The Loops and Its Lifestyle

    At this time of civic and industrial growth, one institution rose to dominate much of Bethlehem's social scene:  Grace’s managerial "Loop".  By the time World War II arrived, much of Schwab’s spontaneous management style was long gone and replaced with a strict set of ideas of how management should live and act.  (84)  An opulent and luxurious life style had developed around the Martin Tower elite who were accepted into "the Loop", as is seen in the $35 million, 21 story main office building, which is shaped as a cruciform so that all the top executives could have offices with windows on two walls!  While the laborers at Bethlehem Steel endured many hardships on the job, they were still better off than many executives in that they were free to do as they pleased when off the job.  Like many large towns of the times, they could enjoy local sports teams, visits to the neighborhood pub,  or involvement with their children’s Scout troop.
    The lives led by those in "the Loop" sharply differed from the lives of those who worked under them.  Even getting into the Loop was a challenge of balancing on and climbing the social ladder.  In an interview in the 60’s, manager John St. Clair commented: However, once in the Loop, employees could look forward to a lush and opulent lifestyle, envied by many in the Bethlehem community.  In 1959, Bethlehem Steel executives held 7 of 10 spots in Business Week’s highest paid executives.  In that year alone, chairman Arthur B. Homer made over $511,000 in salary and bonuses (in today’s dollars, nearly $2 million)!  (29) 

    Yet this level of social and economic standing was not without its price, for the company demanded complete assimilation to its strict lifestyle ideals.  The normal executive schedule included dinner parties Friday and Saturday night, golf on the weekend, and clubhouse poker afterwards.  All this was held within five miles of the workplace, and with the same co-workers.  (46)  Bethlehem doorway At these events, and even in their personal lives, executives in the Loop and their families had to follow certain norms.  These men and their wives were encouraged to volunteer in youth agencies that served the children of the steelworkers; however, agencies that dealt with civil rights, low-income housing, or other "controversial" subjects were strongly frowned upon.  (50)  The company even went as far as to order Ted Martin, a speech writer in the 1950’s, to resign from the board of the local American Red Cross chapter, since it was a deviation from established company-supported groups.  (49)  These expectations pertained especially to the wives of Steel executives—spare time was to be devoted to the Ladies’ Auxiliary of St. Luke’s Hospital, church work, and family duties; the League of Women Voters, the Democratic Party, or a personal career were taboo.  (49)  Standards were even set for the wife’s wardrobe, conversation topics, general appearance, drinking habits, hostess skills, and devotion to her husbands career.  Any deviation was reflected in the husband’s chance at advancing in the Loop.  (47)

    Bethlehem Steel officials were expected to live in certain preferential neighborhoods, which were only a few minutes away from both the company headquarters and the Saucon Valley Country Club.  The road leading to the club was referred to as Vice President’s Row.  (47)  Prospect Avenue was called Bethlehem home "Bonus Hill", and many others lived in nearby Saucon Valley.  (85)  Many of these executives' homes were passed down from one senior officer to another, with the company sometimes as an intermediary—this kept several neighborhoods very exclusive and highly desired for many decades.  (85)  However, even with all the social quirks of "the Loop", it had the effect of attracting a generous mix of white-collar workers to Bethlehem, who gladly supported the Bach choir, patronized local merchants, and attended the cultural and athletic events at Lehigh University and Moravian University.  (19)