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Victory For Deaf Chippers

The following article is excerpted from a January, 1943 issue of  The Marin-er, a newsletter for workers at Marinship.  Chippers prepped and painted steel plates in Marinship’s Plate Shop, often using loud pneumatic tools.  
THEY are deaf mutes—unable to hear a word spoken to them—yet they are doing a BETTER job than many other workers can do.
They are the chipper gang in the Plate Shop, working on all three shifts. With them deafness is a
blessing, an occupational aid which makes them better fitted to help our nation build the ships for Victory!
Several months ago Ray Brown, head man of all riveters and chippers in the yard, thought of using deaf mutes as chippers.  So he spoke to John “Dutch” Philes, chipper leadman in the Plate Shop, and they got hold of Frank Dentici, who is entirely deaf.
As an experiment Dutch put Frank to work in the Plate Shop as a chipper, and the results were favorable.  So, Frank got some of his pals, who are also handicapped by deafness, to join him. They all went to work under Dutch on the day shift.
After all, it was a natural. The toughest thing about chipping is the terrific noise, enough to drive normal chippers into a case of the jitters if they aren’t careful.
Chippers who can’t hear aren’t bothered by the noise. Of course, there’s still plenty of vibration and plain hard work in chipping—but a deaf chipper is still ahead of a chipper who can hear it all.
One big problem was communication. Dutch didn’t know any more about the sign language than any of us do.  So he had to learn how to be a deaf mute while his  buddies were learning how to be chippers. Now, Dutch can speak with his hands with the best of them. It has worked out—not as a handicap—but as a big help. Now, it doesn’t matter how noisy the double bottom Dutch and his men are standing on. They can talk to each other with a literal flick of the wrist!
Almost from the beginning it worked like a charm. More deaf chippers were added, so that they are now on duty in the Plate Shop around the clock.  And maybe you think Dutch isn’t proud of his unusual gang! They are good workers, don’t beef, and have a fine record on production, absenteeism, and War Bonds.
What are these deaf mutes like? Well, they are just like you or me, except they lack the ability to hear or talk as we do. They are a swell, game bunch. Here are some typical ones. Charles Martucci is happily married and mighty proud of his three children. Frank Dentici has two children. Both met their wives while they were attending school for deaf mutes in Berkeley. Nick Kanihan will be remembered as a star fullback for Santa Rosa High School in 1934. Paul Auteri is a basketball player, and others of the gang like football and bowling.
So when you pass the Plate Shop and see some of the boys wiggling their fingers at each other through a curtain of chipper noise, you’ll know that it is some of the 14 deaf mutes who are doing a swell job building ships.
Say hello to them. . . they won’t hear you, but they’ll recognize your smile!
Copies of the Marin-er and other Marinship publications are in the archives of the Sausalito Historical Society.

Standing in front of a stern frame, five deaf chippers spell out VICTORY in sign language.
Marin-er photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society.

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