Yvonnie Hill and Rev. Frank Miller Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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JOHN BANE: I haven't met you. My name is John Bane --

YVONNIE HILL: And I'm Yvonnie Hill.

BANE: -- I'm the curator for collections here. And I can't tell you how glad we are to have these. You're probably the first person that's brought anything like this here -- full documentation of your years at a textile mill. And let's see, we need -- let me get your name again.


BANE: OK. That's Hill?

HILL: Uh-huh.

BANE: And a mailing address?


HILL: 808 Mark Street. Belmont. 28012.

BANE: And a phone number where you can be reached.

HILL: 8-2-5-2-7-0-6.

BANE: 2-7-0-7?

HILL: Six.

BANE: Six. Thank you. I'll let you sign this here and date it. This is a temporary receipt and this, um, simply means that we're accepting it until we have a board meeting here. We have a board of trustees and they come in on a quarterly basis and vote, uh, to accept certain items. They'll want these, definitely. (laughs) No question about that. But that's why this isn't the final word. We'll be sending you something in the mail. A contract of gift.

HILL: I automatically put this C in there.

BANE: That's fine.

HILL: Let's see, this is August --


BANE: August the um, twelfth. Slipped up on us here. And I'll sign and give you a copy of this. I hope you've had a chance to look around at the museum and see what we have.

HILL: A little bit.

BANE: Your copy.

HILL: Now these will not be left out just for the general public to come in and --

BANE: We'll, uh, be talking to you in the future about how we want to use it. We'll talk to you about that.

HILL: Oh. Oh, good.

BANE: But, no, we won't just have these. But we'll discuss that with you a little later.

HILL: OK. All right.

BANE: We thank you very much.


HILL: Thank you. And you can have them now. I was gonna take them home and delete some things in them, but I decided not to.

BANE: Well great! (laughs)

HILL: It's nothin' objectionable in them, but, you know, there's some [firm?] personal you -- you can't write a daily account without having some personal things in it. So I'm just -- I'm just delighted that they can be used --

BANE: Well, thank you.

HILL: -- in this way.

BANE: Great.

HILL: And, uh, I feel like I'm leavin' a little bit of myself for the future.

BANE: Well I think you're leaving a lot of yourself here for the future. Most people wouldn't be this generous, and most people I guess, really, didn't keep a diary for this long a period of time either. I don't know, do you know anyone else who has done so or not?


BANE: No, I don't either, so I think this is wonderful. I'm very glad to have it.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. If you don't mind, now, I'd like to get a still of you and I -- the reason I didn't take it while you were doing it was the click, and Judy 00:04:00would have a -- she'd have a conniption fit, and she's right. So --

BANE: We'll just be looking at this. Be goin' over it with you.

JAMIE STONEY: Double check somethin' here.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. All right, take it.


JAMIE STONEY: [Within an inch or two?].

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Would you just be behind your sister, there? Just looking over her shoulder. Oh, nice, yeah, that's it. OK. OK. Everybody could just be looking at me now. Yeah. Up, up. Not quite. All right.

HILL: You didn't tell us to smile. (laughter)

BANE: Not yet, anyway.

GEORGE STONEY: All right, thank you.


JAMIE STONEY: Why don't we just get one more?

JUDITH HELFAND: Why don't we get George in there?

JAMIE STONEY: Yeah, get yourself in there, Dad.


HILL: Maybe he'll tell us to smile. (laughter)

JAMIE STONEY: Could you look up, sir? Everybody say, "deduction." (laughter)

HILL: I always thought it was, "cheese." I've been -- I've been misled.

HELFAND: Trying to take one last look?

HILL: Oh, I was just -- I thought it ended in '50, but I see I did --

BANE: Fifty-one.

HILL: I'd forgotten I'd found this one.

BANE: Do you have any later ones? (laughs)

HILL: No. I -- I -- I quit about then.

BANE: OK. That's it.

GEORGE STONEY: Why did you quit?

HILL: Well, really, uh, I really don't know. I guess I just got so involved, and I had so much paperwork to do at my job, so I just got, uh, just, you know, 00:06:00just, paper burned out, I guess.

GEORGE STONEY: And you never thought of using a computer for all of that?

HILL: Never used a computer in my life. Uh, um, um, I can't even use uh, one of these electronic typewriters. I'm old school. (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: Well thank you very much. I appreciate it. OK.

HILL: Well you're welcome.

BANE: I wonder what got you started on this, inspired you. Was this in school, did someone inspire you to do a journal, or did you just --

HILL: No, I just started doin' it.


HILL: And it's as I told him, see it don't go down this way, it goes across this way, the five years do. No, I just, I just, uh, started it --

BANE: Mm-hmm.

HILL: -- uh, I started readin' in 1933 but all of '33 was nothin' but personal, it was nothin' 00:07:00about my work at all. So I didn't -- I didn't bring it.

BANE: Mm-hmm. And the other question I was going to ask you is, if someone wanted to use these, do you want me to talk to you about that first? Before I let someone start looking at these? Or how do you want to do that? How do you want us to handle that?

HILL: Now, by use them, you mean they take them out of the building?

BANE: No, no, I mean using them in the building. Someone wants to do some research, let's say, and they want to use these. I mean, are there any restrictions on these?


BANE: OK. As long as they don't leave the building.

HILL: As long as they don't leave the building.

BANE: Yeah. They won't be leaving the building. They'll be here. Definitely. All right. That's really what I wanted to know. And like I said, we can talk to you a little bit later about these a little bit more. HELFAND: And you might tell him which mill you worked in, and --

BANE: Oh goodness, yes.

HELFAND: Because those are all about the mills. That's going to be helpful.

BANE: That's a good idea.

HILL: Well, I worked more at the Eagle Mill than any of the others. But I -- I worked at several, and the hosiery mill, too.


BANE: Eagle Mill was in Belmont?

HILL: Uh-huh.

BANE: OK. But you did also work in a hosiery mill? Is that --

HILL: Uh, I worked in the Eagle. I worked -- I worked about every mill in Belmont (laughter) because, uh --

RUTH ARCHER: You used to work at the sock mill, didn't you?

HILL: That's the hosiery mill, mm-hmm. I worked at the Crescent.


HILL: Worked the Imperial three days.

BANE: Three days? What happened there? (laughter)

HILL: I'm not going to tell you. I'm not going to tell you, because --

ARCHER: It's probably in the diary. (laughter)

HILL: It's not in the diary. But anyway, I couldn't take their facilities there.


HILL: And, uh, and, uh, I worked at the [Act?] Mill for a little while, not that long. Seven or eight weeks or months.

BANE: Mm-hmm.

HILL: And, uh, that's all the ones I remember workin' at.

BANE: Now was this standard for people? Did you know -- most of the people you 00:09:00knew, your friends, did they work at various mills at different times? They didn't stick with one for --

HILL: Usually I'd go back to the Eagle. (laughter) That was kinda home to me. But the way it was, you know, back during the war days and they, uh, they wanted the men so bad, so they would give us women a job, and, treat us like queens to get the man. And, uh, so, uh, my husband was not physically able to be drafted, and so he, uh, was quite a prize for the mill companies.

BANE: I see. I guess so.

HILL: That's one of the reasons that I changed a lot. I changed to be with him and then, back then, there wasn't two cars in a family, it was one car. If he changed jobs, I almost had to change to, to -- to get a way back and forwards to work. In the diaries you'll see where one time we was ridin' a taxi, and one time I was ridin' a bus. And, uh, we never did get up to two cars. (laughter)


BANE: Not quite.

HILL: Not 'til ust, in the 1970s, I guess. 1960s. Because he died in '68.

BANE: One of the things I -- I -- that did some to mind is recreation. I know, um, mills -- now I used to work in High Point in the mills up in that area. The hosiery mills, at least, sponsored women's softball, and basketball teams. Was there any of that goin' on around here?

HILL: They had basketball, uh, they had a foot -- uh, baseball team at the Eagle. But, uh, we didn't participate. We'd go to the games and all like that, but most -- most of our recreation was movies.

BANE: Right.

HILL: And you'll find it in there --

BANE: Good.

HILL: I went to the movie, I saw, so-and-so, and it was good, or it was bad, or indifferent. And, uh --

BANE: Movie critic.

HILL: And then, yeah, and then the, the skatin'. They're a lot of people --

BANE: I've heard a lot about that.

HILL: -- that went to the skatin' rink and they just come out.

BANE: Mm-hmm. Yes.

HILL: My husband was an avid skater.

BANE: Oh he was?


HILL: Yeah. I never did skate much, but he did.

BANE: Great.

HILL: And we fished a lot.

BANE: Mm-hmm. Great.

HILL: Sometimes we fished for food.

BANE: Oh, so really, oh, OK. Wasn't always just fun, I guess.

HILL: It was fun, too.

BANE: Mm-hmm.

HILL: We love to fish.

BANE: Great.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you keep going back up to the mountains?

HILL: We did for a few summers, but my husband did not like the mountains at all. He wanted to go to the beach where he could fish, but we went up there quite often for a good many years, but in our later years, we didn't.

ARCHER: Where was Johnny from, Yvonnie?

HILL: He was born and raised in McAdenville.


GEORGE STONEY: OK. Thank you very much.

BANE: I'll get out of your way and let you finish up.

GEORGE STONEY: I just wanted to get, uh, your signature, that said we had your permission, just a moment.


BANE: I'll just leave this here for now, is that all right? You want me to just leave these here or you want me to get these out of y'all's way?

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, you can -- you can take that.



JAMIE STONEY: You keep goin', I'll --

GEORGE STONEY: OK, you want (inaudible).

BANE: We'll make sure we take care of these.

HILL: I think I had them in that black bag over there if you need somethin' to carry them in.

BANE: OK. Well I think we've got another box probably over here that I can put them in.

HILL: I wish I had got them all same size, but back then you took what you can get. She jut asked me what it cost, I said, "Well, one like that, was probably 15 or 20 cent."

GEORGE STONEY: Thank you very much for talking with her, because it's loosened her up a great deal.

BANE: Really? At the time. Mm-hmm. Well the nice thing about it is, you can distinguish between them, which is which.

HILL: Yeah.

BANE: I mean, they don't all -- that way you don't get them confused. No two of them are alike, aren't they?

HILL: I marked them, I put down on there last night --

BANE: Great.

HILL: -- I thought it would be helpful --

BANE: That is helpful.

HILL: -- not havin' to look it up.

BANE: Great.

HILL: You might want to pull it off, or --


BANE: No we'll leave it on, that's a big help to us. Box for these.

HELFAND: You look like you feel a little sad.

HILL: I'm tired. I'm overdone it.

HELFAND: OK. Well, we'll get you home.

JAMIE STONEY: We'll get you out of here as soon as we can.

HILL: I got up --

(break in audio, 00:13:23 - 00:16:00)






(Frank Miller interview begins at 00:16:00)

GEORGE STONEY: We're gonna wait 'til we get through town to do anything serious.

JAMIE STONEY: Well let's get b-roll. I'm just gettin' b-roll.


GEORGE STONEY: But then I came back and I worked in the South, I was in the Army, and all that. And I went back again when I was, uh, in nineteen fifty -- 1956.

MILLER: Mm-hmm.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, I've been in New York -- or that's been my base ever since.


GEORGE STONEY: But I keep working down here, one film or another and --

MILLER: I just don't believe I'd like -- I don't like a big city, not to live in.

GEORGE STONEY: Well I understand that.

MILLER: But everybody got their --

GEORGE STONEY: Well, sure.

MILLER: -- own, uh --

GEORGE STONEY: Well, there are a number of things I like about it. The first thing is, that they pay me. (laughs)

MILLER: Yeah, oh yeah. My sister lived in Charlotte. I had three over there. Well back then, Red lived -- used to live over there. I told them, I said, they 00:17:00give me a salary, buy my groceries, give me a house to live in, I wouldn't live over here in this place for nothin'. (laughter) Yeah, now right down here is the place we'd call the glory hole. We'd come every morning (inaudible) fellers.

GEORGE STONEY: What do you come down here for?

MILLER: We'd just sit around, drink coffee, us old fellers, and younger men, too, you know. Some of the preachers. And there's one old man here, 86 years old this morning, right there.


MILLER: And, you know, just fellowship together.

GEORGE STONEY: What's that, a kind of -- restaurant?

MILLER: Yeah, at the barbecue place, (inaudible). Turn, get in the right lane.

GEORGE STONEY: What mill is this?

MILLER: This was the old [Locke?] mill. When I was as boy, that thing would run, had looms in it, spinnin' in all of that. Now they built it in apartments, you see.

GEORGE STONEY: Oh, I see it.

MILLER: And got a few little shops in it.



MILLER: And it did have a nice restaurant in there. But somethin' happened between the husband and wife. These next stoplight down here, you turn left.

HELFAND: So I should make a right here?

GEORGE STONEY: Uh-huh. And you can turn right on red.

MILLER: Uh-huh. Now this was one of the -- this was an old mill right here, over here. That was an old mill. We called it the [old Locke Mill?].

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah, Jamie, that will be a good one for us to get because the windows are still there.

MILLER: Yeah, turn left right here. You get in the other line.

HELFAND: You want me to turn?

MILLER: Yeah, if it's time. I can't see to (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: She's fine.

MILLER: Yeah. Now, when I was a boy, there's a streetcar track runnin' right down this road here. And my son got a picture of the old city, you know, the town, with a streetcar comin' down this street. Yeah, yeah they had a streetcar line.

HELFAND: Isn't this the street where Mr. Cannon lived?

MILLER: This is the street where Cannon lived. Right up yonder on the left is his home. It burnt not long ago, but, uh, they got it out and they redoin' it. 00:19:00Now, but think about it. When you get up there I'll show you where he lived at. You'd think he had lived in a great big old, uh, brick home, but it wasn't. It was a frame house. Let's see. It's kind of back off of the road a little piece. That's a beautiful street in the summer time.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah. Nice houses.

MILLER: Yeah. Right back in there where Charlie Cannon lived. See there? Right back in there. That's it. It runs all the way back there to the next street, the land, you know. And they got, uh, a fence around it, you know, back there and everything.


GEORGE STONEY: What -- who's living there now?

MILLER: Uh, his grandchild, I think one of his grandchildren. Now at this stoplight you turn right. Take him over there where Red when he first went to work in the mill, the first mill house I think he lived in. I think it's the first. You get in the right lane over here, get in this right lane.

HELFAND: Did anything happen at this hotel here? Is this where the organizers stayed or something? Did you tell me about that?

MILLER: If what?

GEORGE STONEY: The hotel there.

MILLER: No, I'll tell you, they built that hotel and my principal, when I was goin' to school, he bought a little stock in that hotel, and it wasn't here too awful long, because it went bankrupt. Busted, I mean, went, you know, bankrupt.

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

MILLER: And I believe it was about $400 he told me had put in it. Well back then, $400 was a lot of money.

GEORGE STONEY: That's a lot of money, like $4,000 now.


MILLER: And so then later on, feller bought it. Yeah. They say since I was a boy, all these buildings that's been put in here, and the houses been torn down, lot of the houses, when I was a young fella, all this was houses down this -- down the road. Now over here's a colored college -- you might have heard tell of Barber Scotia College.

GEORGE STONEY: No I didn't know about that, mm-hmm.

MILLER: Well right there's Barber Scotia College. That's a colored college. But now it goes way back on the other side, dormitory back in there and everything. Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: It's still operating?

MILLER: Oh yeah, yeah. That's owned by Presbyterians, I think.

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm. Is this the beginning of the mill village over here?

MILLER: No, we ain't quite got to where I want to take you. Way back down in yonder, I thought when I'd come back I'd show where the Cannon first started. 00:22:00And the mill company, they tore that building down.

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm. Jamie, when we come back, there's a pawn shop I wanna get there. Quick Cash.

MILLER: I'm gonna take you over here to first mill home I ever lived in, I lived over there. And show you a mill village.

GEORGE STONEY: How old were you when that happened?

MILLER: Oh I was married then. I was, say, 22, 23, somewhere around there.

GEORGE STONEY: You remember about what year that was?

MILLER: No, take that from, uh --

GEORGE STONEY: You were born?

MILLER: Seventy-nine, 1912.


MILLER: I see Cannon bought a couple houses along here to connect his mill over yonder. Right over yonder is a mill they call old Cabarrus Mill to connect his property with what they call the Gibson Mill. And all this property together, he paid taxes on just one piece of property.



MILLER: And then when they bought the Brown Mill over here, say he went across the creek they did, and, uh, all of it's connected together.

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm. That was inside the city limits of the --

MILLER: Oh yeah. And then one time, that creek right there, the [Curb Bleacher?], now when you make this turn, the first road back to your right, turn back to your right, and I'm gonna show you a mill village. Now turn back to your right, right here, right here, right here. Where that car's comin' out. All them was mill houses up that way. Now here on your left, there's the creek, it used to smell, my goodness. All the dyes and everything, but -- over here started the mill village around this way. Yeah. Yeah all this here's the mill village.


GEORGE STONEY: Do these houses look pretty much like they did then?

MILLER: Well, if we get on around, some of them don't look quite as good. See that tree in the yard right there? One of them broken down, I set them trees out. I used to live right there. No, 'cause I built me an extra room on my house, when I was there. But this was the mill houses. All these was mill houses.


JAMIE STONEY: OK, Judy, we need to stop --

(break in audio)


MILLER: See now, half of this is colored people now. When I lived over here there wasn't no colored people. See all these cars in the yard? How they junk up? (laughs) See in this yard how they junked?


MILLER: Over here on the right used to be our ball field, back down in there right in there was our ball field. This was not a Cannon when I worked over 00:25:00here. This belong to the Johnston chain of mills in Charlotte. But all of that back up in yonder was mill houses just like these.

GEORGE STONEY: What was this mill called then?

MILLER: I call it the Brown Mill.

GEORGE STONEY: The Brown Mill.

MILLER: Mm-hmm. But the Johnston owned it.

GEORGE STONEY: We may have some records about it.

HELFAND: Oh yeah. Couple letters. But this is where you were working back in 1934?

MILLER: That's right, that's right. Now you take a left here. And right up here, the first house sittin' up on that hill there was where Red. See that little old shotgun house sittin' up on yonder?


MILLER: They built, uh, a room on the back of it. Right up there where Red lived.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Let's, uh, just turn into this next driveway, and we'll get out.


HELFAND: Right here?

GEORGE STONEY: Why not just turn, uh --

MILLER: Park right here because they may wanna come outta there.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah this is good. Just pull over here and we'll get out. OK. Jamie why don't you --

(break in audio)

JAMIE STONEY: And rolling.

GEORGE STONEY: Drizzling a little bit.

MILLER: Yep. If I ever get outta here.

GEORGE STONEY: Now this seems to be more like the kind of mill village housing I used to see in the old pictures.

MILLER: Yeah. This is what they call Shotgun Row. When I was a young feller, called it Shotgun Row.



MILLER: The way the houses was built.

GEORGE STONEY: Why were they called shotgun?

MILLER: I don't know. I guess just the way the houses I guess was built. And they called in Shotgun Row, or Shotgun Street. That yellow one up there is where Red used to live, my brother-in-law [Haywood Liss?] lived. I believe that was the first company house he lived in. Now I'm not for sure, but I believe that it was.

GEORGE STONEY: We're talking about, uh, what years?

MILLER: I don't know because he had a little girl that burnt to death there in that home. Uh, you know, she got her little gown on fire. That open fireplaces. And their mom was in the kitchen, she just straight in the kitchen back there, and she was fixin' a meal, and the kid was around her feet, but 00:28:00disappeared, and she up and turned around and looked and she had tucked some paper or somethin' in the fire and got it on fire and caught her little gown on fire, and she inhaled fire down her throat and killed her.

GEORGE STONEY: Now we've heard a lot of people talk about "Six Hour Red." What does that mean?

MILLER: Yeah. Well, he was wanting to get six hours a day instead of eight hours a day. But no, instead of havin' an eight hours a day shift, six hours a day. And so, they nicknamed him, some of them did, Six Hour Red.

GEORGE STONEY: What was the purpose of that?

MILLER: Tryin' to get people shorter hours. Say when I wanted to work the mill myself, we's workin' 10 hours a day and half a day on Saturday.

JAMIE STONEY: Hold that thought one --

(break in audio)

MILLER: And then later --


HELFAND: Past that house.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Keep goin'.

HELFAND: Talk and walk.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah, you can keep on --


MILLER: Yeah, and uh, don't remember what I said, now.

GEORGE STONEY: You were talkin' about Six Hour Red.

MILLER: Yeah, yeah. You see, we worked long hours and then under Roosevelt, we got the eight hours a day. And -- then Old Red, he was with the union, you know, and he's make his pieces around wantin' to make it six hours a day instead of eight hours.

GEORGE STONEY: Well some people said that he was tryin' to share the work so you have four shifts and employ more people.

MILLER: That's right, employ more people, (inaudible) and have four shifts.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, tell me about this house here. Uh, how many people, how many people would live in a house like that?

MILLER: Oh, maybe two and a kid, you see, just had a bedroom and a kitchen back then, I think that's all they got, a bedroom and a kitchen, you see. Real little bitty kitchen back there, bedroom, and this room where you sit in, and the kitchen. Now I'm pretty sure that's the one that Red lived in. It's either 00:30:00that one or that one. And I've been tryin' to see since the built on the back of them, I can't remember too well. But it's one of them.

GEORGE STONEY: Now what was back of the kitchen? Did you have a bathroom, anything like that?

MILLER: No, I don't think back then, no. We had outhouses. We didn't have bathrooms in them. Yeah, we had outhouses. Back when I was a boy, and back when I worked at the mill, people took their bath in a tin tub. (laughs) Yeah, Saturday was bath day, you know. (laughter)

JAMIE STONEY: Say that again, sir? Saturday was --

MILLER: Saturday was bath day, you know. People take their bath in a tin tub. Yep.

GEORGE STONEY: Let's walk down here. We'll just walk -- we'll just walk up there and down. Let's walk up here, rather than walk up in here.


GEORGE STONEY: You take a bath in a tin tub?


MILLER: Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

HELFAND: So this is where Red lives (inaudible). Tell us about it.

MILLER: Do what?

HELFAND: Maybe they organized in the house or something.

MILLER: No, they -- they lettin' the people buy these homes, if they want to, Fieldcrest is. And uh -- so, lotta people's buyin' their home. They're buyin' their homes. And some is still rentin'.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah. When you were in the union, did you come over here and see Red in this house?

MILLER: Oh yeah, I see he's my brother-in-law. In fact, he'd come later live with my mom and dad. Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh-huh. Did you hold meetings here?

MILLER: Oh no. Huh-uh. No.

GEORGE STONEY: Where did you hold your meetings?

MILLER: Well, this was mostly when I was goin' along in the home, didn't have a whole bunch, see, just go around and visit the home, organizer would. He didn't have to, uh, people didn't go -- well, they went along but they were afraid 00:32:00their jobs, see.

GEORGE STONEY: So you didn't sit out on the front porch?

MILLER: Oh no, no, no, and talk about all that. Now Red, my brother-in-law, he'd come over to my daddy's and all, you know.


MILLER: And in fact he lived over there a while.

GEORGE STONEY: Lived with you?

MILLER: With my daddy.

GEORGE STONEY: Well you were scared of that? Having him in the house?

MILLER: Oh no, no, no, well see I wasn't living there then. My sister had moved in with my dad and my mom. And he was gone a whole lot. See Red traveled a lot.


MILLER: They had him on the move.

GEORGE STONEY: So he was all over North Carolina then, was he?

MILLER: Oh yeah, yeah and a lot of other places too, I think.

GEORGE STONEY: Where does he come from?

MILLER: Round down in the country down here.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh-huh. He was from --

MILLER: He was local. He was a local fella.

GEORGE STONEY: I ask that because so many people say that the union was brought in by, uh, Yankees.


MILLER: No, Red was a local fella. And he got in it after the strike, you see.


MILLER: If I'm not mistaken now, he lost his job on account of it.


MILLER: And the union just picked him up and took him right on in with them.

GEORGE STONEY: We've heard a lot about, uh, him speaking.

MILLER: Oh yeah, he could -- I think the Lord called him to preach. (laughter) He could, he's a good speaker.



GEORGE STONEY: Well now, what was your part in the union at the time?

MILLER: Just a member. Tryin' to help to get others to sign up.

GEORGE STONEY: Now what would you say to them?

MILLER: Well, I'd tell them we needed some better way to get some help.


MILLER: And, you know, make our work easier. But it was hard. Because you see, like I said, people lived in these houses, they caught you messin' around, somethin' like that, you was gone. And you couldn't hardly find a job back 00:34:00then. Yeah. It was hard to find.

GEORGE STONEY: How much -- how much dues did they pay?

MILLER: Not any's I know of. We tryin' to organize. Didn't have to pay nothin'. We didn't have a union.


MILLER: Yeah, yeah. We didn't have no union so we didn't have to pay no dues. Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Now these two are all --

MILLER: Yeah they all belong to the same company, this whole street right there. Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: And this, uh --

MILLER: And all this has been built since I left here, you see. They didn't have all this back here. Used to could walk right through here, there's a path, you know. Go right back up to the mill office, up yonder.

GEORGE STONEY: Did they have fences around the mill at that time?

MILLER: Oh yeah, yeah. Had fences ever since I can remember they had fences around the mill.


GEORGE STONEY: When you were here during that time, did the National Guard come here?

MILLER: Oh yeah, yeah, they had the guards around the gates, see. And, uh, if I ain't mistaken, they had them here. I know some in the Cannon had -- they had on top was machine guns at the corner, you see.

GEORGE STONEY: Of this mill here?

MILLER: I think they did, now, if I ain't mistaken they had them up there, you know, it's more of a bluff than anything else.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now, were the -- the pickets, were they armed?

MILLER: No, no. I'll tell ya about all the pickets done back then was sing and pray. Get on their knees and pray and sing. That's about all they did. No -- I never saw no trouble out of any of them, you know. It was like they was wantin' --

GEORGE STONEY: They must have been pretty desperate, though.


MILLER: Well, uh, in a way they were, but nothin' much you could do about it, you see. Got you across the barrel just like I tellin' ya about them sendin' me a six-hundred-and-some dollar light bill. I can't switch light companies, you know what I mean?

GEORGE STONEY: Sure. We better get out of [the way?].

MILLER: And so, the mill company, they had you where you either work or they tell you kind of what to do, or either they just tell you, you's gone and you move. And then there wasn't nowhere to move. If you didn't have a job, you had nowhere to go. If you did, ain't nobody gonna rent ya a house without any money. You know, even back then.



(break in audio)

GEORGE STONEY: -- what we call nowadays sexual harassment in the mills. Could you describe that?


MILLER: Well, it used to be some of it, you know, because some of the women had no choice too much, and you take a woman around some of the men more than she is her husband, know what else is gonna take place. But, I can't tell you to say too much about that on this, because you know, you gotta know the facts, but all I can tell you what I hearsay, you know. That right up yonder at the other mill they had a group that wouldn't go up there because of they're paddin' their payroll and tangled up with women, you know. And I've had some of the men overseers in the mill, after I got out, telling me how they'd, you know, tangle with women, things like that, but, you gotta prove them things, you know.

GEORGE STONEY: What about your -- what about your mother? She worked in the mill, did she have any such experience?

MILLER: No, because she said if one ever tried anything at her, she'd whop them 00:38:00over the head with a shuttle and holler, "Rape." No, she worked here, and she worked over at that old Locke Mill where I told you they had some, uh, uh, apartments in there now. Yeah. But about all the mills in Concord is shut down. We don't have no textile mill around Concord. This mill used to be one of the best-running mills there was in Cabarrus County. Yeah, it run when the others would be shut down. When a lot of the Cannon mills shut down, this one would be running. And then, I don't know what happened, the superintendent here -- when he was the super here the thing went kerplunk. Yeah. But --

GEORGE STONEY: Well when you were in this, lived in --

MILLER: I worked in there 22 years. Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: When you lived in this village, were the roads paved?


MILLER: No, huh-uh, no. No they wasn't paved. They's just dirt roads. And --

GEORGE STONEY: What about the --

MILLER: -- all this has happened in the last years, you know. Yeah you didn't have no paved roads and had outhouses out behind the houses, and you didn't have no indoor, you know, you had water in your house. Either in the house or on the back porch. But you had no runnin' water, you know, like for bath or sewage in the home. You had to go out behind the house to the outhouse.

GEORGE STONEY: And were those outhouses connected with the city sewer?

MILLER: No, no, no, no. They just had big holes dug in the ground with a little old house sittin' over the top of it, you see. And had two holes cut inside in there.

GEORGE STONEY: And how did they clean those out?

MILLER: Well, when they got filled up, they just come fill it up and dig it up.

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm. I see.

MILLER: Just move it out of the way and fill it up, dig another, and set it over 00:40:00that hole. No, Lord, we, uh, let me see, they came around when I lived down yonder puttin' sewage in the house. Yeah, puttin' sewage in the house. And hot water heaters. Didn't have no hot water heaters or anything like that in them.

GEORGE STONEY: Well what --

MILLER: When I lived down there they came around and they got one thing kind of helped this mill here because our superintendent he believed in tryin' to help the people, too, and I forget how many thousands he spent buildin' more bri -- uh, underpinning the houses and puttin' stuff in them, you know. And so that's a first, uh sewage I -- in my home down there, that I had.

GEORGE STONEY: When was that about?

MILLER: Oh, I don't know, I can't remember the dates.

GEORGE STONEY: Was that before you went to the Army?

MILLER: I never been in the Army.


GEORGE STONEY: No? Was that before the Second World War?

MILLER: Yeah, I believe it was. I believe it was before the Second World War. Now I was workin' in there in World War number two. And I worked high three shifts like on a Friday, you know, goin' Friday mornin', worked Friday mornin' and the second shift I'd knock off at eleven o'clock at night and then I'd stay there 'til Saturday mornin' at seven o'clock. Because we didn't have the help, you know, and I was makin' extra money, time and a half, you know, for all that extra time.

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm. Well one thing that I -- has always puzzled me, I talked to a lot of people about their life in the cotton mills village -- just a moment, let me wait 'til this truck gets past for this question --

(break in audio)

HELFAND: Are you ready Jamie?


GEORGE STONEY: Uh, one thing that's just, uh, bewildered me is that people keep 00:42:00talking about how wonderful it was to live in a cotton mill village, and yet what you say, tells me something else.

MILLER: (laughs) It might have been wonderful. Well a lot of people that you lived around, they were good people, most of them were nice people. They were just like myself and everybody else. And back then, you gotta remember, we didn't -- everybody didn't have a car, every kid didn't have a car, if one family had a car, they were happy. Didn't have television and things like that, see. And in the afternoons, after they got home from work, family would come out maybe to my house, or my dad's house, and we'd sit and talk, you know, 'til about bedtime. Group of them would get together and talk. They were -- cotton mill people were good people. They were good people. They're hard working people. They worked hard. And they deserved every nickel they got, too, in the mill.


GEORGE STONEY: And yet, those of us who grew up in Southern towns near the cotton mill had a very different view. We called them lint heads, we called them down-yonders --

MILLER: Yeah, lint dodgers, lint heads, now that's back when I was a little-old-bitty boy. But after I grew up after World War II, see, the mills began to pay better. Now you can't tell if a man works in a cotton mill, you can't tell him from a lawyer, doctor, banker, who. He drivin' big fine cars too. Wears fine clothes. But back when I was a young man, my daddy workin' in the mill, well you could tell us anywhere we went, see.


MILLER: By our little old overalls with patches in them, bare-footed, hair shaved off, not shaved off but clipped off short. That's when they called us lint dodgers and lint heads. That's the first thing we done, I told ya about that. The first day of May we got to throw our shoes off, take our shoes off. 00:44:00Go bare-footed. We'd go bare-footed all summer, too. And, uh, my daddy'd take a pair of old clippers, set us out there under a tree, (audio distortion) cut all our hair off. And we enjoyed that, rubbin' that head, that there. (laughter) And so, when we go to town somewhere, why, most anybody could tell when we was cotton mill kids because our little old overalls with patches in them and everything, you know. But it was wonderful times, I tell ya, I go back and think back and it was a hard life to live, but it was a good life. I mean the thing about it, we didn't have no money, if we hadn't been right on out yonder, a couple grocery stores, there ain't but one there now, if it hadn't been people like that on the mill hill, people would've starved to death, some 00:45:00of them. See, we had to buy our groceries on credit. From payday to payday. And sometimes didn't get to work enough, and payday to pay for our food, so we had to demand to let us have it on credit, see.

GEORGE STONEY: Was that a company store?

MILLER: No, no, private people owned it. And I lived beside of a man over there in town on Gold Street that owned a store out here where I bought my groceries from. He died not too long ago, and -- but he told me, said anytime I got food, as long as I got food in my store, you got somethin' to eat. And that's kind of the way these men that run these grocery stores felt. And I asked him one time, I said, "A man pay you cash for your groceries, he get them any cheaper?" He said, "No, I figured a man that, uh, pays every payday, just same as cash." But some would, you know, 00:46:00if you pay them cash, they let you have them cheap.


MILLER: And did you know I stayed with my man until he went out of business over here, until he had to close down. I'd drive from way up halfway there halfway between here and Kannapolis, down here, and buy my groceries, because I felt like he had tried to take care of me when I couldn't take care of myself, and why go and give it to A&P and some of them people, when they would let you have nothin' on credit. Made no difference to them whether you starved to death.

GEORGE STONEY: Well we've heard a lot from -- about during the hard times, during the strikes, or during the short time, these merchants doing a lot to extend credit.

MILLER: Mm-hmm, they did, that's what I'm talkin' about. And -- and we had some stores here, too, now, I tell her, one of -- this Jewish feller, when they come 00:47:00to town, they used to board with my grandma. Named Joe [Gascom?]. He had a nice place over here out from town, uh, and he sold clothes, you know. Well you could buy a suit of clothes from Joe, give him a dollar down and a dollar at payday. Any way -- as long as you paid a little bit on it, he'd go along with you. And so we had several here in town, you see, even sell you clothes on credit. My dad always told me, if you wanted something, go to save and what it gonna cost you every week to buy that, and when you got the cash money, you get it cheaper. (laughter) And he was right, but. He always owned his home. I never knew him to live in a company house all the time I -- the time I was born 'til he died. Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Let's go around --

(break in audio)

HELFAND: Company. Could you talk about that?


MILLER: Well, I don't -- I can't remember that, but I'm pretty sure that this is -- now, I may not be right, but I believe I am, that he moved from here and moved in a home, uh, down on White Street down here, it was owned by a [Robertson?] feller.

GEORGE STONEY: Well we know from a lot of, uh, archives that, uh, people in Kannapolis who owned the mills put a lot of people out. Evicted them. We've got pictures of that. Where did they go?

MILLER: Well, they had to hunt around try to find a job somewhere. I guess some of them went to South Carolina, you know, and found a job in the mill among different places. But, if you got out around here, it was just hard to find a job, because that's all most everybody around here knew, was textiles, you see.

GEORGE STONEY: Now we know some of the worked for the WPA.


MILLER: Yeah, yeah back in the WPA day, Roosevelt you know, had a WPA, and they could work for them and go to welfare and get, uh, some groceries and stuff like that, you know, get a little groceries.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you ever work for WPA?

MILLER: No, no I never worked for them. Yeah. Never did work for them.

HELFAND: So you think Red had to get out of this house so that he could be -- if he wasn't in a company house, then he could stick to doing union business.

MILLER: That's right.

HELFAND: Could you say that for us?

MILLER: If I'm not mistaken now, this is where he was livin' when he got fired, or he had to leave the company. And he moved, uh, uh, down here on White Street, I'll show you after a while where he moved to, because that was not a company house, this was a company house, you see, the company owned this house, and now Red lived in several places here in Concord. He used to live on Powder Street, lived on [Crowell?] Street, and, uh, I can't tell you just what all he 00:50:00did there. Different places, you know, until finally he bought him a place in Charlotte. He had his home over in Charlotte.

GEORGE STONEY: Well during the -- during those three weeks of a strike, did the union try to do anything to feed people?

MILLER: No, not as far as I know, never got a nickel out of them. And that's one thing that I said, that they was wrong if they would've tried to help the people a little bit, because they was pretty strong back then, the union. Uh, when I worked out here we had that old [patent?] I was tellin' you about. Me and this feller went up to Greensboro, well a lot of their mills was organized, you see. Like the big White Oaks Mill, and their finishing factory over there, and all them -- some of them was already union, and. But as far as I know, the 00:51:00union never give anybody anything around here during the strike. And so that's what made it hard, see. And that's why people were afraid, which I believe that if they'd had stepped in and said, "Hey, look, we gotta help you people some." It might've been a little different take.

GEORGE STONEY: But where would they have gotten the money? Since you weren't paying any dues.

MILLER: Yeah, well they had a lot of them that was payin' though, see. Had a lot of them that was payin'. You know, the ones that was already organized. They had, uh, I went up to, uh, oh I forget the name of that town, I talked to the superintendent up there, it was one of the (inaudible) mills, you know.

GEORGE STONEY: In Greensboro?

MILLER: No, it was out from Greensboro, and [Clarence Comb?] was over at that mill. Gibsonville, I believe it was. And I -- the overseer or super one, I kind of got him all to myself, and I asked him, I seen where jobs were up for bid over the water fountain, and I asked him, I said, "Tell me somethin', I know 00:52:00you can't talk out, but how y'all gettin' along since the union came in up here?" He said, "We're doin' great." And he said, "They do their part, and we do our part." Then he said, "The union's in here and the people, we tell them what they're supposed to do, and they got to do it." And said, "If they don't do it, then the union can, you know, got a shop steward take it before him or tell him and then he'll have him, and they could run him off.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now the other manufacturers must have known of that experience, and yet they went to such lengths to fight the union. Why was that?

MILLER: Well, I just can't tell you. I just, just, don't have an answer for it. But see this overseer, or superintendent one, I forget which it was, told me 00:53:00this up there at Gibsonville, but he didn't tell me where everybody could hear him, see. He told me that, said they got along better than they ever got along and doin' good. Because they knew what they were supposed to do, the mill company and the union knew what they were supposed to do. And everybody done they job.

GEORGE STONEY: You see, one of the reasons we're making this film, is because you people make -- made such a big effort in the early '30s, you got a lot of organization going like that, and then it got stepped on so hard, that even now, people are discouraged, and we want to show that back then, something did happen.

MILLER: Mm-hmm. Well, you got a lot of people today, they really opposed to the union, but you see, now, when I was pastorin' up at that church up yonder, I had 00:54:00about a 16, 17 truck driver (inaudible). And they were union, both of them were union truck drivers. The mill companies had no retirement, well Cannon Mill, now they got a little retirement. But a feller's telling me this past week, someone kin to him, I don't remember who it was now, worked thirty-some-odd years in the Cannon Mill, and he's drawing about fifty-some dollars a month after, now that's all the retirement he gettin' after thirty-some years in the mill. I worked 22 years out at this mill right here and I retired with nothin'. When I left, I got nothin'. And so that's the way it goes. Some of these people worked in the Cannon Mill, did work in the Cannon mill, right now they not drawin' -- they drawin' a little pension, but it's a very little, you know. I daresay there's very few that drawin' a hundred-dollar pension. Now overseers and all, they made pretty fair in the mill, see, they made pretty good. 00:55:00And they had some pretty good benefits and all for them. But just for labor, you got nothin'.

GEORGE STONEY: Mr. Murdock seemed to make pretty -- out pretty well on it.

MILLER: Oh he did, see, he bought the -- he bought the Cannon chain out and he turned around and sell the mill company to Fieldcrest and they call it Fieldcrest and Cannon. I guess Cannon's still got a hand in it. And now he owned all the property around it, see. He owned the town and the property. And I said I've never seen people having to pay taxes for another man's property and another thing I guess like they doin' in Kannapolis right now. And then he built a road. They built a road all the way around Kannapolis. And they're talkin' about one day runnin' a road across and hittin' I-85 where you go right straight to Kannapolis, see. But, see he got all the property, and the 00:56:00companies, they got the mill. And so he sold a bunch of these mill houses, like if I'd a been livin' in that little old house, I'd a wanted to buy, I coulda bought it. He give the people a chance to buy them that lived in them, you know. If they couldn't buy them, they had to pay rent when they retired, they had to pay, I don't know how much rent they had to pay, but they had to pay rent on them. Now there's one thing about Charlie Cannon when he did have it, if you worked for him, and when you got old and retired, he would let you continue to live on in that house, and I think it's very little you had to pay, I don't know whether you paid anything or not. If you did, it'd be light, and water, and such as that. But he was pretty nice in that light. After Murdock got them, it was a different tale they -- different story.

JAMIE STONEY: Can I get that again? I just wanna get a little different shot on him.


JAMIE STONEY: Charlie Cannon --

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah, just tell us about Charlie Cannon.

MILLER: Yeah he was pretty nice to the people that lived in his home. They, uh, 00:57:00when they got old and retired, they could continue to live on in that home, as long as they lived. And I don't know whether they had to pay any rent, if they did it, it was a small amount. They pay their light, water, such as that. He was -- he was pretty lenient with people in that light.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, let's go --

(break in audio)

MILLER: If it hadn't been for textiles here in this -- around in this community, there wouldn't have been no community.

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

JAMIE STONEY: I gotta reload but I also have to dry myself off.