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Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with George Naumoff
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: George Naumoff was born in 1896 in Drenoveny, Macedonia, and came to the U.S. in 1910. He first worked on railroad extra gangs in the summer and in car shops during the winter, staying fairly close to other Macedonian-Bulgarian immigrants working out of the St. Louis area. In 1919 he came to Minneapolis for a few months, and after the next railroad season he returned, found a job, and two years later got married. Mr. Naumoff worked at the Minneapolis Athletic Club as a houseman through the 1920s, and then tired to start a Bulgarian-style coffeehouse. His timing was poor, however, since the country was on the edge of the Great Depression, and soon he was unemployed with a wife and three children depending on him. As his frustration grew, he joined the Unemployed Council, and eventually the Communist Party. The dream of a coffeehouse did not die, either, and he helped to set up the Bulgarian-Macedonian Workers Club in Minneapolis in the early 1930s. This small gathering place attracted other radical workers. After a couple of years, Mr. Naumoff got a job running the freight elevator at the Minneapolis Athletic Club. He used this position to organize other workers into the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, and got a charter for Local 665 (Miscellaneous Workers) in 1935. The other members elected him president of the local, and he retained this post for almost forty years. Following an operation for a detached retina in 1942, Mr. Naumoff was advised to do no more heavy lifting. Since the Athletic Club wouldn't rehire him with this restriction, he became the assistant business agent for Local 665, as well as its president. During the purge of communists and their sympathizers from the American federation of Labor in the late 1940s, the local's board tried to ease him out of the job, but he survived the attempt, based largely on the board members' personal affections for him. In 1958, a second eye operation forced him into retirement, as his vision was heavily impaired. He remained president of Local 665 until 1974, however. Mr. Naumoff had five daughters. At the time of the interview he lived with one of them in Minneapolis. He died in 1987 of leukemia. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Formation of Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union Local 665, and its first organizing drive. Educational work with the membership of Local 665. Handling of grievances, and labor-management relations. Merger of the Twin Cities locals of HRE into Local 17, 1974. Differences of opinion between Mr. Naumoff and Ray Wright, business agent of 665. Mr. Naumoff's efforts to recruit new leadership for the local before he retired. Descriptions of working conditions on the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railroads, and in the car shops: duties of the workers; grievances and wildcat strikes; ethnic tensions among the workers. Conditions during the Great Depression for unskilled workers. Mr. Naumoff's struggle to get workers' compensation payment from the Athletic Club for an on-the-job injury. Treatment for detachment of the retina, 1940s. Struggles with the management of the Athletic Club during the organizing drive there. Description of the workforce in the hotel and restaurant industry, 1930s and 1940s. Strike against Minneapolis hotels, 1953. Strike against Miller's Cafeteria, 1941 Efforts to organize the Forum Cafeteria of America, 1940-41. Local 665's disagreements with Albert J. Kilday, and the suspension of its charter, about 1937. Opinions of Robert Kelly and Ray Wright. American Slav Congress activities during World War II. Assessment of the importance of the truck drivers' strike, 1934. Importance of nationality federations to labor organizing, 1930s. Mr. Naumoff's opinions on the current (1981) political and international situations, and of the labor movement. Memories of the Socialist Labor Party, and the migration of Bulgarian and Macedonian Americans from it to the Industrial Workers of the World, 1910s and 1920s. Memories of author Stoyan Christowe, another Bulgarian American. Memories of Albert Allen, and his importance to the racial integration of Local 665. African American employment in the hotels and restaurants, 1930s and 1940s. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: Mr. Naumoff is an engaging story teller and his memory was relatively sharp. He spoke with a heavy accent, making the tapes fairly difficult to understand, and the transcription confusing in spots. His daughter Genevieve and granddaughter Susan Huttner provided invaluable assistance in editing the transcript. Although every attempt was made to preserve Mr. Naumoff's idiom, verb tenses have been changed frequently to make his meaning clearer. There was some difficulty with the tape recorder, which resulted in some gaps and glitches in the tape.
3 hours sound cassette
35 pages transcript
Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
02:27:37 running time
Interviewee: Naumoff, George
Interviewer: Ross, Carl
Made in: Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, United States
|Holding Type||Oral History - Interview|
OH 30 (Library Call Number)
AV1990.228.70 (Accession Number)
MHS Library Catalog
Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project'