Alma Miller, Rev. Richard Lisk, and Annie Honeycut Interviews

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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GEORGE GEORGE STONEY: There's a natural ah, antagonism between sound and picture.


GEORGE STONEY: The cameraman wants no -- nothing to get in his picture. The sound person knows that he or she has to get that thing close enough to get decent sound --

LISK: The microphone has to be close enough.

GEORGE STONEY: -- And so there's -- OK.

LISK: This is where I grew up. Up and down this street were my friends, my family, the folks my folks worked with. I was born in this corner room of this house and lived there. 1:00Later we moved and we moved into this house which is directly behind us here. My grandfather lived just up the street on the left hand side. The first church I ever attended was just up the street there. My first teacher in a church Sunday school was -- lived in this house right here and I could just go down and list the names of the family that lived in each of these houses.

GEORGE STONEY: And this was -- all of these people worked for the mill up here?

LISK: All of these people worked for the mill -- either Brown Mill on the right or Norcott on the left. There were two separate mill systems which later were purchased by the same people but my grandfather worked for 37 years in the mill on the right. My aunt was a weaver there for a number of years but this is where I made my appearance in the world in this house here and --


GEORGE STONEY: Well it didn’t look like that.

LISK: Well no, it was white wood. It now has on it a vinyl siding but at the time it was white wood with a wooden porch but other than that -- and the addition on the back of the house. But when we lived here it was a four room house with no running water. It did have electricity of course, but there was no running water, no bathtub, no bath what have you. As we used to say, “Four rooms and a path.” But this is where I was born and we lived here and then later we lived here and then at one time we lived at the house on the other side -- on the same side of the street just up the street. My grandfather lived on the left and lived there 50 years, I guess, in that house up there.

GEORGE STONEY: And when your father lost his job what happened?

LISK: Well when my father lost his job is when we moved into this house. My father lived back over here in a mill house until he lost his job and 3:00when he lost his job then he moved into this house which was owned by a man named [Chiney?] Robinson.

GEORGE STONEY: I see. So even in the mill village there were other people who owned houses?

REV. FRANK MILLER: A few, yes. A few, yes.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Let’s keep going.

LISK: In fact this was not a mill village street in that the mill owned every house. Now the mill owned some of the houses. Back on the other side of the mill; the mill owned almost every house over there. It was strictly a mill village and I remember when dad bought a new radio, but this highline still created problems of course we didn’t have FM radio, it was AM.

GEORGE STONEY: This highline was here at the time?

LISK: This highline has been here forever. Uh. But, uh, the field it sets up creates [hob?] with AM radio waves.

GEORGE STONEY: I see there seems to be some room for a garden back here.


LISK: Yes. There’s a road back here now but when I was a kid growing up there was no road and this land directly behind us was pasture land for the County Home. There were no nursing homes to speak of and the county -- about a half a mile up the way -- had what we called a County Home.

GEORGE STONEY: Jamie, you can move up with this now. Good. Good. We've got a nice cut now, I think. See he was zooming in on us so that we weren't all that distant, and then he's gonna be -- then we can cut in from this, that's where I've made this, this cut point here, you see, and then it can move in. Just wanted to make sure that the -- hold on, just stay here just a minute. OK.


HELFAND: Oh, what a great looking (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: Jamie? Just come down from the power line, OK? Say -- tell me when you're going. Just say the -- speak about the power line again.

LISK: The power line has been here forever and of course when I was a child we had only AM radio and the magnetic field set up around the power line itself created hob with this house and this house just under it. The land you see directly behind here -- there’s a road there now -- but it was no road there then, it was just a fence. And that land was part of the pasture for the County Home, which was about a half a mile up the road and it was a playground for us kids. It was gulleys and washes and no drainage and it just made gulleys and everything and we played all over it and used to hunt squirrels and rabbits and birds and do everything else up through there. That was just our 6:00playground. Our ball field where we played ball was a natural meadow just over here. That’s where we -- as kids -- played ball.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you have a garden back here?

LISK: Yes. We had a garden. In fact at one time we had a pig in a pen back over here. We raised some of our own meat right back over here and I can remember helping butcher one pig right back there in the corner.

GEORGE STONEY: Let’s go back there and see what’s there.

LISK: But -- the uh -- there used to be a fence here. The garden was back here -- where it is -- the garden has been in the same spot as long as anybody ever had a garden. There was not a garden there every year, but when there was a garden, that’s where it was except a couple of years we had a 7:00garden on the side of the lot and would grow the type of things that you grow around here -- Mother loved okra and I despised it then and do now. It bothers me, but we had popcorn and other things depending on what year it was.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now that you’re in Louisiana you’ve got to like okra because it goes into gumbo.

LISK: No, no. My father loved vegetable soup but his recipe for the perfect vegetable soup was a pound of okra and a pea, and a pound of okra and a grain of corn, and a pound of okra and a bean, and a pound of okra and a small potato. Now that was the perfect vegetable soup.

JUDITH HELFAND: Who got the pea (laughter)?

LISK: Well they could have it all; I didn’t want any of it. I’m the outcast of my family when it comes to food because I’m the only one in the family who doesn’t care for okra and -- for whatever reason I just don’t care for it.


HELFAND: I have a question. When you moved to -- was it this house or that house? When your dad was first blacklisted?

LISK: We moved into this house.

HELFAND: Well, I’m just wondering if there was any sort of stigma that was attached to being blacklisted and having to move from one side of the mill village to another.

LISK: The stigma was with the mill owners. The people who worked in the mill would quietly pat you on the back and say, “God bless you for having the courage to stand up and take a stand for something.” See, many people felt the way my father did but a fear of losing job, fear of losing standing and what have you they wouldn’t take a stand. But they would very quietly say, “We’re on your side, Red. We’re sorry that it happened” and would give that kind of support but in terms of the mill workers, there was 9:00no stigma attached. Rather it was rather a badge of someone who dared stand up and take a stand for something. You see the whole mill system was a paternalistic sort of thing. The mill owners provided a number of things to help make life nice for the owner and the worker. For example, they provided uniforms for baseball and encouraged baseball teams, and they provided other such things as this but there was never any question about who was in control and the penalty for challenging the status quo. That was always there and the mill workers were aware of this. Most of them had very little education but there’s a vast difference between being ignorant in the sense of being 10:00untaught and unschooled and in being stupid meaning incapable of learning and of thinking. And that’s the condition the mill -- mill workers -- were in.

GEORGE STONEY: Now one thing I’m always intrigued by is the fact that so many people who worked in the mills were kin to their immediate bosses which were the -- who were the second hands and then they were also either kin to or beholden to the shift manager and we were just talking to a fella the other day who said that he as a shift manager chose his own workers. He said we didn’t have any personnel department then and you can -- I can see how that all kind of fitted together.

LISK: It was a family affair. For example, if you had a job and you had a child growing up, there were not many job options around. You 11:00didn’t have the option of trying to be an architect, a lawyer a doctor, an engineer or working for this factory or that factory. The only viable job options were in the mill and if a man had a good position in the mill and he could get his wife, his child, his sister in the mill and if he were a second hand or if he were the foreman or what have you, it always made life nice when you had a sense of control outside as well as inside and when everybody knew what was going on and if you we arranging shifts and you need there was a family need what have you, you could meet the needs of your own family. So it was a family-oriented type situation. Here in this Brown Mill for example at one time, I had several aunts, uncles as well as my grandfather all working in the 12:00same mill with the same superintendent of mills over all of them.

GEORGE STONEY: This also might have made for a certain amount of jealousy.

LISK: It could sometimes because if someone got an opportunity to move up a step or something, it could create some family jealousy if you were a sweeper and wanted the opportunity to become a doffer or spinning hand or something of that sort and you thought you deserved it but somebody else got it, it could create tensions.

GEORGE STONEY: So when they talk about “like a family” --

LISK: In the full sense of the term. Family fights and all. Uh. But see there was another advantage to that, though. The personnel management which was almost non-existent in the mill didn’t get involved. The superintendent simply told the senior member of the family straighten them out 13:00or they get out. And it was just that simple and there was very little in the way of personnel records; no equal rights opportunity, no civil rights to be concerned with. It was just word-of-mouth and understanding of what you’re supposed to and that was it.

GEORGE STONEY: And no women’s lib?

LISK: No women’s lib. Women did what they were told for the most part. The truth of the matter is there was more of a matriarchal home society than a lot of people would like to admit, but women while they publicly had little to say, they had ways of influencing husbands when they went home and shut the door and having a great influence this way.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, I -- one of the things that interests me is that in the 14:00cotton mills you had two income families -- two career families -- a long time before the people --

LISK: -- must be my luck day, an old penny.

GEORGE STONEY: See a penny pick it up; all day long you’ll have good luck.

LISK: That saying was around when I was a child and my father taught it to me so it was around when he was a child.

GEORGE STONEY: Well let me add -- see a penny, pass it on, all day long you’ve have good luck all day long (laughter).

LISK: You were saying two family -- two workers in the family?

GEORGE STONEY: So that it meant that the father -- at least theoretically -- had a lot more to do about the family and looking after the kids and so forth.

LISK: This is what I’m saying, it was more -- the father was more involved in the home than what would appear on the surface because the very 15:00nature of what you’re saying. And many times the mother and the father would not be on the same shift. Shift changes were 7, 3 and 11 and the father may work one shift and the wife another -- which meant there was an overlap when they were both be going or coming for shifts. But about everybody walked to work. For example, everybody on this street -- with the exception of the pastor of the church who lived in the last house up there -- had somebody working in the mill and in the morning when the whistle went off at a quarter of seven, the people would start coming out of the houses and walking up the street toward the mill, and at 3 o’clock in the afternoon when the whistle went off -- and you could hear it for a mile -- when the whistle went off you would know that the 16:00shifts were changing and people would be coming back down the streets. Matter of human interest, our neighbor right across the street was a family named Hatley, and Hatley had a dog and don’t ask me how it got started, but for years that dog would come from up there and meet Hatley right up here and walk home with them and when Hatley had a heart attack and died there was a long period of time when that dog would hear the whistle and he would come to the street. But of course Hatley was gone and after a while you would see the dog coming down the street without somebody and if dogs could feel confused, puzzled, sorrowful, that dog -- I remember little black and white Heinz 57 variety, that uh -- .

JAMIE STONEY: What’s the first memory of the house you were born in?


LISK: My first memory of this house -- in fact it’s probably the first memory of my life -- my first memory of anything was in this house and it was a time when my mother was sick and a doctor came to the house if I remember correctly the doctor's name was Kettner because he was around for many years -- and I remember he opened his bag to show me he did not bring another baby with him and that probably is the earliest memory of anything in my life was that memory here in this house.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now we’re only a block from the mill and at that time the windows were open. You must have heard it very clearly from there.


LISK: You could hear a low rumble. When you had so many looms running -- and the looms ran with an overhead 4-inch belt drive -- you get several hundred looms running you don’t hear individual sounds -- they all -- so many going at once slightly off time -- there’s just the dull sound that you heard constantly. And you could actually -- if you went in the mill you could actually feel the mill floor was thick boards -- and you could actually feel the mill running through the soles of your feet. And the town lived by the whistle of the mill. The whistle went off at 5:30 -- time to get up -- it went off at a quarter of seven -- which meant 15 minutes to shift change. It went off at five minutes to seven saying, “almost,” and it went off at seven and then it would go off at three and then go off at eleven at night and you’d 19:00hear it at 11 at night. (motorcycle went by)

GEORGE STONEY: Just a moment, we're going to do that again. Have to wait till it gets, gets away.

LISK: I hate those things.


LISK: Ah, the mill --

GEORGE STONEY: Just a -- hold on just a moment. Judy, you tell us when.

LISK: We've got another one coming. (car passes)

GEORGE STONEY: OK, the whistle.

HELFAND: (inaudible)

JAMIE STONEY: We're just getting b-roll of cars and mill. (car slows down)

GEORGE STONEY: And this is our --

HELFAND: It's our reporter!

JAMIE STONEY: Wave her past, wave her past us.

GEORGE STONEY: She'll be out in just a -- just w-- let's just wait a minute.

HELFAND: We'll just wait till she parks.

LISK: (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: Park right here and come up and listen.


LISK: The --

GEORGE STONEY: OK, tell me about the whistles.


LISK: The rhythm of the community was set by the whistle. The mill had a very powerful steam whistle. In fact when it was going off you could see the steam rise above the roof of the building. But at 5:30 in the morning it went off. At a quarter of seven it went off. At five till seven -- and seven was shift change and it went off again -- and then at 3 o’clock it went off and at eleven at night it went off and everybody here worked in the mill and at those times you could see a shift change to people either going to or coming from work. When we lived here for example, during World War II my aunt worked up here in Brown Mill, second shift and when the whistle went off at eleven if nothing happens about ten after eleven she’d coming walking through the door because she walked -- and everybody walked, nobody had a car along here to speak 21:00of -- Adam Thomas had a car up on the other end of the street and there was a brief period of time when my grandfather had a car but for the most part nobody had a car. For example, the Walters lived in a house that’s no longer existent, no car. The Rogers, no car. The Lentzes, no car. The Thomases, no car, the Coffeys, no car. Another Rogers family, no car. My grandfather, the Thomases on the other side -- Ed Rogers had a car for a while. Motley was a deputy sheriff and he had a car, but for the most part people walked -- and when the bus ran it cost us a nickel to ride to town.


GEORGE STONEY: What happened when the mill was on short time?

LISK: People did --

GEORGE STONEY: Just repeat that.

LISK: People did the best they could.

GEORGE STONEY: Sorry, start off and "short time."

LISK: Say again?

GEORGE STONEY: What happened during short time, just repeat it out.

LISK: Well, what happened on short time was people hurt because wages were quite low, people couldn’t afford cars, people could not afford many of the things that we take for granted. For example, we did not have an electric icebox or electric refrigerator. The ice man used to come down the street and would put a card out on a nail on the porch that would tell -- and he could see from the street by the color of the diamond -- how much ice we wanted that day. And he would -- the iceman would bring it in and put it in the box. I hated that drain pan down under it where the ice melted. But to come back to the question, people lived very frugally; very Spartan-type lives and when mills were on short time, I guess bluntly did without.


GEORGE STONEY: Did the whistles go then?

LISK: I be honest with you, I don’t remember that. Uh. I would not think so but the thing about it is the mills were not always on short time all at the same time. Because see this was a mill community and there was not just one mill. There was Brown and [Hartsel?] and Locke and Norcott and what have you, and all of them were not owned by the same company or the same individuals.

GEORGE STONEY: I was just thinking that you are close enough to hear not only the whistle but the constant noise that the mill made and when those -- that mill shut down it must have been a strange quiet on this street.

LISK: It was a thunderous silence, as someone said. You become so accustomed to it and you’d say, “Listen to that; I don’t hear anything.” 24:00That type of response to it.

HELFAND: Was it scary?

LISK: It could be. I was too young to be scared by it but I can remember my kinfolk being scary with comments, “What are we going to do? How long are we going to be down? Will Leonard --" who ran the grocery store -- "extend our credit? Will Cochran --" who ran the competition -- "would he extend our credit?” This sort of thing. People lived from paycheck to paycheck and few people had a bank account; few people wrote checks. They paid cash and got a receipt for what was done. But they lived from paycheck to paycheck and everybody bought groceries on credit, which incidentally were delivered.

GEORGE STONEY: Wasn’t there a lot of installment buying at that time? People 25:00buying their clothes or their furniture on a lay-away plan?

LISK: Well there was an awful lot except in my family. My grandfather said, “If you can’t pay cash for it, you don’t need it.” And my grandfather some way, somehow -- and my father was this way -- always managed some way to save a little bit. And I can remember on one occasion my mother talking about an argument she had with my father. For Sunday dinner they had boiled potatoes; my father had three socks -- not three pair, three socks -- and my father insisted on taking 10% of his paycheck and putting it into savings. That kind of an approach to life with nothing to eat for Sunday dinner -- which was the meal of the week for us -- Sunday dinner was -- if you’re going to have one good meal a week -- Sunday dinner -- and for Sunday dinner to 26:00have nothing but potatoes and then to sit and look at that and say, “We’re putting that dollar and thirty cents” -- or whatever it was -- “-- in a savings account,” that didn’t sit too well with my mother but my father said, “That’s it,” and I can remember my mother fussing about it. I don’t remember the argument but I can remember Mother talking about it. But I’ve walked up this street many times. When I got my first bicycle -- Western Flyer -- red and gray -- we used to ride down this hill, ride down this hill. And it was safe. I don’t ever remember a car hitting anybody in this neighborhood on a bicycle; there weren’t that many cars.

GEORGE STONEY: And this wasn’t paved at the time.

LISK: It was paved. Yes, this street was paved, but there was no curb. There was just an open drainage ditch such as you see here for drainage 27:00that goes into the branch back there and when it rained heavy, I’ve seen the water not quite -- but almost -- road level, down there. See all the water from up toward [Sutherland?] Hall -- and there was a huge open ditch on this side of the road that drained all the water from up toward Sutherland Hall coming this way. But the road itself was always paved in my memory. Now I can remember my grandfather talking about when it was paved because he said, “They made an accident,” and took several feet of his land and put pavement on it. But he said, “I was tickled enough to get the pavement; I didn’t fuss too much about it.” But, uh, and as I said earlier, nobody along here had indoor plumbing.


GEORGE STONEY: But it didn’t go into just the ground did it?

LISK: Yes, there was just an open pit or privy. For example, the privy for this house set in the back corner here. All these houses had open privies and interestingly enough a couple of the houses up through here had wells. Now they had running water available, but some of them still had to drill a well. My grandfather’s house for example, had a drilled well, uh, that had better water than what came out of the tap.

GEORGE STONEY: Who lives in this house now?

LISK: This house here is my Aunt Alma. She was married to my mother’s brother, A.W. Miller, and he died four years ago and she was living in this house when I was born. In fact, I was born in the front room and her daughter was born in the back room two days later.


GEORGE STONEY: So, good to see you -- do you -- would you like to come back to the back yard? We’re going to be settling there and you people are going to be talking a little bit about your family’s history. OK.

LISK: Beauty before bald heads.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. We'll get some chairs out here. Here's one.

ALMA MILLER: (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: OK, well we'll take those then.



GEORGE STONEY: Ready? OK. Tell me about your family.

LISK: I was born in this house next door here in 1931. My mother and father had -- they tell me, of course I don’t remember -- the two front rooms, and Aunt Alma here and Uncle Arthur -- my mother’s brother -- had the two back rooms -- and two days after I was born Aunt Alma’s daughter Pat was born and we grew up like brother and sister. Translation, Pat always came home and told on me after I got in trouble in school or anything. I carried Pat’s picture for years in my billfold and when I met my wife she thought it was another girlfriend for a long time and Pat’s more like a sister than a cousin and always has been. But we lived there and I don’t really remember the move, 31:00but I remember living up the street -- we moved to Croll Street first from here didn’t we?

MILLER: I think we moved in with grandma and grandpa.

LISK: Moved in with grandma and grandpa and then moved to Croll Street and then moved back over here and we were in this house at one time and then we were in a house owned by a man named Gus Ferris up the street.

GEORGE STONEY: Now all of that moving was taking place when you were just a kid.

LISK: A small child.

GEORGE STONEY: But that was also the time when your father got blacklisted -- did you know anything about that at the time?

LISK: I was too young for any of that to really register with me. What I know about my father’s blacklisting -- I heard my dad talk about it after I was on up some age -- but if I remember from reading things and what dad 32:00said -- I was born in ’31 and dad was blacklisted in ’34, so you know I was much too young to have any memory of the actual events themselves taking place.

GEORGE STONEY: Well we know that a lot of people got blacklisted had to move and very often they had to move out of town or even out of the state to try to find a job. Your father stayed here --

LISK: Mm-hmm. My father secured a job with the union. Uh. Apparently my father showed enough ability in helping organize the mill of which he was part of the labor force -- that when he was blacklisted he managed to secure a job with the union and stayed with -- well his term for the union was “the organization” and he stayed with the organization the rest of his working life. He never again held another job except he moved up through the ranks of the union.


GEORGE STONEY: Well now a lot of people who got blacklisted who told us -- or their parent -- that they went off -- just skulking off -- in shame. They said it was difficult to live in a place where you’ve been blacklisted. How did you regard that? How did your family regard that?

LISK: Well it depends on what took place. Much of the shame in being blacklisted was not shame at having taken a stand as I look back and try to process the information that I was given -- the shame wasn’t for men who were blacklisted, and stayed in the same community had an extremely difficult time of having a job and the shame was not in the blacklist, the shame was in the ability to provide for his family. And here’s an able-bodied man who some way can’t provide for his family and there were times when secondary reprisals 34:00were taken against a man who was blacklisted. I think the angriest I saw my father -- or as angry as I ever saw my father -- was a man and wife who lost their jobs and were forced to move out of a company-owned house because their daughter joined the union and was very active and the man was told -- and here again I can’t, you know, document; I’m just recalling conversations of my father -- the man was told that his family was being made an example of so that other fathers would keep their family in line and not raise questions, join the union, become involved and what have you.

GEORGE STONEY: So if a man got blacklisted for being in the union that wasn’t necessarily a badge of disgrace?

LISK: Not in the other workers; in fact sometimes a man would get blacklisted and one of the other workers would come around when nobody was listening, pat you on the back and say, “I wish I could afford to take the stand you do but I’ve got a wife and baby at home and if I get fired and lose 35:00my job, I have no way to pay -- I can’t take the chance,” and while up front -- in front of a boss -- they wouldn’t join a union but when nobody was around they would quietly pat you on the back and say, “Good luck.”

HELFAND: Alma, you were living here in the time when Red moved here and you were working in the mill, right?

MILLER: Not at that time, but I went to work later.

HELFAND: What was it like to have a brother-in-law who was blacklisted from joining the union move next door to you? What's that like?

MILLER: Well I tell you he held his head high and kept going. He didn’t stop. It didn’t shame him a bit; he just kept going and kept fighting.

HELFAND: And what about for you? Can you describe --?

LISK: How did you feel?

MILLER: Well I don’t think anybody held it against me at all. I had friends in the mill and I don’t think anybody ever thought anything about it 36:00-- us being brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

GEORGE STONEY: Were you a member of the union?

MILLER: No. I didn’t work at the time the union was getting so strong. But one time they wanted my husband to get the names of everybody in the mill that didn’t belong to the union and he told them, “No, indeed." He said, "That’s invading people’s privacy. I will not do it.” And he wouldn’t do it.

GEORGE STONEY: Who asked for that?

MILLER: Some of the union officials; I don’t know who it was.

HELFAND: Was it Red?

MILLER: No. Red hadn’t gotten into it then.

LISK: Daddy would’ve been part of work force that was asking questions.

MILLER: It was later that he got into it.

GEORGE STONEY: Was there any attempt on the part of the mill owners to find out who was working in the union?

LISK: Oh by all means. By all means.

GEORGE STONEY: What did they do? Just talk about that.


LISK: I can remember my father talking about men, women being called to the mill office and asking, “Are you a member of the union? Who in your work area are very favorable to the union? Who is -- do you know who is a dues paying member?” and I can remember dad talking about various work forces in different mills being called together for a talk by the foreman or some representative and told, “You don’t want to join the union and you want to be very careful. You may lose your job, you may suffer other reprisals, give no information, don’t sign anything, etc., etc., etc., etc.” and subtle -- and sometimes not too subtle -- approaches were taken to discourage, defeat, destroy 38:00any kind of union activity by my father or any other union organizer. The powers that be were very hostile to the unions.

GEORGE STONEY: But by 1935, the latter part of 1935, we had the Wagner Act and that was supposed to be against the law.

LISK: Well a lot of things were against the law that was done. Uh. It was against the law to lynch a man, too, but the Ku Klux Klan and others managed to do it in the south on more than one occasion. In fact as a grown man I remember a group of men took a man out of the jail in Greenville, South Carolina and lynched him. They found out who did it, tried them and found them not guilty and turned them loose. So, you know, the fact that it was a “Yankee law,” and didn’t necessarily have much effect down here where we 39:00lived, the attitude was, “They passed it, let them come down here and enforce it.”

GEORGE STONEY: What do you say about that, Alma?

MILLER: Well, I never did learn too much about the union and the Ku Klux. Uh-huh.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now I’m curious because we see in the news reels we have, we see in the pictures we have, women took a big part and yet they were almost never officers in the union and when the meetings came about they were never on the platform -- why?

MILLER: I can’t answer that.

LISK: That was just part of society; women were not seen too much anywhere publicly. At home a woman, many times, held great influence, but in public women’s lib was non-existent. This was redneck country and in terms of 40:00women holding positions in public, uh, it just wasn’t the thing to do.

GEORGE STONEY: You were saying something about it when we came out here.

MILLER: About the union?

GEORGE STONEY: No, about women. I asked you to butt in.

LISK: Let me ask you a question -- did I portray the place of women about right then?

MILLER: Mm-hmm. As far as I’m concerned. I always felt like the men was the leaders; women’s place was at home.

LISK: Even though women had to get out and go to work in cotton mills as much as the men did a lot of times. Here’s another one of those inconsistencies of which we human beings are so capable -- we’d say a woman’s place was in the home -- but honey you’ve got to go to work and get a job and help make a living so we can feed these kids. But, uh, when decision-making time came in public, and I say in public because the women at 41:00home sometimes could swing a heavy rolling pin, but in public, the women were not seen. And I think an illustration from Baptist church life as you possibly remember I’m a Baptist minister, but in reading the minutes of the old church meetings and what have you, church roles were many times carried in three categories -- and the men and the women were separate and when business meetings were held, only the men were present, only the men were present. Women had no voice in the business meetings of the church, which is a cultural reflection that carried over into unions and --

GEORGE STONEY: This was a pretty close, tight-knit community -- everybody kind 42:00of knew everybody else’s business -- you were giving us a little rhyme about it.

MILLER: About the -- what they used to say about teenagers: “Do not kiss by the garden gate, love is blind but the neighbors ain’t, so always be careful.”

LISK: Well there’s a lot of truth in that. A lot of truth in that. I remember Olive Mae Robinson kissing Paul Russell one day and got seen, but, uh, it was a tight-knit social thing; everybody knew everybody else’s business because everybody was part of the same things. Your life was regulated by the same mill whistle; everybody knew what anybody else could make because schedules were fairly well known, loom fixers made, weavers made, spinners, 43:00doffers, spare hand, second hands, you know the wage scale was pretty commonly known. And there was not a whole lot else to do except work in the cotton mill or be a sharecropper and grow cotton.

CREW: (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: Speaking of sharecropping, Judy just reminded me you should tell how your grandfather got in here.

HELFAND: Start from Stanley and then their move and the rooster story.

LISK: I never knew my father’s father. I never knew my paternal grandfather; he died before I was born. But I do know he was a sharecropper and I remember my father laughing about the fact that when he -- my father -- was growing up that they moved so many times that when Grandpa Lisk would walk out on the porch of the house that the old rooster would lay down and stick his feet 44:00up in the air to be tied because he knew that he was going to be put on the back of a wagon and moved again. I don’t really -- I can’t explain because like I said it was before I was born and my grandfather died -- but I remember how many times they moved. I remember my earliest memory of my father’s family was when they were sharecroppers on the Yates place as they called it. And I remember the house on the Yates place -- the well out back, the single layer floor where you could look down and see dogs run under the house -- you’d build a fire in the winter time and roast your face and freeze your backside with the wind coming through.

HELFAND: Could you start about remembering about the Yates place again? I had a disturbance. You said, “I remember the Yates place.”


LISK: Oh, the first time I remember where my father’s family lived was they were sharecroppers on the Yates place. And they held two jobs -- they were sharecroppers but the Yates also milked cows -- they were dairy. And I remember the house they lived in. One level floor you could look through the holes in the floor and see dogs run under the house. Uh, the winter time the house was not insulated at all and you’d build a fire on a cold winter's day and sit close to the fire and then you’d take turns turning around because the wind coming through the house was such that you could burn your face and freeze your back at the same time. I remember decorating a Christmas tree out there; the decorations was popcorn that had been growing in the garden, strung with a needle and sewing thread and cotton, uh, that was there.


HELFAND: How did they wind up in the cotton mill?

LISK: Well, farm could only support so many people and when dad was growing up there was Jake and Bryce and Blaine and Howard and Ruth and Lutelle and Helen and a sharecropper’s farm would only support so many people on a family farm. So slowly they started coming to town looking for work and when dad got married he was no longer part of the family, he was no longer part of the sharecropping -- he needed a job to support his wife, my mother. And the only option you had at that time in this area was cotton mill or cotton farming; there was not a whole lot of other options. Oh you may get a job in a grocery store or something of the sort but in terms of industry, in terms of other 47:00business there were no options.

JAMIE STONEY: (iaudible)

HELFAND: I want to know about this first job and when they moved here and then we can move on. So when they moved here --

LISK: -- they moved here --

HELFAND: So can you tell me which mill he came to and what his first job was and if you remember --

LISK: I don’t remember from memory -- I remember my father talking about it -- dad went to work up here in Brown Mill, went to work in the weave room -- and went to work, in fact -- we have a picture -- Aunt Alma has a picture taken I believe in ’31 wasn’t it -- that showed my father, my grandfather as well as her husband, my mother’s brother -- all worked in the weave room -- and then a couple of years later the union came along and the 48:00strike came long, my father lost his job, was forced to move out of a company-owned house and wound up living here in this house where I was born. All of that was all jumbled together as my memories as a child growing up -- the actual chronological events I can’t put them together too well.

HELFAND: When we were inside before and you talked about motivation, you said you went to sleep last night and stated thinking about --

LISK: I went to sleep last night -- someone asked me yesterday about twice what was my father’s motivation for being able to work as hard as he did and to put up with some of the things including threats of physical violence that my dad occasionally had to put up with in his work with the union. And after I went to bed last night I thought of one of the Jewish eighth century prophets, Amos Micah -- “What does the Lord require of thee but to do 49:00justice, love righteousness,” and the other one, “Let righteousness run down like water and justice is a mighty stream.” If I remember my Hebrew correctly the three words that stand out so much with emphasis was [“Meshput, Hanna, Sanna”?] -- justice, righteousness, so forth and so on.

GEORGE STONEY: You. I’m going to ask you to do that again because you meant the eighth century prophets and you didn’t mean that did you?

LISK: Eighth century BC.


LISK: Micah, Amos -- to pick a single year -- 750 BC.

HELFAND: So relate that to your dad. You said that -- you talked about “impelled by anger,” that’s the word you used before.


LISK: My dad, I think, was impelled by anger and I think the kind of anger that my father was impelled by was not the kind of anger you associate with somebody losing their temper. But I think I can illustrate it with a story. Westbrook Pegler was a newspaper columnist during the World War II era and he wrote an article about on one occasion -- about another correspondent and the other correspondent's name has slipped my memory just now; I’ll think of it in a moment. But anyway, Pegler had a penchant at times for being rather intemperate, some of the things he said, and he accused the other correspondent of being gutless, yellow, etc., etc., etc., etc., -- and David Lawrence I believe was his name -- sued Pegler for libel and slander -- and Lawrence was on 51:00the witness stand and I think that was his name -- Lawrence was on the witness stand and he got angry on the witness stand -- and Pegler’s lawyer said, “Sir, control yourself, don’t get angry, this is a court of law.” And Lawrence’s reply was, “Sir, you shame my name? My son comes home from school in tears because of the names that his classmates call him. My wife comes home from the beauty parlor in tears because of comments she hears in the beauty parlor. You would destroy my ability to make a living for my family and you say don’t get angry?” He said, “Sir, I will fight you in the courts 52:00and I will fight you in the streets and I will fight you in Hell, but you will not do this to the people I love.” And that’s the kind of anger that I think that impelled my father, the kind of thing that said, “There’s some things worth fighting for, and if necessary dying for.”

HELFAND: How did they do that fear? I mean, you're talking -- How did they do that in a cotton mill village? How did they do that in a mill the same way?

LISK: Well my father fought for justice. His concept of justice and fairness, which was a justice and fairness of equal opportunity, of equal ability, of fair treatment for all peoples, not just a select few. And that’s the reason daddy always believed so strongly in the union of his day, and he fought for these principles because he felt very deeply that men were not being 53:00treated fairly, that men were not being treated equitably, that they were -- not simply underpaid, though certainly they were underpaid -- but a whole system that held a man to a great extent in bondage -- and limited the freedom that he had to make decisions about himself and his family, about his inability to improve himself or to have hope for a better life or a better future. And he worked through the union to help alleviate these conditions and he felt like the union offered the best hope to break the stranglehold of powers that were over people’s lives. He was incensed. I mentioned a moment ago about the man and his wife who lost their jobs because their daughter joined the union -- that 54:00kind of injustice infuriated my father not to the extent that he lost his temper and screamed and ranted and raved -- my father never did that -- but something far more dangerous. Not hot-headed anger, but a cold, calculating determination, “This will not be.” That kind of anger.

GEORGE STONEY: Great. Let’s get out of the sun and we want to go in and look at the blankets -- the quilts.


CREW: (inaudible)

LISK: Now her husband, my Uncle Arthur -- I said my father never had the hot-headed kind of anger -- Uncle Arthur did. And I'll tell you what --


JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us about your quilting, why you do it.

MILLER: Well I guess I started quilting when I was about eight or nine years old. My mother used to make quilts and that’s when I learned to love to quilt. A lot of people do lap quilting, but I like this kind better. I like to put it up and then pull it and when I take it down, it’s finished, all but hemming it. So I really do -- I’m trying to help keep the quilting art alive 57:00-- I do a lot of quilting.

GEORGE STONEY: When you were working in the cotton mill, did you do any quilting?

MILLER: A little bit. I made quilts for myself back then, but now I make quilts for the public.

GEORGE STONEY: Back then where did you get your material?

MILLER: Uh. This material came from Wal-Marts but most of the quilts that I quilt have been pieced up, but this one comes in one piece; this one has been stamped on. This is a wedding present for a young girl who’s getting married in March; in fact it’s my granddaughter.

GEORGE STONEY: But you have some quilts that you made way back yonder; could you show those to us?

MILLER: I’ve got one over here that’s at least 40 years old.

GEORGE STONEY: Sorry, continue with your hand work just a moment and then I’ll ask you that again.


HELFAND: Maybe she can tell us while she’s doing her hand work.

MILLER: You can’t quilt without a thimble.

GEORGE STONEY: How long have you had that thimble?

MILLER: I think ever since I’ve been married. Got married in 1930.

HELFAND: You were telling me before about that store?


MILLER: Dover Supermarket up here has been there since 1920. It’s been run by three generations, a son, a father and a grandfather and it’s still there. They carried people through the strike and when you was out of work you still got groceries. I guess they are still carrying people; that’s where I trade. I can walk up there; buy what I want and they send it down here. It’s real handy; real convenient.

GEORGE STONEY: They still deliver; that’s unusual.

MILLER: Well the boys that work up there -- the boys that take the groceries out -- they roll it down here in a cart. It’s not but a little ways. And they all seem pretty glad to help out.


GEORGE STONEY: You had some quilts that you made way back yonder; could you show those to us?

MILLER: This is one of the oldest ones I have made; it’s about 40 years old. And this one is still older than that. This one is a lot older than that; it’s hand-pieced too.

GEORGE STONEY: Where did you get the -- oh and could you hold it up again?

MILLER: This one?

GEORGE STONEY: Yes. Where would you get the material for that?

MILLER: This material came from the Brown Mill. This is what we used to make up there in the weave room is outing. And I made lots of quilts and put outing from the Brown Mill.

GEORGE STONEY: Turn it over so we can see the other side now. And where did you get the patches and so forth?


MILLER: Just scraps from sewing I had done. This one here -- it's got outing too that was added at the Brown Mill.

HELFAND: How did you make the outing?

MILLER: Well, it’s a long story. They have to nap it after it’s made. This one has just been made recently; this is a double wedding ring. This is one I like to quilt most; I’ve made about eight like this in the last year or so, but now my favorite is this one in here on the bed -- the state quilt.

HELFAND: Can you say that again?

MILLER: My favorite quilt is this one in here on the bed; it’s the state quilt with the state flowers and the state birds. It took me quite some time to 62:00make this one. This one belongs to my daughter.

GEORGE STONEY: Did any of the women back then make these for sale?

MILLER: No. I think mostly back then was made for their own use. We had big families back then and needed lots of quilts.

GEORGE STONEY: If you couldn’t work in the mill was there any other way of making a living then?

MILLER: Taking in washing. I used to take in washing from the neighbors. You do most anything back then to make an honest dollar, and I did. I done everything from keeping children to taking in washing, sewing, anything you can 63:00do to make an honest dollar, that’s what you had to do.

GEORGE STONEY: Let’s go back out here again. Just fold up those again. Do these bring back any memories?

MILLER: Mm-hmm. I'll say they do. This is from dresses that I made children, made neighbors, from shirts. I used to sew -- I made my husband shirts a long time ago -- you had to do a lot of things back then. Now this is 64:00the oldest quilt I have. I imagine it’s at least 45 years old; it’s almost gone.

GEORGE STONEY: Washing those must have been a problem.

MILLER: Well back then it was but now you can put them in a washing machine. That’s not the one -- this is the one I want to show -- this double wedding ring, this is a beauty. This is reversible; you can use it on either side. This makes a pretty bedspread. I made quilts for all my children, all my 65:00grandchildren and now it’s time to start on great grandchildren.

GEORGE STONEY: How many do you have?

MILLER: I have four children, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren, so I’ve got at least five more quilts to make. But I enjoy quilting. But I don’t care for lap quilting. To me, this is a lot easier.

HELFAND: (whispering)


GEORGE STONEY: When did you start working in the mill?

MILLER: About 1933 I imagine, ’34. Work a while, be out a while, work a while and be out a while.

GEORGE STONEY: And what did you do?

MILLER: I was a weaver and I would fill batteries.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you like it?

MILLER: Yes, I did like it.

GEORGE STONEY: Some people describe it as being very hard and other people say they enjoyed it.

MILLER: Well I enjoyed it. I’ve always enjoyed working. I never could sit down and hold my hands. That’s the reason I do this quilting. I cannot sit down and do nothing; I’ve got to be busy.


GEORGE STONEY: Some women have described the conditions in the mill as being very rough, that it was very hot and noisy and all of that -- and --

MILLER: It was hot and it was noisy -- especially in the weave room --

GEORGE STONEY: Could you say that again?

MILLER: It was hot and it was noisy -- especially in the weave room, and that’s the only place I worked.

GEORGE STONEY: How long did you work?

MILLER: Well off and on I’d say 18 or 20 years. Not straight through, just be out a while; I had four children during the time I worked in the mill.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you know Red Lisk?


MILLER: I did. We lived in the house together and he was my brother-in-law. They had the two front rooms and we had the two back rooms in the house next door up here. We lived together a good while.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us something about him.

MILLER: Well he was a hard worker, I know that. He got a lot of knocks and a lot of -- I don’t know, I guess -- I don’t know what you would call it -- people kind of shunning him a little bit after he got to work for the union, but that didn’t keep him down. He made good. They did him a favor when they let him go from the mill. Back then the mill didn’t pay much money.

GEORGE STONEY: Just a moment. Could you say that again, we had a car.


HELFAND: Tell us about why it was a favor. You said the mill did him a favor.

MILLER: They did. He got a better job; he got a job with the union. When he quit the mill I think he was only making about $13 a week, oiling in the weave room -- after he got the job with the union -- he really got an education. I think he had the education of a lawyer before he died. He was a good worker.

GEORGE STONEY: What about his wife and family?

MILLER: Well his wife was my husband’s sister. They were nice people. I hadn't been knowing ‘em too long when we got married so I really had to get acquainted with him after we got married, but we got along good, we never had any problems living together, and we lived together until after he quit the mill 70:00and then went to work for the union. They moved out of state then.

HELFAND: Why did they move in with you?

MILLER: Um. Well, there was only two of them and houses were hard to find, so this house next door was empty and we rented it and they took the two front rooms and we took the two back rooms and our first babies were born in that house on the -- on the Sunday, the 29th of December in 1931 -- she had a little boy and on Tuesday, the 31st of December I had a little girl -- in 1931.


GEORGE STONEY: Well after he -- after he had to leave -- got blacklisted -- he was out traveling a lot, wasn’t he?

MILLER: Yes. But I don’t know where all he did go to back then, but I know he was in Alabama, he was in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina; he traveled a lot. And he made good too, with the union.

GEORGE STONEY: Was that hard on his family, or wife?

MILLER: She went with him, yeah -- when he would go to another town she would go too. They just got along real good.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you ever get interested in what he was doing?


MILLER: No. I never got interested in the union at all. And they never got the union up here in the Brown Mill.

GEORGE STONEY: Was there much talk about it?

MILLER: Well not in the mill, but there was talk about it on the outside; I think people were afraid to talk about it in the mill. So the union is one thing I never did learn too much about.

GEORGE STONEY: Where did you people quilt at that time?

MILLER: Back then I quilted in my kitchen. I had four screws up on the ceiling and I had some ropes I would bring down and tie each end to the quilting frames and that’s where I done my quilting, in the kitchen. After I retired I 73:00live alone now so I just made me a workshop in my living room; nobody here but me and if I want to make a mess in here, it’s my mess.

GEORGE STONEY: We’ve heard a lot about quilting bees, what were they?

MILLER: Um. A crowd of women would gather in a home and do quilts. Mm-hmm. I guess you’d call it a club like.

GEORGE STONEY: Was there anything like that back then?

MILLER: Uh, yes, but I never did belong to a quilting bee; I’ve just done all of my quilting at home. I’ve had neighbors to come in and help me quilt when I would be quilting, but I always had a quilt up. I don’t know how many 74:00quilts I have made in my lifetime, but I know since I’ve retired I’ve quilted at least 30 since I retired. I retired in 1980.

HELFAND: Was Red and his wife living with you when he got blacklisted?

MILLER: Yes, we were living in the house together. But back then I didn’t even know what that meant.

HELFAND: So he didn’t come home and tell you what was happening to him?

MILLER: Well, see my husband knew and his wife knew, but I didn’t ask any questions; I just knew he had lost his job and I figured it was the reason he was trying to get the union. But he really made good with the union after he did go to work for them.


HELFAND: What was people’s attitudes around here about the union? You can keep on quilting.

MILLER: Well I never talked about the union myself so, so I don’t know what other people thought about it, but I never talked about it because I didn’t know if it was good or bad.

HELFAND: I wonder if she was working during the stretch-out? As a weaver?

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah. Good idea. During that early part of that time when you started working the mill, they started adding more sides to -- more looms to people and making them work faster -- did that happen?


MILLER: Yes. They went from 14 looms to 20 and then I think they went on up -- they finally got up to 60 after so long a time -- but I don’t know how many they’re running now.

GEORGE STONEY: How did you feel about that?

MILLER: Well, I’ll tell you, it was hard work. You had to keep going, but I still enjoyed it. It was honest work, so I still worked and enjoyed it.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you have any trouble making production?

MILLER: Sometimes. I wasn’t the fastest worker in the world; sometimes I had trouble but there’s a lot of them made production and even over production.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Thank you. That's beautiful. (break in audio)

MILLER: -- Ben Horton, right here is Hurley Lambert, there’s the Cody boy.

LISK: Who is this?

MILLER: Hurley Lambert. No, Hurley --


LISK: Lambert lives next door.

MILLER: No, no. Hurley [Conyer?].

LISK: Dick Barrier. I do remember.

MILLER: Jim Blackwelder.

LISK: Some of these I remember and some of them I never -- I didn’t know at all. One of the things that interests me is the hairstyle of women and the dress styles. You notice every one of the men, one -- only one man didn’t have on overalls. I take it back -- here’s another one, but overall it was just the work uniform. OshKosh.

GEORGE STONEY: Were the men in suits the supervisors?

LISK: Yes.

GEORGE STONEY: You might say that.

LISK: OshKosh overalls.

JAMIE STONEY: Not Sears & Roebuck?



GEORGE STONEY: So started identifying the men in suits as the superintendent or whatever it is and then find your father and her husband.

LISK: Well this is Dick Barry if I remember correctly.

MILLER: Jim Blackwelder.

LISK: Um-hmm. They were management you’d say today. My father -- I don’t know if it’s symbolic or not -- but my father is as far away from them as you can possibly be and be in the same picture. I don’t know whether that has any symbolism or not, but you’ll notice also that the mill windows were open and not bricked up as they are now.

MILLER: It wasn’t air conditioned back then.

LISK: Well if it had of been, because of the way they worked the cotton fiber they wouldn’t have used it because they deliberately wanted the mill hot and damp.

MILLER: Well right here is Sandy Miller, right there is a Coley boy, right there is Hurley Connell --

LISK: Yeah, I remember Hurley.

MILLER: A.W. Miller.

LISK: That was your husband, my uncle.


MILLER: And there’s Willis Carter and there’s Rob Hill, Page Young and Ben Horton. Will Hendricks --

LISK: And Daddy.

MILLER: Red Lisk.

LISK: I didn’t remember my daddy losing his hair that early but daddy didn’t have any hair then.

MILLER: Some of these ladies I don’t know. This is Louise Irvin. That is Annie Garver, Alice Ridlin, Viola Irving, Merla Irving, I can’t remember her name and that is --

LISK: She’s hiding, deliberately.

MILLER: Bertha McDaniel, Doris Stamper and [Nonie Meacham?], Miss Dagenheart and Miss Beaman and Miss Statwell and Virginia Blackwelder, Miss Coley, Grace Easley --


LISK: -- I started to say that looked like Grace Easley.

MILLER: And I can’t remember the name of that one. This is (inaudible; traffic sounds) Yates and her sister (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: And that picture was made --?

MILLER: In September of 1931.

GEORGE STONEY: And you remember all those names?

MILLER: Well I didn’t work at the mill back then; it was later when I went to work in the mill.

LISK: That makes it even more amazing because you didn’t see them every day.

MILLER: A lot of them I learned on the outside; not in the mill.

LISK: Some of these went to the same church; some of them didn’t.

MILLER: Some of them were my neighbors.

GEORGE STONEY: Did they often take shift pictures like this?

MILLER: This is the only one I ever remember them taking up here.


HELFAND: Back in ’31 what kind of working conditions were going on? How long were all these people working in this picture?

MILLER: I guess you worked until you got too old to work.

LISK: There was no such thing as retirement in this (inaudible).

HELFAND: I didn’t mean that. I meant hours each day. What was their day like?

LISK: Standard mill shift was change at 7:00, 3:00, and 11:00 when I was coming up but prior to that -- not too many years before -- it was 6:00 to 6:00. When my father got married, he worked 6:00 to 6:00 Monday through Friday and 6:00 to 12:00 on Saturday.

GEORGE STONEY: Alma when you worked in the mill first, what was the shift?

MILLER: Eight hours when I first went to work.

LISK: An eight-hour shift had become more or less common about the time of the labor unrest strike of ’34, ’35. Well we had eight-hour shifts were more or less (inaudible).

HELFAND: Alma, can you tell me, I’ve got that you cook breakfast for your husband every day, didn't you?

MILLER: I did.


HELFAND: So can you say when he went to work, what his routine was like, cooking breakfast for him.

MILLER: Well I think we got up at 5:30 in the morning, and see I had children in school then after a while. I had children in school.

LISK: And biscuits were made from scratch; no cans you rap on the counter.

MILLER: Right. Get up and cook a big pan of biscuits and open a half a gallon jar of peaches that I had canned in the summer time. We’d eat them all.

LISK: And I can remember the old safe in the kitchen where you’d put 50 pounds of flour in the corner of it, pull the enamel lid out and make your biscuits on the enamel lid and roll them out.

MILLER: That’s the kitchen cabinet.

LISK: I can remember that.

MILLER: They're all grown up. It’s all built-in cabinets now, mostly.

LISK: Come to think about it, people don’t read the same things I do. That’s grandpa and there’s his hat. Did he ever go anywhere without 83:00that hat?


LISK: I accused him one time of wearing it to bed. That’s Uncle Arthur. Here’s daddy.

HELFAND: Reverend. When I walked in this house this morning the first thing that you did was take me aside and get all excited about that picture.

LISK: Yeah I wanted to show it to you because everything from the women’s dress styles, to people that I knew that I grew up, some of them lived up and down the street -- this is my father -- and you notice he lost his hair at an early age -- this is my dad and you notice he's lost his hair here in ’31.


GEORGE STONEY: Alma, could you tell us about the women, and just go down and point them out.

MILLER: This is Louisa Irving, this is Annie Garver and Alice Ridlin, Viola Irvin and Myrtle Irvin, Bertha McDaniel, Donna Stamper, Nonie Meacham, and Miss Dagenheart, and I think this is a Beaman and this is a Stowell. Virginia Blackwelder and Miss Coley, Grace Easley, and [Ozella?] Yates. That is the only ones I can remember their names.

LISK: Well that’s about all of them. Is this Clarence Coley’s wife?

MILLER: His mother.

LISK: Mother.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Point out the overseers and the others in suits.

LISK: There is Vic Barrier; I remember him.

MILLER: And Jim Blackwelder.

LISK: I remember the name, but I don’t remember him.


MILLER: And this is a Smith. This is my father-in-law, that’s R. Miller. This is [Jess?] Yates. This is the dry man, this is Richard (inaudible; traffic sounds), Mr. Hinson and Coley boy and Mr. (inaudible) and Mr. Horton. This is Hurley Connell, A.W. Miller, Wilson Carter and Raymond Garver, Lee Coley, Robert Hill, Page Young, Glenn Horton. I don’t know that one or that one. That’s Will Hendricks and that’s Red Lisk.

LISK: That’s not bad being 60 years ago.


MILLER: Well I really had to put on my thinking cap.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, fine. That's cut, Jamie.

LISK: That was 60 years ago.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, just be looking at it if you would, please, and I'll get a picture of this.

HELFAND: And while you're --

JAMIE STONEY: Let me get some close-ups while you start asking those questions.

HELFAND: OK. What was everyone -- what was this room and what did everybody do in it?

LISK: It was the weave room, and that's where they made cloth.

HELFAND: Start again.

LISK: This was the weave room picture and they made cloth. For example, grandpa’s job was to make sure that the looms worked. It was a loom fixer; that was his job. Some of these others were weavers; their job was to run the looms and to make denim and other things. Grandpa set up the first mill up here to make terrycloth. He set the loom up and made all the adjustments and 87:00everything so that the mill could weave it.

MILLER: That was in Kannapolis.

LISK: Was Uncle Arthur a loom fixer?

MILLER: Huh uh, no, he was a weaver.

LISK: He was a weaver. That’s one place where the men and women crossed over; both were weavers.

HELFAND: Alma, can you say what your husband did? “My husband” and point him out? One second.

MILLER: Right here. He was a weaver.

HELFAND: Wait a second, wait a second. I'm getting rid of the van. OK, now.

LISK: Now. What did Uncle Arthur do?

MILLER: He was a weaver, but he didn’t work in the mill too long. He quit the mill and went to driving a truck.

LISK: Well he drove a truck, he sold coal, he sold refrigerators, he sold ice.

MILLER: Mm-hmm.

LISK: I remember a fella telling me one time over at the ice company said, “Miller said I’m not supposed to hire you a second time but says you could sell ice to an Eskimo.”

HELFAND: And is Frank Miller’s father on there?


LISK: Yeah. Right here. See this is my grandfather which is his father, which is also -- this was Uncle Frank’s father. Uncle Frank and Uncle Arthur were brothers. (break in audio)

GEORGE STONEY: Hello! OK. How are you? Good to see you.

LISK: Hello, Miss Honeycutt, my name is Dick Lisk; Red Lisk was my daddy.

ANNIE HONEYCUTT: You look just like him almost. Has everybody else told you that?

LISK: Absolutely. In fact my wife says I look just for the world like my father.

HONEYCUTT: Well, I’m Annie Honeycutt.


LISK: I’ve heard your name. I don’t remember a lot, but I’ve heard your name.

HONEYCUTT: I used to be a cook. I was a Hinson before I married. You heard him talk about the Hinson’s --

LISK: I have heard the name Hinson; I’d like to say so much of it was when I was young enough; I don’t remember details, but I remember the names and --

HONEYCUTT: The names; we growed up there. And well y’all just come in and get you a seat and make yourself at home.

LISK: Who’s the cobbler in the family?

HONEYCUTT: Now -- that fan -- you want it cut off? Mash the white button. Hi. Did you say --

LISK: I said, “Who’s the cobbler in the family?”

HONEYCUT: Well, it’s sister (inaudible). And you’ll have to excuse my house because we gotten this painting before I knew they was coming. And when you get as old as I am, you have to take one room at a time. And I’m so slow at it. I -- I never get --

LISK: Now, are you doing your own painting?

HONEYCUTT: No, I had it done. But I’m doing my -- putting back my stuff. If you ever h-- keep house 67 years.

LISK: Well, if you’re like my wife or my grandmother, you’ll be putting back for years because you’ll change your mind every morning about where you want it.


HONEYCUTT: Well, no. When mine gets put up, it stays one way ’cause the way this house is built it has to stay this way. (laughter)

LISK: My father, one time, went off to work and while he was gone mother decided to rearrange things. And Dad came home in the middle of the night -- slipped in very quietly. Got undressed for bed, walked over to the bed, and sat down and almost broke his backside. Mamma had moved the bed and it was pitch black and Daddy went where it was, but it wasn’t there anymore! (laughter)

HONEYCUTT: Well, I don’t know when I built this house over 50 years ago I never thought about where a window or a door was going to be. We -- heating then with a coal heater, you know -- we had French doors and all these doors shut and everything and heated one room at a time but after we put a furnace in we took down all the doors because the grandchildren coming in you know they'd shut them up with the thermostat in here and I’d have to worry about that but 91:00we took down most doors but the bedrooms and the bathrooms and things like that.

CREW: (inaudible) (break in audio)

HONEYCUTT: That strikes a chord -- sounds like something I may have heard about it.

HELFAND: But Annie, you remember the big thing his father helped you do was that case.

HONEYCUTT: Oh yes, the reason that my husband went to work for the, this union and all is because they laid him off and he worked for the WPA and couldn't -- they wouldn't nobody hire him. You know what I mean, you couldn’t get jobs. Jobs was hard to get and he worked for the WPA and I don’t know -- they weren’t making anything -- just little wages, it was just nothing almost. We’d get some free food and we just couldn’t live on it and then -- but he was trying to help organize at the union hall -- going to the meetings and they 92:00offered him a position of going and organizing -- Mr. Lisk did -- he offered him a job so he went to organize.

LISK: Is that where you first met my daddy?

HONEYCUTT: No, I knowed your daddy when he and your mother got married.

LISK: OK. So --

HONEYCUTT: I knowed them before they -- knowed her before they got married.

LISK: But then your husband and my father became -- for lack of a better word -- involved in the union work together.


LISK: Talk to me about -- I can remember my father talking about the mill and work and what have you -- talk to me about how they went about organizing or getting the plant organized out here.

HONEYCUTT: Well they just talked to the people they worked with; now they had a meeting -- I don’t remember how often they had the meetings at the union hall -- but I had two babies and a grandmother; I didn’t attend the meetings, but 93:00Les did and uh, so, they would talk to people in the mill and it gets around by mouth, you know. They just, you know, they’d invite them to the union hall to the meetings; some’s interest -- you can usually tell when you talk to anybody to find out whether they’re interested or not because there’s some gonna go for it and some don’t and it’s just their privilege -- it’s their --

LISK: Do you remember much about -- did you hear any kind of response from the mill owners -- the superintendents or what have you -- did you hear your husband and my daddy ever talk about what kind of response they were getting -- not from the workers, but from --

HONEYCUTT: Well you know I didn’t talk to your daddy as much as Les did. Les -- it was just passing, passing talk -- now Les is the one that went around with him and so I guess he didn’t tell me everything, either. They ain't many men 94:00does (laughter).

LISK: But did you ever hear him talk -- did he ever say anything at home about the kind of response the mill owners, mill workers -- I mean not mill workers, but mill owners, superintendents -- how did they respond to efforts at organization and unionization?

HONEYCUTT: They just didn’t want the union in the mill. I don’t know why now you take Cannon is a good person; he looked after his houses good, he was interested in his -- the people who lived in them, and he’s helped a lot of people, give them jobs and they’ve supported their families with them -- but they just didn’t want the union. That’s the only thing that I could see that they -- they still don’t want it -- even since it’s not Cannon Mill -- they still don’t want it.

LISK: Do you remember -- were you in the mill in ’33?


HONEYCUTT: Now that’s the year Ted was born. No I wasn’t working back in ’33.

LISK: Were you in the mill in ’34?

HONEYCUTT: I was in the mill in ’34.

LISK: Now in ’34 if my memory serves me correctly -- on Labor Day did not the workers pull a massive walk-out on Labor Day of ’34?

HONEYCUTT: Uh. They had a strike -- I remember back when they had a strike but now I don’t know what it was about because it’s been so long ago. In fact I weren’t as interested in it back then and I was not involved in it as much as Les was.

LISK: Was he on strike?

HONEYCUTT: That’s whenever we quit working at Cannon Mills in ’34.

LISK: Did you quit work or were you invited to leave?

HONEYCUTT: Well we just didn’t get our jobs back

LISK: Oh, OK. So uh --

HONEYCUTT: Because that’s when this -- the union sued Cannon for our wages but 96:00it was a good long while after that -- seemed to me like Les was done organizing the union at that time and then it was put off -- you know the trials can be put off and put off -- so that’s why it was about ’37 before we got a settlement.

LISK: I remember my father talking about several earlier settlements when I was not really old enough to know too much about it -- was your case one of the ones that dragged on and on and on -- with Cannon Mills doing everything in the world they could to stall, put off, confuse, delay?

HONEYCUTT: We didn’t ever think we’d get anything but when it went to court, we did. Now I don’t remember; it’s been so long. I don’t remember getting on the stand. I believe he agreed and done a settlement. And we got a percentage of our wages; we didn’t get all we had lost all the time we were out; we just got a percentage of it. But I don’t remember how much it was but it helped out a whole lot.


LISK: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: How did your -- how did your neighbors feel when you finally got that amount?

HONEYCUTT: Well these people that actually sued for their wages lived -- didn’t live right there on the Mill Hill, they lived in different parts of Concord. They didn’t all live on the Mill Hill.

LISK: Question -- when you “didn’t get your jobs back,” from Cannon --

HELFAND: Excuse me, Jamie, I'm having a sound problem. Something is going -- can we take (break in audio)

HELFAND: Now there, you know George, you might even say that the way we found Annie was specifically through these letters --

HONEYCUTT: Found me (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: Well let me tell you how we found you. Judy Helfand had gone to Washington to look up the records in the National Archives of all of the 98:00attempts by the unions to try to get some kind of help for these people in the cotton mills who were blacklisted because that was not supposed to be the way the law was carried out. That was after the strike; they were supposed to get their jobs back. And so she went to Washington; got these documents, found your name and traced you from there.

HONEYCUTT: Traced me. A lot of -- I know my daughter-in-law -- there’s a colored man -- she took Bill to the doctor’s office to get his stitches out yesterday -- and some colored man up there in the office said he worked at Gibson Mill when the -- when the Home Guards was there -- still living over there at Gibson Mill -- but she didn’t get his name or who he was or nothing, you know. She was telling him about it, you know, and he said he worked there.

GEORGE STONEY: Well the more people like you spread the word, the more the facts 99:00come back. How much of this had you known about before?

LISK: Well I knew that -- well my people always said the Home Guard -- we say the National Guard -- I knew that they were called out. I can remember my father talk about a machine gun being set up on the corner of Brown Mill. I can remember my Uncle Frank being turned away from work by a soldier with a bayonet. I can remember my family talking about a man being killed; and if I remember correctly, it was a bayonet that killed the man. I can remember my father talking about the fact that the National Guard -- Home Guard -- was used as a strike breaking tool. It was not just to preserve peace which was the legal basis for them being there -- to prevent riot and what have you -- but they were 100:00used to break the union, to break the strike, to intimidate the workers.

GEORGE STONEY: Let me show you some of the documents that Judy found. You can just -- that’s a whole sheaf of complaints which your father helped them to collect.

LISK: Let me ask her -- you -- a question before I look at these. Someone asked me the question -- how did it feel or how were you treated in the community to have been blacklisted so to speak?

HONEYCUTT: I don’t think it bothered us neighbors. We all were still neighbors as long as we lived there.

LISK: So there was no stigma as far as the neighbor across the street was concerned; the fact that you were blacklisted carried no stigma for them.

HONEYCUTT: No. Not because -- we was still neighbors as along as we lived there. We’d still visit; in fact we had more time to visit than we do today. We didn’t have all this mess to keep up then like we do, just what we needed. 101:00Us neighbors would all get them off to work and the kids gone to school and we’d sit on the porches and talk in the evening, which we don’t get to do that no more.

LISK: Well here are some documents about your husband; I’ll read your husband’s statement here. “I came out with other members of the union when the textile strike was called and when it was settled, I went back to work and I was informed that there was not anything for me to do. My job had been running all the time and is running at the present time; they hired another man, put him on my job, refuses to let me work.”

HONEYCUTT: Well, that’s true.

LISK: Was this pretty common that the mill would hire -- well the union today would use a term “scab strike breakers” to hire non-union people to displace --?

HONEYCUTT: Well, from what I can remember they used to -- was getting people from the farms to come in and take our jobs, you know like they’d laid us off and they’d hire you in. Now that’s just seems to me that a lot of that was 102:00going on. I’ve heard it talked, you know, as far as proving anything like that, but I’ve just heard it talked that that’s why I think they got into all this trouble was to meet up there at the gate to keep them other people from taking their jobs, you know. It got kind of rough and they called the Home Guards in.

LISK: You’re saying that there were confrontations between the people who had been working who went on strike and the people who were hired to take their place?

HONEYCUTT: They’d get up there at the gates, you know, and like they didn’t want nobody else to go in there and take their jobs, naturally, and that’s what started all the trouble.

HELFAND: Can you read the date that’s on those complaints? You have to turn the page.


LISK: There’s several -- there's a whole series of complaints that I have in my hand from different places. Here’s one -- a complaint against Cannon Mill two dated October 12, 1934. Here is another one Against Cannon Plant six, October the 4th -- eight days difference.

HELFAND: Actually open it up because that’s the response; if you open it up I think they were all dated the same day.

LISK: October the 3rd, 1934, uh, October the 11th, 1934.

HELFAND: I think that your father helped organize all of these complaints, one after another, after another.

LISK: Well I’m sure he did because when my father first became involved with the union was elected briefly as secretary of the local union and as such and because of my father’s willingness and ability to write he became involved in 104:00helping people write letters and write complaints and my dad -- as Grandma said -- didn’t have any more sense than to stick his neck out and sign things and let people know where he stood.

GEORGE STONEY: Now here’s a letter from her husband about that same time.

LISK: This is a letter to Franklin Roosevelt, the 14th of October, which is the same date of -- (I?) was a fixer in the card room. Not over a dozen got their jobs back when the strike was over. Not over 12. How many people actually walked out on strike? I know the mill hired, worked several hundred.

HONEYCUTT: I don’t know. I don’t know how many walked out.


LISK: So of several hundred workers, less than 12 -- my Aunt Lillian -- scratch that -- my Aunt Alma has a picture of the weave room and there were at least 50 people in the weave room. Uh.

HONEYCUTT: Well there’s a lot that didn’t walk out or didn’t go out -- but they -- these that did go out is the ones that, you know, that's got involved in this.

LISK: From what this -- the very volume of complaints all within a period of days -- from differing peoples and all having exactly the same complaint worded differently -- they went on strike, when the strike was over they were denied work. The very volume of complaints, one, two, three, four, five six, seven, eight, nine, and more -- does that not suggest there was a deliberate effort on 106:00the part of management not to hire the people back who were involved with the union?

HONEYCUTT: Must have been.

LISK: Now, somewhere down the road several years from this -- was there not finally a legal settlement where you people who were denied your jobs back received financial compensation from --?

HONEYCUTT: I got the summons right now that I went to court.

LISK: You still have the summons where you went to court?

HONEYCUTT: Every one of them’s names on there who went to court. There are more than 12, too, ain't they?

GEORGE STONEY: Could you show that to us?

LISK: Do you have the summons? I’d like to see it. This is bringing memories back of my father.

HONEYCUTT: I think it was in ’37 when we got our settlement.

LISK: So it took three years to get a settlement.


HONEYCUTT: I don’t know why I hadn’t throwed it away. I’m a pack rat. I sit in here right now and worked until 2 o’clock throwing away stuff like that. I thought, “Lord, I’ve got two boys; what if something happened to me? They’d have to go through all of this mess to see if there’s any value in it,” and I had this floor full of stuff that I throwed away; old bills that I'd paid for furniture years ago. Isn’t it foolish to keep everything?

HELFAND: But why did you save that?

HONEYCUTT: I don’t know why. There was just something about it that I just kept.

LISK: This is interesting. This is a summons to appear in court but the plaintiff, uh, if I’m reading this correctly, is not the union, but the mill.

HONEYCUTT: Well I don’t know who it is, but that’s when they paid us our wages. I don’t know who done the -- but I think your daddy was behind all of that.


LISK: I don’t doubt it at all, but it says “Cannon Mills Company, Plaintiff against Lloyd Holder, Annie Cook, L.A. Cook, H.E. Russell, Clara Frye, Clara Shue, Mamie Shue, J.A. Aldridge, (inaudible) etc., etc., etc., etc.”

HONEYCUTT: Well we went to -- it was all settled in court -- I don’t remember how it was settled but your daddy is the one who got them to do this -- you know what I mean, the settlement -- and I don’t remember how much that we got but we did get a percentage of our wages.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now we found a document in Washington that will answer that question, and it's. (inaudible whispering) OK.

LISK: Oh, yeah. This is interesting. Cannon Mills is -- I don’t know what exactly they’re asking for --

HONEYCUTT: That’s a funny looking summons to me.


LISK: They are alleging that the workers listed on the other side “for relief of account of wrongful acts damaging the plaintiffs business,” which is to say that going on strike was an offense that Cannon Mills sued --

HONEYCUTT: Well I don’t know who was sued, but we got some money out of it. Now I don’t know how much; I wish I could remember, but I don’t.

GEORGE STONEY: Here’s some documents that may help you.

HELFAND: There’s one with everyone’s name on it and your daddy’s signature.

LISK: "Hereby agreed -- the Cannon Mills company recognizes the principles of collective bargaining and I know Cannon Mills choked on that sentence because they never did and even this took place in ’34 and the settlement is dated ’38 which is four years after the original offense.

HONEYCUTT: The summons is dated in ’37.


LISK: Uh huh. But I can remember after World War II when Cannon Mills refused to -- in fact if not in verbal theory -- recognize the right of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining. I can remember the effort of my father to organize the mills again and Cannon Mills refused to recognize the right of union representation and bargaining. Cannon Mills promises -- this is interesting -- in ’38 they promised in no way to dominate or interfere with -- by foreman or otherwise -- the formation or administration of a union and I can remember my father talking after World War II how they did that very thing and the promise not to discriminate by foreman or otherwise with regard to hire, tenure, employment, term, condition of employment -- which they never kept. 111:00"The sum of $3,000 will be paid to members of the Textile Workers Union," etc., etc., etc.

HONEYCUTT: Well maybe that was what was divided between us. I knowed there’s some money involved because we got some of it. But I didn’t know how much; I couldn’t remember.

GEORGE STONEY: How did that make you feel?


GEORGE STONEY: How'd that make you feel?

HONEYCUTT: Well, we felt like we won -- won something -- a little bit anyhow. But now you know I’ve thought a lot about it too. I’ve often wondered if Cannon hisself knew of everything that went on in that mill because he seemed to be a real nice fellow too and wouldn’t have been a better superintendent than Mr. Harmon; I’ve got his picture over there. Mr. Harmon was good to his -- all the people that lived on the hill if they got in it real tough -- he seen they -- he looked after his people that lived in his houses. He would try and 112:00he was a good superintendent and I just often wondered if it was -- if it was help here and help there -- a lot of people worked for Cannon Mill -- I just wondered if he really knew everything that went on -- which they don’t know today, I don’t think -- whoever owns it -- they don’t know everything that goes on in that mill.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, tomorrow we’re going to be talking with a federal investigator who dealt with Mr. Cannon and we’ll ask him and see what he says.

HONEYCUTT: Well, that’s why I said -- I just wondered -- you know -- even when Mr. Cannon died, I even bought some of his stuff up there -- went to the auction and bought a box of stuff that belonged to him. You know years and years later when he passed away.

LISK: I can tell what --

HONEYCUTT: Because I messed with Chuck, I went and bought something -- (laughter).


GEORGE STONEY: What did you say?

HONEYCUTT: Because I messed with Chuck I was right at that auction (laughter).

LISK: But based purely on my memory on conversations with my father with other members of the union and people, my personal evaluation of Mr. Charles Cannon would be a two-sided thing. In many ways he was a kind, courteous man who did help fund a number of charitable activities and what have you, but when you challenged his authority and when you challenged the very basis of the way he saw himself as the power -- you were dealing with something else. And this is strictly my impression based on conversations I heard with my father and what 114:00have you -- it’s my impression that Charles Cannon was a generous, gracious man to the point -- his authority, his concept of his position and the place of workers within his factories was not challenged at that point -- uh -- he became rather obdurate, obstinate, hard-headed and all the rest of opposition.

HONEYCUTT: Well you know what I think, if you ever get the union, you get better wages and I’ve often wondered if it weren't because he didn’t want to put out more money --

LISK: I don’t think there’s any question about that because that was challenging his position.

GEORGE STONEY: What did you say?

HONEYCUTT: I say that he just didn’t want to put out no more money than he had to.


LISK: Well that’s right. And to ask for more and to go on to strike to ask for more, and to ask for the right to organize and as a body ask for more, challenged not only his pocketbook, it challenged his authority.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now you’ve all been talking about money and I’m sure that that was very important in operating the cotton mills, but many workers have told me it wasn’t just the money; they wanted the right to not be abused on the job or to have some kind of say so in their lives in the mill; do you have any feeling about that?

HONEYCUTT: Well, now I didn’t have no trouble with my boss man because I told you I worked -- my uncle was my boss man and me and him got along alright, but I don’t know about the men folks -- what they -- you know -- I really don’t. 116:00Now he didn’t do me favors because I was his -- related to me -- but he’d always tell me if my job was too hard for me he’d put me on less work. Like -- I was spinning then -- and I was short -- you know to run a job like that on account of (inaudible) but if I had too many sides, he'd take part of them off me, but I wouldn’t have made that much. I’d have been running more sides and made more wages.

LISK: You got paid piece rate.

HONEYCUTT: Yeah, well when I got married in 1925 I was drawing $11.30 a week; I remember because I was getting it in a little envelope. We got money; we didn’t get checks. I’d take my money home every week and give it to my momma and daddy. I never opened my envelope until I got home and then they’d give me what they wanted me to have, but I was earning $11.30 a week and then when I got married and got my own check, I thought I had something (laughter).


LISK: That’s an interesting social comment; I would give my unopened pay packet to my mom and dad and they would give me what they thought I ought to have.

HONEYCUTT: That’s the way they done me. Did you do that way?

LISK: No because in the first place, I was not female, I was a man so fit in a little different category and in second place, I went off to college and in terms of a full-time job, I never had a full time job until not long before I got married. I was off in graduate school at the time so I never had that position of bringing a paycheck home while I lived home.

HONEYCUTT: I was four years older than my sister next to me and times was so hard when I got through grammar school at 13 -- I went to work in the mill at 14 -- and times was so hard my daddy said, “You work now and when as quick as Pauline gets old enough to go to work, you can go back to school and she can go 118:00to work,” but now I run away and got married before she got old enough to go to work.

LISK: How old were you when you got married?

HONEYCUTT: Seventeen. Like 17 in September; got married the following April.

LISK: So you were 17.

HONEYCUTT: So I weren’t 18 years old when I got married.