Lucille Cloninger, Margaret Garrett, May Null, Phurman Biggerstaff, and Louise Biggerstaff Interview

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

 GEORGE STONEY: This -- this type is -- it would be awfully hard for me to read, I can tell you that. But here --

LUCILLE CLONINGER: [Oh, she said she’d read it?].

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, but here it is.

CLONINGER: She’s a good girl.

GEORGE STONEY: It says [Jack and Roy, CW?] were born November the 19, 1934, on Monday?

CLONINGER: Mm-hmm. And I tell the whole story. It’s OK.

GEORGE STONEY: So you were -- so in 1934 -- when did you stop working in the mill to have this child?

CLONINGER: Not long after I got that way and then we moved to the [Eagle and 1:00they was silly?] down there. [I would’ve never got no job down there?]. My sister-in-law told me to go down there and cuss them out and they’d give me a job. I said, “No, I ain’t getting around like that.”

GEORGE STONEY: But what do you mean they’re silly?

CLONINGER: They’re what?

GEORGE STONEY: What do you mean they were silly down there?

CLONINGER: Well I guess a lot of it was me because I was backwards and I’d cry before I’d talk, I’d fall to pieces. I do that now sometimes.

GEORGE STONEY: But back then after a woman --

CLONINGER: [Got over it?].

GEORGE STONEY: [Would you?]?

CLONINGER: Uh, well when they got ready to give you a job, they’d give you one back then.

GEORGE STONEY: But, uh, when a woman, uh, realized she was going to have a child, how long did she work in the mill after that?

CLONINGER: Well as soon as they found it out, they worked you hard, you just well go ahead and quit. We had a big spinning room down there one time. Fred 2:00[Bumgardner?] was the boss man, he gave me four sides on one side of that spinning room and four on the other. Every time I’d let a roller choke, he’d say, “Don’t let them rollers choke.” I said, “I’ll get to it in a minute.” Eight sides, now they run about 24 sides.

GEORGE STONEY: Well that’s what people I think were talking about, the stretch out.

CLONINGER: Yeah, they really worked people now. They did before I quit. I forget how many I run up here at the Majestic. But I run two where it had that swing. I mean two frames where it had that swing rope. And I mean I had to get on my toes to hang it. And then I run, uh, I believe it was 18 sides or 20 sides. [That’s all you could do to get around them?]. And then they’d take the twist out of it and that’d make it worse. I hope you’re getting a story.


GEORGE STONEY: Well when -- that was -- the stretch out was one of the reasons why they started organizing in the Eagle.

CLONINGER: Well when Roosevelt come, you know, he got that eight hours. It was better. I worked 12 when I first learned.

GEORGE STONEY: Did -- did you know or did anybody have talk of the fact that that eight hours came about because a lot of organized union people put pressure on the government?

CLONINGER: I don’t know about that unions. I never did go into that. I don’t vote. And I don’t know nothing about that, but I do like President Bush. I say I choose him above that other. That other’s got too big of a mouth. He talks too much.

GEORGE STONEY: But you’re not going to vote.

CLONINGER: No, I don’t never vote, never have.


CLONINGER: So I don’t have no right to say nothing, but I do like President Bush.

GEORGE STONEY: Why don’t you vote?


CLONINGER: Well -- we just was never learned to do things like that. (phone ringing) Hello? Yeah. Who’s mama? Tell her to call me back in about an hour. Yeah. Nothing bad. No, uh, listen I got company. Yeah, tell her to call me in about an hour. Uh-huh. OK, bye.

GEORGE STONEY: You were saying that you -- you weren’t talked to about politics?

CLONINGER: No, I -- I got a cousin I run around with. Boy, you mention Democrats to her, she’s right on it. She says her daddy and momma learned her all that. But we never did -- I mean I never did learn nothing like that, maybe I didn’t listen enough, I don’t know. I don’t know -- my baby brother, I know he votes, but I just never have.


GEORGE STONEY: I’ve got an idea. I think we should fix dinner. Let’s put --

CLONINGER: Well good for you.

GEORGE STONEY: Let’s put it out, I’m hungry.

JAMIE STONEY?: [Yeah, good idea. What’s wrong with you?]?

GEORGE STONEY: She’s got a [hand?] -- as I say, I couldn’t find

JAMIE STONEY: Hey, you want to carry this thing, I can do sound. Fair trade.

GEORGE STONEY: And I hope that’s all right for dessert.

CLONINGER: [You know?], I don’t eat sweets too much. I don’t do me no good.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh-huh, but you saw -- or re -- read in the paper --

CLONINGER: This is homemade bread.


CLONINGER: I didn’t make no biscuits. I saw what?

GEORGE STONEY: Did you see in the paper the other day about, uh, heart disease and cholesterol and all that kind of thing? It’s --

CLONINGER: We don’t take a paper. I’m odd.

GEORGE STONEY: So where did you get -- where do you find about what happens?

CLONINGER: [See how that come out for me?].

JAMIE STONEY: What’s the trick?


CLONINGER: [You just slide them out?]. [I know we bake it in that orange frying pan because we don’t even use this much?]. But I love corn -- I like cornbread better than I do cake.

GEORGE STONEY: So do I. And that’s especially good.

CLONINGER: [I guess I better fit these cones in before we dine?].

GEORGE STONEY: You can really taste -- taste the difference.

CLONINGER: [I’ll get that, all that cabbage?]. Which one’s going to wash the dishes when we get through eating?



CLONINGER: [Oh, we get a picture of her washing dishes?]. I bet these neighbors are wondering what in the world y’all doing in here so long. You should have got this lady down here to cater y’all to dinner. She caters food. Boy, he’s got -- we going to have [some?], two, four, six. Well that’s all right.

GEORGE STONEY: Well one -- one, two, three --

CLONINGER: Well Margaret, she hadn’t come out here yet. Is she coming?

HELFAND: I don’t think she’s going to come for lunch but she’s going to come.

GEORGE STONEY: She’s coming after lunch she said. I’m [way ahead of you with this -- with this crust?].

CLONINGER: Well we’ll let you have a piece of that cornbread.

HELFAND: So when you worked so many hours in the mill, when did you have time to come -- when do you have time to eat?


CLONINGER: Well, I don’t know. We did though. I always cooked. We don’t get along good, I guess y’all noticed that. I can’t help it, I tried til I give up. I did, tried with all my might.

GEORGE STONEY: Where are the glasses?

CLONINGER: Right there where you’re at. They [got some straight glasses on this side if you’d rather have them?].

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Anybody else want buttermilk? Judy?


CLONINGER: Well I had some tea.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you like buttermilk?

CLONINGER: Yeah, I like that.


CLONINGER: I can’t drink sweet milk. [It’s about lactate, I have stomach 9:00trouble?]. I have to watch what I eat. I hope that’s standard.

GEORGE STONEY: Where’d you [stay your cow in the Eagle?]? I couldn’t see a place where there was room for a pasture.

CLONINGER: Where I did what?

GEORGE STONEY: [Where did you stay out your cow?]?

CLONINGER: Well where -- where -- where I did then, it was woods and fields but now it’s houses built up down [where it used to be?]. And our church is down there close to the Eagle. It’s altogether a different place now.

GEORGE STONEY: But the old house is still there.

CLONINGER: Yeah, but some of them said that they were going to tear them houses down and build a shopping center down there.

GEORGE STONEY: That’s the rumor. I don’t know what is --

CLONINGER: I wonder what they think people’s going to buy all these shopping centers for. I mean, how are we going to keep them up?

GEORGE STONEY: That’s what I’m wondering.

CLONINGER: The stores are packed and jammed now with that clothes and things. 10:00You go in to look at them, you can’t see them because they’re packed so close together. [I don’t know what people mean?]. Whoop. Leave that water because [it’s got to breathe soon and I?] don’t want to poor it down my sink. Well I guess we got it ready. I’ll set these out of the way.

GEORGE STONEY: Your husband going to join us?

CLONINGER: No, I think he’s going to -- no, he won’t eat with us.


CLONINGER: He waits till we get through and then he eats. That’s on Sunday when all of them comes, he’ll sit in there and I’ll say, “Y’all come on now.” He’ll sit there, we get through, and then he’ll sit and he’ll [pig out in 20 minutes?].

HELFAND: Is that potatoes?

CLONINGER: Cream potatoes. That’s the ones you was supposed to bake. So if there’s anything wrong with them it’s her fault.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. (laughter)


CLONINGER: No, we don’t get along, obviously. If I hadn’t took for better, for worse, I guess I’d have been gone. But I’ve left him two or three times, don’t do no good. Kids cry and want you to come back. And I ain’t [going to marry another?] because when I serve this term I’m quitting. There it is.



GEORGE STONEY: For these and all thy mercies, accept our thanks Our Father. Bless this food to us in thy service, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

CLONINGER: I guess while I look over, he growed up in a family of fussing and going on. I didn’t know that until I married in. And I guess he don’t mean no harm by it, but it hurts.

GEORGE STONEY: Hmm, hmm, sure. [Zachariah and Malachi?].

CLONINGER: And when he’d go to work --

GEORGE STONEY: And it’s Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts of the Apostles --


CLONINGER: -- the first three years we was married, he was real good. And then he just kept going back to the way he was raised. He was raised in a wild house.

GEORGE STONEY: (inaudible) Oh, that’s nice.

HELFAND: So, what did you think about that picture?

GEORGE STONEY: That’s beautiful.

CLONINGER: This one?

HELFAND: No, this one. [Honey, go get that picture. Thurman can you pick it up?]?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I didn’t see the picture.

HELFAND: That’s the one that got us here.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Oh, Margaret’s picture. Oh, yeah. It’s her. It’s her and Douglas. And Douglas is still bald headed. But this woman here, I’ve seen her and remember her from somewhere because everybody said she looked like an Indian.

CLONINGER: Well, they say I got Indian in me, but that’s not me. I was short and skinny.


HELFAND: Do you remember when that strike took place?

CLONINGER: I -- I was carrying my first baby then.

GEORGE STONEY: -- you know, I lived in a small apartment in New York. And you just -- you get used to it and you don’t realize what space is like until you get out anywhere else almost. And --


HELFAND: Well, I’ll tell you, we were sure glad to find her.

GEORGE STONEY: -- it’s -- I live on the fourth floor. And I’ve got five windows facing south, you see, so I get less sun because there’s no big building on the opposite. There’s just a little church.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: That woman, her face looks familiar. I mean, I can remember that woman, but I can’t remember where she was or who she was.

CLONINGER: I don’t even know none of them men around there.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: This guy here looks familiar but I can’t place him, the big, tall guy behind him. He looks familiar.

GEORGE STONEY: -- (inaudible) They looked to me like I was crazy. It was like saying, “Look, running water.” (laughter)

CLONINGER: But I know that’s not me because I never did go down to get none of that free food.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: He looks a lot like [Lee Engled?], but I don’t think it was him, grandma’s brother -- I mean -- yeah, grandma’s brother. But I don’t think it was him. He looks a lot like him.

CLONINGER: I thought that was her son. Theodore was her son.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, nu-uh. All of those were her brothers. She only had one boy, [Odale?].

CLONINGER: Well I used to buddy with Theodore’s wife. [That was a complaining?] --


HELFAND: You know, here they come. We’re going to go outside.


CLONINGER: She was sick [all the time, she’d go to work?]. (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: It’s interesting what that does to you in terms of when you 15:00have your own children.

F1: [When you have your own kids, I thought Lord how would you lose them?]. (inaudible) that we made at momma’s birthday. It’s so beautiful. Yeah, I showed them to them and then, um, um, they got a video [and it is pretty?].


CLONINGER: Yeah, they have.


M1: What did you do with your car?

GEORGE STONEY: Just moved it up.

M1: Moved it up?

GEORGE STONEY: Moved up the street.


CLONINGER: (inaudible) Just had to come out and get you.

GARRETT: Yeah, well I thought [Lee was going to bring you a?] --

CLONINGER: [Oh you look so pretty?]. Aunt Margaret telled me this morning, she said -- she was talking about the picture and she said, um, “Lord I didn’t think I ever looked that good.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Aunt Margaret, how old is Douglas now?

MAY NULL: That’s my sister, my baby sister.

GARRETT: He’s, uh, 55.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Fifty five? I knew he was up in his fifties.

GARRETT: [Yeah, he is?].

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Grandma was trying to tell us that she was carrying Louise when [you had that picture with Derrick?].

CLONINGER: (crosstalk) Margaret, have a seat.

GEORGE STONEY: We’re going to move this chair up here. OK, [if you want to try that?]. OK. OK.


LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: I remember her. Her and -- what was her name Aunt Margaret, your best girlfriend? Uh, Dorothy, uh --

GARRETT: Uh, Carson.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Dorothy Carson, [I thought that was two different people. She does have a little child?] --

GEORGE STONEY: Isn’t she pretty there?

NULL: Is that [Douglas your own?].

CLONINGER: Yeah that’s him. Oh Douglas would be tickled to see that.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: (crosstalk) Have you called him and told him about this?

CLONINGER: [Mm-nn?], no.


CLONINGER: Yeah, well I know he’d be proud to see that.

GARRETT: Well I was surprised when I’d seen it myself.

F1: I just told her, they going to send me one [so I put on the back when I’ve had one of them because they just have to?] --

NULL: Do you remember that picture?


NULL: Do you remember that picture?


GARETT: Well I know it’s me, but I don’t remember me being that way.

CLONINGER: And what’s this picture of, the strike or something? Is this your book?

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: No, that’s -- oh yeah, that’s his book.

CLONINGER: (crosstalk)

GEORGE STONEY: She hasn’t changed all that much, has she?

NULL: Huh?

GEORGE STONEY: She hasn’t changed all that much, has she?

NULL: No, not too much.

CLONINGER: I said I didn’t know how I got so ugly, so of course it’s been a good many years since I was.

NULL: (crosstalk) That’s Douglas. Who’s that -- who’s that other girl?

GARRETT: I don’t know who that is.

NULL: You don’t know her?

GARRETT: I can’t remember.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Do you know who they are grandma?

GARRETT: We thought at first it might be Lucille but then I didn’t think when I seen that picture that is was Lucille because it just didn’t -- [don’t favor her?].



LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: It’s not Dorothy is it?

GARRETT: No, nu-uh, it’s not.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Let me see this honey. Let me see if this is Dorothy—No I can tell its not Dorothy Carson. I don’t know who she is. That face is familiar.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I remember that one. They called -- they said -- they called, they said she was Indian.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: She is an Indian. I mean you can tell, can’t you. I think so.

NULL: You got lots of pictures.

CLONINGER: Yeah, I got more pictures than I know what to do with. I got about seven or eight books in there. I got an envelope and I got two weekend bags full.

NULL: My goodness.

CLONINGER: Them kids gets them out and looks at them and has fun with them.

NULL: [Everybody, you got your momma’s picture?]?

CLONINGER: Yeah, it’s in there but I don’t know just where it’s at.

NULL: Yeah.



PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They didn’t take many pictures back then, Margaret.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: There wasn’t many pictures taken back then.

GARRETT: I looked through them but she said she still wanted to look through my pictures [someday?].

GEORGE STONEY: Did you have a -- did you have a camera back then?

GARRETT: Yes, we had one.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Yeah cause we made one -- I’ve got one holding [Joyce Anne?] down at the river when Phurman and I were married. That’s our youngest daughter. (crosstalk)

CLONINGER: [If I could see that. I might know some of these people?]. (crosstalk)

GARRETT: Our [children was growing up and our grandchildren and our great grandchildren?].

HELFAND: Well, you know, the reason we were so excited about coming here was because we’ve been looking to understand what was happening in that period of time and find out -- talk to the lady who was in that picture.

GARRETT: That’s why she told me she was hunting this beautiful woman for years, [didn’t you?]?


GEORGE STONEY: Could you tell us what you think was -- do you remember what was happening when that picture was taken?

HELFAND: Louise, you might want to help us out?

NULL: Do you remember when that was took?

GARRETT: I think we was at a place where we went to get some food.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: The mills were all on strike. They were closed down, most of them.

GARRETT: Yeah, we was on strike. (inaudible) They was giving out food. (crosstalk) But I had forgot about that.


GARRETT: I remember that strike don’t you? I remember the strike.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: No mother don’t. She never went around anything. She don’t remember any of the strike.

NULL: [That was Douglas you was holding?].

GARRETT: Yeah, that’s Douglas.


NULL: Where was all living at then?

GARRETT: We was living down on the Imperial.

NULL: Huh?

GARRETT: On the Imperial. (crosstalk)

CLONINGER: I remember you when you was little and then when I come to work in Majestic. I remember Theodore worked at the Imperial.

NULL: My brother, you remember him?

CLONINGER: Yeah, I remember them. You know, he married Leona McClawell and (crosstalk).

HELFAND: When you went to Houston, do you remember the strike.


HELFAND: You were saying you remember that period of time, that strike.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Yeah, he should. [He handled it good, compared to the strike, yeah?].

M1: Oh good my, a rough time then wasn’t it? I sure did. One night I was going up the line, now and then they threw something charged and I just stepped off 23:00into the road. And I said, “Man if one of them ever sticks me, I’ll go home, get my gun, and I’ll come back and kill him.”

GEORGE STONEY: (crosstalk) Were you on strike then?

M1: I would’ve gone and killed him, walked right in there and killed him. One’s better in the kitchen.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: You said you was on strike during that time, didn’t you? Yeah. Was you working at the Imperial, at the time?

M1: No, I was working at the Eagle.


M1: Yeah, I worked at the Eagle. [Of course I worked at a lot of them, I double shifted and worked like that?].

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I did too. I worked in all of them but about one or two. I never did work at the Eagle or the Chronicle. I think that’s the only two.

GEORGE STONEY: What do you mean by double shift?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: You work eight hours, say at the Crescent, and then you’d go eight hours more. That would be a double shift. Or you’d work eight hours at one mill and go to another mill and work an eight hour shift.

M1: Yeah, I worked two shifts.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I worked 32 hours straight one time.

M1: Yeah, I worked as much as 80 hours.

GEORGE STONEY: Why’d you do that?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Make a living. We didn’t make anything. The wages were so low we didn’t make anything.

M1: [And that last one, I went with my brother to run to Colorado Parks, and he had used car parts?].

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Was that the one over one 74?

M1: Yeah, all trucks and everything else. I worked for him about six years.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: What was his name? I can’t --

M1: [Diego they called him, Vernon?].

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: [Vernon Cloninger?]. I remember when he opened that place over there.

M1: Yeah, then he went to [go south and move that bricks and rent a load and all that?].

GEORGE STONEY: Well when that strike came about, uh --

M1: Forty nine --

GEORGE STONEY: Thirty four.


M1: Yeah, ’34 when Roosevelt was -- he was elected in and that’s when it started getting better, with Roosevelt.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now do you remember what caused that strike you think, in ’34.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Poor working conditions in the mills, wasn’t it?

M1: Yeah, it’s -- it’s bad conditions. They wasn’t paying nothing and you didn’t -- you just didn’t have hardly a chance.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They told you to do something, you had to do it or they’d run you off. And jobs were hard to get.

M1: [You had to move. You lived in one of them houses, and all that stuff?].

GEORGE STONEY: There was a union in the Eagle then, was there?

HELFAND: He was working at the Imperial though.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, he said he was at the Eagle.


M1: Yeah.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They never did vote the union in in any of the mills, did they?

M1: No, they was about to --

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I know they tried.


M1: And they polled Roosevelt or somebody polled something and it got to be all over with.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Yeah, it ended about as quick as it started I think.

M1: Yeah, well it ended.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Do you remember any of the people up there? Did you go to any of the meetings over at the old lumber yard, down there next to the Chronicle?

M1: Oh, yeah, I went there -- a lot of places then.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I was just a kid but I remember going, but I don’t remember it that much because I was up there playing. I wasn’t up there to listen to what they were saying.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember any of the -- the fellows who were leading the union?

M1: I forget. That’s been so long ago, I forget the names of the people leading it. Let’s see, that’s [when I got Keel wasn’t it?]?


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Riley, was he one of them?

M1: One of them. They went right into the -- a house on the side of the road there --

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: There at the Majestic, yeah.

M1: -- and went right in there and [took a bending again and he wasn’t even in it. He had nothing to do with it, he just happened to be over there and he was in the house?]. He wasn’t out on no streets.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember a fellow named Red Lisk?

M1: Huh?

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, uh, one of the leaders named Red Lisk?

M1: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: What do you remember about it?

M1: I didn’t remember much about what he done and all.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: If you could find someone from the Chronicle or the Majestic that lived around that -- close to around there that’s still living, they could probably tell you a lot more than people like us that grew up far 28:00away from it.

HELFAND: So you joined the union?

M1: Hmm?

HELFAND: So you joined the union?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Remember, did you join the union?

M1: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, you had to join [to get a room and get something to eat?]. That’s the only way. [Otherwise I wouldn’t have heard of joining it. You could go out down there, get taters and get something to eat?]. [I got her to going, that’s the way she got something to eat or I wouldn’t have done that. And a lot of people don’t know what I done -- did?]. A lot of people don’t know that.

GEORGE STONEY: But that’s what’s happening here is that, uh, you’re down there getting some -- getting some groceries. Do you remember what’s in those bags?


GARRETT: I don’t remember what it was? It was very little, whatever it was.

GEORGE STONEY: It doesn’t look like much.

GARRETT: She’s got a lot. I probably got about all I can carry, with the baby.

GEORGE STONEY: You got your arms full then.

GARRETT: Is that another one right there? No, that’s your grits. Oh, yes, you got a little small bag here and one here.

HELFAND: Louise, could you ask your aunt about joining -- about joining the union and what happened?

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Did you join the union Aunt Margaret?

GARRETT: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think I joined it.


GARRETT: I don’t think so. We weren’t there when it was -- you know, we picketed the line in front of the -- in front of the mill. We’d go there every morning and we would stay until late that evening. We’d go up there and picket the line. We’d sit in cars and, you know, just stand around the mill keeping 30:00anybody from going in. And I was right there with them.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Now see, you was fighting for freedom Aunt Margaret.

GARRETT: That’s right.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: That’s right, fighting for what you thought was right.

GARRETT: We just wasn’t getting any time, maybe two days a week, two or three days a week. And we just wouldn’t make anything for them. I remember one week, Jack, [he -- after they took out for a load of coal, he’d drawed a dollar and a half that week?]. And I wasn’t working so he had to -- we had to buy groceries with a dollar and a half.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: I just want to say, you ought to be proud of being part of trying to get the union in and trying to --

GARRETT: We -- we didn’t go hungry. We managed to have something to eat though, even though it wasn’t, you know, all that much, but we always had something to eat.

GEORGE STONEY: What did you do with your children while you were picketing and working and all of that?


GARRETT: Uh, oh, Louise, she attended to them.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: You didn’t have but one though.

GARRETT: Yeah, it was just the one.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: [And I was small?]. How old was I, you said nine years old?

M1: [You was nine -- ten years old?].

GEORGE STONEY: But you were nine and ten years old, you were babysitting for this boy?


M1: [No, you didn’t babysit them did you?]?


GARRETT: Yes, babysitted for Douglas and Jerome, both of them.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: I was up there all the time. I loved that kid. I was a little tiny kid, but I done all the bathing him.

GARRETT: But she was little, but she was just like a little woman. She’d take care of those children and [we’d play living with them because she taked care of them so good?]. And they loved. And she still loves them [today?].

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: And they love me too. Then I got married and had seven.


GEORGE STONEY: Well we were just talking a little while ago about the people now not having nearly as many children as they used to back then. That’s been a big, big change in women’s lives.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: But she just had three.

GARRETT: Most women, they don’t have over two children now and that’s about it.

GEORGE STONEY: Why didn’t you -- did you want to have all those children back then?

GARRETT: Well I only had three children myself.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Yeah, I said the day I was married. I told him. I looked at him and I said, “I want seven children just like my grandmother.” I loved her to death, didn’t I? She had seven and started off with a girl and ended with a girl. And I had the same thing. And we had the six, then I said, “Well Phurman, if we’re going to have that seventh child, we better have it because I’m 34 years old.” So we had the little girl when I was 35. I loved every 33:00minute of it. Didn’t I [then?].

GEORGE STONEY: How many children did you have.

NULL: [Five?].

HELFAND: Excuse me, you know what, we’re going to look at those pictures --

GEORGE STONEY: -- [In the 30s?].

JAMIE STONEY: You’re going to have to start using names because I can’t see on my side.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, OK, OK. (crosstalk)

CLONINGER: Well I remember, down there at the Eagle. And she always led Margaret around by the hand [and made her the prettiest?] little bonnets I ever saw. [Weren’t they so pretty?]?



GEORGE STONEY: [I want to ask you a question?]. You were telling me about some troubles you had with your brother-in-law and so forth. If you and a lot of other women had trouble with the same people, did you ever get together or -- to do anything about it.

CLONINGER: People like that, you don’t get together with them. I went to ate my supper. I had my ends up and Ms. Anderson come over and help me get them up. We started to cross the mill and he whistled at me like he’s whistling at some dog. And I turned around and looked and she said, “He’s whistling at you but your ends is up, I wouldn’t go back if I was you.” I said, “Yeah, I’m going back.” And I went back and he had throwed a [rope on down and my rope had broke and back, and that’s the only thing I had wrong?]. It was that way 35:00all the time. So I went home -- went home crying, stayed home, and my boss man come out there begging me to go back. Yeah, I went back. He told me to come on back. He said he had done gone on him and he was going to get on him again. He said he’d better leave me alone.

NULL: He’s a mean one. He’s a mean --

CLONINGER: Yeah, [he was stinking as a bad?].

GEORGE STONEY: But if you had, uh -- if you had troubles, you didn’t have anybody to speak up for you?

CLONINGER: I didn’t speak up for myself and nobody spoke up for me either. But then I -- the super down there, he come by one morning and I talked to him. He said, “Ms. Cloninger, I didn’t know you was like that.” I said, “I’m just glad to know you.” But when they slapped me off, I was going home because I wasn’t used to that.


NULL: You wasn’t raised up like that.

CLONINGER: Shoot, no I wasn’t. I was raised up to forgive and forget. And now they hold a grudge all their life. See he was married to my oldest sister. And he’d get mad at her and he’d take it out on me.

GEORGE STONEY: Well let me ask you --

CLONINGER: He’s gone now.


HELFAND: Phurman was shaking his head when you asked that question George.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: What was this now?

GEORGE STONEY: If you were ever having trouble in the mill, what could you do about it.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Nothing, the section man, the boss man, they ruled the mills. You had nothing -- if you didn’t do what they tell you, that’d put you out. And these people lived in the houses and they couldn’t find jobs back then so they had to knuckle under and do what the people told them to do. It was hard times.

CLONINGER: They finally shut the mill down down there [to get you out of them, and the old section man took you back, Joe Hill. He was a good section man?].


GEORGE STONEY: But there was no mechanism like a union or complaints or something?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, nothing, nothing. No, that’s why they brought the union in here to try to combat the boss man and the mill owners. It [came from the big offices down?].

HELFAND: Could you say that again, from the beginning? [We weren’t on it George?].

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I said the people had nothing to do. It came from the big offices down through the section men, the boss men, and the overseers. If you didn’t do what they said, they’d put you out the door. They’d fire you and you’d lose your house. And a job was hard to come --

CLONINGER: [And if you wasn’t the kind of woman they wanted you to be, you got a job?] --

GEORGE STONEY: You were saying, uh -- could you just repeat again what you said about why they brought in the unions.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Well I probably won’t say it the same way I did the other time, the people didn’t have any representation at all. Whatever the section 38:00hand, the overseer, or the people who came from the big offices sent word down, if you didn’t do what they said, they would put you out the door. They would fire you. And people had to live. They didn’t have no -- they lived in the millhouse. That was the whole thing mostly. They had cheap rent in the millhouses and if you put them out, they didn’t have anywhere to go and they couldn’t -- wasn’t that many jobs. The mills wasn’t running but short time anyhow. It was a rough time for the people and that’s why the union tried to come in then to organize -- to help the people out, but the people wouldn’t do it.

GEORGE STONEY: People -- why do you think that was?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They come off the farms and all, they come to the mills from these farms. They go on, half of them wasn’t educated, they didn’t know what was going on. They were scared to death. They were scared.

GEORGE STONEY: You were saying -- what would happen if, uh, women -- some women 39:00had some favors there?

CLONINGER: Bad women, running at the boss man and all, section man. You can do as you please. Went on all the time. But see, I didn’t know that then. I didn’t know that much about life. And I’d go home and cry because I didn’t know nothing else to do. But then -- then I learned to talk up a little.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: And you felt good about bringing the union in there because they did something.

CLONINGER: Well I didn’t know a lot about the union. See, when that come I was carrying my first baby.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF.: [See, not many people come to the meetings. They just -- they were?] scared, people were scared.

GEORGE STONEY: Now you were saying when you were down there picketing, could you think back and remember how was that organized?


GARRETT: Well the union, they’d -- they’d come in and they would try to get the union there at the mill. And, um, they -- the people, you know, they struggled because they wanted things to be better. I don’t -- I think they were -- we were wanted a raise and the work to be better. And, um, trying to get the union in, but the people -- the trouble with the people, they wanted the union but they was afraid to vote for it, afraid that they might lose their job, you know, if they didn’t get the union. And I think that’s one reason that -- that we didn’t get it.

GEORGE STONEY: Now that voting was supposed to be secret.

GARRETT: Uh, I think so. I think it was secret, but the people were so afraid back then because there just wasn’t no jobs and we just -- we lived on the mill village and we was afraid we’d lose their job and lose their household. 41:00We didn’t have nowhere to go. We was afraid.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: And another thing, they brought the National Guard in up there at the hosiery mill when they went on strike and that scared the people that much more. It really scared them then. They were scared of those soldiers. Just like me and this man talking about -- they killed one man -- one man and stabbed two or three more. I don’t know how many exactly. And that really scared the people worse than not having jobs or places to live. They were scared of those people.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember when there were seven people killed down at Honea Path, South Carolina? Did you hear about that or read about it?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, I didn’t, nu-uh. I knew they had a lot of trouble in Gastonia up there in those mills. I don’t know how many got killed up there but I knew there was some killed up there.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you remember seeing the National Guard?

M1: Huh?

GEORGE STONEY: Did you remember seeing the National Guard during that strike?


M1: Yeah, I had them come up behind me. When I was going up and they come up [in them bandanas, I’d step off to the side?]. And I said they better not [learn to sick me though because I was going to get the gun and come back and kill him. That’s what I was aiming to do?]. But all them mills I worked in, there was a woman winding 400 pounds and my brother come and got me and said -- come down there and go to work. I said they [nylon prowlers and grease on them and -- and it looked like a cotton patch?]. I said, “If you let me alone, I’ll -- I’ll -- I’ll fix -- try to fix that.” And they said, “Well we’ll put soap or something on them.” And then they come around and tried all that and said, “Well go ahead and do what you want to do.” And I went ahead and turned all the rings over, cleaned everything out and got everything fixed up. 43:00And I just put a little bit of grease, [they got some from Eagles?] that time, just a little bit, and put a little on them and they’d put a big bunch. And when I got down with it, I cleaned the rings and put oil on them and turned them over and cleaned them out and everything. I changed the dyes that you got to winding 600 pounds. They said there’s something crooked about this. We were off to three as you see then, you did time. And she’s putting that up all that time. And so I made it run, so she got up winding 600 pounds. And I left around that and went down to the river to fish and my brother come down and said, “I want you to come in tonight.” So I go in to run all them settings to. All them 44:00out to National, when I got through there, I went over to Imperial and run about five of them. He’s afraid of running them -- running the government all around?]. I couldn’t get away from them. I’d take off every time I’d go [to fish and I’d go down to the river and fish and here come my brother sliding out. He poked out his head and said I want you to come in tonight. I said, “Boy, that’s the best event since I’ve ever been here.” We give him anything he wants if he just comes back because they was working over with the owners, you see?]. And they had to pay time away, you see, to them, but this is not what happened to me. They wouldn’t have had to pay me, you see.


GEORGE STONEY: That was when -- just probably around the Second World War.

HELFAND: She keeps on looking at this picture over here.

CLONINGER: I want a drink of water. [Do any of y’all? My mouth gets dry?].

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Yes, she keeps looking at that picture because I can go back and get my little kid’s picture.

NULL: She give you that?

GEORGE STONEY: We’ve got to make a copy for her.

HELFAND: You know, if people were so frightened back then, it’s something that you had enough courage to have your photograph taken at a union -- at a union place.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Probably didn’t know it was taken.

GARRETT: I probably didn’t know it, really, but maybe [I didn’t understand it?].

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Maybe it was taken by the newspaper.

CLONINGER: [We’re going to have a dishwashing contest when this is over?].

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Aunt Margaret, you looking direct in that camera.

GARRETT: [So I was interested in what was going on, you can tell by the way I look?].


GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember about that dress? Tell us about the dress.

GARRETT: I think my mother made that dress for me.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: I know she made this little thing [that comes out the member?].

GARRETT: And she probably -- it’s probably made out of flour sacks.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: No it’s not Aunt Margaret, it’s got print.

GARRETT: Yes, but back then you could get flour sacks that had print. And my mother made me a lot of dresses out of flower sacks.

CLONINGER: It looked like linen didn’t it?

GARRETT: Yeah. You know, they made the flower sacks, they were print. And I’m sure she could’ve made that for me. I’m not so sure, but she could have. It was hard times back then, I know that.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you get a special price on cloth from the mill?


GARRETT: No, no, we didn’t.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: They had these little places though, they called [scrap pits -- scrap clubs?]. Grandma used to go there.

GARRETT: We could buy remnants now,that store. You could go buy remnant cheaper. And we bought a lot of them and my mother made my clothes and she made my children’s clothes and things like that.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you, uh -- were you a spinner?

GARRETT: That’s right, spinner.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, could you tell us what kind of cloth you made?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Didn’t make cloth.

GEORGE STONEy: Yarn, yarn, yeah.

GARRETT: We just made the yarn, you know, but we didn’t finish -- you know, they didn’t finish the cloth there where we were, we just made the yarn. And they wound it on these combs, you know, and then they zipped it off to another place where they made the cloth. We didn’t have a finishing place there where I worked.


GEORGE STONEY: Did you get any kind of training for your job?

GARRETT: Well we had to learn. We let -- they let us -- we learnt how to work, you know. They’d give us -- they put us with a hand, you know, that knew how to work. [They would stay until we?] learnt how to work.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you get paid when you were learning?

GARRETT: Didn’t get paid a penny, had to learn it for nothing, didn’t get paid until we got learnt. I think I worked about eight weeks and then they put me on this -- they put me on this -- few sides at the time until I -- and they had to keep adding on until I got a set of sides that I had to run.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember when the fellows came around measuring your production? They had stopwatches and all of that.

GARRETT: I knew when they started checking us. They had them stopwatches and see 49:00how fast we were and everything, see if we was getting production off.

NULL: [And you would spin?].

GEORGE STONEY: What -- what happened to -- what happened when they came?

GARRETT: Well, they’d come in and they would stay with us eight hours. They would follow us. They would -- everywhere we went, they were right behind us and they had a book of -- everything we’d done, they wrote it down. All day long they’d stay with us.

GEORGE STONEY: How did you feel about that?

GARRETT: I felt bad.

GEORGE STONEY: You felt bad?

GARRETT: It made me nervous. I couldn’t hardly work. I never could work hard if anybody was looking at me and watching me. But they’d -- they would -- I’d call them -- we’d call them minutemen.


GARRETT: That’s what we called them. And they had a watch and they watched us and checked us how everything we’d done all day long, everywhere we went, they went. It was rough.


GEORGE STONEY: Uh, did you -- did you resent that?

GARRETT: I sure did, I didn’t like it at all. There wasn’t nothing I could do about it.

GEORGE STONEY: Who were they?

GARRETT: Well they, uh -- they were men that, you know, the company had hired to have them come there and check us, you know, just to see if we could run the job and was doing, you know -- doing it right.

GEORGE STONEY: Were they from out of town?

GARRETT: I think -- yes, I think so. And another thing, they were seeing if they could put more work on us, seeing if we had enough work to do. And if we didn’t have enough work, well they’d put more on us. I remember one time, I think we were running 18 sides and they give us 24. Add that many more sides on us. And that’s what it was all about, they just wanted to see if they could add more work on us.


GEORGE STONEY: Did you make the 24?

GARRETT: We stayed with them. We stayed with them and tried to run them as best we could.

GEORGE STONEY: What happened to the people who couldn’t make it?

GARRETT: Well, they, uh -- they just -- they let them go, you know. They just -- if they couldn’t run the job, they just let them go.

GEORGE STONEY: Who were they who couldn’t make it?

GARRETT: Well I can’t remember back [then?]. But there were some that just wasn’t fast enough, you know, that could run the job.

GEORGE STONEY: Would they tend to be the older people?

GARRETT: Some of the older people, they just couldn’t keep up back then and they would let them go.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah, that -- yeah.

HELFAND: She was telling us yesterday after -- after the strike, you recall?

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm, yeah. You want to ask her?

HELFAND: Sure. Did you -- did you know that your aunt was a -- was a -- did you know that Aunt Margaret was part of the union.


LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: I didn’t. I was too young, I didn’t know what she was doing. I was just taking care of this little boy. I used perfume yesterday.

GARRETT: Well, uh, it was rough back then.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: I know one thing, her and Uncle Jack spent a lot of time up there, that’s all I know.

HELFAND: Up there?

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: [At the mill or wherever they were at?].

HELFAND: You mean the union -- with the union?

GARRETT: At the Imperial. Somebody had to be there all the time, all day long, you know. But what we would do, we would take time about, you know. Some of us would stay a while and then we would go home and another group would come and stay a while. See, we had to -- we had somebody be there all the time in front of the mill. And them men, they didn’t like it at all. The head men didn’t.


LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: But you was fighting for the union Aunt Margaret, you was fighting for something that would make it better.

GARRETT: We were just fighting for our rights, I reckon wanting to get -- you know, get more pay and better -- better working conditions.

GEORGE STONEY: Did the -- did the boss men come out and talk to you?


CLONINGER: [They’d say, “How do you do?”?]

GEORGE STONEY: They didn’t, uh...

GARRETT: Never did.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: I was proud of her for -- for being that brave and doing it. You know, not running from it, running from everything.

GARRETT: We stayed there. And it’s just like I say, it was over but we didn’t get the union one voted in. We wasn’t enough votes for the union to come in.

GEORGE STONEY: When the -- when they called the strike off, what happened?

GARRETT: We just went back to work.

GEORGE STONEY: You were saying something yesterday about what people -- how people responded.


GARRETT: Oh, they said that we won, we won. They said we won. And I told my husband, I said, “Well what have we won?” I said, “Everything’s just like it was.” But they did, that’s what they said, we won, we won. Well we didn’t win a thing.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Never did get any contracts.

GARRETT: [Yes, I know?].

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Company never would honor the contract.

GARRETT: But you know it -- I don’t know what was wrong, they just couldn’t -- I don’t know, they couldn’t get together -- [we just didn’t get it?].

GEORGE STONEY: Let’s get this -- let me get you to repeat that now.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: The people won, but they never did the -- the company never would honor the -- and give them a contract. Same way years later, the other two mills here in Belmont voted union in, they never did get a contract. Company never would honor them and nobody fought them hard enough to get the contracts for the people.


GARRETT: I guess that’s what happened. We just didn’t get the contract, you know. We might’ve voted it in and the company just, some way or another, they just wouldn’t honor that something, they just wouldn’t do it. And here in Belmont, they never did get the union in, none of the mills did in Belmont. No, none of the hosiery mills or none of them. As far as I know they never did.

HELFAND: Did everyone get their jobs back?

GARRETT: No, no they didn’t.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Not the ones that would rather work for the union.

GARRETT: Not the ones that really did work for the union. It’s just like I was telling you, my brother-in-law, you know, he was really in for that union. And, 56:00you know, they -- after it was all over, he lost his job. So, you know Fred Ayerwood. You all remember that don’t you. I don’t know whether you do or not.

CLONINGER: [I used to take her to church and make her lay down and rest. She’d have to work on Sunday night and then we’d go back for choir practice?]. She’s a good old thing. He was a rascal.

GARRETT: Yeah, he was, he was. He really wasn’t -- didn’t like to work too well, [no way?], but anyway, he lost his job because he was really for the union. But that was at the Chronicle where they worked, was at the Chronicle. So it was all over. He lost his job and, um -- and they had to move. [They just moved off?]. My sister, I think she went to work at the Climax and worked up 57:00there. And finally after years passed on by, he finally got a job after everything finally calmed down a little bit.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now you were living in mill village, all of you, what did you -- how did people who lived -- who -- the merchants and the people who live in Gastonia and so forth, how did they look at -- on you for doing all of this, for joining the union and picketing and so forth.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They were for the mill owners.

GARRETT: They were for the mill owners. They wasn’t for us. In fact, we have been called the white cotton mill trash, wasn’t it?

CLONINGER: Lint heads.

GARRETT: Lint heads and you know we have been just looked down on. Do you remember that?


CLONINGER: Yeah, I remember all them everything. I remember Louis and Armstrong, [Steel American Teel and GW Howe, that’s why I bought tent cloths in the yard, pretty cloth, make a dress for thirty cents?].

NULL: And I worked in Belmont, [I bought my clothes at the Stowe merchant.

CLONINGER: Yeah, we bought a lot there too. [I bought the kids shoes at GW Howe and paid a dollar a week on them?].

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: This store they’re talking about is a company store. You buy the stuff and you pay their price and then they take so much out of your paycheck every week to pay for it.

CLONINGER: Some of them got smarter and they’d go buy it and sell it and get more for it and let them take a little bit out every week.

GEORGE STONEY: Well if people called mill trash and so forth, uh, how did that 59:00make you feel in terms of all that -- you went to school didn’t you?

GARRETT: Mm-hmm.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you feel that in the school?

GARRETT: Well not really in the school, it was just after we, you know, went to work. They -- you know, you could tell they didn’t like the cotton mill people like they did other people. They just, you know, thought we was a lower rate of people than they were. And they’d call us cotton mill trash and work in that old cotton mill. It was awful. It made you feel bad. And you know, we couldn’t dress like a lot of them because we couldn’t afford it.

GEORGE STONEY: How far did you go in school?

GARRETT: Just to the sixth grade.

GEORGE STONEY: Why did you stop?

GARRETT: I wanted to go to work. No reason at all, just wanted to go to work. I 60:00could’ve went on with school. I wanted to go to work and help out my brother. He was the only one who was working. I wanted to work and help out in the family but I should’ve went on to school but I didn’t.

GEORGE STONEY: Did many of your friends go on to school?

GARRETT: Some of them and a lot of them just dropped out like I did to go to work. You almost had to go to work to help out because people just didn’t make any money hardly. And I wanted to go to work so I’d have money for myself, after all I found out it didn’t do me any good at all.

GEORGE STONEY: And you got married pretty young, didn’t you?

GARRETT: I got married at 17.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: She probably was 18 here.

GARRETT: I was about -- I was probably around 19 years old [when I did that?].


HELFAND: You know that picture was made the day before the strike was over.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: Y’all got more history on that than we know. You all found out a lot.

HELFAND: It’s dated on the back of the picture.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: September 24, 1934. I was exactly ten years old when that picture was taken.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: Well I was about nine when I took care of that baby, I was nine years old.

HELFAND: Did you have to go back -- Margaret, did you have to go back and ask for a job and reapply?

GARRETT: No, after the strike was over, see, we didn’t quit our job or nothing. Just -- the mill just went on strike.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: [They just closed the mill?].


GARRETT: See they just closed the mill. Then the people went on strike. And you see, they just went on strike and that was the reason we was picketing outside the mill so the ones that did want to go to work, we wouldn’t let them go because we was on strike.

GEORGE STONEY: How did you keep them from going to work?

GARRETT: We would picket them. Yeah, that’s what they called it.

GEORGE STONEY: What did you do?

GARRETT: Well we just wouldn’t let them go in, wouldn’t let them by.

GEORGE STONEY: How would keep them from getting by?

GARRETT: Of course I don’t think there’s too many -- I don’t think there’s anybody that really wanted to go in. They was afraid.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, one of the things that we’ve heard is that you pickets were armed, you had guns and that kind of thing.

GARRETT: No, we didn’t have any guns. We didn’t have any, not where we was at, we didn’t. But them guards they had up there at that knitting mill, now 63:00they had guns. And these big old bayonets -- was it bayonets?


GARRETT: And that’s where they run that man down and killed him. They run him clean into another -- into a house and killed him.

GEORGE STONEY: But, uh, so far as you know, nobody had -- none of your crowd had guns?

GARRETT: No, we didn’t have any guns. What we did have -- I don’t think so. We were just out there. We let them know we didn’t want anybody to go in the mill.

GEORGE STONEY: What did you call them?

GARRETT: Call them? I don’t remember now if we called them anything or not but they didn’t go in because they knew we was on strike.

HELFAND: No one’s really been able to explain to us how they called this strike and how this all started in the very beginning. Do you remember that, when it just started?

GARRETT: No, I don’t remember that.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They just appeared all at once, the guys from the union just appeared all at once.

GARRETT: Do you know how it started Phurman?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, I don’t Margaret. They just appeared all at once and it all started, I don’t know.

GARRETT: See the union, they just come in and they -- well they started talking to the people, you know, to find out if we really wanted the union and wanted to strike. Well, the people all got together and decided. It was the union men, you know, that come in and started it. They were the ones that come in.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you know where they came from?

GARRETT: No, I don’t know. I don’t know where they come from. But they were trying to get the union force here in Belmont but it just never did work out.

GEORGE STONEY: Before that time have you ever heard about unions?

GARRETT: No I never -- I hadn’t heard too much about unions back then because, 65:00you know, I was just real young and everything. I hadn’t been working too long. And I didn’t know too much about it.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you husband talk about it much?

GARRETT: No, he -- he never was for --

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: He was scared to death of it.

GARRETT: No, we was all -- well in fact, we were all afraid, you know, because we wanted better but we didn’t want to lose our job because we were afraid we might lose our job.

GEORGE STONEY: Well did -- who was the owner of your mill?

GARRETT: (crosstalk) I think it was the Stowes, [R. L?]. (crosstalk) Well he was the super. Mason was the super but the owners was -- they were Stowes I think.

GEORGE STONEY: R. L. Stowes. Did you know the Stowes?


GARRETT: Not too well, no. The only ones we knew was our super and the boss man and the section man. We knew them well, [it was Mr. Mason?].

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us about him.

GARRETT: He’d come around and we’d get us something to eat. We had a little dope wagon. We’d get us something to drink and something to eat. We’d be sitting there and here he’d come. Boy, we’d jump up off that stool and get back to work, we wouldn’t even eat. He’d come along and just stand and stare at you, wouldn’t he? Afraid of him.

LOUSIE: That’s terrible.

GARRETT: And he didn’t want us to eat hardly. So we knew it too. When we seen him coming, we’d get up.

CLONINGER: Did you ever work for [Bill Edes or Luke Chamber?].


GEORGE STONEY: Tell us about him.


CLONINGER: Bill Edes was all right. Luke Chamber would get to the end of your frame like this, stand there and glare at you like a wild man. I couldn’t stand him.

GEORGE STONEY: It seems to me with all of the -- the whole department was run by women, wasn’t it?

CLONINGER: No, that was men.

GEORGE STONEY: Men were the bosses.

CLONINGER: Mm-hmm, section men, they’re just section men.

GEORGE STONEY: You didn’t have any women section hands at the time?

CLONINGER: Not then, they have them now though. I don’t know who was the boss. [George Ticer?] was over there when I worked for him and I don’t know who was the boss before he come there. But I like to work for George Ticer. He’s a good feller.

GEORGE STONEY: But was there any attempt to the women all to get together to do something about conditions?

CLONINGER: You just run your job there. Go home when time come, come back when time come.

NULL: Yeah, that’s why we’re there.


CLONINGER: He’d just stop there and look like something wild.

GEORGE STONEY: Now I’m going to ask you about the -- I know that you had restrooms --


GEORGE STONEY: -- and they were cleaned mostly by black women weren’t they?

CLONINGER: I don’t know who cleaned them.



CLONINGER: But they didn’t have no doors to them. They just had an old [seen that room and an old U?]. It wasn’t a bit private. They had a tin sink of where you could wash your hands if you wanted to.

GARRETT: That’s why a lot of us stood up and wanted the union, wanted better than that. [And that’s what I said?]. [We had to drink out of a -- they had an old spicket turned up. It wasn’t a fountain, just an old spicket turned upside down, that’s what we had to drink out of?].

CLONINGER: That was in the middle room as you come out of the restroom.

NULL: Yeah.

GARRETT: And go in the bathroom, you would just -- they just didn’t have no 69:00partition and just drained out. And the water was hot as everything.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now was there, uh -- were there any black women in or around the mills?


CLONINGER: Not that I remember.


CLONINGER: My momma had a black girl that did her cooking and cleaning and the Imperial. She was a sweet little girl too, nice.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you ever wonder at that time of why there weren’t black women working in the mills?

CLONINGER: Well my daddy, when we lived in the country, colored people was just as good as we was. But they would not eat with us. My daddy tried to get them to come in. They worked for my daddy. And he’d try to get them to come in. They’d just say, “No sir.” And then sit down on the porch until we got through eating and then they’d come in to eat. Threshers, hay bailers and things like that. The neighbors would come in and help momma cook and then she’d go help them, things like that. It was the good old days. They say 70:00there’s bad days if you want to, but they was good old days I thought.

GEORGE STONEY: You do miss that country.

CLONINGER: Yes I do. I sure do.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: They weren’t good old days to me. They were rough days, hard days.

CLONINGER: Well my daddy always liked to farm and momma was smart and we had plenty to eat, plenty to spare.

GEORGE STONEY: Why do you say they were rough old days?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I don’t know. We didn’t have -- we didn’t have anything.

CLONINGER: My daddy raised everything, he raised our --

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: We tried to on the cotton mill, but it was hard.

CLONINGER: Well on the cotton mill you didn’t have room, but now you know that you can take just a little old patch and raise a lot on it.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: We had chickens and cows and pigs, garden. That’s the only way you can live back then. They didn’t make any money to buy anything.

CLONINGER: But you didn’t have no insurance all the time to pay and tie you up.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: You didn’t worry about insurance back then. You just worried about getting something to eat, something to wear.

CLONINGER: We always had enough to wear. In fact, I had more then than I do now.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Every year when I start school, daddy would go to Stowe Mercantile and get me two pairs of overalls and a pair of shoes and two or three pairs of socks and a couple shirts. And that’s what you did on all year, you didn’t get any more. That was it. That was what you went to school with. I don’t even remember having one leather jacket in my life when I was young.

CLONINGER: He always worked in the field and he loved it.

NULL: My daddy worked a big field and make a big garden.

CLONINGER: [We would get cured ham and momma would fry up the sausage?] and turn it upside down in jars and the grease would seal it.

NULL: Yeah, my momma raised -- my daddy raised a lots of hogs.

CLONINGER: Yeah, we always raised our meat. [And they’d shoot the purity?].


NULL: We had cows and they would have calves.

CLONINGER: If we was poor, I didn’t know it. If we was poor, I didn’t know it. We got up and went to church on Sunday morning. Now they have church all week long. Every night you got to go to church. I don’t think it’s good though, especially when you got a home to look after.

GEORGE STONEY: Well how strict were they in -- in the mill village with you? Did they -- did they try to control what you did in the mill village?

CLONINGER: You mean in the [homes around?]? No, you about done as you pleased.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, as long as you didn’t disturb your neighbor or something.

GARRETT: Well they wasn’t too strict on us. Of course they, you know, expect you to take care of the house and they wanted to keep the yards clean and 73:00everything. But as far as that, they wasn’t too strict on us.

GEORGE STONEY: The reason I’m asking that is that in some places people say that the superintendent wouldn’t allow drinking and if somebody -- a girl got in the family way, they’d make the family leave the village, that kind of thing.

CLONINGER: They drank down there at the Eagle, coming and going, night and day, plenty of it.

GEORGE STONEY: Each village was very different, you see.

CLONINGER: In fact, they made their home brew down there too.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Each mill had a [superintendent?] and he was the boss man, whatever he said went. Where he got his orders from the main office and what he said went in the plants for everybody else had to do. He controlled it.

GEORGE STONEY: Now this may seem a strange question but we’ve talked to a number of men who were in management at the time who are about your age now, and 74:00they all say that they knew the people in the plants well, they could call them by name, and that the people love them. What are your response?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, no. Some were good, some were bad, and some were terrible.

CLONINGER: Yeah, Dave Baumgartner was a good superintendent but his brother was stinking as they made them, Fred. Give him credit.

GARRETT: We had some good boss mans and then we had some bad ones too, you know, just wasn’t all that good to us.

CLONINGER: Maybe they didn’t know how to be [if they wasn’t good?].

GARRETT: But they were strict on us, you know. They seen that we done the job like our boss man up there, the Majestic would say something to him about the job. He said, “Well honey just do the best you can.” But he’d still expect you to run your job. And he said if he’d get onto us about anything, he’d 75:00say, “Now this is not me.” He said, “This is coming from the higher ups.” See they had to do what they told them to do. He was a good boss man, but he had to run his job just like we have to run ours. A lot of people, they would get mad at the boss man, but still he was just running his job.

HELFAND: You know, I wonder, did -- we have some documents that show that there was a really -- that almost every mill here had an organized [interior?] union in Belmont. And there were a number of unions, right here, locals that had organized. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about that.

GARRETT: I can’t remember, maybe he can.

HELFAND: Well, maybe remember -- there was a big parade at the beginning of this big strike and all the different locals got together and marched together, I guess to show their strength.


GEORGE STONEY: Here, let me show you a picture of that. This -- this was in, uh, Gastonia where all those people are marching. That was on the day before the big strike started.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: Gee, everybody looks very nice. They do, they look very, very nice.

GARRETT: That must’ve been -- I don’t remember that though.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: No, because that was in Gastonia. You probably wasn’t even there, I don’t know.

GARRETT: I promise you I wasn’t.

GEORGE STONEY: Was there anything like that around Belmont?

GARRETT: I don’t think so.

GEORGE STONEY: Well what I think was that people from Belmont and Ranlo -- you 77:00notice that that’s -- you see the Ranlo local has signs there.

JAMIE STONEY: You have to drop down, you’re blocking them out of the shot.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. And here’s a picture in, uh, Municipal Park where they all ended up.

HELFAND: And there’s some signs from Belmont there.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Oh are they? Right there Aunt Margaret. Belmont textile local… This must’ve been a union number, 2019...

GEORGE STONEY: So that was -- all around this -- the people walked into or somehow got into Gastonia and made this big Labor Day parade.


GARRETT: We must’ve all been there by the looks of that crowd. I just can’t remember. He might remember, I can’t.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you know that there were that many people?

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Oh he wouldn’t have been more than 10 years old.

CLONINGER: I never did have no part in that. I don’t think any of us did.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, there weren’t that many people in Belmont that were [coming through the union?]. See the mills in Gastonia were bigger and larger than these little mills here. And they had a lot more people up there. No, I don’t remember this many people. I remember Gastonia, but not this, nothing like this.

HELFAND: Well they all got together. There’s a local there from Belmont actually. It’s on the front.

GEORGE STONEY: One of the signs, here.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Oh, yeah I see it back here. There were some people from Belmont there then weren’t they. They’re so far back, you can’t tell who they are.

GEORGE STONEY: Now one of the things we hope will happen from this film we’re making --

CLONINGER: Well I want to see it.

GEORGE STONEY: Oh you will.

CLONINGER: Do I get a free ticket?

GEORGE STONEY: You will. One of the things we hope to do with this is to persuade museums like that Gaston County Museum to start having pictures like this up and to let people know --


GEORGE STONEY: -- the history, the history of the working people as well as the history of the owners and managers and the organizers.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: You see they didn’t look ragged and trashy.

GEORGE STONEY: No, they were all dressed up. Yeah, they were dressed up for the parade.


GARRETT: I don’t know why they called us trash. We looked pretty -- we didn’t go around looking like trash did we.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: A lot of people then wore more white shirts than they wear now because I can remember.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: The rich people thought we were the poor class people.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: I said more people then wore white shirts all the time than they do no, didn’t they? The boys and the husbands and things, they wore white shirts. I remember Uncle Jack always had a white shirt on. My dad always had a white shirt on when he was young.

CLONINGER: They had to have that white shirt for Sunday.

HELFAND: Have you talked about this before, about your participation in this strike?


GARRETT: I don’t think so.

CLONINGER: Now you’re Margaret’s right?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I’m her nephew but I’m Louise’s husband.

CLONINGER: I knew you was her husband.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: May is Louise’s mother. I’m her son-in-law, May’s son-in-law.


CLONINGER: Oh, I got it right then.

GEORGE STONEY: Louise, when did you first know about this --

HELFAND: Aunt Margaret --

GEORGE STONEY: -- Aunt Margaret and all of this stuff in the ‘30s.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: I think it’s when you all came. I mean I didn’t know what was going on. I just knew I took care of the little baby. But I didn’t know about a strike or anything.

GEORGE STONEY: Well why didn’t you ever tell her about this?

GARRETT: Because she was so young, I reckon. I didn’t -- just didn’t think about it. But I really don’t whether Jackie even went up there or not. I don’t know for sure if he did or not because he wasn’t, you know -- he just [did what he did or not?].

GEORGE STONEY: Well now you grew up here. You grew up here. Uh, how much of this had you known about before?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I knew about it all all my life. I knew it all my life.


GEORGE STONEY: How did you happen to find out?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: How I happened to find out? Like I told you, I went with my grandmother, she didn’t even work in the mill which if anything that happened in Belmont, she was there. It didn’t make any difference what it was. You remember Granny Brown from the Sterling. Margaret does. Wasn’t you Margaret, everywhere she went.

CLONINGER: Who was that?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Grandma Brown from the Sterling.

CLONINGER: No, see I didn’t know too much about this side of town until we moved down here.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Aunt Margaret and Uncle Jack lived in their house some time -- at one time.

GEORGE STONEY: Well tell me about her.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I can’t. She was a great old woman. All of her kids are married. I was born at the house where she later had owned and right in front of Sterling Mill. The house is tore down now.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh-huh, well she must be somebody rather special to tell you all about this.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Well she did. She kept up with everything. Everything that happened in this town, she knew about it. She was a great old woman.

HELFAND: A lot of people we’ve found -- a lot of people we found just haven’t wanted to talk about the fact that they participated in the union.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I know most all of these older people won’t talk about. I don’t know why. It’s dead and gone. There’s nothing to harm or do anything about it or anything, but they’re still scared. They’ve always been that way. They always will be I guess. See they even tried to get a union back here. When was that? In the ‘40s or maybe later than that? No, it was later than that. It was after I came back out of the service. And the people voted in in two plants. But they never would get them a contract. So it never did, it 84:00didn’t help anyone. And that turned people against it there.

GEORGE STONEY: I’m just interested in this grandmother of yours who --

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Well Granny Brown, they came [from the farm in Catawba. My grandfather brought --

GEORGE STONEY: Hold it just a moment will you because --

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I have a farm in Catawba and my grandfather bought this land right in front of the Sterling Mill and built a store there, bought the house and built a store there. And he died there and grandma stayed home there and raised her kids and they all went into the mills, working in the cotton mills. And she would quilt, make quilts and sell them. That’s why we would go over to the Imperial to the rag house and buy rags and I would go with her. I stayed with her more than anybody. And she would make quilts. And any ice cream supper or anything that was going on, she wanted to go. She walked from her 85:00house in front of the Sterling Mill when she was -- probably she was in her seventies when she died. She would walk from there all the way down to the [Holiness?] church down on Ninth Street. And I would go with her. Anything that was going on and when she went to see what was going on up there at the lumber yard, I went with her when they were having the meetings.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us about those meetings.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: All I can remember is just guys getting up talking to the people, trying to tell them -- explain what kind of conditions they could help them get and what they would do for them. Whether people listened to him, I don’t know because like I told you I was a kid. I was more playing more than I was listening or trying to go on. I don’t remember where they hand any -- now it seemed like they had some music one time up there, they had some people playing music before the meeting started. That was a long --


GEORGE STONEY: And she was running a store?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, when grandpa died, she let the store go and started renting the store building to someone who made a house out of it and started renting it to the people. And then she moved into the store building and started renting her house. I was a six room house. It had three rooms on each side. Margaret and Jack lived in it one time and Louise lived in it one time.

GEORGE STONEY: But she was -- she sounds like some kind of very special person.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: She was to me and everyone knew Granny Brown around that area over there.

CLONINGER: Grandmas was something back then. They had to live with the family.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: She had cow and chickens and hogs and did her garden, plowed her garden, had a big place. And I’d go over in the summer and help her.

CLONINGER: Excuse me, the store you was talking about, is it still there?


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Mm-hmm, the little building. My brother lives in it now.

CLONINGER: Really? Is it out on [Keener’s Boulevard?]?

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, it’s down the road as you go down the hill, Garrison Street.

CLONINGER: I never was down there. I know my Aunt Sally and Uncle Earnest Hubbard lived in that big -- there beside --

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: The big two story house. [And then Judge Richardson had the store up that you’re talking about?].

CLONINGER: Yeah, well I know he worked in that store some. We was scared to death [when he?] --


CLONINGER: No, Uncle Earnest Hubbard.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Oh Mr. Hubbard, he was. He was a --

CLONINGER: He’s one of the, [wicked kind?].

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Is any of those boys still living?

CLONINGER: There’s one boy still living.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Earnest, there was one named Earnest wasn’t there? The oldest boy was Earnest.

CLONINGER: That’s the only one I know -- Luther’s the one that’s living.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Luther’s the one that’s living.

CLONINGER: Yeah, we buried Reece Stiller, papa’s sister’s boy about six months ago.


PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: [Reece is still living, being that old?]?

CLONINGER: That’s not his daddy. This is --

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, you’re talking about Reece, I remember. Will and Reece, I remember.

CLONINGER: This man took him up at [stand?], and took care of him, and put him in a little house. He never was married and he looked after him.

GEORGE STONEY: Well you seem to know people in a lot of these different mill villages.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I do. I ramble now. I worked in all of them. I knew just about everyone in Belmont at one time.

CLONINGER: See Aunt Sally and Aunt Minnie and Aunt Julie was my daddy’s sisters. And Aunt Julie, she married a wild man.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I didn’t know too many people from the Eagle except the boys that I went to school with.

CLONINGER: [We was on the other side when we bought this house and moved in here?].

GEORGE STONEY: But people seem to swap around from one mill to the other.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Oh yeah, uh-huh. They didn’t stay right at one place all the time.


CLONINGER: They got to where they couldn’t stand it. They had to go to another.

GEORGE STONEY: And that’s kind of the way they --

CLONINGER: Yeah, when I went home crying, if they didn’t come after me I’d go somewhere else. I don’t do that now though. My last boss man, I told him -- he’d done me dirty and I told him, I says, “When daylight comes in the morning, I’m going up to the big office.” “No, don’t you do that,” he said. I said, “I don’t care what you say. I’m going.” So the next morning he called me and told me to come in. I told him I’ve been working double and over and everything for the section man and they all told me they weren’t going to run Saturday morning. And when I started out the door home, the spinner said, “You don’t work in the morning.” I said, “I didn’t know it was going to run. I just come on home, I called him up.” So he called me the next morning and told me to come in. He was good to me, put me [over there doing nothing?].

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: See when President Roosevelt came in and he went in on 90:00eight hours, from then until the war, this is the area we’re talking about. But when the war came, it changed everything. Everything changed. The people changed and everything. The old way disappeared. The new way came in. And went the service came back, I didn’t hardly know anyone there on the hill, but when I left I knew just about everyone.

CLONINGER: All three of my boys went in service at 17. [Not our son, he didn’t. He said 16, but they were 17. You couldn’t get in until you were 17?].

GEORGE STONEY: Well one other thing I want to get just from each of you, we’ve heard a lot of talk these last few years about sexual harassment. Was there anything like that going on in the mills?

CLONINGER: Not with me because I didn’t give them a chance. That stopped that 91:00right on -- I was married. I had kids at home and I went home to my kids and my family.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: There was less back then than there was back up to the time -- like I’m telling you, time changed then everything changed. There was after that, but during this time, there was less.

CLONINGER: It’s been a rough road. He could tell you a lot of it if he’d tell it like it is, but he won’t. He tells it --

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: He tells it like he remembers it.

CLONINGER: I always went home to my kids because I love my kids and my home.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember the girls having trouble in the mills like that?

GARRETT: No, not really. There were some that, you know, they tried to get in 92:00with the boss man where they could get their -- you know, be their favorite one. I know [some time?] in the Imperial, this lady she worked over there and she was a favorite of the boss man. And I know it -- I had got a full week. I was supposed to get a full week that week and it wasn’t my day to rest, it was her day. And they sent me home and they let her work. It made me so mad, I went home crying. And Jack said, “What are you crying about?” I said, “They sent me out to rest and it’s not my day.” And I said to let her work and I said all right and I was so mad. But it was just -- you know, it was just -- they just had favorites. But I didn’t like it at all and I mean I told them about it. I told that boss, I told my section man. He said, “Well, you’re going to have 93:00to rest.” I went to the boss man, it didn’t do no good, I still had to rest. And I had to go home and rest.

GEORGE STONEY: Well you didn’t want rest, you just wanted time.

GARRETT: No, I wanted -- I didn’t want -- see, we had to rest a day. And they’d go around and all of the spinners, they’d get us all. And it was her time to rest, I knew it was. But I had to rest and she wanted a full week and she got it. [But that rest turned me up?]. I think I even went to the super about it. It didn’t do me no good. But it was that way everywhere we worked, there was always somebody, you know, that tried to get favorite with the boss man and the section man and everything.

GEORGE STONEY: Sorry, could you say that again?

GARRETT: I said wherever where we went, there was always somebody. I know Jack’s sister, she was working over at the Climax and it was going on over 94:00there at the Climax. And she said, “Well I’m sure I’m going to get over there at the Majestic, there ain’t going to be nothing going on right there.” And she come into work. And it wasn’t but a few days until it was our roller picker and the boss man -- I’m not calling any names -- the boss man, every time he’d come in the mill, here he’d go. He’d go right to her and start talking. We were told [we were the ones?]. I didn’t think I’d find that over here. [Yes you did, there was always just somebody?].

GEORGE STONEY: What could you do about it?

GARRETT: Not a thing in the world. You couldn’t do a thing about it. Everybody could see it but we didn’t talk about it. They didn’t mention it. But, you know, it was right there and you could just see it, what was going on.

GEORGE STONEY: I mention that because we have in some autobiographies, some 95:00fellows said that they first started working in the union because they saw that happening to their sisters or other people in their families.

GARRETT: Well it was usually that they would -- I think they just wanted to get in with the boss man so they would take it, you know, just do as they pleased.


GARRETT: Get favors. You know, and it really helped them, but all the rest of us could see it, but see we couldn’t do nothing about it. We was afraid to. Only when I broke my top, I’d tell them that. And I would sometime. But, you know, you just can’t take but so much.


HELFAND: I’m wondering, when the strike was over and you went back to work, how did they treat you on the job since -- I mean if they knew that you were union, what did they say?

GARRETT: Well I think we just went back to work. I think they just -- just about 96:00like always only we just -- it was the same, you know. We just had to work as hard as all. We didn’t get no favors or nothing. They just wouldn’t form a union and they seen it, they just seen that we didn’t get it.

HELFAND: What about discrimination against people that had been active in the union?

GARRETT: Well it had happened especially if they got into it real big. They’d have these meetings and if you attended these meetings too much and they found it out, and just really got in with it more, usually you would get fired for that. A lot of people lost their jobs on account of it.

HELFAND: Could I ask you to talk about that again because we go the door opening. Would you mind about discrimination if you were active in the union.


GARRETT: Well if you were real active -- like they had these meetings on the -- you know, they’d have meeting places. We’d meet and they’d have these platforms, you know. And the union men would get up and talk to us and everything. And if you got too involved in it, well, you were more than likely to lose your job. I just never did get too involved because, you know, we were just afraid to really but some of them wasn’t. They would and then they would lose their job.

GEORGE STONEY: How would they find out who was active?

GARRETT: I don’t really know how they found out so much, but just as far as I reckon -- you know how they are. Some people run to the boss man and tell them everything [and supers and everything?]. But they would find it out and they would lose their job.

HELFAND: You must’ve been somewhat involved because you chose to be public on the picket line.


GARRETT: I was involved in that. I was on the picket line.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: [Because you were getting the groceries there, that was ridiculous?].

GARRETT: I was on the picket line so I could get me some groceries. I guess that’s what I was doing here, I was getting me some --

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Yeah, but when you done the picket line, you was picking and keeping the people out so you could get the union.

GARRETT: Yeah, but I was trying to help out [by turning it?].

HELFAND: So they must’ve seen you. What I’m saying is...

GARRETT: Well they’ve seen us sitting out there, I’m sure they did. But they really -- that’s not really what stirred them up, you know. It’s just the people that really did get into, you know, and just...

M1: Here’s your chair.

HELFAND: Oh thank you, I’m really fine. Thank you very much.

M1: You can sit down.

HELFAND: That’s very nice of you, thank you very much.

GEORGE STONEY: Sorry, could you say that again?

HELFAND: You know what, I’m going to -- you know what, now that you brought me 99:00the chair in, don’t go outside again until -- unless you warn us, OK?

CLONINGER: It cracks and pops in the camera.

HELFAND: Yeah, I can hear that door real loud.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, maybe you could say that again, please May.

GARRETT: If I can think.

HELFAND: If you can think. We were talking about being -- what being active in public and who they -- and discrimination.

GARRETT: Well if, you know, like -- like some of them, if they have these meetings and if you got too much involved in the meetings and everything like, just really getting in with the union men. Then they just didn’t like that and worked with them to really work with them and help them out and everything. They will find it out and you’d probably lose your job. But really the reason they couldn’t, see they couldn’t fire everybody that was on the picket line because they wouldn’t have nobody to run the mill because most everybody was out there and they couldn’t really fire all of us, but they would if you got 100:00too much involved in it, they would. I don’t really know how they found it out but I guess they had people watching [more and then would tell them about it?].

GEORGE STONEY: I was talking with a gentleman the other day who was a mill manager and I asked him how it worked and he said that they had connections that if somebody applied for a job after the strike, they’d find out where you worked and they’d call up and they wouldn’t hire them if they --

GARRETT: That’s right, they would --

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Black ball them they called it.

GARRETT: That’s what you done to Fred Ayerwood. I don’t know if -- well Lucille you knew [Fred and Lorna?]. But you see the black ball Fred, they fired him from the Chronicle. And he’d go somewhere else to get a job. And he’d tell them where he worked. Well they’d call the Chronicle. Well and they would tell them and they wouldn’t hire you. And it was for a long time that he 101:00didn’t even get a job, but I think he finally did get one after things finally cooled off a little, something I can’t remember now hardly. But he was black balled. You remember that don’t you May, when they black balled Fred?


GARRETT: You don’t, well I do. I remember that I wasn’t very large, but I remember that. It was [good?].

HELFAND: Maybe you could -- maybe you could read the back of that out loud Louise.

GARRETT: No, I can’t read that good.

HELFAND: No, no, no, this one can you.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Oh that, Mrs. Ingle.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: See that’s wrong.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: And down here it says Mrs. J.W. Ingle. Who is J.W. Engle? [Frank Baumgartner?], they got your name wrong here. It’s Mrs. J.W. Ingle.


GARRETT: What that really is supposed to be is supposed to be J.M., you know, put that –


GARRETT:-[somebody’s skipping my name wrong and they probably didn’t know Willy?].

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: Well did you know Mr. James Cloninger?

GARRETT: No, I didn’t.

HELFAND: Well it was just -- it has been an amazing thing for us to meet you since you’re right there and you were there.

GARRETT: Well it’s been a pleasure to meet y’all.

GEORGE STONEY: I want to get a picture of you holding the picture out towards me. And I think this might be a picture that you would like eventually.



GEORGE STONEY: Let’s see if I can do that. Jamie, let’s see. Let’s see if I can do it here. [What kind of a depth of filed do I have her Jamie?]?

JAMIE STONEY: [Wide open and open, I’m at 90B?].

GEORGE STONEY: Oh you’re working with 90B then. Ob boy, then I bet -- [look at that?].

JAMIE STONEY: Let me try. You’re at 22 for one.

GEORGE STONEY: [Remember I can’t push that. Now let’s get over this way a little bit?].

JAMIE STONEY: [ASA, you’re up to 800?].


JAMIE STONEY: I know, you had it set to eight. Sorry [you want the bird clippers on?]?

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, well you choose. OK.


JAMIE STONEY: In 20 years you’ll love me for this. Come on, smile. You all look like you’re at a funeral. Everybody say --

GARRETT: Cheese.

JAMIE STONEY: (snap) There we go.

GEORGE STONEY: I’m going to do it outside as well.

JAMIE STONEY: OK, yeah, I’ll pull this stuff.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: [Doesn’t it say this was at the Sacaford Mill? Is that what it says?]?

CLONINGER: Uh, how old are you?

GARRETT: Me? Sixty seven.

CLONINGER: Did you ever know Willy Presley at North Belmont, Wilmore Presley.



GARRETT: I can’t remember about that.

NULL: Who’d she marry? She married twice. (crosstalk)


HELFAND: No, no, no, when you were right out here in front.

GARRETT: (inaudible)

HELFAND: Where’s Phurman?

GARRETT: He didn’t know whether he was going to come or not.

HELFAND: Tell him to come on out.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Tell Phurman to come on out. (crosstalk)

GEORGE STONEY: I want you to explain to your aunt how we happened to get to you.


HELFAND: Just like we were doing inside.


LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: OK, how they got to know me is they, uh, got in touch with Ingle and that was Mickey and them, Uncle Julius’s boy. And then they, uh, got to Betty --

HELFAND: Actually it was with -- it started with Betty.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Oh Betty -- yeah, Betty [Hintson?]. And she thought this was mom. So she called us to have an interview with them and when I saw the picture, I know that’s not mom, that’s my Aunt Margaret. And that’s how they came about to meet you and everything, right? Anything else?

HELFAND: Can we just -- can we -- we were just talking inside about hush hush and how come no one’s really ever talked about this before and it took us bringing this picture.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Oh, well like I said, I was nine years old and I took care of the little boy a lot, but Aunt Margaret and them was going to the -- to the -- to the picket line, but I didn’t know what for. I never did know. They 108:00didn’t tell me and I never heard it until after me and Phurman was married. And I think he was talking about it one time, but we didn’t know that there was a union. I wasn’t but nine, so I wouldn’t have understood it anyway.

GEORGE STONEY: And why didn’t you ever talk to them about it?

GARRETT: We just never did talk about after it was all over. We just didn’t say too much about it. We wanted, you know, to forget about it.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: It was really a bad time in everybody’s life at that time.

GARRETT: It was a bad time and, uh -- and, uh, [we didn’t do us too good no way?], so we just wanted to forget about it. And even until now, we don’t talk about, you know, the bad times back then and the little we made at all.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: I bet you I’ve never said that to Douglas or Jerome or them because we hardly ever mention it to our kids, but we thought we was pretty well off.


GARRETT: The only reason that we -- we really -- when we talk about it, it makes us feel bad because we had such little, didn’t have very much. And it just makes us feel bad. So we just don’t talk about it.

HELFAND: What about talking about the union though? That’s the reason why it has been so hard for us to find all of you because a lot of people don’t want to talk about this.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Yeah, they don’t talk about it. I mean --

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: It’s just a bad time in their life. They just forget most of them. You know, you try to forget bad things and try to remember good things. And most of them just try to forget it because it was a bad time in their lives. And they had to go to a food line to get food for the kids. That’s not, you know, something you brag about.

HELFAND: Well the reason why we so much wanted to see you is because we thought that this proved that actually -- that you all were taking care of yourselves because the union was providing food and that you were able to take care of 110:00yourselves, not because you were helpless.

GARRETT: No, we always worked and took care of ourselves. We managed on what we made. We always managed to make a living and --

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: And very proud of it.

GARRETT: -- and very proud of it because, you know, we never depended on anybody else. We always worked and made a little for ourselves and everything.

HELFAND: Well I’ll tell you something else and I’m sure you can comment on this. We came to Belmont to look for people that had participated in the union. And maybe George could tell you.

GEORGE STONEY: Well we came to Belmont because we had the names of some people who had participated in the union. And we had a terrible time trying to find them.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Did you find any of them?

GEORGE STONEY: Oh yes, we found some.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: You did find some?

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: They found her and the woman in the picture.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: Well I mean, she wasn’t actually participating in the organizing of the union or nothing though.

HELFAND: But you remember.



GARRETT: No, I never did belong to the union but we always -- we were trying to get the union in the mill where we were.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: See they never did take any votes. There were never votes taken or no contract signed.

GARRETT: And that was the reason but we was trying, but for some reason or another, we just didn’t get it.

GEORGE STONEY: Well there are two ways of looking at this. One was that these were very bad times. Well the bad times were for a long time. You could also look on this as a time when people stood up for themselves for once.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: [Yeah, one time, yeah?].

GARRETT: That’s what I said they did.

GEORGE STONEY: And that’s what we’re trying to celebrate you see.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: Well that’s what I said she did and I was proud of her when I saw it like that.

HELFAND: Tell them about the article.

GEORGE STONEY: Well one of the ways we found people was by getting an article published in the Charlotte Observer.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Yeah, I remember Betty talking about that.


GEORGE STONEY: And that said that we were looking for people and we had an 800 number. And people started calling us. Betty Hinson called us and then wrote us.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: Yeah, and that’s where it started from.

GEORGE STONEY: That’s right and so connected with you and you connected with --

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: And Aunt Margaret and my mom.

HELFAND: We had this picture way before we ever had that article written. And we called people in the neighborhood because we had those names, but we could never find anybody. We started to think that, well, anybody who joined the union must’ve left town.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: No, there’s still a few around, not many. There’s not that many around.

LOUSIE BIGGERSTAFF: That’s what I told Aunt Margaret when I called her. I said, “Aunt Margaret, this is history, you ought to be proud of it that you did something about it. You was there doing something to make your life better. It wasn’t nothing to be ashamed of.”

GEORGE STONEY: How do you feel about that now?

GARRETT: Feel good.

HELFAND: Have you ever talked about this with people before?


GARRETT: Not really. No, not really. We just -- well it’s just something we just don’t talk about. Well they hadn’t really been around to ask us questions and all about it.

PHURMAN BIGGERSTAFF: I know some historian could’ve wrote a book about this if they would had the knowledge to do it, but I don’t know of anyone that can remember all that happened back then.


HELFAND: So there you are. There are you 58 years ago.

GARRETT: Fifty eight years ago

GEORGE STONEY: This truck is going to come and just kill us I’m afraid.

LOUISE BIGGERSTAFF: Here’s your picture. I’m looking for one just like it.