Mill Memorabilia - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Mill Memorabilia

Feature photo: Members of United Steelworkers Local 2609 at Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point Plant hold a “tailgate” meeting at Penwood Field across from the plant’s hot rolling mill to discuss how to respond to management’s violations of the union’s contract. (Leonard Shindel)

 

The Developers want my memorabilia.

The Developers.

 

Who shelled out cash to Crunchers,

deploying massive claws,

Dozers and Dynamite,

Obliterating

every last brick and I-beam,

every furnace,

every rolling mill,

every bathhouse,

every locker,

every parking lot.

 

Obliterating the steel mill

where I worked,

just one of millions,

showing up,

all hours of the day and night,

Whipping winters,

Scorching summers,

Showing Up,

Part of Something.

Big and Bad.

 

The Developers want my memorabilia.

 

Do I give them newsletters,

obituaries I wrote

for co-workers killed,

shredded, run over,

Pulverized,

Burned

on the job?

 

Do I give them my old contract books,

grievances we filed and fought for,

marked up, coffee-stained,

finger painted in grease?

 

Do I give them my co-workers’ splendid etchings,

their poems,

images of their flashy roadsters,

their meticulous carvings?

 

Do I give them snapshots,

co-workers playing the fool,

Christmas in the mill,

rallies,

picket lines,

cops slapping handcuffs

on our wrists?

 

Do I give them my hard hat,

pasted with campaign stickers,

my triumphs,

my painful rejections?

 

The Developers want my memorabilia.

 

They say they want to preserve my “narrative” too.

 

They don’t understand.

 

How could they?

 

That would complete the Obliteration.





About the author

Len Shindel

Len Shindel began working at Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point Plant in 1973, where he was a union activist and elected representative in local unions of the United Steelworkers, frequently publishing newsletters about issues confronting his co-workers. His nonfiction and poetry have been published in the “Other Voices” section of the Baltimore Evening Sun, The Pearl, The Mill Hunk Herald, Pig Iron, Labor Notes and other publications. After leaving Sparrows Point in 2002, Shindel, a father of three and grandfather of seven, began working as a communication specialist for an international union based in Washington, D.C. The International Labor Communications Association frequently rewarded his writing. He retired in 2016. Today he and his wife, Maxine, live in Garrett County where he enjoys writing, cross-country skiing, kayaking, hiking, fly-fishing and fighting for a more peaceful, sustainable and safe world for his grandchildren and their generation Contact the author.
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