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Collection Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting


The culture of gender at Watson Machine is almost exclusively male. While women fill some of the firm's professional and support positions, the workshop floor is still a male subculture. One of its most interesting features is the way in which generational identity and ethnicity cut across gender orientations in determining appropriate male worldview and activity. Pin-up photos and girlie magazines are kept at individual work stations, though they are usually concealed within a tool box or behind a pillar. Displayed much more prominently are photographs of workers' children, wives, and families. Lunch breaks reveal other interesting generational differences. For example, many of the older machinists watch the local television news reports and comment upon the almost daily barrage of violent crimes, while middle-aged workers tend to eat with members of their work area or ethnic group. Much of the discussion focuses on recreational activities that are considered to be male-dominated: hunting, fishing, and the like.

Workers working on machine.
Watson workers buying food at lunch wagon outside of Watson machine.

According to Angelo Basileo, a machinist who worked at Watson Machine for forty years, male-only activities were organized in the past. For example, he describes elaborate male retreats, held in the Catskills, where groups of machinists cooked meals, drank, played cards, and pursued outdoor activities, sometimes with mid- and upper-level management attending and footing the bill. These practices ceased, however, during the seventies and eighties, when Watson Machine was losing its competitive edge and a lot of the old-timers either retired or were forced out of the company.


Angelo Basileo: "We used to have a sort of club. We would all chip and go bowling, just to pass the time."

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