Logan StoryCorps: Testifying before the House UnAmerican Activities Commission
KIRSTEN SWANSON: It's time again for Utah StoryCorps, everyday people sharing their stories at the StoryCorps recording booth in Logan.
ALICE MACALLISTER: Hi, my name is Alice McAllister, and I'm being interviewed by my friend Tim.
TIMOTHY KING: Alice, as I recall, we met via social media several years ago; as far as you — what was going on when you were born?
ALICE MACALLISTER: My parents met in Richmond, Virginia in 1948, where they were both working for a meatpacking plant, also as union organizers within the plant. They met and got married two weeks later on their lunch hour.
So we lived in St. Louis; that's where my dad had been raised. And in St. Louis, he could work in the car factories, but he was also a union organizer. In those days, people got fired for doing things like that. And I know that he got fired a lot. He did tell once about working in the car plant. They had those conveyor belts that held the car bodies that were above your head.
TIMOTHY KING: Right.
ALICE MACALLISTER: They had to turn corners sometimes, and the car bodies would get kind of stacked up where they were turning the corner and he'd have to stop the conveyor belt and rearrange things and then start it up again. The floor manager had yelled at him, "Don't stop it again!" So the next time that the car bodies got all stacked up, he didn't stop it. He just waited. And the car bodies then started to fall off the conveyor belt —
TIMOTHY KING: Oh, my gosh.
ALICE MACALLISTER: — onto the floor and stuff like that. And the floor manager came yelling up at him, "You're fired!"
Then we're gonna fast forward a couple of years. In April of 1956 my dad got subpoenaed by HUAC. Do you know what HUAC is?
TIMOTHY KING: Remind me the acronym.
ALICE MACALLISTER: Okay. HUAC stands for House UnAmerican Activities Commission. So he had to appear and give testimony. Now the way that HUAC worked was HUAC went to different cities seeking for you to incriminate yourself, you know, to admit to activities, but maybe more importantly, they're seeking for you to incriminate others. The phrase during the Red Scare became "name names." And we are familiar with the people in the Hollywood testimonies who did name names, who later were seen as pariahs.
In all of the St. Louis testimony — about 20 people — there are one or two who named names. One woman, the first person to testify, said, "Yes, I have been a member of the Communist Party. This is when I stopped becoming a member of the Communist Party." But then when they asked her to name names, she just said, "No, I'm not going to do that."
In my dad's testimony, he pleads the fifth on almost every question. And the six members of the HUAC voted six to zero to cite him for contempt. Remember that this is a congressional committee. So you're being cited for contempt of Congress.
TIMOTHY KING: Sounds serious.
ALICE MACALLISTER: Yeah, it was. And so the US Congress voted 373 to nine to cite my dad and eight others for contempt of Congress. Among the eight others are the playwright Arthur Miller, the musician Pete Seeger and the Princeton economist Otto Nathan. Now those are big people.
TIMOTHY KING: That's fast company for your dad.
ALICE MACALLISTER: Yeah. So there's these big names and these people that nobody ever heard of, and no one cared about.
That questioning of my dad by HUAC in June of 1956 affected the rest of his life. He had been working in the car plants, remember, some kind of a secure job and a skilled position. At this point, he was undoubtedly fired because of the subpoena. And he worked 80 hours a week as a taxi cab driver for several years. He could not get a job in the car plants anymore.
Support for Logan StoryCorps comes from Cache County and from USU Credit Union, a division of Goldenwest.