Betty Hinson and Yvonnie Hill Interview 1

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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(Audio begins at 00:27:28)


BETTY HINSON: My grandmother was born near here, near Spencer Mountain, in 1871. And she began working in the mill when she was 10 years old, so that would have been, uh, what? Nine--


HINSON: Yeah. 1981. Mm-hmm. She had --

GEORGE STONEY: Sorry. We have to start all over again. It’d be 1881.




HINSON: My grandmother was born near here, near Spencer Mountain, in 1871. And she began working here at this mill in 1881, when she was 10 years old. She had to stand on a box to, uh, reach the spindles. And this is where she met my grandfather. And they were married, and their first, uh, child was born here, in 1891.

GEORGE STONEY: Did she tell you anything about what it was like to work in the mill?

HINSON: I don’t recall anything that she told me in particular, except that she would have to stand on the -- on the box -- to reach the spindles. To put up her ends, you know. But I think there was a lot of child labor during that time, and other children -- her friends -- worked in the mill.

GEORGE STONEY: When did you st-- first work in the mill?

HINSON: When did I first work in the mill? Um, 1947. In the --


GEORGE STONEY: When did you first start working in the mills?

HINSON: In 1947. They offered a class at school that taught us how to loop, and I took the class. And then they hired us when we had taken the class for the nine months during school.

GEORGE STONEY: How old were you then?

HINSON: I was, uh, 18. No, I was 16. You could go to work when you were 16, yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you look forward to that being your future?

HINSON: Well, there wasn’t really a lot of things around here to do except work in the mill. We didn’t have, uh, a lot of opportunities in this area.

GEORGE STONEY: When did that change for you?

HINSON: In ’67. About 1967. After Ga-- Gaston College built, I went to college there, and, um, went to work in a different profession.

GEORGE STONEY: So you really had a second career in the mid--

HINSON: Right.

GEORGE STONEY: -- kind of in mid-life.


HINSON: Uh-huh. In mid-life.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, we’re finding that’s true of so many of the textile workers we talk with.

HINSON: Mm-hmm.

GEORGE STONEY: That some -- in some ways, when the mills turned down, they -- they realized that there were other possibilities.

HINSON: Mm-hmm.


JAMIE STONEY: Keep talking, I'm just getting some cutaways.

HINSON: I’m not good at ad-libbing. Isn’t that what you call it?


JAMIE STONEY: What do you remember about working when you first started?

GEORGE STONEY: In the mill, yeah. Yourself.

HINSON: What do I remember?

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah. You were looping.

HINSON: Yeah. Well, I worked after school, actually. Ju-- you know, a few hours. I’d go in when school was out, about three, or th-- or four -- and work until nine. And, uh, then I had, you know, a couple of hours to do my homework after I got home from the mill. And then in the summer, we worked full-time. Uh, we would work a full eight hours during the summer. And then after I graduated from high school, I went to work there permanently. At 31:00Belmont Hosiery.

GEORGE STONEY: And what were you doing? You were still looping?

HINSON: Still looping. Mm-hmm.

GEORGE STONEY: What was that work like?

HINSON: Well, I enjoyed it, um, to start with. But as the years went by, production increased, and it just got harder and harder, you know, to meet that production. I was working to start with, on socks. Putting the seam in the toe of a sock. And um, I would go -- in the evenings, I would go back up to the mill and practice on the hosiery machine, because I wanted -- it paid a little bit more, and I wanted to get on the hosieries, you know. And so one day, when I felt like I was ready to start work there, I asked my boss, John [Siler?] if I could go to work back there in the hosiery department. And, uh, I told him what I’d been doing, and he let me go back there. And I worked back there for a good while. I guess maybe 10 years or so.


GEORGE STONEY: Did they ever offer you a job as a supervisor?


GEORGE STONEY: Were there women supervisors then?

HINSON: There was one lady who was, uh, called a floor lady, I believe, down in the finishing department. And she was over it. But the others were men.

GEORGE STONEY: And we’re talking about in the ’60s.

HINSON: Right. Mm-hmm.

GEORGE STONEY: When did that start changing?

HINSON: Well that’s when I left --

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm. I see. I see.

HINSON: -- was in the ’60s. So I don’t really know.

JAMIE STONEY: If we could just get your -- one of your questions, Dad (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us about your -- tell me about your grandmother.

HINSON: My grandmother? Again? What I told you before?

GEORGE STONEY: No, that’s all right. I --

JAMIE STONEY: We’re just -- I’m just on his face to get his questions.


(Audio ends at 00:32:49)





















(Yvonnie Hill interview begins at 00:42:51)


GEORGE STONEY: OK. Ah, let's go.

JAMIE STONEY: We're rolling.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us about your Garfields.


YVONNIE HILL: Well, I started collecting Garfields several years ago, about ten years ago, I guess. Bought my first one in Texas on a trip down there. And from then on I just kept buying one when I'd see one I liked. And all my friends knew, realized that I loved Garfield, so first thing I knew I ws just accumulating them and accumulating them. Practically got -- every room in the house, there's some Garfields. I feel like he's my protector (laughter).

GEORGE STONEY: Ah, tell us about, ah, when you started working in the mills, and about the Eagle mill village.

HILL: Well, my family moved there in 19 and 23 --

GEORGE STONEY: And, I'm sorry, just mention Eagle: "When my family moved to the Eagle…"

HILL: Oh. My family moved to the Eagle in 19 and 23. And uh, one (inaudible) -- it hadn't been started a year yet. And I wasn't old enough 'course to go to work then, and physically I wasn't able to either. And my brothers and sisters and my mother worked in the mill. And we had a house. The rent on the house was a 44:00dollar and a quarter a week for five rooms. And electricity and water was free. And so we lived there like that and then when I became able, old enough to go to work, that was the thing then when you got 14 years old you got a work card and went to work because families -- it was tight, you know, and so. I went to work and I worked about two months, and I had to quit and go to the hospital. And I stayed in the hospital a year.

GEORGE STONEY: What was wrong with you?

HILL: I had polio when I was three years old, and it, of course we lived so far back in the mountains when I had it, it wasn't diagnosed until I was 14. And then when I -- I had several operations while I was in the hospital. And I came 45:00home, got better, why I went back into the mill and thought I'd try it again. And then I was reading my diary the other day, that I'd kept for 1933, and I showed in there where I was spooling, and -- and, and I made -- I had down every week what I made, and it went from $3.20 to $6.80. I was on piece work, so many boxes, I got so much for each box. So I worked that way for a long time, till I got married in 1934. And my husband and I got a house down there at the mill and lived in it, and -- until we could build our own house. Sometimes I wonder, as I look back, how in the world we did it on that income. Of course, by, in '34 the -- Roosevelt come in and raised the wages to a dollar an hour. And we --


GEORGE STONEY: Ah -- how much?

HILL: A dollar an hour.

GEORGE STONEY: A dollar an hour in '34?

HILL: Uh-huh. Wasn't that right, Betty?

BETTY: (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: I think it was about thirty cents an hour, but it must have seemed like a dollar an hour compared to what you'd made before.

HILL: They cut us down to eight hours a day, we were working 12.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah, that's right. Yeah.

HILL: Cut us down to eight. (inaudible) well I was always paid by piece work, so I never paid much attention to the hourly rates so maybe I'm wrong there. But anyhow, we -- I lost my train of thought.

GEORGE STONEY: I'm sorry, could you start over when you were reading your diary?

HILL: And ah, after '34 when we got married, why, I got in the '34 increase, why I was drawing eight, nine, and ten, and the highest I ever drawed was 15 dollars, in those years. And I continued to work down there for a good many years like that.

GEORGE STONEY: What did you do?


HILL: I wound, and spin -- I -- did anything. We lived two houses from the mill and they would call me up, me and my husband both at all hours of the day or night, whenever they needed somebody to do something 'cause he could do most anything and I could do -- I could do anything, women's jobs. And lot of nights I'd work at night, nobody but me and my brother. He would run the warp machine, and they had to have a woman to help him creel it, and I would work, because he's my brother, you know, and I'd work all night with him after working all day. But we uh, we survived, and managed to build, buy these lots here and build this house.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you have children?

HILL: No children.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, as a person who'd had polio, was there any special arrangement for you, or was that necessary?

HILL: No, it was necessary but there was no, no -- they made arrangements for 48:00nobody back then. You was treated just like everyone else.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now, back then when Roosevelt came in, I'm sure you're aware of the fact that he also was -- had polio.

HILL: Yes. Mm-hm.

GEORGE STONEY: Did that mean anything to you?

HILL: It meant a lot to me, because I admired him. I admired his success, and his determination, and as a leader I admired him greatly.

GEORGE STONEY: Well one of the things that, as you know, we're interested in, is the thing that happened here in 1934. There was a great big -- there was an attempt to organize a union here, which Roosevelt encouraged. And there was a strike here. Do you remember that in '34?

HILL: Yes, I remember it. When it first started the strike, we were here, and we walked, went out of the mill. I think the whole mill went out, I'm not sure about that. But anyhow, after -- after it got to getting rough, my brother and 49:00his wife -- my two brothers and their wives and me and my husband went to the mountains and camped out in the mountains at our old home place up there until the strike was over. So I wasn't here during the strike but we heard every day from what was going on, about the killings and the harassment and the, and all that.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you describe what you heard?

HILL: Well, they said that they were -- the National Guard was called in and they was chasing some of them down the street and they run into the house down in (inaudible) and stabbed him with a -- to death (inaudible). And then of course the sheriff, I believe it was in Gaston County, was killed at that time, during the strike. But it was -- it was a trying time for everybody and money was short, and people (inaudible) until everybody that had credit, good credit, 50:00there lived, you know, got something to eat there pretty -- pretty easy. But them that was out with them -- well, you just didn't get -- you just had to do the best you could do.

GEORGE STONEY: How did you feel about that attempt to organize?

HILL: Well, I'm anti-union. I have been all my life. And I'm more now than I ever have been, but at that time I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever seen. It may have helped in the long run, I don't know. But I didn't feel like we needed the union at the Eagle Mill, because we worked for people that were just like us. You -- you could meet them on the street and talk to them. If you have a problem you could go to them and talk to them. You didn't need a (inaudible), somebody to intermediate, to go and do your talking for you. And so I did not, did not think it was a proper thing -- the strike was proper at all. And they tried their best to force us to join the union, threatened us and 51:00everything, before we left, and none of us would join the union.

GEORGE STONEY: Who were "they"?

HILL: The people that came around and was, was -- I don't know who the -- they'd get leaders in the, in the mill, and some of them I knew, that had worked in the mill, and they'd come and try to pressure us into it, and then some of the outer -- outsiders that come in to organize it would do that.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you ever go to any of the meetings that they had?

HILL: No sir. No sir.

GEORGE STONEY: Because you are -- you're describing something that is very vivid in some people's memory, and we're getting different kinds of reports, that's why I was wondering if you --

HILL: Nah, I never went to a meeting.

GEORGE STONEY: -- if you went to the meetings. Mm-hm.

HILL: I was -- I was not union orientated at all. I did not believe in a union at all.


GEORGE STONEY: Now, you talked about -- you said you worked with people who were like yourself so you could speak to them on the street. Could you talk about that, and if you don't mind I wonder if you'd give us some names.

HILL: Well, Mr. R.L. Stowe, and Mr. S.P. Stowe, I believe R.L. owned the Eagle at that time. Or Jim Stowe, I believe owned it -- Mr. Jim Stowe owned the Eagle at that time. And he was just as common as anybody else. You could talk to him anytime you wanted to. Go to his office and talk to him.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you recall any specific times that (inaudible) give us a feeling of what it was like to talk to Mr. Stowe?

HILL: Well, I didn't do it personally, but I knew others that did go and talk to him about it, and the situation, and you know, about what -- their needs, and everything.


GEORGE STONEY: You see, one of the reasons we're asking that is, for example, we just went up to Blowing Rock and talked with Joe Lineberger, who was a mill owner --

HILL: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: And he told us that he could go into the mills, now we're trying to get workers to explain from the other side what it was like.

HILL: Well, when they come through the mill, they was just one of us. Spoke to us and asked us how we were and how we're doing, just, just -- they were just ordinary people.

(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: Did you see them outside at any time?

HILL: Well, we'd see them uptown around, or something like that. But as far as socializing with them, of course we didn't do that.

GEORGE STONEY: Now you mentioned baseball. Tell us about baseball.

HILL: Well, the Eagle Mill had a team, and we were real proud of the guys, too. And they organized their team, and they had the mill company helped them some 54:00with their expenses. And they would go and play at different places -- Clover, South Carolina, Kings Mountain, round everywhere -- where else some other mill had a team, they'd go up and play. And they'd play good, and some of them real good players, that -- I thought.

GEORGE STONEY: We talked to a fellow the other day, maybe he was just bragging, but he said that he got fired for drinking, but he was such a good ball player they let him come back. Would that kind of thing have happened in your mill?

HILL: I don't know. (laughter) I -- I -- I 'spect it would. (laughter) Cause they was pretty [hep?] on baseball back then. I 'spect it would.

GEORGE STONEY: Were they strict about drinking?

HILL: Well, they was strict about any disruption on their -- disturbances on the village where people lived. But um -- I never had any contact much with drinking.


GEORGE STONEY: What -- what would happen if people would misbehave in the village? Would they have to leave?

HILL: If it got bad enough, they would. I don't know of any instances of anybody being put off. Pretty decent people lived over there.

GEORGE STONEY: But do you remember any evictions?

HILL: I can’t remember a single one. There may have been, but I don't remember.

GEORGE STONEY: You just didn't -- so far as you know, it didn't happen?

HILL: As far as I know, it didn't happen.

GEORGE STONEY: What's your favorite memory of the Eagle? I mean -- people -- obviously people had very strong feelings, because we got it the other night when we were at the reunion. But I just wanted to get -- particularly as a young person, what’s your strong memory?

HILL: Well, I think (clears throat) the -- the club that Mrs. Stowe helped us to organize, the Ladies' Aid Club,


GEORGE STONEY: Now Mrs. Stowe was the --

HILL: Owner's wife.


HILL: And she sponsored us, and we organized this club. And they give the -- the old company gave us a clubhouse right in the center of the mill village. And we met -- I don't know it was once a month or every two weeks. And we did a lot of good, we took care of any -- need that anybody needed as far as we could. And we paid a little bit of dues and kept a little bit of money. And I enjoyed that as much as -- and that's -- stands out in my memory, the -- being one of the highlights of the Eagle Mill, cause what I can remember is pounding newlyweds, or pounding somebody that - - the husband, or the breadwinner'd been out of work for a long time, and we --

GEORGE STONEY: You're going to have to explain what "pounding" is.

HILL: Pounding? Pounding is when everybody takes a pound of something -- and give a pound of meat, a pound of pinto beans, a pound of potatoes, but, you 57:00know, not limited to one pound, of course.


HILL: But that's what they called pounding back then.


HILL: And we did that quite a bit when it was needed.

GEORGE STONEY: What was the name of your club?

HILL: The name? The Ladies' Aid. The Ladies' Aid Club.

GEORGE STONEY: And it had nothing to do with the church?

HILL: No, no. Hm-mm. No. It was all the company (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: Now, the (audio becomes distorted and stops)