But if Grace was at times lordly, he was also respected, and at no time was that respect greater than during World War II. As the ultimate steel production man, he gave the country and its allies what they sorely needed: a rapid outpouring of steel in unprecedented quantities. The shortage that experts feared in 1941 never happened, thanks to the prodigious efforts of Bethlehem Steel and other producers.
Grace, who fought bitterly with Roosevelt over labor unions throughout the 1930s, cooperated with the administration on several fronts. At the president's urging, he served on the board of a program called the Controlled Materials Plan, the central clearinghouse for the allocation of steel. He developed a way to quickly assign priorities for civilian and military use of the metal.
In the labor arena, Grace and union leaders found common ground with the president in meetings at the White House. Philip Murray of the Steel Workers' Organizing Committee, soon to be the USW, agreed to no strikes. Grace and the presidents of the other major steel companies pledged not to lock out employees in the event of a dispute.
Though Murray tried to get 121/2-cent raises for workers at Bethlehem Steel and other ''Little Steel'' companies, the National War Labor Board limited the pay hikes to 51/2 cents in 1941. After that, wages were frozen for the duration of the war.
In his annual report to employees, Grace said the average hourly wages for all employees in 1943 was $1.30. Laborers, who made up a third of the work force, made significantly less. The top skilled workers, who represented 10 percent, got the highest pay. Grace said the average number of weekly hours for all employees was 45, but millworkers put in longer hours.
When they had free time, Bethlehem Steel employees with a few coins in their pockets went to the movies or live shows.
Castle Garden, the dance hall at Dorney Park, was a major attraction for big-band fans. On July 17, 1943, civilians could pay 75 cents and servicemen, 35 cents, to hear and dance to Ken Keely and his Royal Manhatters, whose chief draw, according to one local critic, was ''the hottest drummer boy on the road.'' Castle Garden burned down in 1985.
Moviegoers in 1943 could spend a quarter to see ''Destination Toyko,'' a submarine drama starring Cary Grant and John Garfield that was as ''big as the broad Pacific, violent as a China Sea typhoon.'' George Raft, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre were toe to toe in the spy drama, ''Background to Danger,'' in which ''the Gestapo gets it from the G-men.''
Lloyd Nolan charged up the beach in ''Guadalcanal Diary,'' and Pat O'Brien, ''a lovable fighting American,'' showed that both football and war could be hell in ''The Iron Major.''
People who wanted to forget about the war could go to the Boyd and catch ''Happy Land,'' which was ''as American as an ice cream soda.'' If Westerns were their interest, John Wayne and Martha Scott tamed the West in ''In Old Oklahoma.'' Lon Chaney Jr. had given up his hairy wolfman role and now wore the vampire's cape as ''Son of Dracula.'' Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray showed they had ''No Time for Love'' in a romantic comedy of the same name.
Radio was a cheaper form of entertainment. On a typical Sunday, listeners could hear comic Jack Benny, ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his wooden pal Charlie McCarthy, Walter Winchell's theater and nightclub gossip, and a host of big-band broadcasts. But the war was never far away, with radio programs such as ''Labor for Victory'' and ''Report from Washington: On Rationing.''
Rationing was the biggest reminder for the vast majority of people that war had changed their lives. It affected everyone.
The system, overseen by the federal government's Office of Price Administration, was designed to deal with the wartime allotment of scarce goods.
The first task given to the OPA was to stabilize prices of goods, services and rental housing. In May 1942 it froze prices at March 1942 levels for almost all everyday goods and about 60 percent of all foods. During World War II, most rents also were frozen. Between August 1939 and September 1946, they rose by less than 5 percent.
This ''price freeze,'' a phrase coined by the OPA, was only partially successful. Noncontrolled prices and wages continued to rise. Partly in response to that, Roosevelt gave the OPA rationing power. To administer the program, the agency established local volunteer-staffed rationing boards. People went to these boards to register themselves and their families.
By late 1943, Bethlehem shoppers, like those across the country, were preoccupied with the system of ration cards, coupons and stamps. The local boards issued certificates for seldom-purchased items, such as tires, and books of ration coupons for frequently needed commodities such as gasoline and sugar.
Ration stamps were required for about a third of food items. A letter on the face of each stamp indicated the ration period. The number on each stamp corresponded to the points each was worth. Point values of various foods were announced by the government. The point value of an article changed as it became scarcer or more plentiful.
Human nature being what it is, people cheated on the rationing system. This led to the creation of the black market, where gasoline and meat were the most valuable commodities.
No matter what diversion or hardship people on the home front faced, the war was always uppermost in their minds. At Bethlehem Steel, Eugene Grace believed that victory would come sooner if the company ratcheted up its production to give the Allies overwhelming superiority at sea.
In January 1943, Grace told reporters he wanted to bring the company to the point where it was completing a ship a day, a goal that some in the press considered fanciful. But that year, Bethlehem Steel built 380 ships, more than one a day. Naturally, Grace wanted to talk about the achievement, so he arranged for a ceremony that was the ultimate radio broadcast.