Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dash and Pep

Frank Kelly, far left, was a Buick worker, participant in the Sit-Down Strike, and manager of the Buick No. 12 basketball team — "A Club With Dash and Pep." His story is well told by his grandchild Kelly D. Wernette in "The Life and Times of Frank Kelly, 1893-1957."
"Just before the Great Depression of 1929, Frank began taking night classes at GMI in Flint. The school was only a short distance from his home. He would eventually become a tool and die maker, a critically important technical job, and his future employment at Buick was assured. His job survived through the depression and prevented him from serving in World War II. His work building the engines of war was considered critical to the defense department. He was soon the foreman at the Grand Blank Tank Plant, in Grand Blank, Michigan. He held this position throughout the war years. Frank did join the Michigan National Guard during those years and he appeared on a list in the Flint Journal called the 'Uncle Sam Roll of Honor in Flint.' Stella would also work on the Ration Board from 1941-1946. Frank's youngest son Don Kelly also served in the occupation forces of Japan in 1946.

"According to family lore, Frank asked to return to his old job after the war. He didn't want to continue as a foreman. He reportedly didn't like the politics of being an administrator. He was willing to do it during the war, but when the war ended he wanted out. In 1937 Frank had been an avid union supporter. Prior to the Great War the battles were being fought between labor and management, so when the workers went on strike in the "Sit-down Strike of 1937," he was an enthusiastic participant. All the workers in Flint literally sat down on the job, refusing to continue until GM agreed to negotiate a labor contract with the union. Rumors ran rampant that Federal Troops might be called into the situation.

"Stella Kelly played her small part in this strike, according to family lore. She used to make up a basket of sandwiches and sneak them into the Plant 12 window under the noises of the security plant guards. After a long standoff, the union won the day and I think Frank never saw himself as a management person from then on. Although he would serve as a foreman during WWII, he returned to his union when the war ended.

"Frank, throughout his life and throughout his years in Flint, 1917-1957, would always be associated with sports. He was one of the "original seven" referees in the Flint area. He coached, played for, and umped for many of the factory teams during his era. He won trophies for bowling, baseball, basketball, and more. Between 1925-1930 he coached a semi-pro basketball team in Flint. It was the team sponsored by O. W. Young, the General Manager of Buick. They played other divisions of GM all around the country. He is of course "pictured" in the official Buick Program from that era with his team."

1 comment:

  1. These guys are NOT wearing baggy pants.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at