Legette Blythe and Charles Ward Interviews

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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LEGETTE BLYTHE: Yeah, (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: Was there a Frank Graham in your class?

BLYTHE: He was a -- Frank was -- I think he was a -- [I believe?], I think he was in a class or two ahead of me, and was -- was uh, an instructor. See, it was they had -- it was a hard time, they had a hard time getting faculty --



BLYTHE: -- everywhere. And uh, you -- you -- well, you -- anybody that was finished with school, young, too young to -- to get a commission, of course a lot -- a great number of them got commissions, at uh, probably under 21.


BLYTHE: But I was describing a spot that (inaudible) it’s hard to -- to define what it was. I haven’t had them yet.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, how well did you know, Frank Graham?

BLYTHE: Oh, just perfect, I mean just very close, yeah.


GEORGE STONEY: I knew him well at Chapel Hill too. Do you remember in ’34, during the strike, there was a fellow named Roy Lawrence?


GEORGE STONEY: Who was secretary of -- or something of the North Carolina Socialist Party?


GEORGE STONEY: And he was accused of -- he was accused of -- no, Alton Lawrence. I’m sorry, let’s start over here. Do you remember that during the strike --

BLYTHE: One named Roy Lawrence too? Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Roy Lawrence was head of the AF of L for the state.


GEORGE STONEY: But Alton Lawrence was -- had been a student at Chapel Hill, he was head of the Socialist Party for the state or something like that. And he was arrested in -- for, in High Point in connection with this strike, and Frank Graham went his bail, do you remember that?


BLYTHE: No. No. I probably -- there’s no telling what’s going to come back to me tonight. (laughter) I just wonder, I just -- I’ll be so full of memories and trying to organize them, to -- but the name, Lawrence, both of them, very familiar. Um, in -- in that field.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah. Well, Frank -- when Frank Graham did this, a fellow named Davey Clark, who was editor of the Southern Textile Bulletin --


GEORGE STONEY: -- really gave him hell.


GEORGE STONEY: Accused him of using his position at Chapel Hill for -- to head -- help the strikers.


BLYTHE: Yeah, there was a -- it was a wild time, it was -- and I -- as I say, (inaudible) not only on the academic side of it, I was out there taking the knocks. I’ll never forget that, that guy hit me, I had no idea he was going to hit me. But he knocked me smack off the sidewalk into the gutter, and I could have -- just could have flipped out.

GEORGE STONEY: (laughter) That wasn’t what you trained people for when you did bayonet drill at Chapel Hill, did it?

BLYTHE: No. We had -- we dug trenches over there. I still go by, my son lives 5:00right close to -- he lives in -- he’s got an amazing property that now, heaven knows what it would cost him to duplicate. He’s got a -- you stand on his balcony and look down the hill, up, down, and then on up to the other side, and he’s got a -- I don’t know how many acres; I expect 12 or 15 acres right there, maybe more. And that was all just wild woods then.

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

BLYTHE: (inaudible).


GEORGE STONEY: Well one of the things you’re saying here, on the sixth, Howard Paine, youthful leader of the strike in North Carolina, went to Concord late in the afternoon, and his lieutenants reported everything was quiet in Mecklinburg. In fact, no disorder was reported from any mill center in the state except Fayetteville. And again, you’re emphasizing the calm.

BLYTHE: Mm-hmm.

GEORGE STONEY: Now there’s a kind of funny thing here, oh yes, you remember Elliott White Springs?


GEORGE STONEY: He was a pretty colorful character, I gather. He was the World War I ace.

BLYTHE: Yeah. He was from around Fort Mill, wasn’t it?

GEORGE STONEY: That’s right, yes.


BLYTHE: Yeah, yeah. I -- I knew all those [birds?], just -- just as well as you could know anybody, I guess, but uh, how long has that been?

GEORGE STONEY: Well, it’s almost 60 years, uh, 58 years. That’s a long time.

BLYTHE: Especially when you grow right away from it.

GEORGE STONEY: Sure. Well let’s see what else we have here. Next, this is your writing on the 11th. Let’s see, did I miss some others? Wait a minute, your writing on the eighth here, Howard Paine asks strikers to be orderly.

BLYTHE: Mm-hmm.


GEORGE STONEY: In big headlines, “Young chief of movement in North Carolina declares lawlessness -- decries lawlessness, deplores lawlessness.”

BLYTHE: Well now, I didn’t write this, then.


BLYTHE: No, this doesn’t have a byline.

GEORGE STONEY: It doesn’t have a byline, and I wondered, it’s so much like your writing, I wondered if they just didn’t give you a byline.

BLYTHE: Might have been.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah, yeah. So, let’s move onto --

BLYTHE: A lot of that, editing (inaudible) that sometimes, once you hand in the copy on the desk over there, when (inaudible) you, I mean they didn’t know as much about it as they wanted -- as they were asking.

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm. Well now here’s another one on the 11th, uh, “Paine 9:00denies mills able to break strike.” And this is when they’re trying -- the troops are out now, and they’re trying to -- they’re trying to -- to break the strike. Did you -- we know that the mill owners armed a lot of deputies. They got a lot of people deputized that were working in the mills, and armed them.


GEORGE STONEY: Uh, you saw that, did you?

BLYTHE: I saw that.

GEORGE STONEY: Well how -- how were the strikers armed, or were they?


BLYTHE: Well yeah, they were -- they were -- I don’t -- I don’t -- don’t remember whether they were carrying them. See, some worked in the -- in the guise of -- of protecting property, watchmen, you might say. Uh, that’s what they were -- they were called by the management is uh, watchmen guarding the property. I haven’t -- I haven’t thought about any of this stuff, in (inaudible) as -- as soon as the thing broke, see, I -- well, my -- my whole 11:00life changed on the -- and that was a -- (inaudible) breakup in that, as far as the plans, that’s nice, but was supposed to be married the 20, 26th of May, 12:001926. In fact, I went to Greensboro, drove my T Model Ford, which I had a Ford dealer some time ago said if I kept that T Model Ford, it had a whole lot of brass, radiator and everything was solid brass, he said if you had kept that thing, it’d be worth over $100,000, he said you could get that right now, over $100,000 for that Ford. I paid uh, $500 or less, brand new. And it was a 13:00coupe. It had a seat in the rear, so that you got pretty much how it was. The whole world has really -- well, the whole world has just changed tremendously. I guess the world has changed more in the last 100 years than it had the -- in the 500 years or more before it. And --


BLYTHE: -- maybe since [the person there?]. I went to -- went overseas in 1925. And even now, every -- every few days, last night I saw pictures of the street in the -- in Venice that I remembered walking along, (inaudible). I remember so 14:00many places in Europe, I -- I’ll wake up in the night, or half awake, and I’ll be right there, walking up as a – its amazing, the human brain is -- and I get to wondering about the animals. I might say they have a tremendous memory and all that stuff. My daughter has a -- um, she’s got a cat that’s 15:00just amazing, as well as a dog. And that dog knows people, it -- it maybe hadn’t seen for years, they’ll -- they’ll show up, and he’ll just -- just have a fit over them.

GEORGE STONEY: You didn’t finish telling me the story about what happened when you were going to get married. You said you got that car.

BLYTHE: Oh, yeah. Um, went out, and went up (inaudible) my -- my brother-in-law, that’s my sister’s husband, was a professor of English NCW they called it then.

GEORGE STONEY: At Greensboro?

BLYTHE: Uh-huh, at Greensboro. It was on Tate Street. And uh, we drove up 16:00there, my sister was going to be in the wedding, she was 12 -- 12 years old. Anyway, I went up on the porch, and rang the bell, wasn’t anybody at home, and uh, in just a moment, the, her sister showed up, and said that uh, something had 17:00happened, but anyway, uh, no, Esther was supposed -- Esther was supposed to be there. And they said that she had gone to the public health office to get a certificate, and that uh, (inaudible) the doctor had her quarantined, found out she had German measles, she had broken all out.

GEORGE STONEY: (laughter).

BLYTHE: Just about (inaudible) shirt. (inaudible) mill, and he came just after I got there, a fellow came up with a big -- with a sign thing, big as that, and 18:00tacked it on the door, quarantined. Couldn’t even go in the house.

GEORGE STONEY: (laughter) Oh.

BLYTHE: And then uh, that was -- that was -- we -- that was the ’20s. Anyways, we got married the following uh, in five days later. Yes sir, I’ve had an adventuresome life to be so uh --


GEORGE STONEY: Now, there’s something I’m interested in here, in the -- let’s see, yes, on the 11th, you report that there’d been some attempt to dynamite here, “Early yesterday morning, someone placed a small dynamite charge in a drainpipe under the road leading to one of the mills from the highway, and blew out a section of the road.” This is uh, this is happening in King’s Mountain.

BLYTHE: Yeah. It was rough over there.

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm. Well, but not as rough -- as rough as some people would have liked it.



GEORGE STONEY: Because uh, let’s see, let’s see if on this, uh -- let’s see, yeah. There’s a note here, I want to find. This is on the -- the 13th, that’s (inaudible) Gastonia mills open, guarded by troops.

BLYTHE: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STONEY: That’s when you must have been over there, and -- and got -- got knocked. But uh, yeah. Newsreel man bored. (laughter) “The lack of disorders and the presence of only pickets who appear to be on a picnicking jaunt, rather than the serious business of preventing the operation -- opening of the mills, has been a deep, deep disappointment to visiting newsreel men, who 21:00declared that if something doesn’t happen, their bosses in New York will begin to think this strike business was just a dream, after all.”

BLYTHE: Mm-hmm.

GEORGE STONEY: “Which many people, especially the general public, devoutly wished it might be true. Time after time, they had dashed hither and yon over the Carolinas, Kannapolis, [Marian?], Spindale, Cornelius, Greenville, Fort Mill, Pineville, Huntsville, Gastonia, and nothing has happened anywhere.”

BLYTHE: And at Huntsville?

GEORGE STONEY: Yes, uh-huh.

BLYTHE: Mm-hmm.

GEORGE STONEY: “And nothing has happened anywhere except at Honea Path South Carolina, and they were not there then when it happened. The contrast, this strike, with the 1929 troubles, is painful to them, but visiting Tar Heel reporters preferred the present variety.”

BLYTHE: Mm-hmm.

GEORGE STONEY: So these newsreel men, knowing about the 1929 strike, all rushed 22:00into Gastonia, thinking they were going to get some violence.

BLYTHE: Yeah, I wonder if I wrote.

GEORGE STONEY: This is from your story, yeah?

BLYTHE: I -- I probably wrote -- some of these things sort of sound like I did. Um --

GEORGE STONEY: See, this is the story as it begins, and goes down here.

BLYTHE: Oh yeah. Well I -- I thought I recognized it.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah. Tell you what I’m going to do. In a little while, I’m going to take all of these pages of your stories, we’ll go out and get a copy, and we’ll leave it with you, and then maybe you can -- we can come back again, and we can talk after you go over it.

BLYTHE: Well good.

GEORGE STONEY: But this is particularly funny to me, because we have newsreel footage of a lot of this stuff that they took, you see. And it all is violent. They tried to make it violent.


BLYTHE: Uh-huh. Well what are you going to use this for now?

GEORGE STONEY: We’re going to be making a film about this period.

BLYTHE: But what will you use it for, I mean?

GEORGE STONEY: Oh, it’s go -- it’ll go on public television.

BLYTHE: (inaudible). Would you have any demand for -- well, there’s one that it’s all in how you handle it, I guess.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, you see, the Southern States Humanities Council, the groups who have given us the money to do this. They and the Smith Reynolds Foundation. Because they think it’s important that people know.

BLYTHE: Oh, well this is a -- this is a scholarly project.

GEORGE STONEY: That’s right.

BLYTHE: Rather than entertainment.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, they think that it’s --

BLYTHE: Or both.

GEORGE STONEY: Well we hope it’s both. They think it’s important that the public know something about the history of -- of labor organization in this state, and well, in the South.

BLYTHE: Uh-huh.


GEORGE STONEY: And so, that’s what we’re trying to do. And as I say, your reports have been the most even-handed we’ve been able to find.

BLYTHE: Well, I appreciate that.

GEORGE STONEY: So what I’ll do is --

BLYTHE: What I did, uh, I never did go on any sensational stuff, but although I was in on it, but I -- I tried to keep it factual.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, it’s -- I’ll tell you --

JAMIE STONEY: I’d like to get you into the business today, because that’s what they tell us to do. No bang-bang, no five o’clock news.

GEORGE STONEY: But, we have a -- an -- I’m going to cut this because we’ll do this, let me show you some pictures we’ve got. Just a moment. Yeah.

JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: One here. This is from La Grange, Georgia. You know where that is?

BLYTHE: More or less.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, it’s uh, southwest of Atlanta.



GEORGE STONEY: And it was where the Calloways operated, you know, they had the big mills there. And they, it turns out, they hired a newsreel cameraman to come down there to intimidate the strikers.

BLYTHE: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STONEY: They built a platform over the gate and asked this man to come down and photograph people, or pretend like he was photographing them. Well he tells us, we’ve -- we’ve had an interview with him, he’s 82 now, and he tells us what he looked for. He says, I look for the angriest strikers, I look for somebody that might look like he had a gun, and so forth. He said, I tried to make it violent, because that’s what the newsreels wanted. They didn’t want -- they wanted excitement.

BLYTHE: Now you can tell this boy right here’s not -- not angry at all.

GEORGE STONEY: No, sure. (laughter) But he would focus, you see, on -- on the faces.


BLYTHE: Uh-huh. Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Now this is what happened after the strike in La Grange, is evictions. People got thrown out of their houses. Do you remember any of that in your area?

BLYTHE: This -- this family seems very familiar to me, but I don’t know.


GEORGE STONEY: Now this is in La Grange, Georgia. Now let’s see, here’s some other stuff from your area, right up here. Uh, this is -- these are two women who’ve come to the -- to the union to get food.

BLYTHE: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STONEY: And we talked with this woman yesterday. The day before yesterday.

BLYTHE: Seems like a, a...


GEORGE STONEY: And she told us about how she -- the food she got for that -- that day.

BLYTHE: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STONEY: Now here’s -- here’s something that seems to have been a surprise to everybody, and that is how many people turned out for Labor Day in Gastonia.


GEORGE STONEY: That was a big Labor Day parade. And we have footage of that, we have motion picture footage.

BLYTHE: Yeah, I was over there with this, I’m pretty sure.

GEORGE STONEY: So nobody seemed to be -- realize now that there were hundreds of locals, of textile locals in North Carolina in ’33, ’34.

BLYTHE: Uh-huh.


GEORGE STONEY: And that people today aren’t aware that there were that many people who joined the union and marched in the parade. Let’s see.

BLYTHE: You really done some work on this thing.

GEORGE STONEY: And let’s see, that’s another parade. But let’s see, get to some of the others. Oh yes, this is in Municipal Park, now Lineberger Park. And uh, all those locals with their signs up.

BLYTHE: Mm-hmm.

GEORGE STONEY: You see, when we go back to Gastonia and we ask -- show these people these pictures, they don’t -- they’re hard to remember then, all they 30:00remember is Sheriff -- Sheriff Adderholt got killed in 1929. That seems to be all.


GEORGE STONEY: Now here’s your man, here’s a man you kept writing about. No, this is Albert Henson, not Howard Paine, Albert Henson, do you remember him? You mentioned him in a couple of your stories. That’s the caption there.


BLYTHE: How’d you ever get interested in this thing?

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, well I’ve been making movies about the South since 1946, when I -- Nick Reed, who was a fellow classmate at Chapel Hill, started a little film unit at the University of Georgia.

BLYTHE: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STONEY: And I started making films there, and then I’ve been making films most of my life, coming back to the South every once in a while, and so these scholars who are working on this asked me if I would take it on. And so, I’ve been working on it for the last three years.

BLYTHE: Well they sure lucky to get somebody equipped like you are to handle it.


GEORGE STONEY: Well, I’m lucky because I have a research assistant named Judy Helfand, who has found a lot of this material.

BLYTHE: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STONEY: You’ll meet her the next time we come. And also, I’m lucky to have uh, my son James behind the camera here, who has the patience to put up with me, so. (laughter) So, this is -- this is the big meeting in Charlotte, uh, which you wrote about. That’s two days before the strike began, and you describe it.


BLYTHE: Now let me see, I remember...seems to me I remember -- now see, this -- there’s nobody mad at any of these things --



BLYTHE: -- you’ll notice. These are probably newsmen, that couldn’t be me, could it?

GEORGE STONEY: (laughter) I don’t...

BLYTHE: The first one.

GEORGE STONEY: (laughter).

BLYTHE: Might be.

GEORGE STONEY: You weighed a little bit more then than you do now.

BLYTHE: No, I weighed -- that’s another thing, strange thing, I weighed about uh, I haven’t changed, I guess, 10, 15 pounds, in -- since the -- oh, the ’20s.


BLYTHE: Uh, I think I have. Not much, anyway.

GEORGE STONEY: Oh, you’re lucky.

JAMIE STONEY: Tell me your secret.

BLYTHE: I’m just -- I don’t know, I’ve been active, I -- I walk a lot.

GEORGE STONEY: This is Belmont. You remember where the -- you described, went over there and described how the fellow got uh, bayoneted by the National Guard?


BLYTHE: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

GEORGE STONEY: And that’s in Belmont. (pause) And let’s see, here’s a scene, I wonder if you can describe for us. Did you see anything like that? That’s a strike relief place, where they fed them.

BLYTHE: (inaudible).




GEORGE STONEY: And here’s a man you wrote a lot about. Let me get this out. This is uh, yeah, this is Howard Paine, the many you put in the headlines quite often. See, it names -- names him there. (pause) And this is a scene that you 38:00-- that’s in Kannapolis, you see, with the machine guns.

BLYTHE: Mm-hmm.

GEORGE STONEY: But you saw the same thing, I believe, in Gastonia, didn’t you?


BLYTHE: Yeah. I was in all of that. Yeah. (pause)


GEORGE STONEY: As I say, that’s in Kannapolis, and we also have the same kind of thing from Gastonia, from the -- the machine guns.

BLYTHE: Mm-hmm.

GEORGE STONEY: So, all of that emphasizes violence, you see, and what we’re trying to say is that uh, there was -- this was going on, but there were also attempts to -- to handle things peaceably.

BLYTHE: Uh-huh. Keep it quiet.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah. What do you think would have happened if Governor Ehringhaus had not sent the troops?


BLYTHE: It would have been a terrible, I don’t know. So many of the people, just citizens, not involved in the thing, because well, everybody was involved, that was a -- that was the problem, I guess. The troops and all came the same -- same bunch of people, whatever they were doing, it was all from the same general crowd.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now, in a number of places, including Belmont, there were the -- you reported that there were prominent citizens and the American Legion and so forth who organized vigilante groups.


BLYTHE: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I (inaudible) what the night now, and what the (inaudible) I’ll have a mixture.


JAMIE STONEY: Yeah, OK. Do you think by calling in the Guard, um, together, do you think the Guard caused more problems than they stopped?

BLYTHE: No. I don’t know. You can -- you can weigh all that stuff, and when you get through weighing it, you still got the same -- you still got a whole mess of stuff.



JAMIE STONEY: Well, because we’ve heard of groups of people, such as the 100 [mean men?] who were company thugs, basically private Pinkerton guards, and we’ve seen pictures of men armed -- workers armed with little more than picket sticks and axe handles going up against uh, machine guns and tear gas. And frank, a lot of times, the machine guns were not -- were armed by -- were held by private citizens, who were --

BLYTHE: Uh-huh.

JAMIE STONEY: -- you know, do you -- what is your opinion on that? Do you think that’s why he sent the Guard in?

BLYTHE: Oh, I don’t -- I think it’s just a general situation, and I don’t -- I don’t know how you can pick any particular incident of a situation that 44:00precipitated, I don’t know. I guess there was. But um, the whole -- the whole atmosphere of the time is just a -- just -- just a stir. You know. Well, like a -- before, Carolina-Duke football game, or something. No, he got a -- at least, I mean, in the old days. I don’t know, now I -- I can’t say anything about now, because I can’t say anything about it, I can’t say anything about 45:00uh, driving a car. I haven’t driven -- driven a car in the last 20 -- probably 20 years. And I had my own one, and I don’t know. Um, and I -- I’ve been in the middle of everything, but just uh, I just wonder what I am, like I said, I wonder what on Earth [I’m going to be?].


BLYTHE: Tonight.

GEORGE STONEY: Is there a Xerox place in -- in town here?

BLYTHE: Well, there’s bound to be.


(break in audio)


BLYTHE: It’s all right. I’d rather go somewhere else, anyway. I’d rather go somewhere else anyhow. I’d just rather get that going, sitting down up there. (inaudible). Ho, ho, ho.


(phone rings)

F1: Hello? Yeah. Uh-huh. (inaudible). What? Yeah, (inaudible).

BLYTHE: I’d rather be.


F1: OK. Yeah, (inaudible).

BLYTHE: Who was that? Sister? I thought it was.

F1: (inaudible). (pause)

BLYTHE: I don’t know, I just --

(break in audio)


F1: (inaudible).


BLYTHE: A state. I don’t know, state, it’s a state thing, I think. State. It’s --








CHARLES WARD: To 1948, ’49, ’50. The other church, Firestone, was right down the street from where my mother lives on Weldon Street now. That was the old Firestone church, and then the Loray Baptist was up there, and then the Presbyterian was over there at the Firestone took care of three churches there, Firestone (inaudible). And the three churches, Baptist, Presbyterian, and uh, Wesleyan Methodist.

GEORGE STONEY: All funded by Firestone?

WARD: All funding, the land given, too, by Firestone. The building, the land, it was all given by Firestone.

GEORGE STONEY: Now did the Firestone have anything to do with how they operated?

WARD: No, Firestone gave it to them to operate the way they wanted to, and they -- when they deeded all the lands over, they deeded them, I do know that they 55:00deeded the lands over. Now, on the one in uh, Gastonia, uh, the -- uh, Wesleyan Methodist church was on Weldon Street. It was uh, my mother lives at 303 now, the first house on the right, as you go off of Weldon, off of Second Avenue, as you go up there about 10 houses, the church was -- was standing there.

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm, 303 uh --

WARD: It’s where my mother lives.

GEORGE STONEY: -- what’s the name of the street?

WARD: South Weldon Street.


WARD: Yeah, it’s the first house off of uh, Second Avenue, on your right.

GEORGE STONEY: And she’s -- and she’s still there?

WARD: Yeah.


WARD: And as you go on up there, about 10 houses, there was a church, and you go on down the ball field, and a big tank there. But the church was in there, it was a little long church, yeah, and when we get back and you start recording, tell me you ready.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. We’re ready.

WARD: Oh, you’re ready?


WARD: OK, you want me to tell you about that church then? OK, uh, my daddy, uh, was I guess the janitor of the church. He kept (inaudible) that’s where we went to church. So, that was his job, everybody had jobs. Well we took care of 56:00the church. And uh, so to take care of the church, I mean, my daddy was the supervisor, that’s what he done at the mill. But, his children took care of the church, too. And when he -- he went into the church, we had to go, we had jobs to do in that church, we dusted it, and we picked up the songbooks, and we done all this, and do it, did all that. And uh, every time them church doors opened, I don’t care if they had -- they had a church service 15 times a week, I had to be there. All my -- my family had to be there. We didn’t have any choice, uh, we -- were told we’d be there. And they made me do those things. And uh, we -- the church had the beliefs then, as uh, a kid, I mean some people have -- have, I believe the Wesleyan Methodist church at that time did, women couldn’t wear makeup, women wore no rings, I don’t know whether you know, they didn’t cut their hair. Hair had to be long, uh, you couldn’t go to no 57:00movie, you couldn’t go to -- you couldn’t go to -- you couldn’t dance, you couldn’t -- well you couldn’t go to the fair, you couldn’t do anything, you couldn’t. And uh, I was made to be in those places, and I said if I ever get out, I won’t go back. And I seen uh, through the churches, not -- not just that one, Firestone (inaudible) through the uh, uh, the Presbyterian church up on the corner. They were all -- they were all constantly criticizing each other. They were -- to me, I thought Christians, you know, were supposed to be uh, Christians, what they told me. And uh, but yet I saw fights all the time among these churches. Then, not only the fights among the churches, you saw the -- the fights in the -- in the church, the -- the bickering, the jealousy in the churches. Who was going -- who was going to lead the singing this uh, this 58:00time? Who was going to sing? Who was going to do this, who was going to do that? They fought over it. I mean they really -- these people, they were mad. They’d come home, and I’ve seen them at home, I’ve seen them in the churches, criticize each other, you know, these just put your self off, so and so wanted to hear so and so do this. That’s what went on in the churches.

GEORGE STONEY: I thought that uh, living in a mill village was -- you lived on a mill hill, didn’t you?

WARD: Yeah, that was right in the middle.

GEORGE STONEY: I thought they was all like one happy family.

WARD: No, no, no. You had three -- like I say, Firestone had three churches. There was three separate -- they were the Presbyterian, Baptist, or Wesleyan Methodist. Um, and that’s -- that was their belief, they -- one would throw off on the other one, they’d get to church, and I mean, because I was a kid, I’d say well they -- they -- they didn’t believe in what the Baptists believed in, they didn’t believe in what the Presbyterian, and they -- they let you know, they would meet out on the street, they were a happy family. You 59:00know, they were happy then, but when they got into church, it was criticizing, there was all this stuff was -- it was always, it was a constant uh, I don’t know how you -- it was a constant, you seen it in the church, the bickering between people, they didn’t come to love, they come to -- one come to be mad at the -- at the other because they didn’t get to do something. The other one did. I want -- I want to run -- I want to lead the singing this week. So and so did, she put herself in there. I was supposed to sing this solo.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, when -- when those same people got together, uh, in -- on the hill, or in the mill, did that make any difference?

WARD: I really don’t know how -- how much uh, difference it made in the uh, mill. Uh, I know that at times, that uh, I know they did do uh, they would go 60:00times without talking to each other sometimes, but most of the time, they were supportive of uh, of each other. Uh, when something would happen, they’d be right there to go with the others, but then they had a lot of bickering in themselves, but I don’t know how you explain it, but it was uh, it was kind of like that, you’d have a -- they would be ready to support you if something happened to one of you, or things like that, they’d be all in there to help you. I mean, you were happy and working at Firestone, you were a family.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, Firestone, was that supposed to be a prestigious job, or?

WARD: Yeah, Firestone was a -- was a -- a -- I think the (inaudible) at one time, there was -- there was 130-some mills in Gastonia, I believe. Might have been 150-something, but about 50-something of them was in the city limits there. Firestone was the main mill in all Gastonia. If you worked at Firestone, you 61:00worked at the best. There was no other best, Firestone was the best.

GEORGE STONEY: And your father, uh, tell us how he got to the uh, mill hill, and then what he did in the mill.

WARD: Well my dad came down there from uh, the mountains, up in uh, [Royalton?], uh, Caroline Spindale, right up in there. And his mother was down there too, and his uh, sisters, uh, and they worked there at the mill. Now my -- his mother lived with me, uh, with us, she took care of me. And he was uh, working there at uh, at Loray, and my mother, that’s where they got uh, married. And uh, during that uh, time, uh, my dad started off just a worker in the mill, and then he went to a fixer, what they call a fixer, then he was a -- a doffer, a 62:00doffer pulled bobbins off a spinning frame. Then he was a second hand -- section hand, over a section of those things, and then a second hand of -- a second hand is a shift in the spinning room he was in, uh, as a -- as a foreman of that shift. Uh, if he had say 100 spinners, I’m just using -- if he has 100 spinners, uh, those spinners spin the frames, he has uh, say 50 doffers and so forth. Well, he runs that -- that’s on his shift, and spinning was three -- three second hands in a -- in a mill, first, second, and third shift, because this run three shifts, Firestone did. And then there’s one overseer, well the overseer answered to the -- to the superintendent of the mill, but the section hands, second hands, ran the shifts. And it’s be uh, the doffers that, like I 63:00said, and they’d bust the [rope hangers?], the sweepers, and everything. And uh, the workers in there, my mother worked so many frames, uh, they worked these spinning frames, and they’d come down, and they got paid, you know, on the hanks, and if it uh, as they doffers them off, she’d always want -- the doffers would (inaudible) to make sure she had good doffers. Because when that frame stopped down, she stopped getting paid on that.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, when -- that meant that your -- that a second hand was in a pretty powerful position.

WARD: Oh yeah. He was -- he paced the workers out there, and he could uh, control their work, so you -- you did see sometimes some of them say so and so does something for so and so he don’t do for these, that’s about the only thing, uh, you heard in the mills, it was uh, they was doing wrong. Um, now Daddy worked up there -- worked in there until he retired, I -- I never will forget when he got to be -- we called him the boss. Well when you were uh, when 64:00you -- you go from the -- the men, uh, wore overalls back then, you know, you know what a pair of overalls are?


WARD: And uh, high bib overalls. And uh, Daddy had always wore them overalls up there, and my daddy’s a real -- a real neat, particular dresser, and he -- when he died, he had oodles of clothing to cope with. But when Daddy was promoted up there, and took over the job, they told him he had to wear a white shirt. And so my daddy did, he come to work with his overalls and a white shirt on. I do know that, I remember it to this day, my daddy put a white shirt on under the overalls.

GEORGE STONEY: Were you proud?

WARD: Yeah, I was proud of him. And uh, I was proud of him because uh, like I 65:00said, I’m going to go jump here a minute, I was proud of that, but he went on through the years, and he worked, and he did his job and everybody -- everybody thought so much of him. And even in retirement, he was at quality control, he was head of quality control when he died. When -- not when he died, when he retired. And then he left there, and a week after he left, he went to work in another job, and worked until he died at Belk’s, fixing clothes --


WARD: -- making clothes for people, I mean, getting clothes together in the men’s department, and that’s where he accumulated all his clothes, because he loved clothes so much.


WARD: But uh, uh, all -- all those things, and I was proud, the reason I was proud of him, like I told -- I said, started to say before, uh, there wasn’t as much, I didn’t see, I did see the -- I know there was a lot of racism in Gastonia, um, I didn’t see it much, and my daddy told us, always respect 66:00anybody, and no matter what it was. And we had uh, black people work-- and their family, all three of us children, all this time, and uh, he made us respect them, and we did. And uh, I do know that the fountains, like -- and you go in the Belk’s, the big stores, got uh, one for black and one for white, and I would sometimes, you know, would wonder why they did those things, why they went to the back of the bus. Uh, and I heard my dad speak that, but the only thing I never heard -- and this was -- this was a real -- like I said, a real Christian community, I never heard anybody, when the war come along, we were preached, you know, unto about the war. You had drills every night, uh, you had, uh, I don’t know whether you knew about the food stamps, we had food stamps, uh, stamps to get shoes. Now I couldn’t keep shoes on. And I know that hurt my daddy to go have to buy -- it wasn’t a dollar and a half that he paid for the stamp to have to buy a stamp on the black market from somebody to 67:00buy me some shoes, because I didn’t have any shoes to put on.


WARD: And uh, I -- I got those books, those food stamp books.


WARD: And I know the pains that he had with them food stamp books. A lot of people don’t know those pains he had. And I know this. When -- and they talked about (inaudible). There was more, so I didn’t hear anybody, I heard them say we’re going to the war, we went to war because Hitler this, and Hitler was bombing the ships-- Hitler’s bombing England, and things like this. And I’m just a youngster, but they didn’t -- I didn’t hear any of them saying at uh, at the times, I didn’t hear any of them saying uh, Hitler called all these Jews over there. Nobody was mentioning the Jews -- nobody thought 68:00about the Jewish people, uh, that bothered me more than anything, and it -- and the thing is, uh, the way that people talked about him, I couldn’t understand it. I’d say here it is, here’s Christian people ignoring other people, and I -- I couldn’t understand those things. It just didn’t -- it didn’t figure out. I -- my brother and sister, my daddy sent them off to high school with the church’s help. They sent them to Wesleyan Methodist College in Central South Carolina. And that was -- my destiny was to, they said, was to there. And I said, my destiny’s not to the -- go to the Wesleyan Methodist school. Back -- and there was no way, you didn’t have student loans, you didn’t have no -- if you didn’t have a scholarship, college is never mentioned. I always thought what I would do, of how I knew what I was going to 69:00do, and I -- but I didn’t think that way, and I knew when they offered me to Central, and I said no, I will not go to Central, and it got to the point, I left home. And I joined the Army, with my daddy’s blessings, my mother hollering at my daddy because he signed for me to go, and she was still fussing at him when I come back from Korea. I got back from Korea in 1952, and the first of February, I was over there all of ’51. And I -- they had a lot of things there, I -- I got -- I had papers, they had uh, my pictures on the front page, and they had a Christmas tree up for me in February, and all those things. But uh, I still, my mother was still fussing at my daddy for signing the papers for me to go to Korea.


GEORGE STONEY: Now tell me a bit about what your father did in the mill, in terms other than just his job.

WARD: Well um, if we -- we went, we go back to -- to how my -- my dad uh, I guess it was after the ’29 strike, everybody was really messed up over that, uh, it happened there. And uh, I guess you know all what happened in the strike, I can tell you about what happened in the strike that he had told me.

GEORGE STONEY: What did he tell you?

WARD: Yeah, he told me what happened in the strike, well let me get -- let me -- let me go back here and set a -- set a little stage. You been over to Firestone, you went and seen where the plant is. Well, across, as you come to the flat, the top of the hill there, you look over the mill, it’s five stories tall there. Um, across the street from the mill, that’s a parking lot now, there was one house on that street over more to the left, in the little parking 71:00down here at the end, because there wasn’t many cars back then, that was just for the overseers and that. But there was uh, one house there, and in ’42, I lived there, in front of the mill. And uh, while I was there, I’d uh, while -- while the time that I was -- I was in that, my grandmother died there, but if you lived and come off of that hill, and come down, over on the right, left, there’s a park, you know, the playground.


WARD: There was a swimming pool in there that was about a -- a foot up to where we could go and play, and there was a merry-go-round, and things, and there was a little hut there for the kids. Well the next block over in front of it, there was a -- a community house, a community building, that’s a parking lot now, but it was a big community house there. And across the street in front of that 72:00community house, there was two houses, one little house, and one on the corner, that’s Mr. [Pashmore’s?] house, that’s where Mr. Pashmore lived. And uh, I don’t know whether his family still lives there and has that property now, but that’s where they lived was right there, across the street on the next -- see the street running down there, and then right up across the street there is -- in the strike, (inaudible) getting to it, that’s where then, my mother, Daddy, and grandmother lived. Well over in front of that community house is where the National Guard set up their tents and the things when they came into Gastonia. Now, from what they told me, my daddy said that the strike came in, and it was a -- a Communist-lead textile workers union, that was the name he 73:00called it. And he told me that uh, they come in and they just did from one thing to the other, signing people up and getting them into the union, and he said that uh, he told me how people -- people knew about it, and how uh, because they brought a lot of outsiders came in, and uh, there was a -- there were a lot of fights going on, and uh, he said that the uh, they had a -- he wasn’t -- he wasn’t in it, he didn’t -- he didn’t go up there and participate in -- in the, in the fights and things. My daddy wasn’t that kind of person. And uh, he said that the night that -- he told me the night that the shooting occurred, and uh, that the -- the people had planned on going in there, those are the 74:00words he told me, they were going to bomb the mill, with the things. And as they would go bomb the mill, uh, the 100 Club, there was 100 people in the -- what they called 100 Club that was to protect the mill. And uh, they fired into the 100 Club, and the 100 Club uh, with the chief of police, was over with the 100 Club, it was protecting the mill, they fired uh, back, the chief of police was killed over on this side. And Ella Mae Wiggins, I believe it was her name, Wiggins, I know that she was from Vesper City, not Gastonia, she was from Vesper City, she was on the truck that was coming to bomb the mill. Now that’s the 75:00way they told -- told it to me.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, did your father tell you any more about what the 100 Club was?

WARD: Yeah, he told me the 100 Club was the uh, the strikers was trying to guarantee protection for the -- for the mill, and for the people there.

GEORGE STONEY: Who was in the 100 Club?

WARD: I don’t know.


WARD: I really don’t know anybody else in -- in the 100 Club other than -- I didn’t ask if he knew, of course, my mother might know some of the uh, 100 Club. Uh, but I would imagine it’s the same people that I knew that were a little more um, physical than my daddy. My daddy wasn’t a -- a real physical type, but -- so I would think that it was uh, it was those guys and it would be the same -- the same men that were grouped around my daddy, and I’d think it’d be the same men that uh, ran his uh, Golden Rule association, which we’re going to get up to it. I would think all of those were the same, and I 76:00-- that were in the -- the 100 Club, that’s the way they put it to me.

GEORGE STONEY: Mm-hmm. But they were all employees of the company?

WARD: They were employees of the company. And the outsiders was the union, uh, was the union brought in those outsiders. And uh, we -- of course, I know there was some strikers in there, had to be. Because I don’t guess they could have had a strike without it, I mean we -- I don’t know back then, but uh, I know that they were the -- they called them strikers, um, but uh, it’s like this woman was in there.

GEORGE STONEY: Now one thing I could never figure out, just talking about that ’29 strike, it was clearly Communists.

WARD: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, it was not a secret that it was Communists.


GEORGE STONEY: How in the Dickens did they get people who were so closely 77:00identified with Christianity to go along?

WARD: You got a good point there, one of the best I’ve seen. How do you get Christians to say one thing and do another?


WARD: How do you get Christians to say get up on the pulpit and be a -- be a head of a whole denomination and say another man that’s -- that’s another faith won’t go to Heaven?


WARD: His prayers are not heard, how do you get that?


WARD: God didn’t put you on the Earth to do those things.


WARD: But uh, I -- I -- we believe he put us on here to have wars, and to do these things. That’s what -- that’s what it comes down to, he’s -- he’s kind of busy, they think we’re only here to have -- have wars and fight, he said he’s a man that loves, I can’t understand, if he’s a man of love, and why are they going to be fighting all these wars? We’ve got wars fighting right now, Protestants and Catholics fighting over in Ireland.

GEORGE STONEY: That’s right.

WARD: That’s all it is, a fight. Every war you’ve seen has been Christian-related. Look in Beirut now. Look at all them wars, they’re holy 78:00wars. If that’s holy war, that’s what God wants. I mean, I -- I don’t uh, I don’t see that. Uh, and I don’t see uh, a -- well, I don’t want to go into other -- other beliefs, but I -- I -- I just don’t see it, that’s -- how that happened, and everybody knew that that was a Communist-lead -- lead strike.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, could you tell me then, after that, uh, when the unions tried to come in again around ’33.

WARD: Thirty-four, ’33, ’34.

GEORGE STONEY: That’s right. It started -- you see, the way it started as far as the historians tell me is that the NRA came in, Roosevelt’s thing.

WARD: That’s right. President Roosevelt came in.

GEORGE STONEY: And they had a -- a code for the textile industry, which says that they’re going to reduce the hours of work --

WARD: Work.

GEORGE STONEY: -- from 60 to 40, they were going to put a minimum wage of -- of $11.

WARD: Well I -- I --


GEORGE STONEY: And they’re going to do away with child labor, and they’re going to limit --

WARD: You know it took a long thing -- time though for that to go on up.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah. That’s right. They were going to limit the hours that a machine could operate to 80, so they wouldn’t have over-production, and the big thing for this was that -- was a section called 7A, which says that the -- that unions were -- had a right to exist, the people had a right to form unions.

WARD: That’s right. Now people had the right to form unions, but now if you remember, I don’t know whether you remember or not, but uh, in that strike of ’34, that wasn’t just Firestone, see that strike of ’34, I don’t know how far it reached.

GEORGE STONEY: All over the country.

WARD: Well that’s what I’m saying, I don’t know it, so that wouldn’t be -- you can’t say that was just Firestone’s un -- uneasiness --

GEORGE STONEY: That’s right.

WARD: -- because what my daddy told me, Firestone closed its doors when the -- 80:00when they called the strike all over the country, all over uh, his area, is what he told me. And -- but I know that it wasn’t just Firestone, now I know that some people didn’t honor that strike, and Cannon mills in Kannapolis didn’t. Dan River Cotton Mill, in Dan, Virginia, didn’t. Because uh, my daddy went to Kannapolis and worked during that strike. And now, that wasn’t a -- a mean shooting, like -- like the other, but uh, he went to Kannapolis and worked, my uncle, my mother’s brother, went to Dan River and worked. Uh, he came back, they both came back, (inaudible) Firestone opened the doors, and I know Kannapolis then tried to get my daddy back up there to -- to work, and my uncle stayed just a little while at Firestone, and he left and went back to Dan River, 81:00and I know Dan River offered my daddy um, a whole series of jobs if he would go there. And I know Kannapolis did, my daddy said for his family, he would stay with Firestone. And when he came back, that’s when we got to the Golden Rule Association.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell me about the Golden Rule Club.


HELFAND: (inaudible).


WARD: Well um, I -- I’m not -- I’d have to look at those -- I haven’t read those papers but uh, once maybe, and uh, but I know --

GEORGE STONEY: Start off with saying the Golden Rule Club.

WARD: The Golden Rule Association was started back in maybe 30-- the last -- ’35, ’36, ’37, right in there. I’d have to look at these -- my papers that I’ve got in the room in here, that my daddy has the meetings of those uh, meetings. What that was is, uh, they had -- they had to have a way, they didn’t have a union, they had to have a way to get to management, to tell 82:00management things that they needed, what was happening. What really, what the problems was. And to help each other, that was uh, that was why it was the Golden Rule Association. It’s like, we go back to this uh, religious bickering, you go to the golden rule, still put the uh, people that worked for the mill back into uh, one body. They bickered at church, but they were in one body when they come to the mill. Uh, they -- you didn’t mess with the mill, with Firestone employees there, that was just it. And uh, so uh, my dad started the Golden Rule Association, he helped start it. He become the first president of it. He was elected president the first -- of the Golden Rule Association, that’s how the name come out, the golden rule, we gonna live by -- it was 83:00always said, live by the golden rule. You had rulers that said golden rule.


WARD: And he lived by the golden rule. And do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. That was the golden rule.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us what they did.

WARD: All right, they -- they formed, and when they had agreements, they went to Mr. [McCabe?], he was the superintendent of the mill. My dad went to him, to him personally, tell him what the problems. McCabe would say, I’ll get back to you. He got back, and -- and he’d straighten them out. If they had a problem, I think the first thing I read about in that book was in a weaving room. I had an uncle that was head of the weaving room, and uh, they had a problem in the weaving room, and instead of going to my uncle, they went to the boss, you know, the big boss. And told him what the problem was, that -- something about working the workers too much, or doing this and that, and the machines, and they fixed it. Well the next thing, they took up the dues, they 84:00didn’t have -- there wasn’t much money, I can tell you what it is in the bank in a little bit. Uh, they -- they took these -- this money and fetched, somebody couldn’t pay a -- somebody had to go to a doctor or something, didn’t have any money, they -- there was no insurance or nothing back then. They paid -- helped pay them -- helped that family pay the bills. They’d take some food to the families that didn’t have uh, food. Uh, people did those things back then, that was what the golden rule was. Churches done those things back then.

GEORGE STONEY: Now did uh, the mills, the mill contribute to the Golden Rule Club?

WARD: No. Uh, this was the people, that’s what the -- but the people were telling the Golden Rule we want these things, we want you to start giving us some of these things, so the mill went to them, they telling the mill they wanted insurance, they wanted to get some form of help. And the mills give them 85:00-- this is what led all around to getting these things. They were telling the mill what they needed, they were holding uh, dances down there, which my -- my daddy couldn’t go, or didn’t go to, and he’s the president of the Golden Rule Association. They would hold, and he would have a dance down at the clubhouse for people to come to and pay a little bit of money, to make money for the Golden Rule Association. Yet we couldn’t go because of our religion, you see. And they’d hold fish fries -- uh, fish fries and different things like that.

GEORGE STONEY: Now that -- you have a kind of a gazebo thing out where the band used to play.

WARD: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: What’s that, the --

WARD: Uh, the band played -- that was down at the, uh, on the other side of the park there was a little gazebo out there, on the other side of the park. After it went, the uh, used to be a lot of -- there was a big dormitory in there, too, right where that -- it’s behind, over beside that park, you know, it’s a -- 86:00I think it’s still a field in there.


WARD: Then on up the street, the second -- Franklin Avenue there, there was a big dormitory for single men, it had three uh, three sections in that dormitory if I remember correctly. And that’s where people that worked in the mill uh, that didn’t have families, they lived in the uh, dormitory. Other people had families, they lived in the houses, and of course, uh, Firestone was -- like I say, they’re a community, the reason nobody in Gastonia compare with Firestone, their houses was kept up, they uh, um, they painted their houses, if you needed a plumber, you called the mill, there was a plumbing department, if you needed an electrician, you called an electrician, electrical department, and all that came in there, and it was so much on the paycheck, pay envelope 87:00deducted. Say uh, so much per room for the house. Your utilities was paid out of your pay -- paycheck, there was no individual billings, uh, back uh, back then. It came on that, and I -- I think my mother’s still got some of those paychecks. But uh, that was all come out of there, I’ve seen these uh, when she’d come -- when she would come out of the mill, I would run across the street there to meet her at the gate, when I lived in front of the mill, and I’d go to the gate to meet my mother, because she took care of the -- the lamps, and what I’d always -- you ask for was your payday nickel. And my mother gave you a nickel out of her paycheck, her pay stub, and she’d take it out of her uh, apron pocket, and she’d open the little black envelope out and give you the uh, the nickel. And uh, everything was, you -- I worked around the corner there from the time I was uh, about his age, I -- I worked the floors (inaudible). And I’d go in, in the morning, before I went to school, I was 88:00down in the street there, and I’d feed the birds and water pot plants and go to school. But then there was -- it was a town, like right there. And Firestone, they called it, you’ll never know it, they called it Greasy Corner. And uh, they had on Greasy Corner was, uh, right where it’s a bank there now, you -- First Union Bank, that’s behind my house, where my house was. And that’s where Greasy Corner started. And that was a -- uh, the florist was back there, and there was a drugstore there, [Austin?] drug store, and then another little store and a barbershop. Well then, on up, there was three grocery stores up there. A little uh, restaurant, (inaudible) five and dime. And it was like a little town on its own, now if you wanted -- no banking or anything down there then, they didn’t have branch banks, you caught a streetcar right there in the middle of Franklin Avenue, the streetcar runs from 89:00uh, [Grayson’s curve?] up there, the first curve, runs through there down to -- if you come out of Gastonia, through ’74 anyway, and went to the mall, you passed some railroad tracks. Uh, you had to come over them railroad tracks. Now, that uh, streetcar went to that end, you walked to the end of the streetcar, he let -- pulled the thing down and tied it down with the other hand, and put it on, and went back.

GEORGE STONEY: You could go all the way to Charlotte on the streetcar then, couldn’t you?

WARD: No, no.


WARD: No. You -- that’s where we went out -- you -- they had a car, no, from the -- on the rail, yeah, that’s not on the streetcar though. That’s on the rail line over there.


WARD: Yeah, you could go to Charlotte on that. But on the uh, streetcar, it just went that far, down to that thing, and he walked to the back, it was one car, he made that trip, and the buses came in. In other words, we could go for our uh, entertainment, was uh, we could ride the streetcar one time. We couldn’t go to the movies, see, and so then he had uh, the buses came, when 90:00the bus came, uh, he would pull up to the curb, and he went over -- when he got uptown, see, he turned -- turned -- he went one block over and would take you downtown. So uh, it was seven cents, I know, to ride the bus. That was the difference, it was two pennies difference to ride the bus, but he took you over, uh, the bus uh, uh, took you over a little bit, uh, later.

GEORGE STONEY: I’m trying to figure out, when was all -- when were you born?

WARD: I was born in ’32.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh-huh, ’32, so you’re -- what you’re talking about is the -- just before the Second World War.

WARD: Yeah, I’m talking about uh, well, I -- I know when my daddy went to Kannapolis, and -- and let me tell you something, I know I’m not, but uh, I was only uh, two -- two years old.


WARD: But I know when he’s gone.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah, sure.

WARD: And I don’t know whether I know it from so much it was said to me about it, him telling me.

GEORGE STONEY: Now let me suggest that your father went to Kannapolis because 91:00when it shifted from being Loray to Firestone --

WARD: No, no.

GEORGE STONEY: -- there was about a half a year there where it was closed down.

WARD: Yeah, the plant closed down then --

GEORGE STONEY: That’s right.

WARD: -- that’s when he went to --

GEORGE STONEY: That’s right, yeah.

WARD: -- uh, yeah, you’re right there, that’s when he went to Kannapolis.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah, that’s right, yeah.

WARD: But he come right back then, see, that’s the reason he didn’t move -- he wasn’t really um, I think my sister told me they didn’t count that as really losing uh, time.


WARD: Uh, from the job, because he went, and he came uh, right back (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: Does -- did that Golden Rule Club have anything to do with the assignment of houses?

WARD: No, Mr. -- uh, Mr. Ed Spencer, I don’t know whether you heard that name, but Mr. Ed Spencer was a name I remember goodly, besides my uncle. Uh, Mr. Spencer assigned the houses. And uh, now my daddy did um, -- all right, let’s 92:00go to -- we lived at, uh, when I was uh, well, we had been in front -- in 1942, my grandmother died in front of the mill, so I’d be -- I would be 10 years old. I hadn’t quite turned 10, I was 9. Uh, we had lived there for a couple of years. Uh, that’s when they first started selling those houses, in 1940.


WARD: Uh, I lived at 216 South Liberty Street, that’s the first house off Second Avenue, across from that church that (inaudible) you go down that street, that’s the first house on the right. And it’s -- the number was 216, I know it just like it was yesterday.


WARD: And so, that would have to be -- I would have to be uh, about seven, six, seven years old. And we went to the -- my daddy didn’t want that house. They 93:00moved -- they built the (inaudible) uh, somehow they called it Newtown. Over at the -- way out the back part of uh, the Firestone village. So they sent us to Newtown, and they’re selling those houses, and he bought one. So Daddy wouldn’t buy it, they told him they’d give him the house, and he wanted what he wanted. So, they sent us to Newtown, my daddy didn’t want -- to Newtown, we stayed over there about a year or so, and Daddy didn’t like that, because he had to come to (inaudible) walk, we didn’t have no -- no cars and things back then. So, he walked, and they moved him in front of the mill then. And they kept telling him he’s going to keep that, that was supposed to be the superintendent’s house. And they kept telling him that they were going to keep that um, that house, what they needed for office space. Well I believe it must have been about ’45 we stayed there until, until about ’45. And they 94:00were still trying to find Daddy where he wanted the house. And Daddy took the one that he got, and had two -- 303 Weldon Street, and that in front of the mill is torn down, but it’s 1106 West Second Avenue. My -- my aunt lived at the corner of -- of uh, Weldon and Second, on -- on second, 910 West Second Avenue, that’s where she -- she lived. And her kids, I think, still own that house.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, you went to school then in -- in uh, in Gastonia?

WARD: Yeah. Yeah, I went up to West School -- down at the end of that uh, street, the end of the mill, you go two blocks, and there was a school over in there, that was West -- West uh, Elementary School. That’s where I went to school, and --

GEORGE STONEY: Then you went to high school where?

WARD: I went to high school at uh, Gastonia High School.

GEORGE STONEY: Now at Gastonia High School, you had mill kids, and then you had other kids.

WARD: Yeah, that’s right. You had mill kids, and you had other kids. Now that was -- when it started, they built a junior high, you come up through the 95:00junior high, it was right on this side before you get to the high school. Uh, dating started and things like that. Now, uh, the mill people would talk about the people that lived uptown, and mill people had names, uh, they called them rich people, this and that and the other.

HELFAND: Excuse me, (inaudible).


HELFAND: (inaudible).

WARD: OK, let’s uh, (inaudible) while you’re cutting off, you’re cutting off now.

JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: OK, tell me what --

WARD: OK, went through uh, uh, I went through the um, elementary school there. And then I went to the junior high, and high school. Of course, I started dating and things then, but uh, when you got up to those things, you heard -- I mean the people, you would see it was like a class uh, social classes, between people. You had uh, they -- people would look down at the mill people, and uh, 96:00mill people didn’t -- didn’t really -- I didn’t like it, uh, I felt like that uh, I felt like I’m going to tell you, there was a lot of people, mill people that I didn’t uh, want to have anything to do with. My daddy didn’t want me to have anything to do with, and my family, there was a lot of them. And uh, so we -- we just, he kept us away from it. But, you can’t take one group of people and put all of them in the same group. Well see, that same thing was happening in the -- uh, the uptown crowd. Now they uh, I was going with a girl that her parents had a lot of money. And uh, this all come into it 97:00(inaudible). And her parents just told me, uh, plainly, that I was mill people. And uh, they -- they let me know just in uh, they didn’t call me and say well, you’re just this. But they let me know it in the way -- things that we did, and the way they tried to uh, keep me uh, away from her. So, like I say, you can’t group everybody into what one -- one does. But I wanted everybody to see what my uh, my parents were doing in their house, and in their family. What they had taught us. I knew uh, my mother and daddy had taught me values that uh, that I know that those people didn’t have. I knew that I didn’t 98:00always agree, I didn’t agree with what they was teaching, but I -- I did have to listen to it, because she made sure, um, she had a -- a belt, and some switches that taught us how to listen.

GEORGE STONEY: Now did your uptown friends ever come to visit you in the mill -- mill?

WARD: Not a lot, no. Uh, I don’t know if uh, any uptown that come into the house, I wonder where, if any of them did come in the house, they could see what my mother had done to the house, inside, their houses couldn’t have looked no better in -- inside than my mother’s, and -- and what she’s put in -- into her house, inside. And none of theirs, uh, right now. And she’s 87 years old.

GEORGE STONEY: Have you ever heard the term lint heads?

WARD: Yeah, that’s a mill head term. Uh, that was called uh, uh, mill people, or you were lint heads. And uh, I heard that at the -- I heard that at school, 99:00I heard it to me as I went out with uh, with a girl up there, not from her, no, no, not -- no, no, she was the nicest thing in the world. But I heard it from people when I went -- went out with her. And that’s when I said what I was going to do in life, which I didn’t, and uh, I went, uh, (inaudible) I knew I wasn’t going to go uh, Central South Carolina to go to school, I had no other way to go, that’s when I went into the Army. Uh, because I knew I didn’t have any other way -- I knew I wasn’t going to work at the mill. Not that it wasn’t -- I knew I couldn’t work in there.


WARD: Well, I didn’t feel I could -- I wanted something better than the mill. I -- I didn’t want -- the mill was -- was an honorable, or is honorable. Now more so than -- than it’s uh, it’s a good profession, somebody wants to do that type of work. I wanted to be a politician. And uh, but I uh, I didn’t 100:00uh, I just knew I didn’t want to be a -- a -- a worker in a cotton mill. I didn’t want to stand up on my feet and -- and do this uh, job that I seen my mother and daddy slave to do in -- in those mills, and those mills was hard work in them mills. And I’ve seen in there and seen them sweat, and I’ve seen them uh, do these things, and I knew, I told you, I worked in there one summer, and I seen these things in that there. And I seen how them people were happy to get out of there when they -- when they got out. So, like I say, there’s nothing wrong with the work, I won’t -- I’m not, that’s not why, social standing, I wanted it. I wanted something more to get out of there.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, you’ve mentioned politics. Was your father active in politics?

WARD: Well no, he uh, he went around a few times, he put up a -- a sticker or 101:00two, he never was a -- a real -- he’d let you know who he thought -- there wasn’t a lot of people to ask. Uh, they’d respect him, and they’d come to him, and uh, he had a lot of people in -- in -- in Gastonia that uh, thought a lot of him. And they’d come to him for his advice. And uh, I know, just like I -- I don’t know whether I mentioned earlier about when he retired, how all these people come in there, and what they had to say, I was told what everybody said about uh, my daddy, when he was leaving, everybody, not -- across the board, everything, (inaudible). And the same way when my dad died, uh, I didn’t uh, I know this, I know that all the people that -- there was oodles of people, I don’t know how many, they -- they -- you couldn’t hardly get in and out, I didn’t go to the funeral home when they was in there, because they just -- you couldn’t get in and out, and I know the -- the cars at the 102:00funeral, that -- that -- and I went after, where (inaudible). But, I know what everybody was talking about.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, I come from Winston-Salem, which is a Reynolds tobacco town.

WARD: That’s right.

GEORGE STONEY: I mean, talk about the big industry, that -- Reynolds is. And we always know, knew who was the Reynolds person running for office, we always knew who the um, chamber of commerce from Reynolds and stuff was. Was that true in Gastonia, for the mill?

WARD: Well not as -- not as much as -- as you’re saying, um. Uh, in Gastonia, you -- when you uh, the one thing they knew, uh, about all of them at that time were Democrats. Uh, I’ve never known, back then, anybody to support anything other than -- than a Democrat. I know my daddy said he did after that, and I -- I don’t know it. I still don’t believe it as yet. I know I haven’t. And 103:00uh, um, I -- I remember when uh, Governor Cherry was governor, and he was from Gastonia, I remember uh, Congressman Bulwinkle, uh, Gastonia, yeah, he was a Democrat. And I remember uh, um, I remember when Basil Whitener was elected to Congress over there, in that district. And uh, I remember when Basil Whitener got out of school, was -- was the district attorney over in Gastonia. Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Now you mentioned a little while ago that you had people come into your house to -- to be servants and do things while your parents worked in the mills. Could you talk about those people? Were they black, and so forth.


WARD: They were black. We had, we had -- they called them maids, we had a maid. And uh, she would come in, in the mornings, and she done everything, she took care of everything, she cooked, she -- she um, took care of the children, she uh, we mostly could take care of (inaudible) she looked after us. She cleaned the house, made the beds, and done all these things, mom and dad, you know, the mill opened up at seven o’clock, you had to be there on your jobs. So she’d be there before then, and take care of everything, and get us off. I remember the last -- I remember being there was uh, Miss Julie. And that’s what -- we called her, Miss Julie. And uh, I know uh, my dad and everybody else was -- we always did, we got along with them then, they didn’t come around, they didn’t have to come around to no back door to come in and out of no house. 105:00Uh, they come in the way anybody would -- would uh, come into the house. Uh, I don’t -- I don’t believe I ever heard anybody in the uh, family there, uh, make racial remarks at uh, blacks. I heard -- the only remark I’d ever hear was when they’d make one at uh, um, I guess it’s uh, basically, about a Jewish person, would Jew you down on this, he’s a Jew, um, the Jew peddler. That’s -- that’s the most remarks that -- that I heard, and uh, I asked uh, I asked my neighbor about a year ago, when I talked to her last, I know I -- I 106:00asked my neighbor uh, she said something about Jew somebody down. I said, “What does that mean? Tell me what Jewing somebody is. Why do you Jewed? Why can’t it be Gentile somebody down?”

GEORGE STONEY: (laughter).

WARD: Why -- why are you saying this, Jew somebody? She said, “Well, a Jew knows how to do it.” I said, “Well, I guess I’m a good Jew.” And I -- but I don’t see how the remarks, I mean, I mean I don’t see how that fits in.

GEORGE STONEY: Now you mentioned the Jewish peddlers. Were -- did they come through the mill village?

WARD: Yeah, they -- they peddled, and they sold uh, uh, pots, pans, everything out of the car, clothing, uh, they uh, there was one woman in particular I remember, and everybody made fun of her. But, I remember uh, um, I remember 107:00offering her a -- a glass of water one time, she carried a big leather bag, about so big, on her back, strapped. She had clothing and dresses in that bag. And she walked it, and she had this big, a lot of clothing, black clothing on, and she walked hunched over and she carried that bag, and she’d come up, and she was uh, kind of hard to understand on those things. And she would -- if she sold anything, they’d make fun of her, when she’d ask for a penny tax, she’s say give me a penny tax. And uh, they would laugh at her. And I mean, I -- I remember those little things about her, and I remember the -- the [ped?] -- I remember a -- a -- like I say, I’m not all, I remember a guy that was an Arab salesman, his name was Salem, came through there. He sold store -- sold 108:00uh, anything he put in that cart, and he ended up with a dress shop down in town, down in town, Salem’s, for years. But Richard Salem, he took me with him a couple of times, he bought me the first dog I ever had out there, when he took me with him, I was learning to sell from him. He was teaching me how to sell. I was about 10 years old, 12 years old. And he was teaching me how, something I wanted to do, I went with him, and he bought me the dog for the selling that -- that I did. And uh, I did sell a lot of things. Uh, I put some chickens on my back porch, I ordered 12 chickens, little babies, and I put them on the back porch with a light in them, and kept them up until they got a certain age, and I sold the chickens to the -- to the market.


GEORGE STONEY: Now, did -- did you people have a place for a garden or a cow, or anything like that?

WARD: No, no, no. You had uh, there’s not enough room. Some of us, you did have a little room and they made gardens, but you didn’t have no big spot to plant. Uh, now what we had, my mother and daddy had bought some lots, they had planned on building on them. So, we built gardens out there, you see. Now, they did have a little one there at the house where they had a little bit of land, but you dug it up and done it yourself. Now some people had a little more land than others on their place. But you know, not all of them places, got a -- a lot of land on them, and in fact, back then, a lot of them had uh, each one of them had -- had little woodsheds out there in the building too, see, it was wood and coal, they -- they used, it was built -- built out there. And those, when I -- I remember, you know, you went to the -- the -- the uh, bathroom was on the 110:00back porch, open back porch. And uh, so, all -- of course, most all that’s all closed in now, and rooms has been added and made on those uh, homes there. They’re -- they made, turned into nice -- pretty nice homes in there. And uh, but back then, when the mill had them, uh, they were -- you -- they were just, just a house, they were bare floors, I know you -- my mother and them would scrub them with a brush, and I remember them laying paper down on them all the time, you laid paper down on the floors. I remember the -- the bedsprings in -- in the house under the mattress, the old mattress, uh, you put paper under the 111:00mattress to keep it from, uh, rusting on it where you peed through it. You know, I’m telling it like it is.


WARD: Uh, but those -- I remember all -- all of those, seeing the rust, and knowing what I -- what I saw at that time. And I know the things my daddy was -- to me, doing for me, the things that he did, not just for me, he did those, the things he did for me, just like when my grandmother died, which was his mother, he come to me, he -- he told me, he (inaudible). And he said, I know she’s dead. He said, I’ll be the one take care of you now, and he did. And he took care of those workers in that plant the same way, that goes back to the golden rule. Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. He started that, when they wanted something, that mill didn’t go union until I believe ’88. That mill was never -- when my daddy was there, and them old workers was there, 112:00they could get -- they had benefits, my mother lives on them benefits that came, there was no union, nobody there got them, but the Golden Rule Association got those, uh, benefits. Association, the Golden Rule Association, got their health benefits. My mother gets paid uh, health benefits now from Firestone. She gets her drug bills paid from Firestone, she gets a pension from Firestone. And she’s getting that because of the Golden Rule. There was no union negotiated that contract. Because there was no union. Now, I’m not saying -- I’ve been in unions, I believe in unions, I don’t believe in strike breaking. I don’t believe in these laws allowing them to strike break. I think that’s wrong and I think it’s wrong for the government. But I do know this one plain, I know that the starting of the Golden Rule Association in 1937 made 113:00Firestone mill, and I know because I was there, I remember when they switched that, they come home, they talked about switching it to tire cord all together when the war started, I remember seeing the -- some -- some of the brass from the Army come in there and give my daddy awards in the spinning room, where they had met -- done certain things, and how -- my mother would say how the -- the yarn was so thick where they’d switched it, she called it [Ozenberg?], they had switched it to something so -- to make tire cords, well they’d make it hard, big tire cords, and it’s so big that that was uh, hurting her fingers to -- to the bone, her fingers is still uh, they’re like this, you know. But uh, I know, we had all those benefits and things back then. And we didn’t know -- 114:00uh, we never went -- we didn’t have a whole lot, my daddy didn’t drive an automobile, uh, but we always had plenty to eat, we didn’t have to go without anything, we had plenty -- nice clothes as you can buy anywhere. Plenty of food, and everything else on the table that you’d want. So, if I’d break an arm today, I mean, then, if I broke my arm, they took me to the doctor and got it fixed. I was born at home, when you didn’t have those benefits. I was born on the kitchen table. And setting in there, and they tell me, I’m sitting here now with oxygen in my -- in my thing, my nose. They tell me how the doctor had to blow breath into me for so long through brown paper, and how 115:00my lungs was bad. I don’t know what -- what caused it, I don’t -- I don’t know, I had pneumonia a lot after that as a kid, and bronchitis. But, I know that I -- we didn’t have insurance to take care of those things, I couldn’t have went to the hospital. And they had uh, I know that on up in the ’40s, anything that happened, we went to the hospital, and I had a sister who was going in there, she went, and my dad and my mother would go to the hospital all the time, and -- and she was taken care of.

GEORGE STONEY: How many brothers and sisters did you have?

WARD: I had um, two other brothers and three sisters. My two brothers is dead. Uh, one brother’s a year older than me, and he’s dead, he died of cancer, and I’ve got a brother younger than me, uh, that’s three years younger than me, he’s been dead since before my daddy died, in ’70-something. Uh, he 116:00died. Uh, cancer or something like that, I don’t know exactly. My dad died with the cancer. And uh, he had a twin sister, and Mae -- Mae lived across the street there, (inaudible) that was his twin sister.


WARD: And they were like my mother and daddy, to me.



GEORGE STONEY: Um, before we go in and look at the -- the books, uh, are there questions you’d like to ask?

HELFAND: Um, you know what would be helpful? If I could look at -- at the notes that I took from (inaudible).


HELFAND: (inaudible).


WARD: Are you turned off now?