Myra Heffner and Hardin Washburn Interview 2

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HARDIN WASHBURN: -- might not be too good.


JUDITH HELFAND: And if you want to explain it a little more to your dad, you know -- after you read it in your own words -- that’s fine, too.

WASHBURN: Go ahead and read.

MYRA HEFFNER: Sorry, he’s changing it.


CREW: OK, um, you want me to start on her?

STONEY: Yes, uh -- no, start on him.

CREW: OK, fine.

STONEY: What we have here is a document that we found in Washington that indicates that China Grove had a union local in 1934. Were you aware that they had a local?

WASHBURN: (coughing) I had heard, yeah.

STONEY: OK. Could you read it?

HEFFNER: OK. “We, the members of Local number 1273, United Textile Workers of America, make the following resolutions. First, that the China Grove Cotton Mills Company recognize the body as an organization of workers.”


WASHBURN: I’d heard that, but that’s -- that’s all. I just heard it.


HEFFNER: “Second, that as soon as possible, all workers who live in the country and own farms be replaced with people who live in the mill village or nearby.”

WASHBURN: That has a good bit of disputing over that. I know some of them had, I think -- I’m not sure, but I think some of them had went and taken some of the union -- some of the -- the ones that had joined the union, they had taken their jobs. I think when they recognized the union, then the union -- that’s when the union told that -- let them go, them that was -- they were on farms or outside of the -- the community. You go back, and they could put -- put the 2:00other ones back to work that lived there, in the -- at -- that’s the way I understood that, what -- when I heard about it, but I hadn’t heard too much about it. But that’s what they were doing, I think. You see, when they first started to -- to join in the union, they -- they -- it took them some time to get enough -- enough power to, uh, make them -- force them to recognize the union. If a -- if a company hasn’t recognized a union, a union doesn’t have much power then. Well, it doesn’t have practically -- it has practically none. And so the ones that were fired for joining the union, if -- if enough of them then joined, they could force them to take these back, 3:00and to do that after the recognizing.

STONEY: Now, they were -- evidently, the company, then, was going out of the mill village, where they had organized, and getting farmers to come in.

WASHBURN: Yeah, yeah. That’s -- that’s what I understood, and that must be what was, because I was telling the -- ain’t that the way it said them -- lived on farms and...

STONEY: OK, next.

HEFFNER: “Third, that no more people who live in the country --those who own farms -- shall be employed.”

WASHBURN: Now, if they had all their -- the jobs in the -- in the -- I didn’t know what it said -- the jobs in the mill, they already had help on them, or if they had hired everybody right close to around, then I understand that if they 4:00was forced to hire new -- new help, and that’s the only place they could find it, maybe say on the outskirts of town, maybe there’s a farmer or had a son or a daughter that was a farmer, they could have hired him after, after they’d taken care of the ones on the village and -- and surrounding. Now, I told you. My -- my ideas of this might not be all correct, but that’s the way I understood it.

HEFFNER: “Fourth, that no more work be added to those now employed.”

WASHBURN: Now, that’s -- that’s where they had trouble in lots of places, but they finally got it. And that’s what caused me to quit my last job that I 5:00had in connection with textiles. They hired a big old German to come in down at Piedmont Dye -- the dye -- dyeing department of Piedmont plant in Belmont. And he come in there to take -- to cut one man out of a three man’s position. Cut one man out and make two men take care of it. That’s why I walked out down there.

STONEY: That was called a “stretch out,” I think.

WASHBURN: That’s stretching, mm-hmm. And, uh, during the -- one organization, the union, had a -- that was along about then, too. They had a fellow they called Six-Hour Red. He -- (laughter) he thought they was working him too many 6:00hours, eight hours. He wanted to -- he wanted to do four shifts -- 24 hours, four shifts, six hours each. And they called him Six-Hour Red.

STONEY: Now, I think Six-Hour Red’s idea was that if you had four shifts, then you could em-- you had to employ more people, and he was looking for more jobs.

WASHBURN: Yeah, that was to get -- it was to get, uh, one third more people than what was already there.

STONEY: Because what was happening then was that so many people on the farms were having to move off the farms because of the boll weevil. And we’ve heard a lot of people say, “If you didn’t work, the foreman would say, ‘Well, there’s a barefoot, hungry country boy waiting at the gate to take your job.’”

WASHBURN: Oh, I’ve had them tell me over there at Cramerton in, uh -- in the 7:00’30s -- old Kyle Martin, we weren’t getting enough time. And he said, “If you don’t like it, you can leave.” Said, “They walking the railroad up there, on the job right now.” Rub it in. Oh, they know how to rub it in. Uh, there’s some [good employers?]. Now, I’ve said something several times about Cramerton. Now, I’d like to say something good about Cramerton, and that was when it was “Cramerton.” Because it’s called Cramerton yet, but old man Cramer owned it then. He wasn’t just over it. He owned it. And, uh, 8:00he would -- there was -- he had some overseers that thought they were owners. And there’s an old lady Stackleather. That’s her name. Old Lady Stackleather, she was a widow, and she had two girls working there in the mill. And she couldn’t find a house on the village, couldn’t find a house -- working in Cramer’s mill, but she couldn’t find -- so every time she’d see one empty, she’d go ask about it. And so some of the overseers would say, “That belongs to Mr. So-and-so, another overseer, so I can’t -- I can’t 9:00give you that.” And right there in Cramerton, where the bank in Cramerton is, that used to be a ball field. Right back in that little corner, it had bleacher seats on the bank of the railroad. The bank goes up to the depot, and Old Man Cramer loved baseball. And he was down there at the game one day, and they said that Old Lady Stackleather seen him. And said she went to him about a house, gets to him, says, “Mr. Cramer, I’ve got two daughters working in your mill, and I can’t get any of your overseers to let me have a house. I said -- I’ve talked to the ones my daughters work for, and he’ll speak about one, and then he’ll say, ‘That belongs to another overseer.’” So she -- she 10:00said that. Old Man Cramer said, “Ms. Stackleather, I expect if I knew as much about this place as you do, I’d strike a match to it.” Says, “If you see one empty, move in. They all belong to me.” And that’s just about the truth to that. No, Old Man -- he believed in taking care of his help, and at that time, he, uh -- he paid better wages than -- than these mills in Belmont. I don’t reckon there’s a mill around here that paid any better wage than Old Man Cramer did. And he had two boys, George and Major -- well, they called the old man “Major Cramer,” and he called his older son “Major.” They were 11:00both majors in the, in the Navy when they were younger. George, I think he’d served a hitch in the Army. When Old Man Cramer died, uh, George and -- and young Major, they sold out to, uh -- that bus terminal across the river.

STONEY: Stowe?


STONEY: To Stowe?

WASHBURN: No. Tommy?

HEFFNER: Are you talking about the person that lives in the Cramer mansion now?

WASHBURN: No, the -- the company that bought -- I ought to be able to think of it, but I think t-- the company that bought Cramer, the mill --


HEFFNER: Burlington!

WASHBURN: Yeah, Burlington bought it out. As I said that -- Cramer had already put in a sewer system across the -- across the South Fork River from Cramerton, because he owned a bunch of land there plumb down to the -- up Armstrong Bridge. And he --

STONEY: Do you want to keep reading then here?

WASHBURN: (inaudible)

HEFFNER: “Fifth, that spittoons be replaced in the mill at once, and those who have been discharged for using tobacco be reemployed. We cannot see where the mill is more sanitary without the spittoons, since people who have colds must spit somewhere.”

WASHBURN: That was one good thing he done. (laughter)


STONEY: What was it like in the mill with --

WASHBURN: With the spittoon? They had a fellow that’d come around every morning. And -- and the ones -- well, in every mill where I’ve seen them, they were iron -- cast-iron, about that big around and about that deep. He’d put -- fill that full of sawdust, place them so -- so many down a post alley and around different places. And you -- you better -- they better not catch you spitting on the floor, either. That was pretty good.

STONEY: Now, OK, next.

HEFFNER: “Sixth, that the workers and management work together for common good of all concerned, and that a committee of three from the union meet with a committee of three of the management for a 14:00conference regarding these resolutions.”

WASHBURN: Yeah, they had -- they had space for meetings, some from the union, some from the management. And -- and some of them got -- I understand what I -- what all I heard, I understood it, up there around China Grove. They got along fine after they -- they recognized the union. But there was so many smart alecks on both sides wanted -- wanted to stir up trouble.

HELFAND: What -- she should go to the next item.

STONEY: No, no, I want him to finish this.

HEFFNER: Well, that, this was adopted by Local number 1273 at a meeting on February 23rd, 1934, and it gives the signatures: A. C. Tate, A. Beaver -- A. 15:00U. Beaver, G. L. Caldwell.

WASHBURN: Caldwell.

HEFFNER: Mm-hmm.

WASHBURN: What’s the name?

HEFFNER: G. L. Caldwell.

WASHBURN: I -- there was some Caldwells at the Eagle, but I -- I don’t...

STONEY: Well, we’re interested in this because it showed that there was a pretty carefully worked out system of organization six mo-- at least six months before this big strike, at least in some of the mills.

WASHBURN: Yeah. Uh, where -- where they had sense enough to -- to, uh, pick a good committee. They didn’t have no -- uh, what do they call the -- wildcat. They didn’t have no wildcat strike, but there was some -- some where they did -- did have. But a good, well-picked committee and little officers that had 16:00some sense, they -- they tried to negotiate before striking.

STONEY: Now, we also have some letters that people wrote to Roosevelt and to people running the NRA, the Blue Eagle, and so forth, and so she’s going to read one or two of the letters.

HELFAND: And this one’s from your hometown. You might tell your daddy that.

HEFFNER: OK, this was written from s-- anonymous, from somebody at, uh, Imperial Yarn Mill in Belmont, August 25th, 1934.

STONEY: Just before the big strike.

HEFFNER: “Dear Sir, Mr. Roosevelt, We know that you are doing everything in your power to help the poor people, but we know that you do not know what all is going on in these mills. And we thought we would let you know, for we think it is our place to do our part in helping you. We have to work so hard in this 17:00mill in Belmont, NC, that we do not get time to stop and eat our lunch, and if we do, our work just tears all to pieces, and they have to get the machine re-speeded up so fast that they make as much production in seven and a half hours as they would in 12 hours. And the second set of hands is not to go to work until one-thirty o’clock, but they go in the mill from eleven o’clock to one o’clock, and I think some ought -- something ought to be done about it. These mill owners just put so much cleaning up on us that we can’t get it done, and we have just worked in a sweatshop this summer, for they do not allow a window up in the whole mill. And the one that is writing this letter belongs to the union, but not -- there’s not as many that belong to the union in this mill, for they are scared to join. They are afraid they will lose their job, 18:00and we would like very much for you to look into this. This mill is the Imperial Mill, Belmont, NC.”

WASHBURN: What was the -- they didn’t give the name.

HEFFNER: No, anonymous.

WASHBURN: Well, I knew a lot of them at the Imperial. And they -- she t-- she or he told the truth, that they did -- they did make it hard on them. And they did speed -- speed ’em up. You could move (audio distortion) over speed a space at a spinning frame. That’s what it -- what the end come down is this -- sometimes, it’ll tear up a whole half side before they get it stopping. They were rough on them.


STONEY: Does that sound like the kind of conditions that you remember?

WASHBURN: Yeah. That’s, um -- I can tell you some rougher than that. Why, before I was old enough to go to work in the mill, they -- I’ll tell you -- I’ll tell you a little story that an old fella told me it happened to him and -- and show you what they used to do to a doffer, a doffer or a girl spinning or a doffer. He -- they were you-- that the spinner and the e-- the doffer were usually the youngest in there. And now this -- this didn’t happen. This happened before any union was up organized down here and I -- before I was old 20:00enough to work. They would -- a second hand would take a little old doffer if -- if he didn’t think he was doing things right and he got a little sassy with him, he’d catch that little fella and kick his hind end. That’s right. He’d kick him. And, uh, they would slap ’em around. If they had -- if they would have done that to -- to me after I went to work, they wouldn’t have to fight me. They have had to keep out of my dad’s sight or fight him. And I -- now, this old fella that told -- told me about a lot of this, he-- he’d get to telling you something, and he’d get so earnest about it, you’d see his -- 21:00his, uh, face quiver like that. He -- and his voice would quiver. He -- he said he worked at a place one time, and he wore a hat, but he was not allowed to wear it inside. He had to go hang it up. He said, “I’ve been sweeping.” I -- they just swept over and over. He’d put -- take his broom, pull stuff out from under the spinning frames, and push it along to the end. And he said, “I have been sweeping like that, and the second hand come by and chewed tobacco.” Said he’d, “Like he didn’t see me. You know, he’d turn and spit like -- he spit on me and said -- I was afraid to say anything to him, because he said he’d slap me or anything.” He said, “Well, one day,” he 22:00said, “It was about time for the whistle to blow for dinnertime,” and said, “I come around, and I looked at the clock up on the wall there, and my old hat was hanging there in a line of other ones. So I reached and got it and put it on, because I knew that I wouldn’t get through the next hour until the whistle blew. And so the second hand seen me with my hat on, jerked it off, and stomped it and kicked it under the frame, said, ‘Take that hat and hang it up. You know you’re not supposed to wear it.’” He said, “Well, I know that it’s time for the whistle to blow.” He said, “He made me take that hat back up there and hang it up, so I hung it up and turned, started to walk off, and the whistle blew. Time to shut down.” And he told me all of that, and his voice got to quivering, and his face. (laughter) He said, 23:00“[Lawrence?],” said, “That son of a gun married my sister.” (laughter) “I don’t want to (inaudible).” He let into a lot of stuff. (inaudible) I’m going to have to tell you nothing about it. He said -- he said he’s living down in South Carolina, says he’s a Western Methodist preacher down there, said you’d see him on the street and get to talking to him about -- said he’d push his shirtsleeves up, say, “I preach for my Lord, and I’ll fight for him.” Said, I went to hear him preach. Said, “I was sitting on the second pew that I hadn't a drop.” Said he got to preaching pretty heavy, 24:00strong against -- against drinking, and said, “He come down out the pulpit -- off of the pulpit, walked over to the pew in front of me, set one foot upon it and caught the back of it and pulled up, bent over. And I was sitting in the section -- bent over and said -- he pointed his finger in my face and said, ‘You, you red-eyed drunkard. That’s who I’m talking to.’” He said, “I hadn’t had a drop, and I didn’t never go back to hear him no more.” (laughter) Boy, Andy was -- Andy was just a fine old fella, but he’d tell you tales, and he’d tell it in such a way you couldn’t help but laugh at.

STONEY: Now, we have a couple of other letters, one thing where the -- the one for the black workers. I had -- yeah. Oh, just a moment (inaudible; 25:00simultaneous talking). Oh, no, I got it right here. Yeah, uh, do you know -- read this. This is a complaint, and you may know the person involved.

WASHBURN: That -- that -- wait just a minute. That one from the Imperial, did -- did it have any copy of any names?

HEFFNER: No, uh-uh. It was anonymous. OK, this is a complaint of violation of code of fair competition for the textile trade industry, January 5th, 1934. Name and address of the establishment complained against -- Eagle Yarn Mills, Belmont. Name of complainant: Bruce Graham.


HEFFNER: Bruce Graham. Uh --

STONEY: Did you know Bruce?


WASHBURN: Uh, I’ve heard of him, yeah. (laughter) Go -- go ahead and read more.

HEFFNER: Uh, OK. He says, “I’m an inside employee. I’m required to work more than 40 hours a week, operative of three -- three machines: waist feeder, waist beater, and opener. And I’m paid less than 30 cents for hour’s work. Three,” this is his third complaint, “My employer due me extra comp-- compensation from July 17th, 1933, up to present date.” And it says -- you know -- both statements are true, and Bruce Graham has signed it. Oh, “A space for notarization or a witness,” and Charlie McClain witnessed it.

WASHBURN: That must have been the Eagle.



WASHBURN: Oh, Bruce. Bruce Graham, yeah, he’s a colored feller, too. They’re both colored fellers. Old Bruce -- Bruce is an honest old colored feller. He’s sti-- Bruce is still living.


WASHBURN: Uh, Charlie, he -- he’s been dead several years now. Uh...

STONEY: Well, it must have taken a lot of nerve for Bruce to write that at that time.

WASHBURN: It -- it did. Of course, it -- it began to lighten up on him down there. More than 40 hours a week -- waist feeder, waist beater, and opener. 28:00There’s waist (inaudible). Yeah, Bruce and Charlie were related. They -- they lived over on -- both of them lived over on the Ratchford Road, across the -- off -- off Union Road.

STONEY: Well, they still do. I -- Bruce still -- Graham still lives there.

WASHBURN: Yeah, I -- I don’t know whether he’s still over there or not, but he’s still living. I know somebody was talking to me about it the other day. Bruce was still living. I believe...


STONEY: Can -- do you want to read the second letter there?

HELFAND: Maybe he has something else he could say about Bruce before we get to something else.

STONEY: OK. All right. Is there anything more that you -- you can tell us about Bruce?

WASHBURN: About Bruce? He was a -- he was just an honest old feller. He did his work right. He -- he was regular. He was faithful, and I -- I think, uh, that he -- he needed some of -- uh, I -- I -- I read that they must have been giving him a little compensation for -- for just adding to the machine.

HEFFNER: No, he was complaining because they weren’t giving him --

WASHBURN: I thought he -- I thought he said, well, they hadn’t given him what he was due.

HEFFNER: Mm-hmm.


WASHBURN: Uh, let’s see, who was over him then? The old man Jarvis Stowe. Uh, because they needed them -- the colored fellas worked at night. They worked -- they worked in the daytime. And Jarvis -- the waist -- rerunning the waist had to be, uh, on the card room overseer’s payroll.

STONEY: OK. This --

HELFAND: Tell him about Ian Wallace.

STONEY: Oh yes --

HELFAND: The guy that wrote it.


STONEY: -- I’m sorry. Uh, we were talking with Bruce Graham, and then we got a bunch of letters from Ian Wallace. Do you remember Ian Wallace?

WASHBURN: Wallace? Yeah, he was a -- a mechanic at, uh, Eagle Mill. Uh, he left there not long after we moved to the mill, but I don’t know -- I don’t even know where he went. I do -- I do know he -- he left a mark of the -- of some of his work in the front of the mills and pretty, uh -- I don’t know what kind of pine is it. He got it up in the mountains. He sent -- I think he sent four out there. Hugo got one of them, but it -- but there was one died not long after he sent it out. I think there’s two down there now, pretty -- pretty 32:00fine. Uh, but he was -- he was a good mechanic, and he -- so far as I know, he was an honest, good man. He -- I don’t know of him ever voicing any complaint about the mill, though.

STONEY: Well, we have about ten different letters that he wrote to Washington, one after another after another, trying to get some help. And we found out -- we didn’t know this until we talked to Bruce Graham -- Bruce Graham said that he did get some back pay, but then they eliminated his job.

WASHBURN: Oh, uh, eliminated -- Wallace or Bruce?

STONEY: Wallace.


WASHBURN: I kn-- I know Wallace -- I think that must have been when he left.

STONEY: That's right. Well, we have another letter here, which you might read. Oh, you don’t -- sorry. No, it’s here it is, I’ve got it here. OK. This is another letter from -- from Belmont.

HEFFNER: OK, this was written from Belmont, October the 6th, 1933: “Dear Mr. Johnson, the Negro laborers of Belmont, NC, that work at the cotton mills are told by the --”

HELFAND: Excuse me, I’m going to have to ask you to do that again. I just got a little disturbance, and I want it to be clean.

STONEY: Sure, OK. Uh, OK, OK, thank you, Judy. OK?

HELFAND: I’ll tell you when. [Go ahead?] -- you have a question?

HEFFNER: Oh, you’re not doing it yet?


HEFFNER: OK. Let me read this first, I haven’t read this one.

STONEY: Sure. No, no.

(break in audio)


CREW: When you’re ready.


HEFFNER: All right, this was written from Belmont, October the 6th, 1933: “Dear Mr. Johnson, the Negro laborers of Belmont, NC, that work at the cotton mills are told by their employers that they do not come under the code, because they do outside and inside work. Some drives trucks, and some scrub inside. Others do the trucking of cotton load yarn, and their wages per week are $8.25 and $9.79 for 55 hours. Some of these mills are Acme, Eagle, Climax, Perfection, Linford, Stowe Spinning, Imperial, National, Crescent, and Chronicle. The colored folks are afraid to send in their pay envelopes. The employers say that they will not have no more jobs around Belmont, so I wish 35:00that you would send someone to investigate this -- to investigate this report. You said the NRA are supposed to help everybody, but the employers are unfair to the colored workers of Belmont, NC.”

WASHBURN: Uh, I have -- he wrote that to Mr. Johnson?

STONEY: Yes, Hugh Johnson was the man in charge of the NRA.


STONEY: The Blue Eagle, at the time.

WASHBURN: I know it -- I know it was under Roosevelt, but their -- the inside -- any of the labor was very, very small. That’s before they were forced to raise -- raise the wage. And they were -- they did -- can you imagine, uh -- 36:00even after that, and I was -- in the first ’40s, I had -- I had already gotten married. I had a family of three -- me and my wife and three. I was making $14.80 a week. And it’s hard to take -- pay your house rent and the -- maybe have a little spell of sickness, and take the rest of that, and go buy a week’s groceries. It’s hard. And I didn’t -- didn’t do it every week. I went in debt several times for the groceries. I finally -- I remember -- this 37:00was -- this was way later than that. But I remember it was -- almost broke my -- my wife’s heart and -- and my kids’. I had a little withholding for Christmas, so I'd have something -- buy something for Christmas. And it didn’t amount to nothing, didn’t -- now, but back then, it would buy the children a pretty good Christmas. I had $50 coming to me that I had saved, and I owed a little debt of almost $50. And I -- after I got my check -- I was in 38:00the service station then, working. After I got -- got my Christmas check of $50, this fella coming around, hitting me up for -- wondering -- wondering how much I could pay on it. And I just thought, “I’m going to get rid of this once and for all.” I said, “I’ll pay it all.” And it cost me almost $50. Well I was working at a service station then, and we -- we sold some few Christmas toys and things. And I -- I got you and Judy a big doll. You remember? I got you two dolls -- that’s the (inaudible). And I forgot what I -- I think that’s what I bought is a 410 three-shot shotgun. And I got Larry 39:00something, old (inaudible). I just got it -- two of them. As I drew my pay there every week, I’d pay them so much. And I got rid of that fella coming by there, wanting me to pay him a little of that. And my [older?] said, “Of course, you didn’t do that, did you?” I said, “Yeah, I did.” She almost cried. She was looking forward to you all having something. I said, “I’ll get ’em something.” I didn’t need to tell that, but I just wanted you to know I been right along there myself.

STONEY: Now, I understand that the mills did a lot for Christmas and all kinds of things like that for the -- 40:00as favors for people.

WASHBURN: Who did?

STONEY: The mill owners.

WASHBURN: Oh, I -- the first -- first time Christmas --

HELFAND: I’m sorry. I’m going to (inaudible).

WASHBURN: -- coming from the mill was a big bag about the size of a paper grocery bags, now, was a few oranges, apples, maybe a few tangerines, and some different kinds of nuts. And some that’s whole -- it wasn’t as (inaudible) then. Sometimes, you get (inaudible) is that hard sugar di-- different colored candy -- that. And then, the next was a -- the about -- was ham. They give each -- give each worker a ham. And if you had four or five working in the 41:00family, you would get that many hams. It was pretty good. But they --

HELFAND: Excuse me. (inaudible) I can’t make out --

(break in audio)

STONEY: Uh, could you tell us -- you had three brothers who were members of the unions. What gave them the -- and obviously, there was a lot of opposition. What gave them the courage to join the union?

WASHBURN: Uh, they just hat-- hated -- one thing, they hated to be told that they couldn’t do something like that for themselves. And they seen, too, that we needed -- we needed a union, or some way to better the work, the wages, and the -- the whole -- the whole 42:00mill [for it, see?]?. And they realized that they needed some help, and they realized -- banded together in a union would give them a little power. And the -- that’s, uh -- that’s the reason they were being fired, to keep them from gaining that power. And, uh, so they were firing every -- everyone that joined. And then some quit without joining. Like my dad, my sister, that time, we -- we left with Jesse, and went down there. And that’s -- that -- I think I told you that’s the first mill that I ever remember seeing with air conditioning. 43:00It had no refrigeration. It had a system of water going down to the -- it pulled air through that, and they left the doors open. So this -- that you [air condition?], because it was taken in through -- more air, and it was blowing the warm air. You’d pass the door and feel a breeze coming out. But now, they close it up. I suppose that even then, the air that you were breathing in there, if it had had something, back then, to take care of all that lint -- cotton lint and dust -- it would have been healthier, the air you was breathing, because you was getting fresh air, you know? Now, uh, you circulate the air, and then you br-- you don’t get it -- you don’t get fresh air in like you 44:00did then.

STONEY: Now, you lived on the -- you lived in several mill villages, didn’t you?


STONEY: Uh, tell about -- what was it like to live in a mill village?

WASHBURN: What was it like?

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

WASHBURN: Well, me -- me being just a little feller, most of the time, it, uh -- it was better than being on a farm. But in a way, I -- I think that it was better to be in the country, where I -- I have said, and I still say, that I wish my dad would have kept me in the country until I was -- until I was grown. 45:00But I don’t say that I would have learned any more. You -- you know, you’ve got to have a little common sense to -- for education to do you any good. Education is a fine -- fine thing in the right head, but it is a mean thing in the wrong kind of head. I’ve seen people with education -- real good education -- but they didn’t know how to handle it, didn’t have common sense enough to handle it. Now, that sounds strange, don’t it? Well, I’ll try to tell you. There’s an old feller told me about it one time. We was talking about education, and he said, “I’ll tell you fellers. You know what? 46:00Before going to farming, do you know what a donkey is called in the old English word?” All right, I’ll go ahead with it now. He said that, “You, uh -- go out here and catch you some old country boy with some grey horse, common sense, and send him off to college, he comes back a fine fella. Now, if you go out here and just pick up any old Jack, send him off to college, he comes back a jackass.” And that’s -- that’s that that man’s like a donkey. And it -- and I had to agree with him. I -- of course, I didn’t have much education. I reckon I didn’t have sense enough to -- to know whether to agree or not.


WASHBURN: I -- he didn’t mean it against education. Neither am I. But I’m 47:00afraid, honestly -- I’m -- I’m speaking as honest, now, as I know how to speak to you about this. I am afraid of a lot of the education that our children are getting in school today. Now, you -- you know as much as I do the things they’re being taught. We mentioned that the other time we was talking. Did you hear of -- I can remember the old famous Scopes trial of what was being taught in school then and that was stopped when -- William Jennings Bryan was the lawyer who won that case. And it was Scopes who was stopped from his teaching. And now -- and now, they don’t allow no, uh -- even the -- no 48:00scriptures, none of the Bible being read. What of our children? They’re growing up without it, and that’s -- that’s terrible.

STONEY: Let me ask you something about living in the mill village. Some people have told us that it was wonderful, and other people said that they felt like somebody was tending to their business all of the time, and they were under the supervisors.

WASHBURN: Well, it wasn’t that way when -- when I was there. The mill villages now -- I understand that they do have some supervising of the -- of what goes on in the village. Of course, they was law and order then. I don’t 49:00say it was always kept, but there was some law and order there. But the -- it wasn’t as much meddling, I don’t think, as there might be now. I -- I think it -- that you can, uh, go so far with your supervising thing that you become a meddler. Now, that’s my -- that’s just -- that’s old man stuff. I’m not saying that a wise man [like that?], but whether I’m wise or not, that there is this old man’s notion.

STONEY: Did that ever bother you when you lived in the mill village, that you were kind of beholden to the boss for everything?

WASHBURN: Well, I -- for a while there, in Cramerton, I li-- lived there six 50:00years, I think it was. And I found this -- that a lot of the overseers felt that if they could get their hand -- the hands that they had working for them, they could get them in a Cramer’s house, they owned you. But, uh, as long as you -- long as you didn’t live on the village, they couldn’t say you -- “You move if you quit.” Now, when I finally quit over there, “I want you get out of that house.” And then tol-- I was being told too, same time, that there was a war going on, being told at the same time that I was forbidden to go 51:00to another mill to go to work because of -- I was froze to that because I was -- I was helping produce a -- a garment for the Army nurses. And so therefore -- but I went -- I went anyway. I got permission. And then, the next time I moved, I asked -- I moved again before the war was over. And I went -- went back to the dye house down at Piedmont from -- and asked them down there about being froze on the job, you see, try to -- they said, “Uh, no, nobody is.” And I -- I thought that was taking a lot away from a person, to tell him he couldn’t go to work somewhere else where he was offered employ-- employment.


STONEY: Now, one other thing we’ve -- we’ve heard in some places was that the foremen took advantage of the women.

WASHBURN: Well, I’ve not experienced too much of that, but it was some -- I’ve heard of some of it, yeah. Uh, harassed them in different ways -- they’d try to bribe ’em, too. I’ve heard of that. But not -- not a whole lot of it, not where I was [at?], not -- not in the plants where I worked. Uh, they -- the women in the workforce, they’ve had a right to buck about the 53:00difference in their treatment and the difference in the pay. Uh, a woman, I’m -- I’m in favor of this. If a woman knows her job and does that job as well as that man over there, pay her the same wage you’re paying him. That’s what I think. Of course, I’ve never been a foreman. But I would feel like that if I was a superintendent. I -- I believe in -- if you pay one person a certain price for a certain labor, and the other is doing the same labor and doing it as well, pay that person the same rate. I believe -- I believe in the 54:00-- I don’t believe in being partial. Now, understand, I don’t believe in the [NRA?] woman’s movement going into the service, going into it like a man. You know -- you know what I’m -- without me going to -- getting to plain with this, you know what I mean, don’t you? Using the same (inaudible) facilities that the men use. Other words is -- the restroom don’t have women and men. The restroom is the restroom. If they get what some of them want, then -- and they -- and going into service, and, well, there’s just lots of things. Now, here, some -- it’s not -- it has not been very long ago is -- a reporter, a 55:00woman, she wanted to go into the -- the athletes’ locker room. And she got in there, and she got -- she said she got insulted. Well, she went in asking for it. I wouldn’t have -- if I was a reporter, would that be a heck of a j-- thing to say, “I want to get in the -- them girls’ locker room, basketball team, or whatever.” And then, first, because they didn’t [go to school?].

HELFAND: So were the women treated as fair in the mills -- as the men? I mean, it sounds like -- well, how were the women treated in the mills?

WASHBURN: In the mill?



WASHBURN: Well, about as fair there as any place I know -- except where they had the -- a nut head for an overseer who didn’t know how to treat women. There’s some that just didn’t know how to -- how to treat a woman. But, uh, they was -- there were some women that could give you a lot of trouble. There was men, too.

STONEY: Did your wife work in the mill?

WASHBURN: Yeah. She was a -- a winder hand. And they -- it was a lot of, uh, second hands and foremen. They’re all called “supervisors” now. They would make a difference in two women that was doing the same work, and they wouldn’t -- they wouldn’t give one credit that -- that was doing -- made 57:00even better work. If they -- if they thought a lot of this one over here, they wouldn’t give us the credit for beating her and turning out good work. That -- that was discriminating. There’s -- uh, there was a certain kind of discrimination then. Now, you hear somebody hollering, “Discrimination,” about everything now. And --

STONEY: Well, now --

WASHBURN: -- you’re going to get me in politics in a little bit, getting it --

STONEY: -- OK. (laughter)

WASHBURN: -- getting [news media?], and I’ll -- I’ll blow my top off then.

STONEY: OK. Uh, one other thing about that -- the women had a -- in the cotton mill, they were working, and they also had to look after the families. Uh, did 58:00men take part in looking after the kids and doing the cooking and all that?

WASHBURN: A good husband did, a good daddy. I did very well. (laughter)

CREW: I got it on tape.


WASHBURN: No, I’ll tell you.

STONEY: Yeah, yeah.

WASHBURN: That’s one thing that the -- is expe-- expected of a woman too much, for her to take all that load, take care of the kids, take care of the household, and -- and not get any help from -- from the husband.

STONEY: Well, now, I believe some of the women -- didn’t they hire -- hire black people to work for them?

59:00 WASHBURN: Yeah, them that made enough of their own self to leave them and, uh, take a job, and that paid it -- paid them enough to pay this person and -- and not take all they made. But, uh, now, it’s gotten to where, uh, it’s hard for one to earn enough to pay for somebody to come in.