I went to work at City Home in 1951 as a dietary aide. I went into the army in 1952, and when I returned to my dietary aide job in 1954, the City Home patients had been moved to Coler Hospital. I became a cook in the 1960s.
In those early days the name “DC 37” was seldom used. It was mostly “420.” Some people still get mixed up with the two names.
The days leading up to the election at Coler Hospital as well as the other hospitals were rather tense; some friends became enemies and some enemies became friends. There were also some light moments, especially among those who were optimistic that their side would win. One representative, when asked why he remained so calm, replied, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” It was the first time I heard that statement and I thought it was both humorous and practical.
The greatest amount of tension was between the older and younger employees. The following were some of the comments made:
“What has Teamsters Local 237 done for you? 420 is the union for you.”
“Teamsters Local 237 has been here all along and it will stay here.”
“It’s going to be 420 all the way. Just wait and see.”
On the day of the election there was more excitement than is sometimes seen in city, state, or even nationwide elections. It was held about two blocks from the hospital. Most of us walked but some were driven there by drivers from both sides.
There was a bit of deception. To get a ride, some people claimed that they were going to vote for the same side the driver was on, but when they got there they voted for the other side.
Teamsters Local 237 was victorious in many of the departments [at Coler] because the older and more experienced workers appreciated what the union had done for them. Their motto: “You know what you have, but you don’t know that you’ll be getting into.”
Hercules Cornish went to work for the Housing Authority as a caretaker J in 1952 and retired 24 years later as a stores worker. He died the year following this interview, which was conducted in June 1999.
Originally I was from Harlem, but when I came out of the service in 1945 my wife had moved to the Bronx, so I moved there, too. I went to work for the New York City Housing Authority in 1952.