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Frank Trezza

Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan

October 09, 2009

Call number: 2010.003.025

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FRANK TREZZA: -- Seatrain didn't.


FRANK TREZZA: I came in one Saturday that I didn't have to work.


FRANK TREZZA: And I just walked around the Yard taking pictures.


FRANK TREZZA: And I walked down there, and the doors were open and the guys were working in there. And I don't know which company had it. That's the time when they would, uh, they tore the overhead cranes down to the shipways and they were trying to blow up the shipways.

DANIELLA ROMANO: They were trying to blow them up?

FRANK TREZZA: Blow them up. You don't know that story?


FRANK TREZZA: They took the overhead cranes off --

DANIELLA ROMANO: I know! [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: They took the overhead cranes off, and they couldn't figure out how to demolish the shipways. So they tried using dynamite, and just like the big construction sites, when they go to blast something they put those blast covers over.


FRANK TREZZA: Well, they put the blast covers, but the shipways weren't coming apart. So one young guy has the bright idea, you aren't using enough dynamite. 1:00Okay. Well, he goes in without telling anybody and he like doubled or tripled the amount of dynamite for the blast.

MILLIE TREZZA: Did he come out?

FRANK TREZZA: Well, a section blew up, and the debris came out from under -- it lifted up the whole blast cover and some of the concrete came flying out. And there was a Navy ship that was docked over there that Coastal was working on, and the concrete came up and hit the ship and actually went right through one of the bridge windows, and the captain on the ship went berserk. The guy was fired like that. But it took them a long -- it, it was a hard job blowing the shipways up.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Did you take photographs?

FRANK TREZZA: The only photograph I have of the shipways was, the one I have, the original one is with Colleena [phonetic] -- you, Colleena, Nancy, and Augie 2:00are on the pier, and right across you can see, it's actually the back cover, on the back cover of my book it has it. Yeah. This part back here on the whole picture is the shipways with all the overhead cranes, and there was the building next to it which I believe, way back when, was the building that they used to use to build the guns, actually manufacture the guns for the ships -- until, uh Truman decided that he was going to outsource the work, and they didn't build them in the Yard no more.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Which building?

FRANK TREZZA: The one right next to it. If you're looking at it from that picture, it'd be the one directly to the left of it. It would be right over my shoulder.

DANIELLA ROMANO: I can't make it out from the photo.

MILLIE TREZZA: The mold loft? Not these.


FRANK TREZZA: But that was way back when, because they built the guns for the Arizona. They built the whole Arizona here, the guns, the boilers, the engines. Everything was built here, and then they start subcontracting everything out, so the gun shop was only a fraction of what it used to be, uh, and they just repaired the guns. But I got a news article showing the gun -- the barrel of the guns of the Iowa on the side of the dock over by the shipways, and the guys are cleaning it.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Did you bring any -- is it --


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- are they on the computer? I want to look at --

FRANK TREZZA: No, I have --

SADY SULLIVAN: I have the finding aid for some, for the photographs that you have, um, donated to the Brooklyn Historical Society's collections.


FRANK TREZZA: This I got emailed from Julie May. She emailed me this one.


SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, good. So you've seen that?

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah. Because I had a problem with the Historical Society, going back -- when I donated them, Benjamin Filene got them.


FRANK TREZZA: And he, he was actually doing the oral histories back at the time.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yes, so that must have been the late '80s.

FRANK TREZZA: It was '88.


FRANK TREZZA: And they never sent me a thank you note. They never called me when they put my name on the plaque and stuck it on the wall. They never called me and told me that anything was going to be on exhibit.


DANIELLA ROMANO: Can you deal with that Sady. [laughter]

MILLIE TREZZA: He's been waiting a long time to get that out.

FRANK TREZZA: Long time.

SADY SULLIVAN: Well, I'm glad that that's being rectified now because -- yeah, and that's not the first that -- I've been with the Historical Society for a few years now, and prior to that, um, the building was closed for renovations for about five years. And we've heard a lot of, uh, odd things, like, "Oh, we gave you this stuff. What happened to it? And, like, "nobody said thank you." And 5:00we're like, "It's right here, and... " Or people have said that they called and said, "We have this amazing collection. Can we give it to you?" And someone at the library was like, "No thanks."


SADY SULLIVAN: All of which is just nuts, and we don't know how that happened, but it's --


SADY SULLIVAN: -- a different crew now.

FRANK TREZZA: I saw all the color pictures in '99 before you did the renovations, and they were on disk on your computer. So I had asked if they can make me a copy so I could have the rest of the pictures, because I still, I made, I had duplicate slides because everything I took, I took at least two pictures of the same thing.


FRANK TREZZA: But I couldn't find some of them, so I just wanted a complete record. And they gave me a story they couldn't do it. "Okay, can I see the rest of my work that I donated?" Because I was writing my thesis, uh, and it -- for my final economics paper on the, uh, history of Seatrain, on the labor history 6:00of Seatrain, so I wanted to -- "Oh no, we can't bring that out." Why? "Because it's all sealed up and we're going to close the building for five years. You can't see it for the next five years." I said, "Thank you. You should have told me this when I sent you a letter and you called me up and told me to come down."


FRANK TREZZA: So -- even after that, I've been asking, oh, for a long time, how come when I do a search on your website, I can't find anything on Seatrain. It comes up, they have maybe one picture of the Brooklyn, but that's it.


FRANK TREZZA: Where's everything else?


FRANK TREZZA: Nobody can give me a straight answer. And then finally I sent one again, and Julie May sent me that. So okay, I'm happy, but I sent an email back making the correction that they have wrong in here, and I asked --

SADY SULLIVAN: Is it corrected now?

FRANK TREZZA: I don't know. I didn't read it.

MILLIE TREZZA: It says, mechanic, he was hired as a mechanic helper, and he was 7:00an electric --

FRANK TREZZA: I wasn't. I was hired as electrical helper.

MILLIE TREZZA: Oh. Yeah. Electrical.

SADY SULLIVAN: Okay. Yeah, make that change in the --

FRANK TREZZA: And I asked, "Could you please send me a copy? Since you're going to put everything online, which I don't have a problem with, could you just please send me a copy of the disk with all my pictures? Because I'd like to have a complete set of everything, whatever I think is missing." And nobody will even answer me.

SADY SULLIVAN: Um, right now?


SADY SULLIVAN: Well now, if you, if you Google your name, the second thing that comes up is a cata-blog entry from the Brooklyn Historical Society that explains the collection, which is your, your name, Seatrain, um, and then this finding aid is linked. Um, and the images aren't, um, on there I don't think, but, um, but they're digitized because they're part of the digitized collection. Um, 8:00maybe, I can definitely ask Julie about this, when the photos were digitized to be put in the catalogue for the archive -- which is totally searchable now at the historical society, it's about 50,000 images -- um, they, it, they started doing it back before scanning was as good as it is now, so the resolution on the images is really bad. It's -- they're like these little tiny thumbnails that you get and that's what you would -- if you went to the Historical Society now and, and like looked through Past Perfect, you'd see this little tiny thumbnail. And so, um, to get a really good scan, Julie is rescanning all of these with, with better technology scanners. So she's in the process of doing that, and with the finding aid I'm sure that she's either in the middle of it or -- you know, because it's obviously a collection that they're processing.

FRANK TREZZA: Well. Well, in '99 when I saw them, they had them all on a CD ----


FRANK TREZZA: -- and put them into the computer and they were excellent.


FRANK TREZZA: And, uh, she said, "You can print off whichever ones you want," 9:00and I printed off a bunch of them.


FRANK TREZZA: So I asked her for a copy of the disk and she said, "We can't do it because the computer is blah, blah, blah, blah." So I said okay. So I always asked, every time I asked about the collection, you know, but nobody ever told me that they did an exhibit. Nobody told me when they did the plaque.


FRANK TREZZA: It was my brother-in-law's wife that brought my kids there one day, and she saw the plaque there, my kid saw it. She calls me up. "Hey, you know your name's on the plaque." No, I didn't know that! [laughter] But I, I'd just like a copy of the, uh, pictures --


FRANK TREZZA: -- and I'd love to have it put online.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah, well that, they're definitely, um, going to be online eventually. Uh, but before that happens, you should definitely have a copy on, on DVD.

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, that I would love.


DANIELLA ROMANO: It's so good that you both made it up here today and that we got to coordinate and just have this discussion. Nothing just beats face to face, you know?

MILLIE TREZZA: Oh, you're right, totally. I was, I was very excited when I read the email that you were going to be here.


MILLIE TREZZA: It was, like, wonderful.

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, that we could work out everything on Seatrain too while I'm here.


FRANK TREZZA: I can nail that down hopefully.

DANIELLA ROMANO: I'm going to step away for a few minutes.


DANIELLA ROMANO: I don't know what, if you need anything. I'm going to step back in really quietly so that I don't interrupt the recording.

SADY SULLIVAN: No. Yeah, that's fine. So can we -- is everybody all set? Do you want to -- anybody need a break or anything before we start, like, the formal interview?

FRANK TREZZA: No, go ahead.

MILLIE TREZZA: We'll wait for you to return to, to look at some of the...

DANIELLA ROMANO: Absolutely, and I'd like to just listen in for a little bit, but I've got two --


MILLIE TREZZA: You got stuff to do.


DANIELLA ROMANO: -- documents that were handed to me this morning that need revisions. [laughter]


SADY SULLIVAN: So this has been recording, um, but let me just double check a sound check. Um...

FRANK TREZZA: Oh, before we start --


FRANKE TREZZA: -- if you ask me a question --


FRANK TREZZA: -- it's how detailed or how much do you want?

SADY SULLIVAN: Okay, I'll explain the, the process. And if -- could you just, um, count to ten and so I can get your sound?

MILLIE TREZZA: One, two, three, four.



SADY SULLIVAN: Um, uh, details are great, so as, you know, as much -- basically what we're going to do is, uh, a life history. Um, which -- I've read your book, 12:00uh --

FRANK TREZZA: Oh, what'd you think of it?

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. Oh, well, it's really exciting to meet you both because I feel like I, like I know you. So I walked in and I, I was like, "Oh, hi, I know you." [laughter]

MILLIE TREZZA: [laughter] Oh, thank you Sady.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah, it's really interesting, and especially, I've been doing a lot of interviews about, um, people who worked in the yard during World War II, and I don't know so much about the, you know, when it was decommissioned and then what happened afterwards, so this, like, was really, really, just totally filled in this big --


SADY SULLIVAN: -- gap for me because I, I know the Yard today and I know the Yard World War II, and then I have no idea what happened.

MILLIE TREZZA: And then there was like nothing, yeah, mm-hmm.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah, so that is really great. And I like how, um -- it's nice to hear your personal things too, about you two, you know, starting out and just getting married and having kids, and so that's really neat.

FRANK TREZZA: Well, that was a tough one because the book originally started out as my thesis on Seatrain --



FRANK TREZZA: -- and I wrote it differently. But before that, I took a class in autobiography, a winter class that I had to fill in. And I started writing little segments on Seatrain, and I started writing as if it was, I was in the Yard.


FRANK TREZZA: And they said, you have to -- the profess, the professors told me, "You have to write the book and write it this way." I says, "Even with the language in?" He said, "Do not take the language out."


FRANK TREZZA: So the language got taken out in my thesis, but even my professor told me, "You have to write the book on this." But when I wrote it, I didn't know which direction to go in.


FRANK TREZZA: Whether it was going to be the history of Seatrain from a political standpoint, from the workers' standpoint, from my standpoint. So it 14:00had -- it was way thicker than that, and then I made the final decision to make it the way it is.

SADY SULLIVAN: Well, I think it's great. It's a really good weaving of, of all of that. Um, so for this interview, um, we're definitely, it's for -- actually, let me, let me introduce the interview for the recording. Um, today is October 9, 2009. I'm Sady Sullivan from the Brooklyn Historical Society, and I'm here at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to interview Frank J. Trezza for the Brooklyn Navy Yard Oral History Project. And so if we can go around the room for the transcriptionist to under -- um, to recognize everybody's voice, so introduce yourself to the recording however you'd like.

FRANK TREZZA: Hi, I'm Frank J. Trezza.

MILLIE TREZZA: I'm Mrs. Trezza, Millie Trezza.

SARAH FITZPATRICK: I'm Sarah Fitzpatrick. I work in the archive of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

SADY SULLIVAN: Great. And we may be joined by Daniella Romano if there's another 15:00voice in the room. Um, okay. So the plan for the interview is to -- is really to do a life history. So you were born, let's move forward. And then similar to the way that you did in the book where, uh, you know, the, the time in the Yard was the -- you know, there was more focus on that than -- you know, we heard less about elementary school, say, you know?


SADY SULLIVAN: So that's, that's our plan. But, um, but details are great. Tangents that are going to, you know, relate back and tell a different story are great. Everything is -- um, and so with that, um, let's start with -- actually, just for the archive, what's your date of birth?

FRANK TREZZA: [date redacted for privacy]-52.

SADY SULLIVAN: And where were you born?

FRANK TREZZA: Brooklyn. I was born in Brooklyn Jewish Hospital about a mile and a half from here.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm. Um, and so tell me a little bit about your family.

FRANK TREZZA: Uh, let's see. My great-great-grandparents came over around the 16:00early 1880s when they were building the Brooklyn Bridge. They landed in Red Hook and my grandmother opened up a saloon.


FRANK TREZZA: Yeah. And back then, Brooklyn was not a borough. But she got the contract because she had a well in back of her saloon, and she got the contract. There was a few Indians still living in Brooklyn, and she got the contract to supply them with water from her well.


FRANK TREZZA: So she ran the bar, and my great-great-grandfather was a street sweeper. They had three kids, uh, my great-grandfather was the oldest. He ran a horse and carriage stable around Fourth Avenue. They lived on Degraw Street in 17:00Brooklyn --


FRANK TREZZA: -- a couple of blocks away. He owned the brownstone over there. And his brother became, uh, a police officer with the bomb squad, and it was the Italian squad, and he spoke perfect English and perfect Italian. So, uh, they sent him to Sicily to bring back, uh -- two -- they sent him two different times to bring back guys that were on trial for murder and they had skipped bail and they went to, to track them down, they went to Sicily. He went to Sicily, found them, and brought each one back.


FRANK TREZZA: And they promoted him to be a first-class detective. So he retired, uh, from the police force I think in '48. I think he died in '52. And 18:00then their sister was, uh -- her name was Sadie, and I honestly don't remember her. I never met Angelo Trezza, who was on the bomb squad, who was the police officer, but I did know my great-grandfather. I did get to meet him. He died at seventy-two when I was about, hmm, six years old , I did get to meet him. So I've got a really interesting family history, and my great-grandfather had one, two, three boys. My grandfather was Frank, then he had Augie, and then, um, who was -- ? I forget, who was the third one? Um, what was his name? Andy.


MILLIE TREZZA: There you go.

FRANK TREZZA: Andy. And they were three total opposites. My grandfather got married when he was twenty-one and he didn't realize my grandmother was ten years older until after they got married. So my grandfather went to his father and kind of blackmailed him, because back way back when, New York State had a law that if the mother died -- because the mother used to control all the money -- the money was supposed to go to the children. So when she died, uh, my great-grandfather took all the money and didn't break it between his three sons. So my grandfather went and blackmailed him and said, "I need $500 to buy a cab and a medallion. If you don't give me the money, I'm going to turn you in." Well, he gave him the $500 and my grandfather became -- owned his own cab and he 20:00had the medallion, and he drove a cab -- he was a character too. He drove -- he used to tell me he used to stop at Bickford's down, uh, downtown Brooklyn, and all the cabdrivers used to stop there at 10 o'clock and go in for a break. This is during the Depression, so he used to get a cup of coffee and a piece of pie, and tip the waitress a dollar. And that was a phenomenal amount of money.


FRANK TREZZA: So he always used to say, uh, the waitress is working hard. You know, somebody's got to support her too. You've got to feel sorry for people. So he always had that interesting attitude.


FRANK TREZZA: But he was a character. He would always get in trouble for different things. It was New Year's Eve and he picked a woman up at the Waldorf Astoria. She's in her mink coat, and he's driving across the Brooklyn Bridge and 21:00the woman starts complaining, uh, there's a rattle in the cab. Well, he got tired of hearing her keep telling him. He stops the cab in the middle of the bridge and he tells her, "Get out." He threw her out of the cab. She reported him to the Hack Bureau, the cab bureau. They call him in, wanted to pull his license, so he calls up his Uncle Angelo, and Angelo always used to go down and take care of him. So he drove a cab. He died at forty-two of a heart attack. Then his brother Augie, Augie wanted to be a gangster. Augie was always the tough one. So Augie was, Augie was ripping off somebody's tires an,d who happens to walk down the block while he's doing this, was his Uncle Angelo. Angelo sees him. Angelo was built like a bull.

SADY SULLIVAN: And Angelo was the police officer?


FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, he's the first-class, exactly. He picks him up and he starts cursing. He drags him to his brother's house. His brother and everybody was having dinner. He kicks the front door open. He takes Augie and he throws him across the table and all the food goes flying. But meanwhile, he had given him a beating out in the hallway, so when he threw him across the table he says, "If I ever catch you stealing again, trying to rip somebody off, I'm going to kill you." He told him right in front of his brother. But that's the way Augie was. He wound up getting a job -- well, my grandfather had the union books -- my great-grandfather had the union books to get the job on the Post, the New York Post, to load the trucks up. That was a fantastic job. I think he had like five union books. Him and his brother Angelo --

SADY SULLIVAN: What's a union book?

FRANK TREZZA: A union book is the book you needed to get into the union to work on a job. This is going --


MILLIE TREZZA: Like Local Three.

FRANK TREZZA: This is going back. Yeah, Local Three is the electrical workers' union. Even Local Three, I tried to get into Local Three for five years and the only way you got into Local Three back when was one of your parents or your uncle or somebody had to have a union book and then sponsor you to get you in or else you didn't get in, period.


FRANK TREZZA: So my grandfather -- my great-grandfather had like five of the union books.

SADY SULLIVAN: For different --

FRANK TREZZA: For the same jobs on the Post. So Augie got one, and when my great-grandfather died, uh, Andy's kids got it, Augie's kids got it. My father and my uncle didn't get anything, but that's, that's a total other story. So Augie worked on the Post. And he had like six kids and he lived down Degraw Street with his father, and when he father died, he took over the house. So, uh, 24:00let's see. My father was a character, too.

SADY SULLIVAN: Could I just pause for one second?


SADY SULLIVAN: The mics pick up the table sounds, so, so we should just be careful not to, not to bang too much.



FRANK TREZZA: So my father was a character too.


FRANK TREZZA: My father was, let's say he was a wild Indian and nobody could control him except his father. And his father once gave him $100 and told him to go down to, to, uh, Canal Street to Lerky's [phonetic], which was a men's clothing store, and buy a suit for the holidays. So him and his cousin -- his cousin got $100 and they were going down there together. So instead of getting on the bus and paying the fare, they jump on the back of the bus. So they're riding on the back of the bus and they hear this horn honking at them. So my 25:00father starts yelling and cursing to the guy behind, so this is going on for block after block, so his cousin says, "I think you better go see who that guy is that keeps beeping us." My father keeps cursing and yelling at the guy. The bus stops. The guy gets out of the cab. It's his father. [laughter] So that was an interesting one. He was all -- my father was always in trouble in school, so my grandfather would be going through the front door of the school and my father would be running out the back door. My father only made it to the ninth grade, then he quit. He went to P.S. 9. And he wound up going in the Army, and he was wild in the Army too. He was -- he went AWOL a couple of times, but the worst time he went was they were going to send his unit to Korea and he didn't want to go. So he went AWOL and he came home, and my grandfather thought something was 26:00up when he sees him come through the door and he was -- every time the door knocked, he'd jump out the window. We lived on the first floor. He would jump out the window. He said, "what's, what's going on?" He couldn't figure it out, and then one day there's a knock on the door and the FBI guys came and they said, "If you know where your son is, he's AWOL. He could be shot as a deserter." Because this is war, they were in the Korean War. So, uh, "And we'll take your cab. We'll confiscate your cab because you're going to be an accomplice." So he told my father, "You'd better go give yourself up," so he gave himself up and they gave him six months at Leavenworth. And I asked him, "what'd you do at Leavenworth?" He says, "I took a sledgehammer, and I took the big rocks and I made them into little rocks." [laughter] And Rocky Graziano was over there for desertion too. They gave him a year and that's where he learned 27:00to box. So when my father got out, he, he had different jobs as a laborer. He did roofing. And then he got a job inside the Yard. Him and my uncle got a job inside the Yard. My father, they made him a burner and I said, "Did you like it?" He says, "Yeah! I loved the job!" He says, "I had my goggles, I had my torch. They would take soapstone and draw out where I had to cut, and I used to burn and then the sparks would fly." He said, "I loved the job." So why'd you quit? He said, "I couldn't take the heights." He says, "My foreman used to send me up to the main deck and it had all the I-beams stretched across." So one day, he was up there and he had to work with his cousin, who got in the Yard too. Don't ask me how they got in there. My father and my uncle couldn't put a nail in the wall between both of them, and I mean literally they could not do it 28:00until the day both of them died. You couldn't get them to change a light bulb right.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: So my, so my uncle is in the Yard too, so my father's working on the, up on the I-beam, and he's petrified. And his cousin's working with him, and his cousin was at the other end of the I-beam and the cousin tells him to bring him a T-square that he needed so that he can measure off something he needed my father to cut. So my father went to throw it to him, so he started yelling at him, "Come walk across the beam." "I can't do it, I'm scared, blah, blah, blah." So, his cousin was named John and we used to call him Crazy John. He was worse than my father. He sees the crane coming by, and the crane had the hook hanging down and there was a rope hanging from the hook. He sees that, he grabs onto the rope, and he plays Tarzan. And he swings from one end to the other, lands in front of my father, busts out laughing and takes the T-square 29:00and he walks off. That day, my father wound up quitting, and it was also the day my uncle quit. My uncle, they used to use him to go out and get the coffee for everybody. My uncle had no skills at all. He could -- you couldn't give him a ruler. He could -- he couldn't do anything. So he's going out, he gets the coffee, he's bringing all the coffees back in a box, and they used to dress alike in their green work clothes and they had a green hat, so you couldn't tell either one of them apart. There were three years difference in age, but you couldn't tell them apart when they were all dressed in their work clothes. So my uncle's walking down, I think between dry dock five and six, and he sees the guys come running off the gangway yelling and screaming, so he thought there was a fire on the ship. He throws the coffee up in the air, it goes into the dry dock, goes down to the bottom of the dry dock, turns around and runs as fast as 30:00he could. He ran all the way home.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: My father comes home, he says, "Where were you today? The guys were complaining that they didn't get their coffee. They saw you throw it in the dry dock. What, what did you do?" He says, "I saw them yelling and screaming, uh, I thought the ship was on fire," he says, "So I ran out of there." So my father busts out laughing. He says, "No, they thought you were me. I took their coffee money and I was going to go get that group coffee, and I didn't come back in time for break so they went out looking for me, and they saw you and thought it was me." So they both quit.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: So that's their story of how they got in the Yard. Now, I had a great uncle, which was my grandmother's brother, the two of them worked inside the Yard. Both of them were machinists, but the, my older one, they -- one was named Johnny and one was named Jim. Well, Jim got pulled out. Uh, he got a job 31:00inside the Yard as a machinist, and he got called -- he got grabbed by the FBI, and the FBI wanted to know how he got this job because the FBI at that time was cracking down on all the politicians giving jobs away inside the Yard.


FRANK TREZZA: So he told them, well, one of the local guys he went to in the neighborhood -- one of the Democrats -- uh, he told them he wanted a job in the Yard, him and his brother. He says, "No problem. You know, when election time comes, you get the whole family together, everybody in the family's going to go vote, and you know who to vote for." So no problem. So he gives him a job. So the FBI brings him down to the stationhouse. They question him. He fills out everything. He said, "Yup, this is what happened. This is how I got the job, 32:00blah, blah, blah." So okay, you're going to go to court and you're going to testify. So he's home. Somebody knocks on the door. The boys come in, and they said, uh, "We heard you gave a statement at the police station. You forgot everything on that statement, didn't you?" So he said yeah, I don't remember anything. And they said, "okay, no problem." So he goes to court, he's before the judge and the judge asked him, "Tell me everything you told the police in the police station." He says, "I didn't say anything." Judge pulls out everything that he said, they wrote down, he signed. So he says, "Read this." He looked at it, he says, "I don't remember that and I don't remember signing it." The judge says, "Are you sure?" He goes, "Yeah." "One more time, are you positive?" He says, "I have no clue of that whatsoever, and that's not my signature." The judge says, "Six months in jail." Threw him in jail for six 33:00months. He comes out, he gets his job inside the Yard. His brother's working in there, so he's working two weeks as a machinist and he got called inside the, the main office to sign some papers. He goes down to sign the papers and he sees everybody dressed really nice. They had white shirts on, ties, everybody had a desk, everything was nice and neat. And he looks at himself. He's got coveralls and he's covered in grease from machining parts and his hands are all dirty. He says, "Hmm, this is nice." So he goes back and he sees his friend, the politician, and he says, "Uh, I'd like a job inside the office. I'm tired of getting dirty." He says, "Well, can you type?" He says, "Yeah, I can type thirty-five words a minute." He says, "Monday morning when you go in the Yard, do not go to the machine shop. Go right to the office and your desk is going to be there." Okay, he went, his desk was waiting for him, and he put in like 34:00twenty-three years inside the Yard working inside the office, being paid as a machinist, as a first-class machinist. When he retired, on his wall -- because I saw it with my own eyes -- has his retirement photo with the head of the machinist department, with all the machinists there. And he had, uh, his big certificate of achievement and everything, and it said, "Retired from the Brooklyn Navy Yard," when he started, when he finished, from the machinist department. So he worked all those years getting machinist pay inside the office.


FRANK TREZZA: So he told me this story. During the war, he once worked 365 straight days. But he worked in the office. His brother retired as a machinist.


SADY SULLIVAN: Having worked in the machine shop.

FRANK TREZZA: In the machine shop.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: His whole entire -- so they worked there. They worked there. And skipping to me, I was born -- my father was a bit wild and he gambled a lot, and every time he lost he'd get drunk and -- let's see, I was three years old, my mother had enough of getting beat up. Every time he'd drink, he'd lose, and his brother would tell him, you know, send your wife out to work. Why can't she go to work? And she, she was willing to go to work. She had graduated a private high school as a secretary, so she could be an executive secretary. But she wasn't going to do it to support his gambling. She said, "If it's for the baby, well, fine. You want to buy a house? Fine, I'll go to work. I'm not supporting you gambling." So he used to hit her, and then she took off one time and she gave me to my grandmother. She signed the papers for my grandmother to get me. 36:00So my --

SADY SULLIVAN: Is that her mom?

FRANK TREZZA: No. That was my father's mom.


FRANK TREZZA: So my father's -- she was working in this little -- it was garage-type. It was right under the Franklin Avenue Shuttle on St. Mark's Avenue, right across from the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital. So she had a little job over there. My father comes and goes in there and says, "You just quit." She says, "Why?" He says, "You've got to raise Frankie." Okay. So she quit her job and she raised me. She did a good job. She did a real good job. So when it was time to go to high school, the city used to give out all the kids the books on all the high schools in the city. So one of my friends said, "Since you love to go fishing so much and you love boats so much, why don't you go to that school that's a ship?" I said, "What school that's a ship?" So he showed me in there, 37:00so it was Food and Maritime Trades High School. I applied and got down there. They took me in, so, uh, when you went in there you had to choose whether you wanted to be in the steward department, the deck department, or the engine department. I chose the engine department. So the school was the city's most expensive school to run, but it was a Maritime School since the 1880s, and the first school ship they had was the Saint Mary, and they have a long history, and we had the John Brown, which was a World war II Liberty Ship. So all the teachers inside the school were all retired captains and chief engineers, and they taught us. And then in the afternoon, you went to the academic building and took all the rest of your courses, your math, English, everything, just like normal. So the first five months of school, we learned pipe and pumps. We 38:00learned how to thread, steam thread pipe, uh, fit pipe, take all the pumps apart on the ship, put them back together. We got tested on everything, practical and written. Then the next six, five months was machine shop. So they taught you how to use the lathe, take a print, and go on the lathe, take stock steel, and, and make parts. Because if a part broke on the ship, you had to know how to make one to fix it because you didn't have no spare parts. So we did that. Then the next year, we spent the whole year doing marine electrical, uh, running all the motors, all the generators, you name it. If it was on the ship electrical, we learned it. Then the final year was, uh, with engines and boilers. We went inside the boilers, we cleaned them out, we learned to light off the boilers, we ran the engine every week. That, that was a lot of fun. And when we graduated, 39:00you had to -- our teacher was chief, he was a chief engineer. I had him for the first five months and the whole last year. You had to take him around to every valve in the engine room and tell him what it was for. And I mean, every single one. And you had to know it cold. You got one shot to do it. And after we did that, the next day we sat down and our final exam was thirty-seven pages of everything we learned in three years. It was a complete comprehensive of everything. Then the good times were we used to, uh, be able to take the lifeboats out and we had to go for lifeboat training. We used to take them out in the Hudson and we used to go rowing up to the George Washington Bridge, from 40:00Pier 42 down Hudson and Houston Street. And we used to get tired of going all the way up there and coming back down, so we used to take out two boats. So when they stuck me in charge of the second boat, had me and the rest of my friends, we pull out past the Brown, get in the middle of the Hudson River. My teacher would head north, and then we'd turn around, I turned the boat around and we headed south. And he'd start yelling at us. "Hey, have a nice day, we'll see you later!" So we used to take the boat down, we took it down to the Statue of Liberty one day. We docked it there, and they wouldn't let us dock there because some admiral was coming, so the park rangers told us we couldn't tie the boat up there. Eh, no problem. So we went down to Battery Park where the fireboat was. We docked next to the fireboat, climbed up the ladder. We're all in our uniforms. We all took a walk through Wall Street and found a donut place, so we 41:00got coffee and donuts, had a break, went back, and then we rowed back up to meet the rest of the guys. Boy, did I get cursed out by my teacher. And we just laughed, but we had -- the guys were tough, but they knew everything because they were first -- the minute you walked in that school the first day, the teacher says, "If you think you're tougher than me, we're going to go in the next compartment and we're going to have a fist fight, and I guarantee you I'm the only one that's going to walk out of here." So from then, you learned respect and you learned to do everything right, and that's the way the whole school was run from the beginning. And even when we had our reunions -- now 42:00there's a reunion tomorrow because the Brown's in Baltimore. The Brown still sails.


FRANK TREZZA: They do, uh, World War II reenactments, and still part of the alumni is the crew on the Brown and they take her out. She, the furthest they took her was up the Great Lakes to get refitted because she's all riveted and that was the only yard that could do it. And she went to port when she went to Boston, she went to Florida. She went all over the place, but she stays in the Chesapeake. She's docked in, uh, Clinton Street in, in Baltimore. So at the reunions, all the guys said the same thing. Guys became captains, became engineers who sailed on the tugboats, who worked on the Staten Island Ferry. I was the only one that went to work in the shipyards because when I graduated, there was no jobs left to go out at sea. So I came here to work, which starts an interesting story. We were going to get married and I needed a job. Okay, well, 43:00I open up the Daily News one Sunday, and they're having big ads. Seatrain had these huge, whole page ads. They needed electricians, pipe-fitters, this, that. So I said, okay. I went down to the Yard -- it was in January -- and I applied for a job and the guy interviews me from CLICK and he says, "What would you like to be, an electrician or a pipe-fitter? Because you're qualified for both." I says electrician, so he gives me an electrician's test. And only the person who could pass that test was somebody who knew ships' wiring because there's a difference between house wiring and building wiring to ships wiring. It's totally different. I passed every question. He says, "Oh, you're qualified." So he sent me to Seatrain over to see Fred Barrett [phonetic]. So I sit down, Fred interviews me, and he says, "You're just what we've been looking for. We want 44:00guys that are your age, that are trainable, that we can train them to go from ship to ship doing all the layout work, and we're going to teach you everything." I said, "Oh, great." So he says, "You're hired. Okay, so all you've got to do is bring the paperwork back to CLICK, go get your physical, and you're, you're hired." I bring the paperwork back to CLICK and I'm all happy as can be, and the, uh, office manager at CLICK looks at it and she tells me, "We can't hire you." I said, "Why?" She says, "You don't live in a neighborhood surrounding the yard." I said, "What are you talking about?" She says, "Oh, you have to be black, Puerto Rican, or you have to live in Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York, Brownsville, Greenpoint," and I lived just outside. So I said, what 45:00are you saying? She said, "Oh, you're not getting a job in here." So I got a little angry at that point, so I said, "Wait a minute. Are you telling me -- my great-great-grandparents came over here in 1880, we've been in Brooklyn all this time. I was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant. I was born a mile and a half from here. Just because my family moved to a better neighborhood because the other neighborhood was getting shot to hell and they were kicking our door in to break into our apartment at night, I can't have the job here?" She says no. So I said, "Okay," I says, "You haven't heard the last of me." So she turned around and -- I'll, I'll say it in a polite way. She said, "My black ass will freeze in hell 46:00before you get a job in this place." So I says, "Okay, we'll see." So every two weeks, I would come back and she would argue with me and tell me to get out or she was going to call the guards to throw me out, so I'd leave. And like clockwork, every two weeks I'd come back, go in there, say, "Can I have my job?" No. I call Fred up. Fred says, "We can't do anything because you have to go through CLICK before and get your paperwork signed before we can hire you." I said, "You mean I'm that qualified and I can't get a job in here because I ain't black or Puerto Rican?" And he says, "I'm sorry. That's the city's rules." Okay. Well, it was in May, I think it was early May, it was like May 16. I walked into the trailer one Monday and the trailer had this elderly Negro gentleman in here, in there, and nobody else was in there. He saw me. He says, "Sit down. Don't say 47:00a word." I sat down. He looked at me, he says, "Boy, you must want this job really bad to keep coming back here and fighting with her." He says, "Don't say a word." So I didn't say a word to him. So he grabbed my paperwork out of the file and he signed it, and he says, "When she finds out, all hell is going to break loose. But you want the job that bad, you got -- they want to hire you, you got the job." So I grabbed my -- he handed me my paperwork, I thanked him. He says, "Don't thank me," he says, "Run like hell." He says, "Run like the devil is chasing you because if she gets you before you get to Seatrain, you ain't got the job." You never seen somebody run from out by the main gate out by Vanderbilt Avenue all the way to Building 292 downstairs as fast as I did. I 48:00jumped over steel. Uh, they, they thought, uh, the roadrunner was coming through. I get into Fred's office, he says, "Ah, hey, Frank, nice to see you. Get your paperwork signed?" Yup. "Go get your physical." I said, "When can I start?" He says, "Tomorrow morning." Got my physical, that's how I started. So...

SADY SULLIVAN: Can, can we pause there for a second --


SADY SULLIVAN: -- and I, and go back, because I have some specific questions --


SADY SULLIVAN: -- for, from, from then. Um, first question, how did you get interested in fishing and boats?

FRANK TREZZA: Uh, somehow that must have been in my blood. My uncle took me down Sheepshead Bay one day, and I had this little kid's fishing rod. And my uncle used to read the New York Times. He used to read every newspaper cover to cover. 49:00So he takes me down to Sheepshead Bay. He goes to Mike's Tackle Shop. He buys a clam for a nickel, a big clam. He didn't have a knife on him or anything. He takes me over to the pier, he smashes it on the, uh, ground and breaks it open. I pull a piece of the clam off and I was fishing all day and he's reading the newspaper, and I'm as happy as can be. So right before we're leaving, uh, right across the street from Lundy's, the bay used to have a straight part with the rails. So I asked him, "Can I try one more time over here?" He said, "Yeah, go ahead." So I throw it in and I wait a couple of minutes, and all of a sudden my rod starts going crazy. So my uncle looks, "What the hell do you have?" So he pulls it up and I had this big horseshoe crab. Some guy comes over and he stomps on it and gets my hook out. So, uh, I saw all the boats there coming in, 50:00bringing the fish in, everybody going fishing. So I asked my uncle, "What do they do?" He said, "Yeah, everybody gets on the boat, they pay, and they go out fishing for the day." Hmm. I says, "Can we do that?" And he says, "Yeah, when my friend gets out of the Army. He knows which boat goes on." So I always used to bug my uncle growing up. "Uh, did your friend get out of the Army yet?" Nope, he's still in the Army. I said, "What, is he going to live in the Army?" He said, "Oh, he still didn't get out yet." So when I was fourteen years old, New York, we used to get blizzards, and every time we got a blizzard they used to close school. So me and my friend used to go buy two shovels at the five and dime and six o'clock the next morning, he used to come knock on my door and we had two sandwiches and we used to go around knocking on everybody's door, door to door, asking if they needed their walkway shoveled, their driveway shoveled. We'd charge them anywhere from a dollar to $3.50 if they wanted their driveway, 51:00front of their house, the step, everything cleaned. So we used to do that, and we saw two guys, uh, up on 17th Street and Avenue S by Cunningham Junior High School. Their, their truck -- their car was snowed in and they were working on Wall Street, and one guy was trying to kick the snow out and he couldn't get his car out. So I walked over and I said, "We'll get you out, five bucks." Guy says, "You're crazy." So his friend said, "Pay the kids." He said, "I ain't paying them nothing." So he says, "Can you get us out? We got to get to work." I says, "Five minutes, five bucks, I'll have you out of here." He says, "Impossible." So I looked, I told my friend, "Front two wheels, just dig a track, and I'll dig the back ones." I said, "Get in the car." It took us five minutes to do it. Guy 52:00gets in the car, get my friend on the back, he started the car, he started moving forward, we pushed him, he went right out. The other guy jumped out of the car laughing. He pulled out his wallet, he says, "Thank you guys." Made five bucks. So at the end, we used to, we used to work from six in the morning until seven at night because it got too dark, and we used to split, at the end, split up the money. So, uh, during the winter, the boats used to go out cod fishing. So I went one Saturday, call car service, car service was a buck and a half from 17th Street between S and T down to Sheepshead Bay, and I went on one of the boats and the captain looked at me, he said, "How old are you?" I said, "fourteen." He said, "You get on for half-fare." He said, "I don't -- all these 53:00guys on here are fifty, sixty-years-old. You're the only kid that's crazy enough to come down that wants to go out. You get on for half fare." So he charged me six bucks. So we went out and we went out cod fishing, and I was hooked. And from then on, that's how I got hooked on fishing. I always went cod fishing out of Sheepshead Bay and went tile fishing, anything. I fished on all the boats down there as I grew up.

MILLIE TREZZA: The Ranger, right?

FRANK TREZZA: The Ranger. I, well, I saw them build all the new ones.

MILLIE TREZZA: The Amber Jack.

FRANK TREZZA: The Amber Jack, uh, went flounder fishing, uh, porgy fishing, tile fishing, blue fishing. Cod fishing was my favorite in the winter --


FRANK TREZZA: -- and that's how I got started there. So my friend said, "Hey, go to Maritime," so I did.


FRANK TREZZA: And that's how I wound up in there, and I wound up in here because 54:00I graduated, there was no jobs left at sea, so I said, "Hmm, this is interesting. If I could work in the Yard, I could do what I love doing. I could build ships instead of sailing them and I can still stay home and get married."


FRANK TREZZA: So it worked out, so I fought and I fought hard, and I got in.


FRANK TREZZA: And it starts to be history.

SADY SULLIVAN: I have some, some other detail questions, and then we'll --


SADY SULLIVAN: -- we'll move to that part like once you did start, start working here. Um, how does marine electrical differ from other kinds of electrical, from houses?

FRANK TREZZA: Okay. First, you could take a marine electrician and make him a house electrician. But to be a house electrician, you have to get your electrician's license and that, in New York, was always tough to do. And to get into Local Three, the electrical workers union, was almost impossible unless one of your relatives had a union book and they got you in. Five years I tried, I 55:00couldn't get in the apprenticeship.


FRANK TREZZA: But a marine electrician, the -- you don't have to have a license because the ship doesn't stay -- it's not like a building that's permanent. It sails away, so it's a whole different world. And on the ship, you have three-phase, the electrical is three-phase and you have no ground because the ship's hull is your ground. And the, and it's three-phase delta wiring, and all three leads are hot. And the reason for that is in case the ship is in a battle and it loses one of its phases, all the motors and generators and everything else on the ship could still run, but at a slower speed. If you lose one of the phases in your house, your lights go out.


FRANK TREZZA: So it's just totally different wiring, and you could take a marine 56:00electrician, make him a house electrician like this. But you can't take a house electrician and make him a marine electrician because it's totally different. The cables are totally different. It's a totally different world. It's like being from Jupiter to the sun, I mean, it's, it's that different.


FRANK TREZZA: So... and it takes a long time to make a really good marine electrician.


FRANK TREZZA: It usually takes four years. It took me three years.


FRANK TREZZA: And it's hard, and it, it's -- when we worked Seatrain, there was no apprenticeship, there was no classroom. It was taught the old way, the way this Yard was founded. The way this Yard used to build ships from the beginning was the master shipbuilders would go -- it used to be, you know, from hat to mouth to hand --


FRANK TREZZA: -- and the trade was passed down and the master shipbuilders would 57:00keep all the secrets and just pass them down to the next generation that they were training, so management, their bosses, never knew how to do it, so you couldn't replace them that easy.


FRANK TREZZA: So that's how I was trained. I was trained by the guys who built ships in here during World War II, and one of them became my good friend, Saul Sherman.


FRANK TREZZA: And when I came in, he always used to wonder what everything on the ship was for in the engine room, and I knew everything in the engine room. So I taught him what everything was for, and he taught me the old way, the way the Navy taught him when he worked in the Yard during World War II, how to build ships the right way, which is -- it's a lost art today.


FRANK TREZZA: Nobody can do it the way we used to do it because they -- now they 58:00broke it down. What one guy could do, they need twelve guys to do because each one just does a segment and nobody knows the whole picture. When you became a first class marine electrician, they could throw you a print, tell you, "Go out and build that ship," no questions asked, and you'd go out and do anything. That's when you were first class.


FRANK TREZZA: So you had to work your way up, and it was tough. And there was no classroom, no nothing. It was hands-on.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm. And still, I'm excited to get to the actual work also, but, um, but I still have some detail questions about this time. Um, you said that you wore uniforms for -- ?FRANK TREZZA: In high school.

SADY SULLIVAN: In high school?

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, we had, uh, these khaki uniforms, and if you were in the deck department you had an anchor on your, uh, shirt collars. And if you were in the engine department, you had propellers, that was the insignia. I forget what 59:00the steward department was. But after three months, me and some of my friends got tired of wearing the uniform because you had to change once you went through, uh, once you went through what we called in the classroom where he was -- our instructor was on the board drawing everything out and you had to take notes. And they were so strict that you had to take all your notes, take them home, type your notes, and put them in plastic, plastic sheets, and put them in a loose leaf binder. And I still have my junior year, my electrical, and senior notebooks, and they're like, uh, six inches thick and they have everything you want to know about marine electrical and marine engines and boilers that we were taught.


MILLIE TREZZA: I remember you used to ask me to help you type them sometimes.


MILLIE TREZZA: "I have homework to do, I want to go to the movies. I have homework. You could help me, type them for me," because I was taking typing in high school.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter] That's actually my next question is how did you two meet?

MILLIE TREZZA: We met on June --

FRANK TREZZA: Oh, you do that.

MILLIE TREZZA: [laughter] We met on June 25, 1970. Um, it was a -- a very nice, sunny, summery day, and I was going to -- I was, I was fourteen. I had just turned fourteen years old, and my girlfriends and I were hanging out by the park, by old Kelly Park, and, uh, we were walking and leaving the park, and, uh, Frank was in a car, a little gold-colored Opel car, and, uh, he was with his friends.

FRANK TREZZA: My friend's car.


MILLIE TREZZA: Yeah, your friend Louie. And they had just come back from Manhattan Beach. They spent the --

FRANK TREZZA: No, Jones Beach.

MILLIE TREZZA: Jones Beach? Jones Beach. Now I know. I always thought it was Manhattan Beach you came back from.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

MILLIE TREZZA: And, uh, look at that. And anyway, uh, they stopped and, uh, my girlfriend hollered -- she saw this car full of guys and, you know, "Oh, look at these older boys, these boys," and she, and she hollered out something that wasn't very nice.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

MILLIE TREZZA: And, uh, he, to this day, he still wants to believe that it was me and I said, "No, that wasn't me."

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

MILLIE TREZZA: But anyway, they parked the car because it was on the street where his friend lived anyway. And, uh, they -- he got out of the car and he walked over and he said, "What did you say?" And I said, "It wasn't me." And he goes, "Well, where you going?" I said, "What is it to you? Do you have the time?" And he goes like this and shows me his wrist, he wouldn't even -- you were just so full of yourself. [laughter] And, but he was so handsome, and my heart was going thump-thump, and I couldn't think of even, you know, what to say 62:00or anything. And, uh, I said, "Well, I'm going home." And he goes, "You want a lift?" I mean, nobody gets in the car with a stranger, and I looked at my girlfriend Maria. We were just tight as could be. And she goes, in her Italian accent, "My father will kill me." [laughter] "Millie, you better not, no, no, we're not going to do that." I said, "Maria, they look like decent kids, come on." And I talked her into it, and we left my girlfriend who started the trouble, we left her hanging, and they drove us home. And, um, they were very nice and, uh, just all the time that Frank was talking to me in the car, uh, he was just -- I thought he was just this very nice person and very strikingly handsome, and, um, and then, uh, he dropped us off. I had him drop me off a 63:00block and a half from where I really lived because, you know, pft, my mother saw me come out of a car, forget about it. And, um, I just felt this thing, this connection. I don't know what it was. I don't know what it was. And I just -- when you got out of the car and you approached me, all I saw was your eyes. That's all I saw was just these striking blue eyes and that was it. That was it. I fell in love, and, uh-- [laughter] And after they dropped us off, uh, they pulled up to where the stop sign was and I said to Maria, "I'm going to ask him out." And that's pretty bold because, you know, girls didn't do that back then.


MILLIE TREZZA: And I said, "I'm going to ask him out." She goes, "You don't even know him." I said, "Well, how am I going to know him if I don't ask him out?" I was just fourteen years old! But you know, when you grow up in Brooklyn, you 64:00don't grow up in a little bubble. I mean, you know, you're streetwise, you know, you've got to be tough in school. You know, it's survival of the fittest and, you know, so it wasn't like I was, uh, an innocent fourteen year old. And, um, I wasn't all that either, but, pft, I thought I was. Um, and then, uh, I went -- just as I was going over to the car before they took off -- but you know, when I think about it now, you weren't moving. The car wasn't moving. Why haven't they gone yet? And it's because Frank didn't want to leave yet. He was, he was going to come out and ask me out. And I knock, tapped on the door and you rolled the window down, and I asked him if he wanted to go see the fireworks down Coney Island, because every Tuesday night through the summer they had the fireworks. So, uh, he said yeah, and, uh, he was a perfect gentleman. I had my girlfriend, talked her into going with me. And we met them down there, and, uh, we went to 65:00the beach and we had a soda and we watched the fireworks, and he paid for my car fare back home, and he walked me --

FRANK TREZZA: Bought you a pack of gum, too.

MILLIE TREZZA: Yes, you bought me a pack of gum. And asked me if I wanted anything to eat. And I was, you know, and I was shy. I didn't want to eat in front of him. You don't eat in front of a guy the first time you went out. You just don't do that. And, [laughter] and, uh, and then he asked me out. He, he walked me home. I said, "Uh, this is where I live." I lied again. And, um, it wasn't until after a couple of dates and I was able to break the news, like, to my family. I was so young. I met a guy, you know -- Frank is four years older than me so he was already in, he was already at the Maritime High School, and, whew. So, uh, it was -- and, uh, so then, it took a couple of dates before I, I 66:00brought you to the house and had you meet my mom and my sisters. And, and then after that, it was, uh, you're too young. That's it. You're getting too serious. Because after a couple of weeks, Frank bought me an ankle bracelet and asked me to go steady. It was like, what, three weeks, two weeks, three weeks, and he bought me this beautiful ankle bracelet and asked me to go steady. I still have it. Well, actually, it's the third one. I lost the other first two --


MILLIE TREZZA: -- and he said if I lost that third one --

FRANK TREZZA: That was it.

MILLIE TREZZA: -- he was never going to buy me another one. I still have that one.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

MILLIE TREZZA: And, um, when I told my, my, my family that he bought me this, we're going steady, he -- they said, you know, they -- my mom was okay with it at first, but then my sisters were like, "What are you, crazy? She's just a baby. What does she know? What do you mean, seeing one boy? And he's so much older than her. What is going on?" And she made me give it back to him, and I did. And, uh, I went away for part of the summer, and when I came back I didn't 67:00reconnect with Frank. And, uh, that was like August, September, October, November. In the meantime, what happened was that summer I had gone up to upstate New York, to, to, uh, Lake George as a babysitter, like a nanny type of thing for these two boys, these two kids from across the street. And, uh, I met a boy up there and he lived in Staten Island, and his father was a doctor and, you know, his mom was a stay-at-home Donna Reed type of thing, you know, like Mother Knows Best or something. And, and him and his friends would see me on weekends sometimes with Paul, with this, this boy.

FRANK TREZZA: Not me. My friends.

MILLIE TREZZA: And, uh, they would report back to him like he was, you know, big, the big guy. Anyway, um, this boy on Staten Island and I dated for a couple of months. He would come all the way over here, and his family didn't like that 68:00because, you know, that was, that was a lot of commitment for, you know, being so young and everything. So on New Year's Eve of that following year, of '71, I was watching the, the two children across the street with Maria. It was New Year's Eve, so she stayed with me, and we were talking. And I told her about, I said, "I, I, you know, I've been thinking about Frank a lot, and I, I really miss him. I mean, this guy Paul, you know, he's, he's cute and everything and he's really sweet, but he can't kiss like Frank. [laughter] And I miss him, I really do. He's so handsome and he was always so nice to me and... " Well, it's like one in the morning or something and we're talking, and I hear cowbells in the street and it's snowing -- we used to get a lot of snow back then -- snowing, and it's a bunch of guys coming down the street, like five or six guys 69:00coming down the street singing, "Happy New Year," and ringing this cowbell and --

FRANK TREZZA: We were drunk as a skunk.

MILLIE TREZZA: Yes, you were all very, very drunk.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

MILLIE TREZZA: And they stopped in front of the house where I was living, and it was a good thing everybody was out at a party --

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

MILLIE TREZZA: -- and I was babysitting, so you know, nobody was home. And he's there, and he's yelling, "Millie, Millie, my love! Will you marry me?" [laughter] And, um, I said, "Maria, who's that?" We're looking out the window. "Is that Frank? Oh my God, that's Frank. What is he doing? Oh my God, your father's going to wake up!" She was the landlord's daughter, my friend. And, um, I yell out the window, but you couldn't see where I was because there was a big tree, and I said, "Frank, is that you?" from across the street, and he's like, 70:00"Millie, Millie," looking around, "Where are you? Will you marry me? Will you move to -- will you live in Norway with me? Will you run away and marry me?" And I said, "Frank, go home. You've drank too much. You're drunk. You and your friends are drunk. Go home before you get in trouble. I'll call you tomorrow." "You promise?" And I promised, and I did. I did call him the next day and we met on the avenue, and I had to make up some -- everybody was hung over from the, from parties they all went to, and my mother didn't feel like cooking that day so she said, she sent me and my brother to get some Chinese food, and, uh, that's when I called Frank. And then I snuck out of the house and I met him on the avenue, and we walked for a little bit and we went into this, like, little alley and, uh, he said, "I've been carrying something with me for a long time, 71:00and I can't eat and I can't sleep, and all I think of is you." And I said, "Well, what is it?" And he pulled out my ankle bracelet. And, um, and I just thought that was the sweetest thing, and, um, he asked me out on a date. He goes, "Can we go to the movies tonight?" Or when was it? The next night or something we were going to go to the movies.

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, right, yeah.

MILLIE TREZZA: And, um, and I said, "I'll do my best. I'll see what I can do." So, uh, when we finally did go to the movies --

FRANK TREZZA: Diary of a Mad Housewife.

MILLIE TREZZA: Diary of a Mad Housewife was the movie. And, uh, and that's when he asked me. Right before the movie started he goes, "What do you think about getting married someday?" And I looked at him and I said, "Well, I don't want to be an old maid. Of course I want to get married someday." He goes, "Well, that's 72:00not what I meant. What I meant was... " I said, "What?" And he goes, "About marrying me?" And [laughter] I said, "I'll let you know after the movie."

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

MILLIE TREZZA: I was so sophisticated, you know, I was -- you know, I'll make him wait two hours. [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: It was a good movie.

MILLIE TREZZA: [laughter]It was a good movie. And, uh, and I said to him at the end of the movie -- he goes, "Well, did you think about it?" And I said, "Sure. Why not?" Just like that. I said, "Yeah, I think I like you." And, um, next June will be forty years from when we met. We just celebrated thirty-nine years from when we met, June, and this anniversary, November we'll be married thirty-six years.


MILLIE TREZZA: [laughter]Yeah. Not without its trials and tribulations, but we 73:00love each other very much and --

FRANK TREZZA: We made it.

MILLIE TREZZA: -- seen it through, seen it through.

FRANK TREZZA: Hell and high water.

MILLIE TREZZA: And survived raising three kids, wonderful, wonderful people, wonderful individuals, our children, very proud of them.

FRANK TREZZA: All highly educated.

MILLIE TREZZA: Very, very, doing well with themselves, and -- so you never know, right?

SADY SULLIVAN: Wow. That's wonderful.


FRANK TREZZA: So we got married, she was seventeen, I had just turned twenty-one

MILLIE TREZZA: I was seventeen and a half.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]


MILLIE TREZZA: But my parents had to sign.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh wow, yeah.

FRANK TREZZA: We got married at Guardian Angel --

MILLIE TREZZA: Guardian Angel.

FRANK TREZZA: -- down Ocean Parkway.

MILLIE TREZZA: On Ocean Parkway.

FRANK TREZZA: A Jewish neighborhood and a Catholic Church with an Egyptian priest.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: Figure that one out. The Puerto Rican and the Italian. You figure that one out.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: That was a combination.


MILLIE TREZZA: It was a nice wedding.

FRANK TREZZA: Father Louie.

MILLIE TREZZA: Yeah, it was a nice wedding.

SADY SULLIVAN: And so did you grow up in the same neighborhood? Is this, was all this happening in the same neighborhood?

MILLIE TREZZA: We, when we met, we were not far from each other's neighborhood really.


MILLIE TREZZA: Avenue U, so yeah, that was still considered the same neighborhood.

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, you were about five blocks away.

MILLIE TREZZA: Yeah, five or six blocks away. But no, we didn't grow up in the same neighborhood. Um, I moved into that neighborhood actually just two years before I met Frank, uh, from Brighton Beach.


MILLIE TREZZA: And, um, and, uh -- and then when, when we met, right, I was fourteen and you were seventeen.


MILLIE TREZZA: Mm-hmm, and, uh, when, after --

SADY SULLIVAN: So that's, is that in Bensonhurst?

MILLIE TREZZA: Uh, nope. Uh, Avenue U, uh, it's still considered the Sheepshead Bay area --

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, Sheepshead.

MILLIE TREZZA: -- in a sense.

FRANK TREZZA: It's, it's --

MILLIE TREZZA: It's like, it's right in between Sheepshead Bay and King's Highway.

FRANK TREZZA: Where the D train runs through.

MILLIE TREZZA: Where the D, the D train runs through, that, that block or that area.



MILLIE TREZZA: But after Frank asked me to marry him, he would work at anything, uh, shoveling driveways, whatever, uh --

FRANK TREZZA: Put the newspapers together.

MILLIE TREZZA: Putting newspapers together.

FRANK TREZZA: Sunday News and Times.

MILLIE TREZZA: Uh-huh, and he --

FRANK TREZZA: On the train stations.

MILLIE TREZZA: -- skipped eating lunch. He walked where he, where we could walk and not take the, any car fare, and [inaudible] car fare was so cheap back then, but you know, every penny. And he saved his money to buy me that, and we picked it out down the Bowery where they had the --

FRANK TREZZA: Down at Diamond Exchange.

MILLIE TREZZA: -- Diamond Exchange. I don't know if they're still there or not, but --

FRANK TREZZA: No, at the foot of, uh, the Bowery, at, right across the street from the Manhattan Bridge was the Diamond Exchange.

MILLIE TREZZA: Yup, and we picked it out and we had lunch at Blimpie's.

FRANK TREZZA: And the rest is history.

MILLIE TREZZA: Yes. And I've, uh, I've gone, I've -- when, when you got sent to, uh, Ecuador, I went with you. I went, I followed you down there.


FRANK TREZZA: You followed me to Greece.

MILLIE TREZZA: I followed you to Greece and so --

FRANK TREZZA: All over the place.

MILLIE TREZZA: -- he had to work, but at least I was there for little bits here and there.

FRANK TREZZA: You had vacations. I didn't have it.

MILLIE TREZZA: I had vacations.


MILLIE TREZZA: You worked.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]


MILLIE TREZZA: [laughter] Yeah.

SADY SULLIVAN: Um, my next question is a total jump. {laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: That's okay.

SADY SULLIVAN: To, it's, um -- but to explain, I, I know from here, but, um, for the recording, if you could explain what CLICK was and the relationship to the Yard?

FRANK TREZZA: CLICK was an abbreviation for, oh, I forget what it was--


FRANK TREZZA: No, not coastal. It, it's in the book. When Mayor Lindsay bought the Yard, the, he set up, just the way it is now, that somebody was going to run 77:00the Yard and they made CLICK run the Yard, which was a branch of the City. And CLICK was in charge of everybody being hired inside the Yard, and the way the contract, the lease of the Yard, read was, Seatrain had to hire the hardcore unemployable, but it, they weren't mandated to. That, that's the key. That's where CLICK put their own little caveat in there where they took it a step further. The lease did not say they had to, when available to, hire the hardcore unemployable, and CLICK was supposed to set up training with Seatrain to train 78:00all these people to become shipbuilders and all the trades. Well, there were never any schools. They never set -- they never got ever to that point, and the Yard was used -- Seatrain was used as a dumping grounds to get everybody off of welfare. If you lived anywhere around the Yard, you just had to walk in and Seatrain had to hire you because CLICK forced them down their throat. And that was one of the things that hurt Seatrain, because I was hired in sev -- 1973 in May, and my number was 5073 so I was the 5,073 person to be hired. Every person got their own number and it stayed with you if you quit, stayed, died, whatever, nobody ever got your number. So Seatrain had started in the yard in '69, so from 79:00'69 to '73, you figure I was the 5,073 employee but they didn't have 5,000 people working there at the time; they only had about 1,700.


FRANK TREZZA: So if you do the math, how many did they go through?

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm. So that's like 3,000, over 3,000 people that --

FRANK TREZZA: You imagine a company can go through that many people in that -- the turnover?


FRANK TREZZA: So CLICK kind of messed it up and they took it a step further. But how the lease got done with the City when it -- when the City took it over from the Navy is Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, this was her district.


FRANK TREZZA: She had a gripe where the Navy Yard, uh, wouldn't let the minorities and everybody else from around the neighborhood in the Yard and give them jobs, so she was out to make sure that that didn't happen now, that all the 80:00jobs came from everybody here. But they weren't qualified to do anything, and there were some people that'd come out of jail for murder, who was on parole, I mean, you got the toughest bunch of people imaginable were in this Yard, and Seatrain was going through them like it was nobody's business. So Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm got a hold of Seatrain Lines -- this is how they started -- and Seatrain Lines wanted to get into the shipbuilding business because the war -- it goes back to the war between Egypt and Israel when they had the Seven-Day War. The Egyptians closed the Suez Canal and sunk ships in there, they threw planes, they, they closed the canal totally. So that was the birth of supertankers. So everybody around the world is starting to build supertankers, 81:00so Seatrain Lines decided they were going to build supertankers. The Yard was available. They got a call from Shirley Chisholm. Well, you know, this is what I want to do and I want to hire, have you hire all these people. So the ones who ran Seatrain Lines were fairly sociably responsible. They thought they could bring these people in and train them and give them good jobs and build a ship. Well, the Brooklyn was about four years -- when she was finally finished, it was four years behind schedule. The Williamsburg was like three years behind schedule, and we went through people like there was no tomorrow. Conditions were unbearable.

SADY SULLIVAN: And is that because -- so just for the recording also, so CLICK stands for Commerce -- Commerce Labor Industry Corporation of King's.


SADY SULLIVAN: Um, King's County, Brooklyn.


SADY SULLIVAN: Um, so they, they had this policy, but they didn't have any 82:00training, like, no, no training set up --


SADY SULLIVAN: -- even though this was taking people who didn't have training?

FRANK TREZZA: Nope. These people couldn't read, write. When I came in, uh, to join the union -- because you had to join the union when you got hired, and the union was the, uh, United Industrial Workers of North America, and they were a branch of the Seafarers International Union.


FRANK TREZZA: Uh, when I went to orientation, some people couldn't even sign their name. They signed the union card with an X. Didn't matter, if you could read or write. They made them welders.

SADY SULLIVAN: And where were those people from? They were from...

FRANK TREZZA: They were from all the whole area around the Yard.


FRANK TREZZA: They were from Greenpoint, they were from Bedford-Stuyvesant, some were from East New York, uh, South Brooklyn. There was a line that they called 83:00the super-depressed area around the Yard, and they all came from there. And if you lived outside the Yard, CLICK refused to hire you unless you worked in another shipyard prior. But I had all this experience and that's where I ran into the problem. But they pushed the lease to suit themselves.


FRANK TREZZA: So it became a reverse discrimination dumping place.


FRANK TREZZA: And Seatrain was stuck with them because Seatrain couldn't say anything.

SADY SULLIVAN: So why, where, where had the people, like where -- why couldn't they read and write? Had they been educated in, in New York?

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, yeah. They were high school dropouts. They were the bottom of the bottom of the -- below the bottom of the barrel of society.


FRANK TREZZA: I mean, these people, a lot of them were considered totally hardcore unemployable. Out of jail, you know, unbelievably --


MILLIE TREZZA: Some were immigrants.


MILLIE TREZZA: There weren't immigrants?

FRANK TREZZA: No, some -- no. They, they were experienced. They didn't have to go through it. But it was basically the super sub-poor, and this was their, Shirley Chisholm's way of making up for it and giving them jobs and bringing up the neighborhood around the Yard. She figured, "OK, well, so many are going to make it and, well, so many ain't going to make it. Well... " But you can't run a company like that, and it hurt Seatrain. That was the first, uh, dagger that was stuck in Seatrain's side. It wasn't until 1976, because in '75, '74 --

MILLIE TREZZA: When... ?FRANK TREZZA: February, we had the big layoff?


MILLIE TREZZA: I was, uh -- no, well, I was pregnant, yeah, in '74, because I was pregnant for Tricia.


MILLIE TREZZA: I had just found out that I was pregnant for Tricia, our first, and we had just signed a lease at, uh, Starrett City.



FRANK TREZZA: President Ford had just pocket vetoed --

MILLIE TREZZA: And then you got lost your job.

FRANK TREZZA: -- the Cargo Preference Bill, which would have gave all the shipyards in this country a boom in business, which meant over a period of ten years, twenty percent of all the oil that came into this country had to be, had to be brought in on U.S. built and U.S. sail-manned tankers. He pocket vetoed the bill because he was mad at, uh, the engineers -- the Seafarers/Engineers Union because the head of the union was backing him in his run for the presidency, then they backed off and they wouldn't give him no campaign funds. So his way of getting back at them was, "Oh, well, I won't make this union rich 86:00by getting this contract," but he wound up killing twenty shipyards in the process. And Seatrain was one of them, and Seatrain had a massive layoff. They closed the Yard for four months, and they wound out, they wound up flushing -- you might as well say they flushed the toilet, and by '76 when everybody was back and they had the contract to build the other two tankers and they got contracts to build eight ocean-going barges, and icebreaking barge for Alaska and the Ro-Ros, Seatrain was in total operation. Uh, they could turn out a tanker and couple of the barges in eighteen months with, I believe it was 1,400 people, because the people that they had were real ship -- the finally got real shipbuilders, and that's when they had the big turn in the company's business. 87:00They finally started, things started to look good, and Congress was going to pass another Cargo Preference Bill, so things were looking great for Seatrain. And that's when Seatrain was in its full push, and that's when we had some real shipbuilders. And the way you knew a shipbuilder from somebody who just worked inside the Yard, well, if you worked inside the buildings you weren't a shipbuilder. I'll go back to World War II, World War I, there's a total separation between people who worked in the Yard, "Oh, I worked in the Yard." Okay, nice, nice for you. The difference is you weren't the ones that went on those ships and built them and the ones that died on those ships. It's a big difference. So the way you knew, and you still do today, can tell a real 88:00shipbuilder, is when they pull the ship out of the dry dock and you see the empty dry dock and it's filled with water where the ship used to be, you'll stop and you'll look. And some guys will curse and say, "Eh, blah, blah, blah," to that one, and the real shipbuilder's going to stand there in silence, won't say a word for a couple of seconds, and then he'll look at the guy next to him who's a real shipbuilder and say, "Time we built the next one." You won't hear a complaint, you won't hear a curse, you won't hear anything. That's how you know a real shipbuilder, somebody who really loves to build ships rather than just somebody who works in the yards and says, "I work in the shipyard." Well, okay, you work in the shipyard but you're not a shipbuilder.

MILLIE TREZZA: Like, well, like, like your father and your uncle.

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, they, they just worked --

MILLIE TREZZA: They worked in the Yard.

FRANK TREZZA: -- in the Yard.


FRANK TREZZA: They were not shipbuilders.

SADY SULLIVAN: Where do you think people -- how do people become shipbuilders in 89:00that way?

FRANK TREZZA: Uh, okay, shipbuilders are a rare breed. Shipbuilding is a fantastic industry, it was a fantastic industry for this country. It's somewhere where you could take a kid out of high school, if he really wants to learn a trade and he wants to learn something, you could bring him in the shipyard and if he's really got his heart in it, in four years you could bring him from a helper to a first-class pipe-fitter, welder, ship-fitter, pipe-fitter, electrician, and he could make a really good paycheck. A first class now, in any of the major shipyards, is paying, uh, $22 an hour plus overtime plus full benefits, full medical, full everything. You get a retirement, you get a 401K, 90:00if you can stick it out. You don't have to go to college, you don't need a college education. You could pull fifty people off the street and they're all college educated, throw them in the shipyard, they won't make it a month. But you could get somebody out of high school, as long as they could read and write, they've got some common sense, and they put their heart in it and they really like it, they can become a real shipbuilder and make a fabulous living. And they can climb up as far as they want. It's like when I was working on the Williamsburg with Saul, Frenchie, our supervisor, sent us up to work with the outside contractors who were hooking everything up on the bridge, all the electronics, everything. So I looked at Saul, I said, "One day, I'm going to have their job. I'm going to go around the world hooking everything up." Saul just looked at me, nodded his head, because he was a true shipbuilder and he 91:00taught me, and I did and I made it. I made it to as far as being a -- what was I when I went to Ecuador? I was the project representative from Mescada [phonetic], who was out in Greece. They were the primary contractors of my old company Loral Hycor that I worked for.

MILLIE TREZZA: You were the overseer really of the whole project.

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, oh, I, I overseed the whole -- it was like $15 million contract.

MILLIE TREZZA: And you, you rolled up your sleeves. You got in the tools.

FRANK TREZZA: That, that job --

MILLIE TREZZA: You picked up the tools.

FRANK TREZZA: That job was interesting because I was laid off. I went back, I went to college, registered at Uni -- the University of Southern Maine. I was taking a summer course, and it was a Thursday. My son answers the phone, and it's the head of Mescada [phonetic] out in Greece. He says, "Where's your father? I need him." He says, "He's in school, he's in college." He says, "Tell him not to go nowhere. Seven o'clock tomorrow morning, I'm going to call him." 92:00So I came home, my son says, "Dad." "Yeah?" He says, "Hedgie [phonetic] called you up from Greece. He's got a big contract in Ecuador and it's all messed up, he needs you." He says, "Don't go nowhere tomorrow morning." He calls me up next morning, he says, "I've got this big contract in Ecuador," and Hycor, the old company that I worked for, sent one of the engineers who I used to work with out there to do the job. They had to install the chaff system, which was a defense against incoming missiles, on two frigates and six fast attack ships. And they had a limited time in the contract and it was like $100,000 a day for every day the job was late, and three weeks had gone by and they made zero progress. So Hedgie [phonetic], who owns Mescada [phonetic], flew down there and was actually 93:00trying to bribe people to work. And they wouldn't work! So he calls me up, he says, "I've got a problem. Nobody can do the job. You're the only one that can do the job. You're the best in the world," he says, "I've never seen anybody work like you." He says, "What are you doing?" I says, "I'm in school, I'm taking a summer class." He says, "Forget about the summer class. You can take it later." I says, "Yeah," he says, "I need you to come to Ecuador." I say, "I, when you want me?" He says, "Monday morning," he says, "Where's the nearest airport?" I said, "The Portland Jet Port." He says, "Be at the Portland Jet Port, seven o'clock in the morning, your plane tickets are going to be here." I says, "You want me Monday morning?" "Yeah," he says, "Monday morning, your plane tickets, everything's going to be arranged," he says, "My daughter will take care of everything." I said, "Okay," he asked me how much I wanted, I told him without blinking an eyeball, and I asked him for a good amount of money. He says, "You've got it, and an unlimited expense account, anything you want, you 94:00got. Just promise me one thing." I says, "What?" He says, "I need you every week, go in the business office of the hotel, type me up a report of everything that went on so I know what went on, and fax it to me. Do that every Sunday. That's all I want." He says, "The job is yours. You go down, you take care of everybody." He says, "I'll see you in a month." I said, "Okay." So that Monday morning you dropped me off at the airport, my tickets were all ready, flying to Ecuador. I flew to Ecuador, get to Ecuador, I'm walking through. I don't speak Spanish, so I pulled out my passport. American, yeah, out you go. So one of the engineers that was my friend was at the airport to pick me up with the commander that was retired from the Ecuadorian Navy. So okay, I'm going, I'm walking through looking for him. So my friend the engineer sees me and he says, "Your 95:00buddy is here." I says, "Who's here?" He says, "Your buddy. Just, just wait." So I'm walking through the crowd, and all of a sudden there's Hedgie [phonetic]. He flew from Athens to Ecuador just to see me. So he says, "Come on." We get in a cab, we go to the hotel. He stuck me in a five-star hotel, "Anything you want." He handed me an envelope, $2,000 in expense money, he says, "You need any more money, they got orders at the hotel, you just go up and ask them for anything you want, you got it, no questions asked." Okay. So I'm at the hotel, I bring everything upstairs. He got me a really nice room.

MILLIE TREZZA: Mm, it was.

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah. And go down to the bar, so he's sitting there, my friend the engineer is sitting there, the commander is there from the Ecuadorian Navy. So 96:00that's when I got in trouble big time, because Hedgie [phonetic] told the commander, he said, "The job is messed up." He says, "I brought you down the best guy in the world. Nobody knows the system like him, nobody knows how to do an installation like him. Believe me. I've been around the world, I've worked with everybody. Nobody's as good as him." But he, he -- the commander looked at me and gave me a look. Americans aren't liked down there. So he took an instant dislike to me because, you know, here comes the Americans, he's better than everybody we got down here? Yeah? So I get to the base the next day, I'm all dressed, he says, "Oh, you don't do," Hedgie [phonetic] says, "You don't do no work. You let them do the work." Okay. That took about five minutes. I looked how messed up they were. They had cables all twisted. It was, it was a disaster. I got my dress shoes on, I'm all dressed, I said, "Okay, that's it." I told my 97:00friend the engineer, "You go up there, you do this." I climbed up on the rail on the frigate, and I'm untwisting cables and shoving them through so -- to get the tangles and the knots out of them that they put in, and Hedgie [phonetic] just looks up at me and he shakes his head like he can't believe it. He says, "Yeah, it took you five minutes before you stick your hands on everything." So I wound up doing that job, got it all finished on time.

MILLIE TREZZA: But the men respected you and they, they --

FRANK TREZZA: Oh, it took me time.

MILLIE TREZZA: -- they really loved you.

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, yeah.

MILLIE TREZZA: Because Frank is really --


MILLIE TREZZA: -- really good with people. Uh, when he's working, he, you know, he, he lets them show him what they know, and instead of assuming that they don't know what they should know. And then once he knows what they know, then he 98:00fills in the gaps for them and just shows them once and lets, lets them know, "Okay, now it's yours. Get back to work," and --

FRANK TREZZA: Teach, teach them the easy way to do it.



FRANK TREZZA: And you --

MILLIE TREZZA: You know, so they're always feeling like --

FRANK TREZZA: You don't treat everybody like an American. You don't go over there and act like an American because they can't stand you, even in Greece.

MILLIE TREZZA: Well, it's because of the arrogance that they, they, they -- you know, that sometimes Americans can have when they're abroad, that, you know, we're the best or we're, we're this --


MILLIE TREZZA: And we know everything and you know nothing. Um, and --

FRANK TREZZA: That's why I got in trouble that night.

MILLIE TREZZA: [laughter] And, uh, and they -- you know, you made them feel like, okay, you're doing a great job, but it could be a little better. This is how you could do it and --

FRANK TREZZA: This is how we do it easier.

MILLIE TREZZA: -- just showed them how to do it, and you know, don't work harder, work smarter, and --

FRANK TREZZA: Show, show, show them --

MILLIE TREZZA: -- and they appreciated that.

FRANK TREZZA: -- what they didn't know.

MILLIE TREZZA: And they worked. It was, it was a great, uh --

FRANK TREZZA: And taught them.

MILLIE TREZZA: -- collaboration.

FRANK TREZZA: And finished the job. But even when I worked in Greece, the guys I worked with in -- from the Hellenic Navy stopped me and he says, "You can't be American." I said, "I am. Why can't I be an American?" "Because you don't act 99:00like an American."

MILLIE TREZZA: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: I says, "What does an American act like?" "They're loud, they're rude, they know everything, we're stupid, we don't know anything." He says, "You're not like that. You can't be an American."

MILLIE TREZZA: Well, then of course, your name is Trezza.


MILLE TREZZA: [laughter)


SADY SULLIVAN: Do you think that you learned -- where did -- did you learn that in Maritime High School or working in the Navy Yard in terms of the, the smart way to do things?

FRANK TREZZA: I learned in the, the Maritime School. When I graduated, I also got my United States Merchant Seaman's papers because of everything we did. But that was the operate a ship, so I knew how to operate a ship, I knew how to run everything. They could have stuck me behind the console and I could have played engineer and ran the ship. But Saul became my best friend, had worked in the 100:00Yard during World War II, and he was taught the right way to build a ship and he didn't know what all the systems were inside the ship. So he made a deal with me one day, "You teach me what all these systems are, what everything is inside the ship and what it's supposed to do, because I always wanted to know, but nobody knew, and I'll teach you the right way of doing things." And he took me from help to the first class, the whole stretch. They used to call us father and son, that was our nickname.

MILLIE TREZZA: He was a sweet man.

FRANK TREZZA: And he literally taught me everything, and we made some accomplishments on the Stuyvesant. We -- the outside contractors who were up on the bridge were not there because Frenchie sent me and Saul up before the contractors got there. The vice president of construction came up and said he's 101:00calling in the contractors. I says, "No." I said, "Let me and Saul do the job." He looked at us like we were crazy. I says, "Don't bring them in," I said, "We can do the job." Saul just looked at me and he's giving me the stare.

MILLIE TREZZA: You'd get him in these fixes.

FRANK TREZZA: So the vice president says, "Yeah? You think you can do the job?" And I says, "Yeah, just give us the overtime and leave us alone, just him and me, that's all we want." He says, "Okay, come to 292." So we came over here, from Pier J, we walked down the ship all through all, it was a hassle. When you see the size of the ship, you'll know what I mean. Come up the stairs, didn't have an elevator, went into the, uh, engineer's library. He pulled out a stack this high of the manuals. It was for everything, all the electronics, the radars, the radio room, everything up in the wheel house, the navigation room, everything, the phone systems, the 52-dial phone systems, the magnetic doors to 102:00automatically close if there's a fire. And he hands me all the manuals and he says, "Go build this." So I'm walking, I'm struggling to get these manuals up. Saul looks at me when I finally get up to the bridge, he says, "What did you do?" I says, "Don't worry about it, I'll read the manuals, I'll tell you." He says, "I ain't reading these manuals." I said, "I'll read them." I read them page by -- I read through every manual. We went down and took the captain's state room as our office, put all our prints in there. I sat back in the captain's big lounge chair, this big leather recliner, reclined, went through all the manuals. Saul used to go in the captain's, uh, bed and he used to take a nap while I was reading and then he'd come out and I'd tell him, "Okay, this is what we're going to do." And we used to go do it. And we did it. We did it all.



FRANK TREZZA: We hooked up the whole 52-dial phone system. We did the elevators, the elevator they had, we did the whole bridge, all the navigation equipment, all the radar. Everything, we did.


FRANK TREZZA: And before the ship went on sea trials, we had one problem. We fixed everything except one problem. One of the phones, the, the mouthpiece didn't work. So we brought it down and gave it to Gil Mulvaney [phonetic], I said, "Go order this part. We don't have a spare. Get it before the ship goes on sea trials." He didn't get it in time. So the ship went out on sea trials. Every single thing on that ship worked, everything in the bridge and the wheelhouse worked perfectly except that one phone. Ship comes back, me and Saul were up, 104:00uh, somewhere in the deck house. The vice president of construction comes and he looks at me and he starts cursing me to no ends. And I said, "What the hell is wrong with you?" And he says, "Everything on this damn ship works, every single thing, except one phone!" I says, "Oh, you're cursing us for that?" And I called him a few choice names right back. I didn't care for nobody. And I said, "I went down and gave that to Gil Mulvaney [phonetic] and told him to go order it because that mouthpiece didn't work." He started yelling at me. I took my helmet off and I threw it down the corridor, and I start cursing him and I says, "Don't blame me that nobody can get that part in, in time for the ship to go on sea trials." And he left in a huff. He said that was the only thing wrong with this whole entire ship. That's the first time. It was almost a total, total clean sweep.


SADY SULLIVAN: Is that -- I mean, I'm surprised that he's, that he was mad. I mean, isn't it crazy to have that be the only problem? Wouldn't it -- there usually be a lot more problems?

FRANK TREZZA: No, you didn't understand everybody's temperament. Everybody that was a real shipbuilder has a real temperament. Everybody has a real temper. They're the nicest people you ever want to talk to, you ever want to work with. But when you get them mad, you're looking like two raging bulls going to lock horns and smash. All hell will break loose. So when they gave it to me, I didn't have no if, whats, and buts to give it right back.

MILLIE TREZZA: Marlon Brando.


MILLIE TREZZA: On the Waterfront.

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, that's how it was.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm.


SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]



MILLIE TREZZA: [laughter] They were a bunch of tough guys.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: But then after that, it got even more interesting, which led to another section -- everything leads to another one -- story. So the next part of that was --

SADY SULLIVAN: Can we, can we --


SADY SULLIVAN: -- pause? And just, I'm curious about Saul.


SADY SULLIVAN: Um, so he -- so just tell me about him. Where's he from? How did he start working at the Yards?

FRANK TREZZA: Saul was from Brooklyn. Everybody's from Brooklyn. He lived down, um, in Brighton Beach on, I think it was West 8th Street. It's the two big white apartment buildings that have the swimming pool. He lived in one of the big white apartment buildings. And he was married, uh, to Sophie, and his wife Sophie was a manicurist in one of the beauty parlors down Brighton Beach. And Saul had worked in the Yard. He got a job as an apprentice in the electrical 107:00department in the Yard, uh, during World War II. He worked on -- he told me he worked on the Missouri up on the shipways doing all the, uh, officers' state rooms, doing all the wiring and lighting and everything that needs to go in there. And Saul -- Saul was another character. Saul one day, uh, is going to his toolbox, and these two FBI guys come over and they said, "You're under arrest." Saul says, "Why?" They said, "For selling pornography." Saul was selling French books out of his toolbox and one guy ratted him out, and since it was a federal offense, he got fired and he got thrown in jail for six months.

SADY SULLIVAN: Wow, this is in, during World War II time?

FRANK TREZZA: War II -- this is right after World War II.

MILLIE TREZZA: Oh, that was big taboo.

FRANK TREZZA: That was big taboo back then.



FRANK TREZZA: So he gets out of jail and he's looking for a job, and he saw -- he passed by, uh, this delicatessen across the street from Bellevue in Manhattan. It said, "Help Wanted." He went in. The guy hired him. And he wound up getting in the, uh, deli workers' union. They sent him to catering school. He could carve a turkey, put the whole thing back, and you never knew it was carved.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: He could make sandwiches like there was no tomorrow. He worked there for twenty-three years, but all the time he worked there, in his top dresser drawer he had some of his electrical tools. He had his lineman pliers and a couple of screwdrivers, and he had all his dress shirts there. And his wife Sophie always wanted to throw his tools out and he said, "No, one day I'm going back to work in the Yard." And she says, "You're crazy, you're never going back to work there." Twenty-three years later, he comes in. He's on vacation. It 109:00happens to be that Fred Barrett, who's head of the electrical department, called me in because his office clerk was going to be on vacation for two and a half weeks and he made me his office clerk. And then I went back to work and worked overtime after 4 o'clock. So Saul comes in, uh, and he sits down, and he was sweaty. It was a hot July day, I think. He pulls out his white handkerchief and wipes the sweat off and cleans his glasses, and he starts telling me, "I worked in the Yard during World War II, you know, and I always wanted to come back to work. So I was on vacation, I came down to see what was going on in here." So Fred interviews him, and Fred says, "I'll start you as a second class electrician." Saul looked at him and says, "I walked out of here a first class electrician. You're not starting me as second class." Fred busted out laughing. He says, "Okay, you're first class. You're hired as first class." So Saul went 110:00home and told his wife Sophie, and she went ballistic on him because he had two more years, he could have had a pension from his union. He says, "I ain't doing it no more. I did twenty-three years and I couldn't stand it." So he quit. He called his boss up and says, "I ain't coming back. I quit." And he came back to work inside the Yard, and that's how we became friends and we joined up. They used to call us father and son. So that's how Saul got in the Yard, and he had three sons. So, Saul was a character.

MILLIE TREZZA: He was a nice man.


MILLIE TREZZA: I liked Sophie too. She was a sweet lady.

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, both. Their sons were nice too.

MILLIE TREZZA: They were a nice couple, mm-hmm.

SADY SULLIVAN: What's his last name?

FRANK TREZZA: Sherman. Saul Sherman and Sophie Sherman. So that's how we teamed 111:00up. So if you want to go back to the Stuyvesant, after we finished the deck house, the Stuyvesant had, uh, an interesting problem. They were going to open up the Alaskan pipeline. They were going to use the Stuyvesant to go up to Alaska, but she wasn't designed to go to Alaska. She was designed to go to the Persian Gulf. The waves in the winter in the Gulf of Alaska were way high, so they built the, uh, breakwater on the bow higher. But they had a problem. The -- the winches weren't hydraulic; they were electric. And they figured the winches were going to freeze up in the winter up in Alaska, so they had to pump five pounds of bone dry air inside them so they wouldn't seize up and freeze. But they weren't made airtight. None of the electrical fittings were airtight. So 112:00they got different guys to go and try to see what they could do. Nobody could do it. So it came down, they got me and they got Saul, they said, "You guys go see if you can do it." Okay. Well, at that point Seatrain brought in one of the overpriced presidents they get at Seatrain Lines. I forget who he was, but he was some bigwig, that he retired. So he came in and they put him in charge of the project, making the winches airtight. So I figured out how to do it, but this guy and me, the temperaments were total, total opposite. It was like a stick of dynamite and a match. You couldn't put us near each other. His name was Stuman [phonetic]. So he would never say good morning to me. Now, in the Yard, 113:00you, you never said good morning to somebody.

SADY SULLIVAN: You didn't?

FRANK TREZZA: You never said good morning. It was the biggest no-no in your life.


FRANK TREZZA: You always said, "Morning," or you looked at somebody and you nodded and they looked at you and nod back. That was good morning. Because if you said good morning, you would get a fifteen-minute lecture why it wasn't a good morning.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter] What kind of stuff? I mean, why would it be not a good morning?

FRANK TREZZA: Because the working conditions we had to work under, what we could be doing, it's this, it's that, who's getting killed. Why is it a good morning? So you never said -- you always said, "Morning," if you wanted to say something to someone, or you just look at them and nod and get the nod back. That was good morning. Well Stuman [phonetic], he always used to say good morning to Saul, got along with Saul, but he wouldn't say a word to me. I said good morning to him, he'd just grunt. So he couldn't figure out how to make the winches airtight, so 114:00I had figured it out and Stu -- uh, Stuman [phonetic] didn't want to hear it. He flew in an expert from Virginia on sealants. The guy put is stuff around one of the fittings and they put the air in. The thing blew all over the deck. The guy says, "There's nothing else I can do. I'm going back to Virginia." Stuman [phonetic] was mad. So I said, "Mr. Stuman [phonetic], I figured it out. I know how to do it." He starts cursing me out, "You don't know nothing, blah, blah, blah." I said okay. After he left, I stayed that night and I did it and I sealed everything up, and being the nice person I am, I went up 6 o'clock in the morning the next morning on the deck, and I was waiting for him to walk down the deck. He sees me walking, he's coming walking towards me down the deck and I'm just standing there with a smile on my face looking at him, and I said, "Good 115:00morning, Mr. Stuman [phonetic]. I have figured it out." He looks at me, he says, "You didn't figure nothing out." He says, "I'm going to go over there and do the soap test, and if the soap comes out bubbly that the air's leaking out, you're fired. You're fired on the spot." I says, "Good morning, Mr. Stuman [phonetic]. It's fixed. I figured it out." He's grunting and he's cursing at me. He goes over with his little coffee can of soap. He watered his brush, he brushes it on, he turns it on, turns the air on. It works. He says, "What did you do?" I said, "I've been trying to tell you I know how to do it and you wouldn't listen to me, you wouldn't let me do it." He was all happy as can be. He says, "You now have twelve men, anything you want, you got. Go do the rest of the winches. We've got a week and a half to get them ready or we're going to get fined $10,000 a day that the ship is late." Okay, no problem. So I'm working on the winches. Saul 116:00said, "I've had enough of this." He went on vacation. I said okay, well, me and Saul used to take vacations together. We used to give it to them that way. So I'm working on the, the, uh, main anchor winch, and I hear people talking and I'm buried inside working on the cables. And I stuck my head up, and it was -- uh, who was it? Tom Martin from ABC World News? Was talking to the vice president of Seatrain. So he looks over and he says, "What are you doing?" So I told him what he -- I was doing, and he told me to come out. So I came out, I climbed out. He starts talking to me. "Oh, what are you doing, blah, blah, blah?" And one thing led to another, he does this whole interview of me. And we're talking about the Cargo Preference Bill, he says, "Where do you want to -- 117:00are you going to continue working at Seatrain?" I says, "No," and right in front of the vice president I said, "As soon as we finish the Bay Ridge, I'm gone. I quit, I'm out of here, I'm going to General Dynamics to build nuclear submarines." I said, "I don't want no more after this." And Tom Jarriel goes back to A -- to his office at ABC and he calls up the chairman of Seatrain Lines and he starts verifying with the chairman everything I said. The chairman says to him, "this" -- he couldn't believe it. He says, "I didn't believe there's anybody in that Yard that's that smart. I thought everybody in the Yard was an idiot." The next morning I'm on deck working on the winch, I see this big, huge, white limousine pull up. I see the, the president of Seatrain Lines comes out, the vice president of Seatrain Lines. The vice president's running up the ship, and I see these other people coming out. "Hmm, well, maybe they're going to see 118:00the ship." So I'm working, and the vice president comes running down the deck and he sees me. He says, "The chairman, the president, the vice president, the chief financial officer, the executive, uh, officer of Seatrain Lines came to see you." I said, "What did I do now?" So he says, "Well, Tom Jarriel or Tom Martin went to con -- confirm everything you said, and the chairman was so impressed that he came over and he had to meet you." So he comes down, shake everybody's hands, and the old machinist who, a little distance away, seeing what's going on -- and the chairman says to me, "You know, I didn't think there was anybody in this Yard that smart." I took it as an offense. I says, "You have no idea how smart people are in this Yard. Just because we build ships and we 119:00come from a certain neighborhood and we don't have a college education does not mean we're stupid by any stretch of the imagination." Well, he didn't take it as an insult. So we finished up and they start walking back to look at the ship, so the president of Seatrain Lines comes over to me and he says, "Be at my office at 1:30." Okay. What'd I do now? Maybe I insulted him too much. 1:30 came, Alan Guyser [phonetic], the vice president of Seatrain Line -- Seatrain Shipbuilding is in John Serrie's office, the president of Seatrain Shipbuilding. John's sitting behind his desk, he says, "Would you like a letter of commendation for all the great work you've done?" I said, "Nope, don't need one." So he says, "I'll make you a supervisor." I says, "Nope, I don't want to be a supervisor." So he looks at me, he sits back, he says, "Why?" I says, "Because I make more 120:00money than my supervisor. I get time and a half for anything over eight hours, I get, uh, automatic time and a half for Saturday, I get double time for Sunday, I get triple time for holiday. I make more in my take home than my supervisor makes in his gross. Why are you going to demote me?" So he looks back, he says, "What do you want?" I said, "I want one thing." "Okay." So I had with me, uh, an envelope, a big envelope, big manila envelope, and I had some pictures in it. I said, "Well, I'm involved in this project," and I told him that my brother-in-law Phil Dante and I had met with Captain Prey [phonetic], who was the commander of the Yard, and they were going to give us the old Navy Hospital to make a museum inside the Yard. So what I wanted to do was photograph all the guys and everything that Seatrain Shipbuilding was doing, so when the Navy 121:00brings all the stuff back inside the Yard and we get the museum going, Seatrain would have its place in history. And he sat back in his chair, he says, "You got it." So I was the only one that was allowed during work, stop work, take my camera out and start photographing, doing whatever I wanted to do.

SADY SULLIVAN: How did you, how did you get interested -- why were you interested in the history of the Yard and, and photography and documenting it? How did that become something that you cared about?

FRANK TREZZA: Because, uh, my brother-in-law and I discussed writing the book on the history of the Yard, so I says, "Okay, you write it and I'll do the photography, and we'll add it in and I'll do, I'll go do a lot of the research." So I start doing the research of the Yard, and they had -- the Maritime, uh, 122:00Maritime Society was having a dedication of the plaque on the wall of where the shipyard was in Greenpoint that built the Monitor. So Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm was there, Congress -- uh, Captain Prey [phonetic] was there from the Navy and he was giving a speech. Uh, the granddaughter of the builder of the Monitor was there, there were pictures of them. And Captain Prey [phonetic] had brought a book with him. It was a real nice-sized book that an admiral wrote, and it was the history of the Yard up until like 1942 or '47, and there was nothing ever I could find from that point forward. So we figured from that point forward, we'd do the book. And that's how I got hooked on it, and then we went up to Captain Prey's [phonetic] office and we start talking, and he said, "You know, we've got the old Navy Hospital, and any group that wants it can have it." 123:00He says, "All the exhibitions that was in the Yard... " There was a museum inside the Yard, and one time when the Yard, the Navy dismantled the Yard, it was all packed up and sent to the Washington Naval Shipyard. Anybody that wants it can have it, and the Navy will send it up, unpack everything, no cost. So he brought us over to the Navy Hospital, and I said, "Oh, this would be a great place for the museum." So he says, "Any group that wants it just has to ask for it and it's theirs." Ahem. So we thought we were going to get it, so we start forming a group and -- of people who were interested. We had Dr. Polizzi [phonetic], who was Brooklyn's historian at the time, and he led us to another bunch of people. But everybody wanted to be chief and nobody wanted to be an Indian. And I just wanted to be the photographer, and the researcher. I says, 124:00"You's all can fight." And they just kept bickering, and it became insane so it never went anywhere, just like I found out that the woman who christened the battleship the Brooklyn, when the Brooklyn was going to be scrapped, before the Navy was going to scrap it, when they decommissioned it, she wanted to bring it to New York and put it over where South Street is now and make a museum out of it, and she tried to form a group. Well, the Brooklyn wound up getting scrapped because everybody did the same thing. So that's what led into that one.

SADY SULLIVAN: Um, and is your brother-in-law your --

MILLIE TREZZA: My brother.

SADY SULLIVAN: -- brother? And what's his name?


MILLIE TREZZA: Philip, Philip Dante.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm. Is that your maiden name?

MILLIE TREZZA: No, no. My, my last -- my maiden name is Diaz.

SADY SULLIVAN: Um, and so what do you think about -- now the History Center that is in progress? Is that, does that seem related to the plans that you were 125:00thinking of then?

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah. Well, now it's becomes -- okay, the Brooklyn Historical Society has a big chunk of my work, but I still have a big chunk that they don't have. And, uh, it's time that we sit down and say okay, I know Seatrain was going to be on the third floor of the, uh, museum, and there's a question of how much space they were going to give for Seatrain. And since I am Seatrain, it became time to say, "Okay, what are we going to do?"

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

MILLIE TREZZA: I think this is when, uh-- [laughter] Oh goodness, I've been listening to you all day. I came here, um --






MILLE TREZZA: Thank you. Think: D, D, D, D. Daniella, uh, did you want, uh, to have her come in, and so you could talk to her?


FRANK TREZZA: Because I have a letter from Mr. Kimball [phonetic], who assures me that Seatrain was going to be part of the museum. And then Daniella, we've gone back and forth and she said Seatrain was going to be on the third floor and she wanted to talk to me about the pictures and the size because I've got two pictures in mind: the book cover and there's another picture. The book cover shoots one section of the Yard, and the other section is another pic is another picture. So I got almost the whole Yard.


FRANK TREZZA: You blow them up, those two pictures make a fabulous --


FRANK TREZZA: -- piece for a wall --


FRANK TREZZA: -- to enter for Seatrain, plus all the other work I have.


SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm. Well, before we get to that, because I don't have -- I'm not involved with the exhibition design and --


SADY SULLIVAN: -- and that is a conversation to have with Daniella, but I have some -- in terms of this oral history, which is going to be part of both archives.


SADY SULLIVAN: Um, so I'd like to keep going and --


SADY SULLIVAN: Um, and I actually just realized that there's, I hope -- do you guys have cell phones? Because they -- um, are they off? I should have said at the beginning, um, just because it does an electrical, like a wobble on the audio. Um. But, um, so let me see where we were at. I actually had some, in terms of thinking about Seatrain, I thought -- and we've talked about the Stuyvesant, um, but could we talk about sort of, each ship?




FRANK TREZZA: The Brooklyn, the Williamsburg, the Stuyvesant, and the Bay Ridge.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm. Um, so let's start with the Brooklyn.

FRANK TREZZA: Hah. The Brooklyn was hell to work on because what Seatrain did was they chose to do, forward of the engine room, build forward of the engine room out to the bow first, and leave the engine room for last. Big mistake. And the people that they had working in there, the Yard, was not -- most of them were not qualified. There were qualified people who had worked in the Yard when the Navy had it, and they worked at other jobs just until they hoped the Yard would reopen, and they were the shipbuilders that came back.


FRANK TREZZA: But there were not enough of them.


FRANK TREZZA: So the Brooklyn, uh, was -- they were in a hurry to christen the 129:00Brooklyn because it was way be -- way behind schedule. It was like two years behind schedule. It was costing them a fortune. So they brought in a bunch of outside contractors in on the Brooklyn, and the reason why they did it was, was our contract with the union said that if they didn't have enough skilled people to do the job, that they had the right to bring in outside contractors. Well, they brought in outside machinists. They brought in the boilermakers. They brought in the pipe-fitters. They brought in electricians. And it was a zoo. You'd be working in the engine room, uh, anywhere, and all of a sudden somebody would yell at -- at you to move and the crane would be lowering pipes down that were about to hit you in the head. The Brooklyn was -- it was like all the monkeys were left out of the zoo and they all went crazy. That's what building 130:00the Brooklyn was like. And one part in Brooklyn -- building the Brooklyn, was when they had to cover the pipes, there was no -- they didn't have the pre-molded, uh, asbestos to go over the pipes, so the, uh, pipe coverers would take these huge bags, burlap bags filled with asbestos and dump the asbestos in the tubs and then fill them with water, and asbestos would fly all over the place and you'd be covered from head to toe. You looked like a white ghost. And that was quite normal.


FRANK TREZZA: You weren't given a respirator. You were given one of those paper masks to put over your face, but then you couldn't breathe. So the Brooklyn was a mess. The only thing nice about the Brooklyn was the christening. When they christened the Brooklyn, Mayor Lindsay's wife had to christen it and they built 131:00the bracket on the bow of the Brooklyn for her to bust the bottle. So when she took the bottle and she went to christen it the Brooklyn, she hit it but she hit it on an angle, and the bottle vibrated and jumped out of her hand because the bracket jumped like this and smacked the bottle out, and the bottle falls in the dry dock. Everybody lets out -- there was like 5,000 people in the yard. Everybody lets out this sigh, "Oh my God." But one of the guys that I worked with was smart enough -- he was an electrician. He was up on top, on the main deck, on the bow, looking over. They had all the flags draped up there. He goes up like this and holds up the, the bottle of champagne, and everybody cheers. He takes the bottle and cracks it over and he christens the Brooklyn, and then they had eight tugs pull her out. Then we had the party to end all parties. The building, the blue building that's still in here that's next to dry dock six, the whole end of the building, Nathan's had, uh, was the caterer, and they had 132:00every food imaginable. Cold cuts, hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, everywhere. Tables everywhere. They had six stands filled with beer and soda. They had a band where everybody was dancing in front of 292. They had a huge flatbed truck filled with toys for the kids. It was an incredible party.

SADY SULLIVAN: And was that for everyone who worked on it?

FRANK TREZZA: That was everybody in here. They gave you beautiful invitations. The Historical Society has the invitations if you dig through.


FRANK TREZZA: And, uh, you were invited to bring, uh, four members of your family into the Yard. And that was one humongous party.


FRAK TREZZA: But the Brooklyn was kind of a disaster, because they went out on sea trials and they dropped the anchors, and the anchor -- they couldn't get the anchors back up. The winches didn't work.



FRANK TREZZA: It took them twelve hours to get the winch -- the, uh, anchors up. And then when they were out, all of a sudden they heard a big explosion. One of the boilers blew. So there was a Russian ship that was, uh, out where they were doing sea trials, and they called up the Brooklyn and asked them, "Do you need help?" So the president of Seatrain Shipbuilding was on because he had a degree in naval architecture, and he said, "Nope, we're, we're fine, we're fine." So they limped back on one boiler, and it took them a couple of months to fix most of the problems. Then when the, uh, the Brooklyn left, she was designed to do, I think, twenty-three and a half knots. The most they could get out of her was sixteen, so that became a big problem because she had to go to the Persian Gulf and deliver oil to Rotterdam or bring it to this country, so the difference in speed cost them a big bunch of money. And then she started to break down, so 134:00they had to put her in -- they laid her up in Europe, uh, somewhere, I think around Rotterdam, and they had to go out and charter another ship to, uh, take its place to fill the contract. So that was that one. Then when we were building the Williamsburg, the Brooklyn -- the Williamsburg was partly finished, but the engine room wasn't started when the Brooklyn left, so we went to start the engine room. The first thing you've got to do as the electrician is do all the layout for the wire ways, so the wire ways were being laid out and we had a problem. We didn't have no cables to pull through the ship. So, uh, the vice president -- no, it was the yard superintendent busted in our trailer one day. He came in like King Kong was coming through, and he starts yelling and cursing at us that we're falling behind schedule, we're not pulling no cables through 135:00the ship. So the guys yelled and cursed back at him, and we told him in no uncertain terms we didn't have the cables to pull through the ship. And he was saying, "You didn't order them, you didn't do this, you didn't do that," so we told him where to go. I says, "Go get the president and bring him down here." I says, "You're an uncivilized animal, get the -- get out of here." So he went up and got the president, who was actually going to be his father-in-law. So the president comes down, and John Serrie was really nice. He was a hell of a nice man, hell of a nice man. He walked in, he says, "Look, you guys, we got a problem. Why ain't you pulling the cables in?" So Saul goes over to Frenchie, and they pull out all the slips. He says, "Here's all the slips. We ordered all the cables. We brought the slips up to purchasing, to 292, here's all the length of cables we need. We don't have a cable to pull through the ship." So the 136:00president says, "I'll be back." He came up to 292, went to purchasing, told the guys, "Pull out the slips. Where's the cables?" They looked. They weren't ordered. "Pull out the slips. One of the guys brought you up the slips for you to purchase them." They pull them out. He looked at him. "You're fired." He comes back to the trailer, he looked at all of us because all of us were in the trailer. There must have been about twenty-five of us in the trailer. And he says, "I have a problem. It's going to take two and a half weeks to get the cables in, in the shop. I have a choice. Either I can lay yous off for two and a half weeks, which I do not want to do because I'm afraid I'm not going to get yous back, or yous can disappear for two and a half weeks." So we --


SADY SULLIVAN: What does, what does that mean?

FRANK TREZZA: Nobody is to see yous.


FRANK TREZZA: Yous are to disappear, become invisible.

SADY SULLIVAN: Meaning come to work and be... ?FRANK TREZZA: Come to work, punch in, and you are not to be seen --


FRANK TREZZA: -- until you're going home. So everybody came in, we cut a hatch in the, uh, supply trailer.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: We put the lock on the door, and we snuck in through the back hatch and most of us were in there. Some guys slept. Some guys read the Bible. Some guys read books. We had real interesting political discussions. We had discussion on religion, the Bible. Now, these are people that are supposed to be uneducated morons. Eh, you could have brought a professor in there and he could have had a great class.


FRANK TREZZA: So for two and a half -- some guys, we played chess, we played checkers, we played dominoes, we played cards. For two and a half weeks we did that. So some of the [inaudible] were getting suspicious, they couldn't find us 138:00anywhere on the ship. So one day, somebody came over to the trailer and made Frenchie unlock the trailer. So when we heard them trying to unlock the trailer, Frenchie made sure he tapped and he kicked the door a little bit, that it wouldn't open. We ducked out the back hatch and scattered like the, the rats getting off a ship.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: They looked in there. Nobody's in there.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: They start looking around, they still couldn't find us. We all went back. We did that for two and a half weeks.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: The cables came in, we start working seven days a week. We built the Williamsburg, and on the Williamsburg they brought in all the outside contractors to do the bridge, to hook up everything on the bridge. Frenchie sent me and Saul up on the bridge. I worked with the contractors and I said to Saul one day, "I'm going to do that job, I'm going to go around the world doing the installations on ships," and Saul just looked at me and he nodded his head. He 139:00didn't say a word. Just looked at me. He knew that I'd do it. And we built the Williamsburg. The Williamsburg was a little better than the Brooklyn, but she's had a problem with her speed and they wound up laying her up because she had problems. Then we had the giant layoff in '75 when President Ford vetoed the Cargo Preference Bill, when he did the pocket veto. He put like twenty shipyards out of business with that one. So Seatrain was going down the tubes fast. Shirley Chisholm got the government to guarantee a loan, uh, against the ship so Seatrain could build the last two ships. Here's where it gets interesting. The layoff was going to be for four months. They closed -- they did close the Yard for four months, but they start calling everybody back. But I didn't get called 140:00back. Saul didn't get called back. None of the guys got called back. Fred had this ingenious idea, good old Fred Barrett, that, uh, he was going to build the ship with some of the guys he had and all the temporary light guys they had. Well, the temporary light guys, alls they could do was screw in a lightbulb. They didn't know how to do anything, and the few -- the guys, the seventeen guys that were from our original crew that got called back because they had all the seniority, Fred brought them in the first day back. He brought donuts, for the whole week, he brought donuts and bagels and Tropicana orange juice and treated them like kings, and he says, "You guys are going to go build a ship for me." Well, they had a little meeting themselves and said, "We ain't going to build nothing for this man because of how he treated everybody before the layoff." Because Fred was a nasty mean son of a bitch, that's the only way I can put it. That's why we made a voodoo doll of him. He did die.


MILLIE TREZZA: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: He did die right after that.

SADY SULLIVAN: That's -- I wondered that, because in, in the book, you talk about the voodoo doll and then you never say, you never talk about Fred again. [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: Fred did die.

SADY SULLIVAN: I wondered what happened.

FRANK TREZZA: Fred did die. That's why it is funny. Mulvaney took over Fred's job, and Mulvaney came in one day and said, "Fred died." I said, "What did he die of?" "Testicular cancer." "All right, that's where those pins went."

MILLIE TREZZA: [laughter]

SADY SULLIVAN: That's pretty crazy.

FRANK TREZZA: Oh, those guys, those guys, some of them were from the islands and they said, "You do not mess... " Because I, I said, "What are you making a voodoo doll for? Get out of here with that." And they said no. They had the high priestess, you know, do her ceremony over it. They were out to get Fred. But the guys wouldn't, wouldn't go along with Fred's plan, so they figured the longer we 142:00were out, the more he was forced to call us back. Fred never called us back, and that was in a deep part of the recession back then. That's when Ford told New York to go to hell, to drop dead, he wasn't going to give New York no money. Unemployment was like ten and a half percent. Unemployment was extended fifty-two weeks. I was on my last four weeks of unemployment. Every week I called up the Yard. "Are you calling any electricians back?" No, no, no. I came down here and saw some of the guys working on some of the sections, I called up the union. The union told me, "Your time... " Every time I called them up, "No, we're not calling any electricians back." And they slammed the phone. I called them up one day. The guy goes and looks in the book, he says, uh, "Your seniority expired. You've been out for more than four months, uh," and he told me where to go with no uncertain terms and he slammed the phone. I said, "Nice union I got." Okay, so every week I called up, uh, personnel. "You calling 143:00electricians back?" No, no, no, no, no. It's, I don't know, I had four weeks left of unemployment, we're out over a year, and things were miserable. And she says, "Yeah, we're calling electricians back." I said, "What do I've got to do to get my job back?" "Come back and apply." So I came back and I had to go to CLICK. There was the woman who didn't want to give me the job.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: She didn't say a word. She looked at me, she walked over to the file cabinet, yanked the drawer open, pulled out my file, signed it, and told me to get the F out of here.

SADY SULLIVAN: Signed it meaning you could come back.



FRANK TREZZA: She had no choice because, uh, I was second class already so she couldn't stop me from working.


FRANK TREZZA: So I came back in and I start talking to the guys, you know, "What went on? How come you didn't come back?" Some guys came back that had far less 144:00seniority from me. "Oh, we got a letter from the union, you know, and the company to come back to work after four months. We didn't know where you guys were. We didn't know what happened to yous." I said, "Wait a minute, who's missing?" So I went down the whole list, and it was everybody that Fred didn't like. Now, Fred didn't like me and Saul. I was Fred's number one child until he started screwing with us on the Brooklyn and the Williamsburg by sending us home all the time when it rained, and they brought in the outside contractors. So me and Saul went to the union and filed a grievance, and the grievance kept going up because Saul was first class and he should have never been sent home. He should have been put to work instead of the outside contractors. Well, Fred took offense to that big time, so Fred's big plan backfired on him but he still had it in for me big time. So I got my paperwork, came back, was looking for Fred, 145:00didn't know he was mad at me. Fred was on vacation. Gil Mulvaney, which took care of temporary light, took over when Fred was out. He says, "Hey, you were a great worker when you were here." He signed my papers. I start working, I'm up on the ship the next week. I was in dry stores, which we called the opium room. It's in the book why we called it the opium room. So I'm doing all the layout work in there and Fred comes in. Now, Fred, he was, he was German, and he wore these, uh, gold wire-rimmed glasses and he had a gut that stuck out over his pants that he looked like he was nine months pregnant. He comes walking in, and he sees me there. He heard I got rehired. He was ballistic with me. He was yelling and screaming and cursing at me, what am I doing? You're not doing it right. So he says, "How did you pack those cables in for those lights? You 146:00didn't do them right. Those cables are going to be pulled out." So Fred gets on top of a sawhorse, grabs onto the cable, and jumps off the sawhorse holding onto the cable. The cable never budged out of the box because I packed it right. An elephant couldn't pull that thing out. Fred's hanging there in midair, his shirt goes up and his belly's hanging out, and he turns as red as a beet and he starts cursing me as he walks out. He found Gil, he cursed Gil to no end. Gil found me, he says, "What did you do to that man? That man went absolutely crazy. He walked in the office, took his hardhat, threw it across the room, and started cursing me to no end that I hired you back. What did you do to that man?" I says, "Nothing! I don't know what I did to him." He says, "Well, I don't know what you did to him either when you were here. You were a good worker," he says, "I don't know what's wrong with him." Okay. So I asked the guys, "Did you see this guy, did you see that, why -- didn't -- why couldn't he come back?" Well, I said, 147:00"You got their address, you got their phone number?" Yeah. "You pick up the phone, you call them up and tell them to come back and get their job." I called Saul up and told him, "You'd better get in here tomorrow morning and get your job back." Saul came back, he got his job back. When he walked into Fred's office, Fred went ballistic. Fred tried to do the same thing that he was doing on me. Saul told him where -- Fred where to go, and there's my job back. Fred got it because each and every guy, there was like seventeen of us, wound up coming back. It was Fred's nightmare. But here was the problem with the Stuyvesant. The Stuyvesant was finished. Every department finished the Stuyvesant. She's at Pier J, but electrically she was six months behind. But she had to go on sea trials and she couldn't go on sea trials. She's six months behind. We worked seven days a week, twelve, fourteen hours a day until we 148:00finished her. We finished her -- before we finished her, our contract was coming up. So at one point, we had, uh, Felix -- I forget his last name, was our steward, and he had retired. So Harold Harrell [phonetic], who was one of our electricians that worked with me, was going to run for shop steward and everybody thought I was going to run. And you had to go down to the union hall in the Yard and just put, somebody put your name in. So Saul was going to go down and do it, and we're walking, and I said, "Saul, don't do it. You know, I, there's enough trouble in here with me that -- don't do it." So Harrell [phonetic] got the job as shop steward. They put him on the negotiating committee with the company. The company didn't want to give us too much, so we 149:00called a meeting. We got all the heads of -- well, there was us and the electricians, we got the machine -- the head of the machinists -- not the supervisors, the guys themselves, the group that would control all of the rest of the guys -- the pipe-fitters -- and we all sat -- we all called a meeting on deck and we said, "Got an interesting proposal. How long is it going to take us to build this ship if they left us alone and just let us do what we had to do?" So we all agreed, can we do this ship in a year? Because they could fabricate all the steel welding and put the ship together in a year, instead of having it done in a year and a half with us working. So they said, "Yeah, we could do it." I said, "Okay. We're going to tell the company that if we build the ship in the year instead of a year and a half, give us some stock, split the money with us that you save, give us something." Called the union, the president of our union 150:00came up, the vice president of construction came up, the Yard superintendent came up. So there was the pipe-fitters, the machinists, and us. We put our proposal on the table. I said, "This is what we want. We'll build the ship in a year instead of it taking a year and a half. We want either stock, some of the stock in the company, you give us a, a share of the profits, you give us something extra." We got told where to go from the vice president. The, uh, Yard superintendents told us in no uncertain terms and some nice choice words that they were never going to give us no stock in the company. The head of our union told us where to go in no uncertain terms, so we had it out with him. We said, "You, you're the head of our union! We pay you, and you're telling us no?" And he says, "No." We said, "Why not?" "Because it wouldn't be fair to the welders." 151:00I said, "Well, the welders get specialized pay. We don't get specialized pay for everything we do." And he said, "No, because we know you got what you guys can do and how fast you can do it, but you leave everybody else in the dust and it wouldn't be fair." So we said, "But you're our union. Why are you cutting us up?" And that's the way it was. So that's how we went back to, okay, the hell with it. Then we build the ship in a year and a half. Yous eat it. So we used to get six months of straight overtime. That's why I made so much money. Work seven days a week, twelve hours a day instead of letting us work the way we wanted to with no overtime, work twelve -- work five days a week, no overtime at all, no weekends, and we could have done it in twelve months because we knew how to do it. We knew, everybody knew how to hustle and everybody knew how to build ships 152:00because we went down to the crew and we knew how to do it. We were the best. They kicked us down, so the Stuyvesant went out on sea trials and everything came out great except for that one phone.


FRANK TREZZA: And she, she went up to Alaska, and I think it was her first trip up, the low-pressure, uh, turbine on the main engine starts shooting steam out, shooting high-pressure steam out. So she limped into San Francisco and they repaired it, and they took it apart and they looked at it and they said, "You've got a problem. DeLaval , the turbine manufacturer, put it on backwards and the steam ripped the turbine apart." So they said, "Hmm, interesting," so the Brooklyn and the Williamsburg were tied up in Europe, and they're still paying all the money for that. It was like $2 million a year for each one to be laid 153:00up, plus the cost of getting another ship to charter it. The low-pressure turbines were destroyed in that one too. DeLaval had done the same thing to them. So they repaired them, and then finally the Brooklyn and the Williamsburg went back into service. So then there was the Bay Ridge, and the Bay Ridge was turning out to be our best ship. We were doing away with all the outside contractors. I was no longer -- well, Frenchie was my supervisor but I wasn't working for him no more. I was doing all the special jobs for the vice president of construction. So vice president of construction told Frenchie he got a job for me, and it was the end of May and we were supposed to go on vacation next week out to Montauk. We were all set. And the vice president had this interesting thing. The bow of the ships was so huge that they put them in two 154:00sections and when, from the main deck down, if you put it on the ship you had to climb up a scaffold that was eighteen feet tall, and you only had two feet of clearance, and you had to lay on your back on top of that to do all the layout work and put all the boxes and wire ways up. He had the bright idea, send me out in the Yard to do all the layout work for the boat sitting out there. Well, great idea, it's a beautiful May day. I get all the prints, I go out there, I look. I tell Frenchie, you know, I need a scaffold. Okay. He goes over to look for one. I find a five-gallon paint can, and I turn it over. I'm working on top of it, I'm reaching up and walking out where everything's got to go. Frenchie comes back with a scaffold, says, "Here, put this up." So me and him put it up, then the carpenters' supervisor comes over and takes the scaffold away. He says, "You can't have it." He says, "Why?" Frenchie was there, with a cigarette 155:00hanging out of his mouth. And he says, "Because we're supposed to put it up." So Frenchie says, "Okay, we'll take it down, you put it up." He says, "No, you can't have it for five weeks. We need it." So Frenchie and him start cursing each other out and the carpenters took the scaffold. I go back on the bucket. Frenchie says, "You can't work on the bucket." I says, "I can do it on the bucket. I'm fine." He says, "No, you're -- I'm going to get a ladder for you." Sookay, he comes back with a ladder that was broken.


FRANK TREZZA: So he says, "Lean it up against the side of, uh, this steel over there and just climb up and you can work." Okay. But it, the section of the Yard was out by, uh, GEM's, uh, trailer out there. That's where the section was lying, and it was -- the whole area was filled with three and four feet of black 156:00sand grit from the sand blasting, and they had old chunks of steel and welding rods sticking out. So I'm working on top of the ladder and the ladder's in the sand and it was fine. I'm work -- I'm sitting on top of the ladder, I've got my printout, and all of a sudden I see the sand move. I pull my print aside. All of a sudden I see a welder had his line buried in the sand and he's around the other side. So I yell to him to stop pulling his line. He didn't hear me. He yanks his line. When it got tight, it came up, hit the first step, the ladder goes to go out from under me. I grabbed on the I-beam. My legs got twisted and my back got twisted into a pretzel. That's when I tore two discs in my lower back and killed all the nerves in my right leg.


FRANK TREZZA: So I was supposed to go on sea trials and delivery to bring the Bay Ridge up to Alaska, because one electrician went with the ship on her maiden 157:00voyage no matter where she went, she went to the Persian Gulf, it didn't matter where in the world. And I was the one who was supposed to take her out on sea trials and go on delivery, and I never got to do it. That's when we wound up moving up to Maine.


FRANK TREZZA: And Seatrain sent me to the doctor. The first orthopedic doctor was up on Grand Army, by Grand Army Plaza. He x-rayed me, examined me. I was twenty-five years old. He says, "You're never going to work again." I was ready to go back to work, pain and all. "You're never going back to work," he says, "You've got two torn disks and there's all this nerve damage in your right leg." Okay, he sent me to another one. He came out with a worse diagnosis. They sent me to another doctor. He came out with a worse one.

MILLIE TREZZA: It was crazy.

FRANK TREZZA: They sent me out to Kennedy Airport to see the doctors out there. 158:00They came out with a worse one. Then they sent me to one, uh, on Madison and 5th Avenue. Madison Avenue, uh, around 77th Street, some orthopedic surgeon. He examines me, says, "You're a mess." Writes everything down. "You can't work." Okay. A couple of months later, they make me go see the same one. I'm sitting in the waiting room, I see all the guys from Seatrain that were hurt there. And guys are coming out cursing, they're mad. What's going on? I walk in, I couldn't even take my boots off or tie my boots, so I asked this nurse to help me take my boots off. She got all, "blah, blah, blah, taking your boots off." It was like she was touching a leper. Okay. The doctor comes in, he starts examining me, hits me with his hammer on my knee, my leg won't move, no reflexes, he examines me. He writes everything down. Everything is the same, except he writes three 159:00words at the end of his report: He can work. I don't want to say that Seatrain paid him off to get rid of everybody that was on compensation, but it took a year and a half of not getting any compensation, uh, and Seatrain went bankrupt before I got a court hearing, and I didn't know what the court hearing was exactly for. And all the government lawyers came in because they were representing Seatrain. Seatrain had a problem. The -- no insurance company wanted to insure them no more because of all the guys getting killed and hurt. I mean, [inaudible], everybody dropped them. The only way they stayed in business was the government made them put up $500,000 in cash as a bond to be self-insured. But when they went bankrupt, they wanted to get rid of everybody 160:00that was on worker's comp, because worker's comp, you fell under the onshore and harbor workers so you got two-thirds -- uh, no, three-quarters of your pay, tax-free.

SADY SULLIVAN: Even if the company goes bankrupt, they, that's the -- ?FRANK TREZZA: They were supposed to still give it to you.


FRANK TREZZA: And, uh, they had the doctor say, you know, everybody's fine.


FRANK TREZZA: Three words: he can work. That was it, they cut it.


FRANK TREZZA: So they had the government lawyers there and they had one guy from labor relations there, and -- eh, you know, a nice guy, I'd like to take him and, uh, I don't know which bridge I'd like to throw him off of. But he wasn't liked when he was in the Yard. He was one they didn't kill. But they should have. But, uh, he was fighting against me, and all the, the government lawyers were there, and the judge didn't want to hear it. So they wound up offering me, 161:00uh, what turned out to be a year's pay, and eh, "No, no." So finally, my lawyer calls me up and he says, "Look, you know, you're not going to get no money." I said, "Why?" He said, "Because they're self-insured and it's everybody that got killed is grabbing first grabs at the $500,000. When it's gone, nobody's getting a dime." So I wound up getting like two and a half years pay out of it. But that equaled like the back pay they owed me on worker's comp. That's how they kicked everybody off worker's comp. That's how everybody got shafted in the end. So when they finally closed the Yard, uh, everybody -- they closed it under the assumption that they lost this big contract to Japan, so everybody was entitled to two-thirds of their pay on unemployment, extra unemployment, and they were sent to school for whatever they wanted to go. So Saul always wanted to learn 162:00air -- refrigeration and air conditioning. He went to refrigeration and air conditioning school and when he finished, he went on Social Security and retired. But all the other guys got offered jobs in the Transit Authority, so they all went to the Transit Authority.


FRANK TREZZA: Working on the subways, went on the -- the ship-fitters went laying track, the electricians went to the, uh, signals, they went to the -- my friend Louie went to the train yard, McDonald Avenue and Avenue X, Louis Roberto--


FRANK TREZZA: Uh, they went all over the place.

SADY SULLIVAN: Does that make sense? I mean, in terms of the work, is that a good fit with the --

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, it was, it was --

SADY SULLIVAN: -- the skills?

FRANK TREZZA: It was a pretty good fit because they could do almost the --

MILLIE TREZZA: It was transferable.

FRANK TREZZA: -- same thing. It was transferable, and, uh, because if you could, uh, if you were a ship-fitter and you could do ship-fitting work, you damn well can lay track. That was no problem. The electrician, you know, it was easier to 163:00take an electrician who worked on the ship and bring them in a building than vice versa. So it was a pretty good fit, and a lot of guys -- Mulvaney, uh, Gil Mulvaney went over, because he was an electrical engineer, he went over to the Transit Authority and was an electrical engineer for them. So a lot of guys, it was a real good fit. So they just transferred over. And me, we moved to Maine. I was left high and dry.


SADY SULLIVAN: And in Maine, there's the Bath --


SADY SULLIVAN: What's it called?

FRANK TREZZA: Bath Iron Works.


FRANK TREZZA: Went to work, it took me eight years after the surgery, too. Even my doctor said I'd never work again if they operated on me, but I managed. I'm one tough monkey, and when I went to work at Bath Iron Works --


FRANK TREZZA: -- they interviewed me and everything, and the gentleman who interviewed me, he was a nice elderly man. He worked there his whole life. Oof. 164:00He put in forty years there. He said, "I've never seen a guy like you," he says, "I've seen guys get hurt and never, ever come back to work with less than what you've got. I've never seen anybody like you." He says, "If you want the job, you've got the job as long as you can pass the physical." So I went to take my physical, the doctor looked at me. I told him everything. He examined me, he didn't know what to do, so he called up, uh, Bath Iron Works' lawyers. He said, "I've got a guy here, this is what's wrong with him. What am I supposed to do with him?" They told him, "If he can pass the physical, you've got to give him the job." So he gave me one grueling physical to go through. He put me on the weight machine with, I think, eighty pounds, and gave, made me do so many exercises in so many seconds. He timed me with his watch and said, "If you can pass this, you can do any job in this yard." I was in so much pain. I just 165:00smiled at him and gritted my teeth, and I passed his physical with flying colors even though I was ready to be carried out on a stretcher. That's how I wound up at Bath Iron Works. Then I went to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The doctors there looked at me and said, "You can't work here with your condition. How, how, how do you even walk?" "I do, what's the problem?" Well, did the same thing with me, passed the physical, they put me to work. Then I worked my way up and I went into the nuclear department and I was a nuclear electrician. I worked on the reactors on the fast-attack subs, the Los Angeles Class attack subs, the, uh, missile boats. I worked there. I got laid off, got a job with Loral Hycor and 166:00they made the chaff systems, which is -- was a defense against incoming missiles. So I actually built the systems from the, uh, soldering, all the, uh, components onto the board, doing all the cabling systems, the internal cabling systems. I built the entire systems right up to the launches, and then I took them overseas and did all the installations for them. And from there, when they had no more work, they let me go and then I got a call to go down to, uh, Ecuador because Mescada [phonetic] was, uh, the prime -- always the primary contractor for Hycor because, uh, Stylianos, who owned it, was Hycor's representative. And before they changed all the laws that you could only pay, uh, a foreign representative $10,000, Stylianos,was making millions. And he 167:00said, "I ain't going to take working for $10,000," so he went out and became the primary contractor and subcontracted everything. So he'd add a couple of million dollars onto every contract. So when I was in Greece, I was working out there and he -- when I first got out there, he wouldn't even talk to me. He was like Mr. Stuman [phonetic]. And then, uh, Saddam invaded Kuwait and that was the day you landed --


FRANK TREZZAL -- and I told the captain of the ship I was working on, you know, "I'm here five weeks. My wife... " He says, "Yeah, I know, she's coming." He says, "You can have tomorrow off. Go have a good time with your wife, pick her up at the airport." Picked her up at the airport and went to the hotel. Uh, the phone rang.

MILLIE TREZZA: You left me there and you had to leave.

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah. The phone rang and Stylianos says, "Get to the yard. All hell broke loose. Saddam just invaded Kuwait. The, uh, Hellenic Navy got the 168:00orders to go meet the Saratoga, the aircraft carrier the Saratoga in the Red Sea, and they can't leave until you're finished because they've got no defense against incoming missiles." So I said, "Okay," so I left you a lot of money and said, "Have a good time," I said, "I'll be back when I'm back."

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: So I went back to the -- we had dinner, and I went back -- I went to the base and nobody was there. It, the whole Hellenic Navy, Naval Base was deserted. The only thing you saw was the guard at the main gate and the dogs, stray dogs that everybody used to feed there. You couldn't find a soul. I went on the ship, couldn't find anybody on the ship. I went on the bridge, and there was nobody. Then all of a sudden I turn around and there was the captain of the, uh, frigate, and that was their, uh, flagship. And he said, uh, "We've got a 169:00problem. Saddam just invaded Kuwait. We got ordered to go meet the Saratoga, but I've got a problem. I can't go until you finish, so if you don't finish real quick, you're coming with us." I said, "No, I'm not." He says, "Yes, you are. We called your company and they said we could take you." I said, "That's what they said."


FRANK TREZZA: And he said, "You're coming with us if we've got to put a gun to your head." He said, "We'll let you off when you get to, uh, the Suez Canal. You should be finished by then, and you can take a plane back." So I said, "Okay, eh, that's how it's going to be." I said, "Do you mind if I go home, back to the hotel, have dinner with my wife and then come back?" He said, "Fine." So we had dinner, I went back to the yard, got there 11 o'clock at night, worked on all the launches, worked right through the night. Next morning, 6 o'clock the captain comes. "Oh, you just get here?" "Been here all night working. Set up outside lights and I worked all through the night." He couldn't believe it. He went over and asked the, uh, sailor that was standing watch. He said, "He's been 170:00here all night working." So the captain looks at me, he says, "I've got a surprise for you." I says, "What?" He says, "We're going out on sea trials." I said, "For what?" "For your system." I said, "I'm not finished." He just looked at me and smiled. I said, "Okay." I never until this day remember seeing that ship leaving Piraeus Harbor. It must have took about three and a half hours for the ship to get out, off one of the islands they were going to sea, uh, test the system, because I never looked up. I just kept working and working and working and working and working and working, and had one of the guys from the Hellenic Navy working with me. I told him what to go do, so he was down below in the CIC and I was up on deck, and he was doing his thing and I was doing my thing. So we get out there, and all of a sudden I look up and I look around. The whole entire 171:00Hellenic Navy was out there. They had every radar system going on every ship to monitor the test. I took one deep breath, so the captain tells the exec to go ask me if, uh, I'm ready, so the exec comes and he says, "You ready?" I says, "Go ahead." So he says, "You don't need to test anything?" Nope. I do things, I do them once. I don't make mistakes, believe me, I do not make mistakes. So captain ordered the execs to load up the, uh, rounds inside the tubes. Captain calls the CIC, "Fire!" Whoosh, goes off. Looked like one of the huge starbursts you see at the Fourth of July because if was anodized fiberglass. It was all 172:00over. The captain gets on the radio, calls up the rest of the fleet to monitor on their radars. Beautiful, they're all happy as can be. Captain looks at me, he says, "Now we do it from the bridge." Hits the button, whoosh, off she goes, boom, to the other side of the ship. Whoosh. Boom. Bang. Beautiful. Ah. Captain looks at me and smiles. He said, comes over and shakes my hand, he says, "What can we do for you?" I says, "Can I have something to eat? I'm a bit hungry."

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: "I worked all night. I stopped and had a piece of Italian bread for breakfast and some water because it was hot as hell." I says, "Can I have something to eat?" the captain heard me, he says, "I know you love moussaka. My wife's go the best moussaka recipe in all of Greece." He says, "I had my chef 173:00make moussaka with my wife's recipe for you." So I went down, and it was delicious.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: So when we were coming back in, the sun was setting over the Aegean and it was beautiful, and I was exhausted. So it came time for dinner and all the officers are sitting at the table. The captain's at the head of the table and it was the exec and it was the weapons officer, then there was me. There was a big bowl of -- they put a big bowl of spaghetti in front of me and all the officers are eating, and all of a sudden I went thock -- my head went right, I almost went in the bowl of spaghetti.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: And the, uh, the weapons officer grabbed the plate and the exec leaned over and grabbed me before I hit the table, and the captain went hysterical laughing. He told the exec and the weapons officer to put me to bed. They literally picked me up and carried me to the exec's, uh, stateroom and they 174:00put me to bed. I woke up when we finally got, uh, to the dock at two in the morning. So we pulled in and I woke up, went up on deck, saw them pulling the ship in, and the captain said, "Hey, great job," he says, "Take tomorrow off. Tomorrow's Saint Mary's Day." He said, "We're not Muslim. We celebrate Saint Mary's Day. Take your wife to the islands. Go for a nice day, have a nice swim." He said, "And then you can come finish the second frigate so she can go with us."

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: I says, "How long do I have to do that one?" He says a week. I finish that one in three days. That's why when Stylianos called me, uh, and he told me to go to Ecuador and I went down to Ecuador, and he says, "I brought you the best."


FRANK TREZZA: Boy, after that contract, after I finished that job, the, uh, vice 175:00admiral came to Hycor, Loral Hycor in Massachusetts and signed the contract for the upgrade to the next system on the two ships. So I went and did those, too. They were so happy with me.

SADY SULLIVAN: This, um, the tape's going to run out in two minutes, so I'm going to stop, um, but I do have a second tape.

[Interview interrupted]


FRANK TREZZA: Oh, it's fabulous.

SADY SULLIVAN: That does sound really good.

MILLIE TREZZA: It is very good.

SARAH FITZPATRICK: [laughter] I didn't think that would be recorded.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter] Um, so this is part two of an interview on October 9, 2009 with Frank Trezza. Am I pronouncing your name right?


SADY SULLIVAN: Trezza, okay. Um, and, and I realize now we've, we, it's been a long time and you guys have had a long day, so I don't, I don't want to -- you -- I think we've covered really most of the ground, um, that I was, you know, 176:00had questions about. Um, I guess to -- as a final question, um, and this has come up, uh, this sort of, the, the international side of shipbuilding. So World War II, it's obviously conflict.

FRANK TREZZA: Oh yeah, you want to know --


FRANK TREZZA: You want to know how we got in the mess, how we lost all our shipbuilding?

SADY SULLIVAN: Um, yeah, and so I'm -- and I'm interested both, well, how it's lost and also -- but how, um, you know, so the supertankers, that's about oil, and the VLCC, what is that?

FRANK TREZZA: VLCC is a su -- a supertanker is smaller than a VLCC, but since nobody wants to call it a VLCC unless you know what it is, it's a very large crude, uh --


FRANK TREZZA: -- oil carrier.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hmm. And so the, the ships, the Brooklyn, the Williamsburg, and the Stuy -- they were?

FRANK TREZZA: VLCC's, because you have to be over 200,000 tons, and they were 177:00225,000 tons.


FRANK TREZZA: Oh, they were massive.

SADY SULLIVAN: And that's all they were able to make, because you were saying about the Suez Canal, now they, they wanted to carry more. They wanted fewer ships going, carrying more? Is that --

FRANK TREZZA: Well, it was cheaper. They figured out it was cheaper to have, uh, bigger ships carrying more oil, because the, uh, Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Stuyvesant, and Bay Ridge could carry a million and a half barrels of oil apiece. So the more oil you could transport, the cheaper it was because the crew size, the ship is all automated. It only had a crew of like twenty-three people, so, uh, the U.S., uh, Newport News built a dry dock that was -- you think these dry docks are big? They're tiny. They built a dry dock 2,100 feet long and 250 178:00feet wide. They were going to build 500,000 ton tankers.


FRANK TREZZA: To carry, like, five million barrels of oil.

MILLIE TREZZA: I remember you saying during the time when you were constructing these that, uh, you used to say if they were really smart, they would double-hull them.

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah. That was an argument I had with, uh -- it's in the book -- with one of the Coast Guard inspectors. Because I was always told from the -- my days on the Brown with all the chief engineers that you double-bottomed all the, uh, ships because, uh, one, if you cut a hole in the bottom, you'd leak oil but the ship wouldn't sink because it was double-bottomed. So the tankers, there was a big argument when they were going to build supertankers and the oil companies did not want them double-bottomed because they figured how much extra oil they could carry without them being double-bottomed. That's why the Exxon Valdez was 179:00not double-bottomed.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm. So if it had been double-bottomed, it wouldn't have been --


SADY SULLIVAN: -- that big a leak?

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, it wouldn't have been that big. But she hit that rock on Bligh Reef so hard that it may have penetrated the bottom, because the bottom of the tankers, the I-beams are six-foot tall. The top of the beams are a foot and a half to two feet wide and they're like four inches thick. And on top of that, you would have had the plate, a half-inch steel plate, a one-inch steel plate for the double-bottom. So you would have ripped open the bottom and ripped open ballast oil, but you had to come up six feet before you hit the next plate, and if you had maybe penetrated that one.

SADY SULLIVAN: Is that what they mean -- is that what inner bottoms, is that the same thing, an inner bottom?

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, yeah. You have two bottoms.



FRANK TREZZA: Now, the regulation is -- and they build them out in San Diego where, um, British Petroleum built them. The new tankers, they're double-bottomed and double-walled. They carry less oil, but --

MILLIE TREZZA: But it's --

FRANK TREZZA: -- they can't leak.

MILLIE TREZZA: Environmentally they're safer.

FRANK TREZZA: Environmentally -- and I forget which year it is. It may be next year that every tanker around the world has to be double-bottomed or they can't sail, which put another boom back in the shipbuilding industry.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. So give us a picture. I'm curious both, um, nationally where -- like I know that there's -- Groton is doing nuclear stuff, and Maine and San Diego, and like what are -- what's the national shipbuilding scene now? In Jersey... ?FRANK TREZZA: It's a mess.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: Because what happened was when President Ford vetoed the Cargo -- when he pocket vetoed the Cargo Preference Bill, uh, Seatrain ran into financial trouble because twenty percent of the oil was supposed to come over time, uh, on 181:00U.S. built tankers, so it would have created a boom. So he killed twenty shipyards in this country right there. Then when President Reagan came in, somebody told him, gave him the bright idea, we don't need to build commercial ships no more. We're going to have a 500-ship Navy. Well, that didn't come out to be.

SADY SULLIVAN: Would, would that be an increase in the Navy or a decrease? I don't --

FRANK TREZZA: An increase.


FRANK TREZZA: Because they had, like, 300 ships. So they said, "Well, all the work that was going to be done on commercial ships, all the guys would save their jobs and do, uh, build Navy ships." Interesting concept. What actually happened was he threw twenty shipyards out of business because there was a scramble for all the Navy work, and the Navy came up with this system because it wound up that General Dynamics and, um, Northrop-Grumman wound up buying most of 182:00the major shipyards. They bought Bath -- General Dynamics bought Bath Iron works. They had, they were building, uh, AEGIS cruisers and destroyers, and Groton was building nuclear submarines for them, and what else were they -- they had those yards, and they had one other big yard. I forget. They had San Diego, the big yard in San Diego. They also had the yard in Louisiana which was Avondale. And Northrop-Grumman bought Ingalls, which was Bath Iron Works big competitor down in Mississippi. And who else? Oh, and they bought Newport News. So there was a scramble to build Navy ships, and here, here comes the rub to 183:00this yard. This yard stopped building ships on the shipways. It was -- the Oakley was the last carrier built on the shipways, and they didn't build any ships until, I think, 1942 or '45 on the shipways. They were using the dry docks because it's more efficient to build them on a level platform. Bath Iron Works was a small yard, and they had three shipways and the shipways were only, like, 600 feet long. Over here, they were like 1,200 feet long. And Bath Iron Works survived because, uh, in the early '70s, the Navy wanted to have one yard have all the contracts for that class of ship, and Senator Cohen was a young senator from Maine and he went to the Navy and convinced them to split the contracts. 184:00Now, here's this little yard up in Maine that has, you've got two senators and two House representatives. And here you have New York, two senators and God knows how many representatives, okay? Maine gets the work. This yard gets nothing. So the president of Seatrain had gone to the Navy when the Navy was expanding, before Reagan, and asked the Navy if we could build the hulls of the Navy ships and have another yard outfit them, and the Navy said no, if you build the ship, you finish the ship. But there was two problems with finishing the ship. One, there was the machinists, the electricians, and the pipe-fitters. Plus, you had to be a U.S. citizen and you couldn't have been a criminal, no criminal record.

SADY SULLIVAN: Because these are Navy ships?

FRANK TREZZA: Because they're Navy ships. It's Navy rules. That eliminated Seatrain.



FRANK TREZZA: Done. So the -- General Dynamics and Northrop-Grumman wound up taking eighty percent of the yards in the country, which is only like six major shipyards left in this country, and they divide out the work. But it was like in '85 or '86, the Navy said we'll give you cost plus contracts. We'll pay you for the cost of the ship plus your profit, so somebody in, uh, uh, doo, doo, doo, doo, uh... who was it?


FRANK TREZZA: No, inside. Uh, inside personnel got the bright idea, we could make more money if everybody takes a slice and nobody knows the whole job. Well, 186:00when you became a first-class electrician, they threw you a print, "Go do anything electrical on the ship, go build a ship," no questions asked. How they broke it down at that point was if you're an electrician, when you only pull cable, that's all you do, ship -- the ship -- you don't know anything else, you can become first class, so you're a first class cable puller making top money. The next guy, alls he does is he's a specialist. He does the layout of the wire ways. Then you have another guy, takes the wire off the wire way, brings it down to the box, puts it in the box. Then you have the next guy come, skins the cable, cleans the wires, put them in the box. Then the next guy comes, hooks every, uh, puts the lugs on, doesn't hook -- next guy comes, hooks everything up. Next guy comes and does the test work. The next group goes and do the air 187:00phenols and that's all they do. That's how they break it down, so instead of one guy doing everything, you've now got twelve guys.

SADY SULLIVAN: How is that, how does that benefit -- like, how is that more, more efficient or more cost-effective?

FRANK TREZZA: It's not more efficient. It's not cost efficient.

SADY SULLIVAN: Why do they do it that way?

FRANK TREZZA: Because the more people they have working inside the yard building the ship, the more that they can bill the Navy for because it's cost plus profit.


FRANK TREZZA: So it's great for the stockholders, but now it's come to bite the Navy big time.


FRANK TREZZA: And the Navy does not know what to do about it because they're in a dilemma, because nobody's trained, uh, cross-trained. The people they're getting in the yard are sub-par. The apprenticeships are sub-par. And all the good people are too old and they won't call them back, and it doesn't matter because even, uh, Northrop-Grumman won't hire you. When they find out how 188:00experienced you are, goodbye Charlie, because you're a headache to them.

SADY SULLIVAN: So what's happening-- ? You were explaining the difference between people who build ships and people who are shipbuilders. So what's happening to that?

FRANK TREZZA: The shipbuilders, uh, are no longer there because there's nobody that knows the complete job. You have people who know segments, and you can't bring them to another one. Like up at Bath Iron Works, if you're an electrician, they gave you a buck extra an hour if you took another trade. So if you became a tin smith doing the sheet metal work, you got a buck an hour to do that. But they still never trained you to do the whole job in the electrical department. So there are no more shipbuilders, and the Navy knows it. And I have the 189:00paperwork to verify it, because a bunch of admirals, captains, everybody, did studies, and they went to all the yards around the world, they went to all the Navy yards, and they came up with: this is the mess we're in. We could build the most sophisticated warships, but we can't build simple commercial ships and this is why. So there's no tradeoff that -- like Bath Iron Works now is running out of work. They've run out of work. They're going to have to close the yard, so to keep the people that they have working up there, they're going to build a new destroyer, a new class destroyer, which is a joke. They're going to cost $1.5 to $2 billion. It costs $4 billion to build an aircraft carrier. The big thing with this one, this destroyer, it's going to have one gun up on the bow that can shoot a projectile forty miles. So bring the old battleships out. They can shoot 190:00-- they've got six guns forward and four guns aft that could shoot at 2,000 rounds, twenty miles, with the accuracy of a bullet. They can penetrate the ships now. They could penetrate one ship, go through the other, go through the aircraft carrier, and keep on going. So what do you got to spend the $1.5 billion for? They're doing it -- the Navy doesn't want three. The Navy really didn't want the first one. But the politicians forced them to keep the yard going. So that's the name of the game now. They're building ships that the Navy really doesn't want and can't afford, just to keep the work going in the yard because they can't get commercial work, because Newport News tried. They tried building, uh, tankers because their dry dock is so big. They were building one aircraft carrier and they were building two tankers in front of it. And they were losing money that -- they were supposed to build eight. They built, I 191:00think, three and then they, they canceled the contract. They were losing too much money. They can't do it.

SADY SULLIVAN: So where -- who is building commercial ships now?

FRANK TREZZA: Oh, all the commercial work went to, uh, let's see, Japan is number one because the government backed all the shipyards and they have their own cargo preference bill. Uh, the government in South Korea in the '70s gave Mitsubishi and all these other, Dyor [phonetic] and a few of the other companies money to build these humongous, beautiful shipyards, state of the art, and they spent the time and went through the learning curve training everybody. They took them off the streets and they trained them and they gave them jobs and they gave them decent pay, and they're almost equivalent today in South Korea as what you get paid in this country in a shipyard.


FRANK TREZZA: And they took all the liquefied natural gas tankers, they took all 192:00the oil -- supertankers and oil tankers, and they have all the commercial work. So it's the Japanese, followed by the South Koreans. The Chinese are, are in the process. They've got another two years to go. They're building the biggest shipyard in the world. They're going to build supertankers. They're going to build them even bigger than super -- they're going to build 500,000-ton tankers, 600,000-ton tankers. They're going to build anything and everything. Because how can you compete, as one person put it who knows the industry well, how can you compete with a dollar a day and three bowls of rice? You can't. So by veto -- vetoing all the cargo preference bills, they killed the shipbuilding industry, fought, politically fought, the south fought for all the work and got all the 193:00work, and I still can't figure out why our two senators and all the congressmen couldn't go fight them. They couldn't fight these two little senators up in Maine and the two little representatives and get the work from Bath Iron Works, and that's why this yard went down the tubes and closed. And Bath Iron Works actually, I even have the little article. Bath Iron Works had came down to the Yard and was going to take over this yard after Seatrain went under and use it as a repair yard. And the guys up in Maine says, "Hey, great, no problem. They'll pay us overtime, we'll go down there, we'll live down there, we'll live in the Yard and we'll go take the bus back on the weekends, back and forth." And after a week, it was one week when they found out that they were going to get stuck with Seatrain's contract of who they had to hire. Bath Iron Works said, goodbye, Charlie Brown, and they walked away.

SADY SULLIVAN: Meaning the, like the CLICK thing was still in place?


FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, it was. They were trying to pass it on because CLICK at the time was still in business.


FRANK TREZZA: And then Coastal took over Seatrain and Coastal wouldn't hire Seatrain's workers because the work -- they considered it different. But they just didn't want to hire everybody that Seatrain had because they had a different contract and they were doing all Navy repair work and conversion. And what killed them is they thought they were going to get the contract to put the, uh, cruise missiles on the Missouri and the Iowa, and they found out they lost the contract because they were going to hire two thousand guys to do that job, and they lost the contract to, uh, Ingalls down in Mississippi. That was another one, it was all great representatives. How come Trent Lott and the rest of them down in Mississippi could fight and get all these contracts? The state of 195:00Mississippi actually built Ingalls. It was a mud flat out there, I think, in the 1930s, and they came in and they built a totally modern shipyard and they kept modernizing the yard to no end. So the state was paying for it because the state knew what they were going to get in return. This is the dilemma right now we have with everybody being out of work. If you build ships, for every dollar you -- the government puts in to building ships, it comes back to them two and a half times in tax revenues, in the economy, and everything. There's a multiplier effect. In the service industry, you only get maximum seventy-five cents for every dollar you put in. So it's better to have shipbuilding and take people who 196:00don't need a great education, just need a high school education, and train them. So I always said, what do you do with this large mass of population of people that aren't going to be a rocket scientist, aren't going to go to college? You've got to feed them. You've got to do something with them. At least if you have a thriving shipbuilding industry, you can employ them, and that's what the South Koreans did. They snatched it away from us, and the politicians did it. They gave it to them on a silver platter.

SADY SULLIVAN: So do you think that the idea, sort of behind the CLICK program, meaning hire people who need jobs in the neighborhood, could that have worked if there was a training program?

FRANK TREZZA: They needed a training program, and they could have trained a lot of the people. Because a lot of the people that came in said, "Why am I working in here?" This, this was, this was like suicide -- to work -- this was a suicide 197:00job. As Frenchie said, if you, eh, you go out with all your fingers and toes at the end of the day and you're still alive, consider it a miracle. So their being kicked out, being kicked off of welfare, being told to go in here, you're going to get this great job, they're going to train you, nobody's training them. People are dying and getting killed left and right. Who's getting hurt? It's like, duh. This ain't right. And there was no training program. They didn't train anybody. And where they failed was they had the good old John Brown over there sitting in the, uh, Hudson River with all retired chief engineers that they could have sent them over there and set up a training program, because I was the first one hired from over there. And, uh, then in '76, that was after I had a fight with the head of the machinists, who they made him yard 198:00superintendent, uh, was talking to me and he says, "Hey, you came from the Brown?" I says yeah. He says, "What's that school like, because we're getting a lot of guys in here now from the Brown. They're outside machinists and they're really good." So I told him, and CLICK missed the opportunity to set up a training school. But they were supposed to set up their own schools and train people and try to educate them. They didn't do anything. They just dumped them in here. They dumped them on Seatrain. That was a giant mistake, and the politicians killed them too, because it was President Nixon who signed the bill that he was going to build a 500-ship Merchant Marine. That's what brought all the shipbuilding back.

SADY SULLIVAN: You had a question, Daniella? I, I just, I just read the last word quickly, but, um, you can -- you should ask.

DANIELLA ROMANO: What is your theory of why the, our elected officials didn't step up and fight to keep or get these contracts?


FRANK TREZZA: Oh, two reasons. One, when the Yard was closing, the, uh, McNamara wanted the Yard closed, and Kennedy -- it was either going to be this yard or Boston, and Kennedy was from Boston so they weren't going to close the Boston yard. The Boston yard was far less efficient than this yard, so the Navy said, "Well, you've got too many people getting killed in this yard working. It's an unsafe yard," so they wound up closing it. So the politicians didn't want to go against McNamara and Kennedy. Okay. Then, uh, the only one that fought for this yard was Shirley Chisholm. She was the only one. Everybody else, you know, did the token effect. "Yeah, we're fighting, we're fighting for you," uh, but they didn't. They had no political pull. They wouldn't do it because basically, who 200:00are you fighting for? Poor people around the neighborhood who, most of them wouldn't vote anyway. You're not going to get no money for, for your campaign from them. So who are you going to get it from? But Shirley Chisholm didn't care. She was out to fight for everybody in the, in the neighborhood.

MILLIE TREZZA: She was an incredible woman.

FRANK TREZZA: Yeah. So after she gave up, that was the end. There was nobody else to fight, so they gave up the fight. They gave up the fight when Coastal took over with the Missouri and the Iowa, so even Coastal went down the tubes. And Biaggi, yeah, he was fighting, yeah, with all the kickbacks and everything, and he was indicted on federal charges. So who else fought for anything? Nobody fought, and everybody else carved up the pie. And the politicians gave away all 201:00the commercial work. So at the end, after Reagan decided they weren't going to build commercial ships, it was like forty-two shipyards in this country went under. And then the big two divided the rest up between them, so they got a monopoly and they got the government by the throat, got the Navy by the throat. So to keep everybody's skills, you've got to pay us even though you don't need the ships and you can't afford them, and they really don't want to build another carrier after the last -- after the next one they're building. If they don't do that, then you're going to lose about 35,000 jobs in Virginia. That ain't going to happen, I guarantee that. You'll run deficits to the moon before that happens. They're not going to close Bath Iron Works. If those three destroyers, you'll keep on building them. And Bath Iron Works, the ultimate, ultimate joke 202:00was General Dyn -- when they took over, General Dynamics took over the yard, they had $150 million inside the yard to rebuild the yards. So they weren't going to build them on the shipways. They built a level platform and build the floating dry dock. So they build the ships on the level platform, roll them out on, on a car, a railroad car onto the tracks, into the dry dock, sink the dry dock, and float the ship off, christen the ship that way. Well, General Dynamics comes in, takes the money out of the yard, gives it to the stockholders as a special bonus, then goes to the state of Maine and threatens to close the yard or send the work down south to, uh, their other yard unless the state gives them all tax breaks and the state kicks in for money for the new, uh -- building the level platform and the dry dock. Now, the dry dock is the ultimate, ultimate joke and kick to everyone in this country. Did they let Bath Iron Works build 203:00the dry dock? Nope. They put it out to bid. They put it out at a ridiculous price that nobody in this country could build it for that price. They had the dry dock built in China. They hauled the -- the dry dock from China all the way to the Panama Canal, all the way through the Gulf of Mexico, all the way up the East Coast to Maine, and that's what they used for the floating dry dock, built in China.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter] Wow.

FRANK TREZZA: And they could have built that dry dock with everybody right inside the yard.


FRANK TREZZA: And they didn't do it. They went to China.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Most favored nation.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: So shipbuilding is, is at a pivotal point. The country can't 204:00afford it no more. The, the big corporations just care about the stockholders. They don't care about the Navy. And a lot of the ships, except for the, uh, the nuclear submarines, they are the best, I've got to admit, they're the best. They're built at Groton and they're built at, uh, Newport News. They are superb. They're textbook, because when you're a nuke, the Navy figures you're, you're a front line, and you go through a hell of a lot of training to be getting in the nuclear department. And once you do, everything you do you have to take classes for and get an eighty-five passing grade to pass. And when they give you a job, you sit down with your supervisor, he goes over the job, and he signs off, you sign off that you know the job. They send you down to do the job. Anything you 205:00see that you do not like, that does not look right, that you do not feel comfortable with, they have to get an engineer down there and answer your questions up to your satisfaction. If he cannot do it, he has to get on the phone and call Norfolk. The head of the nuclear department has to get on the phone and tell you what to do. You shut the job down. That's the Navy's standard in the nuclear department. Ahem.

MILLIE TREZZA: But also working nuke, it's not just a background check. You need security clearance.

FRANK TREZZA: Oh yeah, you need security clearance, and you've got to pass all those tests, and you've got to get trained in nuclear spills and cleanup and suit up, HAZMAT and everything. Ahem. And every single job you're supposed to do, you're supposed to be trained and score at least an eighty-five on that test. And if you score under a ninety, everybody that works with you wants to 206:00kick you in the rear end.

SADY SULLIVAN: [laughter]

FRANK TREZZA: So you make sure you score high. Ahem. So does that answer your question how we got here?

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. [laughter]


SADY SULLIVAN: Wonderfully, thank you.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Do you want some water?

MILLIE TREZZA: Would you like some water, you [inaudible].

FRANK TREZZA: No, it's -- I got this dry cough that I can never get rid of. It just goes and comes back. So if you want to start seeing things, now, now you'll really be amazed.

MILLIE TREZZA: [laughter] That's what she's been waiting all day for.

FRANK TREZZA: Now , you'll, you'll really be amazed. You want to start with the prints first? Ah.


FRANK TREZZA: When you told me that Seatrain was going to be on the third floor and they had limited space, I tried to look at everything and say what would represent Seatrain in a real -- if I had a real limited space, what would I do 207:00to represent Seatrain? So I went over everything I had, and I mean I agonized over everything.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah, sure.

FRANK TREZZA: And I came out --

DANIELLA ROMANO: That's what we're doing with the whole Yard too, agonizing.

FRANK TREZZA: I came out with these.


FRANK TREZZA: That's the second part of the book cover. If you match it up, you'll see. These are the deck houses --


FRANK TREZZA: -- we were building. This was the main entrance, uh, to come into Seatrain. Over here, you could see the destroyer. I think I got the name written down somewhere. This was -- this was Coastal, from here all the way down. We had, uh, four, five, and six, the dry docks, and we had -- that building was the pipe shop. This building over here, when you walked in somebody built a big cafeteria.



FRANK TREZZA: There was a trailer over here. Some guy opened up, uh, a food concession inside there. There's the school bus that Seatrain used to shuttle everybody around the Yard, and all these right here are cable reels, reels of cable.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Have you seen that? They don't make the [inaudible] anymore.

SADY SULLIVAN: It has, it's the, it's the new --

DANIELLA ROMANO: Oh, okay, [inaudible].


FRANK TREZZA: So those were the deck houses we were building.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Okay. Who drove the little midget or -- this little guy right here, this little... ?FRANK TREZZA: Yeah.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Is that the executive?

FRANK TREZZA: Uh, I have no idea.



FRANK TREZZA: That's the book cover, so that's one section of the Yard and this is the other section.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Oh good, this is what, uh, we want to see too is the guys, you guys working.

FRANK TREZZA: Those were the engineers, uh, because they had lit off the boilers.


FRANK TREZZA: And the console, the automated console still wasn't finished. But they finished from that section down so they could light off the boilers. And behind them was the electrical switchboard. And that is Saul.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Oh, excuse me.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, I want to see Saul.

FRANK TREZZA: That's Saul.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh! That's a great photo.

FRANK TREZZA: That's Jose and George, called Chicken George --


FRANK TREZZA: -- because of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Chicken George's father was a ship fitter supervisor, and he worked in the Yard when the Navy had the Yard, and he only worked until he could come back in the Yard.

DANIELLA ROMANO: These are great.

FRANK TREZZA: Those were pipe-fitters, uh, during lunchtime on the back of the Stuyvesant.


DANIELLA ROMANO: These are great.

FRANK TREZZA: And that's one of the winch cables that was coming down. That is looking from the pump house --


FRANK TREZZA: -- down the main deck when we were building it.


FRANK TREZZA: And you can see the, the bow, they added all the extra for the waves because up in Alaska...

DANIELLA ROMANO: Choppy water.


FRANK TREZZA: Now, you see how big the cranes are?


FRANK TREZZA: Here's the cranes. Where's the deck?

DANIELLA ROMANO: Unbelievable.

FRANK TREZZA: That's why they had to build the cranes. They had to lift them up that high.


FRANK TREZZA: So that's looking down when, when she was almost finished from the bow forward, and this was not a walkway. That was the tray where all the cables went, uh, to the winches. They came down and went through the pipes and went to the winches, and they kept going all the way up to the bow. So the longest ones were 1,500-foot runs. That's the prop and the propeller, and as the story goes, 211:00the barge came, the barge broke loose over here. I was up on the bridge and watched it, and it came down and hit the prop. And they had to take the prop off, but they didn't have a dry dock to put her in. So they flooded the bow, angled it, and they took it off, put it back, and when they were finishing, uh, the P&H crane when whoosh like this in the water, and all the guys fell off, uh, the ramp, went in the water. The P&H crane was still running for two hours until they pulled it out.



FRANK TREZZA: That's the Stuyvesant, the bow. All --

SADY SULLIVAN: That's a great photo.


FRANK TREZZA: -- the red is seventy-two feet.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Looks like a shark.


FRANK TREZZA: When you loaded it up with oil, she's below the water.


SADY SULLIVAN: Wow, all the red?



FRANK TREZZA: So that's when they pulled her out, and she stretched almost across the whole river.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah. There you are, there's Manhattan.

FRANK TREZZA: And you, you could see, only the black would be above the water 212:00when she's empty.


MILLIE TREZZA: You meant when she's full.

SADY SULLIVAN: When she's full.

FRANK TREZZA: When she's full, yeah. That's why you needed it double-hulled.


DANIELLA ROMANO: That's right. I was going to ask that, if they were double-hulled.

FRANK TREZZA: No, no. This is the, one of the Ro-Ros, and this section wasn't there yet. And the ladder went from the bottom of the dry dock up to here.


FRANK TREZZA: And when we were climbing this and Joe found out it wasn't tied, so the pipe-fitter was about here and he went backwards, and he landed --


FRANK TREZZA: Didn't hit the, um -- he landed right on the dry dock. Heard him scream. There's the main fabrication building.


FRANK TREZZA: Back there --

DANIELLA ROMANO: That's where [inaudible] diner is.


FRANK TREZZA: That's the Sea Witch. The Sea Witch that hit, I think the Esso Bruss --


FRANK TREZZA: -- oh, you'll see it. I've got --

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah, I see it.

FRANK TREZZA: -- great pictures of it. Here's where the shipways used to be. They were gone, they were torn down, and that was Coastal's section. This is 213:00the, uh, staging we used to climb up when they had her over at Pier J. That's what you had to climb to the top of just to make it to the main deck. Sea Witch was burnt to a crisp. Both captains died, I think sixteen crew members on two ships died. The crew in the aft went in the aft compartment and they took hoses and kept hosing down until the fire department was able to get to them to keep, uh, from roasting to death. We lost guys on every ship. And I've got a slideshow with sixty-two great slides.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Okay, well, let's have a look. I do -- these are fantastic. I love the images of -- where's, where are images of you, actually? Any of you, 214:00like you guys at work, I mean, more than --




FRANK TREZZA: I have some--

DANIELLA ROMANO: -- our focus with the exhibition is really to show what everybody was working on, but also to show everybody at work. How many people were on the Yard, and, and what different kinds of jobs they all did.

FRANK TREZZA: That's interesting. I have part --


FRANK TREZZA: -- and the Historical Society --


FRANK TREZZA: -- has a great part.


FRANK TREZZA: You can see the diversity of everybody.


DANIELLA ROMANO: And it's nice, like a downtime moment is nice, you know?



DANIELLA ROMANO: These are beautiful.

[Interview interrupted]

FRANK TREZZA: And you can see how much --


FRANK TREZZA: -- how it was just to walk around there.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Geez. Oh, with this.

FRANK TREZZA: That was the famous head up there. There was our trailers, two electrical trailers.


FRANK TREZZA: Uh, this one.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Hmm. Unbelievable. We just renegotiated with the ship repair facility that's in the Yard now, operating one, five, and six, and a major part 216:00of the renegotiation was, uh, cleaning up their site.

FRANK TREZZA: Well, OSHA had -- when OSHA first started, OSHA came in --


FRANK TREZZA: -- and looked at Seatrain and said, they told them, "You have three days to clean the Yard up or we're going to close the Yard."


FRANK TREZZA: And for three days they stopped everybody in the Yard, everybody, including supervisors. You stop, you clean the Yard.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Yeah. Oh, they're very -- they've got great management over there, and you guys probably met the OSHA guy today, Eddie, if he came over to the van.

FRANK TREZZA: Oh, he was the OSHA guy?

DANIELLA ROMANO: He's a safety -- he's a safety guy.


DANIELLA ROMANO: That's why he comes and makes sure that everybody has their hardhats on and --

FRANK TREZZA: Oh. I see you still have the boiler for the, uh, Crown Heights still here.


FRANK TREZZA: Yeah, I got a picture of it.


FRANK TREZZA: These are the two ships that are in one of the pictures of 217:00Coastal. I tracked them down, because I had the numbers --

DANIELLA ROMANO: Oh my goodness!

FRANK TREZZA: You see the numbers, but you don't know the name.

DANIELLA ROMANO: I've just seen the Savannah getting scrapped.

FRANK TREZZA: Well, she was in here. I got a great picture of her.


FRANK TREZZA: She had just come into the yard and Coastal was going to work on her. And Coastal --

DANIELLA ROMANO: I just saw her down in Texas.

FRANK TREZZA: And Coastal was, uh, working on that one, too.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Garcia, I don't know.

MILLIE TREZZA: Um, I think that we need to [inaudible].

DANIELLA ROMANO: This is a new -- I'm sorry, I haven't seen it yet.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts did our stuff.

DANIELLA ROMANO: Oh, really? Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp?


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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Frank Trezza

Frank J. Trezza (1952- ) was hired by Seatrain Shipbuilding as a Mechanic Helper at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1973 and eventually worked his way up to the position of First Class Marine Electrician. He worked at the Navy Yard until 1978 when he was injured on the job and told by doctors that he would never work in the shipbuilding profession again. Following rehabilitation from his injuries, Mr. Trezza relocated to Maine where he resumed working as a First Class Marine Electrician at Bath Iron Works, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire, and in South America for a European defense contractor. In 1999, Mr. Trezza earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from the University of Southern Maine, and in 2007, he published the book, Brooklyn: Steel-Blood Tenacity, a memoir of the years he spent working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

In this interview, Frank J. Trezza discuss his experiences as a marine electrician for Seatrain Shipbuilding in the Navy Yard in the 1970s, the injury that lost him the job, and his subsequent career at other shipyards. Through this discussion, he also touches on national and international politics of shipbuilding, his photography of the Yards, and the writing of his book. He also talks about his training at the Food & Maritime Trades Vocational High School. He tells about his family's four-generation history in Brooklyn, including several family members who worked at the Navy Yard. His wife, Millie, was also present for the interview, and she told the story of their courtship and marriage. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

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


Trezza, Frank J., 1952-, Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan, October 09, 2009, Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection, 2010.003.025; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • International Workers Order
  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Seatrain Shipbuilding Corp.
  • Trezza, Frank J., 1952-


  • Dating (Social custom)
  • Family
  • Injuries
  • Labor leaders
  • Labor organizations
  • Labor unions
  • Shipbuilding
  • Shipfitting
  • Ships
  • Shipyards
  • Welding
  • Work environment
  • Workers' rights


  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Sheepshead Bay (New York, N.Y.)


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Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection