Claude Hundley Jr. Interview

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CREW: Speed.

JUDITH HELFAND: You can read when you’re ready.

CLAUDE HUNDLEY: Tenth, 22nd, ’33. Mr. Hugh S. Johnson. Dear sir, I am writing you a few lines for instruction. I am a colored employee of Saratoga Victory Mill Number Two, Guntersville, Alabama. And have been working there 28 months as an all-around worker, working for $5.75 per week. Got a little raise to $6 per week. When NRA took effect I got a raise to $9 per week. And I have been getting $9 per week for 60 and 67 hours per week, ever since June the 17th of ’33. And the way I understand the code, every man, regardless of color, 1:00was authorized to get a eight-hour per day minimum wage of $12 per week. So if -- if eight hours for a colored worker long hours for $9 per week and some white workers per $7.60 per week per eight hours per day. Sincerely yours, Claude Hundley of Guntersville, Alabama. He’s my father.

HELFAND: What do you think about that?

HUNDLEY: I think it’s nice. Well, I was, like I said, I was real small at the time, you know. And I remember when he left, he worked at that mill a long time. I mean, Dallas Moore and the rest of the people. And never knew they had 2:00a strike, though, until you got hold of us through the uh, what was that? The library. Well, all those people that worked. But actually, my uncle, [Yoelle Harris?], [Ellie Hugh?], he worked there. They was part-time workers over there, though. I didn’t know that at the time.

HELFAND: What do you think your daddy writing in this letter?

HUNDLEY: I think it’s great. Back in the ’30s? [It would have been?] wonderful. Sure did.

HELFAND: You know, when I ask you a question, you should take my question and sort of put it in your answer.


HELFAND: You know, last -- when we were sitting upstairs, and you looked at -- (break in audio) um, why don’t you -- wait, why don’t we read the last part of it again, OK? An-and really think about what your daddy wrote.

HUNDLEY: OK. The last part of...

HELFAND: Yeah, why don’t you start with “the way I understood the code.” 3:00Um, “every man, regardless of the color was supposed...”

HUNDLEY: The way I understood the code, here, every man --

HELFAND: OK, I’ll tell you when.


HELFAND: Read it slow. You don’t have to rush.

CREW: We’re rolling.


HUNDLEY: The way I understand the code, every man, regardless of color, was supposed to get eight hours per day, minimum wage $12 per week. So if eight hou-- if eight of us boys colored working long hours for $9 per week, and some whites working for $7.60 per week working eight hours per day. Sincerely yours, Claude Hundley, Guntersville, Alabama.

HELFAND: So who was your daddy looking out for?

HUNDLEY: I guess if -- he seemed to be looking out for all the workers, not only 4:00colored, the way it -- I read it right here. He looked -- he seemed to be more -- eh, thinking about all -- every working man that was out there on the job at the time, let’s put it that way.

HELFAND: Um, that’s really -- you know, now who -- now, your daddy wasn’t the only -- he said that there were six black men who were working there. Could you talk a little bit about, you know, what your daddy did there and who-who -- you know, what the other men did?

HUNDLEY: Mm-hmm. Well, far as I know, they, um, you know, that old mill, they brought cotton in on cars and on trucks. And they unloaded cotton back there, in the [white house port?]. That’s... So, I guess when they had the extra help, they unloaded the cotton, the same thing.

HELFAND: So what was daddy’s job there?

HUNDLEY: He was the truck --

HELFAND: [Cause then you could say?] -- my daddy, Claude Hundley --


HUNDLEY: Oh, OK. My daddy, Claude Hundley, was a truck [cotton?], you know, in the mill, there, at the time. And the unload it, and take it up to the people that -- [in needle bobbin?] rooms.

HELFAND: And so he --

CREW: If you could not (inaudible) play with the paper.


HELFAND: Yeah. We don’t --

CREW: It makes -- it makes noise.

HELFAND: In fact, you could take a -- you could put the letter down and we’ll-we’ll pick it up again. While we’re talking, you can put it down.


HELFAND: So your father was full-time and Dallas Moore was full-time. But he was t-- he was writing that six -- six workers.


HELFAND: So you th-- you could even tell me, in a general way, you know, who your -- what your father did. You know, that your father and Dallas Moore were full-time, maybe what they did, and-and then something about when-when they were bringing those other men.


HUNDLEY: Well, they were, from what I gather, was full-time employees. And, uh, when they need extra help, they brought in those other employees, I’m guessing, to -- like I said, to (inaudible). I know they brought in cotton in on the trains -- on boxcars -- and when they had a heavy shipment, they probably helped them unload and work around it in the plant, there.

HELFAND: Now, had you ever heard about a letter like this? I mean, is --

HUNDLEY: No, I haven’t.

HELFAND: So the first time I brought -- so, could you tell me about the -- is it the first time that I brought this letter, you started to know about what your father did? Could you tell me that?

HUNDLEY: That's the first time I knew about it, you brought it to my attention, you know, when you were -- well, I think the first time we talked on the telephone. Well, you called two -- I think we talked two or three times over the phone. And then you came and we went around and met people at-at the old mill, village that, uh, -- that knew something about him. And, well. (laughter) Hmm.


HELFAND: So until -- so-so you never knew about this?

HUNDLEY: I never knew.

HELFAND: When you first heard of the letter --

HUNDLEY: I never hear of it. Never even knew he wrote a letter like that. Until, uh, -- like I said, until you brought it to our attention.

HELFAND: Did you -- how did -- uh, how did a black man, at the time your father was working, register a protest (inaudible)?

HUNDLEY: Ooh. Back in the ’30s? Hoo-hoo. I’d be scared to even think.

HELFAND: Scared to think about what?

HUNDLEY: Writing a protest, uh, you know, a letter like that, against the -- something like Saratoga Mills in the South. I don’t know. (laughter) I don’t -- I guess he just... Just thought about other people, not about himself, and wrote the letter when the new -- when that Act went into effect. I 8:00guess he just wrote the letter, after he seen what -- (inaudible) that was the year after President Roosevelt took office, is when that [inaudible]. So I feel that he did it until then and just wanted to get a little more affirmation off of it, is all I can gather. He figured they was doing him wrong and he wrote a letter to protest it.

HELFAND: I guess he felt like he’d get some protection, maybe --

HUNDLEY: Some protection from, uh, the federal. But I guess that would come through federal courts, wasn’t it?

HELFAND: Well, yeah --

HUNDLEY: Back in them times, yeah.

HELFAND: So, you’re -- that’s -- so what-what is striking to you about this letter? I mean, pick-pick the letter up. You could read it to yourself, you could read out -- pick the -- pick the letter up and maybe read out the part of it that is so striking to you.

HUNDLEY: Well, really, he was talking about, what I was looking at right there, here in this paragraph, with 60 and 67 hours per week. And then the (inaudible) 9:00is supposed to go on eight hours per day for salary. So it looked like, to me, that the company was using the employees for their gain [they weren’t helping them out?], you know, but working that minimum hours and paying -- they wasn’t making that much, you know, the salary they were making. So when he wrote the letter, he didn’t only write it for the colored employees. From what I can gather from this writing down here, he was thinking about some of the white employees, too. I’m talking about the people that worked in the office -- in the back, back there, the shipping dock [inaudible]. I wouldn’t have dreamed of -- would even thought he would have wrote a letter like this. But, uh, I guess he did. At least he’s back to -- somebody’s thinking about somebody other than themselves, that’s what I’m thinking right there.

HELFAND: That’s something from back then.

HUNDLEY: Yeah, back in the ’30s, it was something to write a letter like that. Sure was.


HELFAND: And what does it mean to be a black man and to write a letter like this? Include that question. What does that mean to be a black cotton mill worker --

HUNDLEY: And write the --

HELFAND: -- and write a letter like this?

HUNDLEY: Hoo, I don’t know how, it's pretty hard to answer that. (laughter) Oh. (inaudible) think. I guess -- I would guess mostly have to say, to write a letter like that and be a cotton mill worker, you’d have to have some nerve, first thing. And you’d have to have some thought for your fellow man, second, to put yourself out on -- a colored man to put himself out on the line like that. And I would say that he’ll have to make a little bit about his fellow man, because everybody, I don’t think, would have written a letter like that. I really don’t. I don’t know what his thoughts was or anything right there, 11:00but since you brought it to my attention, I respect him a lot for it. I really do. Hm.

HELFAND: Why don’t you read it one more time, with all that respect for your father, OK?

HUNDLEY: The whole letter?

HELFAND: Yeah. Is that OK?

HUNDLEY: Yeah, it’s OK. I’m going to be sweating in a minute, though, (inaudible). (laughter) This thing.


HELFAND: We’re fine.


HELFAND: Read it slow.

HUNDLEY: OK. Tenth, 22nd, ’33. Mr. Hugh S. Johnson. Dear sir, I am writing you a few lines for instruction. I am a colored employee of Saratoga Victory 12:00Mill Number Two, Guntersville, Alabama. And have been working there 28 months as a all-around worker, was making $5.75 per week. Got a little raise to $6 per week and when NRA took effect I got a raise to $9 per week. And have been getting $9 per week for 60 and 67 hours per week, ever since June the 17th of ’33. And the way I understand the code, every man, regardless of color, was supposed to get eight-hours per day, minimum wage of $12 per week. So eight of us colored boys working long hours for $9 per week and some white workers for 13:00$7.60 per week per eight hours per day. Sincerely yours, Claude Hundley of Guntersville, Alabama. And I respect him for writing that letter. I really do, after reading it. I didn’t know he did it. But I respect him. Because I -- he makes me think he’s thinking about somebody else.

HELFAND: And was standing up for his rights.

HUNDLEY: Well, yeah. Yeah, that’s the number one thing, you’re right, too. I hadn’t thought about that, but you’re right. Standing up for his rights. That’s -- in this country, that’s something to think about, back in the ’30s and in the South, to stand up for your rights like that. Huh. Hoo. I 14:00think about him. I respect him more now, since I got that letter from you and read that.

HELFAND: Now, does it -- he -- I-I’m really moved by what you said. I might not really have anything else to say. (laughter) You know, you -- he, um, -- do you know what his work was like? Did you ever see him do his work at the cotton mill?

HUNDLEY: (inaudible) say, before the strike -- but you know, after the strike, when I read that -- well, I guess that was (inaudible) that he wrote about him, going back to get the job back, and they had the machine gun. Well, after that, he got -- he went back to work at the mill. And I remember it then, because we used to go over there quite a bit, you know, down in the village. And they worked -- they-they took cotton -- what we called it, you know, -- in and out of 15:00the mill. But they -- on the little port, back there, we’d see them on the docks after. But you know, we never did go in there, where they were working at. (coughs) My mother, she washed for a bunch of the people there and then we’d go down there.

HELFAND: What are you thinking?

HUNDLEY: Mm. I’m thinking about the [place?] we used to [watch for mail?]. But, uh... Then he -- I don’t know about it. Later years, he left. I don’t know why he quit. Maybe he worked -- he went and got a job someplace else for him there.

HELFAND: Yeah. Do you know at the same time that your dad was writing this letter, they organized a union -- a local union -- over in Guntersville, at the -- at the -- at Saratoga --

HUNDLEY: At the Saratoga Mills? They did? I didn’t know that. Hm. Well, 16:00then, th-th-they didn’t have many of them employees. That was the only strike back at that time, though, that I’m asking the question now.

HELFAND: Um, well, it seems like some they hired back.

HUNDLEY: (laughter) They did.

HELFAND: Some they hired back and some, maybe, they didn’t. But so at the same time, there were -- that your father wrote this letter, there was this union being organized over there at the mill. So you know what? Could you put my -- take my question and turn it into a question for me? Or a statement?


HELFAND: Just -- you could say, “so what you’re telling me, Judy, is -- or, so what you’re telling me is that the same time my father wrote this letter, they were -- had a union over there?”

HUNDLEY: So what you are telling me, Judy, the same my father wrote that letter, they was having a union over there? At the old mill in Guntersville. Is that right? (sighs)


HELFAND: I don’t know if there’s a connection.

HUNDLEY: I wouldn’t...

HELFAND: The-the connection -- actually, the connection is that they organized the union because the NRA gave them that right?

HUNDLEY: The right to organize. So that’s why they-they were -- I guess they were really basing their rights on what the NRA had put out in the year of ’33. That’s what I’m looking at right here.

HELFAND: So they organized a union --

HUNDLEY: From --

HELFAND: -- and your father wrote a letter.

HUNDLEY: Wrote a letter. And --

HELFAND: So can you say that?

HUNDLEY: They organized the union and my father wrote a letter. And I...? (laughter)

HELFAND: All right, I’m-I’m -- it’s not -- I feel like I’m putting words in your mouth.


HELFAND: All right.

HUNDLEY: OK. (laughter)

HELFAND: Well, I’m just te-- anyway, that’s what was going on.


HELFAND: So -- and that’s why your father’s letter has always been so intriguing to me, because it was happening concurrently.


HUNDLEY: Well, back -- like I said, back then, when he -- when they -- when they were organizing that, and he wrote that letter, I-I would say that he wrote it after they -- that act passed, and he was writing the letter, I guess, like you said, for his rights. It was his right to write the letter, he thought. If somebody was doing him wrong, he had a right to write a thing. And so he wrote it to see (inaudible). They were working him, like I said, the 67 and 66 hours a week for the same salary. He wasn’t making anything. So he wrote the letter, see if he could get any protection for him and his people, I guess, working that. What I can gather, there, him and Dallas Moore were the only two colored employees full time and they wsa taking those other people there just as part time. And paying them whatever they wanted to, you know, working them long hours for nothing.


HELFAND: Now, I found this other document that your father wrote. In fact, Dallas Moore wrote one, too. So there was this strike --

CREW: Judith (inaudible).

HELFAND: What? OK. You know what, it’s an affidavit. It’s something that he wrote, that all the white -- all the union people also wrote that when they couldn’t get their jobs back. They filed these affidavits. So your father filed one, too.

HUNDLEY: Sure did. Uh. "I was (inaudible). We went back to our jobs but they wouldn’t let us near the mill, held us off with machine guns -- colored men. 20:00Claude Hundley, [Dunn Frick?]" -- and I think I know that fellow. "National Recovery Administration and complaints of violation of code over our competition for the cotton textile trade." And so he filed this after -- after -- he had got -- after the strike was over. Hmm. Right here, it says his principal second was a yard hand. That’s what I thought they did. They just -- you know, just doing work in the yard. And this one here, from Dallas Moore. They were good friends. Hm-hm.

HELFAND: So it seems like they were part of the union.


HUNDLEY: Um, from that they sure do -- [inaudible]. I wish I could say. Well. I don’t... To write to... I’m saying they were -- I’m saying they were part of trying to organize the union. That’s-that’s what we’re saying right now. But the reason this there, they wouldn’t let them get their jobs back after they got the union in. They didn’t get their jobs back; they held them off with machine guns back in there. What they’re say-- what they’re saying here, they headed off the colored workers with machine guns.

HELFAND: Well, basically, what happened was I mean -- I have a stack of these affidavits. They’re all from the white textile --



HELFAND: -- workers who joined the local union. And out of over 100 of these affidavits, I found two -- one from Claude and one from Dallas Moore. So we’re thinking maybe they were -- I don’t know. Maybe they -- you know, when they tried to go back to work, after the strike was over, they didn’t get -- they couldn’t go -- couldn’t get back in, they were held off with machine guns. So they filed this affidavit. So I don’t know if they’re part of the union or not.

HUNDLEY: That’s what -- and what I was looking at right here, too, after he did that, after Claude, my father did, and then Dallas both made one little paragraph down here, colored men. And so it would seem to me that they might have held them all off, but particularly the colored man -- colored workers. But I’m pretty -- I know he went back to work at the mill later, yeah. Because see, he wo-- he worked that about a year before he left here. And he 23:00worked a year at the ice house, packing ice. And I was tw-- I was 12 years old when he left -- when he left here. So he worked there until I was 10 [?] years old. But during the strike in ’33, I was about two or three years.

HELFAND: See, the strike was in ’34.

HUNDLEY: Thirty-four.

HELFAND: And what I’ve been trying to understand is did the black workers participate --

HUNDLEY: In the strike?

HELFAND: -- in the strike, in the union. Were they part of the local that included, or were they not included? It seems like your daddy and Dallas maybe were included.

HUNDLEY: I’m-I’m saying that they were part of it, trying to form the union, from what I can gather out of that letter, there. I’m-I’m pretty sure of that. I know Dallas Moore, he was just that type of fellow, too. But, uh, you 24:00know, back then, you’re talking about in the ’30s in the South. That wasn’t an easy time for colored people back in those times. (laughter) I can remember some of them, because (inaudible) hoo, after about 10 or 11 years old, see. So it was kind of...


HUNDLEY: Really, we didn’t have any -- you didn’t have any-any rights very much back then, not in the South.

HELFAND: Could you-you put the paper down for a second? Yeah. What-what-what are you saying? Say that again?

HUNDLEY: Colored people back in the ’30s didn’t have much rights. They had them but they didn’t exercise them. We couldn’t. You in tr-- you (inaudible) [orders?], you’ll find you’re in a tree. They didn't -- they 25:00couldn't -- that’s the reason I -- that’s the reason I respect him so much for writing that later, after you were -- after you got in touch with us about it. A lot of the people in the South would never wrote a letter like that.

HELFAND: And sign their name.

HUNDLEY: Claude Hundley.

HELFAND: He signed his name.

HUNDLEY: He signed his name to the paper, too. That’s something, too. You know, some people would have wrote it, wouldn’t even sign their name. They would have just had an anonymous down there. But he wrote his name and he was -- him signing his name was something great, too. I’ll just put it that way. Well, I’m proud he did it, certainly, really. (inaudible)



HUNDLEY: No. (laughter) I was just thinking. I -- he’s -- he’s not here now, but I would like to shake his hand for that, after reading that letter. I really would. Tell him I’m -- tell him how proud I was of him. Yeah, so. (sighs) (laughter)

HELFAND: What are you thinking about?

HUNDLEY: I’m thinking about all the people back there, back in the ’30s, when they were working at those mills, that probably didn’t have the same [thrall?]. I guess a lot of people did that, too, [over the South?]. Because I’m pretty sure what all those big cotton textile mills were doing, everybody 27:00was about the same way. And you take that mill out there, and, like you said, many employees that they had and just two black workers out there at that time -- Dallas Moore and Claude Hundley, my father -- and one of them -- bo-- well, both of them stood up and wanted to write a letter like that is something to really think about. Because I doubt I’d have the nerve to write a letter. I know I wouldn’t.

HELFAND: Knowing that your daddy did, do you think maybe it would make you think about yourself differently?

HUNDLEY: Now, I do. I probably would, I -- Like I said, I never would have th-- I knew my father. I knew he was the kind of man who would do a lot of things, but I-I never would have thought he’d write a letter and signed his name to it, back in the ’30s. Not for no union out there, not at that mill. But 28:00after reading it and looking at it, I just respect him. Let’s put it that way. I respect him.

HELFAND: You know, we weren’t sure -- can you tell me about that bible?

HUNDLEY: This is the old family bible. And I think that’s where -- oh. I’ll pick this up. It’s an old family bible here with -- he-he documented everything in this bible. Everything. That’s my mother’s name. It has all the children’s date and birth and everything.

HELFAND: And could you talk about why we found it?

HUNDLEY: Well, we were trying to-to -- what you call it? -- authenticate this signature on this letter, here, with his handwriting. And after I found this old family bible and we went through it, that’s it. Now, my auntie had this. I didn’t know she had a bible like this. And she let us borrow it. And 29:00it’s Claude Hundley. [Liberty Bell Harris?]. He got my sisters and brothers, everything, names in it, back in there.

HELFAND: So it’s -- could you hold the letter in one hand and the bible in the other and tell me what -- (laughter)

HUNDLEY: Can I lay this back? You got me going.

HELFAND: (laughter)

HUNDLEY: Letter in one?

HELFAND: Yeah, just so you can tell me, you know, that, uh, I know this is real because of this. You could even -- what were you going --

HUNDLEY: Well, I’m just looking at the two signatures and you can tell that’s real. This is his handwriting. Claude Hundley, Guntersville, Alabama. And the same thing’s in the se-- this (inaudible) that says Claude Hundley, 30:00Liberty Bell Harris. The handwriting in the -- of course, you can’t see it, but I would like to (inaudible) but I want to get it around. Let you see it. There’s the bible. Me holding a bible. Can I turn it this way, too? This is the handwriting on the letter and this is the signature on the bible. Well?

HELFAND: So you know your daddy did it?

HUNDLEY: I-I know he did it. That’s his handwriting. Sure is. You just look at it. And that’s...


HELFAND: That’s great. You know, that was really something. We were really wondering is that his handwriting? Now, it’s not -- his handwriting’s different on that affidavit.

HUNDLEY: Oh. But in this bible, here, and this letter, here, if you really look at it, it’s the same. But now, on this affidavit, it’s -- I was looking at daddy’s -- see, it’s (inaudible). I don’t know. That’s what I was looking at on there. His -- [see, it says?] Claude, but it’s H-U-N-D-L-A. It looks like Hundalord or something. That’s what I was looking at there. It’s different than in back there, but. But this is -- I know this is Dallas Moore. I know him and spoke of him (inaudible).

HELFAND: It’s something finding a bible, knowing that it’s definitely the handwriting.

HUNDLEY: Handwriting to get an old-old bible like this. I didn’t even know 32:00they had one like it. But she got it. I don’t know how she... Because I guess, you know, back years ago, this is how people kept records, in old bibles like this. Back then, in the South, especially. So they’d probably put all the birthdates and everything down in them (inaudible).

HELFAND: That’s a nice (inaudible). Can you hold up my (inaudible) kind of... Hm. Does it -- did you almost need -- did you need to know that there was a bible that -- did you need to authenticate your daddy’s handwriting?

HUNDLEY: I would have liked to. I-I’m glad we got the bible so we could make sure his handwriting is authenticated, you know. Because he-he was-was ter-- he 33:00could write, but he was left-handed. You know, dad -- my dad was left-handed. (laughter) Hm-hm.

HELFAND: Can you imagine your daddy -- you could put it, um. (inaudible) Um. You could -- yeah. You could put the (inaudible) down. (break in audio) -- our community in the early -- in the mill village here, and your relationship to the mill?

HUNDLEY: Well, see, when they -- when they putting the mill was there, they built that village just for the employees. But there was no black families that lived down there. They didn’t let them live in the village at that time. Um, 34:00we lived up what we called The Hill. That’s [the end?] it didn’t have a street name. [We just?] Hill, so. Uh, it just -- it was just wasn’t customary for a black family to live down in the mill village where they (inaudible) would -- they had those -- the two worked there, but they didn’t [take?] them live in those-those part (inaudible) down there. And then, later years, you know, I think they sold them to the employees, after it was over.

HELFAND: And so -- and the jobs that you could all do or couldn’t do?

HUNDLEY: Could-- they would -- like I said, I s-- I-I [yielded?] as a cotton trucker, is what we called it. But they were just yard hands. That’s about all the... But I don’t think no people -- or no blacks back then worked in the bobbin rooms and where they made the cloth. And they just worked out in the yard, that’s all. They, uh, trucked cotton [about the size of it?]. Yeah. I was going to say, they -- Dallas and dad, I know they trucked cotton. Because 35:00they used to tell about how (inaudible) Dallas was. He was a pretty good man. Dallas Moore.

HELFAND: And what was their relationship with the other white workers, do yo-- do you know? Can you imagine?

HUNDLEY: I know they had a pretty good relationship with some. Now, I ca-- I ca-- I couldn’t say why, but I know some of the employees that worked with them they had a pretty good relationship with. But like I said, all of them, I got-- I wouldn’t... I wouldn’t know. So.

HELFAND: So is this the first time -- I mean, the fact that you know your -- that your daddy [and Claude?], we don’t know what-what -- I haven’t been able to find out if they were members of the union or they weren’t.

HUNDLEY: Maybe (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) --

HELFAND: I don’t know. But maybe you could -- I-I don’t know. I mean, maybe you could just even help me -- you know, maybe you could just say, look, I-I don’t know, you know. Does this mean that they were members of the union? 36:00I don’t know. But it means that they were part -- that they had a relationship to the union in some way.

HUNDLEY: Uh, but I’m sure that, from what I can gather, they did. But I don’t know whether they actually got a union or not.

HELFAND: They had a local union.

HUNDLEY: They had a local union? So-so I never did hear him talk about having been part of a union there. I never had heard him say that. I really didn’t. But if they had a union, he worked there in later years and I’m pretty sure he’d had to be part of it.

HELFAND: But it-it seems like at that time, they were part of -- they-they had some connection to the union, just because they signed this affidavit.

HUNDLEY: Affidavit, mm-hmm.

HELFAND: Could -- if y-you know, is there so-- could you -- could you say that for me? (laughter)

HUNDLEY: (laughter) Let’s see now, what you (inaudible).

HELFAND: I mean, uh, I guess -- I’m just -- You know, I’m -- I don’t -- I only have questions. I don’t have any answers.



HELFAND: But those affidavits are very interesting. Because it means that they had some kind of --

HUNDLEY: Connection with the union.

HELFAND: Right. Right. Maybe you could -- why don’t you pick up those and you could read them out loud. And you could tell me that. [break in audio] I’m going to sit down.

HUNDLEY: [inaudible- --

HELFAND: Sit -- yeah, so you could -- you could even say, so you’re telling me that this -- that this is what they filled out when the strike was over. And you could read it out loud.

HUNDLEY: All right. So this is what they filled out when the strike was over. "(inaudible) National Recovery Administration complaints or violations of code [or for?] competition for the cotton textile trade industry. Tenth -- this was 10th and 13th of ’34. Guntersville, Alabama. Let’s see. Name a person (inaudible) complaints from respondents Saratoga Victory Mill, Guntersville, 38:00Alabama. Textile workers. Principal (inaudible) to produce, process, and sell cotton cloth. Principal services was for yard hand. Name of complainer: Claude Hundley. Town, Guntersville, Alabama. Nature of complaint states (inaudible) to indicate a clear violation of some definition provision of the code through which [it funded?] (inaudible). I often distract but over we went back to our job, but they wouldn’t let us near the mill, held us off with machine guns. Colored men." So what I’m saying, if they were part of it, and then after it was over, they let them -- uh, after it was over, and they went 39:00back to their job, they wouldn’t hire them back. They held them off with machine guns and they -- he’s mak-- he’s making a statement of a colored man’s.

HELFAND: I guess they wanted to identify that these two workers --

HUNDLEY: There’s two men, but just colored men that wrote this letter. But they -- it seemed to me that they were part of it, though. That’s what I’m saying, to [try?] -- I guess, they-they had to be part of it. Just those two, because these were the only two full-time colored employees that they had at the mill at that time. So they had to be part of it. And I guess they just -- I don’t know.

HELFAND: I don’t know either.

HUNDLEY: You got me there. (laughter)

HELFAND: But it’s really -- it’s-it’s interesting.

HUNDLEY: It’s interesting. Mm-hmm.

HELFAND: So does it -- it seems like your father and Dallas, they were having -- 40:00it was some kind of, uh, a different kind of relationship with the white workers there.

HUNDLEY: Workers at the mill, at that time.

HELFAND: Could you -- could you say that or talk about that? Take my words and put them in your own language?

HUNDLEY: Hm. You have to enlighten me, there, a little bit now.

HELFAND: I’m-I’m -- based on that-that letter -- the first letter that he wrote about -- he wrote about the black workers and the white workers, --

HUNDLEY: White workers.

HELFAND: -- in a sense. And here, he must be working with the white union -- with the union in some way if he signed that affidavit. So it see-- so all -- what I’m saying is it seems like this is a moment of time where your father is having a different kind of -- a-a-a- particular --

HUNDLEY: A good -- a good -- a good relationship with (inaudible), I’m thinking, with some of the workers. I don’t know about all of them but, you 41:00know, if he -- if, uh, if him and Dallas was part of that union, and then they wrote this letter, this grievance -- I’m-I’m saying it’s a grievance letter. And then they go back and they won't let them have the job back. Then they had to be part of it. And they had to be working with the white workers to get them to-to, you know, to do something like that. Of course, or-or [oh, per the time?], I would rec-- like you said, I-I don’t -- I really do -- I really wish I knew the answer, but I don’t. I don’t know-know what happened after that. But I do know that he went back to work at the mill a year or two later. I know he worked there some more. Him and Dallas both -- of course, Dallas was working there when he passed. And my daddy left -- I was 10 years old when he left. And then, after that, [he left here?].

HELFAND: Do you -- what do you think caused the change? Do you think it was 42:00Roosevelt? Do you think it was --

HUNDLEY: I think Roosevelt was the change. President Roosevelt. Back in ’32, when he took office, we was -- everybody was on -- what? -- WPA. I think he made a big change in this country.

HELFAND: And what about this-this change in attitude?

HUNDLEY: Hm, hm, hm, hm. You know, change can kind -- change comes with time. I think people, as time went on, they seemed to get work -- you know, get closer to letting you work better with people. I don’t know, well, how to state it, but I’m just saying that, uh, that out there at that mill, especially, they had-- they had pretty good relationships out there, in a sense, that I know of. Of course, I was out there a whole lot. Uh. Uh. I don’t know how to word 43:00that thing, I’ll be honest with you. (laughter)

CREW: Judy?


CREW: Um, (inaudible) the microphone fell. (break in audio) Thank you.

HELFAND: OK, you were talking about being shocked.

HUNDLEY: Yeah. When you called about that letter, it shocked me. It sure did. I didn’t realize that he had anything -- wrote a letter like that. And after talking with you, and getting back together -- and I talked to people, you know, two or three people, I did that I knew. The younger people out in the village in the [light mill summer?]. And then you came down, and we went out and talked to some of them, and... It just was amazing that he wrote a letter back in-in the -- what’s amazing about him writing it back in ’33, on the civil right -- for his rights. Well, you can say -- you could say it’d be a civil right, the same thing, back in that period of time. Because in the South, for a man to 44:00write a letter and sign his name -- especially a black man -- for a union was something unheard of. I don’t -- [inaudible] thought of it.

HELFAND: What could happen to him?

HUNDLEY: (laughter) Found out (inaudible) you know. They had what you called Ku Klux Klan. They’d hang you, if black people back then for stuff like that. They would.

HELFAND: So what do you think gave your father -- and use my question -- what do you think gave your father the courage at that time to do it?

HUNDLEY: What I think that gave him the courage, prove himself he’s a man. And he had any right in this country as any other man. That’s what I think. 45:00And that’s what I feel. No matter if he’s green, gray, or what. If you’re a man in this country, say everybody had the same rights. So he wrote the letter. And I find -- I-I really respect him for doing that.

HELFAND: And-and that period of time, I mean, I know you were just a little boy, but that NRA, what do you think that NRA and President Roosevelt was saying to him? Use my question.

HUNDLEY: Saying to him.

HELFAND: That’s what I mean by what else was going on at that time.

HUNDLEY: I-I think that the president was telling -- not only was telling all [paid men?] that they have a right for fair wages at these mills as any other person did, that’s what I’m saying. And, uh, when they -- when they put it in effect, and they wasn’t using it, so he took -- to make sure, he wrote them a letter to find out. But the president was telling them that you have a right for eight hours of work, just like in the same pay as any other man in this country.


HELFAND: You know, he got, um, a re-response.

HUNDLEY: Yeah? It -- but... Hm?

HELFAND: It’s there.

HUNDLEY: OK. Lord, excuse me. Let me get these -- get the response. I hadn’t...

HELFAND: Yeah, it’s there.

HUNDLEY: Oh, yeah. OK. Yeah, this is a response from -- this is from the, uh, huh. I didn’t know the... Yeah, here’s a response from the Claude Hundley letter, Guntersville Alabama. [They’ve decided to?] acknowledge we’ve received -- we’ve received your letter. Attached here are two mimeograph sheets which we ask you to read carefully. Hm. Of the textile code. The article order set forth proceeding for dealing with all complaints arising from 47:00this stretch out for special (inaudible) system of any other word and condition. Art-- two and three of the code are definitions of exemption from the code agreed upon and published by cotton textile advisement committee. After reading the enclosed extract from the code you are in doubt as to the proceeding, the committee would be glad to have you write again. Yours very truly, the textile [macklin?] industrial relation board, Robert Lee, Barry Sherman, George E. Barry, and B. F. Greer. So they go-- they-they responded to him about it, so he had a right to -- so they -- and that means he must have got some little -- must have got somebody’s thoughts -- some sh-- somebody’s mind right there. Plus they wrote him a letter back.


HELFAND: He got some mimeograph sheets.

HUNDLEY: Yeah. Oh. He got some mim-mim-mimeograph sheets from-from -- he got them from the, uh, from the, uh, -- from the committee. From the textile committee, yeah. So and that -- they must have been kind of impressed with the letter themselves, I would say, doing that.

HELFAND: I don’t know if they did any more than that.

HUNDLEY: No. I do-- (inaudible) don’t know that.


HUNDLEY: I said, you never know. I don’t know. I know that -- I never know whether he got in, but he probably did. Because he-he -- they had kept (inaudible) old records. But I was, you know, small, I didn’t know. But if he got a response, he kept them somewhere.

HELFAND: Now, you never heard about the strike. You never heard about this letter. I know, between you and me, --


HELFAND: -- that daddy was away for a very long time. But do you have anything to say about, you know, maybe this is something he never told you. Why you 49:00think that, what it means?

HUNDLEY: Well, uh, I would like to say this: I would like to sh-show my appreciation to you for enlightening me on some things that my father did. See, I never would have knowed that. I never would have knowed about the letter or anything, if it hadn’t been for you. So I really appreciated you for that. And after you enlightened me on it, it made me respect him more. (inaudible) for letting me know that he wrote a letter and you going to I don’t know how much trouble it is to dig -- go through those archives and dig up stuff like that. But I bet it's a pretty-pretty tiresome job. I don’t think I would like it. But I appreciate you for doing that. And I appreciate you for coming and talking with me and letting me know that my dad did something like that.


HELFAND: What do you think happens to the South or the area when people don’t know that their forefathers and foremothers did stuff like that?

HUNDLEY: Not knowing something like that, you -- I-I’m saying the South would go to -- you-you either on the standstill or you’re going backwards. Because, see, if nobody ever enlightened you on something like that, you’d think your forefathers or fathers had never did anything for you. So you just say, well, he just was in the world and he never contributed anything to society. So to come up with something like that, to let you know that back then, during the ’30s, that we had black people with nerve enough to write a letter and put their name on it in the South. Well, something like that is -- it is wonderful to me. I just respect him a lot. Not only my father, I respect any black man that did that.

HELFAND: What about the white men?


HUNDLEY: I respect them on it too. I really do. I just -- I’m not a fellow that look at color. I respect anybody that would speak out for his rights. But you know, in later years, this comes to [mean?]. But to make me respect my father more was you enlightened me on what he had done back in the ’30s. And that made me respect him more in that sense. And then, the white worker that stood up for their rights, I respect them the same way. Of course, I-I-I don’t know all of them, but I still respect them.

HELFAND: What is so intriguing about your father’s letter is that at the time, he was looking out for the white workers too.

HUNDLEY: Well, he was looking out for white and black workers, I’d say, because he didn’t -- he didn’t just specify colored. He said white -- colored and white on that last paragraph down there. So they -- the ones that were working the yard, I’m saying that the white workers that were working in the yard with them were getting the same [preferential?] treatment as the black workers were. So he was looking out for both of them when he wrote that letter, there.


HELFAND: Is that something -- I mean, the fact that all of a sudden, they were concerned more about class and they were concerned about economics than they were about race?

HUNDLEY: I would say the ones that were working out there, they weren’t concerned too much about race. They were concerned about economics. Because back in those times, you know, the textile workers -- and especially in Guntersville -- that was about the only place that people had to work, to make a living. So something like that, if-if-if you weren’t foreman, so you had to put race aside, especially if you were working out in the yard. And then, uh, to look for the economy. But then, they might put it aside, but they still keep it in the back of their mind. They’re never going to throw that race at them completely, I’ll just tell you straight up. They’re not going to do that. (laughter)


HELFAND: But race was part of it.

HUNDLEY: It had to be. Sure was.

HELFAND: Because some people could do some jobs --

HUNDLEY: Yeah, and some -- and they-they --

HELFAND: Could you describe that to us?

HUNDLEY: They, uh, -- well, see, back then there, all of your -- I called it back-breaking -- jobs, the colored workers have got it. You know, they had certain jobs the white men would do and so they had the colored workers for it. And so that’s what I’m saying, on -- especially on those kind of -- that kind of work. They just had that special job for them, and one no white people were going to do it. Because, uh, I remember -- I can remember this, right here, I don’t guess there’s that much to it, but I remember in Guntersville, years ago, when the white men wouldn’t work on a garbage truck. He wouldn’t pick up garbage, back in the ’30s. But they do now. They work -- (laughter) 54:00they work anywhere.

HELFAND: So in the mill, how did race break down in the mill, do you know what I mean?

HUNDLEY: They -- you didn’t have any -- what I’m saying, you don’t have any black people in no office work. You didn’t have them up in the mill working in bobbin or nothing like that. All you had them was working in the yard, trucking cotton. But I called it back-breaking work. That’s all they did. And maybe you might have some to clean up, sweep up once or twice. That would be about all. They didn’t work up in those -- up in the -- inside that mill. Period. The -- well, uh, even later years, I don’t remember any working up in there. All I ever know, after they left, they worked in the back, back out trucking cotton. That’s what the black people always did out there at that mill.

HELFAND: So if they were -- so-so and why was it? Why was it like that? What did it mean for the white workers? Because being a textile worker wasn’t --


HUNDLEY: Well, he just -- so he just -- uh, (laughter) if he didn’t truck cotton, he was just a step above the man that trucked cotton, that’s all it was. That’s -- he was just a little bit above him, that’s all it was. And that’s what they kept them up that way. He just -- because he-he-he’s going to be a step above the black man, period. And so that made him a step above it if he didn’t get out there and get down on the same level he did and truck cotton. So he kept them down there and he worked in the mill (inaudible) whatever the case might be.

HELFAND: But doing mill work, I mean, that wasn’t like a real, uh, high class job in Guntersville, was it?

HUNDLEY: Back then, it had to be, sure. It was high. That was -- a mill worker, then, was -- they were... Because that was the only work in this town. That was the only-only mill here was that old cotton mill, old Saratoga cotton mill, see. And people worked there, that worked in the mill, they were, well, 56:00we’ll say middle class. Yeah, and if you worked in the office you were a little step higher.

HELFAND: I’ve heard this term lint head.

HUNDLEY: (laughter) You [got a lint head?]. That’s-tha-tha-that -- those are the ones that came out of those bobbin rooms, where all that cotton flies, you know. But see, now, I don’t even know of any that worked in there. All I know that worked out there on the truck, like I said. See, they had -- back then, they didn’t have lift to pick cotton up. You had to use hand trucks to truck. And (inaudible) and so that’s what they did most of [the time?].

HELFAND: So that’s what your daddy was doing when he wrote that letter?

HUNDLEY: He was trucking cotton.

HELFAND: Could you --

HUNDLEY: And working on the yard. And well, they say yard work. That’s-that’s all they did, the yard work. It was just trucking cotton, you know. If you -- they were familiar with the old mill. They-they unloaded it on 57:00lower side at the railroad track and then you had to bring it through the wire house up into the bobbin room, you know, for the people to push it out and put it in the bobbins and things.

HELFAND: Do you think your father told anybody that he wrote this letter?

HUNDLEY: I believe he would have told some people, yeah. I sure do. Like, I had an uncle he might -- that worked out there. They were pretty close. He could have talked to him, [Joe Ellen?] and (inaudible) worked out there. They were awful close, too.

HELFAND: But-but I-I-I-I spoke to Joe Ellen. He never heard of it.

HUNDLEY: He had never heard of it? Well, nobody else that I would know that he would have told, then. (inaudible) Because I talked to my [Aunt Tense?] but she lived [on Wharton?]. She didn’t remember anything about it. She didn’t even remember the strike. But see, they lived out in -- way out in the country back and people couldn’t -- no transportation, you couldn’t get to town like you could now.


CREW: Judy?


CREW: I have to change [batteries?].