Rev. Frank Miller Interview 1

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search This Transcript

No Audio from 00:00:00 to 00:02:51





GEORGE STONEY: Just have to wait.

JUDITH HELFAND: Just - we need to be in this lane over here.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, when he turns, you’ll – then you’re going to have to 3:00turn left, anyway, so -

HELFAND: Yeah, but I need to turn - left lane around, not here, so –


HELFAND: - to – in the left lane, it should be – the right land -

JAMIE STONEY: Just going to turn right ahead of you and go ahead and merge.

GEORGE STONEY: No, you’re all right, yeah.

JAMIE STONEY: Just right ahead and slide over here.

GEORGE STONEY: Oh, the body shop. No, that – no –

HELFAND: Paul’s Body Shop.

GEORGE STONEY: Paul’s Body Shop.

HELFAND: This is Carolina.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh-huh, OK. Uh, the fifth house on the left.



GEORGE STONEY: One, two, three, four, five, right there.

HELFAND: Is this it? Uh, here it is, It’s 6-1-1.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. We’re going to shoot, I guess, no?

HELFAND: Oh, yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: This is Mr. Frank Miller who, Judy, I believe you said that he was, uh, a brother-in-law of Red Lisk -


GEORGE STONEY: - who was a member of the union and you interviewed him – when was it, last spring?

HELFAND: Last summer.

GEORGE STONEY: Last summer, OK.

HELFAND: August, September in –

GEORGE STONEY: Oh, when we were down with the – the [Callen?] Campaign.


HELFAND: You left.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah, after the Callen Campaign.


GEORGE STONEY: OK, well, we’ll see if he’s there.



GEORGE STONEY: Hello, Mr. Miller. How are you?

FRANK MILLER: I’m fine thank you and how are you?

GEORGE STONEY: Good to see you.

HELFAND: Mr. Miller, this is George Stoney.

GEORGE STONEY: Pleased to know you. Hello, Mrs. Miller.


GEORGE STONEY: Oh, it’s nice of you to see us. Yeah –

HELFAND: And this is George’s son James.

GEORGE STONEY: - and my son, James.

FRANK MILLER: Good to see you again.

HELFAND: Oh, it’s good to see you.

JAMIE STONEY: How are you doing, Sir?

FRANK MILLER: Fine, thank you.

HELFAND: How about a hug? It’s been a year, right, (laughter) and I spoke to you on the phone this morning.


HELFAND: How are you doing?

ELLEN MILLER: We’re doing fine.


FRANK MILLER: Have a seat.

ELFAND: We brought in our tape recorder just because I – I was - I just wanted to film them saying hi.

ELLEN MILLER: That’s all right. You all have a seat.


GEORGE STONEY: Lay up, Jamie. OK.

FRANK MILLER: Sit down, you –

GEORGE STONEY: All right, thank you.

HELFAND: Can we turn a light on?

ELLEN MILLER: Yeah, behind the door.

FRANK MILLER: Yeah, behind the door. It’s that round button. Turn it to the right. Turn it to the right, that round button.

JAMIE STONEY: Uh, mucho - más bueno.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, you don’t know how pleased we are to see you.

FRANK MILLER: (laughter) I didn’t know if you were gonna get here or not –well, we heard them talking about severe storms.

GEORGE STONEY: Yes, that’s right.

HELFAND: Is that right?


ELLEN MILLER: His daughter called and said it was on TV.

FRANK MILLER: Well, I heard it. Well, it got a little bit, obvious –


GEORGE STONEY: Well, we’ve been around, uh, Kannopolis – I mean, around, uh, Gastonia -


GEORGE STONEY: - and somehow it seems every time we start out, it starts raining.

FRANK MILLER: It starts to rain.

GEORGE STONEY: That’s right.

FRANK MILLER: Yeah, they called for severe thunderstorm watch, you know, yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: You get a lot of blows through here, don’t you?


GEORGE STONEY: You get a lot of, uh, wind storms coming through here.


FRANK MILLER: Yeah, but we’re kind of down in the flat, here.

GEORGE STONEY: I noticed that you’re – you’re kind of safe here.

FRANK MILLER: (laughter) Yeah. Well, you know, I kind of caught you, to get me on that machine, don’t you? (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: We haven’t signed a contract yet.

FRANK MILLER: Yeah, yeah. When do we sign the contract?


GEORGE STONEY: Uh, I wonder if you could tell us something about your memories of, uh, the textile organization here. Uh, we know that it started very early.

FRANK MILLER: Well, I’m going to tell you something. The people that used to work in textiles went out of working there back – but they were so poor that Daddy swiped a piece of fat-backed meat over the table and they saw it but to shatter all of its way by. (laughter) That -- folks want to support the poor people – called [her?] poor. (laughter) So, uh, it was a rough life. Yeah, it 8:00was. It was a pretty hard life. Work from seven o’clock in the morning, get an hour for dinner, and get off at, uh, 6:00 in the evening and work five days a week and half a day on Saturday. It was a pretty rough life. I started off in the mill when I started to work at 16 years old. I made $13.20 a week, 10 hours a day, 5 days and a half a week, (laughter) so you can kind of imagine. Then, the Depression come along. I forget what it was, but it cut me down, too, then. It was less than $13.20, and it was pretty rough, a pretty rough life.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, you started working in the mills. Uh, do you remember what year? When were you born?


FRANK MILLER: No, I was born in 1912, but I was 16 years old. Now, you figure that out from 19 --

GEORGE STONEY: Well, that’s, uh, ’28 – 1928.

FRANK MILLER: Yeah, I was 16 years old when I started to work in the mill, and it was hard to get a job back then. I mean, if you didn’t have somebody to try and pull for you. My father and the overseer – they were good friends, you know, and so he gave me a job in the mill, and my job was starting off sweeping, you see. Uh, I done sweeping in the mill. Then, the next thing, I’m taking out twill, the next thing, laying up fillings, and then the next thing, I went to weaving, and next thing I went to fixing looms – loom-fixer, and I was that when I quit.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, that’s – that was a top job, wasn’t it?

FRANK MILLER: Yeah, about the top job next to the foreman and overseer.

HELFAND: George, I’m wondering now, it’s been a year since Mr. Miller and I talked and he doesn’t know too much – I’m not sure you remember exactly what we’re doing and what our project is all about, and the air 10:00conditioning is on.

FRANK MILLER: Yeah, what is this all about, anyway? I’m not – it could be –

GEORGE STONEY: Could we cut the air conditioning and then I’d like to talk to you?

HELFAND: Maybe, we should cut this –

FRANK MILLER: The old man, Jim Cannon, built the first Cannon Mill. They’ve done torn it down now, here in Concord, and back then, uh, they had the first mill, and I remember my sister – she’s dead now – she was over 90 – she went to work in the mill in Kannapolis, I believe, when she was nine years old. Yeah, they used to work them when they were just – I don’t remember that but I know her telling me about it, you know, her going to work at nine years old, and, uh, you had no say, so they’d tell you what to do and you done what they said to do. You know what I mean?


GEORGE STONEY: Did you live in a mill house?

FRANK MILLER: Uh, before I started in the ministry, I lived in a mill house. I moved over onto Mill Village. I had to clean up the street where I lived on because, man, it was rough, and I told the superintendent I was getting on, you know, a little age on me then, had some children, that I was going to leave. He said, “No, I want some good people down here,” and so it become better, you know. But, way, way back yonder, though, you – you didn’t have a say- so about nothing much. I mean, you worked in the mill and you worked, and they’d tell you what to do and that’s it. I remember they had a strike. I don’t remember what year it was in, but the Cannons, see, they had power. They called 12:00the home guards at; had the home guards at the gates, you know, to keep people – to let people go in if they wanted to. No such thing as a union. They were trying to get one, you see, and if you, uh – that’s where my brother-in-law come in. If I’m not mistaken, now, my brother-in-law – he was trying to help to organize the Brown Mill.

GEORGE STONEY: What was his name?

FRANK MILLER: Heywood but you called him “Red,” and later on, they called him “Six-Hour Red.” He was trying to get six hours a day, you know.

GEORGE STONEY: And his last name?

FRANK MILLER: Yeah, Heywood Lisk. That was his name but everybody called him “Red Lisk.” Now, I told her, I said, “Call his son up.” He did have some pictures of him and President Johnson and all of them, see, and when the old boy started out, he didn’t – lived in a little old shotgun house over at the Brown Mill, and I believe they pardoned Red on account, now, I won’t be 13:00for sure but I’m pretty sure they did on account of the union, you know, but he went right to work with the textile union as an organizer. Then, he worked himself on up. I don’t know what he was when he retired before he died, but he retired, had a heart attack and retired, and I don’t know what he was in the union then. I know he had a big job with them.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, we were talking with some fellows just yesterday who remembered Red Lisk coming to speak to the union.


GEORGE STONEY: One fellow said, “I joined the union because of Six-Hour Red.

FRANK MILLER: Yeah. (laughter) That’s what they named him somehow and called him Six-Hour Red. He was trying to get 6 hours a day, you know, instead of 8 hours; get 4 shifts, you know, a day, at 24 hours, yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, what was the idea of that?


FRANK MILLER: Well, he figured people were working too hard and too long, yeah, because I’ll tell you what, Brother, when you went in those mills, you’d go in and you’d put in your eight hours of work. I mean, it was a job.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember when the NRA came in, the Blue Eagle, and they cut it from 11 to 8?

FRANK MILLER: Eight hours a day, yeah, it was under – under, uh, Franklin Roosevelt, I believe it was, yeah, under him.

GEORGE STONEY: What did that feel like?

FRANK MILLER: Oh, man, that felt like heaven in a way, (laughter) because, I mean, uh, uh, in fact, before they had all the labor laws like that had, see, like when I went to work, it was $13.20 a week. They set your – there wasn’t no time-and-a-half and like that for extra time; worked 10 hours a day, you see. You didn’t get no overtime for eight hours. You didn’t get no 15:00extra time for on Saturday. You just drawed your salary, what they paid you.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, there’s a building down at the edge of town that somebody showed us called the “union store.” Uh, do you know anything about that building?

FRANK MILLER: The union store? There used to be a union store. Now, I believe that’s what they call – was that – what they called the “union store” was Ellen– hey, wait a minute. It was out on the old Locke Mill down here. Didn’t they call that the “union store?”

ELLEN MILLER: The company store.


ELLEN MILLER: Company store.

FRANK MILLER: What – well, I don’t know anything about the union store. I can’t get it in my mind right now.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you ever hear about a strike in 1921?

FRANK MILLER: Yeah, they had a home guard. I believe it was ’21 when they had the home guard out then. I was trying to help to get that – I believe it was 16:00’21. I was trying to get help to get it organized, and I was about to get fired on account of it.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, now, there was another big strike in – in ’34.

FRANK MILLER: Well, that must have been the one that I was trying to help, in ’34, yeah, in ’34, the one I was trying to help in.

GEORGE STONEY: What did you do?

FRANK MILLER: But, uh, I was fixing looms then and I believe that’s what I was doing, and I was signing people up, and me and my overseer – well, he was in with me and my dad. We had an old patent, you see, we got on the loom, and we did find, and they were a little more lenient along then than they were back before, and he told me – he said, “Frank, you’d better watch out. They’re talking about you out in the big office, you know,” and I said, “Well, I’m going to tell you something. If people want what they’ve got 17:00and don’t want nothing no better, I’m just stopping. I ain’t gonna – I had no more to do with it.” See, the organizer – we’d go out and have lunch together, and I was happy to sign them up, you see, at the mill. But, they would fire you if they found out. They’d find some reason to let you go.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, how would they find out?

FRANK MILLER: Somebody’d go talk to them and tell them, yeah. See, they’re having a big court case right here in Cabarrus County now on account of the union up at, uh, Fieldcrest Cannon. Yeah, they’re having a court case now about that, and, uh, along back then, they, uh, they had – there were people in there that would go and if you talked to them and go and tell them, you know, and so, in a way, you didn’t hardly know who to talk to if you want to keep your job.

GEORGE STONEY: What did they call those people?


FRANK MILLER: Well, I don’t know what they called them. (laughter) But, I believed in the union, you know. My brother-in-law – he was a – I’d say a big wheel in the union, and I’d been with him on some of his meetings and things, and I believed in it because I didn’t think the people were being treated fair in the cotton mill where now they’re paying a whole lot more in the mill now than they did, you know. They make pretty good money in the mill now compared to what they used to make.

GEORGE STONEY: Where did you think your brother-in-law got his ideas?

FRANK MILLER: Well, I don’t know. Uh, see, my daddy always believed in a union, and my brother-in-law was a good speaker. The fact is I think the Lord 19:00called him to be a Methodist preacher. (laughter) But, when, uh, the union come along and had that strike, I believe in ’34, when they had the strike, then him and, uh, several more was – let – they let them go, and Red – he just went right on with the work with the union because he was a good speaker and a good organizer. He went right to work with the union, and he worked himself up in the union.

GEORGE STONEY: What – did you have a job as officer of the union?

FRANK MILLER: No, I didn’t have no job in the union at all. I just told my wife today I had an opportunity to have been an organizer back then but I didn’t take it.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember what dues you paid?

FRANK MILLER: No, I don’t, but I don’t know whether I got – still got my old union book in yonder or not. But, I did have a union book, you know. It 20:00wasn’t – we didn’t have to pay nothing much, you know, the fact is I don’t believe we had to pay anything. What we were trying to do was get them signed up and get the union in. But, we all, every one of us, got a book to join the union.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you have any idea how long ahead of that ’34 strike you started organizing? Let me help you. Uh, the strike came in, uh, August – in September of ’40 – of ’34, and the NRA came in in June of ’33 with Section 7A that said you had the right to have a union.

FRANK MILLER: No, I don’t – I don’t recall but I’d say, uh, uh, we started at the mill where I was working in – now, Cannon didn’t own that 21:00mill then. We called it the Brown Mill. The Johnsons in Charlotte owned that mill, and, uh, I’d say, uh, about a year, you know, before we called for an election, something like that. It was about a year that I was trying to help to sign people up, and I did sign some of them up, even signed my overseer’s people, some of them, up. (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: What about – uh, what did the women do in the union?

FRANK MILLER: The women. Well, to tell you the truth, we didn’t have too many union meetings because, if we would have one, they had people – the company would have people that – that knew the folks and they’d be standing on the other side of the street, watching, see, taking names. That’s right. I remember we had one meeting at Hotel Concord, I believe, and some of them from the mill on the other side of the street, watching as we went in, you see, 22:00(laughter) because – I mean, it was a scary thing for people that had jobs then because you couldn’t hardly get a hold of a job. You pretty well had to have somebody that, uh, talked for you to get a job at the mill. Back there in the Depression, why, I’ve seen them, it looked like 30 or 40 on the outside of the mill out there on Monday morning wanting to or trying to get a job, you see, and back along during the Depression, let’s see, what year was that in?

GEORGE STONEY: Well, it started in ’29.

FRANK MILLER: Well, the Depression, back during the Depression, uh, I lived close to the railroad and I’d go down and watch a train come through, take the children when I was done – I’d got married then, and, uh, meet carloads of people going north, carloads coming down south, people looking for jobs, you see, and so, it was hard to get a job, and 23:00people were afraid if they got fired, that was it. So, they were afraid of the union.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, when the –

FRANK MILLER: Or boots if you had or had cowboy hat, getting one, it’s John Wayne.


GEORGE STONEY: When you’re ready, Judy.

JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible) didn’t start until the end of ’68.

HELFAND: George should remember dialogue.

JAMIE STONEY: He was on the Disney Channel, Adam Lee.

FRANK MILLER: Who’s that?


ELLEN MILLER: We don’t have the Disney Channel.

JAMIE STONEY: He was a stunt man. He worked for John Wayne, quit for 20 years, came back at 68 and became a star.

FRANK MILLER: Yeah, well I’ll be 80 on my birthday in two months. (laughter)

JAMIE STONEY: Look at George Burns. He’s booked until he’s 102.



JAMIE STONEY: He said he’s got to stay alive. He can’t afford to die.


FRANK MILLER: Well, it is about the truth, uh –

JAMIE STONEY: We’re rolling. We were –

FRANK MILLER: - been a lot of changes since I was a boy.

JAMIE STONEY: In – come – that’s good.


GEORGE STONEY: Um, you said there’ve been a lot of changes. You’re saying that you can’t tell – now you can’t tell a cotton mill worker from a banker or something. Back then, how could you tell the difference?

FRANK MILLER: Well, uh, when I was a little old boy, when I was just a small boy, the first day of May, we got to kick our shoes off and go barefooted, and my daddy would take us out and set us under a tree, and he had an old pair of clippers, you know, and you’d just skin our heads, you know, and, boy, we enjoyed that, you know, skinned heads and barefooted, and, (laughter) when we’d go up town, why, you could tell cotton mill kids, you know. We’d wear our little old overalls or things like that, you know, and you could tell the difference, (laughter) yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Did that ever bother you?

FRANK MILLER: No, it didn’t bother me because I was just a kid, you know, and I thought everything was all right. But, uh, I used to, when I was a boy, you 25:00know, little old fellow, my daddy could come home, you know, from work. I’d run and meet him, catch him by the hand and walk home with him, and back – I’ve got some tapes somewhere that I sat down one day and started to just record my life story on a bunch of tapes, from my childhood up, you know, say, but I quit before I got through. (laughter) But, uh, back when I was a little old boy, see, the streets in Concord wasn’t paved and all. In fact, they had street cars down here in Concord. My son got a picture of a street down here in Concord with an old streetcar coming up the street, see, and three streetcars. They run around over town, and, uh, when I was a little old boy, we’d get on the streetcar. It cost a nickel, and we’d ride all the way to town, over 26:00around towards the old Gibson Mill and back. We’d stay on there. The conductor would finally say, “Hey, I think you boys got your nickel’s worth. Time to get off,” (laughter) and, you see, when I was a boy, we’d get out and hunt Coca-Cola bottles. You’d get paid for them, so much a dozen, you see, maybe a nickel or a dime a dozen. We’d go out and hunt Coca-Cola bottles and sell them and get us a little candy or popcorn or something with. It cost you a dime to go in the show back then, and they didn’t have a talking picture. I guess you remember them days. A fellow sat down at the front and played a piano and you’d have to look at the picture and read it, you know, as it went by, (laughter) and that was back when I was a little boy, you see, (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: How much education did you have?

FRANK MILLER: I didn’t go no higher than the 10th grade in school. My dad wanted me to go on and finish and go to college but I wouldn’t. You know, I 27:00was like all of the young boys, getting their job and got married about 21 years old and started raising a family, then like starting death. (laughter) Now, I’m going to tell you something else. You see, the big manufacturers and these bigger companies are putting the little companies out of business. If it hadn’t have been for a grocery man over there at the Brown Mill and some of these grocery stores, you know, that had about - all these mill hills had, uh, grocery stores. It was privately owned. If it hadn’t have been for them, half of the mill people would have starved to death. You could buy groceries on credit from them. See what I mean, and that’s how - your groceries are on credit and you’d pay them every pay – when payday would come around, you’d go pay them. Half of the time, oh, maybe, not half of the time but a lot of the 28:00time, the mill would shut down for a week or go on two days a week and then when payday would come, you didn’t have enough to pay for your groceries. He’d just let it go until the next payday, and then you’d pay him what you could. But, I’ve said this a lot of times. If it hadn’t been for my grocery man, I had five children, I’ve had starved to death instead of trying to raise my children, and I don’t mind telling you this. Oh, it’s been a good little while back. I knew I owed my grocery man some money, but, you know, I never quit trade with my grocery man. Whenever these Winn-Dixies and Food Lions and all come around, I still continue to go and trade with my grocery man. I know he charges a little more than these other stores, because he took care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself, and I figured I owed him a little money, long, later on, and I went to his home one day. He was sick. He’s dead now, 29:00and I went in. I had three $100 bills in my hand. I said, “I don’t know how much I owe you, but I think this will take care of it. So, here are $300. We’re clean now,” and he said, “You don’t know how much I appreciate that.” I’d been honest to him a good while. I knew I owed him but I didn’t know how much or what but I’d still been trading with him, you see, and he had done gone out of business now, and he was sick. I went to his home. But, if it hadn’t have been for these, uh, mill, uh, stores on the Mill Hill, I’ll be honest with you. People would have really went hungry because they – they took care of them, you see. I have known fellows, you know. Now, I didn’t do this, but maybe owed the grocery man $800, $900, say, behind that much, and he’d get the grocery man to sign a note for him, go to the bank and 30:00borrow the money, go pay the grocery man at that, you know, $800 or $900, $700, whatever it was, and then he’d start a new bill, and then he’d be paying the bank and a new bill, trying to keep it up. Oh, it was hard back in them days. It really was. Uh, I’ve seen a time when I – now, the Fourth of July, I was up a grown boy, a man, and the Fourth of July was the only day we got for a vacation, and I took the Fourth of July. That was my blackberry-picking day. I’d go out and pick blackberries all day and bring them home. My wife – she’d make jam and jelly and all that out of them, you know, and, uh, we canned a lot of stuff back then. We had to. I even got out and tried to pick cotton one time to make a little money, but, man, I couldn’t pick 100 pounds of cotton to save my life. (laughter) But, I mean, any way to – I always tried 31:00myself – I always tried to have me a little garden because I realized that, uh, every little bit helped, and so, back along then, well, my wife there – she’d tell you some of that now. She’s my second wife. My first wife died, going on like about 11, 12 years ago.


FRANK MILLER: My first wife had –

GEORGE STONEY: Did you work in the mill?

ELLEN MILLER: Yeah, but I didn’t go to work until I was 40 years old. (laughter) I was just born in ’27.

FRANK MILLER: Yeah, she’s just 65. Yeah, I pick them young, (laughter) and I had a – I had a big home. See, I was working in the mill and I felt the Lord called me to preach. So, I went up yonder in the Winecoff community; a 32:00beautiful church up there now, and started a church. The first Sunday I had 50-something many. Sunday School – I believe 50 in Sunday School. In a year’s time, uh, the first year, before I was even ordained, the First Baptist Church preacher baptized 84 for me, and, uh, the second year, I believe it was, we had done bought some land and built a church, and then later, we remodeled and built more to the church, and there’s a nice, big brick church up yonder in the Winecoff community, and, a fellowship hut and all of that, you know, and –

GEORGE STONEY: We’ve been talking with, uh, some people who thought that the churches, uh, were all supported by the mill owners and so the preachers were 33:00very much against the unions.

FRANK MILLER: Well, I can’t say. Now, about some might be, but the Baptists – you can’t – uh, you can’t get a – uh, I’m a Baptist. (laughter) Baptists are independent people. They’re – they’re really independent. I mean, the way we, uh, we, uh, work is, the majority rules in a church. If the people don’t like the pastor, they can vote him out. I don’t care if it’s just a small boy. If he’s a member of that church, he’s got a right to vote. The majority rules in the church. Uh, the fact is if, uh, and I’m sure you know a lot about history. Some of our constitution was written on the Baptist doctrine, what we believe; freedom of speech and so forth and so on. So, anybody who knows anything about the Baptist Church, and we’re - we’re – we’re not a – a lot of people call us Protestant, but a Baptist is not a Protestant. They have never protested nobody else’s religion. (laughter) I 34:00don’t know whether you knew that or not, but we’re not a Protestant. We’re just a Baptist church. That’s what – we’ve got some big ones here in the United States, and – but, uh, I’ll say this, Brother, and God been good to me. He has. I thought that, uh, I come out of the mill and went and started that church. Well, then, I continued to work, you know, when I started. I got $20 a week. The church give me $20, started off. When we’d seen we going to go, they give me $20 a week and I was working in the mill, and we grew so fast, finally, I just – they asked me to quit, gave me $85 a week to come out. Well, I was making about $65 in the mill, fixing looms about as much as 35:00anybody or more than most of them were making, and I bought a home up there and didn’t have a nickel in my pocket. This fellow had a house for sale across, uh, from our church, right in front of it, and I had one nickel, and I found out what he wanted for it and I went down to the banker. This old gentlemen had told me – said, “Why don’t you buy your house, Preacher.” I said, “I ain’t never had a damn payment for one.” He said, “Well, if you ever find one, maybe I can help you.” So, I went up there and found out that house was for sale. I went downtown, saw the president of the bank that had it, asked him what he wanted for it. He told me. I said, “Well, I’ll take it.” I put my last nickel in the parking meter, go down there, and I didn’t have a nickel. I said, “I think I’ll take it,” and so he said, “Well, we’ve turned it over to a real estate man but said he ain’t advertised,” and said, “We’ll just take what we told you – I told you.” I said, “OK.” I 36:00went over and saw this old gentleman. He got in the car, rode with me up there, didn’t even get out of the car, looked at it. He said, “It don’t matter if it costs you $10,000.” There wasn’t nothing like that back then. He said, “It’s worth it,” and I said, “Well, I ain’t got no money.” He said, “You go down and ask to bill an old man. This old man has the money. I asked him if he would take one of my old houses, take the deed and hold it until you pay the first $1,000.” I went down and he said, “Yeah, tell him to come up here.” (laughter) So, the next day, we met him. I met, uh, met him and my wife, met him uptown, and him and his wife went together and he went down there and let them hold the deed to one of his old houses. He had a bunch of old houses, and that’s the way I got my first house, my first home.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, we’ve talked to a fair number of retired textile workers who all grew up on the Mill Hill and then they – as soon as they possibly 37:00could, they started getting a house of their own. Why did they want to get away from the Mill Hill so fast?

FRANK MILLER: Well, uh, I’ll tell you. It wasn’t no easy place to live a lot of time because, like I said, when I first moved on the Mill Hill, my wife and I had some good neighbors. When I – after I got over there and stayed there a while, they got shed of some of them around there, and I had some pretty good neighbors. But, uh, I think they just realized that one day they’re going to have to. If you get fired or anything, they’re going to have to have a place to live and, uh, but up there, to church, I bought that little old house I got, and then I got the church to buy a home on Winecoff School Road. They had a big old house, two or three times as big as this house. It had a 38:00parsonage, you know. Well, then, years later on, they just gave me and my wife that home. That was the first time I ever owned a nice home. It had about seven Pecan trees around the house, you know. (laughter) It was a nice home. Well, when my first wife died and I married her, she had this little home here, and then no way for me just to own what I get and, you know, to take care of an old big house like that. So, I just sold mine and come down here, and enjoying the fruits of my labor. (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: Well, I know that these people, if they lived in the Mill Village, they were pretty well under the control of the factory.

FRANK MILLER: That’s right, and you done what – you done what they tell you to do, see, and that’s why I said a lot of them was afraid of the union because, if they got tangled with the union, they’re going to have to move. See, they’d lose their job and move, too.


GEORGE STONEY: Did you see anybody get put out on the street like that?

FRANK MILLER: No, I’ve never seen one put out on the street, but, to tell you the truth about it, the people – they wanted a union, I think, but they were afraid to come out and say anything about it because of, uh, and you talk about the machine guns. Yeah, I’ve seen them – machine guns – up on the corner of the mill and the home guards at the gate, guarding the – you know, to let people in and out, and like if you lived down the road here somewhere, you couldn’t get to your own home without a home guard stepping out and stopping you and wanting to know where you were going, and that made me mad. Now, I didn’t like that at all. (laughter) Now, my dad – he’s a – he was a pretty old fellow. He always owned his own home, and he’d worked at the Brown Mill and during that strike, they came and tried to get him to come in. He 40:00said, “I’ve never worked under a gun in my life and I don’t intend to work under one.” Even the superintendent come over there and the overseer. He said, “Oh, come on in.” He said, “It won’t be nothing.” He said, “No.” He said, “When they move the guards, then I’ll come back if you want me.” He said, “I’m not coming back to work and a man’s standing out there with a gun.” He said, “I’ve never had to work under a gun before and I’m not going to start now.” So, he wouldn’t go back, but after the strike was over with, they sent for him to come right back on his job. He went back.

ELLEN MILLER: I had an uncle that, uh, was fired on account of the strike from Plant Six, and he lived in a mill house and he had to move. I was just a real small girl, but he had to move and him and his family – he moved his family down in the country on a farm. But, he drawed a -- he was in the Spanish-American War, and he drawed a pension from the Spanish-American War, 41:00plus he farmed. That’s how he lived then because he was – oh, he was way up in his forties then because when him and my aunt married, he was 46 years old, I believe, so he had two children, well, one of them six months older – younger than me but he’s retarded and then the other three are still younger than me. But, he was put out at Plant Six, what they call Gibson Mill. That’s about all I can tell you about it because I was just – just a kid, just a small kid. (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember seeing the guard – the home guard?

ELLEN MILLER: No, I never saw any guards. I’ve just heard my aunt and my mother, you know, talk about it, you know, why he was, you know, quit – why he was out of the mill because he worked in the mill.


FRANK MILLER: You see, whenever anything happened here in Concord with the textile mill, Charlie Cannon, he’s dead and gone now, but the Cannons – all they had to do was say, “I want the home guard,” and they’d come, see. I mean, they’re dominated. The town – uh, he didn’t own the town, but the town practically belonged to him, in a way. He’d tell them what’s what, and – but he was a nice fellow if you’d talk with him, but, uh, they dominated. See, this was a – the little old town was, uh, political, and, uh, back when I was a young fellow, the Democrats – that’s about all you know, and you either voted their way, uh, the fact is, in the Cannon Mill, they used to come around and tell you who they want you to vote for, and if they found out you didn’t vote for their man, they’d fire you. See what I mean? That’s how 43:00bad it was, and I worked down at the Cabaress Mill. I was at the Cannon Mill for just a short while, and election come around. I would have to wonder – Democratic meeting. When election come around, I went to vote and voted a straight-out Democrat – I mean, Republican, (laughter) and one of the overseers at the mill started to open my ballot, you know, to see. He said, “Which box?” I said, “I know which box it goes in,” and I put it in the box. (laughter) But, I did. I voted a straight-out Republican ticket because of the way it were, you know. (laughter) See, in the politics, see, Cannon ruled the political party, and therefore, it was mostly democratic, and they’d say who would be in an office and who wouldn’t; like if you’d want to run for an office, you had to see a certain man, and he’d tell you whether you could run 44:00or not, and if you run without his consent, then you was out. Yeah, you was out.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, one thing that kind of puzzles me about all of this – we’ve been talking to a lot of people – is that so many people find it hard to talk about this past. You know, they’re – they’re kind of reluctant to say people got shut out.


GEORGE STONEY: They’re reluctant to say they were members of the union and so forth. Do you have any reasons? Can you explain that to me?

FRANK MILLER: Well, and they talk to you now like that? Well, just let me say this. So many of them back then didn’t even realize what the union meant. They didn’t know what it was, too much about it, and now, see, along back 45:00then, they were afraid to get into it, to try to find out, because they knew they’d lose their job or may have to move, and so they shunned it altogether.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, now, this is what – the kind of the thing that’s bewildering us. We know at the time, we’ve been reading in the papers back then. We’d got copies of the paper. The papers were full of organization, starting when the NRA, you know, the Blue Eagles said that labor had a right to organize.


GEORGE STONEY: People started having meetings, and within less than a year, there were over 100 locals of the textile workers.

FRANK MILLER: Not here in Concord.

GEORGE STONEY: In North Carolina.

FRANK MILLER: Yeah, but not in Concord. (laughter) That’s what I’m saying. Uh, Concord was a political town, like, you see, Concord, Kannapolis. See, 46:00Cannon owned Kannapolis. That was his town, and he dominated Concord, too.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, what made you different?

FRANK MILLER: Well, I don’t know. I’m just a different fellow, I guess. (laughter) You see, that’s what a preacher asked me one time, a Presbyterian preacher. I asked him – I said – uh, he was a doctor. I said, uh, “Dr. Moore,” I said, “Why are you Presbyterian?” He said, “Well, my daddy was Presbyterian, and I was brought up in a Presbyterian church.” He said, “Well,” he said, “Why are you Baptist?” I said, “Well, Brother Moore, it’s just like this. My daddy rubbed me on the head when I was a little old boy and said, ‘Son, I want you to learn and know more than I knew when I come up,’ and I said, “I’m trying to do what my daddy told me. When I got grown,” I said, “he belonged to a Methodist church.” I said “Presbyterian” a while ago but not a Presbyterian preacher. My daddy belonged to a Methodist church, and he was a Republican, and I told this preacher – I said, “Well, I tried to do what my daddy told me,” and I 47:00said, “When I got grown, I went to the Democratic Party and joined the Baptist Church.” (laughter) He said, “You ain’t got no sense.” (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: Well, a lot of Republicans around. Uh -

FRANK MILLER: Oh, they are now, around here in Cabarrus County. Here, you’ll find a lot of them around here in Cabarrus County now.

GEORGE STONEY: See, I grew up in Winston-Salem -


GEORGE STONEY: - and we had a large group of Republicans up there when I grew up –


GEORGE STONEY: - coming down from the mountains -


GEORGE STONEY: - you know, those, uh, Yadkin and Stokes and all those counties were Republican counties.

FRANK MILLER: Yeah, well, that’s where my dad had come from, Stanly County, I mean, not Stanly but Yadkin County when he was a boy.

GEORGE STONEY: Where was he brought up or where was he born? Do you remember?

FRANK MILLER: He was born up in, uh, uh, Yadkin County, but my dad was –

GEORGE STONEY: Do you know, uh, which section? Was it Yadkinville?


FRANK MILLER: I think it – yeah, i believe it was around Yadkinville or Courtney [One?], right along in there somewhere where my daddy was born.

GEORGE STONEY: I spent a couple years of my childhood in a place called East Bend -


GEORGE STONEY: - over there, from seven to nine years old.

FRANK MILLER: Well, my – my dad and them moved down here when he was a young boy. See, he was just a boy, and, uh, I think, uh, my dad and mother used to run a boardinghouse here in Concord because, uh, Joe Gaskell – he used to board with my daddy and my grandma. I never remember my Grandma Miller, but I’ve heard my daddy talk and Gaskell was a Jew, and he owned what they called a hub down here. It was a furniture store and a clothing store, you know, and he done a good business. But, uh, I heard my daddy talk about it, you know, and they were just boys when he come down here, and his mother run a – a 49:00boardinghouse and Joe stayed with them.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you know if they come – they came down because, uh, the manufacturers sent up recruiters to – to persuade them to come down?

FRANK MILLER: No, I don’t know but I do know this - (laughter) and maybe I shouldn’t tell it but my daddy – my daddy’s daddy – he run a government still, so he must have been on the outside when he run it, see, (laughter) but he told me – he said, uh, “Son, you didn’t see,” uh, he said, “It was a disgrace for a man to get drunk back then.” Oh, they had some that would get drunk except liquor wasn’t made to get drunk on. People used it mostly for medicine back then, and, uh, he said when he was a little old boy, he had to get up, him and his brother, and go light up the old government still, fire it up, you know, for his daddy, because that was a place where people would come, sit around and talk, you know, take a gourd under there where that hot liquid 50:00was coming out (laughter) and take a little sip of it, you know, (laughter) and I go up in the mountain now. They tell me – I don’t know – that one of, uh, uh, the Millers came over here and one settled up in Yadkinville around Yadkinville, and the other one on up towards Boone. Well, now, I’ve to Boone. About half of it is Millers up in there. But, I met one fellow up there. He looked just like my daddy. You know, I asked him. I said, “Did your grandpa ever make up on [High?] Creek?” He owned about 300 acres of land up there, and I was up there in a revival and I went up to this home, had supper with him, and seen a big change now. When I was a boy, we used to call, and you, too – we used to call it, “Breakfast, dinner, and supper.” Now, they call it, “Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” See? (laughter) Well, I went up there and had dinner with him, and I asked him, I said, “Marvin,” his name was Marvin. 51:00He’s dead now. I said, “Marvin, I want to ask you something. Did your grandpa ever make any liquor up this creek here?” He laughed and he said, “Yeah, he did.” I said, “Well, shake hands, cousin.” (laughter) I said, “We come from the same clan.” (laughter) But, uh, yeah, that old boy is dead now - Marvin.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, tell me a little more – what – yeah, uh, tell me a little more about Red Lisk.

FRANK MILLER: Well, Red was my brother-in-law. He married my sister, and, uh, Red would get – he was a good fellow. Now, Red was a good fellow, and, uh, Red could preach. I heard him preach over at Harmony Methodist Church, and – 52:00but Red was like all the other cotton mill folks. He was so poor he didn’t hardly have a pair of underwear to wear, I don’t get. I showed you them little old three-room shotgun houses over at the Brown Mill where Red used to live in. He had a little girl. Him and my sister moved in this little old shotgun house, and he had a little girl, Geraldine, and, uh, my sister was in the kitchen, just three rooms, you know, right, and you didn’t have central heat or anything back then. You had open fireplaces, and she was in the kitchen making up bread and the little girl had on her little long gown, and she thought she was in there with her. She was in there, but she went back in the other room and got an old piece of paper and stuck it in the fireplace, caught her little gown on fire, and some breeze - fire down her throat, and she died. 53:00Yeah, she died. It was a pitiful death, that little kid. Back then, they didn’t have a hospital like we’ve got now, though, and, uh, so then later, they had a boy, and he’s Richard. They call him Dick. He’s down in Louisiana, the pastor in a church. He got a good education. He got doctor and I don’t know what-all degrees hung on him, and, uh, but Red was a good fellow and, like I said, he was just a – just an old poor boy, and I believe Old Red come from out here in the country, come down the country, and he worked in the mill just like all the rest of us, worked in the mill and I’m getting now – I’m just trying to think what Red did do in the mill. I don’t know whether 54:00it was hauling beams or what, but he worked in the mill, wasn’t making much, just like everybody else, just kind of from hand to mouth, and so, when the union come along and he got tangled in – you know, got connected with them, when everything was over with, you see, the strike and everything ended, they fired Red, and about every one of them they fired along then got a whole lot better job than they had in the mill. I don’t know why, but every one of them got a better job. Red – he went right on with the union, you see. They hired him right off of the bat as an organizer, and he started around, organizing. I was up yonder at the Cone Mill one time. This old patent I had – if we could have got it perfected, it would have been worth a lot, a lot of money, but we didn’t have it perfected, and so, went up the Cone Mill, and old Herman Cone 55:00– he was over it then because the old man - he had died, and I was there in his office, him and a bunch of them, you know, his fellows, you know, in an office and I told him, I said, “I’ve got something you want. You’ve got something I want, and you want this patent of mine. You’ve got money, and that’s what I want.” In fact, I stayed up there for about six weeks, me and this other boy, working with him on the looms, you see. But, while I was up there in his office that Saturday, the telephone rang. A fellow answered the telephone, and old Herman turned around to one of the fellows and said, “Call our lawyer and get him over to the O. Henry Hotel.” I believe it was the O. Henry. It’s up there in Greensboro – hotel. He said, “Get him over there right away,” and he wrote out a curse word and said, “That Red Lisk is over there,” and he said, “He’ll have that man signing the contract before he 56:00knows what he’s signing.” He said, “Get our lawyer over there.” Old Herman didn’t know Red was my brother-in-law, you see. (laughter) Oh, he turned around, just snorting about old Red Lisk, you know. I just sat there and kept my mouth shut. My daddy, too, you know, was there. My daddy started to laugh. (laughter) Yeah, he said, “Get that lawyer over there.” He said, “That Red Lisk will have that fellow sign before he knows what he’s signing.” (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: Well, when the strike started, uh, what did you do?

FRANK MILLER: Uh, in ’34?


FRANK MILLER: I don’t remember where – I believe I was weaving then. I believe I was. Yeah, I believe I was weaving then, and I know I was. I was a weaver in the old Brown Mill over yonder, and did you know one thing? We don’t have a cotton mill, do we, Ellen, here in Concord now -



FRANK MILLER: - and you’ve got one, two, three, four – about five cotton mills but there ain’t one of them in Concord now. The old Brown Mill – it was put up for sale. See, Cannon bought all of that and, uh, Cabarrus Mill, we called it – it’s gone, and, uh, the Gibson Mill – it’s got a little bit of –

ELLEN MILLER: Finishing –

FRANK MILLER: - finishing in part of it, some of it, and, uh, old Franklin Mill is gone and not all of them in Concord – about the only textile we’ve got now is in Kannapolis and, uh, they used to survive here in Concord – we survived off of the textile mills, see.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, we’ve been reading a lot from the newspapers about what happened in ’34, and we’re just trying to check up to see if the newspapers were right. Now, they said that when the strike started, Cannon and a lot of 58:00the other manufacturers – well, when it was announced, uh, they said nobody’s going to come out, and then, Monday, Labor Day, almost everybody came out.


GEORGE STONEY: Just – could you tell us about that?

FRANK MILLER: Well, they came out and, uh, I know a group got around up there at the gate where people would go in and, you know, trying to keep others out and singing and some parade and some singing and all that, but some would still go in, you see. Some were still going in and couldn’t get them all out to stay out. Then, it wasn’t too long until they had the home guards around the gates, you see, to keep people way back from the gates and everything, and then people begin to go back in because, like I said, they lived in mill houses, a lot of them, and it’s either come back to work or move.



FRANK MILLER: Now, the paper here – let me tell you something –

HELFAND: One second –


JAMIE STONEY: Some more tape –