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
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
"The way to get ahead in business is to marry
the Company’s daughter. I think I was the only member of our [high
school] class to go into the Loop. It’s not easy to get into:
in 1956 they hired only nineteen men. Maybe it had something to do
with father being in the company." (195-6)
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
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)
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
"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.