Lonnie Tracey Interview 2

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LONNIE TRACEY: I cant say. I dont 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 dont know why they would -- they wasnt 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 didnt 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 couldnt -- you could just quit going to the meeting. Quit then. But your money was going to keep going as long as you didnt 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, theyd know. But they didnt -- the company never did approve all of -- different people. Theyd tell you -- you know, the mill 00:02:00people -- mill -- man over the mill. Theyd tell you it wasnt no good, aint no good for you, and all that stuff. I wouldnt join. Say it aint no good to you. So I dont know why, and what, and (laughs) -- I dont know what is in they favor. I guess it was, I dont 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 didnt 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 didnt 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 00:03:00Carolina? 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 wasnt no more sheriff in Spartanburg County. That hurt it. He tore the union tents -- you know, tore em down. Hes with the company. Hes for the company, had to be, because he tore the union, uh, tents down.

HELFAND: Now, the black workers didnt 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 couldnt say. It was -- its 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 cant 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 didnt 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, didnt it?

TRACEY: Yes, cause it...

HELFAND: I mean...

TRACEY: It didnt go -- it didnt 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 dont 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 dont -- I dont think so. I think, oh, they split, you know. So many did, and so many went out of it. Thats what happened. Sure did, because -- some people -- Ill tell you some of them people didnt 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. Wasnt for that, people wouldnt have nothing to live on. Jobs was gone. Couldnt buy no -- couldnt -- you couldnt even get a job nowhere. Back in then. Farmers, they didnt make nothing. Peoples farming didnt make nothing. They had a hard time too. Cotton crop, corn, and stuff, it just went to bad. They didnt make nothing. And 00:07:00they didnt allow em to plant but so much -- so much of this, so much of that. And back in then you couldnt plant with just so much. Then you didnt 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 dont 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 -- theres another chair somewhere --

HELFAND: Oh, no no, she can sit next to me, thats fine. Its only cause I want you to look at us, near the camera. Thats all. [break in video] So, what were they like, that they wouldve 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 dont -- they didnt care, I dont reckon. I never did have to tell them -- you know, having no complaints about nothing like that. Not -- I dont know. They didnt get into nothing about like that. But you just didnt get in a job inside. No, you couldnt work inside, period. Wasnt allowed to go in there and do nothing.

F1: So, during the first strike, there wasnt as many blacks? Did -- did the whites ask a lot of blacks to join, or just...?

TRACEY: There wasnt many blacks then. There was the second time. No.

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

HELFAND: Thats what were -- were 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 wasnt as many blacks in the mills --


TRACEY: No, not at all.

F1: -- theres a very small --

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

TRACEY: Just a very few of them. And wasnt too many, but I dont know how many it was. But it wasnt nothing like it is now around the mills when I was working there. Theres a lot of blacks there. But back in them days, wasnt 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. Theyd make so many loads a da, them wagon, hauling cotton. Wasnt no trucks. Nothing but just mule and wagon days back in then. Wasnt no -- wasnt many cars. That -- you would 00:10:00not see over two cars a day running. Nobody didnt have it. People then they -- livestock, horses, and things. Wagon, buggy. [Outside boss?] down there, hes 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. Thats all he -- he didnt have no car. Had a little -- had something at home, but he didnt 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: Were 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 didnt have the money.

HELFAND: And, would you say back then -- you know, that -- how many -- would you 00:13:00-- 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, lets see. We were -- theres 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 -- lets see, down where we stayed there -- youre 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 00:14:00the hill, all that was family. It was a crowd of family there, but everybody didnt work at the mill, didnt have no -- didnt have a job, you know. The older people, they had jobs. Some young people stayed there, they didnt have no jobs. Not no jobs.

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

TRACEY: Yes. Thats right.

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

TRACEY: Black. Thats right. Youre 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 Im wondering -- so, were there so many black workers that thats why the union wanted to have blacks in the union? Would you say that thats 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 couldnt hardly find nobody that one time that didnt 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 theres a whole lot of white, they got out of it. But you just couldnt walk away and leave and get out of it -- letting you quit and go on somewhere, youd be out of it, but as long as you worked and didnt 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 peoples out on the strike?

HELFAND: The first one, yeah.

TRACEY: Yeah, the first one. Theyd have trouble, thats right. Cause thats when that man got killed at Drayton. They was having trouble. So -- yall dont remember him. I do. Hes old. Sam Hinder. Hes 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. Thats why he -- thats 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 00:17:00coming over the fence to do something. Then they kept -- and I believe they had this [Beaumont?], he come out there and he tore them peoples 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. Theyd feed em. They have a book, a little book, and the man bring us food, hed mark your book up. Make sure that you got it. 00:18:00And thats the reason they had to w-- you know, everybody worked the picket line got food. Them that didnt work, they didnt -- some of em didnt work it. They didnt get nothing.

HELFAND: This was during the first strike?

TRACEY: Thats right, way, way back. Thats 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 thats been a long years ago.

HELFAND: You know, were 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. Wasnt 00:19:00nobody -- didnt 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 n axe and cut wood for them people. Theyd -- everybodys 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. Id cut it for a quarter. (laughs) There wasnt no -- there wasnt no money. [Pen?] of wood for 25 cents. Men were brothers. Cut -- wed cut all over there. Sometime wed get through, wed be there and cut eight pens of wood. Everybody -- I want you to come and cut my wood. All right, well 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 didnt 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, youre 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. Thats 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. Peoples go -- had the lights on at night, come in from the house, and a brick bat would come in the window at you. Theyd throw at the people. Shoot -- they shot in windows. Guns. It just dangerous, that second one. Peoples to-- they had -- they [cat gun em?]. Beat at the gate with em. And you didnt know it.


[break in video]

HELFAND: And the union stuck around -- thats what I want -- cause that other strike didnt happen for many years.

TRACEY: Mm-mm.

HELFAND: And were 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 dont know much of what happened in that one, you know. I dont know. I dont know much.

HELFAND: Im just -- Im 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 wouldnt 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. Theyd tell them 00:23:00they had to fight, and -- theyd go to peoples house and burn em up. Set the house on fire if they didnt get out of it, at night. They done all kinds of [devilness?].

HELFAND: So, Im just saying that, in a lot of other towns, after the first strike in 34, the unions didnt 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 dont think you -- they didnt, didnt do much more good, or something. I dont 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 dont 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 dont know. [Boy, could not?]. Its been so long, I cant remember.

HELFAND: Ill tell you, you dont --

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

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

TRACEY: Oh no, just didnt -- no, they didnt stop.

HELFAND: Thats what I want to know.

TRACEY: Not the meeting, no. They didnt stop. Cause it -- it was still organized, you know. But -- but this last one [wasnt 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 dont -- the first one wasnt like -- just left.


HELFAND: OK. So thats what -- can we stop for one sec? Thats --

[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. Wasnt nobody fired in then. [Quite the mill?]. They just got along fine after they went back to work. And there wasnt no more -- it just never was no more -- what you call it? Wasnt no more good, much, after it busted. The (inaudible) went plum out. There wasnt no more good people. Had to leave. Didnt have no jobs or nothing then.


TRACEY: But that first year, first one, it just -- it just, it just wasnt -- 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 youre 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. Thats right. It went out.


TRACEY: And -- and they said they had money in that somewhere, and said it was 00:27:00gonna be divided to the people that belonged to the union. I never did hear no more. I just didnt hear no more about that. I didnt 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 wouldnt get no $12 (laughs) -- bout $12 a week. And even $9.62, you see.

HELFAND: Thats it, thats it, OK. Well start again.

TRACEY: $9.62. Thats what they went up to. Wasnt 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 didnt make the same. The last 00:28:00-- and I didnt get -- no, I didnt get very much money.

HELFAND: And when your fathers -- 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 didnt. They didnt have to, no. All over, they didnt have to. But before he set that up, you did. You had to work as long as they wanted you to work. Theyd just come out and say we had to work to eight oclock, seven oclock. But you had to work to then. Till that times 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 didnt like the 40 hours, or some did, 00:29:00cause the more you -- see, you just got the -- if you worked all ver 40 hours, its 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 00:30:00didnt have too much to keep us up with. We was -- all of us wasnt 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 werent covered by the same new laws that the people on the inside were.

TRACEY: No, not -- sure wasnt. No, sure -- inside was a -- it was better. The inside peoples was. Outside wasnt a -- wasnt -- wasnt a -- you know. Didnt -- it didnt make much money. Inside workers made more money, 00:31:00too. Mm-hmm. They had it set up that way. I dont even -- I dont know. Thats all you got. Bed and the work.

HELFAND: And do you think that, um -- so, so Im 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, didnt make nothing. People was working the -- the common labor law, farmers, they didnt make nothing. Didnt have anything.

HELFAND: But did the hours -- did they -- did they only get to work eight hours? 00:32:00Or -- 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 dont -- You dont have to if you dont want to. I cant make you. But if you want to work and make the money, you can work. Thats 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, Im 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. Thats how -- thats how it got -- got in there. The head men of the 00:33:00union told them all about what it would do, and what its gonna do, and what it would be, and all -- just different things. And thats why they joined it. They thought it would be better, you know. So I just dont know whether it was any better, or what. (laughs)


TRACEY: Oh, sometime it seems like it wasnt, then again it did -- I dont 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 didnt like it, no. Sure didnt. Some of em didnt like it, because they -- before that union come, theyd make you work (laughs) if you didnt want to work. Sometimes, you just had to do it. And 00:34:00you would stand [nothing?]. You would stand in they houses, too. The mill village. Theyd run you away. Like if you worked that day, and something happened that night at the mill, theyd -- theyd 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 cant come back down. Im tired, and I done worked all day. Say, Well, if you dont come tonight, dont come back in the morning. Thats the way they had you. Been a many men got up to bed twelve oclock (laughs) -- twelve oclock at night and went back to work. Theyd go something had happened, you know, and theyd 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 00:35:00flow bay. Push it off, or behind the mill. Thats 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, wouldnt run.

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

TRACEY: Mean if it hadnt have been?

HELFAND: If it had been.

TRACEY: Oh. I dont know what to say about that. I dont 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 theyre 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 wasnt -- that took many years, right?

TRACEY: Yeah, took -- yes, youre right. Took years. Thats right.

HELFAND: So, Ill 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: Thats -- 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. Thats, uh, thats 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 oclock the next morning, be back on the job. I dont 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 itd 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 00:38:00mean, 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. Thats 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: Id say so.

HELFAND: Could you say that?

TRACEY: Yes, because -- I dont know. You dont know what wouldve happened by joining it. You might -- somebody mightve 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 dont know whether they were just, you know, drug in it by somebody, or they thought it would be better, or what. I dont know. But like that -- 00:39:00it -- it wasnt even a whole lot of em in it. Cause I dont think awhole lot of -- you couldnt -- they didnt want -- they didnt want nobody in it much that first time. No, not that first union. No, there wasnt 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, thats right.

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

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

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

TRACEY: I dont know whether it was not. They had to just take whatever the man told, back in then. Cause there wasnt 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, didnt they?

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

HELFAND: Well -- and how did people protest? I mean, if they didnt like what was going on, if they didnt like getting woke up at twelve oclock at night, whatd they do?


TRACEY: Mean what -- if they didnt want to go, or --

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

TRACEY: Yeah, and they didnt want -- they just -- just had to -- couldnt do no better. You just had to work. Sure would. If you didnt 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 didnt like, you wouldnt get no job nowhere else. Cause theyd call. Theyd (laughs) -- theyd tell them why you left, and how come. And then theyd come back, and theyd say, Well, I dont -- we cant have -- use you at this time. Well 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 -- like 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 wasnt too many. You know, it wasnt 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. Wasnt 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, anywhere you choose. You know, you wanted to go and go to work. And -- and if 00:43:00they knowed you was a good ballplayer, theyd come round and ask you, Would you go? If we gave you a job, you come and go out the line. Well 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 wouldnt tell em Id gone. I had another job. They didnt want me to go to -- I was playing with (inaudible). I told em if they get me a job up in Lyman, I wouldve -- 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. Fill up the fire barrels of water. Down there, one was -- you had to cut grass 00:44:00on sling blades and things, and -- out in Lyman, no. They wouldnt -- everybody cut grass but the ballplayers. And I was glad to leave. (laughter) But they wouldnt let no ballplayers cut grass. Hurt his arms, you know, throwing the ball. They didnt want no ballplayers to cut grass. They put all the other workers -- said, I dont 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 didnt put no money in it. Company -- that company funded everything, and then you got a hall over there on Grove Street. You go there, and thats where you changed clothes. Kept your -- had a locker. Everybody 00:45:00put their clothes in that locker. Well, down that, oh -- theyd 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, maam. Theres 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, theyd buy balls, and their suits, unifo-- gloves, and buy the catchers 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. Theyd 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. Its -- Arcadia. Thats 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 didnt 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 with Lyman against Converse, and we beat em. They ragged me to death. We 00:47:00beat em nine to two. Never will forget. (laughs) Lyman had some fellas couldve 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 Im 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 to pay for all that. But out of Lyman, you didnt. They furnished everything.


HELFAND: OK. I think that we, um, we -- were just about done. So Im just gonna --

TRACEY: I wasnt married then. I was single.

HELFAND: You know what I would love to do? Id 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 -- wht 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 dont know. I dont what the -- it wasnt too many blacks were in it. And I just dont know what -- what they thought about it, what few was in it, you know. And I dont -- I dont know what they had in their mind, you know.


HELFAND: And how do you think things wouldve 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 wouldve changed things even now?

TRACEY: I dont -- if it was a whole lot of, you know, blacks and things in it, it wouldve been -- it wouldve been good, I imagine. Just tove had a whole lot of them in it, you know, wouldve been good. But it wasnt all that many in it. It just didnt...


TRACEY: And just never was too strong. Wasnt 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 wouldve been better. Everybody work together, and got it to work, it wouldve been good. You know. Think about -- somebody was gonna pull the other way, though. You know that. Everybody aint 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, thats -- thats a good thing to have. Cause you work together, and they get what they want. But unions, some pulling one way, some pulling -- you -- youre not going to get nothing. Sure aint. Now we didnt have no union over there. The last place I worked. No, he told me, he said -- when they hired me, 00:51:00he told me, he said, Now, Ill tell you, we dont have no unions. They had about 25 plants, they got em in that. He said, Because I think youre man enough to talk for your own self. You dont need no man to talk for you. But they -- thats what (inaudible) said. The union wasnt -- nothing tell you, they just talk, and say -- you dont -- wont 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 didnt need that. But I dont know whether -- whether he was wrong, just telling me that, or what. I dont -- thats when I went and got a job there. They paid me, thats all I knew. They paid me good when I worked there, over that last time, about -- down there, I didnt get very much, though. That was way back. Then when I had to go 00:52:00sign up for money, and he mentioned down there, and I said Lord have mercy -- and also, lets dont take that. See, you wont get nothing much, unless you draw on your job, thats less that youll 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. Theyd 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. Everybodyd that had the [hauls?], it was ready. If you didnt -- see some man may jerk up and may hurt your back. You lift, another man aint 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 didnt go up, it might hurt somebody. So that baled fall -- at the end itd 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 -- Id been there too long. They couldnt 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 theyd tell you, You get that one over there. Well, that bale may weight 400 or 500 pounds.

HELFAND: Lets 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, its dangerous out -- lifting that heavy -- them heavy bales. If you wasnt careful, them guysd give you the heavy bale and hed take the light one. (laughs) Hed 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 its heavy or light. Theres a man worked with me and another boy one day. He just slowly like killed him. I was a man (laughs) -- I said, I didnt try to mess you up. He said, I just dont understand. Said, See, yall with that breaking them bales, just as easy as (laughs) (inaudible) -- I didnt do the man that. The other guy did, though. He give him every heavy bale he could. (laughs) And hed get the light ones. Pick out the light ones. He could look over there and see the light bales. Man, they 00:55:00scuffled a time to get them heavy bales up on them trucks. And they --

HELFAND: Hard work.

TRACEY: -- fixed to mess you up -- yeah, theyd mess you up lifting them bales, too. Get out of -- like hes lifting, wouldnt lift. I could tell when he wasnt 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 wasnt too bad on them. Not when I was -- not in my time. They wasnt too bad. No, they wasnt too bad. Theyd have supervisor -- they have a room. Cloth room, spinning room, card room, weave shops, spooler room. They was all right boss. They treat the black 00:56:00all right. Anything -- they asked them about anything they wanted, or something you wanted. They -- they -- they -- they wasnt the bad -- the bosses wasnt.

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 shed tell us how long shed had to work that night. Shed got to work -- yeah, I got to work late tonight. And be -- asked her what time you had to work. Yall come back with me, well take a lantern. Itd be dark. Wed take a lantern, me and my brother had two lanterns. Wed 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 shed had to work to seven, seven-thirty, eight oclock at night. And then sometimes youd get off way before night.


HELFAND: So, this area was all --

M1: Wild sound.