- and the platform was just sitting there.

AUDREY LYONS: Right! And I guess they helped her down. By that time, we went back to work. [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: Wow, that really must have been amazing.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. It was.


SADY SULLIVAN: Were people dressed up? Were the sailors in dress uniforms?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, the sailors were in their uniforms. But we weren't. We were just off from work. You know, we were -- we went back to work from there. I guess it was in the middle of the day, as I remember. But we were allowed to leave our jobs long enough to go down and see it, so...

JENNIFER EGAN: Was that a unique event, or did that happen other times?

AUDREY LYONS: No. That's the only time I ever saw it happen.

SADY SULLIVAN: Did people come from outside the Yards?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, I'm sure they did, but I - I'm not familiar about it. I'm sure you had, you know, the, the Mayor of the New York City was probably there, and other people --

JENNIFER EGAN: When was that, exactly, the Missouri launching?

AUDREY LYONS: It was 1944, maybe.


AUDREY LYONS; It was late. It took a long time to build a battleship. [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah. Do you remember what the ship looked like in any detail?

AUDREY LYONS: Not really. I really only saw it from that position in the rear.


JENNIFER EGAN: Did it seem very tall?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, it was very tall. It was, very tall, and so was the one that I passed when I was bicycling, that was a very tall ship, too.

JENNIFER EGAN: And so after that ship launched, what ship were you working on?

AUDREY LYONS: I really don't know. I think it was -- that's why I think it was toward the end of the war, because -- And then they had the, uh, the signing of the -- the, uh, end of the war was on that ship.


AUDREY LYONS: So it, I really don't think it got a whole lot of action.

DANIELLA ROMANO: That was September of '45.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, of that. So I -- I think it was only in operation for a year and a half or so.

JENNIFER EGAN: But your work remained the same?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, I would assume so. But then, after that -- if that was '44, things would start to slow down, and I know, uh, for a little while they sent me downstairs. So I'm wondering now if maybe they didn't have enough work for 76:00everybody, and so they sent me downstairs. That's when I was with Mr. Herbert and this Charles, Charlie Herman. And there was another man, but I can't remember his name. But for the life of me, I can't remember what I did there, because there was -- we weren't testing any little screws down there. This was all the big stuff. So --

JENNIFER EGAN: And is that when you were --

AUDREY LYONS: -- I don't know what I did.

JENNIFER EGAN: -- was that when you were on the ladder?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. But I wasn't working at that. I just went up to see something.


AUDREY LYONS: But I don't know what I did there. I'm sorry to say.

JENNIFER EGAN: That's okay

AUDREY LYONS: It couldn't have been too long, because I have no recollection of what I did there. But...

JENNIFER EGAN: Um, so was -- there was a sense at a certain point that the work was slowing down?


JENNIFER EGAN: How -- did that -- was that a worry to you? How did that feel?

AUDREY LYONS: No! We were delighted. We were hoping that the war would end.


AUDREY LYONS: We were delighted. The sooner the better. [laughter]


JENNIFER EGAN: Did you think that it might be possible to stay at the Yard and keep working?


JENNIFER EGAN: Did you have a sense -- uh, the women around you, um, and you -- of, that what you were doing was special?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. I think we felt that way.

JENNIFER EGAN: I mean, did it seem -- did -- did you know other women who had done this kind of work ever?

AUDREY LYONS: No. Nobody had, no -- women didn't work in those types of jobs before the war.

JENNIFER EGAN: And do you feel like you were aware, um, often, of just, of the specialness of it? Did you -- did you kind of feel that, or did it become very --

AUDREY LYONS: Oh yeah, I think we felt that we were doing something for the war effort. You know, I -- and it wasn't, it wasn't a hardship by any means. You know, I would say we were, you know, having a good time working, really. We were a very cheery group. Except for the poor wives who -- whose husbands were gone.

JENNIFER EGAN: Right. And so in terms of the ages of the people you were working 78:00with, you were obviously very young. You were eighteen?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. I'd say most of them were eighteen to twenty.

JENNIFER EGAN: Even the married ones?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. They weren't much more than that, yeah.

JENNIFER EGAN: And what about the men, like the supervisor and Bernie?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, well the supervisor, I'd say he was about fifty-five to sixty. And this Bernie, I think he had been a, a government employee for years and years and years, he was probably near retirement.

JENNIFER EGAN: And what about Charlie Herman and the people downstairs?

AUDREY LYONS: Well they -- Mr. Herbert was a supervisor, and I -- he had worked for the government for quite a while. And he eventually moved to Connecticut and retired, I think. And then, uh, Charlie stayed on till the end. Some of them stayed on till the very end to sort of close up --


AUDREY LYONS: -- and they would be like the senior people.

JENNIFER EGAN: So there was the sense that this, this shop would not go on after 79:00the war?

AUDREY LYONS: Right. Oh, absolutely. No, we all knew it was -- it was really formed for the war --


AUDREY LYONS -- and so once the war was over, you know, we knew it wasn't going to last.

JENNIFER EGAN: Do you have any memory of D-Day at, at work?


JENNIFER EGAN: Were you at the Yard when that happened?


JENNIFER EGAN: Or when that news came?

AUDREY LYONS: VE Day came first.


AUDREY LYONS: Well, we had a plan with all my friends -- not only there, but friends other places -- that we would meet, if the war ended, at the, uh, Arc de Triomphe on Fifth Avenue. So that's what we did. We went there.

SUSAN LYONS: You mean Washington Square, the park?



AUDREY LYONS: Washington Square, right. And there's that arch there, so that's where we met.

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah, they've just renovated, it's so beautiful. They've just cleaned it.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, it is. So we met there, and, uh, that was a great evening. Everybody was enjoying, you know, the fact that the war was over. And then VJ Day, we did the same thing. That was a wild, wild night. It was just -- 80:00everybody was honking horns, and screaming, and kissing everybody. Even strangers. It was the craziest thing. [laughter] But -- and that night, I stayed at Peg, Peg's apartment. She had an apartment in, uh, Tudor City, so I stayed there that night. I'm sure my mother was a nervous wreck that I didn't come home all night, but... I'm sure I had to call her. [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: So you had been working at the Yard both those days?

AUDREY LYONS: I can't remember.


AUDREY LYONS: I can't remember whether I was working those days. Probably was, because we went right from work right down there, so I guess I was.

JENNIFER EGAN: So you worked here through VJ Day?

AUDREY LYONS: Yup, yeah.

JENNIFER EGAN: Do you remember exactly when and how you stopped working here?

AUDREY LYONS: No. I, I think it was just phased out little by little. And as I said, I think when they sent me downstairs, it was already beginning to be 81:00phased -- that might have been after VE Day. And then, uh --


AUDREY LYONS: -- there wasn't that much work. And as I said, I can't even remember what I did downstairs. But I was there.

DANIELLA ROMANO: What did you study in school? What was your major?

AUDREY LYONS: I really never got that far --


AUDREY LYONS: -- because I was only taking a regular liberal arts class, so I really didn't, you know, study anything specific.

DANIELLA ROMANO: With your aptitude --

AUDREY LYONS: I never really did get my degree because I was going nights, and then my husband -- who was my boyfriend then -- came back from the service, and, uh, so we decided he was going to go to the University of Pennsylvania to take his masters, so we decided we'd get married and I moved there with him, so.

DANIELLA ROMANO: So with your aptitude test, your -- I guess it was, would have been a placement test to figure out --


DANIELLA ROMANO: Were you skilled with math and --


AUDREY LYONS: No! Terrible in math! Terrible. I still am. [laughter] No, I was not good in math, but it must have been, uh, the fact that I could use my hands. I mean, it was that kind of thing, whether you had a mechanical aptitude, I think, is what they, they did.



SADY SULLIVAN: Was there stuff that you -- that you did in your private life that you think made you --

AUDREY LYONS: Well, I was a sewer. I was a gardener. What else did I do? What else did I do?

SUSAN LYONS: You've always been crafty.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, sort of crafty.

SUSAN LYONS: I assume you were crafty then, too. [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: Was the -- oh, sorry -- I was gonna -- I was curious about, um, did you have a sense of whether you were doing a good job? In what way was your work supervised and/or evaluated?

AUDREY LYONS: It really wasn't that, evaluated that much. I mean, we were just a big group of gals who were -- I, I think we felt like we were doing a good job.



AUDREY LYONS: But I don't think there was a whole lot of supervision really.

JENNIFER EGAN: And what was the inspector song you mentioned?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh. I can -- Susan knows it, too, we'll both sing it.

SUSAN LYONS: All right, ready?

AUDREY LYONS & SUSAN LYONS: We're all inspectors and shudder to think, without our anchors, the Navy would sink. We stamp it here, we stamp it there. But in a rush, without a blush, we give it a stupid stare. [laughter]

AUDREY LYONS: Now these, these girls made this up while we were there.

SUSAN LYONS: So the stamp must have been a, a little anchor, right?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, it was. It was. It had the Navy on it. And it -- you just went like that. Stamped it. [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: That is beyond fabulous.

DANILLA ROMANO: A stupid stare! [laughter]

AUDREY LYONS: Well, as you can see, we had a lot of fun.


AUDREY LYONS: We really did.

JENNIFER EGAN: It seems like it was a very, um, buoyant group.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. It was. It was a great group of people, it really was. Um.


DANIELLA ROMANO: Did any women lose their husbands or boyfriends?

AUDREY LYONS: Not that I knew of, no.


AUDREY LYONS: Actually, it's pretty amazing because I knew so many people who were in the service, and I only knew one who was killed. That's pretty amazing.

JENNIFER EGAN: That is really amazing.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. And all the men, when they came back, they just wanted to get on with their lives --


AUDREY LYONS: -- and nobody ever complained. Nobody ever had this, you know, flashbacks. And I mean, some of them did see a lot of action. My husband was lucky. He was in the personnel section. He did one very dangerous thing, and he did get the Bronze Star for that, but I mean, it wasn't, he wasn't in the fighting. But he went through Germany with, uh, an officer in an open jeep to get the men who were due to go home, and to give them their papers and whatever. So they spent, like, several months driving all through Germany with -- and the 85:00Germans were all looking at them, you know, as though they weren't very happy. So it was really hazardous, so that's why he got the Bronze Star, yeah.


DANIELLA ROMANO: That's a great story.

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah. One of the women that we interviewed last week, her husband was doing similar work --


JENNIFER EGAN: -- and, um, was killed right after the war.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh really? Oh dear.


DANIELLA ROMANO: He was a driver for a lieutenant.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh yes. Mm. Goodness.

JENNIFER EGAN: And she said, she described it, it was very poignant. All the joyful celebrations --


JENNIFER EGAN: -- but for her, she had just found out that same day that he was dead.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, how awful. Oh, terrible.

JENNIFER EGAN: I mean, she remarried and had children --

AUDREY LYONS: Yes, sure, I know.

JENNIFER EGAN: -- but it was amazing how that was still so --


JENNIFER EGAN: -- that pain was really still there for her.

AUDREY LYONS: That's right. Well, I had a, a friend who I met later in -- after the war. But her husband was in the thick of the fighting and -- that's Pete -- and that was the defining moment of his life. He never -- I still, I, up till five years ago, I was still seeing him, and he always brought the conversation 86:00back to World War II. I mean, he was really --

JENNIFER EGAN: He was still there.

AUDREY LYONS: That was the whole, that was the thing in his life that made the most impression.

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah. Did you look for more work when your Navy Yard job ended?

AUDREY LYONS: No, I didn't. I'm trying to think now, I guess -- I must have done something, but I can't remember what it was. Oh, wait a minute! Maybe I did work at the YMCA. I think I did. I worked, um -- one of my girlfriends had a job there, and she got me a job. It was a very unimportant job at the YMCA in Manhattan.


AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. And then I think we worked at some school, some private school.

SUSAN LYONS: Well, you and dad, what year did you get married in?


SUSAN LYONS: So you were -- pretty much --

AUDREY LYONS: So it wasn't very long.

SUSAN LYONS: -- right after the war.

AUDREY LYONS: And then when he decided that he was going to the University of Pennsylvania and got in there, then, uh, we decided we'd get married, and we lived there while he was going to school.


JENNIFER EGAN: And then did you move back to New York? Or then you began your many moves?

AUDREY LYONS: Then, uh, then he decided that -- he didn't finish his masters. He was too anxious to get on with his life. At that time, we were sort of, you know, marking time.

SUSAN LYONS: And he went on the GI Bill, right?

AUDREY LYONS: He went on the GI Bill, and they also got a stipend, as this other man said. And, uh, and so I worked and -- down in Philly -- and we used to go to the football games and whatever, but we were anxious to get really started on a life together.


AUDREY LYONS: So he looked for a job, and he got a job out in Ohio, at the University Atlas, uh, Cement Company. So that was the beginning, and then we kept going from one place to another.

JENNIFER EGAN: And you did stay in touch with a number of the people.

AUDREY LYONS: I did, yes. They became very good friends. This Peg Skipper was one. And Eileen. Actually, I'd heard from Eileen only about three years ago, but 88:00as I said, she wasn't there very long so I don't think she'd have a lot to tell you.

JENNIFER EGAN: She's the one who became a WAC?



AUDREY LYONS: And, uh, and the other girls, I did lose -- but a lot of them came to my wedding, so I think after that, we moved so much I lost track of them.

JENNIFER EGAN: And then Charlie Herman, you stayed in touch with.

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. Just with Christmas Cards.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Where was he living the last time you heard from him?

AUDREY LYONS: Well I think somewhere out west somewhere, but I can't, maybe Colorado, or someplace like that.


SUSAN LYONS: Do you think you'd have his name on an old Christmas -- do you still keep that Christmas card list you used to have?

AUDREY LYONS: No, no. No, I wouldn't have it anymore.

SUSAN LYONS: Just checking.


JENNIFER EGAN: Do you remember whether in, in this conversation as you were working, was there much talk of politics? The war? That sort of thing?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, a lot about the war, but not so much about politics. Oh, another thing that happened one time was that, uh, Eisenhower was coming to 89:00town, to New York, and they let us take time off from work to go to see him. And we went, all of us went in a group and we stood on the side of the street, and Eisenhower went by, it was like from there to there. And we were all waving. It was wonderful. [laughter] But, uh, that was another day they gave us time off.

JENNIFER EGAN: And where was that? Where were you waiting for him? Do you remember?

AUDREY LYONS: Along the street in Manhattan, I guess, Fifth Avenue.


AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. It was really a tickertape parade. Yeah.

JENNIFER EGAN: But you got time off to go?


DANIELLA ROMANO: How about safety? Were there, uh -- were you witness or did you hear of any accidents or -- we know that through the rest of the Yard, safety was a serious concern, injury and --

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. Well, there was a, a lot of talk about that. But not where -- you know, where I worked there wasn't that much to, um, to worry about. But downstairs, I'm sure they did. And they always had posted how many accidents 90:00there had been. You know. No, that was very important.

JENNIFER EGAN: Oh! I don't know about those postings.

AUDREY LYONS: Well, they would post on how many accidents there were for that month. They were always trying to make them fewer.

JENNIFER EGAN: Did -- did you all look at those with interest?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, you couldn't help but see them. I'm sure they were right outside the ladies' room or someplace --

JENNIFER EGAN: Right, right.

AUDREY LYONS: -- or the men's room or whatever. But I didn't, I don't know of any personally.

SADY SULLIVAN: What was the number usually? What would be like a normal monthly number?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, gosh, I can't remember. I would say maybe, it might have been -- oh, and this would just be a guess -- I would say that it might have been two hundred.


AUDRET LYONS: But that could have been, maybe, just a cut on a finger, you know?


AUDREY LYONS: It could have been anything.

DANIELLA ROMANO: It was yard-wide.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. Right. No, this would be like your department or your section.


AUDREY LYONS: Each one had a separate listing.

JENNIFER EGAN: In the big crowd that you would walk in with from Sands Street, do you -- was it, was it mostly women, or a mix? Do you have a sense of -- what 91:00was your sense of how many women were at the Yard outside of your area?

AUDREY LYONS: It seemed like quite a few, but mostly men. I would say it was more men than women. Definitely. Like in our building, I would say women were maybe an eighth of the whole building, and the rest would all be men. I, I don't remember any women, you know, doing like the riveting or any of that. Because that wasn't done in that building.



JENNIFER EGAN: So you never, never struck up a conversation with a woman from any other area?


JENNIFER EGAN: Um, do you remember any other unusual events at the Yard? Moments when the normal routine was disrupted for any reason? You mentioned the launching.


JENNIFER EGAN: Were there any other times when just something happened that changed the daily routine?

AUDREY LYONS: No, I can't think of a thing. Nope.

JENNIFER EGAN: What about the, the, just the environment in terms of like 92:00temperature? Do you remember weather? Sort of smells? What it felt like to --

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, it was very, yeah, it always smelled like oil, and, uh, that kind of thing. It's -- you could tell we were in a factory building.

SUSAN LYONS: Except for the chocolate.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. [laughter] Except for the chocolate, right.

JENNIFER EGAN: And you could smell that inside the building where you worked?

AUDREY LYONS: The chocolate?


AUDREY LYONS: Well, I, it may not -- I get the feeling that that -- that room was very well closed in. It was not open as much as the other parts of the building, so maybe we couldn't smell it in there, and I don't think the windows opened.

JENNIFER EGAN: Oh, really?

AUDREY LYONS: No. I don't think so. I think they were -- that's what makes me think it might have been air-conditioned.


AUDREY LYONS: But that was pretty rare then.

DANIELLA ROMANO: It sounds like a clean room. Like if you had --

AUDREY LYONS: It was a very clean room.

JENNIFER EGAN: -- if you had precision instruments --

AUDREY LYONS: Yes, yes, right.

JENNIFER EGAN: -- you wouldn't want to get them dusty, or --

AUDREY LYONS: That's it. That was it, right.

JENNIFER EGAN: Hmm, interesting. Do you remember, what about outside the building, though? Do you remember winter? You mentioned spring day, that was 93:00what made you want to get on the bike.

AUDREY LYONS: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

JENNIFER EGAN: What about winter, snow, do you have any memories of like weather conditions?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, I -- we naturally had winter and all of the seasons, but I don't remember it, uh. That's why I think I was close to the gate, because I don't remember sloshing through the snow a lot --


AUDREY LYONS: -- so...

SADY SULLIVAN: What would you wear on your way to work? I mean, you were going to put on a jumpsuit --


SADY SULLIVAN: -- but would you still get dressed, hair and makeup and -- ?AUDREY LYONS: I guess I did, because you know, women didn't wear pants much then, so I think we probably wore skirts or whatever, and blouse, and then we put these things on over that. Yeah. Because there were very few people that wore pants then. Yeah.

JENNIFER EGAN: Do you have any memory of there being sort of ups and downs at work? Like did things go wrong?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, I'm sure they did, but I don't think I was at the class that would know about it. You know? I don't think, uh, we would have known if --

JENNIFER EGAN: I guess I just mean even within your own work routine.


AUDREY LYONS: No, it pretty much was the same every day. I'd say.

JENNIFER EGAN: Was it dull?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, it was sort of dull. It was. As I've said, if the people weren't so nice -- you know, we enjoyed each other, and uh...

JENNIFER EGAN: But in terms of feeling a sense of accomplishment about the work itself, did you have that sense of being an expert?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, I think we felt that we were doing our part, but I don't think any of us felt that we were doing anything that important. No. I think we felt that it was helpful, but I don't -- to this day, I don't think it was that important. Somebody had to do it, I guess, but -- [laughter]


DANIELLA ROMANO: Did you ever see any, um, of the damaged ships that would come in for repair?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, you could see them from a distance, but -- for instance, some of these ships, like, when I went by the one on the bicycle, I'm sure that that had had some damage, and that's why it was there. But I don't remember 95:00specifically seeing any particular thing. Uh, you know, we got there at eight, or eight or seven, or whatever it was. And then we stayed there, didn't go outside even for lunch, and then it, whenever we went out, that was out. Out the door and you went home or wherever you were going. So.

JENNIFER EGAN: Well, I feel like I've asked most of my questions. What about you, Sady?

SADY SULLIVAN: If I could, can I ask some, some background questions sort of about before the Yards? Just -- we were talking earlier, but I don't think it was on the recording, um, what neighborhood did you grow up in, in Brooklyn?

AUDREY LYONS: Cypress Hills. Mm-hmm.

SADY SULLIVAN: And are your parents from Brooklyn?


SADY SULLIVAN: Where did your parents come from?

AUDREY LYONS: Uh, did you ask me, were they still with me? Is that what you said?

SUSAN LYONS: No, where they --

SADY SULLIVAN: Where did they come from?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, okay. My father was born in this country, but my mother came 96:00from England when she was eleven years old.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm. And where was your father born?

AUDREY LYONS: He was born in, um, in Manhattan. And his -- his mother was born in this country, but his grandparents came from Germany I believe. Yeah.

SADY SULLIVAN: And how did they end up living in Cypress Hills?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, that was near where my father had his business.


AUDREY LYONS: He had several, uh, diners from the time he was a young man. Because he was crippled at five years old and he had a -- one leg was only that big, from polio --


AUDREY LYONS: -- and he had a big brace on one leg. So he couldn't do a lot of things, and he loved sports, which was too bad because he never could, you know, get into them. But he always, as a result, he started hockey teams when my brother was about ten years old, and he would take teams all over Brooklyn to play hockey, and he managed them and coached them. So that was where he got his 97:00love of sports out, you know. But, uh -- so he was very much handicapped by that.



SADY SULLIVAN: And how did your parents meet?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh! Well, I'm not sure, I think they met -- I don't know. Do you remember where they met? I'm not sure.

SUSAN LYONS: I don't remember if I ever knew that story. They didn't --

AUDREY LYONS: I, I don't -- they just met somewhere, you know, like anybody would. My mother was living in Manhattan, I think, when she was a young woman, and -- but her family lived way out near where -- I was going to say Idlewild, but, uh, where Kennedy Airport is. It was called Idlewild then. And, uh, so she had a long, long way to go so she used to room with a friend and then go home maybe on weekends, or -- but they used to work, she always said they worked seven days -- no, six days a week from, what? Eight in the morning til seven at 98:00night, I think. So.

SADY SULLIVAN: And what kind of work would she do?

AUDREY LYONS: She worked in stores, Macy's and all those stores. And you had to wear a uniform, a black uniform with a white collar, and you had to stand the entire time.


AUDREY LYONS: From seven in the morning or eight in the morning until that time. And, uh, I think they got a short time for lunch, but no coffee breaks or any of that. So.


AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, it's interesting.

JENNIFER EGAN: And how many siblings do you have?

AUDREY LYONS: One. My brother.

JENNIFER EGAN: Um, who was younger, he was in high school.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, two years younger.

JENNIFER EGAN: Did your mom keep working after the war ended?

AUDREY LYONS: No, I -- I think that closed up, also.

JENNIFER EGAN: And what about -- did your dad open another business?

AUDREY LYONS: No. He went to Pratt Institute and became an insurance broker. And 99:00so that's, uh, right after he closed that, he became an insurance broker and he did income taxes.


AUDREY LYONS: And he worked from home, which was ideal for him since he couldn't get around too well.

JENNIFER EGAN: And they -- did they stay in the old neighborhood?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, they did until -- let's see, we lived in Illinois, when was that, what year? They moved to New Jersey.

SUSAN LYONS: They moved to New Jersey, um...

AUDREY LYONS: We used to go to Ocean Grove, New Jersey, which was a resort right by the ocean, two blocks from the ocean, and it was a Methodist community and they closed the gates on weekends, believe it or not. No cars were allowed.

SUSAN LYONS: They weren't allowed to have cars.

AUDREY LYONS: So it was really quite interesting, because on Sunday --

SUSAN LYONS: It was like a summer community.

AUDREY LYONS: -- it was like living in a place that was a hundred years ago, you know?

DANIELLA ROMANO: That sounds lovely.

AUDREY LYONS: Quiet, no sound. Whatever. It's no longer that way, but it was.

SUSAN LYONS: And then your father, my grandfather, he had very terrible emphysema, and so they were told, weren't they, that it might be better for him --



SUSAN LYONS: -- to be near the ocean, so they would go down there and stay with some friends in the summer.


SUSAN LYONS: And then my grandmother really liked being there, and by that time, he was pretty bedridden --

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. He was. He only lived about two years after they moved there.

SUSAN LYONS: So they bought a house there and moved there for good. That was -- it must have been -- I was about -- he died when I was in eighth grade, so that was about '68.

AUDREY LYONS: Mm-hmm. I know we were living in Illinois at that time. Yup.

SUSAN LYONS: So they must have moved there in '65 or '66.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Did you hear about the Yard's decommissioning? When the Yard was closed?


DANIELLA ROMANO: The yard was decommissioned in '66 --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- so I was just wondering if --

AUDREY LYONS: No, I didn't.

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- news of that would have --

AUDREY LYONS: I didn't follow anything.


AUDREY LYONS: As I told you, my whole life, I kept thinking of when I was going to leave Brooklyn. I don't know why, because it was a wonderful place to grow up. But I was dying to go someplace else. We didn't go anywhere when I was young. I mean, if you went to Connecticut, it was like a five-hour trip from New York to Connecticut. Uh, you'd have to drive, it was -- well, you could take a 101:00train or bus I suppose, but it was, it took forever.


AUDREY LYONS: So we never went anywhere.

JENNIFER EGAN: Right. So you made up for it later. [laughter]

AUDREY LYONS: Except close by, you know.

SADY SULLIVAN: Who was in your neighborhood when you were growing up? Like what kind of people, what kind of families?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, pretty much like my own. And, uh, we had, you know, kids up the street and then right next to our house, we had a lot of children. We were never very friendly with them because they weren't very well brought up, but... [laughter] But they were there. [laughter] But then, when we moved there, I was thirteen, I think, to that house. My mother liked to move, so I'm, I lived in quite a few places. So.

JENNIFER EGAN: Anything that you would like to add that we haven't touched on?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, one thing that I, I remember so well of those days -- and a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was going to Brooklyn College and then 102:00home late at night -- and we would have, uh, air raids. Air raid sirens, tests. And everything would go black. The buses, everything had to stop. The buses would stop right where they were, everything went black, and everybody would have to get off the bus and stand in a doorway. And it could be anywhere. I mean, we went through some really bad neighborhoods to get to where I lived, and all of a sudden, it would go off and we'd have to get out of the bus and stand in these doorways like this for about five minutes, until we had the all clear.

JENNIFER EGAN: And everything would be dark?

AUDREY LYONS: Everything was black. Everything. You had to put black things on your windows.


AUDREY LYONS: So. At home, you had to do that.

JENNIFER EGAN: And where was the siren coming from?

AUDREY LYONS: Well ,it would -- they were all over. They had them, you know, wherever. Probably every couple blocks there was some.


JENNIFER EGAN: And how often would that happen?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, quite a bit.


AUDREY LYONS: I mean it's -- in the middle of the war, they did that quite a lot because they wanted people to be prepared, you know, just like in Britain. They, they actually got it.


AUDREY LYONS: But we never got it. So...

JENNIFER EGAN: And, and so this would be as you were coming back from Brooklyn College, so this is pretty late.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, or even going there -- well, that was usually earlier in the day, so maybe it wasn't dark then. But coming back from there, it happened quite a lot.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Well, and apparently, German submarines, uh --

AUDREY LYONS: Yes! Off Long Island, they were spotted, I've heard that, yeah.

DANIELLA ROMANO: They could -- or they could, uh, they see the out --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- they could see the silhouette of US ships very easily --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- against the city, the city landscape.

AUDREY LYONS: I think they were quite sure that there were some off Long Island.

JENNIFER EGAN: Was it frightening when those, when those, um, sirens went off, or did you just feel kind of aggravated?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, we got used to it.


AUDREY LYONS: We got used to it. Like everything else. You can get used to anything.

JENNIFER EGAN: That, that's -- that's interesting, though, I didn't realize 104:00people had to like get off the bus and stuff.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh yeah, you had to. And if you were underground -- fortunately I didn't use the subway much -- but if you were underground, you'd have to get out of the subway and stand on the platform. It was scary. It was.

JENNIFER EGAN: Mm. What if you're between stations?

SADY SULLIVAN: Was it scary in -- both in terms of, you know, potential bombings but also just if you're in a neighborhood that you don't really know --


SADY SULLIVAN: -- and it's dark [inaudible]?

AUDREY LYONS: That's it, right. And all these strangers. You don't know anybody on the bus particularly. So.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. Not very --

AUDREY LYONS: There was one particular place that it happened more than once, and it was really not a good neighborhood. I wouldn't have been there ordinarily. And, uh, so that, that stands out in my mind.

JENNIFER EGAN: What neighborhood was it, do you remember?

AUDREY LYONS: I'm trying to think now what it was called. It was past East New York, what would be -- you know the names of all these places now.

SUSAN LYONS: I'd have to look at it on a map.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. I'm trying to think.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Was that Brownsville?

AUDREY LYONS: It wasn't Brownsville.




AUDREY LYONS: It might have been Bedstuy, it might have been that. That was not a good neighborhood then.

DANIELLA ROMANO: What made it a bad neighborhood? Just --

AUDREY LYONS: Well, it was just a dangerous place to be. And you know, we didn't have homeless people then, we had what we called bums.


AUDREY LYONS: And men lying on the side of the street, that was very common. There weren't a whole lot of them, but they were everywhere. And, uh, so that was usually a bad neighborhood. And you'd see, you know, tough looking kids and that kind of thing. We were very much kept family, you know, we didn't have the freedom that you girls had growing up. Once a boy from the Navy Yard invited me to go out -- oh! We had had a Christmas party at the office. Ahem. And I think they had drinks there. I didn't drink, but they did have them, I'm sure. So this boy took me home. And, uh, we went into my house [laughter], and my mother and 106:00father took one look at him. They didn't like it at all that I came in a car. And then he invited me to go to a New Year's Party. This was right after Christmas. I, I hardly knew him. And, uh, so I said yes. No other place to go. But then my parents said, "No, you're not going to go because we don't know him, and you know, and anyway we think he drinks too much." I said, "Oh, okay." [laughter] I didn't argue. [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: What made them think he drank too much?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, he was drunk when he brought me home.

JENNIFER EGAN: Oh, and he had been driving you?


JENNIFER EGAN: Not a good first impression. [laughter)]

AUDREY LYONS: Right. No, no. [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: That's very --

SADY SULLIVAN: Did you like him? Were you interested?

AUDREY LYONS: No! Well, I only -- I hardly knew him. And I think I only got to know him, really, at that party that night. And so he said, "You want a ride home?" And I said, "Well, sure." But I should have realized it wasn't a very 107:00good idea.

JENNIFER EGAN: Did he work also in the building?

AUDREY LYONS: He must have, yeah, because he was at that party. I really don't remember him before or after. [laughter]

JENNIFER EGAN: But you said you had a boyfriend who was in the, was overseas during the war.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh yeah, well, that was my husband. But I had a lot of other friends who were in the service, also.

JENNIFER EGAN: But so, were you sort of attached, as it were, when you were working at the Yard?

AUDREY LYONS: No, I would say I wasn't. No, no, not at that time.

JENNIFER EGAN: Did you date anyone else who worked at the Yard?

AUDREY LYONS: No. I dated a lot of boys that I knew in my neighborhood. And, uh, through my church and school and whatever,

SADY SULLIVAN: Is that how you knew your, your husband who was overseas?

AUDREY LYONS: No, I met him in -- at, uh, Brooklyn College.



JENNIFER EGAN: It's funny, about your parents.

AUDREY LYONS: Heh. Well, I don't know what else to tell you. [laughter]


JENNIFER EGAN: Well, you've told us a lot. I just want to make sure we're not missing anything.

AUDREY LYONS: I don't think so.

JENNIFER EGAN: Anything else that, that you feel like you've heard over the years that we haven't touched on or tapped into?

SUSAN LYONS: No, I think you've got the high points. But, you know, I'm sure that you may think of some other things, so if you do --

AUDREY LYONS: I don't know.

SUSAN LYONS: -- I can send, I'll do it by email or whatever.

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah. Sure, that would be great.

DANIELLA ROMANO: And we can always do a follow-up over the phone.

AUDREY LYONS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. I have a -- did you mention that you would go skiing with people from work?

AUDREY LYONS: Yes. We did. Um, this group -- one -- this one-armed fellow was there. This was toward the end of the war, also, because he had already been in the service, lost his arm, and came out, and was working there. So it was late in the, in the war. But we all went skiing up at Lake Placid, and he went along. Charlie Herman went along, he was always the only man around. And a couple of other friends who were out of the service then. And then all my girlfriends. So 109:00we went up there. And, uh, and then this one-armed fellow skied beautifully. Amazing. I don't know whether he could ski before, but he did very well.

JENNIFER EGAN: Had you skied before?

AUDREY LYONS: No. I didn't like it, either. I didn't do much of it. [laughter]

SUSAN LYONS: One thing I do remember, Mom, is that as much as you always used to say you wanted to get out of Brooklyn, you always talked about what a great growing up you had.

AUDREY LYONS: I do that now, I do that now.

SUSAN LYONS: She came around finally.

AUDREY LYONS: When I look back now and realize what we had, that we, you know, I, we had this elevated line that we -- could take you to Manhattan in maybe forty minutes.

JENNIFER EGAN: And which bridge --

AUDREY LYONS: And, so we did everything.

JENNIFER EGAN: -- did it go over?


JENNIFER EGAN: Which bridge did it go over?

AUDREY LYONS: I think the Brooklyn Bridge, if I'm not mistaken.

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah, there was a --

AUDREY LYONS: But the elevated, and then we had to change and then we'd end up on the subway someway. That didn't go all the way to Manhattan, I don't think. Or if it did, it went to lower Manhattan. Nobody ever went there. Last year, 110:00some, some of my girlfriends from high school came to visit because we were all celebrating our -- was it our --

SUSAN LYONS: Eighty --

AUDREY LYONS: Eight-second birthday.

SUSAN LYONS: Eighty-third.

AUDREY LYONS: And we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge. I had never, ever done that before.

JENNIFER EGAN: Oh that's great.

AUDREY LYONS: And I don't think anyone did it. I, I it was unheard of.

JENNIFER EGAN: Well, if --

AUDREY LYONS: I mean, I would have known about it.


AUDREY LYONS: Well, I don't think it was --

JENNIFER EGAN: But, but it was because there was a train that went over it.

SUSAN LYONS: Maybe. That's what I was -- we were thinking, that the pedestrian way wasn't there then.

AUDREY LYONS: No, I don't think it was, because I certainly would have heard of it, and I'm sure we would have done it, you know, if it was.

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah, it's so funny to think of that --


JENNIFER EGAN: -- that a train went over the Brooklyn Bridge.

AUDREY LYONS: I know it. So that could have been where that train went.


AUDREY LYONS: But we had a great time. We went, every one -- my best girlfriend, uh, was a student at Julliard, and so she got me into opera, and we'd go to the opera house and we'd stand in the back for fifty cents and had standing room to 111:00watch the operas.


AUDREY LYONS: It was amazing. Fifty cents.

JENNIFER EGAN: Was this a friend from the Navy Yard?



AUDREY LYONS: We'd go to an evening performance --

SUSAN LYONS: No, [inaudible] wasn't at the Navy Yard, was she?

AUDREY LYONS: No, no, she wasn't there.


AUDREY LYONS: No, I thought you meant did I go from the Navy Yard.

SUSAN LYONS: Yeah. No, it was her best friend from grade school.

JENNIFER EGAN: Oh, oh, so you would meet her --

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, I would meet her there.

JENNIFER EGAN: -- you would be coming from the Navy Yard.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah. Right.

JENNIFER EGAN: I see, okay.

AUDREY LYONS: No, she wasn't from the Navy Yard.

SADY SULLIVAN: What high school did you go to?

AUDREY LYONS: For high school? Or--


AUDREY LYONS: Uh, Franklin K. Lane High School. It was a brand new school the year that we went, moved in, went into it as freshmen. It was brand new. It had a swimming pool, which was unheard of then. [laughter]

DANIELLA ROMANO: Any other girls that you went to high school with work at the Navy Yard?



AUDREY LYONS: None of them did. None of the girls that I went to high school with.

JENNIFER EGAN: Were people impressed when they found out that you worked at the Yard?

AUDREY LYONS: Oh, I don't know.

JENNIFER EGAN: I mean, was it, did it, was there a cachet to it?


AUDREY LYONS: No, I don't think so.


AUDREY LYONS: It was just a job.


AUDREY LYONS: It's funny because I look back, I don't know of a soul -- most of my friends did go to college, but they didn't have careers. I mean, it was a different world then.

SUSAN LYONS: You mean the women.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, the women didn't have careers, no. I mean, I don't know of one who did. [laughter] They all, if they -- maybe taught school for a little while, or became a nurse maybe. That would be about it. No.

JENNIFER EGAN: Did you keep working in, in the years after you had kids?

AUDREY LYONS: No. I never worked. Never.

SUSAN LYONS: Well, you did work. Didn't you have some --


SUSAN LYONS: -- when you were in Ohio?

AUDREY LYONS: Not after I got married.


AUDREY LYONS: Oh! I did when -- before you were born.

SUSAN LYONS: Yeah, before we were born.

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, I did work. But just little incidental jobs, nothing really good.

JENNIFER EGAN: You were too busy moving? [laughter]

AUDREY LYONS: I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it. [laughter]


DANIELLA ROMANO: Moving and building houses, right?

AUDREY LYONS: Yeah, and building houses.

DANIELLA ROMANO: That's a job.

SUSAN LYONS: She really should have been an architect.

AUDREY LYONS: [laughter]

SUSAN LYONS: She's very good at it.

AUDREY LYONS: That's what I enjoy.

JENNIFER EGAN: Interesting. All right. I think we're, we're at a resting point for now.

AUDREY LYONS: Thank you. I'm exhausted. All those old days!


JENNIFER EGAN: Sorry, I know it is exhausting to talk so much.

DANIELLA ROMANO: I would like to take a photograph.

JENNIFER EGAN: Great. And we also just need this release form that allows us to use the recording.

AUDREY LYONS: Oh sure, okay.

JENNIFER EGAN: So just put your name there, and then all your info down there.

AUDREY LYONS: Yup, okay. I'll get my glasses out.

SUSAN LYONS: Do you need a pen, Mom?


AUDREY LYONS: I put them down in here.

DANIELLA ROMANO: I wonder if this is -- uh oh, not good sound.

JENNIFER EGAN: Battery's dead?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Battery's dead.

SUSAN LYONS: I have a camera [inaudible].

DANIELLA ROMANO: Do you? Would you?

JENNIFER EGAN: Oh, that would be so nice.

DANIELLA ROMANO: That would be great, thank you.

SADY SULLIVAN: What was the -- why did you chose the Arc de Triomphe in, in Washington Square Park?

AUDREY LYONS: Well, we used to go down there a lot, there was --


AUDREY LYONS: -- a little, um, there's a hotel, I think it was called the Bossert.

JENNIFER EGAN: What was it called?

AUDREY LYONS: And they had a man in there who used to play the piano, and we used to go there once in a while and, you know, listen to -- he sang all kinds 114:00of cute little funny songs, and that kind of thing, so we went there. And that's why we chose that.

JENNIFER EGAN: What was the name of the hotel?

AUDREY LYONS: I think it's the Bossert. B-O-S-S-E-R-T.


AUDREY LYONS: That was on the Brooklyn side. I'm not sure. I may have that mixed up.


AUDREY LYONS: It was number one-- Fifth Avenue?

SUSAN LYONS: Oh, yeah, which is still -- yeah, you can definitely see that would have been a hotel.

JENNIFER EGAN: Yes, absolutely.

SUSAN LYONS: That's a great building.

AUDREY LYONS: Well, I may not, that may not have been the name of it. And today is what?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Five two. And I, we have your phone number but we should have your mailing address, too...

JENNIFER EGAN: Do you want to -- should we take the picture in here or -- ?DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah. I was going to leave that to you.

JENNIFER EGAN: Okay. Oh, okay.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Well, I mean, if you wanted to. I just want to make sure that if you, if you felt like saying it.


DANIELLA ROMANO: I think it'd be great. I think the, um, I think with Ida and 115:00Sylvie, too --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- it'd be great.

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah, maybe taking the picture outside the room would be best.

JENNIFER EGAN: Yeah, I think so, because it's not nice light in here. Um, next week, I'm going to be meeting with a reporter who wants to do a story on the Oral History --

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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Audrey Lyons

Audrey Garbers Lyons (1924-2014) grew up in the Cyprus Hills neighborhood of Brooklyn. Lyons attended Brooklyn College before she left to work at the Navy Yard in 1943 to help support her family after her father's business closed. Unlike some of the other workers at the Navy Yard, Lyons was a federal employee.

Audrey Garbers Lyons (1924-2014) worked as a parts inspector at the Navy Yard for the federal government from 1943 until WWII ended in 1945. Lyons used a micrometer to measure ship parts. During her interview, she remembers that the women mostly tested the smaller parts. She also recalls talking and singing with the women she worked with, who were mostly college educated, and many of whom were married and worried about their husbands in the War. Lyons described her section of the Navy Yard as a little village, explaining that she recognized everyone in her own building, but no one else at the Navy Yard. She also remembers the christening of the USS Missouri, smells from a nearby chocolate factory and the jumpsuit she wore at work. Also present at the time of the interview was Susan Lyons, Audrey Lyons' daughter. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan and Jennifer Egan.

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.


Lyons, Audrey Garbers, 1924-2014, Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan and Jennifer Egan, May 02, 2009, Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection, 2010.003.017; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • Lyons, Audrey Garbers, 1924-2014
  • New York Naval Shipyard


  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Local transit
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)
  • Neighborhoods
  • Shipbuilding
  • Shipfitting
  • Transportation
  • Uniforms
  • Wages
  • Women--Employment
  • Women's clothing
  • Work environment
  • World War, 1939-1945


  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Cypress Hills (New York, N.Y.)


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Finding Aid

Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection