Fr. George Kloster Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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(Audio starts at 00:08:56)

FR.GEORGE KLOSTER: Yeah.

9:00

GEORGE STONEY: So we were looking for storefront churches, and I walked into one of them. And, uh -- are you shooting now?

CREW: Yeah.

STONEY: OK. Um, walked into one of them and the fella said -- he was up there sweating, and shouting, and speaking in tongues. And finally, he quieted down. It’s a sm-- ti-- a small congregation, a little storefront. He said, “That’s the ways I sees it. And if you don’t like it, there ain’t nothing you can do about it, because you ain’t never hired me, and you can’t never fire me.” (laughter) I thought, oh, how --

FR. KLOSTER: What kind of freedom, huh?

STONEY: How -- how many --

FR. KLOSTER: Yeah.

STONEY: -- ministers would like --

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right.

STONEY: -- (laughter) to say that.

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right. Yeah. Yeah.

STONEY: But he fool me. Uh, I told him that I wanted to -- to film with him, and why wanted to film. And he said to me, “I think it’s going to be fine, but, of course, we have to pray over it.” Meanwhile, I was going to down to Harlan County and he gave me a lot of good connections, which turned out fine. We worked at Harlan County and, like, spread the word that he was -- sent me down, and so forth. Came back the next Tuesday night, when I thought we has an 10:00agreement to film. We walked in, service had already begun, had a crew there. We started setting up lights, just like that. Service went on, he kept signaling. Service was over, and I went and I said, “What happened?” He said, “Well, son, we spoke to the Lord and the Lord said no.” (laughter)

FR. KLOSTER: Lord said no. (laughter) And the Lord rules, huh. (laughter) [God will?] (inaudible). You never know what the Lord’s going to say.

STONEY: Well, they -- I told that to the -- the -- the Methodist, uh, bishop there. He said, “You should’ve appealed to the trinity.”

FR. KLOSTER: (laughter) Uh --

STONEY: Well, how did you happen to get here?

FR. KLOSTER: I got to North Carolina because my father started out working in the textile industry when he was about s-- 15 or 16 years old -- the lowest position in the factory -- and he worked his way up to be the manager of the 11:00factory. And after being there 33 years, working for the same company, uh, they closed the plant down to move it to Alabama. And they told him, “Now, George, don’t worry. We’ve got something for you.” So on the day that they were literally locking the door -- all the equipment had been moved out -- they called him at 10 o’clock in the morning and they said, uh -- uh, “George, come up at two o’clock this afternoon and we’ll talk about your future.” And he went up at two o’clock in the afternoon and they told him he had no future with the company, that he was finished. And so after 30-plus years, uh, with the same company, at age 52, he was out of a job for the first time in his life. Fortunately, he had a good reputation, and he was a good textile manager, and within three weeks, he had a position in eastern North Carolina as an assistant manager of a mill that, later, he became the manager of for 15 or 16 12:00years. But that was a -- a major trauma for someone that had just been so loyal to the company, to find out that the company had no loyalty to him.

STONEY: It’s interesting that we hear workers -- the textile workers we talk to talk about how little assurance they had of work --

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: -- in the mills, but we haven’t heard that --

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right.

STONEY: -- from the executive standpoint.

FR. KLOSTER: But when -- when they close down, when they move offshore, that affects the -- the management as well as the -- as the workers. The workers are usually the first to go, but eventually, it catches up to the management. The management might have more severance, but it -- it affects them, as well.

STONEY: Well, now, we’re in the middle of a -- of a -- the textile belt. Uh, and your church here is -- is it a textile-related church?

FR. KLOSTER: Its foundings were textile-related, in the sense that the abbot at Belmont was told that if he would put a church in Gastonia, that the textile owners would bring in Catholic mill workers from the north. Uh, that was about 13:00the turn of the century. The parish was founded in 1903 with that premise pretty much in mind, but the workers never came.

STONEY: That was when they needed a lot of workers --

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right. That’s right.

STONEY: -- and they’d been pulling them down from the mountains.

FR. KLOSTER: They had been pulling them down from the mountains. They couldn’t use blacks --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- because their factories weren’t integrated. They -- they were looking for a new base and, of course, there were a lot of especially ethnic, Catholic --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- textile workers in the north, um, who --

STONEY: Who had some skills.

FR. KLOSTER: Who had some skills, um, but they never came.

STONEY: Hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: And I don’t -- I’ve not been able to find out why they --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: I’ve got my suspicions --

STONEY: (laughter)

FR. KLOSTER: -- as to why they didn’t come, but I don’t know for sure.

STONEY: Yeah.

FR. KLOSTER: But the fact is that they --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- that they never really came in the numbers that were expected, but the church was here, and it’s been going on ever -- ever since -- 90 -- 90 years next year.

STONEY: Well, now, was that when Belmont Abbey was also formed?

FR. KLOSTER: Belmont Abbey had been started about 25 to 30 years before that.

STONEY: Mm-hmm. Now your congregation, then, is made up of --

14:00

FR. KLOSTER: It’s pretty much, um, middle class, upper middle class --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- people. The Catholic population in the South -- there are very few working class people in the Catholic community in the South. So most Catholic churches -- and ours would be very typical -- would be professional people: doctors, dentists, lawyers, uh, management people. A lot of management people had moved into the Catholic Church in North Carolina over the past 20 or 25 years, which, uh, presents an interesting, uh, question for us, because, uh, historically, as -- as we talked about, the position of the Catholic Church on, uh, workers and workers’ needs --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- have been very pro-worker. From 1891, the first time, uh, we’ve had a Catholic social and cyclical. Um, the -- the rights of workers were always at the forefront. The individual and the rights of the individual and, uh, union -- uh, the -- the freedom to unionize is something that the Catholic Church has always recognized, so we’ve had this long history, over -- 15:00over 100 years of history.

F1: Excuse me.

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

F1: This -- this plane --

(break in audio)

STONEY: Uh --

FR. KLOSTER: Where do you want to pick it up?

F1: The conflict.

CREW: Let me -- act-- let me just start here. That way --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

CREW: -- we can --

STONEY: OK.

CREW: -- cross cut.

FR. KLOSTER: OK.

CREW: OK.

FR. KLOSTER: Um, so we have this long history of the church taking a stand on behalf of working people, which from the beginning was pretty much a stand on behalf of our own members, because it was not the Catholics who owned the factories. The Catholics were the ones who worked in the factories.

STONEY: Hmm. In the North?

FR. KLOSTER: In the North and in Europe.

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh --

STONEY: Yes.

FR. KLOSTER: -- when the Industrial Revolution hit Europe, as well. Uh, but then, what has happened is that the children, the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren of those factory workers who, to a very large extent benefitted because of the Church’s position on unions and -- and many of their parents and grandparents joined the union -- and because of the educational system --

STONEY: Hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- that the Catholic Church founded, and allowed them -- each generation getting more education than the previous generation -- now we’re in the situation where the 16:00 management people are the Catholics. And they hear the Catholic teaching --

STONEY: (laughter)

FR. KLOSTER: -- being explained to them --

STONEY: Uh-huh.

FR. KLOSTER: -- a teaching that they would interpret as being very pro-worker and anti-management, and they are not very happy --

STONEY: (laughter)

FR. KLOSTER: -- with that. And many times, there’s a lot of anger --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- about it, that our Church is not standing with us, when, in fact, the Church is standing consistent with the principles that it’s annunciated for over 100 years.

STONEY: And it must’ve been particularly hard after Vatican II.

FR. KLOSTER: Well, it’s been -- it’s been hard after Vatican II because of two things: one, the -- the growing entrance of Catholics into the management class that has taken place over the 30 years, and also, their -- the teachings of the Catholic church that, um, Vatican II continued to support, in terms of, uh -- of the rights of -- of -- of people and, uh -- and that the whole social -- the whole social gospel that came from Vatican II from Pope John, Pope Paul VI, but started with the -- with the, uh, Rerum novarum back in 1891. It’s 17:00been a very consistent --

STONEY: Hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- teaching.

STONEY: Well now that we’ve heard a great deal about the -- the part played by the management in the control of churches in mill villages, they --

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: Very often, the m-- the churches were underwritten by the -- the mill management, and in some cases, we’ve had evidence that the -- that they’ve interfered with the religious freedom of some of the workers.

FR. KLOSTER: That -- that was very much the case here in -- in Gastonia. At least it’s the -- with the reading that I have done. Uh, the feeling was -- and I don’t think that this was a -- a, um -- a compliment to the church, but that -- at least my understanding is that -- that management wanted the workers to be in churches because they felt that churches domesticated the workers.

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- that, um -- that they would keep them from -- from getting too 18:00uppity. And so that’s why there seemed to be a hand-in-glove relationship between the management and -- and many of the churches.

STONEY: We’ve had a number of different interpretations. In some cases, it seems that the management and the workers went to the same churches, uh, particularly the Presbyterian Church here, where the Stowes and -- uh, knew some of the workers who came.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh.

STONEY: The workers rejected that after a while, most of them, and formed their own Baptist churches, which were their independent --

FR. KLOSTER: Right.

STONEY: -- churches.

FR. KLOSTER: Right.

STONEY: And in -- and in another case we have, where a Methodist church was built by the management, uh, run by a, uh, super-- uh, supervisor, who required his people to tithe. And then, again, they rejected it, so there’s --

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: -- been that --

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: -- battle between --

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm. But the -- I -- I don’t think that’s surprising, because one of the characteristics of religion, almost across the board, is that people seem to want to worship with other people with whom they have something 19:00in common.

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: And so it’s not surprising that a peop-- a group of mill workers would not want to worship at an uptown church, because probably they didn’t have any influence, they didn’t have a whole lot of standing, um, that if they had their own church, they would have the freedom to form that church as they would see it being formed. And I think that we’ve seen that in the Catholic Church --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- in North Carolina on -- in -- in the issue of race, uh, the question of integration and segregation, uh, and that one of the things that happened, almost inevitably, is that when there was an integration between a predominantly white parish and a predominantly black parish, that when the blacks were moved, it -- the -- the black church was closed, the white church was -- um, was still the church that -- in the community. They moved into that. To a great extent, they weren’t accepted. They did not have a lot of influence. A lot of their cultural adaptations that they would bring to worship were lost. And I think the same thing would happen when you’ve got mill 20:00workers at one economic level and managers at another economic level that -- that their -- their sense of what worship should be would be very different, and to try to merge those would be virtually impossible. So that kind of situation happening doesn’t come as a surprise.

STONEY: And we have been unearthing the story of the 1934 textile strike and finding the leaders. And almost every leader we found was a deacon in the Church or a -- a Sunday school superintendent, or very active in the Church. Very often, they were ministers --

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh.

STONEY: -- uh, preachers. Uh, some of them were preachers then. Some of them became preachers later. They had learned their communication skills through the Church. And so the Church -- you can’t say “the Church” because religion was very much a part of that, uh, union movement in -- in the early ’30s.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh. And, again, I think that -- that the -- the fact that -- that these people would 21:00 be in their own particular churches would give them the opportunity to assume leadership roles and develop leadership skills that they would not have if they were a part of a church that was dominated by more affluent people. Uh, but it certainly, I think, is -- I would find it good that the -- that the church would surface that kind of leadership, and almost contradictory --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- in that the managers were trying to keep people in the churches, feeling that they would domesticate them. And yet, out of the churches -- but I -- my -- my belief is --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- that when people really understand the gospel message, and when they really understand the -- the message of the -- the Hebrew scripture prophets, um, that there -- there is certainly a message of justice there.

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: There can be no doubt, um, that -- that when -- when we hear Mary saying words from the Hebrew scriptures, that the -- the rich will be sent empty away, while the poor will be -- will be raised up, and that those who have -- who are -- who are rich will lose what they have, and those who are poor will 22:00gain, um, that’s a -- that’s a message of social justice, and it’s rooted in the scriptures, and I think people that really preach that message, which is -- which is there, consistent in the Hebrew scriptures, as well as the Christian scriptures, then, um, when you start facing these issues, you see where you have to take your stand.

STONEY: Well, having said that, maybe you can explain to me why it is that, uh, we have --

F1: Excuse me, George?.

STONEY: Hm.

(break in audio)

CREW: And so start.

STONEY: OK. Having said that, maybe you could help me explain why it is that we have not found more than three or four workers who have any feeling of animosity towards the people who’ve made all this money on their backs. There’s -- in terms of class consciousness, it just doesn’t seem to be there. Uh, they are 23:00angry, very often, at the n-- at the -- the boss just above them, the second hand --

FR. KLOSTER: Yeah.

STONEY: -- the foreman. But almost universally, the -- what you and I might call a condescension of the owners, the managers, they look back on with respect and awe, almost. “He knew my name.”

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right. And I think --

STONEY: He came --

FR. KLOSTER: I think that’s the difference, because now what we have in corporations is that there is a faceless corporate structure --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- that people don’t know. Back in those days, the owners and the managers would live in the same community. One -- uh, one of the interesting things about Gastonia is I have never been to a place in my life where the housing patterns are like they are here. You can drive down one block and you can have some beautiful homes.

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: And within another block, you can have a mill village.

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: And so there was a physical proximity.

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

24:00

FR. KLOSTER: The manag-- the owners lived here. And so they did know their names.

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: And I think that that makes a h-- a huge amount of difference than when you are just working for some corporation --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- and -- and you don’t even know who the people are. You might know who your --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- direct supervisor is.

STONEY: And the --

FR. KLOSTER: But --

STONEY: And the concern they had for these people was genuine.

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right. That’s right. It was a paternalism.

STONEY: Mm-hmm. Yep.

FR. KLOSTER: But it was a benign paternalism.

STONEY: And it’s interesting that it spread not only from the -- the managers, but for the managers’ wives and --

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: -- their family. They feel, even today, a certain sense of -- of obligation.

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right.

STONEY: They haven’t removed themselves.

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right. It’s -- it’s kind of that -- (coughs) excuse me -- that -- that patriarchal, uh, benign, uh, kind of -- of system --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- that, uh -- that would go back, actually, to the --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- middle ages, um, to -- to the -- the -- the Lord and --

STONEY: Hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- and -- of the -- of the castle.

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: And it’s his responsibility to take care of all the workers. And in many ways, it -- it is beneficial to the workers because their needs are taken care of. But on the other hand, in terms of -- of being able to live with 25:00the kind of dignity that comes as a human person, it doesn’t do that because your freedom’s -- is restricted.

STONEY: Well, now, in d-- working on this film, we have been able to t-- we’ve been almost force to test the limits, because when we want to talk about unions, people’s --

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: -- faces blush.

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right.

STONEY: “Why do you want to talk about unions? We don’t need unions here.” And we -- we’re -- in the ’34 strike, this came to a head in my own hometown of Winston-Salem. I was just reading the newspapers for, uh, September 1934. My -- uh, Winston-Salem is a place that prides itself on handling disputes very, very --

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm, civilly. Yeah.

STONEY: -- uh, carefully and so forth. And yet, right in the middle of the paper, it said that the flying squadron of textile workers came to Arista Mills. They closed down, they came over to the Hanes Spinning Company and were met by civic officials with machine guns, 26:00tear gas bombs, and other weapons, and were repulsed. And I’ve just been going through the Winston-Salem papers now that spell this out.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh.

STONEY: The American Legion came over to help. They deputized the loyal workers, gave them guns, even machine guns in my hometown. I -- I couldn’t believe it. And I -- of course, I was away at college at the time. I knew nothing about it. And it’s not a h-- a part of the history of the town. And yet, (sighs) wow, how it demonstrates just that feeling of -- who are these people who want to fleet --

FR. KLOSTER: That -- that’s right.

STONEY: -- for themselves?

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right. You see, and I think that -- that the -- (sighs) the anti-unionism -- I -- I think that workers in the South, for the most part -- and I’m sure the -- of -- of why this is -- but I think workers, for the most part, want to have a bias on behalf of management.

STONEY: Hmm.

27:00

FR. KLOSTER: Even now, in the ’90s, for a union to be elected, to win an election in the South, it doesn’t take so much what the union is advocating. It really means that management has really messed up somewhere.

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: It takes a major miscalculation on the part of management before Southern workers are really going to support unions. In -- in -- in the case of -- of my father’s factory, uh, that -- that he ran for -- for 17 years -- I remember a -- a number of times, uh, at night, that, uh, we’d be in the middle of dinner and there’d be -- someone come to the door, and it would be a man whose wife worked in the factory. She had a conflict with her foreman that day. She came home in tears. The husband would come to our house during dinner time. He and my father would sit down in the living room. They’d talk about it, they’d resolve the situation, he’d go away happy, she’d come in the next day happy -- um, you know, in terms of an organized structure to handle that, it was awful. But it terms of being an effective way --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

28:00

FR. KLOSTER: -- to handle a -- a -- a personal dispute among -- among these people, it worked. And it was -- it was done on that personal level and people knew that they could come.

STONEY: What do you think the workers have lost when that -- uh, when that goes, and when they try to get a union, and so that steps in between the people who might negotiate in that particular way?

FR. KLOSTER: Well, on the one hand, the -- the -- the personal sense is lost. And one of the arguments that’s used against unions is that -- that you are going to use your freedom.

FR. KLOSTER: Interestingly enough, one of the arguments that comes up is that if you join a union, you’re going to l-- lose your freedom because these people are going to take your money. They’re going to make your decisions. You’re going to have to the -- to the beat of their tune. Um, and of course, the -- the other side of it is the -- the solidarity that comes with -- with people banding together and the kind of power, the equalization of power, uh, that unions represent. See, the -- I think that the -- the reality was, in a 29:00situation like that, the worker in the mill, who worked in my -- in my father’s factory, when her husband left, she’d had no more power than she had. The res-- the -- the dispute was resolved, but she was still as powerless as she was before. And -- and -- what -- what unions represent is an effort to equalize power. And one of the criticisms with unions, of course, that you hear in -- especially in the South -- is that unions have become too powerful. And I said, to a certain extent, that is probably true. But the issue is really one of power, and who has it, and who can exercise it. And as long as the managers could have good relationships, on a personal level, with the people in the factories, um, and resolve their disputes in that kind of way without a union, then there was no shift in where the power resided.

F1: Excuse me. Could you make that statement one more time? We just got a hit.

FR. KLOSTER: OK.

F1: Uh -- uh, you said, as long as --

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: Make it to him.

FR. KLOSTER: OK.

F1: Oof.

30:00

FR. KLOSTER: Um, a-- as long as the, uh -- excuse me.

STONEY: [No, that’s fine?]..

FR. KLOSTER: Uh -- it -- where -- I was at the --

F1: You said, as long as -- um, it was about power. I’m sorry.

FR. KLOSTER: OK.

CREW: Want me to play it --

(break in audio)

CREW: I’m sorry.

F1: All right.

FR. KLOSTER: So basically, we’re just the point of saying that -- that, in that situation --

STONEY: Yeah. That’s right.

FR. KLOSTER: -- um, she had no more power when her husband left our house, uh, than when he had come. The re-- the dispute was resolved. But in terms of management losing any of its power or workers gaining any, nothing had changed. And -- and so I think that would be the -- the problem in a situation like that because if that kind of situation was extensive, um, and it was affecting a lot of people, then the -- what would be needed to, in some way, bring a correction was not going to happen. And -- and that’s usually when -- uh, when -- when unions would make an effort. But interestingly enough, after my father retired, uh, within two years, they -- they tried to have a union election. And they 31:00spent an -- the union spent an awful lot of time and an awf-- awful lot of money, and the final vote was something like 396 against the union and 45 for it. Um, and of course, from my own prejudiced view, I would say that -- that that -- you know, the -- the kind of leadership that my father provided was still -- still present. Now, what’s happening today, 20 years later, I don’t know. But the -- we had a -- they had a factory of 400 people. I daresay my father knew most of them by name, and would call them by name, and would call them by name, and knew their families, and what was going on in their families. And so, uh, you know, in terms of -- of structures, it was a very personalistic structure --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- that worked, in terms of -- of the -- the social dimensions of society and what the long-range implications of that would be for workers, you know, uh, you’d have your questions about it.

STONEY: Well, it seems to me that -- th-- that there’s a parallel here between the workers and the -- the white workers in the textile factories and the black 32:00workers who had a somewhat similar relationship with their employers. And for generations -- I was reared in Winston-Salem where I knew only the relationship of, uh, whites doing things for blacks and also looking down --

FR. KLOSTER: Right.

STONEY: -- on blacks.

FR. KLOSTER: Right.

STONEY: And so I was as startled as anybody else when those blacks organized and created the Civil Rights Movement.

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: I mean, I was all for it, but I never thought it would --

FR. KLOSTER: Right.

STONEY: -- happen. And they just -- where did it --

FR. KLOSTER: Yeah.

STONEY: -- come from?

FR. KLOSTER: Yeah.

STONEY: It was just amazing --

FR. KLOSTER: The --

STONEY: -- what happens.

FR. KLOSTER: But I think the problem was that we took very good care of our people, but we didn’t understand that they’re really not our people, that they are their own people. And -- and that --

STONEY: Just about that. I’m going to get you to say that again.

(break in audio)

STONEY: That’s fine. Yeah.

CREW: (inaudible).

33:00

F1: (inaudible).

STONEY: Uh --

CREW: I mean, I can’t --

STONEY: -- OK.

CREW: -- do it with these --

STONEY: Yeah.

CREW: -- winds because I got to --

STONEY: Uh --

CREW: I got a wide angle. (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) --

F1: Want to take it off?

CREW: No, because then we can’t get any (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) --

STONEY: OK.

CREW: -- [all the shots are horrible?].

STONEY: OK.

CREW: OK.

STONEY: OK. It seems to me that we have a parallel, uh, situation with the blacks. I grew up in Winston-Salem where we whites did things for our black people. [Reynolds things?] -- uh, management did things for its black workers. And we had no idea that the kind of resentment, need for freedom, and so forth, was there. That finally blossomed in the Civil Rights Movement. I was all for it, in theory, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for what happened.

FR. KLOSTER: Yeah. And I think the problem was that, both in terms of the black community and the white community, um, that w-- that we took very good care of 34:00our people without really understanding that they were not our people, that they were their own people and they had their own freedoms. And when that surfaced, that’s where we had difficulty understanding. Because, in a sense, according to the norms of one’s system, the system operated fairly well. But it was just the wrong system. It was not the kind of system that sustains and -- and enhances human dignity. And I think one of the things in the ’60s --

STONEY: Uh, just a --

FR. KLOSTER: That --

STONEY: Uh, just f-- one of the -- didn’t enhance human dignity.

F2: It’s -- it’s --

FR. KLOSTER: It -- it -- it did not enhance human dignity. And one of the characteristics of the ’60s is that, um, the whole notion of human dignity, whether it was in the civil rights movement here -- uh, later we’ve seen it in the -- in the feminist movement, we’ve seen it in Latin America -- is people just wanting to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and to have control over their own lives. That was not the former system. That was 35:00what’s -- was changing. And -- and it had to change, but that was the difference. They were not our people.

STONEY: Well, now, as a person who’s lived through --

F1: Excuse me, George. It’s noisier here --

STONEY: OK.

F1: -- than --

STONEY: OK.

F1: -- it was there.

STONEY: All right. OK.

(break in audio)

CREW: We’re rolling (inaudible).

STONEY: OK. Well, as a person who lived through all of this in, uh, almost the hot seat -- (laughter) I mean, Gastonia’s -- is a marvelous place to observe all this -- um, it’s -- it’s the class structure that amazes me. Uh, these -- uh, these people whom I was -- I didn’t know it, but I grew up to have a certain feeling of either condescension or --

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: -- contempt for, as a middle class person. And yet, as I get to know them, they become so much stronger, so -- so much more interesting.

FR. KLOSTER: Right.

STONEY: The clichés that I had about them just simply don’t apply.

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right.

36:00

STONEY: And yet, right today, when they try to organize, they’re treated as though they were people back in the ’30s.

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: This -- this is -- uh, North Carolina is the least unionized in the whole country. And when they try to organize, boy, the power that --

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right.

STONEY: -- that they face.

FR. KLOSTER: See, I -- I think two things in -- in -- in your statement are interesting. One, you said as you got to know them. You see, they had that dignity. They had that intelligence. They had that initiative. All of those things that you came to recognize, they had all along. It takes those of us from classes that do not relate to them to know them, to see what is there. One of -- I think of the characteristics of the society is -- and we see this in the black society -- black people know white people far more than white people know black people because white -- black people who worked in the homes of the white people, they’re the one--

STONEY: I’m sorry, we’re going to redo that.

(break in audio)

FR. KLOSTER: -- that once I got to know them, is that that has been the problem 37:00that those of us in upper classes have always had, is that we never have really known, uh, the people in lower classes. Um, they’ve had intelligence that we’ve never recognized. They’ve had hardworking, uh, ethic -- good work ethics that we’ve never recognized. We have a -- a stereotype, um, that most of the time is really not accurate. When we get to -- to know these people, um, then we begin to realize the -- the -- the gifts and the talents that are there. Maybe not the sophistication that we have, but basic values that are -- are -- are very good. I think one of the characteristics that we see, also, in -- in -- in the south is that the blacks in the south know the white person far more than the white person knows the black person because they work in the white homes. Um, they have m-- far more access to understanding the white community, whereas those of us in the white --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- uh, we -- for most of the time, we simply do not have, uh, 38:00access to what life is like in the black community, so we approach that from our own stereotypes --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- rather than the reality of that community. And -- and everybody suffers because of that -- of that gap that is there.

STONEY: What shocked me, I think, is the amount of fear that there is still here because of -- partly because of the economic situation and partly because of the industry’s almost automatic response to unionism --

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: -- using real threats, uh, of, uh, discharge. Y-- they say that -- find an-- uh, a woman in her seventies who had something to do with the union. She will say, “Well, you’re a very nice person. I’d like to help you, but I’ve got a granddaughter in that mill, and it’d be held against her.”

FR. KLOSTER: Yeah. And I think that’s probably true.

STONEY: Hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: See, and that -- and so that kind of power -- we -- we’re talking before about -- about power. And that’s -- and that’s where the -- the worker who does not have any solidarity with anyone else, who is standing there just by herself or by himself, um, that they’re -- they’re totally 39:00vulnerable because there is -- is a huge mismatch of power. Uh, the -- the anti-union argument that -- that unions have too much power, um, you know, it -- it certainly doesn’t hold around here, historically. In this community and, I would say, throughout the South, the -- the power has been held, uh, in a disproportionate way by management, and ultimately, that probably, uh, h-- has probably hurt. It’s probably hurt both management and -- and the laboring force.

STONEY: Now here’s an interesting thing. We constantly hear that it’s the outsiders who wanted the union. The union came from the North.

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: They came down and -- and persuaded our workers to come out and th-- then our workers, for a while, were misled, and then they came to their senses, and they weren’t mislead anymore. And yet the industry came south. The money 40:00comes south. And there isn’t the same feeling, well, outsiders are interfering with our community.

FR. KLOSTER: Yeah, well, no one has accused them of having to be consistent with their --

STONEY: (laughter)

FR. KLOSTER: -- their views or their principles. Um, the money is beneficial, and therefore, it’s good.

STONEY: I see.

FR. KLOSTER: Um, the business is beneficial, and therefore, it’s good. But what is going to stand in the way of that, uh, is not beneficial, and therefore, you apply a -- a different standard to it. So expediency is -- is the more important principle than consistency.

STONEY: How do you handle that, uh, as a man in the pulpit?

FR. KLOSTER: You try to draw the conclusions, um, or at least help people to draw their own conclusion. I can’t draw conclusions for other people. But what I try to do is leave people with more questions than wrestle with than answers because the answers that I give are going to be my answers, probably applicable only to me. If people leave with questions that they wrestle with, hopefully, they’ll find answers that are going to be applicable to them. I 41:00think one of the things that we learn in the church, that we’re learning in other segments of society, is you cannot impose faith upon people, especially in a voluntary organization. A company might be able to impose upon its workers, uh, certain things. But when you have a church, which is essentially a voluntary organization -- people can walk if they want to, or if they -- if it’s a congregational church --

STONEY: (laughter)

FR. KLOSTER: -- they can make the pastor walk if they want to -- um, you -- you -- you can’t do that. What you really have to do is to hopefully challenge the people and -- and put the -- the -- the issues out there and put them out there in such a way that they are examined through the sifting of the scriptures and of our religious beliefs, and hope that, out of -- out of the questioning, people will arrive at -- at conclusions that are consistent with the principles of justice that are annunciated in the scriptures.

(audio interference)

F1: Excuse me. We’re -- we’re having some disturbances.

STONEY: We’ll start if --

CREW: So, [you’re -- you’re ahead of this way?].

F1: Let’s -- let’s -- can we finish this one?

CREW: Let’s keep going.

STONEY: OK. All right. OK.

42:00

CREW: You guys just talk like we’re not here.

STONEY: OK.

FR. KLOSTER: OK.

CREW: Just let me know if I’m about to walk off a cliff.

STONEY: Uh, I wanted -- uh --

FR. KLOSTER: Not here.

STONEY: -- don’t want to talk about the JP Stevens thing quite yet.

FR. KLOSTER: Yep. OK.

STONEY: That’s -- OK.

F1: But you -- you could talk about the fact that just a little bit more about the -- the conflict in the --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

F1: -- church. I mean, the -- the -- the conflict that you all face between one and -- between the --

STONEY: Uh-huh.

F1: -- doctrines --

STONEY: Uh-huh.

F1: -- and your constituency.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Well, the -- the -- the basic issue is that our -- our doctrines and our teachings have remained pretty consistent, uh, and have e-- have developed from --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- 1891 --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: At each era, there has been a development --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- and the American bishops come out with, uh, statements on the economy and -- and the Pope comes out with statements on -- on laboring people. And there’s -- there has been a -- a strong consistency there that has changed only by applying the principles to different circumstances. Uh, but the big change has come in -- in the Catholic constituency. Be careful. The -- the big change has come in the Catholic constituency --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

43:00

FR. KLOSTER: -- where our own people have moved upward on the economic ladder, and they’re now in the positions of power and ownership, and we --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- have -- we have people in our --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- congregation who own the mills. We have a couple of mill owners or factory owners. And their viewpoint is just very --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- very different.

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: Um, and they’re not as -- they’re not as --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- happy --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- with the Church’s historical and traditional teaching.

STONEY: Of course, my own association with Catholicism began because my father was an Irish Catholic.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh.

STONEY: I mean, Irish Protestant.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh.

STONEY: Sorry.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh.

STONEY: Uh, my own, uh, relationship to the Catholic Church began as the son of an Irish Protestant. And his concern was, of course, the -- the domination of the Pope.

FR. KLOSTER: Right.

STONEY: All of them, uh, the -- uh, the myths that came from that.

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right. Well, and there were a lot of realities --

STONEY: Yeah.

FR. KLOSTER: -- too. I -- I think if you look back at the -- the history of the papacy, there were a lot of times when the --

STONEY: Yeah.

FR. KLOSTER: -- Pope, uh -- n-- eh -- the Popes over the years --

STONEY: Uh-huh.

44:00

FR. KLOSTER: -- have had a -- (sighs) a -- a dominance. Um, they -- they really did lay down the law. W-- we have an old saying in Latin: “Roma locuta est, causa finita est.” Rome has spoken and the cause is finished.

STONEY: (laughter)

FR. KLOSTER: And when the Pope speaks, that’s it, and no one -- no one questions it anymore.

STONEY: Yeah. Uh-huh.

FR. KLOSTER: You just have to accept that as belief. But in our age, and especially when you’ve got educated people. As -- as we were saying, you know, we -- we have a -- we spent a lot of money educating our Catholic people. And now we’ve got people who are very intelligent --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- and very smart, and we’ve taught them to think for themselves. And we cannot expect them now to, all of a sudden, uh, just say, well, if somebody says it, I have to believe it because somebody says it, um, without the argumentation -- uh, you know, trying to win the argument. W-- this -- this door’s locked so we’re --

STONEY: OK. OK.

FR. KLOSTER: -- going to have to go -- go around.

STONEY: Yeah.

FR. KLOSTER: And so that’s -- that’s one of the --

STONEY: Uh-huh.

FR. KLOSTER: -- paradoxes that we’re facing in the -- in the Church these days, so --

45:00

STONEY: My father was born on the Aran Islands, off the coast of Ireland.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh.

STONEY: Uh, his --

FR. KLOSTER: So he was actually Irish-born, then.

STONEY: Uh, his father -- his father was, uh, the assigned doctor for the island.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh.

STONEY: And at the same time, [that sings?] uncle was the Protestant minister there --

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh.

STONEY: -- for the military establishment. And so he grew up with that as -- as a f-- beleaguered minority on that island.

FR. KLOSTER: Yeah.

STONEY: And he saw the domination --

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right.

STONEY: -- of the priests around.

FR. KLOSTER: Yep.

STONEY: Well, I went back a few years ago and made a film called How the Myth was Made about Robert Flaherty’s film about the Aran Islands. And I felt the -- that domination.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh.

STONEY: And the f-- and the f-- began to see the power of the -- of what he was talking about.

FR. KLOSTER: Yeah.

STONEY: I’d never --

FR. KLOSTER: Yeah.

STONEY: -- believed it before. You see, we used to fight my father, saying, “Look, it’s just another church down the str-- the street. Bob -- Johnny 46:00Wiggins is a Catholic, and he’s just like we are. He’s white.” (laughter) You know, we didn’t say -- didn’t need to say that.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

STONEY: But, uh --

FR. KLOSTER: But, I mean, the Irish clergy -- what was -- what was the great movie that was done in -- in the -- it was about the storms in Northern Ireland? It was back in the ’70s, I guess, and it was a great film.

STONEY: Oh -- oh, yes. Uh --

FR. KLOSTER: And --

STONEY: Uh, Ryan’s Daughter.

FR. KLOSTER: Ryan’s Daughter. That’s right.

STONEY: Yes.

FR. KLOSTER: You know, and the -- and the -- the priest in that, you know, he was the powerful force in that community.

STONEY: Oh, yes. Yes.

FR. KLOSTER: And -- and the pastor here. One of the --

STONEY: Yes.

FR. KLOSTER: -- pastors here was pastor for over 30 years. One of the Benedictines, Gregory Eichenlaub --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- an -- an old German -- and he ran this place with an iron fist. I mean, nobody broached Father Gregory. Um, he was the pastor and --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- there was just no questioning his authority. And, uh -- and so it was there that -- uh, a lot of times, what happened is Catholic clergy took on the mantle of infallibility. The only one we apply it to is the Pope, under restricted circumstances. A lot of us took -- took it on under all 47:00circumstances, you know, that I am -- I am infallible and no one will challenge me.

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: And, uh -- and -- and so all -- the reason that those kind of images, um, would be prevalent, especially if you were a minority in that society, is that they probably were true. I mean, that’s -- that was the reality and -- and people didn’t like to be dominated in that way.

STONEY: I was shocked when I went back in the early ’70s to find that the priest on the island, Father [Mourn?], was still in-- still controlling what people could read.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh. Yeah.

STONEY: There were certain things that were forbidden.

FR. KLOSTER: Yeah. I mean, we used to have an index of forbidden books.

STONEY: Yes.

FR. KLOSTER: And --

STONEY: That’ right.

FR. KLOSTER: And some people are now trying to -- want to bring it back.

STONEY: Yes. Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: But, you know, and -- and I think, in terms of the Catholic church, that’s going to be the real issue in the years ahead because Vatican II really did change --

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- all of that. And -- and I think that there are movements, now at foot, to -- to reestablish that kind of --

STONEY: Hmm.

FR. KLOSTER: -- top-down, um -- uh, control. And, uh -- and whether or not that will succeed, I think, is going to have a big in-- a big influence on the 48:00Catholic church in the years ahead.

STONEY: The interesting thing is that the so-called middling Protestant churches, Baptists, Presbyterians -- uh, the -- particularly the -- the Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalians, and so forth, have a similar attitude towards, uh, social causes, as you people have had since the s-- uh, s-- since the ’60s, promoting civil rights, and so forth. But the churches to which most of these textile workers have -- have moved, or joined --

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: -- are very conservative.

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right.

STONEY: I have not taken that position.

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: And I can’t put the -- that together.

FR. KLOSTER: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And -- and that -- that is a mystery because many of the what some would call the sects, you know, they just do not have a social gospel agenda. Um, that’s -- that’s not a part of it. But I wonder whether the reason that they have joined them is because, on a personal level, they feel 49:00a warmth, they feel an acceptance, they feel a welcoming, they feel an -- uh, an involvement that perhaps the more liturgical churches -- and the churches that you named, for the most part, are liturgical churches -- um, that there was just a different kind of worship that -- that -- that, you know, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, ourselves, we don’t involve people’s emotions as much as some of the more evangelical churches do. And, uh -- and that is probably what a-- what attract these people, and so they’re -- they -- that -- that personalism that they’re getting in the evangelical churches compensates for the lack of support that they would get in terms of their economic, political, labor issues.

STONEY: In th-- their churches.

FR. KLOSTER: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah. Yeah.

STONEY: Mm-hmm.

CREW: We’re rolling, you guys.

50:00

STONEY: OK. Uh, you were -- were talking -- telling us about the JP Stevens situation.

FR. KLOSTER: Yeah. It was interesting when -- when Stevens was having the, uh -- the difficulty, um, back in the ’70s. Uh, they came --

STONEY: Uh, sorry, could you begin and say JP Stevens?

FR. KLOSTER: JP Stevens, uh, company, was having a -- uh -- uh, were trying to fight off the efforts by the textile workers union to, um, unionize their plant, especially in Roanoke Rapids. That was really the focus of the pla-- of the, uh, issue. But, uh, one of the Stevens -- uh, I believe it was Whitney Stevens -- came to Bishop Begley, who was Bishop of the Charlotte Diocese at the time, and asked for the intervention of the Catholic bishops in the Southeast, because that’s where most of Stevens’ plants were. And Bishop Bagley consulted the other bishops, and over the course of many months that really went into years, 51:00the bishops did, in fact, become involved. And I think it was surprising to Stevens management, um, when they found out that -- that the -- the -- the Catholic bishops took, essentially, the same position that the Catholic Church had been taking since 1891 on the right of workers, and the right to organize, and -- and the need to be, um -- to be treated in a -- in a respectful way in the job that they were doing. And, um, the ultimate result, I think, was probably far more favorable to the -- the cause of the union than it was to Stevens’ cause. But what happened in that process was that -- that the -- the Catholic mill managers, who are increasingly numerous in North Carolina, became very disenchanted with the leadership of the bishops because they felt that by 52:00supporting the union, um, and -- and, in fact, applying the traditional Catholic principles, that they were t-- as managers, being attacked. A-- and they -- they really didn’t like that. And it was one of these times where we see, again, the paradox of -- of the -- the Catholic management, um, maybe being out of touch with our own traditions, maybe not wanting to know what our traditions were because they -- our -- our traditions are more supportive, uh, of workers, uh, than -- than they are of management. Or at least they -- they make greater demands upon management because of the accountability of -- of the -- of the power, you know, that if management has the kind of power that management has, then it has to be used in a way that is going to be respectful of the rights of the workers. And if the workers out -- operating out of their rights choose to organize a union -- and that’s -- they have the right to do that, which is not an endorsement of any particular union at any particular time, but it certainly 53:00is an endorsement of the concept of rights of workers to belong to unions.

STONEY: Well, I talked to a number of managers -- management types, and most of them say, sure, the workers have a right to organize. But when the workers try to organize, they put up such fierce opposition. It’s a interesting contradiction there.

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right. That’s right. And, uh, I think it’s -- it’s a -- a situation of -- on the one hand, operating on their principle that they pretty much have to recognize because the law of the country say that they have a right. But at the same time, um, their own self interests -- and -- and again, it goes back to the issue of power, that if there is a union in the plant, then the power structure is going to shift. It’s inevitable, whether or not the union ever becomes a powerful union in terms of how it’s representing the workers, the fact that it’s there is going to represent some shift in the power. And if, in fact, it is a strong union, then it is going to represent a major shift. And management operating out of its own vested 54:00interest does not like that, as most anyone does not like it when some of -- of their power is taken away.

STONEY: Well, the big opposition now seems to come not so much from the individual company as from Chamber of Commerce.

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right.

STONEY: Uh, development associations, people who want industry to move in, and they say we can’t men interested to move in unless we guarantee that this is going to be a union-free environment.

FR. KLOSTER: That’s right. And that -- and I think that has been pretty -- pretty traditional in the South. I can remember, back in the ’60s, uh, my father being invited to meetings, um, by maybe a -- a -- a company that was being threatened by unionization. And they would bring people in and it was almost, uh, like a -- a -- a pep rally, uh, among management that we’ve got to stay together and -- and build a solidarity among management. And of course, 55:00the Chamber of Commerce represents the -- the -- the business viewpoint, and so they are -- they are obviously going -- going to go along with that. Um, and I think it’s been that way in the South for a long time. There was -- there was a lot -- I -- I think that one of the reasons that the South, in general, is unionized as -- as, uh -- in the low numbers that it is, is because there is a strong anti-unionism among management, but also, a strong anti-unionism among -- among workers. A-- as we said before, um, for the most part, management really has to mess up in a big way before southern workers really want to organize. And -- and whether that’s because of this tradition, uh, that they are outsiders -- they, meaning union organizers, are outsiders. They’re going to take control of your life. Um, whether that has really been believed, or whether it’s b-- a -- a -- a lot of people believe it’s just the independence of -- of the southern worker. A-- a lot of southern workers -- um, 56:00especially more in eastern North Carolina than around here -- a lot of southern workers that people have a farm on the side. And so they have a -- an income from -- from their farming, um, that supplements their -- their factory wage. And -- and among those people, in particular, there’s -- there’s just an independent strain, and they don’t want to lose that to a union or to management. Um, but the unions have been cast in the role of -- of the -- the -- the, you know, the evil force, and, uh -- and that’s been happening so long that it’s very difficult, I think, to overcome.

STONEY: Well, one of the reasons we have been working on this film is b-- because we’re trying to show that, at one time, in 1934, a very large group of, uh, southern textile workers did have the desire and the skills to organize. There were over a hundred locals, textile workers in North Carolina alone, for 57:00example. And s-- uh, this has been a bit of textile history that has just not --

FR. KLOSTER: Right.

STONEY: -- been known. So we’re trying to -- to enlarge people’s ideas of what textile history is.

FR. KLOSTER: Uh-huh. And -- and I find that interesting because I didn’t know that, myself. But I don’t -- I -- I find it interesting, but not surprising, because a -- a part of the whole anti-union concept that would be here would be simply not to let that information out. It’s almost as if you ignore -- if you ignore something, it’s not going to be there, whether it’s history going on right now, or whether it’s history that’s taken place. As I think I’ve mentioned to you, the -- the Loray strike, here in Gastonia, is something that is virtually never talked about. You know, it was a major historical event that included murder and everything else, um, and still, um, it’s something that -- 58:00that you very seldom hear talked a-- hear talked about as part of Gastonia history. And I think that the -- the reason is that -- that it’s -- that we can maintain the non-union image if we maintain the non-union -- union history.

STONEY: But it’s whispered about.

CREW: Hold that thought. I’ve got to reload.