Claude Helton Interview 1

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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JAMIE STONEY: So you were saying about - why don’t you lead her over this way, OK? Just pick it up again with her talking about the, uh, (inaudible). All right. Here’s the mic. Let me just get behind you here. OK, and you were telling us about what was going on at the plant?

MABLE HELTON: Well, as I said, you know, I don’t remember too many people bringing their children to the plant like that, but, like, when we went on eight hours, well, we just couldn’t hardly believe it and we didn’t - we had to figure out some way. We couldn’t go home, walk that half a mile for lunch and back and so you start carrying your lunch.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember the dope wagons in the mill?

1:00

MABLE HELTON: Yeah, they had those to come through and that solved part of the problem.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, did many - did any people in your village have servants, black women who came in and did their laundry and -

MABLE HELTON: Well, some of them did. Now, you know, at times I did. Just depended on a lot of things, you know. But, see, back then we were washing in the wash [pile?] and it was kind of hard to work eight hours and then come home and wash in the wash pile, which we did a number of times, any time, a lot of times, but we’d have if we were working full-time we’d have maybe somebody to come in and do the washing or maybe do the ironing to catch it up, you know because you had to iron everything back then.

JAMIE STONEY: Now, did you have electricity at this time?

MABLE HELTON: Yes, we had electricity, but, uh, it, uh, we had the - the time I’m 2:00referring to, we had the community water but it was for every two or three houses and you carried the water to wash or whatever you did.

GEORGE STONEY: So you had to go outside and to a spigot.

MABLE HELTON: Yeah, maybe from the next house and fill up your wash pot and build your fire after you done worked eight hours and carry your two or three tubs of rinse water and then hang up your clothes and leave them on that and hope nobody didn’t steal them.

(laughter)

JAMIE STONEY: Now, did they - was the water service part of the rent or were you charged extra for that?

MABLE HELTON: No, the water was free.

JAMIE STONEY: And charged you for the electric.

MABLE HELTON: Yeah, mm-hmm.

JAMIE STONEY: Do you remember how much it was?

MABLE HELTON: No, I don’t remember how much it was. Now, back in about 1937 I lived 3:00a different place and they furnished all the electricity and all that, but, you know, it gradually changed. They’d have cold house and wood piles and haul your wood and haul your coal. They looked after you. Really, anything you needed, you went to the office.

JAMIE STONEY: When did the first Duke power salesman come around and try to sell you the washing machine and everything like that?

MABLE HELTON: Well, I don’t remember that at all. I really don’t.

JAMIE STONEY: But the place you were working at before where they took good care of you, you had - they had running water and -

MABLE HELTON: Oh, yeah, we had bathtub and all that then, but, uh, the place where I was referring to where we carried water, we had outside facilities and -

GEORGE STONEY: Well, now, we were talking with Ann Helms, who is a reporter for the Charlotte Observer. She did a big story about what we’re doing about a 4:00few months ago. She’s coming to the reunion, uh, at the Eagle they’re having this weekend. And she’s writing another story.

MABLE HELTON: At the Eagle? Where’s the -

GEORGE STONEY: The Eagle Mill.

MABLE HELTON: Oh, yes.

GEORGE STONEY: And going over to the Sizzler Steak House for the reunion, and the thing she’s so interested in is that history is usually told from the standpoint of the men and the owners and the supervisors and the ball teams and all that. She said, “What about the women? What were they doing?”

MABLE HELTON: We were working hard, (laughs) really hard. Really hard.

JAMIE STONEY: You see, most Americans think that, you know, women really only started doing factory work in during the War.

MABLE HELTON: Well, that’s not true. Not true at all because I went to doing factory work when I was 14. I spent a summer, as I said before, learning all 5:00summer when I got out of school. Of course, I enjoyed it. We just had a ball. It’s not like it is now. They wasn’t - you know, figuring out everything, which I can’t [bat?] down them because I was on the staff before I could retire. But, I mean, it turned into something entirely different. It’s entirely different now. And you would - the plants are so nice and all and back then, you know, we didn’t have air conditioning, we didn’t have anything.

JAMIE STONEY: But they still had certain jobs that were reserved for men.

MABLE HELTON: Oh, yeah, they had to - the heavy lifting.

JAMIE STONEY: But technical jobs? You said about someone - they were very surprised a woman could be a fixer.

MABLE HELTON: Yeah, yeah, that’s true, too. It’s - it was male dominated, you know. And, uh, but, uh - yeah, mother during World War II she was a winder fixer.

JAMIE STONEY: What happened as soon as the war was over?

6:00

MABLE HELTON: I don’t remember, but anyhow, she went back on the other job. I don’t know whether somebody come back from service and got their job, you know, which happens and all that. I don’t remember that part of it. She wasn’t unhappy about anything.

GEORGE STONEY: When did you see your first female second hands and section hands and that kind of thing?

MABLE HELTON: Well, I guess that was my mother, but now we have lots of them, you know. Some women are just real good fixers. They just - uh, while it was dominated by the male, they just never did have a chance, you know.

JAMIE STONEY: One of the things that I’ve heard people say is that the plant noticed that the women didn’t tend to break the machinery when they got angry.

MABLE HELTON: (Laughs) Well, I hadn’t heard that.

GEORGE STONEY: We’ve got a wonderful interview with, um, a woman in Knoxville 7:00who said that she brought a tool kit along because the fixer was so slow and it was cutting down on her production, so she said, “I learned to fix my own loom.”

MABLE HELTON: I’m sure of it. There’s a lot of that. You know, the male, he never has - he wouldn’t confirm like the women. The women just go along and do what you said. And I know one day I got real upset. I was - well, I wasn’t on a regular job, I was just moving around (inaudible), and I said, all the men did went out and sat down and smoked and I never smoked. They sat out in the cool - and I said, “If I ever leave here and go somewhat else, I’m going to smoke!” (laughter) That’s all what you could get a break, right?

GEORGE STONEY: That’s a great story! How we doing?

(break in audio)

8:00

GEORGE STONEY: How long have you been living in this house?

CLAUDE HELTON: About 33 years, something like that.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you build it?

CLAUDE HELTON: (inaudible) She go -

GEORGE STONEY: She’ll follow you, yes. That’s right.

CLAUDE HELTON: Where’d you want to go?

GEORGE STONEY: We should go to the village. Nice neighborhood here.

9:00

CLAUDE HELTON: Yes, real good neighbors. There’s usually lots of traffic on this road. (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: Is Judy behind us? Let’s just slow down a little bit to make sure she’s behind us. Now it’s all right.

CLAUDE HELTON: That’s where I go to church.

10:00

GEORGE STONEY: And this town? What’s the name of this town?

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, it’s Ozark Avenue from here to up towards town, but it used to be called East Gastonia. It used to be a metal post office right there where that service station is and we got our mail like - the East Gastonia.

GEORGE STONEY: And the big water tower there?

CLAUDE HELTON: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STONEY: That’s for the town, is it?

11:00

CLAUDE HELTON: Yes, that’s for the town. Yeah, this is Par Street - P-A-R, Par Street, but back then this road was not paved then, it was a dirt road.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you go to school nearby?

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, we passed the school I went to, we passed back over there, that’s a bridge. Now here’s - you can see it’s a building in pretty bad shape.

GEORGE STONEY: And this is your old store, is it?

12:00

CLAUDE HELTON: That’s my old store building. (inaudible) If you want you can (inaudible) how you want to.

GEORGE STONEY: OK.

13:00

(pause 12:27-13:49)

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, that’s odd.

GEORGE STONEY: (inaudible) We get out here. Pull in front of the car. Now, 14:00tell us about this house.

CLAUDE HELTON: This house was - I don’t know, must be at least 60 years old. It’s a five room house (inaudible) my parents came from south Gastonia and I was 12 years old at that time and this is the house where we came into.

15:00

GEORGE STONEY: And who lives there now?

CLAUDE HELTON: Uh, Francis - (inaudible). I’m trying to think of -

GEORGE STONEY: OK, but do you want to tell us about buying the house? Just say that you bought the house.

CLAUDE HELTON: (inaudible) when I bought the house it was - of course all the (inaudible) house (inaudible) owned by the company and they put these houses up for sale and at the time said this house was, uh, $1,295 (inaudible). Now the real estate man says it’s worth $37,000. So, that’s the way things are 16:00changing. That was the year, uh, I don’t know. My family did live here. Most of the family is - at one time has lived in the house, but the others, the older ones married off earlier. They were not (inaudible) they were not living here at that time.

GEORGE STONEY: But what about the building next door?

CLAUDE HELTON: The building next door, to begin with, my mother used to sell candy to the neighbors and from that she was selling a good deal of candy and I got the idea that if you’re doing that good, then I can put up a little store, so that’s what happened. The store was about one-third as large as it is right 17:00now. So the business was real good so years later I decided to enlarge it, put another section to it and at that time I was drafted into the service. So when I came back out of the service I enlarged it again to its present size now. And things went along pretty good. The neighbors liked it so being close. It was the closest store around to all of the people here.

GEORGE STONEY: When did you give it up?

18:00

CLAUDE HELTON: Uh, I gave it up must have been - I’d say about 15 years later it seems.

HELFAND: You know, he told us a story about how they were only coming here for bread and milk.

GEORGE STONEY: Why did you give it up?

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, the main reason was not making enough money operating it. The times have changed that. The mill companies that were paying in cash - they started paying off by check every two weeks. So the people didn’t - of course they wanted to get bargains for it and being a small store I couldn’t compete with the supermarket. So gradually they stopped buying from me, but would buy from me only the things that they had forgotten probably or something like milk, bread, which is not a very profitable item, but - you can’t pay the entire 19:00bill on that little amount of money you make selling milk and bread. So that was I guess you’d say the beginning of the business going bad like that.

GEORGE STONEY: But you gave them credit, didn’t you?

CLAUDE HELTON: I did - I did, yeah. Most people that wanted it I gave credit, but actually I can’t say that I lost enough on the credit business that would justify closing it, but just a matter that the business didn’t come. As I mentioned, the people were paid off in check and so was coming by here, they would go buy their groceries at a chain store and if they had forgotten anything, they’d just come by and pick up a loaf of bread.

20:00

GEORGE STONEY: Could we see if your tenant is here?

CLAUDE HELTON: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: OK.

CLAUDE HELTON: I don’t think so. Thought of her name now.

GEORGE STONEY: Maybe she’s off working.

CLAUDE HELTON: Yep, could be. Now, I didn’t call.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah, I understand. Now this has two front doors. Was there ever a time when there were two families here?

CLAUDE HELTON: Not - no, not to my knowledge. The house hadn’t been used, but I 21:00think it had been one person who lived there before we came. Her name is Francis [Prince?].

GEORGE STONEY: Francis [Prince?], yeah? Well, let’s look around the back.

CLAUDE HELTON: OK. I don’t know what kind of dogs she’s got.

JAMIE STONEY: Just watch my back.

CLAUDE HELTON: (inaudible) wires. That way the fence closes in there.

GEORGE STONEY: Is that a fig tree in the back?

22:00

CLAUDE HELTON: No, I don’t know what kind but it’s not fig.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, now, could you tell us about what you were doing in ’32? Just a moment. Let me wait until the plane goes by.

HELFAND: You don’t want to be walking or anything in front of the house.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, we can, yes, if you can follow us.

HELFAND: Sure, we can follow you.

CLAUDE HELTON: (inaudible) ’32 was -

GEORGE STONEY: Thirty-two was when Roosevelt got elected.

CLAUDE HELTON: Oh, yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: And then ’33 was when you started with the union and ’34 was when the strike was. What were you doing in ’32?

CLAUDE HELTON: I went to work when I was 14 so I must have been working in the plant. Went to work when I was 14.

23:00

GEORGE STONEY: When were you born?

CLAUDE HELTON: Nineteen-thirteen.

GEORGE STONEY: So you went to work in ’27 or ’28?

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, I - those years I - so from that time I worked in the mill which is back over there.

HELFAND: Claude, you’re looking great.

GEORGE STONEY: So, you were working in the mills in ’32 and could you tell us about, uh, we find out from your friends that you were secretary of the union.

CLAUDE HELTON: Yes. Now, let me kind of reveal a little bit here. I was not put in as 24:00secretary until after the strike was called, so then I was put in as secretary twice. So, for other things, I don’t have the knowledge of some of the things that took place in the course of [unionship?], but I go into the meeting and hear different speakers.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us about that.

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, at that time it seems that they had a good idea on [how?] the speakers that would come and of course we had one that came that abdicated or talked about six hours. He was called six-hour Red and he was the one who seemed like most people enjoyed because we had (inaudible) others that would come, too, but Six Hours is one I remember, one that impressed me.

GEORGE STONEY: What was he trying to do with six hours?

25:00

CLAUDE HELTON: What he was trying to do is as I understood it, six hours that’d be four shifts in the mills. To me, that would take care of unemployment and put more people to work. And so that was - that’s what impressed me.

GEORGE STONEY: Now where did you get your leadership training? Why did they select you, you think?

CLAUDE HELTON: I really don’t know fully, but since I was raised here on the village and they knew me and knew our families and I was a member of (inaudible) Baptist Church and I was made superintendant of Sunday school at that time. That was a 26:00job I had until I was drafted in 1940-’42.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, we have had a lot of people tell us that the people who were active in the union like you were people who weren’t very much respected and here you are a Sunday school superintendent doing this. What do you say about that?

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, I don’t know who has opinions, but we didn’t feel like it. Not as good or at least as good a reputation as anybody else.

GEORGE STONEY: We found a lot of people, and some of the leaders, like a fellow 27:00in Hogansville who was a church leader and we’ve had people there tell us about him and some of the others, like Paul Christopher up in, uh, Selby -

HELFAND: Excuse me, George. Let’s wait until that plane goes by.

JAMIE STONEY: Smile, crack a grin. Now get serious. OK. He does it so well.

CLAUDE HELTON: I know that our president was an active worker in the Methodist church - Faith Methodist, and our secretary who later became the president was a member of [Flint?] Groves and he - I believe he was on the deacon board or at least active in the church, and he lived right down this - last house on the corner.

GEORGE STONEY: Would you mind doing that again and naming those people as we do 28:00it? OK?

CLAUDE HELTON: Our president, who was Donald [Mower?], and he lived second house out here and he was an active worker in the Faith Methodist Church and the one who took his place as the president was Budd Hartman who lived down here on the corner house, and he was a real Christian gentleman if there ever was one, well-liked by everybody and I don’t know of any [others?] that we ever had that was not - I’d say an outstanding citizen (inaubible) kind that gave you trouble or was always in trouble.

GEORGE STONEY: Now why did that fellow stop being president and somebody else 29:00get to be president?

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, that part I really can’t tell you about because when he left - I don’t know whether -

GEORGE STONEY: He left the village.

CLAUDE HELTON: Yeah, he left and (inaudible) went and moved to (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: Do you think he had to leave?

CLAUDE HELTON: That I don’t know, but in my opinion I think there was some cause for it. I don’t know whether (inaudible) were made by the company should be light on the other strikers or what. As far as I know there was no pressure put on the other members about him. All I know was he did move.

GEORGE STONEY: He had to move?

30:00

CLAUDE HELTON: Yeah. That’s what I’m saying.

GEORGE STONEY: So, they fired the president and let the rest of you stay.

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, not fired, now, but the president resigned and then he was replaced by Bud Hartman.

HELFAND: You mean that - he doesn’t mean that the union fired the president, he means that the company wouldn’t hire the president back - the president of the union - back on his job.

CLAUDE HELTON: Now, I suppose you have to say he was like the rest of us being a union member. He was not put back on at that time.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, after the strike -

HELFAND: Excuse me. I think I’m going to see if I can get that gentleman to stop.

JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible) about the hot sun.

GEORGE STONEY: Let’s go down and sit in the shade.

CLAUDE HELTON: OK.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, c’mon.

31:00

(pause)

GEORGE STONEY: And how many children did you have?

CLAUDE HELTON: One. Steven was born four years later.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, tell us what you remember about the strike.

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, the strike itself I don’t remember too much except what I read on - about some of the places where they were having flying squadrons just close them down. All I really know was just since I didn’t go and visit the other places, what took place here at - I do know that the morning that the union 32:00called a strike, I was on the picket line, which was right - was by (inaudible) and I stood in that picket line and the song that they were singing at the time was “I Shall Not Be Moved”. I remember that. I shall not be moved.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you sing it now?

CLAUDE HELTON: No, uh-uh. I didn’t sing too well then, but now I don’t sing at all.

HELFAND: Oh, just try.

CLAUDE HELTON: Some of it was like a tree planted by the waters, that some of it, I shall not be moved. But, um, we were moved. That was not true when we were singing I shall not be moved. The (inaudible) itself, you know, that’s because to be moved because a lot of - to picket and get in front of the gait 33:00and block people from going to their job and that was - that part I remember very well. Also, the one that would come there was Reverend Morris Baker, who was - I’d say not an educated person, but not a ministerial student, but he felt the call of God to preach. He would conduct services there. I remember that very well.

GEORGE STONEY: On the picket line?

CLAUDE HELTON: Yeah, uh-huh, that went with the group.

GEORGE STONEY: Was he with you or against you?

34:00

CLAUDE HELTON: Apparently he was with the union - I mean with the one who struck. He worked in the mill, too. But he was not active in anything in any way. As far as I ever knew he never showed any partiality between the union and the company and the union members or the strikers.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, when the strike was over, the government said that you should go back and that the manufacturers must take back everybody who had been on strike. What happened in your case?

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, in my case, and with several others, the company did not put us 35:00back on our jobs and the thought was they said later at a hearing that everybody had been put back to work, but some who were undesirables.

GEORGE STONEY: And you were considered undesirable?

CLAUDE HELTON: I was considered - since I wasn’t an officer, I was considered undesirable and so I was never asked to go back to work - at that time.

GEORGE STONEY: How long was it before you got back to work?

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, I worked on the FERA for 11 months and so it was -

GEORGE STONEY: That relief program?

CLAUDE HELTON: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: What did you do?

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, some of the things I supposed you did on that program were build - 36:00help build roads and clean out ditches and things like that. So I did that part and later I helped the time keeper to take the -

GEORGE STONEY: Just a moment.

HELFAND: You know, I’m going to get that softie. I think -

(break in audio)

GEORGE STONEY: - preacher who helped you in the strike? Tell us about his education. Name him and tell us about -

CLAUDE HELTON: What his name was Reverend Morris Baker. It was my understanding that he didn’t go to school at all, that he had no schooling at all, but he wanted to read the bible and his wife taught him how to read. And so, she did a good 37:00job because he could take the bible and read it and he wouldn’t miss a thing. That’s one reason I say he was called to be a preacher.

GEORGE STONEY: And he worked in the mill?

CLAUDE HELTON: Yeah, he worked in the mill. At that time he was working.

GEORGE STONEY: And he preached at the strike?

CLAUDE HELTON: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, now, tell us again what happened to you after the strike?

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, after the strike was over, um, since we were not put back to work and the family needs something to buy groceries, I was given a job working on 38:00the WPA - yeah, W - I mean, FERA, I believe it was called. And so - I worked there for about 11 months.

GEORGE STONEY: When did you get back in the mill and how?

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, it was - must have been a little over a year later that the company started - I suppose it got some more orders and they were able to start up more of the machinery on the second shift. Now, I had a job on the first shift to begin with, but on this job it was on the second shift. That was from 2:00 to 10:00. And I suppose there was no question about the union (inaudible) when I walked by it, but the overseer, who was Will Jenkins at that time, is the 39:00one that called me in to take this job. So that’s what I did. They started off with a number of spinning frames and [worked it?]. I suppose business got [busy?]. They enlarged that and soon had all of the machines running.

GEORGE STONEY: I’m going to wait until this plane passes. The strike was over, they wouldn’t hire you back.

CLAUDE HELTON: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Why didn’t you go to another mill?

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, the reason I didn’t go is because is (inaudible) the people who were strikers, their names were given to the other mill people and so if you - 40:00that’s why I heard from some if you went and applied for a job, then they’d want to know where you worked last and of course you tell them where you worked and, like, I worked at Grove Thread, uh, they would check on you and see if you were a union member and then that would be against you if you were a union member. So that’s why I never even tried to find another job then.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you - when you finally got your job back, was there anything said about the union?

CLAUDE HELTON: Not one thing. It was never mentioned and when they asked me to come back on the job, never mentioned union at all. So, he was a member of the same 41:00church I was at the time.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, when, uh, when you did get back to work, what had happened to the union?

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, it had - I guess you would have to say it disbanded because there wasn’t anybody - wasn’t any meetings being held and, uh, so there (inaudible) what had taken place and just gradually the union fell apart, I guess I’d have to say that.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, now, right after the strike, the union - we have papers from Washington to show that the union was protesting to Washington about the 42:00unfair treatment you people were giving - given at that time. So there was some activity. For example, we have some with Red listening on it - listing people who were blacklisted, like you, and there were some hearings. Were you ever involved in any of those hearings?

CLAUDE HELTON: That one that I was involved in was when they - they had been charged with discriminating against union help and then the company was [saying?] that they were not guilty, but then that was when I was questioned at the hearing and that’s when they were questioning about the ones that had been put back to 43:00work, they said, uh, that they’d put back all the ones that they were going to put back at that time and the others were undesirable. So, that -

GEORGE STONEY: How did that make you feel?

CLAUDE HELTON: Not so good because I felt like I was just as important as any person -

JAMIE STONEY: Did you feel that you had done anything wrong?

CLAUDE HELTON: No. At that time I didn’t.

GEORGE STONEY: What about now?

CLAUDE HELTON: I had a change of mind on some things. I felt like now that was the wrong thing to do. I should not have tried to force the company - the people to 44:00hire me or force them to pay a certain amount, that the government should not force them to do that, and when I think about it that I did the wrong thing by getting up there and saying that the people who want to work cannot work. So that part I felt like it was the wrong thing for a Christian to do.

HELFAND: Excuse me George -

GEORGE STONEY: How could -

HELFAND: There’s someone playing basketball. OK.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us more about the hearing. Did they prepare you for the hearing? What happened?

CLAUDE HELTON: No, they didn’t prepare us for that I just - they wanted us to be 45:00there at that time. That’s when - we were not told to say anything other than the questions that were asked of us.

GEORGE STONEY: Who came to get you for the hearings?

CLAUDE HELTON: Now that part I don’t remember any special [one?]. I don’t remember going with anybody to the hearing. I just knew that it was uptown.

GEORGE STONEY: Where were the hearings?

CLAUDE HELTON: It was in Gastonia, in the city.

GEORGE STONEY: In the city of Gastonia. What, in the courthouse?

CLAUDE HELTON: Let’s see now - yeah. In the courthouse in the city hall. It’s right next to that.

GEORGE STONEY: Were there others with you?

CLAUDE HELTON: Only a few.

46:00

GEORGE STONEY: Was the president of your local one of them?

CLAUDE HELTON: No, he was not - the president at the time of the strike - but I remember somewhat the one who succeeded [Moore?] was on it.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, what about the - what people from the management were there? Do you remember?

CLAUDE HELTON: The only person I can remember was Mr. Thornberg who was secretary and treasurer of the company. He’s the only one I can - that I knew to represent the company.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, that must have been a pretty special time for you, a young 47:00fellow right out of the mills, sitting with the secretary and treasurer of the mills?

CLAUDE HELTON: Yeah, that was quite an experience all right. But I knew him through other activities in the church for what’s called the Baptist - the [Gaston?] County Baptist Association, which included - at that time we had 80 - I believe we had 80 Baptist churches that supported that organization and [that we do now?] representatives from all [phases?] of the church, like, the missionaries, Sunday school, [training?], things like that. So the people that came to that meeting were officers in their local church. So, I got acquainted with Mr. 48:00Thornberg through that. He was a worker in the association.

GEORGE STONEY: So you were fellow Baptists, but on the different sides in the mill?

CLAUDE HELTON: Yeah, that’s what it boiled down to.

GEORGE STONEY: What did you think the workers in the mills could have done to improve their conditions?

CLAUDE HELTON: At that time, I really didn’t - I couldn’t think of anything that could be done. As a matter of fact, I thought we were pretty well treated by the company and I didn’t know of anything that they did to any person that 49:00would cause them to have any hatred for the mill company. And as far as - like I said, back then some of the mills used stretch out systems, they would [work more people?] than they should, but I didn’t have any knowledge of anybody who worked for (inaudible) like that. So my relationship and my feeling towards the company was good.

GEORGE STONEY: And later what happened to you in the mill? You went from one job to another.

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, when Mr. Jenkins asked me to come back, as they enlarged the number of frames - spinning frames - that they were running, and added large 50:00(inaudible) to the winding department and spooling, (inaudible) - as they added - (inaudible) hours put over that on the second shift.

GEORGE STONEY: So you became a section hand?

CLAUDE HELTON: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: And after that did you get other promotions?

CLAUDE HELTON: No, that was - after that then the war came along and I was drafted and I was away three years. Then, of course the law said then that companies had to put you back to work on the job you had when you applied for it, so that’s what happened there. Served three years in the Army, came back and went on that same job.

GEORGE STONEY: And you were there for how long?

51:00

CLAUDE HELTON: Oh, I suppose about three or four years. That’s just a guess.

GEORGE STONEY: And then what happened?

CLAUDE HELTON: And then from that I - I believe at that time, too, I had been put back on the job of superintendent at the church and I felt like that was very important and of course the superintendent - I believe it was about six years, so the workers in the Sunday school - I felt like we needed more training. So in order to do that I needed to be back with them and most of the meetings were 52:00held at night. Since I was on the second shift I couldn’t be there and help lead in that. So that’s what I wanted to do - be on the first shift so I could attend all these meetings and do more planning work in the Sunday school. So, the overseer at that time, I told him I’d like to go back on the first shift if they had a job open and go back on that job. That way it would give me the opportunity to go back and do my church work. So an opening came up and so he made it possible for me to make that switch so that (inaudible) I believe 53:00about maybe two years or a year and a half, the business here was growing all the time.

GEORGE STONEY: In your store?

CLAUDE HELTON: Uh-huh, and so I decided that I could do better if I just enlarged this store. I put a complete line of groceries. I put a meat box in there and (inaudible) and restocking, give more. So that’s what I did I quit that job on the first shift. And I worked there for a good - I don’t know how many years - a good many and made a pretty good living.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, life in the mill village here must have changed a lot since from the first time you moved in here until later. How did it change?

54:00

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, I haven’t kept up actually with the workers in the mill, but I understand that lots of the jobs have changed, moved out some machinery, moved from different places and changed the method of pay. So as far as I can see is that the moves that have profited the company (inaudible) making it easier on the worker, I don’t know about that now since I didn’t associate with them much after that other than when they would come in the store (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: Now this was considered a good mill village at the time?

CLAUDE HELTON: Oh, yeah.

55:00

GEORGE STONEY: What made it good?

CLAUDE HELTON: Uh, I think what made it good was the workers and a concern of the workers for one another. I mean, it had a closeness I guess you could say, back at that time. Of course, in my opinion, the church has made a very important part of that when people didn’t cooperate with each other. They just made good neighbors.

56:00

GEORGE STONEY: Did the manufacturer’s - the management - contribute to the churches?

CLAUDE HELTON: Oh, yeah. Mr. Groves - Earl Groves -

GEORGE STONEY: Just a minute. I’m going to ask that again. Did the manufacturers contribute to the churches?

CLAUDE HELTON: Uh-huh. To Groves Church they donated $50,000.

GEORGE STONEY: Oh, sorry. I have to do it again. Damn, darn.

HELFAND: One second.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us about the manufacturers and the churches.

CLAUDE HELTON: Well, I was considered even back then that the mill officials were 57:00(inaudible) their employees. I felt like they were trying to do what they thought was the thing to do for them and especially the church. I believe it was the educational building that was built and Mr. Groves donated $50,000 to - on the cost of that building.

GEORGE STONEY: Fifty thousand dollars?

CLAUDE HELTON: Fifty thousand. And that’s a lot of money.

GEORGE STONEY: That’s a lot of money, yes.

CLAUDE HELTON: But it is.

GEORGE STONEY: Did they -