Lonnie Tracey Interview 2

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LONNIE TRACEY: I can’t say. I don’t know.

JUDITH HELFAND: So, you remember the name of this textile wor-- you remember the name of the union? Does that re-- the United...?

TRACEY: United what?

HELFAND: Could you just sit back a little bit? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. The United Textile Workers of America.

TRACEY: United -- United Textile Workers of America. What you -- what you want to know if I...?

HELFAND: Well, that -- I was just -- Well, I was just wondering if -- if -- if y-- if -- why Clifton was a different place. Why is it that the blacks joined the local union here?

TRACEY: Why they joined?



TRACEY: I don’t know why they would -- they wasn’t forced to join it nowhere, nothing like that. They would just ask. And they just told ’em what all -- what sort of help it would be to em, and by -- you know, if they -- by ’em joining it, you know. What they would get, and all that kind of stuff, you know. But nobody didn’t try to make nobody join. Because you could quit whenever you wanted to. I mean get out of -- you had [to do something?] to get out of it. You couldn’t -- you could just quit going to the meeting. Quit then. But your money was going to keep going as long as you didn’t see Mr. [Conways?] or some of ’em -- Mr. Evans or some of them to get out of it.

HELFAND: Now, did the company know that the black workers were joining the union in ’33?

TRACEY: Oh, yeah, they’d know. But they didn’t -- the company never did approve all of -- different people. They’d tell you -- you know, the mill 2:00people -- mill -- man over the mill. They’d tell you it wasn’t no good, ain’t no good for you, and all that stuff. I wouldn’t join. Say it ain’t no good to you. So I don’t know why, and what, and (laughs) -- I don’t know what is in they favor. I guess it was, I don’t know.

HELFAND: Did all of this union activity happen in public, or in secret?

TRACEY: After somebody come around and got it -- you know, and got it organized, it just went public. And everybody -- they didn’t care who they know -- you know, would join it, because they worked there. And they -- you were free to join it. And free not to join it, if you didn’t want to, you know.

HELFAND: Now, when there was that strike, that first strike here in 1934, do you think -- did you know that they were striking in other towns all across South 3:00Carolina? Did you know it was a big strike?

TRACEY: Oh, it was a big strike. Drayton over here was on a big strike, and a man got killed over there trying to come over the fence. And he told him not to come -- Sheriff [Connie?] killed a man. Sheriff [Hinder?] killed a man. He wanted to come over the fence for something. And they had tents out there. And Sam Hinder went out there and -- and tore them tents down. And there wasn’t no more sheriff in Spartanburg County. That hurt it. He tore the union tents -- you know, tore ’em down. He’s with the company. He’s for the company, had to be, because he tore the union, uh, tents down.

HELFAND: Now, the black workers didn’t make up a b-- how many, wor-- you know, how many people, you think, worked in all these mills, and how many black workers were there in comparison?


TRACEY: How many black workers in all -- worked at all the mills?


TRACEY: It was a lot of ’em. I -- I just couldn’t say. It was -- it’s several hundreds of black, all three -- you know, all three mills. It was [probably?] because they had the houses. All this -- they go in the mills with -- some of em, and some of them stayed in they own houses. But it was a lot of black worked at all three mills.

HELFAND: And, so -- would you -- and how many were -- I mean, do you remember how many -- what the numbers were like in these mills?

(break in video)

HELFAND: -- here, but you can’t speak whether there is -- it seems like there was something going on here in this part of South Carolina that was different than in other parts of the south. See, because there was a local here in Pacolet, and one in Fairmont, and one in Union, and one in Clifton. I mean --


TRACEY: Yeah, it was different in jobs and things, you know. It was different in the jobs, a lot of different. A lot of different. You didn’t make the same money. Different -- different pay.

HELFAND: So, so, that big strike took place in 1934, that first big strike. And after that, the Union stuck around, didn’t it?

TRACEY: Yes, ’cause it...

HELFAND: I mean...

TRACEY: It didn’t go -- it didn’t go plum out, like this last one.

HELFAND: OK, could you talk about that? Could you say that the -- you know that, that the union stuck around -- you don’t have to mention the last one. You could just tell me what happened after they -- after they tried that first strike. Did the Union stay, and did people stay in it?


TRACEY: Oh, I don’t -- I don’t think so. I think, oh, they split, you know. So many did, and so many went out of it. That’s what happened. Sure did, because -- some people -- I’ll tell you some of them people didn’t have nothing to eat. That truck out, out of Spartanburg come out there and brought ’em something to eat. I tell -- a truck bring -- do it (inaudible) about the mill and flour and stuff. Wasn’t for that, people wouldn’t have nothing to live on. Jobs was gone. Couldn’t buy no -- couldn’t -- you couldn’t even get a job nowhere. Back in then. Farmers, they didn’t make nothing. People’s farming didn’t make nothing. They had a hard time too. Cotton crop, corn, and stuff, it just went to bad. They didn’t make nothing. And 7:00they didn’t allow ’em to plant but so much -- so much of this, so much of that. And back in then you couldn’t plant with just so much. Then you didn’t make nothing on it.

HELFAND: So, here in town, when they first did start this local union, did the black workers -- the first time around, they signed cards, and they joined one by one? Do you recall that?

TRACEY: I -- I -- I don’t know how they signed on that first one. I know the second one, you had -- you, you kept a card all the time. You used it. ’Cause after they give you a card -- there’s another chair somewhere --

HELFAND: Oh, no no, she can sit next to me, that’s fine. It’s only ’cause I want you to look at us, near the camera. That’s all. [break in video] So, what were they like, that they would’ve asked the black workers to join the union?


TRACEY: Mean -- mean what was it like that the black and the white joined the union together? Something like that? I don’t -- they didn’t care, I don’t reckon. I never did have to tell them -- you know, having no complaints about nothing like that. Not -- I don’t know. They didn’t get into nothing about like that. But you just didn’t get in a job inside. No, you couldn’t work inside, period. Wasn’t allowed to go in there and do nothing.

F1: So, during the first strike, there wasn’t as many blacks? Did -- did the whites ask a lot of blacks to join, or just...?

TRACEY: There wasn’t many blacks then. There was the second time. No.

F1: OK, so let’s -- let’s talk about how there was only a few blacks working during the first time.

HELFAND: That’s what we’re -- we’re trying to understand.

TRACEY: I know.

HELFAND: You know, how many people worked in the mill, and how many at the mill, and how many of them were black. Just to -- we just -- try to understand some numbers.

F1: Yeah, a lot of people have told us that, you know, in that -- during the ’30s, there wasn’t as many blacks in the mills --


TRACEY: No, not at all.

F1: -- there’s a very small --

HELFAND: Let him say it. Let him say it.

TRACEY: Just a very few of them. And wasn’t too many, but I don’t know how many it was. But it wasn’t nothing like it is now around the mills when I was working there. There’s a lot of blacks there. But back in them days, wasn’t too many black. And they hauled up -- back in then, they hauled up the cotton from the other mill. From up in number three, back down to number one and number two, by wagon. Two great big -- these big old gray horses hauled 10, 12 bales of cotton stacked on the wagons. They’d make so many loads a day, them wagon, hauling cotton. Wasn’t no trucks. Nothing but just mule and wagon days back in then. Wasn’t no -- wasn’t many cars. That -- you would 10:00not see over two cars a day running. Nobody didn’t have it. People then they -- livestock, horses, and things. Wagon, buggy. [Outside boss?] down there, he’s over all the hills, and over there, the houses and back down. He -- he drove a rubber -- had a big red horse and rubber tire buggy. That’s all he -- he didn’t have no car. Had a little -- had something at home, but he didn’t have nothing where he worked at the mill. Drove that horse to all three mills. Horse and buggy. And then he used to man down that -- they used to get in mail from the post office down there. Got plumb into [Donyon?] to [pull bin?], and back over yonder to -- so [Monday?] into White Stone. Man had two big red horses.

F1: So, Lonnie, back in the -- back in the ’30s, at the mills, um -- were the black workers --

HELFAND: We’re not running.

F1: Oh.

[break in video]


TRACEY: Yeah, (inaudible).

HELFAND: So, so could you -- could you tell us, back then, one more time -- back in the 19 -- you know, in the ’20s and the ’30s, that here there was a black mill village. And tell us, you know, what the -- what the company furnished the black workers?

TRACEY: Mean by working, or just --

HELFAND: What they -- what they gave them. You know, you know, they gave -- they gave you all the -- they provided you with a mill village, right?

TRACEY: Mm-hmm.

HELFAND: So, could you tell us how many of the black workers -- you know, what the company -- that there was a black mill village, and that most of you lived there, and what the company provided you?

TRACEY: Provided me?

HELFAND: Do you want to clarify that?

F1: Yeah. Just -- you know, you were telling us that there was very few blacks who worked outside the mill jobs in the ’30s.

TRACEY: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

F1: Were those -- were there mill villages then? Were those black wor-- those few black workers, were they in the village?


TRACEY: Oh yeah, they had -- company had housing, all the time. They had houses way back. Had all, yeah. Had white and, and black. And -- and mill village houses. So like it was when I stand by in the mill. Them houses was down there then. And over cotton number three, over that -- out there in the brickyard. Over Clifton number two. Over that place, I called it -- they called it [past the lot?]. That was bout (laughs) -- it was -- it was about five or six houses back there. That was company housing for the black. Had all that. Had them housing (inaudible) -- when I could remember one. The black had houses for the blacks and the whites. Cheaper rent. But you -- it was [hard to be?], you didn’t have the money.

HELFAND: And, would you say back then -- you know, that -- how many -- would you 13:00-- could you give an idea of how many black workers worked around the mill? Lived in the village and worked around the mill? How many families, how many workers, for the different mills?

TRACEY: Oh, let’s see. We were -- there’s a good many of them. A whole lot of black -- there was a whole lot of black families, back in then, you know. Two -- the two bigger families, but they -- they all was a -- let’s see, down where we stayed there -- you’re talking about the families there, the houses -- oh, that line was full. [Bigger?] man, his wife, man -- maybe so many children and his wife. There was about 14 houses down there, where I stayed in it, on that line. And all of them family, everybody had a family. And on up on 14:00the hill, all that was family. It was a crowd of family there, but everybody didn’t work at the mill, didn’t have no -- didn’t have a job, you know. The older people, they had jobs. Some young people stayed there, they didn’t have no jobs. Not no jobs.

HELFAND: The reason why we’re asking is because, you know, the majority of the mill workers in the whole industry were generally white.

TRACEY: Yes. That’s right.

HELFAND: And then, there was a small number that were black.

TRACEY: Black. That’s right. You’re right.

HELFAND: So, you think -- could you -- and then -- but it seems like in your mill, there was a good number of -- that the outside help made up a good number of black workers?

TRACEY: Black -- yeah, on the outside?

HELFAND: OK, do you think --

TRACEY: There were lots of them. Good many black on the outside. That was the most of the way out on the outside.


HELFAND: So -- so I’m wondering -- so, were there so many black workers that that’s why the union wanted to have blacks in the union? Would you say that that’s what --

TRACEY: Yeah, to make it, uh -- I guess to make it stronger, I guess. You know, more people in the union, that would be better, you know. Make it better. And so everybody joined it. You couldn’t hardly find nobody that one time that didn’t belong to it. I belonged to it a good while, but I had to let it go. Not only me, a whole lot of ’em. Then there’s a whole lot of white, they got out of it. But you just couldn’t walk away and leave and get out of it -- letting you quit and go on somewhere, you’d be out of it, but as long as you worked and didn’t try to go before the man to get out of it, you would -- you gonna still pay.


HELFAND: Do you remember what was going on -- the strike in this area, the first strike. They brought in national guards? And they had what they called flying squadron?

TRACEY: Oh, that mean what was going on during that strike, and the people’s out on the strike?

HELFAND: The first one, yeah.

TRACEY: Yeah, the first one. They’d have trouble, that’s right. ’Cause that’s when that man got killed at Drayton. They was having trouble. So -- y’all don’t remember him. I do. He’s old. Sam Hinder. He’s the sheriff of the -- the country. He brought a machine gun out there, from the courthouse. They got a big machine gun. He brought that machine gun out there and set it up. They had a big riot at Drayton. People spit. That’s why he -- that’s when he killed that man. That man -- he told him not to come over the fence, and one of ’em climbed over the fence. He shot him back over the fence. But he gave him orders not to come over there. He come over because 17:00coming over the fence to do something. Then they kept -- and I believe they had this [Beaumont?], he come out there and he tore them people’s tents down. Tore ’em down, those tents or something. Got into it with ’em. Yeah, they had some fights.

HELFAND: So now --

TRACEY: They was -- they fight to kill, I guess. Burn up (laughs) -- a lot of people went on like that.

HELFAND: Now, when your daddy was -- now, when your daddy went out -- you said your daddy went out on the picket line?


HELFAND: The first strike.

TRACEY: Yes, he had to go be out there with him. Different times. They had different times to go, you know. And work, and ’cause -- the reason they had to go, see they was giving ’em food. They was bringing us food out of Spartanburg out there. They’d feed ’em. They have a book, a little book, and the man bring us food, he’d mark your book up. Make sure that you got it. 18:00And that’s the reason they had to w-- you know, everybody worked the picket line got food. Them that didn’t work, they didn’t -- some of ’em didn’t work it. They didn’t get nothing.

HELFAND: This was during the first strike?

TRACEY: That’s right, way, way back. That’s when I used to -- I remember I used to go across the bridge over there. It was flat over there, you had a [taxes?] lot over there. And that truck come out of town and park over there. And people go there and get in on a line, and get the stuff and go back home. And that’s been a long years ago.

HELFAND: You know, we’re going to take a break for just a minute, OK?

[break in video]

HELFAND: -- went back to work?

TRACEY: Everybody went back to work then. The whole entire mill. Wasn’t 19:00nobody -- didn’t nobody lose their jobs or nothing. I know that that whole mill business was full. I knowed everybody on that mill business. Black and white, everybody knowed me. I used to take an axe and cut wood for them people. They’d -- everybody’s burning wood and cooking, but it -- everybody would -- I kept my axe sharpened all the time. Go out there to the mill and grind my axe. Twenty-four sticks, I believe it was. I’d cut it for a quarter. (laughs) There wasn’t no -- there wasn’t no money. [Pen?] of wood for 25 cents. Men were brothers. Cut -- we’d cut all over there. Sometime we’d get through, we’d be there and cut eight pens of wood. Everybody -- “I want you to come and cut my wood.” “All right, we’ll get to you.”


HELFAND: So the -- so you -- so the black workers did a lot of work for the white mill people.

TRACEY: Yeah, lord yeah. I worked around the mill -- I used to work in the flower yard that we later called Mr. [Shelbut?]. (inaudible) Shelbut in a flower yard. Get [done up?]. Said get my done up. Paid me. Lord yeah, we used to work -- I worked all over the hills for the white. Sure did.

HELFAND: So, on top of the work that you did at the mill?

TRACEY: Yeah, mm-hmm. Yeah, you could work -- get a -- do outside work. If somebody else didn’t beat you to it and (laughs) do the work.

HELFAND: So, after this strike, that big one in ’34, like I said --

TRACEY: At the first one, yeah.

HELFAND: The first one. And I showed you the pictures of it.

TRACEY: Mm-hmm.


HELFAND: Did you know that it was nationwide?

TRACEY: Back in then?


TRACEY: Yeah, I heard ’em talking about that. That strike was everywhere. People was on strike, you’re right. I heard my daddy and them talking about it. That it was all over the whole country. It was a time, too. But most -- but most of ’em got their jobs back. That’s what surprised me. All of ’em went back to work. And they come to the second strike, and they [drug us away?] from them. Had to move over the hill. Had to leave. They run ’em away, they done so bad. People’s go -- had the lights on at night, come in from the house, and a brick bat would come in the window at you. They’d throw at the people. Shoot -- they shot in windows. Guns. It just dangerous, that second one. People’s to-- they had -- they [cat gun em?]. Beat at the gate with ’em. And you didn’t know it.


[break in video]

HELFAND: And the union stuck around -- that’s what I want -- ’cause that other strike didn’t happen for many years.

TRACEY: Mm-mm.

HELFAND: And we’re talking like 30 years that the union stuck around. Could you talk about the union not leaving town after that first strike?

TRACEY: I just -- I don’t know much of what happened in that one, you know. I don’t know. I don’t know much.

HELFAND: I’m just -- I’m just -- you know, in a lot of towns around here, after that first strike, they fired a lot of people. And they all had a -- they -- they wouldn’t give them their jobs back.

TRACEY: No, they get no jobs. No, they had to leave town. Sure did. A whole lot of ’em. I know two or three just -- piles of them. They’d tell them 23:00they had to fight, and -- they’d go to people’s house and burn ’em up. Set the house on fire if they didn’t get out of it, at night. They done all kinds of [devilness?].

HELFAND: So, I’m just saying that, in a lot of other towns, after the first strike in ’34, the unions didn’t stick around very long.

TRACEY: Not long.

HELFAND: But in Clifton, they stayed.

TRACEY: Yeah, they stayed a while. They stayed a good while, like you say. Round them other places, they -- I don’t think you -- they didn’t, didn’t do much more good, or something. I don’t know what happened. They just split up, I guess. And then, after this one -- and then they organized another one. This the last one, you know. I don’t know.

HELFAND: But in Clifton the union stayed around?

TRACEY: Mm-hmm.

HELFAND: Could you say that, and -- could you talk about that?


TRACEY: That -- about how long and what they did? I don’t know. [Boy, could not?]. It’s been so long, I can’t remember.

HELFAND: I’ll tell you, you don’t --

TRACEY: I could back in then, but...

HELFAND: I’m not asking you to be real specific. I just want to know, when everyone went back to work after that first strike, the union didn’t -- they kept on meeting, right? They didn’t just stop meeting --

TRACEY: Oh no, just didn’t -- no, they didn’t stop.

HELFAND: That’s what I want to know.

TRACEY: Not the meeting, no. They didn’t stop. ’Cause it -- it was still organized, you know. But -- but this last one [wasn’t in it?]. After -- after they shut down, and they went out there, they now no union. And people left. Over half of the hill, mill business, left. I don’t -- the first one wasn’t like -- just left.


HELFAND: OK. So that’s what -- can we stop for one sec? That’s --

[break in video]

M1: Rolling.

HELFAND: They kept -- they, they -- even though -- after that strike, they kept on meeting?

TRACEY: Meeting? Yeah, meeting.

HELFAND: Could you say that? After the strike?

TRACEY: After the strike, they kept on meeting. Meeting -- the union kept going. And everybody got their jobs back. Wasn’t nobody fired in then. [Quite the mill?]. They just got along fine after they went back to work. And there wasn’t no more -- it just never was no more -- what you call it? Wasn’t no more good, much, after it busted. The (inaudible) went plum out. There wasn’t no more good people. Had to leave. Didn’t have no jobs or nothing then.


TRACEY: But that first year, first one, it just -- it just, it just wasn’t -- it was way -- it was a lot different than it was in this last one.

HELFAND: And after the first strike, the union stuck around?


TRACEY: Yeah, and the people went back to work.

HELFAND: And did the black workers continue to be a part of --

TRACEY: Oh, they went on. They -- everybody went back to work. They got their jobs back. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Most all of them. All them was out, went to work.

HELFAND: And they continued to meet? They continued to have meetings?

TRACEY: I think they had meetings. I think so. But when it went [plum out of it?], they -- and then it went plum out of somewhere, something there before this one reorganized.

HELFAND: So, when they, the -- but what you’re saying, is that the -- they, they stayed -- the union stuck around --

TRACEY: A while.

HELFAND: -- until the ’60s. Is that when the -- is that when it went plum out.

TRACEY: It went plum out, sure did. That’s right. It went out.


TRACEY: And -- and they said they had money in that somewhere, and said it was 27:00gonna be divided to the people that belonged to the union. I never did hear no more. I just didn’t hear no more about that. I didn’t ask. But I just heard ’em say they had -- they had a good bit, good bit of money. And I never did.

HELFAND: Did your daddy -- you told me that, before, when Roosevelt changed the hours, your dad went onto $12 an hour? $12 a day?


HELFAND: A -- yeah, $12 a week.

TRACEY: Week. No, he wouldn’t get no $12 (laughs) -- bout $12 a week. And even $9.62, you see.

HELFAND: That’s it, that’s it, OK. We’ll start again.

TRACEY: $9.62. That’s what they went up to. Wasn’t making no, what, $4, $4.50, $5. Something like that. Some of ’em made a little more than the others. You know how jobs run. All everybody didn’t make the same. The last 28:00-- and I didn’t get -- no, I didn’t get very much money.

HELFAND: And when your father’s -- when all the -- when the outside workers -- they went up to $9. Did they only have to work eight hours? Or did they have to work more hours?

TRACEY: Not after Roosevelt set that up, they didn’t. They didn’t have to, no. All over, they didn’t have to. But before he set that up, you did. You had to work as long as they wanted you to work. They’d just come out and say we had to work to eight o’clock, seven o’clock. But you had to work to then. Till that time’s up. It was 14-hour, 12-hour. I even -- I worked 16 hours myself. For a (laughs) -- for a while. And then it got better. They cut out all that. And some of ’em didn’t like the 40 hours, or some did, 29:00’cause the more you -- see, you just got the -- if you worked all over 40 hours, it’s time-and-a-half time. And work on Sundays or something like that they have -- that was double pay. And a lot of ’em liked it. And I was working -- I was working this ballroom, then. I was fine. Turning the keys and (inaudible). Worked, what, six hours on Sunday. I got double pay.

HELFAND: So, do you think that –

[break in video]

TRACEY: You could get for $5.

HELFAND: So, do you think that your father -- do you remember before -- before they made the change in the hours, before your father got that in $9.62, do you remember him talking about -- talking about Roosevelt?

TRACEY: Oh, everybody -- mm-hmm. Yeah, he was glad when he come in. You know, when he took the seat. When he took the chair, yeah, he was glad. Because he 30:00didn’t have too much to keep us up with. We was -- all of us wasn’t working. And it was hard. Sure was. Hard. It was hard to make a living working for a big crowd of people.

HELFAND: I was just asking that because, um, I know that when Roosevelt put in that -- the eight-hour day, and the minimum wage -- that there were some cases where the people that worked on the outside weren’t covered by the same new laws that the people on the inside were.

TRACEY: No, not -- sure wasn’t. No, sure -- inside was a -- it was better. The inside people’s was. Outside wasn’t a -- wasn’t -- wasn’t a -- you know. Didn’t -- it didn’t make much money. Inside workers made more money, 31:00too. Mm-hmm. They had it set up that way. I don’t even -- I don’t know. That’s all you got. Bed and the work.

HELFAND: And do you think that, um -- so, so I’m just wondering if your father and the other outside workers -- do you remember them being real excited about these -- this new change coming on? This -- the -- the raise in pay.

TRACEY: Oh, the raise in pay, yeah. All the older people, they were glad. ’Cause they had never seen nothing like that, ’cause they never did make nothing. No, didn’t make nothing. People was working the -- the common labor law, farmers, they didn’t make nothing. Didn’t have anything.

HELFAND: But did the hours -- did they -- did they only get to work eight hours? 32:00Or -- or did it -- did it not apply to the people on the outside? Did they actually have to work more than eight hours?

TRACEY: Not hardly. Not too -- not too many times. Had it all worked. A long time, sure did. ’Cause a lot of time, I have -- they have a come and ask, “Did you -- you wanna work over?” And if you say no, and they tell you you don’t -- “You don’t have to if you don’t want to. I can’t make you. But if you want to work and make the money, you can work.” That’s what they said, too.

HELFAND: And, do you -- do you think that this idea about the blacks joining the union back at that first time, was that something that the blacks wanted to do? Or was it the white organizers’ idea? I mean, I’m just trying to understand where that came from.

TRACEY: Well, the -- the wh-- the whites started it you see. Got it organized. And then they went around to the blacks with it, and, you know, and got ’em to join. That’s how -- that’s how it got -- got in there. The head men of the 33:00union told them all about what it would do, and what it’s gonna do, and what it would be, and all -- just different things. And that’s why they joined it. They thought it would be better, you know. So I just don’t know whether it was any better, or what. (laughs)


TRACEY: Oh, sometime it seems like it wasn’t, then again it did -- I don’t know.

HELFAND: Now, in some towns, union was considered a real dirty word. You know? The --


HELFAND: The bosses were real upset about it, earlier.

TRACEY: I know, yeah. They didn’t like it, no. Sure didn’t. Some of ’em didn’t like it, because they -- before that union come, they’d make you work (laughs) if you didn’t want to work. Sometimes, you just had to do it. And 34:00you would stand [nothing?]. You would stand in they houses, too. The mill village. They’d run you away. Like if you worked that day, and something happened that night at the mill, they’d -- they’d go around, and see if -- to try to, you know, get you up at night to work. Say, “Well, we need you. WE got to have you.” And you say, “I can’t come back down. I’m tired, and I done worked all day.” Say, “Well, if you don’t come tonight, don’t come back in the morning.” That’s the way they had you. Been a many men got up to bed twelve o’clock (laughs) -- twelve o’clock at night and went back to work. They’d go something had happened, you know, and they’d want ’em to work. Come up a great big rainstorm, and them had racks out there, would get choked up. You had to rake them, had to clean them racks out. Them things along here, down yonder. Them trees, near about that -- you had to rake them things good and clean, push that stuff off of them, off the 35:00flow bay. Push it off, or behind the mill. That’s so the mill could run. Them things get stopped up, and water go to shooting out of them big old pipes, and that killed everything, it would. Knock the mill off. Keep it -- you know, wouldn’t run.

HELFAND: How do you think it would’ve -- how do you think it would have been if -- if the union had been successful that first time in 1934?

TRACEY: Mean if it hadn’t have been?

HELFAND: If it had been.

TRACEY: Oh. I don’t know what to say about that. I don’t know.

HELFAND: Did they ever get a contract here in the mills? Is that -- is that why the union stayed on and on and on?

TRACEY: Oh, yeah. It mean contract for the company?



TRACEY: Yeah, they had contracts. For they, uh, goods. You know, what they’re selling. They clothes.

HELFAND: No, I mean --

TRACEY: Something like that?

HELFAND: -- I mean -- no. Did the union --


HELFAND: -- did the -- was the union organized enough so that the company recognized the union? Did that happen?

TRACEY: Yeah, they -- a contract, yeah. They had a contract, a union contract. Mm-hmm.

HELFAND: But that wasn’t -- that took many years, right?

TRACEY: Yeah, took -- yes, you’re right. Took years. That’s right.

HELFAND: So, I’ll tell you, I think it took a lot of -- would you say it took a lot of courage for the black workers to get involved in the union at that time?

TRACEY: That’s -- yeah. Sure was. Sure was. [break in video] Oh (laughs).

HELFAND: See, the reason why we were so excited to talk to you is because everybody has told us that – [break in video]


TRACEY: Just a very -- very few. And they had to work, too. That’s, uh, that’s when all that work was going (laughs) going on. You had to work, you had to -- you just had to work what they said to do. Had to do what they said do, or go. They had to work to midnight many times. Come home at midnight. Eat a supper before we go to bed, and get up eight o’clock the next morning, be back on the job. I don’t see how they stood it.

HELFAND: Is that why they wanted a union? IS that why the blacks were willing to join.

TRACEY: I gue-- I imagine so, yeah. ’Cause they figured it’d be better for em, you know, if the whites had it. I guess they figured it would, you know, be better if they joined.

HELFAND: Did -- do you think that they could have gotten in more trouble? I 38:00mean, at the time, you know, blacks always got in more trouble than the white people did.

TRACEY: Oh, back in then, lord yeah. Sure did. That’s right.

HELFAND: So, did it take a lot of -- would you -- would you say it took a lot of -- did it take a lot more courage on the parts of the blacks to join the union?

TRACEY: I’d say so.

HELFAND: Could you say that?

TRACEY: Yes, because -- I don’t know. You don’t know what would’ve happened by joining it. You might -- somebody might’ve done something to you, or something, you know. (inaudible)

HELFAND: What gave the black community here the courage to join the union in 1934?

TRACEY: I don’t know whether they were just, you know, drug in it by somebody, or they thought it would be better, or what. I don’t know. But like that -- 39:00it -- it wasn’t even a whole lot of ’em in it. ’Cause I don’t think a whole lot of -- you couldn’t -- they didn’t want -- they didn’t want nobody in it much that first time. No, not that first union. No, there wasn’t no blacks much in it. Second time, everybody wanted to. All -- all over the whole hill. All three mills was in the same union.

HELFAND: But the first time -- the first time, though, you said that blacks from all three mills joined. That -- that they had that se-- their own separate meeting.

TRACEY: Meeting, that’s right.

HELFAND: So there was a good, number of them, yeah?

TRACEY: Oh, one time it was. Yeah, one -- but that way back it wasn’t too 40:00many, you know. In the -- in the first strike. Wasn’t too many union people. Blacks, not then.

HELFAND: Was it enough for them to have a meeting, though?

TRACEY: I don’t know whether it was not. They had to just take whatever the man told, back in then. ’Cause there wasn’t enough people in it, you know. But the last time, there was just so many in it, they had a place to meet and everything.

HELFAND: And do you -- and the first time, they did meet somewhere, though, didn’t they?

TRACEY: They had a place that some of them would meet. There’s so many buildings and things they tore down, you know, and they -- they had a little separate meeting somewhere. But I don’t know whether it was any good or not. (laughter) I can’t say.

HELFAND: Well -- and how did people protest? I mean, if they didn’t like what was going on, if they didn’t like getting woke up at twelve o’clock at night, what’d they do?


TRACEY: Mean what -- if they didn’t want to go, or --

HELFAND: I mean, if they were upset about the way they were being treated.

TRACEY: Yeah, and they didn’t want -- they just -- just had to -- couldn’t do no better. You just had to work. Sure would. If you didn’t want to work, then you just had to leave the village. Go somewhere and get you a job, if you could. And sometimes if you done something real bad that they didn’t like, you wouldn’t get no job nowhere else. ’Cause they’d call. They’d (laughs) -- they’d tell them why you left, and how come. And then they’d come back, and they’d say, “Well, I don’t -- we can’t have -- use you at this time. We’ll let you know if we need you.” And all that kind of...

HELFAND: Was there a lot of favoritism in the mill? I mean, the way that they hired people to come and work there? You know, I mean, if there was like -- 42:00like the -- this -- like the second hand hired his family or that type of thing?

TRACEY: Mean was any, uh, talk against it or something like that? He hired some of his peoples or something?

HELFAND: I mean -- did that happen? Could you talk about that?

TRACEY: No. It wasn’t too many. You know, it wasn’t too many kin -- kin that worked in that mill down there. No. Might be just a man and his wife. Or maybe or a brother in this one, a brother in that one. Wasn’t no -- no -- just a family [collar?] working at the mill.

HELFAND: Were you going to say something? OK. My last question is about the baseball team.

TRACEY: Mm-hmm.

HELFAND: You said, “Back in my day, if you were a good ballplayer, you could go to any mill”?

TRACEY: Oh yeah.

HELFAND: Could you say that again?

TRACEY: You could go to any mill and get a job.

HELFAND: Could you --

TRACEY: If you was a good baseball player, you could go to [Lyman?], Pacolet, 43:00anywhere you choose. You know, you wanted to go and go to work. And -- and if they knowed you was a good ballplayer, they’d come round and ask you, “Would you go? If we gave you a job, you come and go out the line. We’ll give you a job, you go to Pacolet.” Just around different mills, you know. I was working down there, and they come and got me. Some fellas from Lyman called and told me to be ready. And he come down, the two of ’em -- three, three come -- excuse me. Three of ’em come down there in a car, and I wouldn’t tell ’em I’d gone. I had another job. They didn’t want me to go to -- I was playing with (inaudible). I told ’em if they get me a job up in Lyman, I would’ve -- that was a good job. But I -- sawdust, separate the scrap, call it [good claw?], put it in a box, and the scrap go to the waste house. All I could then. 44:00Fill up the fire barrels of water. Down there, one was -- you had to cut grass on sling blades and things, and -- out in Lyman, no. They wouldn’t -- everybody cut grass but the ballplayers. And I was glad to leave. (laughter) But they wouldn’t let no ballplayers cut grass. Hurt his arms, you know, throwing the ball. They didn’t want no ballplayers to cut grass. They put all the other workers -- said, “I don’t want no ballplayers cutting no grass.” Black and white, same way.

HELFAND: So, the mill company, they had a baseball team. Why base-- could you talk about the baseball teams?

TRACEY: Yeah, the company out of Lyman, they furnished everything. Your shoes, socks. Give you two uniforms, you know, the playing -- oh, they bought everything. You didn’t put no money in it. Company -- that company funded everything, and then you got a hall over there on Grove Street. You go there, 45:00and that’s where you changed clothes. Kept your -- had a locker. Everybody put their clothes in that locker. Well, down that, oh -- they’d buy. They funded clothes, but you had to pay for it.

HELFAND: So there was a baseball -- there was a black baseball team and a white baseball team for the mill right here?

TRACEY: Mm-hmm. Yes, ma’am. There’s one at Converse and one at Clifton. Down at number one. Had a black and white down there, and a black and white at Converse. So -- but -- but -- they had to pay for they stuff. Out at Lyman, they furnished the ball. Company furnished all that, kept the balls. But the company down there -- down there where I worked, at Clifton, they’d buy balls, and their suits, unifo-- gloves, and buy the catcher’s outfit, you know, mask. But you -- but the -- but the team would had to pay so much money every week on that.


HELFAND: And so the -- the black -- your black baseball team -- your baseball team traveled from mill to mill to play other teams?

TRACEY: Oh, yeah.

HELFAND: Could you tell us that?

TRACEY: Go to Pacolet. They’d play Pacolet, play Lyman, play Drayton, play Whitney, play Inman. And let me see where else -- up over the -- see the spring out in Spartanburg. And up in [Southern Shops?], had the railroad company. They had one up there. It’s -- Arcadia. That’s a mill company out there. Saxon, Jackson. All of them had mill companies, had -- had ball clubs. And out of Startex, they had one there next to Lyman. I could have got a job there, but I didn’t leave there, and I wanted to go to Lyman, and I left and went to Lyman. And the first -- first game I played, I played -- I come back home and played against my home team. (laughs) Come back over there to Converse, played 47:00with Lyman against Converse, and we beat ’em. They ragged me to death. We beat ’em nine to two. Never will forget. (laughs) Lyman had some fellas could’ve played in the big league, Major League. Had some good ballplayers. Pacolet.

[break in video]

HELFAND: That was -- what about control? I mean, did -- did -- did it feel like the company controlled the mill village, the white village, the black village?

TRACEY: Mean the company -- oh, yeah, the company was -- you mean -- they kept everything in order, mm-hmm. They was over everything. That -- the company that I’m at, it was all right, but you -- but you just had to buy your equipment. You know, what you played with, your bats, and your balls. You had 48:00to pay for all that. But out of Lyman, you didn’t. They furnished everything.

HELFAND: OK. I think that we, um, we -- we’re just about done. So I’m just gonna --

TRACEY: I wasn’t married then. I was single.

HELFAND: You know what I would love to do? I’d like to show you just a letter or two that were written by some black mill workers in other parts of the --

[break in video]

M1: Speed

HELFAND: OK. So, did you all think that -- that this -- do you recall them thinking that this strike made a lot of sense, what they -- that they were asking -- what they were asking of the company, and joining all these other local unions across the country made sense?

TRACEY: Mean this last strike they had there?

HELFAND: No, the first strike.

TRACEY: The first one. Ah, I don’t know. I don’t what the -- it wasn’t too many blacks were in it. And I just don’t know what -- what they thought about it, what few was in it, you know. And I don’t -- I don’t know what they had in their mind, you know.


HELFAND: And how do you think things would’ve been different if -- all these years, you know, that -- even back in ’34 -- if the union had been successful in all these towns all around this part of South Carolina? How do you think that would’ve changed things even now?

TRACEY: I don’t -- if it was a whole lot of, you know, blacks and things in it, it would’ve been -- it would’ve been good, I imagine. Just to’ve had a whole lot of them in it, you know, would’ve been good. But it wasn’t all that many in it. It just didn’t...


TRACEY: And just never was too strong. Wasn’t too many blacks in it. The white did double it. The white -- there was a lot of white folks was in it. Good many, a good many black.


HELFAND: Do you think that, uh, the South would be a different place today if -- if when they had tried to get the union in all over this area?

TRACEY: All over -- all over the states?

HELFAND: Yeah, all over the --

TRACEY: The state of South Carolina?

HELFAND: Yeah, all -- and in the other states.

TRACEY: I imagine -- I imagine it would’ve been better. Everybody work together, and got it to work, it would’ve been good. You know. Think about -- somebody was gonna pull the other way, though. You know that. Everybody ain’t gonna go the same. Not all the time, no. Unions is a good thing at a plant, any plant. If all the workers work together and everything, that’s -- that’s a good thing to have. ’Cause you work together, and they get what they want. But unions, some pulling one way, some pulling -- you -- you’re not going to get nothing. Sure ain’t. Now we didn’t have no union over 51:00there. The last place I worked. No, he told me, he said -- when they hired me, he told me, he said, “Now, I’ll tell you, we don’t have no unions.” They had about 25 plants, they got ’em in that. He said, “Because I think you’re man enough to talk for your own self. You don’t need no man to talk for you.” But they -- that’s what (inaudible) said. The union wasn’t -- nothing tell you, they just talk, and say -- you don’t -- won’t say -- they told how much you was paying in it, and how much it was costing you just for another man to talk for you. Say you didn’t need that. But I don’t know whether -- whether he was wrong, just telling me that, or what. I don’t -- that’s when I went and got a job there. They paid me, that’s all I knew. They paid me good when I worked there, over that last time, about -- down there, 52:00I didn’t get very much, though. That was way back. Then when I had to go sign up for money, and he mentioned down there, and I said Lord have mercy -- and also, let’s don’t take that. See, you won’t get nothing much, unless you draw on your job, that’s less that you’ll get.

HELFAND: I was talking to a man in Macon yesterday.


HELFAND: And he was telling me that, when they would lift up the bales of cotton --

TRACEY: Uh-huh.

HELFAND: Yeah, that they were, you know, 500 pounds?

TRACEY: Five hundred, 600. Some of ’em were 600 pounds. Had a -- had a thing just like this stick, you know, with a hook on. Get it in that buck, man on that side, (laughs) two men on the side of that bale of cotton. They’d just pick it up and throw it up on the truck.

HELFAND: Did you -- was there a song that you sang? Was there like a -- a song that someone would say, “OK, pick it up” --


HELFAND: Or someone would say, “OK, [beat?] it to the green man”?

TRACEY: Yeah. Everybody’d that had the [hauls?], it was ready. If you didn’t -- see some man may jerk up and may hurt your back. You lift, another 53:00man ain’t liftin’, that might break something loose in you.

HELFAND: How did -- what -- how did your [holler?] go?

TRACEY: Everybody get told, said, “All right, [lift when?] ready.” (laughs) So we -- we all of us lift -- go up together, you know. If some go up, and one -- and one go up with his end of the bale, and the other didn’t go up, it might hurt somebody. So that bale’d fall -- at the end it’d fall back down, and strain somebody to death. And a lot of them guys -- see some of them bales was light. Real light. You had to watch that. I knowed -- I’d been there too long. They couldn’t mess me up.

HELFAND: Must be the other film crew.

TRACEY: And you take a man and come then -- they called him a green man, you know. A young man. And they’d tell you, “You get that one over there.” Well, that bale may weight 400 or 500 pounds.

HELFAND: Let’s let these folks go past. [break in video]


TRACEY: On the railroad they had a song. I worked out there too. Lot of dangers out there, though.

HELFAND: And in the cotton mill?

TRACEY: Yes, it’s dangerous out -- lifting that heavy -- them heavy bales. If you wasn’t careful, them guy’s’d give you the heavy bale and he’d take the light one. (laughs) He’d tell you, “You get that one over there. You get that one.” And he said -- somebody had to go over there and help him break that bale down on the truck. If they had a light bale, anybody could break it. I knowed it. I could look at the cloth and tell whether it’s heavy or light. There’s a man worked with me and another boy one day. He just slowly like killed him. I was a man (laughs) -- I said, “I didn’t try to mess you up.” He said, “I just don’t understand.” Said, “See, y’all with that breaking them bales, just as easy as” (laughs) (inaudible) -- I didn’t do the man that. The other guy did, though. He give him every heavy bale he could. (laughs) And he’d get the light ones. Pick out the 55:00light ones. He could look over there and see the light bales. Man, they scuffled a time to get them heavy bales up on them trucks. And they --

HELFAND: Hard work.

TRACEY: -- fixed to mess you up -- yeah, they’d mess you up lifting them bales, too. Get out of -- like he’s lifting, wouldn’t lift. I could tell when he wasn’t doing that, too. They never -- they just never did mess me up. No. Not on that work.

HELFAND: And how did they treat -- how did the foremans and the supervisors -- how did they treat the white workers inside the mill?

TRACEY: They was -- they was [nice?]. They wasn’t too bad on them. Not when I was -- not in my time. They wasn’t too bad. No, they wasn’t too bad. They’d have supervisor -- they have a room. Cloth room, spinning room, card 56:00room, weave shops, spooler room. They was all right boss. They treat the black all right. Anything -- they asked them about anything they wanted, or something you wanted. They -- they -- they -- they wasn’t the bad -- the bosses wasn’t.

HELFAND: One last question. You said that, um, your mama -- that you would go and you would get the laundry to bring to your mother?

TRACEY: Yes. We used to get denim. [Care of Donna?], then she’d tell us how long she’d had to work that night. She’d got to work -- yeah, I got to work late tonight. And be -- asked her what time you had to work. Y’all come back with me, we’ll take a lantern. It’d be dark. We’d take a lantern, me and my brother had two lanterns. We’d go all the way to the laundry. ’Bout -- it was about two miles up the road. Go back and get her and come back home. But she’d had to work to seven, seven-thirty, eight o’clock at night. And 57:00then sometimes you’d get off way before night.

HELFAND: So, this area was all --

M1: Wild sound.