Taped interview with Ed Kleist (85 years old at time of interview)
Conducted March 18, 2000
At 1710 10th Avenue, Grafton
Worked in the shipping department in Grafton plant
All information was confirmed during a March 17, 2001 phone call with Mr Kleist
Ed Kleist was supposed to go to school when he was asked to work for the shipping department. He started around June 1929. He worked for Harry Diggerman.
Walter Klopp was a little bent, had dark hair and dark eye brows and was about Kleist’s size and built.
Kleist felt that the shipping department was isolated from the rest of the operation and therefore he knew little on Klopp. "You just didn’t know what was going on over there".
Cordell Hackett-Shine and her two sisters worked there, two other maiden sisters also worked in the shipping department.
"I did a little packing. I worked more or less as a run-along. I put the materials together for the girls in order to pack. A lot of records that were ordered were single copies to be shipped. They were put in cardboard boxes, not too heavy, you could not bend it, otherwise you would break the record."
Most of the packages had only one record. The orders came from areas where local artists had come from to record in Grafton.
There were some big orders, but not that many.
Kleist remembered that only one room of the building across the pressing plant was converted to a studio. The rest remained empty.
"After the NYRL was dismantled then we could walk through the place because I stayed and I helped after a while with Penning Corporation. I helped them set up certain machines and soforth and after they got started then I went somewhere else because they didn’t pay any wages."
"At the time I was there we set up for the Penning Corp. plastic parts for the toilets. After it was set up, they didn’t get so many orders, so they didn’t have enough work for anybody else. So I left and went working for the Mechanic Factory around 1933."
"The Penning Corp. took over real quickly. Even before the Penning Corp. took over they (WCC/NYRL) tore down the water tank. They weren’t using it that much any more. In order to avoid damage by ways of storm they tore it down.
When Penning took over the buildings, they also took over the presses. What ever form they had for a die they put into the presses. Your presses were more or less a two deal. It had a cover and your base plate. There you put your die on. Then you had your cool water coming through and that’s how come they used that same press and that was adjustable. You could put in any kind of die. I think a die could not be higher than six or eight inches. That was the opening of those presses. It were hydraulic presses. There were two rows of presses.
When I started working there I worked twelve hours in a day. Just at the rush time. There was only a rush for several months; after that there was nothing anymore.
The first couple of months there was a rush, after that it collapsed. This would be very early 1930.
During Prohibition they made whiskey over there, big vats, until the FBI came in and they shut them down. This was before closing.
Materials from whatever they had and soforth they had to roll that and then after a while they put that more or less in a press, cut it in sheets and then they had long veneer belts and they would cool and then the materials would come in and then they had to mark and cut those things of about 12 or 13 inches and that’s how they put the record on there. They put that in their press and then your dies come in and they pressed them.
My dad made the materials. He was the mixer, mixed the materials. I think he worked there nine years. It was no hard job. It was all powder stuff and when they put the powders together, ingredients and soforth, you mixed it and then you rolled it. It was more or less a two big rolling machines. They were approximately 24 inches in diameter. After a while (…) you could adjust those machines in order to make that certain thickness. They had markers in order to cut the roller into pieces.
For record orders everything for package was there. You had shipping labels and the girls would pack the records, put a label on, in order to get it ready to ship. At one time the post office had so many packages sent out that Bill Weis’ truck was loaded. They took a picture of that.
My sister-in-law worked at the post office at that time. They used US Mail post bags to ship the records. NYRL had crates, that’s the way they stacked them before shipping.
I only worked in one area of the building. There were so may areas. The shipping department was on the upper floor, it was just one room, sized 12 by 20 feet. And from there they had all different areas where they stored all the different records.
You looked at the order number, this-and-this record is wanted. You went to a stack of records and you picked it up and then shipped it.
They manufactured their own electricity, they had waterwheels."
Ed Kleist’s father had a lot of people come up to the house, including Art Laibly and Henry Stephany. "Some of the recorders after a while, Gene Autry, he was up there in order to record and after a while he wanted to start his own recording down South, in Georgia." Ed Kleist’s father told him he saw Gene Autry in Grafton. Some of the artists stayed up in the hotel in Grafton.
There were three boarding houses close to the pressing plant. We lived in one. One was hit by lightning one time, that one was torn down. The other two I don’t know, because we moved down town around 1935, we moved out of that area. When we moved out all three were occupied. We lived in the center one. People moved in and out, I don’t know why they did that. The houses were owned by the company. My family rented the place.
Ed Kleist remembered a rumour about the close of the factory.
"That what I heard at the time and that’s why it fell apart. I think it was a name of Mrs. Moeser from Port Washington. She had a dislike for the blacks. I don’t know if they had any problems with it, but anyway it discontinued more or less and just fell apart.