Betty Hinson, Phurman Biggerstaff, May Null, and Claude Helton Interviews

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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MAY NULL: Thats my sister.


GEORGE STONEY: You were telling us about going to the meetings.


GEORGE STONEY: Could you tell us about that?


GEORGE STONEY: Where they have them and so forth.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They were at the old lumber yard. Its not there anymore. Do you remember where it was down from the - right there at the [Chronicle?] Mill. Right on the side of the Chronicle Mill. I went with my grandmother - the only reason I went, I guess, that was the only place to go, everybody went. Just about the whole town. Everyone was there because it was the thing to go and check and find out whats going on, I guess.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember anybody - any of the men who were there or people who spoke?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: The only one that I can remember was the one you were talking about - Red - I can remember him.



PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Red [Lisk?]. Yeah, I didnt know his last name, but I just heard them - being calling him Red. The kids - all the kids went there, all the grown people, everyone. That was a big thing to do to go up there.

GEORGE STONEY: Did they have music?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Not that I can remember. Do you remember? I dont remember music. It could have been, but I dont remember it.

HINSON: They had built a platform to stand on.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They had a big high platform up there for - had to hold the speakers sitting up there. There were five or six men sitting up there and each one of them would get up and talk a few minutes and then the other one would get up and talk.

GEORGE STONEY: Was there much talk about the union other than at the meeting? What about in your house?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, I never heard my father say a thing about a union in their house.

GEORGE STONEY: Would you - was - do you remember talk about the union in your house?

NULL: No. Thats all they talked about.


GEORGE STONEY: What did they say? What did they say about the union?

NULL: Oh, the men. Everybody had joined it. They had joined it. If they didnt, they couldnt get to work.


NULL: They had joined the union. They joined the union, they didnt have no job.

GEORGE STONEY: Im trying to put that together because they didnt have a closed shop at the time.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: It doesnt - no, that doesnt - that doesnt sound right.

HELFAND: Maybe she means that they kept -


HELFAND: - that the people wouldnt let them go to work. Locked them out?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They locked them - yeah, they wouldnt - the companies didnt want the union, they fought the union. The fought the union. Thats why they had to strike and why they locked the people out. Why, they had to go to pick up these groceries.

GEORGE STONEY: What happened to those people who led the union afterwards?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I really have no idea what happened to those people.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you remember people having to leave their houses?


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, but I remember the big bringing in the National Guard at the hosiery mill and the man got killed on Majestic there because we lived right below the hosiery mill and thats where I stayed all the time, up there watching the National Guard. I remember that.

GEORGE STONEY: What do you remember about it?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Well, I remember them chasing this man over on that porch and killing him and who was - old man [Robison?] they stabbed in the hip with a bayonet and, uh, JC [Umgarner?] -

NULL: (overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: - he tried to in the mill and the people - the people jumped him and almost beat him to death trying to keep him out of there, you know. He was going to cross the line and go in and work. The people wouldnt let him.

NULL: He was never a man to taking a gun away from another man. One man run up on the porch and one (inaudible) at east end, east end right before you 00:04:00turn to go down to the (inaudible).

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: On the Keeslers porch.

HINSON: Keeslers porch? Well, the Keeslers live near me now. Paul Keesler?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, this was - I cant remember his name.


GEORGE STONEY: The man who was killed was Riley.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Riley. Yeah, Riley was - and Mr. Robinson was a big old heavy set holder for a guy and he couldnt run fast and he was agitating the guards and they went after him and one of them got him. Um, uh, Junior Keesler thats - I dont if thats the same one youre talking about or not. I cant think of his fathers name. They called him Fat Keesler. Thats the only thing I remember about him.

HINSON: I think he might have been Pauls father because Paul lives near me.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Lived right there - as you go up Sixth Street, right at the end of Sixth Street, that first house was a [fire sale?] and there not there 00:05:00anymore. It was a rough time back then. It was a rough time back then.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, the mystery to me is that the papers were full of this at the time. Youve got big headlines and details about all the meetings and so forth and then we come back 60 or 55, 60 years later and its almost as though all the people who were involved have just kind of vanished.


GEORGE STONEY: And none of this history is being -


GEORGE STONEY: - kept. So, one of the things - what were trying to do is to tell that story, the story of the workers in the mill. You know, you go to most museums and you get the presidents of the mills and you get the big houses and all of that, but you dont - you know, like over at [Kannapolis?] where youve got -




PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Well, theyre not Cannon now.

GEORGE STONEY: But you dont see anything about the people around the machinery. So were trying to tell that story.

JAMIE STONEY: At times old Cannon Village in Kannapolis seems like its an e-ticket ride at Disneyland or (inaudible) you know, and they dont want you to know what its like up on the hill for real.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, it was rough. They call it the good old days. It wasnt the good old days.

NULL: It wasnt no good old days.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No good old days.

NULL: Hard days.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Rough, hard days.

HINSON: You didnt realize it, though.


LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: At the time you didnt know. You was happy.

HINSON: I know we didnt know we were poor, did we?

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: No, we didnt. I thought I had everything that I needed. I never wanted for anything.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, so were going to try to find your sister.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Jack Garrett would probably remember a lot.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, well lets go see -

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: He could probably tell you a lot.

GEORGE STONEY: Lets go see if we can find him.

NULL: My sister? She lives in Belmont. You know where you can cross the river?


LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Mama, let Phurman tell them.

NULL: You turn right there at the first house. (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) And you just drive around and she lives right (inaudible) like you turn to go up (inaudible) she lives right there.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: (inaudible) come off of 74, you know the new road? You got a big curve there? They live in one of those little teeny houses right off Fifth. (overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

NULL: You go across the river, then you - like youre going in to Belmont. You make a turn there on the - on the left. And she lives right there now. Like youre going up - trying to go up that way. She lives right there where you make that turn. Anybody can tell you where she lives.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, well try.

HELFAND: Were going to give her a call.

JAMIE STONEY: Judy, we going to get 30 seconds (inaudible).


NULL: She can give me a [phone?].

JAMIE STONEY: [Room town?] 1002.

NULL: Yeah, thats my sister. Thats her whole -

JAMIE STONEY: OK, countdown.

NULL: (inaudible) my mother. Shes the sweetest womn who ever lived. Hardest working woman. My daddy was, too. They sure raised us that way. You think I look like her?



GEORGE STONEY: I would (inaudible) maybe. She was a good looking woman.

NULL: Good woman.

GEORGE STONEY: Did she ever work in the mill?

NULL: No, my daddy said - when we moved he said he wasnt going to let her work. She had enough to do at the house. My daddy said she gonna stay at the house. She had enough to do at the house. My daddy took care of her.

GEORGE STONEY: How many children did they have?

NULL: Seven.

GEORGE STONEY: That was enough to keep her going?

NULL: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: How many of the seven worked in the mill?

NULL: Well, lets see.


NULL: Oh, I guess we all worked.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: All of them worked in the mill at one time, yes.

NULL: Oh, but Margaret, Margaret didnt work.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Margaret worked in the mill grandma. She just retired not long ago. Margaret worked in the mill.

NULL: Yeah, but that was when she was little.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, but he wants to know how many worked all the time, not just when they were little.

NULL: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: So that brought in a fair amount of money?

NULL: Yeah. We didnt make much from the work.


GEORGE STONEY: Now, what Im trying to figure out is your mother stayed home and looked after you.

NULL: Yeah, thats right.

GEORGE STONEY: But a lot of the mills, they - both the father and the mother worked.

NULL: Yeah, most of them. But my daddy said my mama wasnt going to work. She had enough to do at home. She raised seven of those younguns.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you have a garden?

NULL: We did when we lived out in the country, a big garden, and my daddy - we had kept a cow and we had hogs in the (inaudible). We had lots of hogs to kill and we kept a cow all the time, you know. We had milk and butter all the time. And we raised stuff to eat out of the garden.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you know why they moved out of the country into the mill?


NULL: We had a - my daddy, uh, my oldest brother, Lee, he wanted to move there and he wanted to go to work, and thats how come we had to move to the cotton mill. We moved to the cotton mill so we all went to work. Whoever was big enough to work, worked. But my daddy said my mama wasnt going to work - no cotton mill.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: She went to work in Clover, South Carolina. First cotton mill, wasnt it before they came to Belmont.

NULL: My mama had enough to do at the house and my mama and daddy was a great good person. My Grandma and Grandpa was, too.

GEORGE STONEY: Did, uh, he - did they ever regret being in the mills?

NULL: Yeah, they was old when we moved to the mill, but my daddy worked but my mama didnt. My mama stayed home. She kept borders a lot, you know. 00:12:00They was come by and eat. They [earned?] lots for super - kept them. Mama worked her - (inaudible). Mama was a nice housekeeper, real nice housekeeper.

GEORGE STONEY: Did they ever try to go back to move back to the farm?

NULL: No, we never did move back to the farm. My daddy died when he wasnt too old. We never did move back there And my mother stayed around with the younguns. They passed away.


HELFAND: Make that phone call.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Betty, can you sit down where you before?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Ill tell you, one of yall could probably explain it to her better than I can.

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Honey, can you just tell Uncle that Bettys here at our house and they can talk to Mom.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Eight, two, five, eight, one, six, nine.

HINSON: Phurman, tell her that I live below Julius.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Whos speaking, please? Margaret? This is Phurman. We have some people over here who want to come see you and Im going to let this lady explain to you what its all about, OK?

HINSON: Margaret? Im Betty Hinson that lives - that lived below Julius Engle. Do you remember us?

NULL: You have to talk loud. She cant hear.


HINSON: That live below Julius? Hinson. Yeah, my parents, Floyd Miller and Kitty? They used to live below Julius, you know? And then I lived below my mother and were wanting to come your house. Theres some people here, um, down here from New York and theyre making a documentary, you know, about the textile industry and theyd like to talk with some of the older people. Could we come by your house tonight, this evening? Wait a minute. What time will we -

GEORGE STONEY: We can go right over there now.

HINSON: We can leave now and come over there.

NULL: Yeah, shes a good woman.

HINSON: Shes asking her husband.

GEORGE STONEY: You might tell her that we have a picture of her from 1934.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Jacks so funny. He might think that (inaudible).

HINSON: Well, Ill talk to him if he says no.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Mention the picture. Its amazing.

HINSON: We can come?

NULL: Tell him we got a picture.

HINSON: Yeah, you go ahead and finish your supper. Itll be about 45 minutes before we get there. And theyve got a picture of you, Margaret. Yeah. Way back in 1934 and you was holding your baby - Douglas - and he looks to be about 00:16:00eight months old.

NULL: And hes sweet.

HINSON: They found it in the archives somewhere. Uh-huh. Theyre going to bring it and show it to you. OK, well see you in about 45 minutes or an hour. All right. Bye.

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

NULL: I want you to meet my sister. Shes a great girl.


HINSON: I had to talk loud because she doesnt hear well.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: I loved that kid. Just a little thing. I took care of him all the time. Little bitty thing.

HINSON: What did you say his name is?



LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: Hes so cute and hes still bald headed. (laughter)

JAMIE STONEY: No bald jokes.

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: You know most all bald headed mens better looking, arent they?


JAMIE STONEY: I repeat, no bald jokes. I can do all kinds of interesting things with this camera.

NULL: Yall want something to drink?

HINSON: No, thanks.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Isnt that sweet? I cant get over looking at her. I wish she could have some made off of this.

GEORGE STONEY: We will - we will get -

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Will you send us one of these and Ill pay you.

GEORGE STONEY: You see, no - we tried to get it just Xeroxed and, see, it didnt turn out very well. So we will get - we can get a print.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: Oh, thank you. Send it to me.

HELFAND: Have you ever heard about this?


HELFAND: Have you ever heard about the strike and that they were involved?

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: We know they were, but we didnt know she was involved.

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

HELFAND: But you knew they were involved.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: I didnt. Oh, no. Sure didnt.

GEORGE STONEY: Well go and find out.

HINSON: Well, they didnt talk about it, did they, Phurman?

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

HINSON: When it was over with, it was over.

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Have you got my address so you can send me this picture and Ill have Aunt Margaret and everyone one made.


GEORGE STONEY: What we better do is just the forms so well everybodys name and address and phone number and so forth. Judy, tell me where that is.

HELFAND: Its in the car. One thing, George, you were just saying that when it was over it was just over?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Yep, people just - they all just disappeared. We dont know where they went.

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They just didnt talk about it.

JAMIE STONEY: We heard of some people that, like, took off back to the mountains and some of the people changed names and went to other mills and tried to get work.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I never heard of any of that around where we were. Did you hear of anything like that?

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Well, they were there and they still was there. GEORGE STONEY: OK, well go get -

HINSON: I really loved Julius.

NULL: Did you?

HINSON: Yes, I did.

NULL: (inaudible) Hes a good man.

HINSON: I know it.

NULL: Hes a real good man.

HINSON: He used to go check on my aunt.

NULL: (inaudible) My brother, [Lee?]. Did you ever meet [Lee?].


(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

HINSON: Lee had tuberculosis one time.

NULL: Yeah, yeah.

HINSON: I remember that.

NULL: And you remember my mama?

HINSON: No, I dont remember your mama. I remember [Lonie?].

NULL: Thats her picture. [Lonies] passed away. She lived in California.

HINSON: I remember that.

NULL: And she was going to the doctors (inaudible) and she fell dead in the doctors office as soon as she walked in the door. She was - they was living in California.

HINSON: And you said Fred - I think Fred was related to my step-father.

NULL: Was he?

HINSON: And her husband.

NULL: And when [Lonie?] died it wasnt too long until Fred died. (inaudible) after [Lonie?] died.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I dont know, Grandma. I didnt see you -

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

HINSON: They come to see my grandpa one time. My grandpa was old and you had to get right up in his face so Grandpa could see him.

NULL: Yeah.

HINSON: And he said Uncle [Ab?] said, Do you know who I am? -

NULL: Fred said that?


HINSON: Yeah. And Grandpa said, Well, you look like a heifer. You know his forehead come out?

NULL: Yeah, I did.

HINSON: And you know what they called him?


(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

HELFAND: (inaudible), could you point out the picture of your sister? You said you have a picture of her.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Thats her back there with the blue.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: This one? This one here?

HELFAND: Yeah, why dont you just show - no, dont take it. Maybe this gentleman can show us.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Thats Margaret - Jack and Margaret.

NULL: Yeah, Margaret. Thats my sister.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Thats Grandmas youngest sister.

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

HELFAND: Say that again. Whos that in that picture?

NULL: Yeah, that house. Thats where yall going - to their house.

HINSON: And who is -

NULL: Margaret and Jacks.

HINSON: Margaret and Jacks.

NULL: Yeah, thats my sister and her husband. Thats where yall going. They good people.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Thats the lady in the picture.


NULL: But she dont look like that. Shes heavier built. Not too much.

HELFAND: And you never heard about that before.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Mm-mm. No, I dont - well I was only ten year old at the time. But I remember it. But I dont remember a lot that I should.

HINSON: Daddy took me down there where they had the platform and they had the speakers and everything. See, I dont remember it, but one of my friends remembers that we went and she did tell me that Daddy, you know, had a car - he had a - it was a Ford and it had a rumble seat and a canvas top. What was that? A sport -

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: It was (inaudible) an A-model.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Fords [sport?] A-model line.

HINSON: Yeah, with the -


NULL: She said that - who was that took my little grand-youngun?

GEORGE STONEY: What I have here are a series of letters that people wrote who lived in your mill - the Imperial Mill - complaining of conditions.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Bad working conditions.

GEORGE STONEY: Bad working conditions. Heres one by Mr. GP Knight.

HINSON: What year?

GEORGE STONEY: This was in 1933, August the 17th and hes writing to Hugh Johnston who was in charge of the NRA - you know, the Blue Eagle. Johnston had been on the radio saying that people if they didnt think their mill was living up to their agreement, should write him. And so this fellow wrote saying, uh, I work in the Imperial Mill at Belmont and they fired me because I wont run two jobs and work all day the way they want me to. Hes saying 00:23:00that they were speeding up the machines -

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: All the time. All the time. More speed.



GEORGE STONEY: Well, now, when did that start? Do you know?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Probably when they started the eight hours. Thats what they were trying to get the same production in the eight hours that they were getting in the 12 hours.

GEORGE STONEY: And heres another thing, uh, thats the way - you see, he wrote it on a tablet like that, you see? Uh, and we just have a Xerox of that. The National Archives keeps all these records and so we can kind of look back and see what happened.

HELFAND: The next one is typed.

GEORGE STONEY: Here is one from August the 16th and its - you see, its in his handwriting again and then they -

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Thats the same man?

GEORGE STONEY: This is - no.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: A different person.


GEORGE STONEY: This is - lets see if I can find out who this one is because I dont see a signature on here. Oh, yes - here it is. Uh, uh, wait a minute. He - very interesting here. He says, uh, uh, Not very many that belong to the union in this mill, for they are scared to join.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Everyone was scared of losing their jobs.

GEORGE STONEY: Theyre afraid they will lose the - theyll be thrown out of their jobs. Uh, And we would like very much for you to look into this mill. Its the Imperial Mill in Belmont. Yours truly. And then he didnt sign his name. He evidently was afraid.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Well, they was two of the mills that went union, but they never could get a contract. That wasnt back then. This was a whole lot long later. This was in the 50s, I think, or the 60s even.


GEORGE STONEY: Now heres one that was in December. Mr. Ira Wintz. W-I-N-T-Z. Remember him?


GEORGE STONEY: Tell me about it.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I sure do. I just remember the name and the man (inaudible) I dont remember just talking to him or anything like that, but -

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: How old was you?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I was just a kid.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, now Mr. Wintz -

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: See, back then they had baseball teams - from each mill had a baseball team and all the people would come to them and thats the way you would meet a lot of people. And I remember him, I guess, from the baseball.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, now Mr. Wintz, uh, in December the 4th, 1933, he says, They have an unlawful stretch out system. Two men doing the jobs that should be for one. And, so, he was writing to, uh, the textile labor board.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: It was usually the other way around. Like in one-man job - I mean, two-man job, putting one man on it.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, maybe -

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Stretch him out. Thats probably what he was meaning.

GEORGE STONEY: And heres another one. Thats, uh, August 34 and its written to Mr. Roosevelt.


GEORGE STONEY: You see, what happened was that, uh, Roosevelt got on the radio and he said - he encouraged people to write him and thousands and thousands of textile workers did. He says, We have to work so hard in this mill in Belmont and that we dont have time to stop and eat our lunch and if we do, our work just turns up - tears up all the pieces and they make us leave. You see, again, its in his handwriting here. And, again, he didnt sign his name. 00:27:00Then here we have in February 19 - February the 19th, 1934 a whole series of complaints, uh, that ended up in the new board - a new thing. This now is much more formal. So it was probably after they formed a union and the union helped to prepare these things.

HELFAND: No, George, they typed it so that theyd understand it better. They took the letter and just retyped -

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They didnt - none of the mills back then never did go union. The people were scared.

JAMIE STONEY: Thats typed by the archives for legibility.


HELFAND: It was typed by George (inaudible)s office. But you were saying before - at the end, George, find the one that says they were afraid to join.


HELFAND: It was typed, lso. I think its the one -


GEORGE STONEY: No, its not. Uh, here we have one from July the 25th, 1934 and also from the Imperial Mill to Mr. Johnston, and its saying, uh, I have to go in from one to two hours before the work time to get our cleaning up because they speeded up the machinery so much. We dont have time to do it.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: In other words, they had to go do the cleaning on their own time. They didnt get paid for it.

GEORGE STONEY: Thats right.

NULL: (inaudible) they get paid for it.


GEORGE STONEY: And, again, hes not signing his name. Uh, and then, you see, the office - the government office, just reduces the complaint to saying, We have to go in one to two hours before work time to get our cleaning done. Theyve speeded up so high it works us from the time we go on until we stop off. Then heres another one, September the 5th, 1934. Thats after the 00:29:00strike began. Uh, again, its the same thing where the people are not supposed to go to work until 1:30 and we have to go in at 11:00 to get our cleaning done. So, evidently that complaint kept going.

HELFAND: Read the end of it. It talks about the union - people - no, on the typed parts - you didnt read it.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, uh, now We have to work so hard in this mill that we do not get time to stop and eat our lunch. And if we do, our work just tears all to 00:30:00pieces. And then down at the end it says, Not very many that belong to the union in this mill for they are scared to join. They are afraid they will lose their jobs.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Thats true. People were, even after - not just back then. On up - all the way through them - even to today - the same thing. They work them like that today. They dont have time to stop, some of them. If they do, their job is so messed up that they cant catch it back up.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, what has been your experience? Have you, uh -

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Well, the mill that I worked in, it wasnt really that hard. I went to work in 1940 at the Crescent learning the doff spinning and it wasnt - it wasnt really that hard, but the spinners, now, it was hard on them.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: They wouldnt work us a full shift.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, well, thats because you were under age. I mean, you were only 16 and you couldnt work until you were 18 and you work a full 00:31:00shift. But a boy could work a full shift. That was the law.

HELFAND: You were saying -

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: That was the law.

HELFAND: You were saying you went to New Jersey and you joined a union.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Yeah, and that was the best 12 years of my life up there. Best working conditions that Ive ever worked in, me and my wife both because if you get in a hole up there, you shut it down until someone helps you straighten it out.

GEORGE STONEY: What union was that?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Uh, a printer and publishers union.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: And a teamster union.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Yeah, part of it was -

GEORGE STONEY: Why do you think that, uh, they couldnt get the union going down here?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: The people were scared to lose their jobs. See, most of them lived in the mill houses and if they lost their job they had to move they had no way of making a living.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, some people tell us that Southern people just dont like unions.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Thats because of what the trouble when they had - when they tried to form that first union. That killed it from then on.

GEORGE STONEY: You dont think its just the nature - our nature?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No. Its just that, uh, you cant lead Southern people, they wont follow. They wont follow you. See, up there it was compulsory that I joined the union.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: And, uh, but I would have joined it anyhow. But down here people just wont give in to the union. Just like still today they wont do it, but its the best thing in the world if they would. My son works for this, uh, trucking - that makes the trucks over here next to Mount Holly? You have a - they just walked out, had a strike, they got what they wanted.


LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: And he loves his job.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Better working conditions, more money, better benefits and everything under a union. Now, I work for [Rexon?] corporation. They have a union in all the other plants. They dont have one here, but they pay you how 00:33:00the unions - pay union scale and go by the union rules and everything, so we - I didnt need a union there, but theyve tried to vote a union in. No way, it wouldnt go.

GEORGE STONEY: One of the things that weve been interested in is the attitude of people towards the employers here. Uh -

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: There were some rough ones and there were some good ones. You had some good boss men and then you had some that would work you to death and laugh at you doing it.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, in the mill villages, in the mill village where you lived was there any attempt to control the behavior of the people?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Not really, no. Most people did their own thing. Not really.

GEORGE STONEY: And some villages, weve been told, people couldnt drink, that kind of thing.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Uh, I never heard of that. Have you hon?

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: No. Well, most people - back then they hardly drank anyway.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Well, no the thing they had was home-brewed. They make their own. Didnt they? They had to make their own back then.

HINSON: They drank and had fights on Saturday night. I remember that Daddy was the only person that had a car on the mill village at that time, and one [guy?] had Scottys nose cut off. You remember the Stricklands?


HINSON: [Lee?] was the one who cut them up.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: We used to fight chickens with him.

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

HINSON: That and they brought him down there and Daddy took him somewhere to get his nose sewed back on one Saturday night. Theyd been drinking and fighting.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They was mostly -

HINSON: He was a chess team.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Oh, a chess team. Yeah, I remember that.

HINSON: And [Peewee?] Strickland.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Yeah, I remember that.

HINSON: And, um -

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Charlie (inaudible).

HINSON: You know, Peewee died in prison.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I think [Mood?] did, too. The one that (inaudible)s older brother. Yeah, I remember all those people.

HINSON: They were rough characters.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: But, uh, they never - as you - say if you disturbed the people and, like, fight like that, maybe when you go back to work they would call you in the office and talk to you and gave you they didnt want you or something like that, but there were no rules that you couldnt - because I was telling Betty about [Rush Hardins?] brother, Jim, lived below us, he come in drunk all the time. I had a little brown faced dog and she showed her teeth all the time and she set down there at his house sometimes and one day he come in drunk out of the woods and he told his wife, he said, Angie, I gotta quit drinking so even the dogs are laughing at me.


LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: That was Washs brother, Jim.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Yeah, Jim [Flaherty?].


HINSON: So, you knew Peewee?



HINSON: And Lou?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Lou? Yep, I knew him.

HELFAND: One thing, when George was reading some of the - you - I guess it was - what was your - you said your uncle was a supervisor and they were probably talking about (inaudible) -

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Yeah, at the Imperial, my uncle, George (inaudible), he was a supervisor over at - I think when Grandma worked there at one time.

GEORGE STONEY: Was he one of the rough ones?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Well, to me he wasnt when I worked for him. I worked for him a lot of times - a couple times. When Id need a job Id go over to go to work for him and hed even come after me to work overtime for him and all that, but, uh, to some people theyd say he was a rough oerseer, but to me he wasnt that bad.

GEORGE STONEY: What about working conditions in the mill?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They werent really too bad. They just push you. You had to get production, production, thats all they cared - wanted you to get. Production, production.


GEORGE STONEY: Did you remember anything called a [B-do?] system?


GEORGE STONEY: It doesnt, uh, it had to do with the way they set the picker clocks and they - they, uh - all of that.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I was out in the other end. I wasnt out in the card room, but I had never heard of anything like that.


HELFAND: Its been a pleasure.

GEORGE STONEY: Oh, its been great.

JAMIE STONEY: When they had bars (inaudible)



JAMI STONEY: Room tone, 1,003 for the kitchen location. Put it back up about where you had it last.


(break in audio 37:48-48:20)























GEORGE STONEY: - woman of 91 who said that she started working in the mills at eight.

F: Well, my mother went to work in the mill at eight and she told us about having to climb on the spinning frames and shed slip off and hide in the boxes and theyd come wake her up. She always - she never did have really - anything real bad to say about it. I think it was just kind of something that they did. Wasnt anything unusual.

GEORGE STONEY: What shift did she work on?

F: She was on the night shift.

GEORGE STONEY: Where was that?

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Well, Im not sure, but I think it was Clover or somewhere. Im not sure. Im really not sure.


GEORGE STONEY: How long did she work in the mill?

F: Well, she worked in the mill all her life until she retired, but she did a lot of other things, too, you know. But she, uh, she always enjoyed her job, you know, and worked hard, and during World War II, which you never heard tell of a woman being a fixer, well, she turned out to be a fixer in the plant and did a good job. Really did.

GEORGE STONEY: And after the war what happened to her?

F: Well, she went back to another job, you know. There was heavy fixing that needed a lot help and things, you know.

GEORGE STONEY: What about you?

F: Me? Well, I went to work when I was 14; worked all summer learning and they didnt pay me a dime and then I went back to school, which would be in the ninth grade and I had a - when mother got - everything was bad, and when mother got me a job at Christmas, well, I dropped out of school and went to work and I worked all my life until I retired.


GEORGE STONEY: When did you go to work? Do you remember the year?

F: Well, it must have been at 32 or 33. I cant remember just exactly which one it was, and we were worked 12 hours a day for $7.20 a week.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember when - the - when Roosevelt came in?

F: Oh, yes!

GEORGE STONEY: What happened then?

F: Well, everybody was rejoicing, you know. We was just in seventh heaven and after that, well, uh, they wouldnt let the ladies work on the third shift, so they got all men in there. But the men wouldnt do the winding and spooling. It took constant going, you know, so they had to do something else. They just wouldnt do like the ladies done - just stay with it. (laughs)

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember about 34 there was a big organization around here? Do you remember anything about that?


F: Well, yes, I remember it, but I didnt have any part in it at all. I just remember them coming up to close down the plant and I followed them all over town trying to figure out what was going on. It was hot, real hot, and I got back in the middle of the day just burning up and still didnt know what was going on.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you remember the - the - did you ever go to the Labor Day parade?

F: No, I dont think so. I dont remember it.

GEORGE STONEY: They had big Labor Day parades over in Gastonia.

F: Well, I didnt take any part in any of that at all. I was just - after Id done my walk I think I can give you that. (laughs)

HELFAND: (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: Did you - you werent married then, were you?

F: Well, I got married along about that time and, uh, we moved down below Burlington to (inaudible) where theres a work in full-time, so we went to 00:52:00work down there. Thats one reason probably that I dont remember anymore about it than I do.

GEORGE STONEY: And you were married to Claude at the time?

F: No, uh-uh. This is our second marriage.

GEORGE STONEY: You know, weve seen - Im going to get personal about it - weve seen so many second marriages in this trip and they all seem to have turned out so well.

F: Well, Ill tell you, I was a widow 13 years and I certainly enjoyed the company and some fellowship, places to go, and I dont mean its been a heaven, but cause I have to whip him every once in awhile, but -


CLAUDE HELTON: Yes, shes married an angel.

GEORGE STONEY: But to me, just as I say, weve been travelling for three years doing this, you know, in different places in the summer and over and over again its those second marriages that are so close and -


F: Yeah, well you appreciate what you lost, you know, and you try and build on that and you have to, you know. Its not all going to be good, but you just do the best that you can and keep looking forward.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, thats nice. Well, weve got to be going. Claudes going to show us where he grew up.

F: OK.

GEORGE STONEY: Thank you very much.

F: I didnt bring my (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: Do you mind, Claude, if we rode in your car?



F: I would have put on some lipstick.

GEORGE STONEY: Oh, you look fine. You have that fresh look.

HELTON: I need to get the keys.

F: Now go on over there to her.


F: (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: We have been finding that theres so many two-income families at the time, you see, when we were - weve been working on this thing. And 00:54:00back in the 30s, early 40s, women working in the mills, men working in the mills, and who looked after the kids? Very often it was the father when the mother was on the shift and the mother with the father on the shift because there was almost no babysitters. How did it work in your family?

F: Well, when my daughter was small, I worked on first shift and my husband worked on second shift, and he would fix lunch and bring my daughter to the plant and wait outside with her and Id come out and get her and take her home. So, we didnt have to have a babysitter. We were fortunate in that respect. Some people didnt have that.

GEORGE STONEY: Was that usual for most people?

F: Well, I dont remember too many bringing them to the plant, you know, but, uh, they did - it tried to work in the family. Ill put it that way because we didnt have daycares and you had to have somebody - a neighbor or somebody to 00:55:00help you a little bit.

GEORGE STONEY: What about nursing mothers? What did they do?

F: I dont remember. I just dont remember about that. I (inaudible) but I dont remember how we worked it where you just take everything for granted and you didnt really - but, I dont remember any problem.

GEORGE STONEY: Did they bring the baby to you at the mill to nurse?

F: I dont remember doing that, I really dont.

JAMIE STONEY: Weve had some people at certain mills tell us that the supervisors or the mill said it was OK for someone to bring the child to them so that they could nurse it, but the baby couldnt be in the mill all day. So they would give them maybe 20 minutes twice a day to do it.


F: Well, I didnt have that experience and I just dont remember, you know, how that worked. I hadnt thought about it in so long. Shes 55 so I hadnt thought about it.

GEORGE STONEY: You were talking about when Roosevelt came in -

F: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: - and the hours dropped form 11 or 12 to eight.

F: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: How did that feel?

F: Well, it felt real good because, you know, we wasnt used to having all that spare time in the afternoon and we wre used to walking a long ways from 12:00 in the evening, getting back at 1:00 because you didnt have the things that you have now in the plants and, uh -