Lonnie Tracey and Lloyd Kirby Interviews

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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M1: OK.

JUDITH HELFAND: [OK?], you -- you were just goin’ through those names before --


HELFAND: -- like you were surprised.

TRACEY: Oh yeah. (laughs) I was just looking at all them names that...

HELFAND: Can you read it?

TRACEY: Yeah, well, you want me to start ’em?


TRACEY: [Rock?] Hill, Union, Whitmire, [Alison?], Brooklyn, Langley, Greenville, Bath, Spartanburg, Graniteville, Seneca, Columbia, Clifton, [Williamsburg?], Gaffney, Pelzer, Clifton, Drayton, Valley Forge, Spartanburg, Spartanburg, Converse, Clifton, Abbeville, Blacksburg, Gaffney, [Bamberg?], Cherokee Fall, Piedmont, Bennettsville, Camden, Walhalla, [Chapin?], Inman, Spartanburg, Honea Path. Union, Pacolet Mill, [Bath?], Clover, Calhoun Falls, [Slater?], Newberry, 1:00Newberry, Whitmire, Buffalo, [Averill?], (inaudible), and [Newry?] -- [wasn’t?] N-E-W-[R-I?] -- Newry. (laughs)

HELFAND: Did -- can -- are you -- all those unions were organized at the same time --


HELFAND: -- that they organized the one here?

TRACEY: All them was -- all the same time, uh, [same time me?]. [Goo’?]...

HELFAND: That was in 1933.

TRACEY: Goo’. I just don’t know what to say about that! (laughs) Hey, lawdy.

HELFAND: What do you mean you don’t know what to say?

TRACEY: I ju--...

HELFAND: It’s a -- it’s a lot of...

TRACEY: People that had to live on so little back in them days. You didn’t -- I don’t know. Couldn’t get nothing. People don’t work now, then you get 2:00$10 a hour. (laughs)


TRACEY: Oh, quit job making $7 and $8. (laughs) “I can’t even work for that,” they’ll say.

HELFAND: So whe--

TRACEY: You’d work for it when I come up, or you’d get nothing. (laughs)

HELFAND: -- so when Clifton organized, at that first local --

TRACEY: At that...

HELFAND: -- they were part of this whole movement.

TRACEY: Part of that whole thing. Ooo. That was [pretty?] (inaudible), wasn’t it? Sho’ wa’. A whole lot of South Carolina was in it. Uh-huh.

HELFAND: What does that make you think?

TRACEY: I don’t know, miss. It was all right. It was good -- back in them days, that was good. A man just didn’t have nothing to go on.

HELFAND: Yeah. (sighs) Well, it was really something for them to all --

TRACEY: To or--

HELFAND: To organize, I guess.


TRACEY: -- to organize like that. That’s right. That’s (inaudible)...

HELFAND: So, I -- so I just wanted you to really get --

TRACEY: I know you wanted me...

HELFAND: -- so Clifton was just really -- was part of --


HELFAND: -- all of this.

TRACEY: That union.

HELFAND: (sighs) Um -- and then, that union stay-- there was a union presence here, in Clifton?

TRACEY: Yeah, [and miss?] -- no. Not to -- head-- heading up to (inaudible) -- to (inaudible). They come -- come here from somewhere else, they would. ’Cause they’d tell the -- tell the peoples when they were coming. And they’d go out, [run?], and tell the peoples [have a] meeting [be such and such?] a date and [such a?] time they was going to have a -- a meeting. Wanted everybody to come out and hear what they had to say. I think the -- the heading of the mill, down the superintendent, they met several times with... We had one real good super-- uh, superintendent. Uh, L.L. Brown. He worked under Mr. 4:00[Evans?]. That the best superintendent we ever had. Sho’ wa’. We used to go out in the mill and get twine, and get four or five of the [barbers?] and -- what -- and stick ’em on the wall on a nail, and make -- and take a rubber ball and put inside that and (inaudible). And he’d -- he’d see us get them twine, and (inaudible) make ball, he wouldn’t say nothing. But these other men, you couldn’t do that. No. They make you put it back. Sure would.

HELFAND: (sighs) All right.

TRACEY: We’d get something to make us a wagon, get them wheels, he didn’t care about that. Super Brown did. But Mr. [Gomberg?] -- (laughs) he’d make you put somebody down.

HELFAND: Now, let me -- one more -- one more thing -- you know, did you -- did you ever tell your children about -- about, you know, the fact that there was a 5:00union and that some of the blacks had joined the union back in 1934? Did you ever talk about this?

TRACEY: No, my (inaudible) -- after -- I never did talk to them too much about that. Things got to getting better and better, and I just didn’t -- just -- I didn’t explain to them [until?] -- and when they got along and got work, they got good jobs. I didn’t get -- (laughs). (inaudible), she got a good job.

HELFAND: I -- I’m asking you that ’cause a lot of people --

TRACEY: Mm-hmm.

HELFAND: -- have been -- have never told their children about the fact that they -- that they did all of this.

TRACEY: Oh, about the union? I told ’em about --

HELFAND: They never [inaudible; overlapping dialogue]...

TRACEY: -- how to work -- (inaudible) were taught that [and, you know, about?] what you had to do and how much mo’ better shape they was in than we were. (laughs) (inaudible)

HELFAND: OK. All right. Well, this was (inaudible).

TRACEY: (inaudible)


(break in video)

HELFAND: Center, I guess.

LLOYD KIRBY: I believe that’s a different buil-- building.

HELFAND: You think that’s a different building?

KIRBY: Mm-hmm. It’s the -- official name was RCA Building.

F1: But Mr. Kirby, isn’t the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center? That’s just the place where it’s at.

KIRBY: Uh, I don’t know for sure.

HELFAND: Hmm. Well, did you go to the top of the RCA Building?

KIRBY: Went practically to the top.

HELFAND: Did you...

KIRBY: We went to the last, um -- I believe we went to the last story that the elevator went to. Had to go three elevators. One went up so many stories. Then another one, then another one. And to get all the way up in the top, where nobody lived or worked, (clears throat) you’d have to go up the steps to get up the very top.

HELFAND: Did you -- did you look out the window?


KIRBY: Yes, I -- I -- I looked -- but let me tell you, I held my hand against the window, and I stood way back (laughs).

HELFAND: You held your hand against the window? Why?

KIRBY: Uh, it looked kinda scary looking down.

F1: I’d be afraid too.

HELFAND: (laughs) What did -- do you remember what you saw from the window?

KIRBY: Yeah, I saw cars. They looked like ants or something crawling around on the ground.

HELFAND: And did you go out to eat anything when you were in New York City?

KIRBY: No, not in the city, no.

HELFAND: You didn’t eat anything in New York City?

KIRBY: Mm-mm. Not a thi--

(break in video)

KIRBY: (inaudible)

HELFAND: They’re still behind us?

KIRBY: Yes, they’re behind you. (laughter) (pause)

HELFAND: When was the last time you were back here?


KIRBY: About a week ago, something like that.

HELFAND: No, I mean, when was the last time you went back to where the union hall was?

KIRBY: Oh, I haven’t been back there since before World War II. It’s a road doesn’t have but a very few people in it. It’s kind of a back road. I’ll have to guess it, I’ll say it has a half a dozen houses, something like that.

HELFAND: How far was it, would you say, from the mill village?

KIRBY: About a quarter of a mile. (pause)

HELFAND: How would y’all get there?


KIRBY: Walk. Back then, very few people -- well, about half of the people, I guess, had cars. But they walked over there though, because didn’t have a big parking space. (pause) Now here’s the city right here. That’s a post office you see yonder. And, uh, it’s got one store, but it’s not exactly a store. I guess it’s a beer hall. And about a half a dozen families living around here. That’s a big city. (laughs) That’s a chemical plant here on 10:00the left. There’s the store or the beer hall, whatever it’s called.

HELFAND: Now, prior to, uh, getting this property, where would you meet?

KIRBY: How’s that now?

HELFAND: Before you got this property, where would you meet?

KIRBY: Oh. There in a company building, theater. They used to have picture shows there.

HELFAND: [Turn it off?]? Hmm. It’s really beautiful and green out here.

KIRBY: Yes, it got a lot of trees, all right. Now, going that way would be the 11:00nearest, but going this way it’s safer.

HELFAND: Now, were you part of a group that decided to, uh, buy the hall?

KIRBY: You mean when they had meetings there?


KIRBY: Yeah, I -- I was, till I moved away. (pause) I guess I drive slow for that driver in the back, because I’ve got where I -- I’m not in any hurry, because I’ve got more time than I have money. So I drive slow.


(cars speeding past)

(turn signal)

HELFAND: How you doin’?


KIRBY: Oh, I’m doin’ OK. I’m getting there. Slow but -- but sure.

HELFAND: Can you -- could you tell me why you all decided to, um -- to build this hall?

KIRBY: Well -- well, first, my brother-in-law lived right down there. Well, to tell you the truth, it’s a little bit hard for me to remember the exact reason. It seems like the company was said to -- was gonna have to pick [immediately?], but I’m not sure about that.


KIRBY: This used to be the main road going to Union. In Jonesville. But, uh, the road we just pulled off of now goes down that way. Yeah, it’s -- it’s 14:00been a long time. It’s a little bit hard for me to remember some things.

HELFAND: You think you all decided that you just wanted to have your own place that you owned?

KIRBY: It might’ve been that, but, uh, I’m not sure.

HELFAND: How long was the -- were you organized and meeting before you decided to build this hall?

KIRBY: It must’ve been about three years. I’m guessing. ’Cause I actually don’t know for sure. (pause) I guess you notice I got the manual. I 15:00was driving big truck and had to change gears and I didn’t wanna get ’em confused. So when I bought this I re-- required a manual.

HELFAND: Why’d you start driving a big truck?

KIRBY: Well, that is one thing that I had in mind to do -- after I -- after I got here -- and my first choices did not work out. Uh, I was going to whole-- wholesale seafood and haul it from Virginia at the big seaport there, and haul 16:00it direct to the stores still -- instead of keeping it in the warehouses. I went around to a number of stores, I don’t remember how many, but I think it was about 20, and asked ’em would they buy it from me if I hauled it direct. And they said, “Man...” Some of ’em said, “Man, what you talking about?” They said, “If you can -- if you can get the goods to us on Thursdays,” he says, “I’ll always buy from you.” (clears throat) At that time, was having to ship it on freight trains. And they -- they said sometimes it would come on Thursday, sometime Friday, sometime even Monday. Anywhere between. Done passed the -- the sales day for it.

HELFAND: Now you -- you were doing this work -- would you say it was...

KIRBY: I was going to do that.

HELFAND: This is after the strike?


KIRBY: No, this was after I got out the service.


KIRBY: Well, but I couldn’t get a truck. I couldn’t get a refrigerated truck.

HELFAND: Now, after the strike --

KIRBY: Oh, after the strike. Well, that was a different story. I thought you meant when -- when I started hauling oil.

HELFAND: Well, (turn signal) are we almost here?

KIRBY: What’s that?

HELFAND: Are -- are we almost there?

KIRBY: Yeah, we’re getting close. This is what they call Central Pacolet here. That was Pacolet we came in first. They don’t have so many houses in Central Pacolet. Might have about 200. They got some back over on -- [under?] 18:00the hill, both directions. That’s a rest home there, for senior citizens.

HELFAND: And where -- where was the mill? In relationship to, you know, here, the union, the -- the hall?

KIRBY: You mean, where is the mill?


KIRBY: It was on ahead of us. We won’t go close enough to see the mill, unless we make a trip there. We could do that after, stop at the hall.



(turn signal)

KIRBY: Now we’re entering the village, Pacolet Mills village. [Ariba’s?] sister lives down just a little bit further over on the next street. Uh, we can probably see the house. Now, you’ll be able to see it -- now that’s it, right down there.

HELFAND: I see it.

KIRBY: With that big [fuel tank?].

HELFAND: Yup. This is the village that you did your organizing in?

KIRBY: That’s right.

HELFAND: Could you say that?


HELFAND: Could you say that?

KIRBY: I think so.

HELFAND: OK. Could you re-- could you repeat that?


KIRBY: Oh! You want me to say it.


KIRBY: Yeah. This is the one we were organized in. (turn signal) And we lived on down further on this street here, about a block from here. And we’re going out of the village now. I haven’t been down this way in so long. I just don’t even remember what it looked like. Now, this used to be a railroad right here. (turn signal)

HELFAND: Now, when you came down here, how’d you come?


HELFAND: The group. As -- the union.

KIRBY: Oh, now, let’s see. I guess this is the road here I go up. (turn signal) That don’t -- don’t look right. But I guess this is it. Oh, they 21:00changed that road. Used to cross up here. That got me kinda throwed off. Used to cross right up -- right up here. Now, this was a -- a grocery store here. Now, there’s where the road used to come in. (pause) Now, we getting close to where the building was. I thought I would recognize it, but -- it was right up there, though, I’m -- I’m almost sure. Yes. It was right up there. But I 22:00don’t see any signs of a building now. It burned down. I thought there might be a chimney or something, but there’s not.

HELFAND: Can we take a walk up there?

KIRBY: Let me get off of the road here. (pause)

(break in video)




(break in video)

KIRBY:(walking) ...but I don’t think we gonna find any parts of the building, you know?

HELFAND: So when was the last time you’ve been up here?

KIRBY: I’ll have to guess [that?]. I’ll say about 50 years. Well, it was be-- before I went in the service.


KIRBY: Well, now, you see, there’s some wires. Some pi-- [pyline?] comes right under? Well, the building was right on this side of those wires.


HELFAND: So... (pause) so your local union...

KIRBY: Yeah, that was it.

HELFAND: Nineteen ninety-four.

KIRBY: I believe that’s right. Now, I -- I -- I couldn’t say for sure, but -- but that’s either right or close.

HELFAND: [Nah?], it was. You could even say it. You could say, “We were Local 1994.”

KIRBY: Oh, well, OK. That’s close enough.

HELFAND: (laughs) Could you repeat that?

KIRBY: Oh! Union of 1994.

HELFAND: “Local union.”

KIRBY: Right. Local union.

HELFAND: Nineteen ninety-four.

KIRBY: Mm-hmm.


HELFAND: So, what -- you -- before you moved up here, you were meeting down in the mill village.

KIRBY: That’s right.

HELFAND: Could you tell me that story?

KIRBY: Well, they had a -- a hall there, used for a lot of things. One of ’em was movies. They had movies there. That was silent movies. That was before the voice movies were invented, I guess. But anyway, you had some people coming there that couldn’t read. And they would flash on the screen -- instead of the voice, it’d put the words up on there. And the people that couldn’t read would ask someone close to them to -- to read it for them.

HELFAND: But when you first started organizing, that’s where you met?

KIRBY: Uh-huh.

HELFAND: Could you tell me that part of the story?

KIRBY: Well, there isn’t -- there isn’t much to tell, except we just -- we just met there. In the same hall.


HELFAND: Mr. Allen, he let you have it for free, right?

KIRBY: Yeah.

HELFAND: Could you tell me that? You know, that “We had a local union, and we met there”?

KIRBY: Mm-hmm. Yes. We had a local union, and we met there once a week. And Mr. Allen, he didn’t own it. He had charge of that hall, and he was the one in charge of the movies. But he didn’t own it. The company owned it. And it was over what was then the company store. They sold groceries and dry good and hardware. They had a large store. And then it -- in the far end, in the basement, they had a bathroom for men. People’d go in there and get showers, because they did not have showers in the homes at that time. And (clears throat) I used to go in there and get my shower. And it was awfully expensive. 28:00It cost a whole nickel. (laughs) (clears throat)

HELFAND: So, if this is right, repeat it -- repeat this. (pause) So your local union met above the company store?

KIRBY: Right.

HELFAND: Could you say that? ’Cause I don’t believe it.

KIRBY: Well, what we did is -- same building, just above the company store. That building was three stories high. (clears throat)

HELFAND: And you had your meeting -- and could you tell me that you had your meetings there, once a week?

KIRBY: Yeah.

HELFAND: Could you say that?


KIRBY: Yes. We -- we met on Saturdays, every Saturday. And, uh, the company store was in the middle story. And then the bottom was used for a number of things. One was a beauty parlor. And, oh, half a dozen other things. I don’t remember all them. And they had a drugstore on -- in the center story.

HELFAND: Now, your local union was comprised of how many -- how -- you -- which -- you had -- how many mills did you have to organize to bring together your local union?


HELFAND: Could you tell me about that?

KIRBY: Yes. The lower mill --

HELFAND: (whispering; inaudible)

KIRBY -- was back -- back in this direction, and the other mill was back in this direction. There was about -- a little over a quarter-mile apart. Maybe almost a half a mile. And everybody lived in the village, all mixed up. Some people lived in this part over here and worked in the upper one. Some lived on the 30:00other side and worked down this way. All mixed up. But generally speaking, the people -- most of the people -- who worked in the lower mill lived down near the lower mill. And vice versa.

HELFAND: So -- so you had to bring together two different -- people from two different mills to come together in one union. Now, I don’t know anything about that, really. So if you could explain it to me, maybe even while we walk a little bit. Can we -- can we walk, [Maggie?]?

M2: Sure.


KIRBY: Well, (clears throat) that’s very simple, because everybody knew everybody. And it didn’t have any -- any friction between us in that -- on that score. But, uh, the company finally got to where they didn’t want -- at least this -- this is what I think -- finally got to where they didn’t want to 31:00-- for us to meet there. So we built a hall right up there. So it’s -- it stood till the union was gone, and a few years more, and then it burned down. I don’t know what happened.

HELFAND: Now, so -- could you tell me how you went about buying this land? And then...

KIRBY: Well, the person who owned it lived right up there. And -- and he sold us the lot. It wasn’t -- it wasn’t a big deal. That was back when land was cheap. I don’t remember what it was. He charged us something like about $300. See, this is a hill. It’s -- it’s not any good for cultivating. It’s -- and the timber on it was -- the best of it was moved away. (clears throat)


HELFAND: How’d you get the money up?

KIRBY: Well, we paid -- paid dues. Once a month. I don’t remember how much.

HELFAND: (sighs)

KIRBY: But, uh, we built it ourselves. We didn’t hire any work done. We did everything. There was a Mr. Hughes. He was familiar with buildings. And we let him be in charge of construction. So we got it done, all right.

HELFAND: Tell me how you did it. Can you walk while you tell me?

KIRBY: Mm-hmm.

HELFAND: How long did it take to build?

KIRBY: I don’t know now. I don’t (inaudible) to say.

HELFAND: I think -- you told me it took about a year or so. Does that sound right?

KIRBY: I don’t think it took that long. I don’t think so.


HELFAND: Let’s see. You must have started, uh, organizing after Roosevelt went in, right?

KIRBY: That’s right. He’s -- he’s the one that encouraged the people to do that. He was a unusual president. And he did a lot of things that no other president ever did. He -- he -- he is the cause of the -- the Recession -- uh, Depression -- ending. So...

HELFAND: Could you say that again? About President Roosevelt?

KIRBY: Yeah, he -- he was the cause of the Depression ending. And that’s why so many people supported him. He was really a great -- a great president.

HELFAND: And what was his relationship to all of you organizing a union?


KIRBY: Well, the -- just common relationships. It wasn’t any specific, uh, differences. Just all -- well-thought out, I think.

HELFAND: So, the -- the -- the reason I brought up President Roosevelt was, I was just trying to figure out -- if he got into office in ’32, and you organized your union in around ’33 --

KIRBY: Uh-huh.

HELFAND: -- then maybe we could figure out how long it took to build this, and...

KIRBY: Well, no, I couldn’t tell -- I couldn’t say. But, uh, that wire there came -- came close. And it was -- it came to the hall, the building. And so we didn’t -- didn’t have any trouble getting power.

HELFAND: And how did it work? How did people build it? Each...


KIRBY: Each one had his own tools. And a lot of people had hammers and saws, and that’s -- and squares. And that was the main tools that was used. I don’t think there was any power saws back then -- at least I didn’t know of any. Everybody used a saw, by hand.

HELFAND: And how many people were involved in building the hall?

KIRBY: I don’t know. There were different numbers every time you come. Because they didn’t -- they didn’t keep any records of people working here.

HELFAND: So, could you describe to me how in between working in the mill, the union would come here?

KIRBY: Well, we were off Saturday afternoon. The mills closed down. And some of the people were off at other times, and they’d work at other times. But, um, the biggest crowd always Saturday afternoon. (pause) Yup. This is the 36:00site, all right. (pause) I believe that sun’s gonna get pretty hot now, before long.

HELFAND: Now, what did you do to build the hall?

KIRBY: Well, I did whatever was needed. I sawed and I hammered and -- and I 37:00marked -- marked lumber off to fit in. And -- whatever’s needed, I did.

HELFAND: So, what did it feel like to be building your own union hall?

KIRBY: (laughs) Well, it felt good, thinking that we were gonna have a place now. We thought it’d be there forever. But, it didn’t turn out that way. So we -- we scattered. I first went to -- down to Union. That’s a little town about -- I guess about 15 miles from here. ’Cause it had three mills down there. And I got a job in one of them. And then after I learned how -- how difficult those jobs were, I got one at Chesnee. And it turned out good. I -- I liked that job.


HELFAND: Now, were you vice-president when you built --


HELFAND: -- when you were building the hall? Were you already vice-president? Could you say that?

KIRBY: Yes, I was vice-president when it was built. I was elected when, uh, meeting in the company hall. But, uh, I didn’t attend after I started working somewhere else.

HELFAND: Well, you -- that’s because you -- you’re already leaping far away into, uh -- into after the strike.

KIRBY: Yeah.

HELFAND: Now, when you finished the -- building the building -- tell us about how it felt when it was completed.

KIRBY: Oh, I -- I liked that.

HELFAND: Well, tell me. Say, “When it was completed...” and then tell me what it felt like.

KIRBY: Well, I -- I came to ev-- every meeting. And I enjoyed it. Because I knew everybody around me had the same attitude that I had. And we all enjoyed 39:00the fellowship of each other. It was great.

HELFAND: Now, do you remember -- maybe we could walk into the shade a little bit -- do -- do you remember the day that you finished the la-- you know, when you -- you struck the -- the -- the last nail in here?

KIRBY: Well, I wasn’t here when they struck the last one. That was done during the week. Somebody was out a day, and they finished it up. I wasn’t here.

HELFAND: Did you have a ceremony when it was over, when you had your first meeting, or -- can you tell me about the first meeting you had --

KIRBY: Oh, I don’t --

HELFAND: -- in the completed hall?

KIRBY: -- I -- I don’t remember now.

HELFAND: Do you remember the first time you walked up here and the building was done?

KIRBY: I remember walking up here, but I don’t know as -- I’m not sure it was the first time that I’m thinking about. Yeah, I walked -- I came up this road here, walking. The way most of the people did. And came on up, came out 40:00this driveway. See, there’s no place around here to park cars. So everybody walked.

HELFAND: And when the building was done, uh, you told me that you built things for the inside furniture?

KIRBY: Yeah. Seats and things.

HELFAND: Tell me about that.

KIRBY: Well, we got some, um, light lumber -- I think it was -- it was white ash timber. And everybody likes white ash because it’s -- it’s beautiful and it’s light. It’s almost as light as poplar. But poplar is not a strong timber. It’s easy to break. So it’s not used in construction very much.


HELFAND: So you bought this wood -- you all decided that you -- I mean, you needed to furnish the building, right?

KIRBY: That’s right.

HELFAND: OK, so tell me, “We needed to furnish the building.” And then what did you all do?

KIRBY: About all we did was meet on Saturday nights. And -- and outside of that we -- we didn’t even come over.

HELFAND: Now, you told me that you made your own seats, and you --

KIRBY: That’s right.

HELFAND: -- bought a desk. Could you -- could you tell me that again?

KIRBY: Well, we made, uh, (clears throat) seats out of -- (clears throat) out of lumber that had been dressed and -- and, uh, sandpapered slick. And -- and it had turned out all right. We didn’t have any complaints. It was hard seats but -- but, uh, nobody complained.


HELFAND: So how many folks would you be able to get in that hall?

KIRBY: Mmm, I don’t know now. I guess about 175. Just guessing at it.

HELFAND: You know -- now, did you -- how did the company feel once you started meeting over here in your own place?

KIRBY: I never -- they never did say anything to me about it. I don’t know. And if they said something to somebody else, they didn’t tell me. I guess it’s been so long now I wouldn’t remember too much detail no way.

HELFAND: Why don’t we wa-- walk around, this way.

KIRBY: [Last thing?] --


KIRBY: -- last thing I’ll tell you -- I’m getting hot.


KIRBY: (inaudible) going out the sunshine.


HELFAND: Yup. OK. We’ll follow you. (pause) (walking)

KIRBY: How you like this tree here? Look how tall it got before it had any limbs. (clears throat) I thought that was a [car?] up there when I first saw it.


HELFAND: Can we -- look over there.

KIRBY: Mmm, that’s...that’s gonna be covered with these vines before long.

HELFAND: So can you remember what it felt like for everyone to -- for your local to come up here to their own place?

KIRBY: Yes, I --I remember some things about it. Uh, uh, I enjoyed it. I liked that. Felt like it was gonna change our whole formula. Raise wages some. And some of us would get promotions. But, uh, when they -- they promoted to a 45:00certain level, they -- they couldn’t be a member of the union.

HELFAND: Now, you were a loom-fixer.

KIRBY: That’s right.

HELFAND: Can you talk about being a loom-fixer and how -- how you did your organizing in that room?

KIRBY: Well, we didn’t do it in -- inside the mill. We weren’t allowed to. We did our talking outside. That’s a mosquito. He’s gone.

HELFAND: (laughs) Wow. So how -- how tall was this building?

KIRBY: It was fairly tall. Because it was pretty wide, you see. So they made it pretty tall. I don’t know how tall. I’d say about 35 feet. Just guessing at it.

HELFAND: Did you sing at the meetings?


KIRBY: No. We just met. Brought up business and discussed -- discussed everything that -- that we brought up.

HELFAND: Now, you told me that, um, when you became vice-pres-- tell me about what it was like when they, uh, swore ya in as vice-president.

KIRBY: Well, it kinda frightened me at first. Because I never had done anything like that before. (clears throat) And to get up and speak in the public, well, that was difficult. But, I finally got used to it. It didn’t bother me anymore.

HELFAND: And -- and -- and soon, how did you -- how did you feel about your -- your position as a -- a vice-president of your local?

KIRBY: Well, I was happy that people had confidence in me. But, uh, I never did 47:00feel like I was the best one for the job.

HELFAND: Why’s that?

KIRBY: Well, I had such little ed-- education. There’s some people in there had -- had a college education. Most of ’em had been through high school. But I -- I didn’t even finish high school. I only been to public school something like 40 months.

HELFAND: Why did you have to leave school?

KIRBY: To go to work. See, we were living in the country. And for three years, in straight succession, we had a drought. Didn’t -- didn’t -- and two of those years we didn’t get enough out it to pay the expense for seed and fertilizer. But one year we broke even, had just a little bit of profit. But, uh, the three years, three poor years, put us in debt. We borrowed all the 48:00money the bank would let us have, and we bought all the groceries on credit the stores’d let us have. And that was the end of it. We had to do something. So we moved to the mill. And I went to work just as soon as my birthday rolled around, in October. Because we were so far in debt, and -- and -- and so many children. There’re nine children. Well, there wasn’t nine at that time. But, uh, there was seven, at that time. When we moved here. And it took just about all my father and myself made to buy groceries. Not to save anything else. Because that was the eatinest family you ever heard of. Surely loved to 49:00eat. And we finally -- after about one or two more of the brother and sister got to working in the mill, we finally got out of debt. But it took some lots of doings. That was really a big task. And we did our trading at this store we -- that building I showed you as we co-- as we were coming in, I said -- [Bonner?] Brothers? I worked with them a month or two when I got out the service. They sent for me because they needing help. And -- and I went -- I told ’em I’d work a little while with ’em till I got something better. I think I worked about two months with ’em.

HELFAND: When you look over there, what do you think about?

KIRBY: I think about seeing that building. It would be -- I guess it would be still standing here now, if it hadn’t a burned.


HELFAND: What else? Do you think about your local union?

KIRBY: Well, I don’t think about it anymore. It’s -- it’s -- it’s past history, and I don’t [no?] see much point in it now. Because, uh, I wouldn’t have been in the union, if it had been one, after I got out the service, because I drive a truck, and -- and that occupied my time.

HELFAND: Well, is that the -- is it over there in that building? Where that building was that you all talked about going out on strike?

KIRBY: Now, let me see. No, I believe we started talking ’bout it before we m-- we moved over there. Yeah. While we were meeting in the hall, the -- the 51:00theater hall. That’s what we called it, but -- but it was used for other things too.

HELFAND: So you started talking about the strike over there. And did you take a vote for the strike, over in this building?

KIRBY: No, we done had the strike when we moved over here.

HELFAND: You did?

KIRBY: Yeah.

HELFAND: So you built this after the strike?

KIRBY: Mm-hmm. We might’ve started it during the -- the strike. I’m not sure now. I’d rather not say, because I -- I don’t know.

HELFAND: OK. Well, I’ll help you remember that. ’Cause I thi-- that strike took place in September 1934.

KIRBY: Might’ve been.

HELFAND: I bet you moved here before then.


KIRBY: Well, I don’t know for sure.

HELFAND: Was there a headquarters during the strike? Do you remember meeting in a central place?

KIRBY: Well, just -- just the two places that I told you about. The hall down there over the company store, and the building here. That’s the only place we ever met.

HELFAND: So I wonder if during the strike, maybe you met here.

KIRBY: Hmm. I try to remember that, but I can’t -- I can’t -- can’t tell you.

HELFAND: OK. OK. Now, do you remember climbing up there and pounding some nails? Can you talk about that?

KIRBY: Oh yeah. Yes. I -- I went up on top of the building. It was way up high. Nothing there but the frame. You had to climb -- walk some two by fours. And nail the rafters down. That was pretty big job, to me, because I wasn’t used to that kind of work.


HELFAND: Did the women work on this also?

KIRBY: No. Back then, women were just women. That was all. (laughs) No, they did become members of the -- of the hall -- of the union, though. (clears throat) I think there was as many women in the union as there was men.

HELFAND: Now, when you would all meet in there, you were the vice-president and Mr. Hughes was the president, is that right?

KIRBY: No, he -- no, he was -- he was the secretary. He did all the bookwork. But he -- he knew more about it than, uh, most of the others did, so most of the people, if they had any question, they’d ask him.

HELFAND: Now, could you talk about after the strike? What happened to you?


KIRBY: Well, I went back to work, and worked, uh -- I would think it was about a year, somethin’ like that.

HELFAND: They didn’t -- well, you were vice-president. Right after the strike, when everyone went back to work, you didn’t get to go, did you?

KIRBY: Well, I -- I went back and worked about a year after the strike.

HELFAND: But I mean at Pacolet Manufacturing Company --

KIRBY: Yeah.

HELFAND: -- right after.

KIRBY: Yeah. I worked in the same place. [Run?] the same job, about another year. And then -- and then, uh, uh, I had to leave (inaudible) another place. I couldn’t’ve picked a worse place than the job I got.

HELFAND: Now, how come you had to leave Pacolet Mills?


KIRBY: ’Cause I -- I didn’t have a job. (pause) The reason that job, uh, I got down at -- down at -- [near?] Union was because they had -- they had a rule there that the loom-fixers -- they kept a record of all the parts they used, the expense -- how expensive they were -- and they kept a record of it. Everybody that used less than $125 worth a month got a higher wages than those that used over. So -- so everybody didn’t, uh, put on new parts where they need them every time. They tried to get by without using a lot of supplies. And that caused the jobs to go down. And when I got there it -- it was in awful shape.

HELFAND: What happened over here? I mean, (coughs) the union -- after the 56:00strike, the union stayed together for a while, didn’t it?

KIRBY: Yeah.

HELFAND: Could you tell me that, and then -- could you tell me about that?

KIRBY: Yes, they stayed together.

HELFAND: Can you say, “After the strike”?

KIRBY: Yes. After the strike, they stayed together. It must’ve been a couple of years, something like that. But I wasn’t around. I’m not sure.

HELFAND: And what hap-- [56:21]