Interview: Joseph Attianese, Winchester Barrel Maker

Joseph Attianese was an employee at the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. factory in New Haven, Connecticut, from 1934 to 1977. Now 91 years old, he spoke with us shortly after the plant's March closing was announced.

F&S: How did you start out?

JA: I was just out of school, and I started in the flashlight department at 27 1/2 cents an hour. Then I worked in the barrel shop until I saw an opening upstairs in the custom shop--I worked there for 25, 30 years.

F&S: What did you do in the custom shop?

JA: I refinished the barrels-- I'd rub the insides with a rod with emery cloth on it to make a fine finish. I worked from seven until three, with 15 minutes for lunch.

F&S: Any favorite models?

JA: The 21 shotgun--I liked that. I gave guns to my three daughters--Model 94s.

F&S: Were you busier than usual during World War II?

JA: That's the reason why I didn't go into the service, because I had to set the machines to make the rifles. But we were always busy-- we had celebrities come up there to be measured.

F&S: Like who?

JA: Roy Rogers, Ted Williams, the astronaut [Walter] Cunningham. Ted Williams came because he started working for Sears and Roebuck [as a spokesman; Winchester manufactured many Sears-branded guns]. He took a picture with me.

F&S: How do you feel about the plant closing?

JA: I feel kinda bad, you know. I'd been there so many years. I still go by it every day. Sometimes I would go there with my children and say, "I used to work up there."

FACTORY FACTS

1866 Year the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. began manufacturing firearms in New Haven

4.5 billion Loaded rounds of .30- and .50-caliber rifle and machine gun ammunition produced by the New Haven plant during WWI

19,000 Number of people the plant employed at its heyday during WWII

300,000 Plant's yearly firearms manufacturing capacity

80,000 Number of firearms the plant manufactured in 2005

10 Height in feet of the statue of John Wayne in the plant's lobby