Keyword
in
Collection
Date
to
Download Folder

0 items

Gazzier, Richard
Gazzier transcript, 1 of 1
File size: 91 KB
Citation
MLA
APA
Chicago/Turabian
UH - Houston History Project. Gazzier, Richard - Gazzier transcript, 1 of 1. June 18, 2008. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. April 16, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/houhistory/item/349/show/348.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

UH - Houston History Project. (June 18, 2008). Gazzier, Richard - Gazzier transcript, 1 of 1. Oral Histories from the Houston History Project. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/houhistory/item/349/show/348

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

UH - Houston History Project, Gazzier, Richard - Gazzier transcript, 1 of 1, June 18, 2008, Oral Histories from the Houston History Project, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed April 16, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/houhistory/item/349/show/348.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

URL
Embed Image
Compound Item Description
Title Gazzier, Richard
Creator (LCNAF)
  • UH - Houston History Project
Interviewer (LCNAF)
  • Phaneuf, Victoria
Date June 18, 2008
Description I was given Mr. Gazzier’s phone number the day before by an acquaintance. When I called, his daughter/secretary said he had time to meet with me, so I should come over. About 10 minutes later we met in his office at his shipyard in Bayou la Batre. Mr. Gazzier was born in 1947 and built his first boat when he was 13. Both his father and grandfather were in the boat building business. He ran his own shrimp boat and opened a shipyard in the mid-1970s to build shrimpboats for him and others. In about 1979 he was approached by a seismograph company doing work in Mobile Bay to repair their vessels. Several years later he designed and built new boats which he leased to the company and significantly increased their production. Around the same time, he also took on projects for boats working overseas. He got out of the new boat building business in the late 1990s and he talks about workforce issues he faced. The seismograph boats were last used in oilfield work in 2000 and he discusses changes in seismograph work, particularly the internationalization. The boats are now used in coastal restoration projects. At the time of the interview, he was semi-retired, and his business was doing a variety of things: operated a seafood processing plant, repair work, coastal restoration, etc.
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Energy development
Subject.Name (LCNAF)
  • Gazzier, Richard, 1947-
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Bayou la Batre, Alabama
Genre (AAT)
  • interviews
Language English
Format (IMT)
  • audio/mp3
  • application/pdf
Original Item Location ID 2006-005, Box 12, HHA 00703
Original Collection Oral Histories - Houston History Project
Original Collection URL http://archon.lib.uh.edu/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=231
Digital Collection Oral Histories from the Houston History Project
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/houhistory
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the "About" page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Gazzier transcript, 1 of 1
Date June 18, 2008
Original Collection Oral Histories – Houston History Project http://archon.lib.uh.edu/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=231
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the "About" page of this website.
File name hhaoh_201207_323e.pdf
Transcript HHA# 00703 Page 1 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 1 Houston History Archives VP104 Richard Gazzier June 18, 2008 Bayou la Batre, AL Type: mp3 Interviewer: Victoria Phaneuf Transcriber: Lauren Penney Ethnographic Preface: I was given Mr. Gazzier’s phone number the day before by an acquaintance. When I called, his daughter/secretary said he had time to meet with me, so I should come over. About 10 minutes later we met in his office at his shipyard in Bayou la Batre. Mr. Gazzier was born in 1947 and built his first boat when he was 13. Both his father and grandfather were in the boat building business. He ran his own shrimp boat and opened a shipyard in the mid 1970s to build shrimpboats for himself and others. In about 1979 he was approached by a seismograph company doing work in Mobile Bay to repair their vessels. Several years later he designed and built new boats which he leased to the company and significantly increased their production. Around the same time, he also took on projects for boats working overseas. He got out of the new boat building business in the late 1990s and he talks about workforce issues he faced. The seismograph boats were last used in oilfield work in 2000 and he discusses changes in seismograph work, particularly the internationalization. The boats are now used in coastal restoration projects. At the time of the interview, he was semi-retired, and his business was doing a variety of things: operated a seafood processing plant, repair work, coastal restoration, etc. TRANSCRIPTION Interviewer Initials: [VP] Interviewee Initials: [RG] RG: -my grandfather was a boat builder. Ready? VP: Mmhm. RG: Alright, my name’s Rich Gazzier from Bayou la Batre, Alabama. I was born in 1947. I’ve been in this business my entire life. My grandfather, my father was in the business, my children are in the business with me. I built my first boat when I was 13 years old, was built myself. It was powered by a 15-horsepower Allis Chalmers engine, ran on [Inaudible]. I diversified into HHA# 00703 Page 2 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 2 Houston History Archives shrimpin’. Captained my own shrimp boat. Opened a shipyard in I wanna say…1975 or ’76 to build shrimp boats for myself. We built boats for myself and other people. Then we diversified from that into the oil industry doin’ seismograph work. We were called doodlebuggers. We did transition work. We picked up the lines comin’ in from offshore in 30 foot of water, brought ‘em into four foot which is a specialized project. I designed and built boats for that particular purpose. We increased production on seismographing from approximately four or five miles a day to as much as 50 miles per day, which cut the cost. And we also have a seafood company. We process and pack our own shrimp off of our shrimp boat. Went from catchin’ domestic browns, pinks, and whites to producin’ Royal Red. We still do boat repair, some building. The industry took a 180 degree turn from the time I first started. The boats are more complicated, more sophisticated. [Pause] And there’s a lotta different factors in the business. Price of the product that we produce, the price it costs to produce it because imported oil which is controlled by other foreign governments. Most of the oil producin’ countries were started by US corporations and those US corporations’ facilities and aircraft were taken over by foreign governments, nationalized, socialized. [Inaudible] [End audio file A, start audio file B] VP: So how did you decide to get into the business after you built that first boat for yourself? RG: Well always wanted to be in the boat buildin’ business. I’ve always been associated with it. Like I said, I built my first boat when I was 13. I enjoy the business, I like buildin’ boats, I like to build a premium quality product. [Pause] It’s just somethin’ I wanted to do. VP: Now did you work with your father when you were growin’ up? RG: I worked with my father and my grandfather, yeah. VP: So then when you first started building boats for yourself in the shrimp business, how many were you building? Was it one a year, one every couple years when you needed- RG: We were buildin’, I started out like I said buildin’ for myself. ‘Bout four boats a year is all I wanted to build and we would build as many as 20. VP: When did you make the transition from the shrimping into the oil boat, seismograph? RG: Probably around ’79. They were doin’ seismograph work in Mobile Bay. The seismograph company had old boats and they had a lotta breakdowns, needed repairs, they couldn’t find anybody to do repairs on a timely basis. They came to me, wanted to know if we could fix their problems. And I agreed. We got a call one mornin’, matter of fact if I’m not mistaken it was New Year’s morning at four o’clock in the mornin’, that the crew was shut down, they had to have some work accomplished. I brought my son with me, at the time he was only probably 10 or 12 years old, to go down and help me do what needed to be done on the boat to get the thing goin’ so the whole crew would go out to work, had approximately 150 people on the crew that needed to go to work. The job took about three hours and the company was owned by Texas Instrument, HHA# 00703 Page 3 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 3 Houston History Archives seems like they were impressed and they gave me all their work. They were havin’ problems with equipment to do the job they needed to do and I told the people I could build a boat to do what they wanted. And probably around ’81 we built the first boat, I designed it myself and built it, and we went out, like I said before, I increased production from four or five miles a day to as much as 50 miles a day. [Pause] VP: So was that the first not shrimp boat that you designed? RG: Right. VP: Was it very different? RG: Totally different. We built shallow draft, had to draw less than four foot of water, be maneuverable and tough. [Pause] VP: And how did you learn how to design those? [Pause] RG: I didn’t have a formal education, just trial and error I would say. Knowledge of the industry, knowin’ what-, well my grandfather and my father taught me. There’s a law in physics, for every action, there’s a reaction. And if you understand that, then you can operate. You know what to do. And it’s not complicated. Most things in life have simple explanations and answers. A lotta people look to make it complicated. I have a philosophy. You know, I don’t cause and create problems, I give solutions and answers. VP: So when you first started building for this company, did you expand into building for other offshore oil companies or did you primarily stay with this one? RG: I built the boats for myself and LEASED the boats to the company. VP: Okay. And did you provide the crew for, was that all their respons- RG: No, fully [Inaudible] vessels. Supply a crew, insurance. [Pause] VP: So at that point were you still shrimping and running your- RG: No, at that time I had quit shrimping, I was no longer on the boat, I would stay at home or stay on the beach managing the shipyard, shrimp boat, and the seismograph boats. I probably got off the shrimp boats in ’75. VP: And how long did you keep the seismograph boats? RG: Still have ‘em. The last work we did was probably around 2000. It was shut down by environmental group. The moratorium on drilling oil wells, shut down the seismograph work, doodlebug work. It put almost all of the US owned companies outta the market, in the United States. During that period of time we moved to Venezuela, did work in Venezuela in Lake HHA# 00703 Page 4 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 4 Houston History Archives Maracaibo, for the Venezuelan government or Venezuelan oil company which is owned by the government. The only companies in the States now that are doin’ seismograph work are foreign-owned companies, mostly the Chinese. Now they’re just shootin’ one end of the Gulf of Mexico to the other. VP: So are your boats still working down in Venezuela? RG: No I have ‘em here. Yeah, when that work played out, we decided to do coastal restoration. We do environmental work, build oyster reefs, fishin’ reef. [Showing VP something] oyster bed on the boats. VP: Now is this one of the seismograph boats? RG: Yeah, one of the seismograph boats. We converted to where we can do coastal restoration with it. We’re gonna do a job here starting Monday and on [Inaudible] Reef, the same thing. As you know after Hurricane Katrina the oyster reefs were pretty well destroyed. This last year the oyster drills basically wiped out the entire reef in Mobile Bay and the Mississippi Sound. And we’ve been contracted by the State of Alabama to help rebuild the reef utilizin’ the oyster catchers. So we’re gonna transport oyster shells and limestone from our boats and barges, to smaller boats so the oyster catchers can go put the seed material on the reef, which gives the oyster catchers an income. And for every dollar that you put in that oyster reef, you can see a 10 dollar return in two years. Not only that, it feeds people, families that basically otherwise would be on welfare and some type of government assistance. They’ll make as much 200 dollars a day. Per person. That’s a real boost to the economy in this area. VP: Mmhm. Now how many boats do you have? RG: I have two, two boats, three barges. And a small tug that we use. VP: Now do you foresee them ever going back to seismograph work? RG: No. No. When the seismograph picks up again the boats will be too old, be obsolete. We’ll have to build new ones. VP: Do you see yourself getting back into it or staying with the coastal restoration work? RG: Yeah, we’ll do that too, yeah, if there’s a need for the boats, we’ll build ‘em and put ‘em back in the field again. VP: Now you mentioned at one point that you also did some repairing? RG: Mmhm. VP: When did you start getting into doing repair work? HHA# 00703 Page 5 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 5 Houston History Archives RG: We’ve always done that. That was part of our business. VP: Now are there pros and cons to doing repair work versus new building? RG: Mmhm. And? VP: What are they? [Both chuckle] RG: Repair work is probably more dangerous. It’s dirtier work. Uh…the jobs don’t tend to be as big to do a lot more of that dollar-wise compared to dollar-wise on a new boat. A repair job is thirty, forty thousand, 50,000, buildin’ a new boat today would be a million, million two. It takes a different type of employee to do repair work. They have to have more knowledge than just building a new boat. [Pause] There’s a lot more environmental issues. [Pause] You have to be aware of asbestos, lead in the paint, uh…oil spillage. Oh, pollution in general I should say. VP: And with new builds you know what the materials are so it’s easier to- RG: Correct. VP: Now how many people do you have working at the yard right now? RG: Probably 10. VP: Is that higher, lower than it has been in the past? RG: It’ll vary, it fluctuate. We’ve had as many as 200 here. VP: Wow. RG: And I should say this too, I pretty well retired 15 years ago. Only work 12 hours a day now. So semi-retired. I pick and choose the jobs we wanna do, so. [Pause] Hm? VP: It’s nice to be able to pick and choose. RG: [Chuckles] It’s not quite like that, but it’s the way I classify it. VP: Now how many, do you have contracts right now into the future? Or is it- RG: No [Slight sigh] we don’t. Pretty much got outta the new boat building business. We do the coastal restoration and repairs. We do consulting work. It’s a variety of things that we do here. VP: And when did you get out of the new build? RG: Uh, during this last building spurt back in the late ‘90s. HHA# 00703 Page 6 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 6 Houston History Archives VP: And why did you choose to get out of that? [Extended pause] RG: Mostly because I didn’t wanna put up with [Slight pause] well, the aggravation that went with it. The workforce today is not near as knowledgeable as they used to be. Drugs are the controlling factor. I can’t tolerate that. The more employees you have, the more lawsuits are filed against you which are frivolous. The insurance company wanna settle ‘em, they don’t wanna fight ‘em. I’ve actually had people leave here on a Friday afternoon, go to the emergency room like two-thirty the following Monday mornin’ and file a workman’s comp case against me. Then when they were tested at the hospital, they were drunk, been in a fight, and or drugged up and been in a fight. [Pause] VP: So it’s much harder to find skilled, reliable workers now- RG: It is extremely hard. A lotta these guys here in town are havin’ multi boat contracts, I don’t know how they’re gonna fulfill ‘em on time and make any money on the job. I was at a friend of mine’s place of business several months ago, had a random drug test, tested 12 people, nine failed. [Pause] VP: Wow. RG: Yeah. I mean, same with shrimp boat, it’s why I quit the shrimp boat, I had to stop because of the price of fuel and that type of problem. And in this year alone we’ve probably lost…40,000 dollars in thefts. People stealin’ copper wire, weldin’ leads. My neighbor next door over here closed the yard down and the thieves came in and did about 750,000 dollars in damages, stealin’ copper wire in the buildings and underground copper wire the conduit, electric motors, weldin’ machine. And you can go to every yard down here and they’ll tell you the same thing about the thieves. VP: Now did they, your neighbor you said? RG: Mmhm. VP: So there used to be another shipyard next door? RG: Mmhm. VP: Who was that? RG: Ocean Marine. Yeah, they’re closed. VP: Now when did they close? RG: Probably…’05, ’06. VP: Do you know why? HHA# 00703 Page 7 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 7 Houston History Archives RG: Ah, the shrimp boat market dropped, couldn’t sell boats. Overseas market for boats dried up. There was a tremendous amount of shrimp boats being repo’d along the Gulf Coast and it flooded the market with these cheap, used boats. VP: Now have you ever done any work for foreign customers-? RG: Sure! VP: Or boat building? RG: Yeah. VP: How did you get into that? RG: They found me, I didn’t go look for them. VP: And where were they from? RG: Africa, Honduras, uh…Croatia, Mexico, they even had a big protest here against me for buildin’ a boat for the Ku Klux Klan. I’m buildin’ slave ships for Africa. VP: What kind of ships? RG: Slave ships, for Africa. VP: Okay. RG: Do you have a question? VP: I didn’t know there were still slave ships. RG: [Chuckling] They’re not. VP: [Chuckling] Okay. I was, “What?” RG: [Inaudible] slave ships for Africa and buildin’ boats for the Ku Klux Klan. [VP laughs] I did a project in Mexico um…I don’t remember the year, ’82, ’83 somewhere along in there. They wanna upgrade their fishin’ fleet. I bid on the project and I was awarded the contract. And in Aztec religion or mythology one of their gods was Kukulcan, a feathered serpent. And they named their boats Kukulcan one through 16. Some of the people saw that and thought it was the Ku Klux Klan. [Both chuckle] Which I thought was quite amusin’ and I just went along with it, which was great. We did some boats for Africa and some of the media found out where the boats were goin’, to Nigeria, and they found out that the deckhands only make 700 dollars a year. [Pause] Now they thought that was deplorable, that we’re buildin’ slave ship. Well at the time the HHA# 00703 Page 8 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 8 Houston History Archives medium income in Nigeria was like 150 dollars a year or it may have been 50 dollars, it was a small amount of money. These guys, when they got a job on the job, they were owned by Africans, African companies, they produced a stable food for that country, fish, which is a byproduct, they sold the shrimp back to the United States. And these guys were averagin’ around 700, 750 dollars a month income, which put them in the top of the class with the income. [Pause] After I was accused of doin’ that, I explained it to the nice little reporter how things worked and they had no idea, they just thought we were buildin’ slave ships and, well, exploiting poor people. And all we did was fix the boats to go to Africa to do what they wanted. It boost income of that country and the people in their area. VP: [Inaudible]. [Pause] Now when were these first foreign contracts? Do you remember? RG: Oh, probably around ’80. VP: What do you say the biggest changes have been in the industry since you first got involved with it? RG: A lot of interference from the government, people not knowing what’s going on [Inaudible]. Tree huggers. And drugs. And there’s a difference now between environmentalists and the conservationist. I’m a conservationist. And I expect my sons and my daughters, and I have grandchildren, I expect them to have clean drinking water. Not to be poisoned by lead paint. And I certainly don’t want to poison anybody else’s children much less mine or any other family. Now there’s a big misconception that that’s all we’re after, like with the oil companies. It’s been preached that the oil companies are bad, they’re filthy, they pollute. Which could be, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. In order for us to do the seismograph work we had to go through hours and hours of indoctrination in keepin’ the environment clean, how to dispose different products, burn oil, oily rag, how to maintain the boat, uh, you know Mobile Bay is probably one of the most polluted bays on the Gulf Coast. When the oil companies moved in, it cleaned up. They talk about the oil rigs bein’ detrimental to the ecology and to the environment, and the same people in Florida that I see all the time, “Down the oil rigs,” and talk about ‘em, will drive to Gulf Shores and also to Dauphin Island to get on a [Inaudible] boat and go straight to the oil rig to catch Red Snapper and Grouper. [Pause] Now there are accidents and things do happen. [Pause] People talk about Exxon Valdez, how horrific that was. It was a terrible oil spill and it was. One year after the oil spill I was in Valdez, Alaska, on business. We converted an oil rescue and standby boat to be a salmon tender, and the boat was in Valdez. My son was workin’ on the boat as chief engineer, ‘cause he helped modify the boat and he knew all the ins and outs. And ‘course when we had a chance to go out on the sound and participate in the salmon production, see what all went on. And there were thousands of sea otters, birds, different animals in the harbor at the site where the oil spill occurred. We were at the local hotel that oversaw the harbor, just sittin’ around talkin’, and one of the environmentalists up there was talkin’ about, “You’re a commercial fisherman, you got a shipyard, you know, I’m sure you’re dead against the production of oil and the pipelines.” And I said, “No, not really. I participate in that type of business.” And, “Well you think the Exxon Valdez oil spill’s a good thing?” I told him, “I’m not gonna say it’s a good thing, but oil is part of the natural environment, it will go back where it came from.” [Pause] And they was talkin’ about all the millions of animals that were killed, my HHA# 00703 Page 9 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 9 Houston History Archives comment was, “Well I understand that, that’s tragic. But look at the new animals that took their place.” [Pause] Now it was a, there was a lotta destruction, but it wasn’t permanent, they try to tell you it is permanent, but it’s not. [Pause] The oil spill’s along the gulf coast, the east and west coast caused by super tankers, can you name any other ones besides Exxon Valdez? They are few and far between aren’t they. VP: [Inaudible] RG: Exxon paid a helluva price for that, they paid in the billions. And they should’ve, I mean the accident needed to be cleaned up. VP: Now when you were running your seismograph boats did you work mainly for one company or did you contract with a number of different- RG: We worked for all the major companies. And some of the smaller ones. We worked for everybody from [Pause] Exxon, Mobil, Texaco, Getty, Murphy, and some of the small ones, I can’t remember their names. VP: Now what kind of schedules did the boats work? Was it, or did the crews work I guess? RG: It would depend on the job [Slight sigh] and what the agreement with the state was. Sometimes they worked 12 hours a day, daylight hours, sometimes it was 24 hours a day, seven days a week. VP: [Inaudible] So about how long was it that they were in, and you said you built them around seventy-, er, ’82 is that right? Or was that? RG: It was either ’80, ’82, I don’t remember the year for sure, but it was somewhere along there, yeah. VP: And was the work pretty steady [Inaudible] for you, went down to Venezuela, then? RG: It was steady until there was another environmental issues. Every time we were ever shut down because of the environmentalists. One particular time we were in Pensacola, uh, the particular boat drew roughly 40 inches of water. We were workin’ in 12 foot and we were accused of destroying a grass bed. And we were under a 35 million dollar bond. The inspector called the bond due, wanted to have me arrested, my boats arrested, the crews arrested for destroying a grass bed. The grass bed, that did not exist, the bottom, the surface of the mud was approximately…eight feet below the bottom of my boat. No way it would touch it, no way the wheel wash touched the bottom. After gettin’ attorneys involved and Florida Fish and Wildlife [Sighing] and we showed the proper authorities the grass that they said that we destroyed, it was determined that it was Saint Augustine grass where somebody cut their yard and threw the grass overboard and came floating by the boat. It was nine days that nobody worked. When I saw the grass, I told everybody on site, “That’s Saint Augustine grass, that’s not little seaweed.” And that’s the kinda stuff we go through. [Pause] HHA# 00703 Page 10 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 10 Houston History Archives VP: Were you having trouble finding crews for your boats? RG: At that particular time, no. We, there were a lotta qualified people [Pause] that wanted to work. I got along better with the older people. [Pause] They have a better work ethic. My captains were, at that time, were probably in their 50s. The deckhands were younger of course. They weren’t as important as the captain over operation of the vessel. VP: [Indicating a picture of a vessel] Is this what it was like when it was a seismograph vessel or is this- RG: No, it’s been, it’s changed, yeah. VP: What did it look like before? RG: [Sighs] Oh. [Pause, referencing the picture] First off where you see the oyster shells here now, it had air compressors down the middle of the boat. On each side were trays with air guns. Had a canopy over the front deck. Had winches to pull the air guns back and put ‘em overboard and a winch to put it back onboard to do repair or to shut down for the night. VP: What modifications did you make to this design to make it so much more efficient? RG: Bigger boat, wider boat, and a shallow draft. I used what we call an inverted tunnel in the bottom of the boat to get the propellers up above the bottom. Propellers are actually above the waterline. [Pause] VP: If they’re above the water, how does that work? RG: Hm? VP: If they’re above the water, how does that work? RG: They’re actually above the water. VP: And it still works? RG: Sure. They’re above the top side line where the water is, but yet the cavities fill with water. They steadily drawing fresh, more water in and it’s spillin’ it out the stern. Very much similar to jet drive. VP: So since it’s such a bigger boat, you can just cover the area fast- RG: No, it makes a shallow draft. [Someone interrupts] HHA# 00703 Page 11 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 11 Houston History Archives [End audio file B, start audio file C] VP: So the shallow draft lets you get into more places and then the bigger lets you do it faster? RG: Yeah, carry more equipment and not draw as much water. [Pause] VP: What would you say the biggest challenges have been in running a shipyard over the span of time you’ve been in the industry? [Pause] RG: Finding someway to get the drugs outta the industry. VP: And when did that become a problem? RG: Started in ’70. You know, I see it and I hear it all the time on TV. [Phone rings] Where people always complain about the work, they don’t wanna work, act like they [Slight pause] we had a teacher at Alba School, [Inaudible, name or says what this person taught]. And I’ve heard him say more than once, “Take this job and shove it. Two more years, I’m gonna retire.” Now, if you don’t like your job, don’t do it. And education’s somethin’ everybody needs, an education. I wanted my children to go to college, they’d be [Inaudible], “Look how well you did and you didn’t go to college.” My answer was, “Think how much better I could’ve done if I DID go to college.” Now I have grandchildren and since I’m larger and heavier than they are, if they don’t go to college, I’m probably gonna strangle ‘em. VP: Did you talk your children into goin’? RG: My oldest son, Joe, went for one semester. Cathy went for several years. My younger son didn’t and my youngest daughter didn’t. She had a good job workin’ in a dentist office. And I wanted her to go be a dentist. “It takes 10 years.” “Ten years from now I’m gonna remind you of this.” Ten years later we were sittin’ at the table one afternoon I said, have a nickname for her, call her Satchmo. I, “Satchmo, you know, you’da went to college like I told you, today you’d be a dentist.” “I knew you were gonna say that.” [Chuckles] People want things too quick. I’ve had many a person tell me how lucky I was and how easy it was. And I remind ‘em, I started out on the deck of a shrimp boat as a fish boy. My first summer that I worked, I made 25 dollars. [Pause] It takes years to accumulate things. VP: Now were you always located at this spot here? RG: Uh, yeah. VP: And why’d you choose this place in particular? RG: [Chuckles] It was one of the last pieces of commercial property available on the bayou. VP: Good reason. HHA# 00703 Page 12 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 12 Houston History Archives RG: Mmhm. VP: Now a lot of the shipyards that started around the same time that you did went out of business since then. How is it that, what made you different? RG: I figured out a long time ago that if you’re out there for prestige, to show people you are mister so-and-so, you’re not gonna make it. You have to look at the overall picture, long-term. I coulda borrowed millions of dollars and get things a lot different, most likely I’d be broke. When I opened this business, a lotta people said I wouldn’t last six months because I didn’t have any financial backing, just me. And, yeah, they were bein’ arrogant and somewhat ignorant. My comment to them was, “If you closed the City of Bayou la Batre, and you locked the gate the bridge, I will be the one that will close the lock.” [Pause] I don’t live a high lifestyle. You know, I enjoy family and friends. One of my big beliefs in life, a man that takes care of his family feeds his children. And you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to do it, you can do it diggin’ ditches, drivin’ nails, cuttin’ timber. They’re all honorable professions. [Pause] One of the few professions I have no use for are drug dealers. That is not honorable. And it seems like that appeals to a lot of the youth. Quick and easy money. [Pause] VP: So the 10 people you have working on the yard now, are they mostly older? RG: No, they’re all younger than me, which is not hard to be these days, so. [Both chuckle] They’re in their early 30s to late 30s. It’s a small crew and I know people individually, they’re good people. You know, I can depend on them to get work on time, not be drunk or doped up. [Pause] VP: Have they all been with you a long time? Is there a lot of turnover? RG: Uh…one guys been with me for probably for 15 to 20 years. ‘Nother one, probably the same length of time. Other ones three or four years, five years. VP: So not so much turnover. RG: No. No. I treat my people good. We work a half a day Saturday, most of the time I take ‘em to lunch before we leave. [Pause] VP: So what sort of hours do you work during the week? RG: Me? VP: Or, the workers? RG: Most of the time it’s 40 hours a week. And certain jobs we’ll put in as much as 100 hours a week. Last year we did a job roughly 20 days. Their paycheck was seventy-five hundred dollars. It worked, I’m serious, they put in a lotta hours, and they were dedicated, you know. I like to call HHA# 00703 Page 13 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 13 Houston History Archives myself the B team, [Inaudible] be ready when you leave and be ready when you get back, and I’ll be the support. Would work ‘til late, most of the time I’d get back and get in bed 11, 12 o’clock at night, I get up at two, two-thirty, go get things organized for the next mornin’, wake them up, they’d be at work at like five. And we’d go ‘til eight, nine o’clock at night and then go home. I’d wrap things up and again the next mornin’ I’d get up and get things organized for ‘em, we were workin’ offshore. VP: And that was with the seismograph boat? RG: No, that was with coastal restoration. VP: Now are you still doing, is part of the shipyard still active or are you mostly doing- RG: Oh still active, yeah. Yeah. We’re rebuildin’ a sailboat now that’s probably 60 years old. Everybody else turned it down, we took the job. All the work is custom, hand-made. [Pause] And when we’re finished you won’t be able to tell the difference where the old and the new start. VP: So of your 10 employees, how many of them work here at the shipyard and how many work with the boat [Inaudible]? RG: I use ‘em both places. VP: Both? Okay. RG: Yeah. [Pause] VP: And what kind of, are there any crafts that you contract out [Inaudible] other companies or do you do it all in-house? RG: Um, the electrical work we’ll contract out. [Pause] Cement work we’ll contract out. Some of the carpentry work we’ll contract it out. Depending on the volume of it, how much it is, and how quick we have to do the job. [Pause] VP: And then have you always done that or did you do those in-house- RG: We’ve always done that. VP: For your suppliers for your materials, are they local, national, international? RG: Some of all of it. VP: Are there benefits or disadvantages to dealing locally or internationally? RG: Some of the stuff you have to get international. Some of the large engines used to be where we could get ‘em [Inaudible] a foreign country or a foreign company. Lotta the companies have HHA# 00703 Page 14 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 14 Houston History Archives merged. We’ve used the Detroit NTU engine for Detroit NT outta Germany on [Inaudible] to build new engines. High horsepower, low emission. Since those two companies merged, and there’s other companies locally, I say locally, US-owned [Inaudible] Cat, have developed some of the same technology with high horsepower, low emission. A lot of your paint components are manufactured overseas, [Inaudible]. Lotta the steel’s foreign steel, [Inaudible] manufacture cheaper and ship them. VP: Have you seen a change over time in how easy it is to get those supplies you need- RG: It’ll vary. Depends on what’s goin’ on. [Pause] VP: So in terms of the ups and downs in the industry, how do you know they’re coming? How do you prepare for them? RG: We have thousands of indicators- [Man interrupts] [End audio file C, start audio file D] RG: My great-grandfather came over here in the mid 1800s. They sailed in Mobile Bay and I haven’t really got the story straight on what kinda ship it was, but anyway on the way out of leavin’ Mobile Bay, goin’ back to sea, he decided he didn’t wanna go back to Spain. So he dove overboard and swam ashore and landed at Fort Morgan. His name was Emmanuel Garcia. He settled in Bon Secour. He decided he wanted to be a US citizen and back then to be a US citizen you gotta be sponsored by someone. He was goin’ to the Episcopal church and the bishop of the Episcopal church were friends with him, and told him, said, “Emmanuel, you should go to Mobile and you register as a US citizen under your name, as Emmanuel Garcia and you know there’s a bounty on you, and they’re gonna come get you and take you back to Spain or hang you.” He said, “Garcias are a dime a dozen. We’re gonna change your name to where they won’t know who you are.” So they changed his name from Garcia to Gazzier. [Pause] He had a brother in Havana, Cuba. And he’d sail over to Havana and see ‘im occasionally. And that was durin’ Prohibition. It seems the family wealth grew a little bit during that time. [Both chuckle] Anyway, that’s what my grandmother accused my [Laughing] grandfather’s side of the family of. You know, you never know. [Chuckles] And he was a boat builder, and a commercial fisherman. VP: Now how did you family move to Bayou la Batre? RG: Oh…my grandfather, that was my great-grandfather speakin’ of a minute ago. My grandfather met my grandmother at Dauphin Island, that’s where my grandmother was from. And they married and moved to Bon Secour. In the early 1900s, they left Bon Secour and moved to Bayou la Batre, and I don’t know the reason why other than probably financial. Better fishing over here, boat building’s different, probably that was the reason, we never inquired. Always accused ‘im of bein’ run outta town because of the smugglers and horse thieves. They didn’t like that. [Both chuckle] HHA# 00703 Page 15 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 15 Houston History Archives VP: Now what kinda boats would your father and your grandfather build? RG: They built wooden boats. Yeah. Started out buildin’ schooners, sailin’ vessels. [Pause] Soon as the internal combustion engine came along, well the schooners and luggers were converted over to gas engines and ‘course that’s when they started buildin’ those type boats, too. I doubt if my father ever built a schooner or a sailing vessel, but he built a lotta wooden boats. Some of ‘em are still around today. There’s a boat here in town called the Sharon Darlene. It is older than my oldest son. I’ve got some pictures of it bein’ constructed at the ol’ Grazzier Shipyard up the bayou. And there’s some boats here, I’m not sure where they are now, that were built the year that I was born. [Pause] VP: And they’re still workin’? RG: Still workin’. [Pause] VP: Now when did the shipyard move from up the bayou-, where was it up the bayou? RG: It was at the end of Mars Avenue, east of Mars. [Inaudible] at Bubba Bridge. That’s all residential. When I returned from the military in ’68, the place was closed and it was residential, you couldn’t build anything there anymore. And I started, like I said, I started commercial fishin’ as a way to get started and make a few dollars. I got out in ‘68 and I bought my first steel hull in 1970. Between ’68 and ’70 I saved 15,000 dollars. [Pause] VP: And that was the first boat was? RG: Uh uh. First steel boat 72,000. I made that money off crew share. The 15,000 I saved, I made more than that. Lotta people in town were askin’ me to go into partners with ‘em. [Pause] VP: Now that a lot of the shrimp boats are bein’ tied up and repossessed, is there a demand for converting them into other kinds of boats? RG: Yes it is, we do that all the time. VP: And- RG: We’ve been successful sellin’ boats overseas. [Coughs] ‘Scuse me. [Pause] VP: What kind of boats do you convert them into? RG: Long liners, scallopers, tugs, some of ‘em been converted to go into the Blue Fin Tuna industry as [Inaudible] to catch food for the Blue Fin Tuna that they keep in a cage and feed. Some of ‘em been converted to tow the tuna cages. Some of ‘em have been converted for lobster boats. I have a boat now that’s ideal for scallopin’, which I’ll probably move it on the East Coast to somewhere they have a scallop permit. You know I was asked one time before what could the HHA# 00703 Page 16 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 16 Houston History Archives government do to help the commercial fishing industry. This was back in the ‘70s. My comment to [Inaudible] was get outta the financing business. Wasn’t [Inaudible] had a program for commercial fishermen to buy boats, they would help ‘em. Out of all the boats that were built in the late ‘70s, there were probably less than a dozen commercial fishermen bought boats in that program. The rest of ‘em were purchased by bankers, lawyers, doctors, [Inaudible]. Investment [Inaudible]. The same thing happened this last time. There were several thousand boats built that were built for unqualified people. VP: Now when did the national [Inaudible] program- RG: In the ‘70s and early ‘80s. VP: Was it for 10, 15 years? RG: ‘Bout that, yeah. VP: And then did you say they’d run it again a second time? RG: The (FTA???) took over. They made loans to people that weren’t qualified to operate and own shrimp boat. And it appeared to me there was a lotta fraud in the industry. TREMENDOUS amount of fraud. [Pause] VP: How so? RG: Inflated prices. Fillin’ out false financial statements and tax returns. Somebody had an adjusted gross income of 703 dollars could borrow 850,000 dollars from the (FTA???). There’s an investigation goin’ on now with the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, they’re investigating that operation. One address in Biloxi has over 140 boats financed there. [Pause] It absolutely destroyed the Gulf of Mexico. That goes back, like I said while ago, I’m a conservationist not a’ environmentalist. The Gulf of Mexico is a pie. Only so many people can eat off that pie. If you have 500 people in the Gulf with boats, shrimpin’, it creates a great income for the 500 people. But if you put another twenty-five hundred it destroys everyone includin’ themselves, the extra twenty-five hundred. What happens, the vessel landings decline by 80 percent. The shoreside landings stay the same. You understand what I mean by that? VP: No. RG: If you have 500 boats fishin’ the Gulf of Mexico, every month they produce-, this is gonna be in general, they produce uh, 100,000 pounds of shrimp apiece. ‘Kay. When you put twenty-five hundred more boats, the production goes down you know, to one-tenth of that. But you have more boats in the industry, so that means they’re bringin’ the amount of shrimp to the dock every month. [Pause] VP: Okay. HHA# 00703 Page 17 of 17 Interviewee: Gazzier, Richard Interview Date: June 18, 2008 University of Houston 17 Houston History Archives RG: It forces the price of fuel up. And actually pushes the price of shrimp down, which is what happened to us. If the government would just stay outta the business, it’d take care of itself. Leave the local banks to finance the people that know what they’re doin’ [Inaudible]. [Extended pause] VP: [Inaudible] is there anything- RG: [Inaudible]? VP: I think that’s all my questions. Is there anything else you think I should know? RG: I can think of a lotta things, but I don’t know if it’s important or not, I just [Trails off] would you like to go down to see the boats? VP: [Inaudible]. RG: Sure, yeah. [END OF RECORDING]