Lloyd Kirby Interview 2

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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LLYOD KIRBY: You want me to read this on the screen? (laughter)

JUDITH HELFAND: Yeah, you can read a little more, and then you could even look at the reply that you did, uh.

KIRBY: Yes, I look at this second page.

HELFAND: So then, what did he say on the seconds page.

KIRBY: Well, that was the last one I read.

HELFAND: Can you read it out loud?

KIRBY: Mm-hmm. You ready?


KIRBY: As General H.S. Johnson, National Recovery Administration, Washington, DC. Dear Sir, The fact that [Mill?] Manufacturing Company is violating the code by speeding up the spinning, the Department, and been speeded up two times and 00:01:00are working the people to death, they have speeded up two times in the last month by putting a larger pulleys on the drive-shafts that were pull for the motors. The water wheel has been speeded up, one time or more, which includes most of the mill. Number three, the hand in mill number three says that it has been speeded up several times, too, which do not doubt, but and then the rest of its missing.

HELFAND: And then, whats on the next page?

KIRBY: This is the first one. Theres a -- theres a three?


HELFAND: No, then he signs it, he signs off. This is the second page --

KIRBY: Uh-huh.

HELFAND: -- thats the part that you said was missing, its right here.

KIRBY: Well, that was the first one I read. Do you want me to read it again?

HELFAND: Excuse me, its a copy (inaudible) oh, and then he signed his name, can you read the name that he signed and the person -- the other person?

KIRBY: Yes, um, Yours Truly, R.S. Kirby and Mrs. M.S. James.

HELFAND: Do you think your daddy had ever written a letter before like that? Could you say that?

KIRBY: I dont think he has. I dont think hes written a letter like that before. As far as I know.


HELFAND: Was this something that you were all, you know -- where do you think he got that idea to do that?

KIRBY: Well, we didnt -- any of us know he did it, didnt anybody in the family know that he did it, unless it was Mother.

HELFAND: Well, and what kind of response did he get?

KIRBY: We dont have the response.

HELFAND: I -- I think its on the top.

KIRBY: On top of next page?

HELFAND: Yeah. Lets see. All right, its connected here over the bottom. Theres his response.

KIRBY: Mm-hmm. Yours very truly, information section completed, 00:04:00[divisitive?]. G-o...I cant name that.

HELFAND: He wrote to him -- he wrote to him up here, Dear Mr. Kirby, thank you for your letter of February 5th.


HELFAND: See up at the top?

KIRBY: Oh, I see what you mean. Thank you for your letter of February the 5th directed to General Hugh S. Johnson, President Roosevelt has recently created the national emergency council for the purpose of consideration, and investigation conditions such as you have described. The state director of the council for South Carolina is Mr. Lawrence M. Pickney, Chamber of Commerce building, South Carolina, to whom your letter has been referred, and to who you should direct any further information concerning this company. If your letter 00:05:00contains more specific information, state directly, [pinnicly?] would be better able to give the matter more intelligent consideration. Please send this to Washington and there, a complete statement of the violations on wages and hour privileges. I thought I had read that, that I read the same one twice.

HELFAND: So they -- so they gave it -- so they referred this letter to South Carolina, and did the state do anything to try to deal with these conditions?

KIRBY: I dont know. I dont remember.

HELFAND: What do you think?

KIRBY: I dont have the slightest idea, because I dont remember that. That might have -- those letters might have been wrote after I had left to.


HELFAND: Well I think this letter was written before the strike in 1934. OK, Ill show you one more, um, this is a piece of stationary that has all the officers on it, and your name.

KIRBY: Cole S. Petty, and, uh...

HELFAND: See up top there, where the letter head is?

KIRBY: No, I dont see no name.

HELFAND: Right up here.

KIRBY: Oh, yes. I see now. P.O. Hughes, president. And Lloyd Kirby, vice 00:07:00president. Uh, the Hughes was a son of the Hughes -- kept the records.

HELFAND: Now, why dont you read the letterhead? You see, your local numbers on there. See up at the top?

KIRBY: Oh. (inaudible) Hughes, financial secretary. Carl Millwood, recording secretary. Wally [Sinkler?], treasurer.

HELFAND: Can you read where it says textile union?

KIRBY: Oh, yes. Textile union number 1994. I didnt know that.

HELFAND: Can you read it one more time and mention Pacolet mills, Pacolet South Carolina?

KIRBY: I dont believe this --


HELFAND: It says right under the -- you see right. Right under the seal. Right there, right dab in the middle.

KIRBY: Oh, yes, thats in print. Thats, uh, Pacolet mill, South Carolina, and American Federation of Labor.

HELFAND: What do you think about that, thats how we found you?

KIRBY: (inaudible) Well, Im amazed that you found me at all. Howd you find my telephone number, ask for information?

HELFAND: Um, actually, the librarians father-in-law, Mr. Banks, knew who you were and gave me your number. But do you know -- I think one of the reasons why it was so hard for us to find you is because a lot of people are afraid to talk about what happened so many years ago, and they dont talk about the -- the 00:09:00movement to organize unions in 1933 and 34.

KIRBY: Yeah, I understand that.

HELFAND: What do you think about that?

KIRBY: Well, I think that most of the people who belonged to the union then, uh, retired by now.

HELFAND: What do you think about the fact that so many young people dont know about this history?

KIRBY: Oh, well, uh, I guess their parents didnt talk about it.

F1: Why do you think so many of the old-timers are still afraid?

KIRBY: Well I -- I doubt if the old-timers were bothered by it now.

F1: Then why won't they talk?

KIRBY: Well, the -- they probably would, if we talked to them. But if we dont talk to them, they probably won't say anything.


HELFAND: So when the strike -- could you tell us about the settlement of the strike at the end, when Roosevelt made a settlement with the textile manufacturers?

KIRBY: Well, I -- I dont remember too much about that. I just remember that there was a settlement.

HELFAND: And did everyone go back to get their jobs?

KIRBY: I -- I dont know. Uh, I think there was a few that already had a job somewhere else. And didnt bother.

HELFAND: You told me before that, um, everyone in your family got their jobs back but you.

KIRBY: Mm-hmm.

HELFAND: Could you tell us about that? You cant -- you know, you came back home, I know you stayed here and you lived here for quite some time before you left the area.


KIRBY: Well, well I was the only one whos fired out right, and my fathers job, one time, ran out, where they put in some different type machineries, and he lost his job, but he wasnt exactly fired, just run out. And my sis-- my oldest sister, she worked on as long as she wanted to.

HELFAND: You told me that they made it a little hard for your family because of your position, is that right?

KIRBY: Yes, they did, and they had them all worried.

HELFAND: Could you talk about that?

KIRBY: Well, there was something else came up that did give us trouble. The 00:12:00main sewer line for the village runs down under our garden, and, um, there was a pipe bust -- bursted, and, um, the company didnt send anybody to fix it, but -- my father reported it again, they didnt fix it, so he went to Spartanburg to the health department and reported it. So they said that they gave him orders later for the family to move out, hunt us a new place, and we didnt do it, so my father went back up there again and told them what they had done, and they sent a man down the office, I dont know what he said, but they withdrew that order.

HELFAND: So after the strike, you came back home and you didnt have a job, 00:13:00did you? Right at the middle?

KIRBY: You mean, I had come back from --

HELFAD: You know, right after that strike, after the big strike in 34?

KIRBY: I was thinking I did have a job for a while after the strike, yeah, Im almost sure I did.

HELFAND: I guess -- the -- the first time you told me about it, you said that they gave everyone a job back --

(break in audio)

HELFAND: -- in the community once the strike was over and they made a decision (inaudible).

KIRBY: Well I think that everybody was happy, and everybody was glad to go back to work because the money had done run out, having difficulty buying somethin to eat. Ill tell you, we -- we were limited to Irish potatoes and bologna, 00:14:00and a few other little things, that everyday wed have those things. And we had chickens, of course, we had eggs, and sometimes wed eat a frying size chicken.

HELFAND: But -- excuse me -- can you close that --What do you think was lost when you all -- what do you think the South lost by not accepting unionism at that time?

KIRBY: Well, we let the north get ahead of us, and in fact, they were already ahead of us before the strike, and we were slow in getting a good balance.


HELFAND: What kind of opposition did you meet in the mill company and in the community, or the local government?

KIRBY: Well, the local government didnt do much in that regard. I think they stayed out because they tried to be impartial. Now, there was a few people inside the government, or offices in the government, that did take part, one way or the other, but most of them didnt.

HELFAND: Do you recall how the -- Mr. Montgomery responded to all of you wanting to be in the union? Could you call him by name?

KIRBY: Well, now, he himself did not --

HELFAND: Can you say Mr. Montgomery?

KIRBY: Beg your pardon.

HELFAND: Mr. Montgomery was the president of the mill --

KIRBY: Thats right.

HELFAND: -- could you say that and then go on from there?


KIRBY: Yeah, Mr. Montgomery, he left the work up to his officials under him, and he didnt take part in -- in running the mill, he just told them what to do, so therefore he stayed clear of all -- all the, uh, bad rumors. And finally, he sold his stock out to, uh, another man -- whats the name of the man -- yeah, Roger Milligan. So Milligan became the president.

HELFAND: Now, you told me at one point there was a -- you heard rumor of a flying squadron coming through this area during the strike, do you remember? The flying squadron?

KIRBY: Oh, yes, yes.

HELFAND: Could you tell us about that?

KIRBY: Yes, that was a rumor coming from Gaffney saying there was a -- there was 00:17:00a flying squad stopping at the --

HELFAND: Could you -- could you -- could you start that again, I got in the way.

KIRBY: There was a rumor or a message coming from Gaffney saying that, uh, there was a flying squad sent out by mill officials and they were -- they were spreading terror among the strikers, and they were coming to Pacolet next, see, there was a route directly from Gaffney to Pacolet, and -- and us strikers, we didnt like that a little bit, so I got my shotgun, the rest of them got their guns, and if them, uh, them people cross that bridge, they were going to be in trouble.

HELFAND: But these were other union people, werent they?

KIRBY: No, these were -- these were anti-union people.


HELFAND: No, the people that were coming over here, they were for the union or against the union?

KIRBY: They were against the union.

HELFAND: None of -- really? Because what I understood was that the flying squadron were groups of unionized workers who would go from mill to mill --

KIRBY: Well now, there -- there was some of those, but the ones Im talking about were not those --

HELFAND: Oh, OK, well then maybe we shouldnt call them flying squadron, we should -- they were -- if they were anti-union people, could you explain that?

KIRBY: Well, they were hired --

HELFAND: Could you say there was a rumor -- start it again.

KIRBY: Well -- it -- they didnt say a rumor, I just said that. They said a message came from Gaffney saying that there was a bunch of men that was breaking up strikes and that had weapons, and they were killing people, and they were coming to Pacolet next, but we found out later that that wasnt true, so 00:19:00-- but we didnt know that at first, so we got prepared to meet em if they did come. And that includes me, I got my shotgun. (laughter)

HELFAND: Whatd yall do?

KIRBY: We waited, we got up close --

M1: Could you start that again, Im sorry.

KIRBY: We waited, and waited, and waited, and then nobodyd come. That was a false statement.

HELFAND: Now, when you were organizing, and the union started to build and build, what did you feel like you all could accomplish?

KIRBY: We felt like we could --

HELFAND: Could you say that, as we were organizing and the union built, and then tell me?

KIRBY: Uh, I think so.


KIRBY: Well, we -- we figured that we could organize like some of the unions in 00:20:00the north, and become strong enough substain our positions, and, uh, we could get a reasonable agreement with the companies on everything. That includes wages, and work, and timing, and everything. Thats what we was hoping for.

HELFAND: Was it also something -- what about being able to be citizens, what about, you know, you know, what did you feel -- I mean, spiritually, did it feel like you were in a different place as working people?

KIRBY: No, no, I dont think so, because about everybody here, or most everybody, had somewhat similar feelings, so I dont think I felt like I was different.

HELFAND: Did you feel like -- was it -- did you have a feeling of hope that you hadnt had before?

KIRBY: Yes, we did.


HELFAND: Could you talk about that?

KIRBY: Well, we were hoping that -- that all that disagreement between us and the company would be smoothed out and that we would become friends again.

HELFAND: In your recollection, was this the first time that you and other of the mill workers who lived here had participated like this?

KIRBY: Yes, we never had even thought about a union till Roosevelt advocated it. It didnt even occur to us.

HELFAND: And was this the first time that youd ever tried to, I dont know, tell the company how you wanted things to be, or that you could combat favoritism, or things that happen in the mill that you didnt like?

KIRBY: Now, as far as I know, there hadnt been any complaints at that time. 00:22:00If there were any, I didnt know it.

F1: Whyd you think the South would be a different place today if the unions had stuck?

KIRBY: I didnt get it.

F1: If -- do you think the South would be a different place today if the union movement had been powerful and stayed?

KIRBY: Well, it would have been for quite a while, but I think it would have finally went out because the mills were closed anyway.

M1: If you could do that again and direct your answer to --

HELFAND: Yeah, could you tell me what -- how you think if you had been able to be successful at that time how things would be now?

KIRBY: Ye-- well, they would have been fine for quite a while until a lot of foreign shipments came in and took the -- took the sales away from, uh, our companies.

HELFAND: Did you -- even -- did you ever stop wanting the things that you were fighting for, back in 1934, even though --


KIRBY: Well, when I was in the service, uh, I forgot all about those things. You see, I had to study and study hard, and everybody in that school, as least everybody in the classes I was in, were either college graduates or had two years of college or had at least had high school diplomas, that was a requirement. And I dont know how I got through. I been told, I guess, by 50 people that nobody, and nobody, without a high school diploma could get in the Air Force.

HELFAND: Well, you did great, didnt you?

KIRBY: I got through, I -- I dont know, they might have mistook me for somebody else. (laughter)

HELFAND: Now, I know that there was a black community here, in Pacolet, who worked in the mill, right?


KIRBY: There was some, yes.

HELFAND: Well, what -- what did -- what did the black mill workers do during the time that you were organizing? Were they partof what you were doing?

KIRBY: No, uh, they worked in what they called the opening room, thats where they open up the bails and --

HELFAND: Could you start that again and talk about -- say, the black workers?

KIRBY: OK. Yeah, the black workers at that time, some of them worked in the opening room, opening up the bails and feeding them to a chute going into the picker room, and they had some -- or some of the black workers fired the boilers that made the steam and heated the mill, and ran some of the machinery, and some of them worked outside in the village at many different tasks, including picking up trash and hauling it away, and it included setting out trees, and building 00:25:00walls along the road. Now, you notice here, theyve got a wall on both sides, and building side (inaudible), most black people worked jobs like that. Didnt many of em work in the mill to run machinery.

HELFAND: And when you were organizing, did you include the black workers?

KIRBY: I dont think any came to -- could have came to the meeting. As far as I know.

HELFAND: Because I -- do you think that -- that your local union would have accepted or wanted to have them in the union?

KIRBY: I dont know, I just dont know. I would -- I would have voted to have em if it had come, but I couldnt say about the majority. Because theyve got to live as well as we do. And when I was hauling all of em, I 00:26:00didnt make any difference, as long as they paid their bills, they got service.

HELFAND: Now, the reason I asked is because weve seen written down that they were some -- there were black workers here in the Pacolet that -- that had their own local union, do you remember anything like that?

KIRBY: No, I sure dont. Dont remember a thing.

HELFAND: One last question, what was the best part of the organizing?

KIRBY: Well, I think friendship, because a lot of people who were acquainted, knew each other name, were not close friends, but when we meeted at the lodge, 00:27:00then, uh, everybody become friends. And that was one of the plus points of the union.

HELFAND: Thank you.

(break in video )

HELFAND: So what -- tell me, what do you remember about -- I know you were living in this house at the time of the organizing, werent you?

F2: Yeah. And then later on after they organized to, uh, kind of put down the labor union, some of the --

HELFAND: Can you tell us about them building a union hall, do you remember?

F2: Yeah, each one would carry their own tools.

HELFAND: OK, were going to walk over to the other side of the house.

F2: And, uh, they worked over there in their spare time, and I think they got legal papers on the ground and then they built the hall in their spare time, and 00:28:00then they had their meetings on Saturdays, and at times, they, um, would have rallies and different men who belonged to other unions would, uh, in other places, would come and give a pep talk.

HELFAND: Lloyd, do you remember that?

KIRBY: Um, remember -- beginning to remember some of it slightly, but not enough to -- to, uh, comment on it.

F2: And they just seemed like they enjoyed theirselves [sic] together, back then the communities were more, I think, dependent on each other for friendship, and, uh...

HELFAND: Did -- was there any -- I mean, how did people feel about -- about -- how did you feel about the fact that Lloyd was so, you know, involved? (multiple conversations; inaudible)

F2: He was big brother, and I felt like he (laughter) should do what he thought 00:29:00he needed to.

KIRBY: I didnt ask her for anything. (laughter)

F2: And, uh --

KIRBY: She was a kid, kid sister. I told her, instead of her tolding me. (laughter)

F2: Yeah, he was one that was older than me. (laughter)

HELFAND: Now, your whole family belonged -- your family who worked belonged to the union, is that right?

F2: The ones that worked at that time, yes.

HELFAND: Now, how did the community respond?

F2: Well, this was -- I think this was a, sort of a broad minded community, they didnt put each other down until -- toward the (inaudible), toward the lice, the company kindly -- well, theres few that work for the company, top men would, uh, organize a club of their own, they called it the Red Apple Club, didnt they?

KIRBY: I dont know a thing about that, I mustve been gone.

F2: No you werent. You were here, and they met down there at, uh, underneath 00:30:00the city hall. Remember?

KIRBY: I dont remember that.

F2: It was --

HELFAND: Do you remember -- could you --

F2: The purpose of that meeting -- I mean, that union was to try to bust up the labor union. I remember it. And there was a little bickering back then, but, uh, after a while it all died down. And I think most of the people who, uh -- most --

(break in audio)

HELFAND: -- most interested in is that, um, after the -- after the strike, you all were able to stay here, and youre still living in the same house?

F2: Yeah, (inaudible).

HELFAND: Do you remember that part?

F2: Yes, after the strike was over, and most everyone who wanted to went back to 00:31:00work, and as far as I know, there wasnt any friction for -- maybe a little later on some built up between the one -- the company -- the high company workers and the laborers, but, uh, as far as I know, they didnt ask anyone to move at that time. Not because of the labor problem. But...eventually -- ah, you told them about, uh, dad getting in to -- on the spot about the sewage part --

KIRBY: Mm-hmm.

F2: -- well I dont think that had anything to do with the labor union, that was a different incident.

HELFAND: Did you ever tell your kids about Lloyd being the vice president of the local union here, or your daddy?


F2: Mm, I dont think Ive talked to them about that, as a matter of fact, I didnt know about the letters that were written. I was surprised because my father didnt, uh, get too great an education, you know, mother either, but they knew how to read and write, and -- and, they -- they understood how well how things were going on, and...I dont know...

HELFAND: Did you ever -- was there ever any bad feelings in the community afterwards? I know you didnt get your job back, was that hard for you when you were working in the mill, and what was going on?

F2: Well, I wasnt working at that time, I didnt go to work until 39, and that was all clear then.

F1: Do you feel that, um, your brothers and sisters who were working in the mill at the time, do you think they got it a little bit harder because of Lloyd being the vice president of the union?


F2: Well, there were remarks at times that really didnt need to be made. And maybe they didnt get quite as good of breaks because back then, things were run on buddy-buddy system, more or less. Come on, help me bud.

KIRBY: I done talked out.

F2: He -- this is something (laughter) I really dont know too much about. Well, that was -- that was back before they started this, uh, insurance business, I can remember -- I would go in the mill, though I didnt work there, I would go in the mill and piddle around, and help some, until the -- the companies were required to insure their workers, and once they done that, since 00:34:00I didnt have a job in the mill, I had to stay out,(thunder) I wasnt covered. And so I went back to school. (laughter)

HELFAND: I think its really going to rain, huh?

KIRBY: I had to go into a plane up there in that cloud.

F2: Dont see any dark clouds (inaudible).

(break in audio)

F2: -- about the rallies?

HELFAND: Well, Im just wondering about if you remember Lloyd on the picket line, did you ever go to see him? Do you remember --

F1: -- joined the strike.

HELFAND: -- when they first finished building the union hall, going down there?

F2: I dont remember too much about that, but I know that they had the rallies, and thats about the only thing I went to, cause I -- I didnt -- I wasnt a laborer, and I didnt belong to...

HELFAND: How did your momma feel about you being involved?

KIRBY: Well, she -- I suppose she felt all right, she never did complain, and of 00:35:00course she never did brag about it either. So I just dont know.

F2: Well, it really wasnt time to rag because that was somethin that eventually sort of separated, uh, the community, you know, a little bit. No one wanted to hurt those persons feelings, so...

HELFAND: How do you feel about the fact that something that you -- was such a major moment, you know, it was a huge strike, it took place all over the country, at the same time, North and South, how do you feel about something that youve worked -- you were part of something so big --

KIRBY: Well, I felt good about so many -- so many people throughout the South were pulling together, I thought to -- we were going to accomplish a lot, and I believe that because the president of the United States was supporting us. And --

F2: What year did the NRA come in?

KIRBY: Dont know.

HELFAND: You remember the NRA?


F2: Yeah, I remember -- I remember it happening but I dont remember what year it came in.

F1: 1933.

F2: Thirty-two?

F1: Thirty-three.

F2: Thirty-three.

F1: July of 1933.

F2: Thats when wages jumped from around $5 or $6 a week to $12 a week. Put in how many hours.

KIRBY: Forty.

F2: Forty hours? I thought you done more than that. Um --

KIRBY: I thought you was talking about the time when --

F2: No, before the --


F2: -- NRA.

KIRBY: Oh, I didnt know --

F2: Well back then, if a person had a day off from work, come noontime, they went back and they done what they call quartering, and --

KIRBY: And thats in the weave room.

F2: I thought it was the whole mill?

KIRBY: I dont think so.

F2: Well, they worked two hours, and let the regular hand go out and eat and come back, then (laughter) the one who was due to be off that day gets to go back home. (laughter) And if the water got too high in the river, and they had 00:37:00to close down -- it was run by water wheels, and they had to close it down, and you lost some time, well, you had to make it up. Sometimes it --

KIRBY: Well if it got too low.

F2: Too low? I thought it was too --

KIRBY: Yeah, yeah, getting too high didnt stop it. The extra water goes down.

F2: Well I remember the river got up a number of times and it --

KIRBY: Well, I remember that too.

F2: Well, OK, if the water got too low they closed --

KIRBY: I remember one time when it was high and they stopped because they was afraid they was going to go run into the mill, get over the -- over the bound, now thats one time it did that, but generally speaking they didnt stop because of the high water.

F2: But now, when the NRA went into effect, they cut out that, um, quartering business, didnt they?


KIRBY: Yeah, they had three shifts, eight hours per shift, so they couldnt put any quarters in it. Everybody had to work straight eight hours.

F2: (inaudible) else gonna do.

HELFAND: So -- so you all got to stay in the house, and then Lloyd came home after the strike and he moved -- and he stayed with you for some time -- oh, I saw lightning.

F2: He stayed --

KIRBY: Yeah, I stayed here until I -- until I got a job at [Union?], I haul vegetables and things like that -- well, at first, I ran a filling station for a while, and the owner of it died, (thunder) and, um, and the new owners had other plans...so, uh, I had to go out of business.


F2: Well, you worked at several cotton mills --

KIRBY: Yeah.

F2: -- through that time, (inaudible).

KIRBY: My -- my first job was at [Union?], down there between Union and Buffalo, second job, went to Chesnee. And then when they stretched out up there, uh, I went over to Laurens. And I still working there when I was drafted, Uncle Sam called me. And I almost heard him. (laughter)

F2: I almost heard him. (laughter) He greet-- he sent you greetings. (laughter)

HELFAND: Did -- did your brothers union activity and your dads union activity change the way -- change your ideas in the future, did it?

F2: Well, I think it helped the South, um, I can see how things have changed since then, but in this section of the country, uh, most of the companies have, 00:40:00uh, I think they understood the basis of it, and they changed their way of handling things. So the company, after -- lets see, after Montgomery sold, seemed like [Melligan?], he tried to keep his wages up with the others in competition. And went along with improvements, and so he was a rather good guy to work for, in my opinion. Though, they didnt have a union. That -- that -- that all the union worked out, they...

HELFAND: Now, the union here stuck -- I mean, didnt -- you didnt all just give up afterwards?

KIRBY: No, not completely. But we did give up the union.


F2: Since the companies would, uh, keep up with the average of the others, I think thats one reason, through here, is not as organized as some other places --

KIRBY: I just remembered somethin I hadnt remembered in years. Uh, Jonathan Lancaster, at that time he was assistant superintendent wasnt he?

F2: That was during the war.

KIRBY: Well, well he -- he was somethin before the war, uh, I think --

F2: I think he was just an over hauler or something...

KIRBY: Well, anyway, I remember now, its -- he came to [Reeba?] and asked her, did I want to go back in the mill.

F2: Well, the war had started and they needed anyone they could get.

KIRBY: That was after the war.

F2: Was it?

KIRBY: Yeah.

F2: Well after the war, you know, he was assistant sup--

HELFAND: What did -- what do y-- what do you think the effect was of having all the activists, the leaders in your local union, get fired or have to leave?


KIRBY: Well --

HELFAND: Could you repeat my question and think about it, talk on this?

KIRBY: Ill -- Ill let her do that.

HELFAND: No, we want you to do it.

F2: Youre the one that, uh --

KIRBY: Well, most of em that was fired, left here and did never come back. Some of em went to the farm, some of em went to other villages, but everybody who were fired and didnt get the job right back left town.

HELFAND: And those people who were the activists, you know, the people who were the leaders, the officers, the people who had really organized, what was the effect of the community losing those people?

KIRBY: It -- it was --

HELFAND: Could you -- could you repeat -- could you try to take my question and incorporate it in your answer?

KIRBY: I think so. I think, um, they were missed.

HELFAND: Could you say the leaders were missed?

KIRBY: Well, yes, the leaders were missed, and it made those others feel frightened that they too would go. Thats -- and thats why I think it 00:43:00finally burst it up.

F2: That, along with the company, making amends --

KIRBY: Well they might -- that could have been more than one factor.

HELFAND: And -- and how did you feel when you had a -- when you left town, when you left home?

KIRBY: Well, I was happy to have a job.

HELFAND: Did you talk union?

KIRBY: No, no, I -- I started out working on the third shift, and, uh, nobody hung around, so you wouldnt talk union in the mill, and nobody hung around, and didnt have a chance to talk union, because everybody went his way, and right quick when he got out the door.


HELFAND: And you -- and -- and -- did, in your own heart, did you -- I mean, in your own mind, did you bring anything from having done all that organizing -- did you bring anything with you from this experience, when you left Pacolet?

KIRBY: Nah, I -- I dont think so, because I -- I had in mind for a while not going back to textile, I thought about doing something else, but when I got a chance to get a job at a [Ewingin?], then I took it. A neighbor of ours who lives over on the other street was working down there, and so he told me that, uh, there was a job open down there if I wanted it. You remember Linda -- Linda Lamb, I belie--

F2: Yes.

KIRBY: He -- he was working down there at that time.

F2: And yall rode together.


KIRBY: Yeah -- he (inaudible) back and forth, you see, so he rode with me when I went to work.

HELFAND: And -- and when -- did people talk about this over the years?

F2: No, it was the quietest thing Ive ever known. (laughter) Thats just past history. (laughter) Thats -- I think its more or less this part of the country, this section of the country because the person gets along now about as -- well, as well as the next person if they just work and [turn?] your job, theyll get the same wages, same benefits, and no -- no trouble or problems in the mills.

HELFAND: What do you mean, the quietest thing? What do you --

F2: Its just not talked about. (laughter) I dont know, they may think that it will give their children a hard time or somethin like that --

KIRBY: Well, Ill tell ya --

F2: -- I dont what it (inaudible).

KIRBY: -- uh, cat got their tongue. (laughter) Thats a Southern saying. (laughter)


F2: Well, I figured its probably they thought maybe their children would, uh, have a mark on em before they went to work or something of that nature, but, uh, they had what they called the blacklist, and that was people that, uh, they -- when they would check on em, references about working, that the other companies wouldnt hire. And I dont -- I dont who -- I dont anyone personally that was on the blacklist, but I just heard others talk of it. Do you?

KIRBY: No, I never did try -- try to get back, I dont know whether they would let me go back or not.

F2: Well that got old and wore out, and then they hired the hands back, uh. The 00:47:00work come, they put on buses, they haul people in to work.

KIRBY: Especially those living in the country.

F2: Mm-hmm. But, the word organize -- I think this patriotism was, uh, in the point at that time.

HELFAND: Was your family marked?

F2: Well, I dont know unless it was my dad and him, outside of that...I dont really know that they were, but the -- see, they dont give out that kind of information.

HELFAND: Would you say that -- that the community felt that, and could you use that term again, marked?

F2: Well, Ill tell ya about myself, uh, when I was old enough to go onto a job, uh, well, there wasnt many too vacancies, well, almost none at all, they had spare hands, and theyd send regular hands out and let spare hands work. 00:48:00Well, I asked for a job 100 times and I didnt get it, so I went somewhere else and went to work. But I dont know that that was direct from the connection of the union or not. (laughter) So I couldnt say.

HELFAND: How do you feel about what your brother --

F2: Uh, I think part of it was because he belonged to the union, and...one or two in particular kind of picked on that point. Because, -- I would hear things, you know, Im on skids, they say things. But --

KIRBY: It is always the truth. (laughter)


F2: No, that, uh, in a few years all that leveled out, and friends were friends again. And thats the reason, I think, theyre not organized down in this part of the country, the way that, uh, the North is. Now, theyre building automobile plant over toward Greer, and theyre trying to get it unionized. Now, those kind of, uh, jobs are more unionized than textile, around here. (laughter) I dont know if theyre going to get a union over there or not, because these people, theyre hiring -- theyre trying to hire a lot of local help, and thats probably one of the reasons. I know that and said so, Im just reading behind of what theyre doing. (laughter) But, people 00:50:00around here are good workers, as a matter of fact, I think theyre tops. (laughter)

HELFAND: Are you proud of what you did? Are you proud that you were vice president of your local?

KIRBY: Well, I -- I think so.

F2: Hes not ashamed of it. (laughter) We talk among ourselves at times, but not really with others.

HELFAND: Could -- could you repeat what I said about -- could you incorporate my question in your answer, about how you feel about yourself for what you did back then?

KIRBY: Well, I believe I was doing my part and trying to get the South organized, and we get on a level with the north, thats what we was hoping for.

HELFAND: Do you look back with pride? And use that word, if its true.

KIRBY: Well -- some -- uh, may have a little pride of what Id done, but I had 00:51:00a lot of sorrow, too.

F2: But it wasnt from the fact of what youd done, it was the fact from results that made you feel that --

KIRBY: Well, yeah, no, thats true.

F2: -- so I dont think you resent what youve done.

KIRBY: No, its not that.

F2: I feel like the whole thing has really helped the South in the long run because it did up the, uh, level of living, and they did pass the NRA.

KIRBY: You know, we were about to get raise, we got $12 a week.

F2: Well, that was a step, step in the right direction, and its much better than what things were.

KIRBY: Yeah, thats true. Howd you like a big $12 a week? (laughter)


F2: I can remember Dad coming home with a ticket with $5 and something.

KIRBY: Right during the Depression, the worst was the Depression, that was all I was making. I was weaving at that ti-- lets see, no, I guess I started fixing, Im not sure.

F2: Living circumstances were different then, you could, uh --

KIRBY: Yeah.

F2: -- a nickel would go a long way. (laughter)

KIRBY: You could get a dozen eggs for a nickel.

F2: Get a candy bar for a nickel.

HELFAND: Do you --

(break in audio)

HELFAND: -- that what you were doing was part of a very big national effort?

F2: We knew that was what -- why we wanted things to go, but we didnt realize we were doing much. (laughter) And you?

KIRBY: Well, no, I -- I just didnt know how far we was going to get, because the future was -- were dark, it was real dark.

F2: Well, when Roosevelt went in, he -- he also started -- the besides starting 00:53:00the NRA, he started the CCC camps, and that put a lot of the young boys to work --

KIRBY: Some -- some of them men too.

F2: Yeah, and then he had another program, what was it? WPA? Worked on roads.

KIRBY: Yeah, thats it.

HELFAND: But what Im wondering about is, did you -- did you know -- realize that your local 1994, right here, was part of something much bigger?

KIRBY: Yes, uh, we hope -- we hoped to succeed and help the whole organization, but we didnt get as far as wed hoped.

F2: You know, it didnt accomplish as much here, but --

KIRBY: Thats what I mean.

F2: -- the union as a whole, we knew that -- we knew the north was making pretty good and all that business, but, we knew their wages were better than ours, and...

HELFAND: But when you went out on that -- you remember those rallies --

F2: A little bit, yeah. Honey, I remember them and boys more than I do the 00:54:00rallies. (laughter) I was a teenager. (laughter)

HELFAND: Did you -- did you ever see Lloyd talk? Did you ever see him in front of the union meeting?

F2: Yeah, I saw him -- lets see, once over at the union hall --

KIRBY: I didnt know that.

F2: -- then -- I did. Wake up, boy. And, lets see, I know you went to some of the other rallies off from here --

KIRBY: Yes, I --

F2: -- and I dont know where you went to, and give pep talks.

KIRBY: Well, went to Union for one, in Rock Hill, and another town over in that -- where they just did the park, comes from here.

F2: Lockhart?

KIRBY: Lockhart, yeah. Through that area there.

F2: Well, I didnt know where you went to, but I knew you went.

KIRBY: That was four places I can think of. There mightve been more.

F2: Well, those are sort of local places, pretty close around.


HELFAND: So the towns were learning -- were working together, you would go and meet one local and another local?

KIRBY: Well, thats right.

HELFAND: Could you tell me that?

KIRBY: Yes, uh --

F2: You remember Polly [Call?], or, I can see --

KIRBY: Yes, I remember.

F2: -- (inaudible), and, lets see, there was another one I remembered.

HELFAND: Lloyd, could you tell me that?

KIRBY: Yeah, what --

HELFAND: How -- that -- that you would take 1994, people from here, and you would go to other places to talk about?

KIRBY: Yes, me and two more men went to Union to a meeting, and then we went to Lockhart, then Rock Hill, and then, uh, the last meeting of the day is a town over near Rock Hill, I dont remember the name of it. We went to the first one in the morning, we spent a whole day. And I didnt make many trips like that.


F2: Well, most of em that talked, to me, it sounded like pep rallies. It was rying to buoy up the people feelings and making them wish to join, and then be part of the union.

KIRBY: Getting everybody to have the same hopes, so there won't be any division in the group.

HELFAND: Well, thank you.

F2: That was among people who werent trained, [didnt work?], (inaudible) they were doing it on their own without being trained, you know. They werent given advice, and they just went on their own. And it was like talking to a buddy.

KIRBY: Well, I expect we better start going because the clouds are getting bigger.

HELFAND: OK, thank you so much.

M1: Okay you guys just walk on back now.


CHILD 1: Hey, (inaudible) Hey!