Walter Montgomery Jr. Interview 1

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 JUDITH HELFAND: A member of that trade association.

WALTER MONTGOMERY JR: I started working at Spartan Mills in 1922 -- in October, 1922 -- and I’ve been there ever since, you see. I’m not thinking about quitting so I’ve enjoyed it immensely and had lots of experiences. I attended the first meeting of the South Carolina Manufacturer’s Association in 1926 when they was formed to our (inaudible) in Greenville, ended up the meeting there was a big group there. I suppose I was the youngest person there; I felt very honored to be there with my father and I saw [Chip?] Nixon who turned out 1:00to be a very close friend of mine. He was later President of Monarch Mills, he was President of Union Buffalo Mills at the time, and so I had friends with him; been friends for a long time. He died several years ago; I don’t remember the year, but I --

HELFAND: Now you were -- could you tell me how old you were when you first started working in the mills and --

MONTGOMERY: I was 19 -- I was 22 years old -- and I worked up to be assistant to my father in buying. I was in charge of the outside and I stayed next to an office next to him and so I had interesting experience with him and he never 2:00talked about the past much but my father ran Spartan Mills and my uncle ran Pacolet Mills and my other Uncle Ben Montgomery ran Drake Mills and I used to meet with them at my grandmother’s house every Sunday and they’d talk about the mill business which meant a lot to me. Mr. Milligan, Rogers’s father, asked me to go over to Gaffney. He wanted to connect the two mills up over there; it was separate and it was a challenging opportunity for me and I felt very honored that Mr. Milligan gave me the job to run the Gaffney Manufacturing Company. I was 29 years old and I just was getting married; he told me a story 3:00about -- when I was going to get married -- he told me a story about Mr. Fan who had worked for him down at Union -- he wanted to build a dam -- a power dam -- and he wanted to get married and take his wife on a honeymoon and he said, “Well I need this dam -- we need to make power and tell your bride-to-be to delay this three months and we’ll give you an extra week vacation, but I need this dam. I need you to stay here.” But he said no, he had promised his wife to go to Europe so he went to Europe and came back and a short time later he lost his job. He could only go three days, you see, so I took three days on my honeymoon; I took the -- because he really wanted me to run that mill and I knew 4:00that so I really enjoyed the confidence that he placed in me and I moved over to Gaffney and lived there for six months and afterward I got married and enjoyed it very much. I had one interesting experience; my wife made the -- had the -- made -- uh -- waffles, batter cakes that had that -- you know that you make waffles out of -- that Sunday night I remembered she -- my wife -- used some of that batter for -- thought it was mayonnaise or something like that. I used that batter –

(break in video)

HELFAND: Taking charge of the mill right -- was it 1929 -- at the height of the depression. A lot of things coincided, the depression (inaudible).

MONTGOMERY: Yes. And my father when he was killed in (inaudible), this was 5:00about well -- a year before, I guess -- I had just been over to Gaffney a year when this happened, you see. My father was killed in an automobile accident and so Mr. Milligan wanted me to stay at Gaffney and I wanted to stay here at Spartan Mills where my father -- we had lost our investments you see -- and I talked to my uncles about it and talked to Mr. Milligan and Mr. Milligan agreed for me to try to run both of them, you see, which I did do for some years and that’s when –

(break in video)

HELFAND: The depression -- and you have to take over this mill. Maybe you could even say that -- here comes the depression and I have to take over Spartan 6:00Mills. Could you say that and tell me what you were up against -- it being the depression, running the mill --

MONTGOMERY: Well I was up against the problem that we had much too much production in the country -- over production -- and we had meetings and were asked to curtail operating. We were operating -- I was operating two mills -- Spartan Mills and Gaffney Manufacturing Company -- and we were in the city limits, burdened with city taxes as well as county taxes and Mr. Milligan, Roger’s father, was a great believer in controlling production and not producing when you couldn’t sell the goods at a profit and we were always advocating to curtail them. Well, with this extra burden of higher taxes being in the city I felt that that was something that we could not compete unless we 7:00ran like other mills did. We are not running on three shifts so the first thing I had to convince Mr. Milligan and I got Dr. Hamrick’s help and Mr. Milligan was like a father to me but he was very much opposed to over production, but I finally convinced him that we had to operate on the same basis as our competition or we wouldn’t make money and we had to modernize our mills and we began putting in new equipment and we spent a lot of money in 1929. We bought new looms, we had organized the standard loom plant here in Spartanburg, the Draper Corporation -- one of their chief men came down here and several of the mills put up money and built a loom plant here in Spartanburg and we bought 8:00several looms from them.

(break in video)

HELFAND: How many people -- you know -- how many mill owners were there operating in these mills here?

MONTGOMERY: Well, there were about 30 -- I think there were about 32 million spindles in the United States and now there are only about 12-13 million, giving you an idea of how much the equipment has gone down. There’s been lots of modernization. There’s been more improvement, more technology advanced and we didn’t have computers then, you know. Now lots of the machinery would need more highly trained personnel and we really got an industry that we are very proud of but the production has gone up; we’re running looms now, turning off a thousand picks a minute, you see, and then 160 picks a minute.


HELFAND: And back in 1929, 1930 --

MONTGOMERY: Yes, 1930, the production was very low per person, you see. Now you can operate a mill with -- well it’s been so much less employees required. You go in one of the mills in China today and you see hundreds of employees whereas in this country you would operate with ten employees. Over there they operate with a hundred, but they haven’t got modern equipment but they’re gonna have it. I’ve seen –

(break in video)

HELFAND: The National Recovery Act and the Textile Code -- which is a big part of our story -- could you tell me about how you all were -- what you thought about Roosevelt and The New Deal from the southern textile manufacturers point 10:00of view?

MONTGOMERY: Well I tell you -- I’ve been very much interested in the tariffs. You see, the tariffs went in 1913 and I was told that the tariffs from all the ports really what our government took in in tariffs came from -- paid a good part of the government expense. We never had any problem with imports; I never worried about imports. We had a market here in this country and I would go to (inaudible) meetings -- that’s all over the world when we’d have these meetings -- and I remember –

(break in video)


M1: -- 1932 -- during the depth of the depression, the election was going on, did you -- were you supporting -- with Roosevelt -- or did you support the --

HELFAND: What did you think about Roosevelt in 1932?

MONTGOMERY: Well I was not for him too much, you know? I thought he was - the New Deal -- I just -- I don’t recall much about that but I remember lots of discussion, just faintly remember, that I thought that he was a great politician; everybody loved him. But -- he was good in the war period -- I was all for it -- the war period -- but then he got sick, you understand? But now I’m going --


M1: But the whole thing about Mr. Montgomery got over production and after Roosevelt got elected, Roosevelt tried to take some steps to help industry -- the textile industry -- control over production. Part of that was Textile Code. Can you tell us a little bit about how the Textile Code came about?

MONTGOMERY: Well that’s what I just don’t know enough about, just to be frank with you. I do not know enough about it. I know this -- that every year that I’ve been in the business under the Code -- more goods have come in, you understand? Every year there has been an increase in imports and I’ve tried to fight that every way I could. Of course we’ve given away the textile market. I’ve looked upon us as the best manufacturers, but given how people better value us in this country and I wanted to keep our employees -- we’ve 13:00got four and five generation families here; I’m very proud of it, our mills have been cleaned up. But I can tell you I’ve had films made back 25 years ago and I could look at the textile mills today and what they were 25 years ago is very, very different. We’ve got clean mills, air condition, we can provide hospital/medical care for our employees, you know, and the stores, the finest stores, paying four dollars and-a-half an hour, we’ve got a wage here with the perks around nine dollars and-a-half, you understand? So we’ve been able to -- we’ve sold our houses, homes -- I’ve seen what’s taken place -- we used 14:00to in some -- used to (inaudible) Mills -- every house we didn’t have a house with a bathroom in it. We had to reroof every house; we bought that mill out -- you understand?

HELFAND: You’re talking about when you created the textile villages?

MONTGOMERY: That’s correct. We bought the mill and now we’ve sold every house we had to the employees; sold them at cheap prices and they appreciated it and it’s hurt me terribly that we’ve had to cut off lots of people as we put in new machinery, lots of employees we had to cut them off when we buy new machinery. The only reason to buy new machinery is to make better cloth and reduce the costs so today we’ve got by far the most efficient textile industry and our employees in the United States are producing much more cloth per employee, per hour, than anywhere else in the world.


HELFAND: It’s interesting -- it seems that that was happening back in 1933 and 1934 -- after the NRA went into effect.

MONTGOMERY: I see what you want -- I see -- it’s hard to go back that far for me, you know, that’s what you’re talking about now. I know I didn’t worry about the competition until much later -- starting I could say the last 25-30 years it’s been very, very difficult because we’ve been giving away our market. I can understand it in the case of war -- you see with the war coming on we want to trade to get airports and get friendships and -- but today -- in the last 20 years -- we shouldn’t be doing that as much as we are doing it.


M1: You talked -- Mr. Montgomery -- you talked about (inaudible) militant supporting the curtailment of production and that you argued at Gaffney that you needed to produce more --


M1: -- so you could make -- pay your overhead -- is that right?

MONTGOMERY: Yeah, that’s right.

M1: And so can you tell us a little bit about how that was -- the mills were all trying to not produce too much during the depression.

MONTGOMERY: That’s correct. There would be meetings and I remember Mr. Hammock would tell me, “Mr. Montgomery, as soon as started in the mill business, I ran the mill full, but I found out when we have meetings with the mill men they all talked about curtailment but they’d go back and run all fast as they could, each one of them.” So there was not much cooperation between them but we had (inaudible) groups trying to advocate curtailment. I know I was -- Mr. Milligan was a strong believer, strong believer -- in trying to get 17:00people to work together and not producing because always supply and demand -- you know when you produce too many goods you have to sell at lower prices and there was not any agreements but you couldn’t agree, but we would try to get mills just to run four days a week or shut down a week a month or something of that kind. We just -- it never did work satisfactorily. Of course you couldn’t get a sufficient number of people to agree to it and then we had the laws in the country and you might be breaking the law if you had some agreements, you see. But anyway that was never done and all I know -- what stands out in my mind -- is that -- this big increase in imports into this 18:00country which I was trying to tell you -- I don’t understand why our government today that needs money so bad, needs money.

(break in video)

HELFAND: You must have been anti-NAFTA 100%.

MONTGOMERY: I believe in tariffs, you understand, but I don’t believe in -- for instance in some of these countries -- in India there is 150% tax and they give -- Pakistan they give advantages to people –

(break in video)

HELFAND: Can you comment on The New Deal and the textile industry at the time?

MONTGOMERY: I can’t. I just don’t recall.

HELFAND: OK. Do you remember when --

MONTGOMERY: I know that times were very hard. I know this -- that -- I was 19:00President of the Association in 1946 or ’47 -- I think about that time.

M1: Mr. Montgomery you’re talking about controlling production. One of the ways that was proposed to do that under the NRA was to institute the 40-hour-week.

MONTGOMERY: Yes, that’s correct.

M1: Did that help control production and how did you feel (inaudible).

MONTGOMERY: When I started working in the mill, I remember we worked 55 hours a week, you see. I think it was 55 or 60 hours a week and it went to 40. That’s right. I remember that. I wouldn’t have thought of that if you hadn’t mentioned it. But -- uh -- then they all -- the textile industry -- has been running around the clock, you understand? We run now, all the time.

HELFAND: And at that time they went from 55 hours a week to 40 hours a week and 20:00they went up to minimum wage -- 30 cents an hour.

MONTGOMERY: When I started to work here it was .20 cents an hour. Twenty cents an hour is what common labor made and now its four dollars and a quarter, isn’t it? Isn’t that right? Four dollars and a quarter?

HELFAND: Minimum wage. At that same time that they put in -- that they changed the hours and the wages and they made a minimum wage they also instituted a law -- Section 7a -- which gave workers the right to unionize and organize with the protection of the government. That was in 1933 -- do you remember that? When all the local -- when all the workers started to organize into unions according to Section 7a of the government.


MONTGOMERY: No, I guess I’m just too old to remember that. I’m sorry. That’s the way I -- I don’t remember.

M1: Mr. Montgomery they had an employee’s committee at Spartan Mills -- do you recall that -- that there was a group of employees that were wanting higher wages and --?

MONTGOMERY: Yes. We had a strike here. We had a strike -- what did they call it? The strike that started in North Carolina and we had a parade that came to Spartanburg and we were organized here in Spartanburg and had a union in Spartan Mills -- “The Flying Squadron” they called it. I think that’s correct, isn’t it?

M1: Um-hmm.

MONTGOMERY: I do remember that and we had the union here and I didn’t think it 22:00was necessary but that was just my thinking, but we had it and we dealt with the union. We had contracts, but we had a golden rule idea -- ourselves and management -- we didn’t think it was necessary. We had to compete with other mills, we always kept wages in line with other mills and we had been among the first to increase wages and among the last -- there hasn’t been in a reduction in wages in many years, but we finally -- everybody got out of the union here, but this was -- we had the union for many years but in the last several years we haven’t had one. I don’t think we’ll have one again just because I think we’ve built the confidence in the company; we have an ESOP plan, all of the employees are participating. People -- all we want is them to be believe in the 23:00ESOP idea of them having part ownership and our employees own 30% of this company and we found it a very satisfactory arrangement -- plus we think -- we feel the employees are helping us so much in getting more efficiency -- we find that it’s amazing we have the dimming idea also -- about how employees -- and I think if you interviewed some of our employees I know we’ve got some old people who can remember better than I do and maybe they can remember some of the things that you would like to know, you see.

HELFAND: Remember when The Flying Squadron came into this area, they closed down a lot of mills, didn’t they?

MONTGOMERY: That’s right. No doubt about it and I look back wondering what I 24:00might have done about it. I don’t think there was anything I could do about it. They started at Gaffney Manufacturing Company and had the same thing on the way down here -- they came down from North Carolina -- groups to organize, you see?

HELFAND: How did the Manufacturer’s Association here in South Carolina deal with this strike?

MONTGOMERY: I think that the right work laws -- the finest thing that has happened in South Carolina -- had a lot to do with the building of our state and the textile industry has been the backbone, but we have been interested in diversifying industry and I am very happy that the Chamber of Commerce is promoting diversification and we’ve tried to diversify our operation going into finishing goods and not being absolutely dependent as a company on selling grey goods. So we’ve got finishing plants as well as grey good plants and 25:00yarn plants, so we are a vertical unit now --

HELFAND: Was -- back in the 1930s was there diversification or was it just--?

MONTGOMERY: We were not diversified in anything. We had print cloth mills and yarn mills, you see? Today we take it right through to try to sell a finished product. We sell, for instance, the medical, hospitals -- they bought the --

M1: But at the same time a lot of the letters from workers here and from workers in other parts of the country were saying that they were having to do tend too many looms, tend too many frames.

MONTGOMERY: That’s right. Stretch out. That’s right. They were accused of stretch out, no doubt about that. We tried to work it on -- we had time studies made on what a person could do -- so much rest period -- I remember distinctly we would have watches -- watch people -- and they didn’t like that either but 26:00we wanted people to have a certain amount of rest periods which was the proper thing to do. The right load -- because when you overwork somebody -- (inaudible) you want to avoid poor work because first quality is what you have to have in this being a growing thing. Always you have to sell seconds at a great discount.

HELFAND: It seems like that was one of the big issues of that strike in 1934 -- do you remember why they struck in 1934 -- the big general textile strike?

MONTGOMERY: Yes. I remember just a little bit about it, you see? That was the big strike year -- that’s right. I don’t think we had any more trouble than anybody else had at Spartan Mills with the union at that time, but I had to deal 27:00with them more. Those that didn’t have a union were fortunate.

M1: Did you ever call -- was it Governor Burns at the time -- who was the Governor of South Carolina? Did you ever call the Governor during the strike or ask that he send National Guard troops?

MONTGOMERY: You know, I have a hazy remember -- I know I got help here myself -- we would always have sheriffs, we had deputies here -- and I’m -- one man -- Major Manning I remember very well -- would always come over and walk with me here and they were afraid something was going to hit me or something, but it never did. I never did have any problem. But I was over here every morning during the strike. But not Manning - he was a friend in the cotton business 28:00here. His brother was prominent and his father was then governor at one time in South Carolina and this was -- Will Manning’s with us now -- one of his uncles -- and --

M1: Major Manning -- was he a major in the National Guard?

MONTGOMERY: Yes, he was.

HELFAND: Hmm. Um… You know -- there were lots -- your mill wasn’t the only one that had people trying to organize a union. They were all over South Carolina and North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama -- they were trying to organize unions, too. Do you recall how the textile industry might have decided as a group what to do?


MONTGOMERY: Well I knew some of the people here in the union -- I worked in the mills six months myself -- and I felt I knew some of the people well, you see? And some of them turned out to me some of our most loyal employees at a later time, but I’d always dealt with the union. We never did refuse to meet with the committee; we negotiated contracts with them and -- so -- I felt that you could live with the union and if they didn’t do the job you could fire anybody, you understand? But we always never wanted to fire anybody anyway. We always wanted to keep our people; we had a system of warning, and trying to -- our main trouble was always training supervisors and having them properly trained. Now we have harassment cases, you know, and it’s very difficult. We 30:00try to train people and we have regular courses -- we provide scholarships.

HELFAND: It seems that even though the workers had been given the right to organize -- that Section 7a law -- they were firing them even before that strike. Did that -- that was a big problem whether you know, other mill owners should recognize that the workers were trying to organize under Roosevelt’s laws or not.

MONTGOMERY: Well I don’t think there was any question the textile mills did not have the public relations departments and they’ve done not as good a job as they should have done in selling the policies, you see? And catering -- they’ve always held back from giving out publicity, you understand? I think the mill men have been poor communicators, I certainly admit that. We try to -- 31:00I know I’ve always tried to -- meet with the press whenever they wanted to know about -- but I guess we don’t do as good a job as we should but we do -- we have a newspaper we put out every quarter -- we’ve had several years -- to furnish information about our company and about the people.

HELFAND: And back then in 1933 and ’34, do you remember how the press or media was dealing with this big general textile strike because it did get very violent here in South Carolina?

MONTGOMERY: I don’t remember enough about it.

M1: Do you recall the-- in Honea Path that there was the workers who were killed there -- how do you feel when you heard about that?


MONTGOMERY: I felt bad. We had -- when we bought [Startex?] Mills, we had a strike then and somebody had been killed out there the year before we bought the mill. So we were concerned about it, no doubt about it, but I never had any real problems with it. I’ve never had anybody hurt here at Spartan Mills or any of the mills which we connected and I’ve known that they’ve had it at other places. I think very few. I found that today our people -- you can’t tell them -- you go to the churches here and it was like you used to people would be known as “lint heads” in the mills, you know? And now we have -- you think you were uptown in any of the churches you’ve got here and we used to have to go to the mountains -- my grandfather -- to get people to work in the 33:00mill, bring people down. We’ve got people here -- some of them want to leave the mill to go down and see a train -- you understand -- come by or leave the machinery -- tell me they have to go see when it comes down through Spartanburg at the railroad station, you see? So it’s an education -- radio -- an education has been necessary. My grandfather tried to run a mill in Charleston with black people and it was a complete failure. That’s interesting that people in Charleston, they would never admit -- there’s an old cigar plant there and my grandfather thought it would be a good idea to build a mill and have only black people working there and it was a complete failure and they moved the machinery out to Gainesville, Georgia and built a mill down there and I talked to friends in Charleston and they don’t even want to admit they had a textile mill down there, you see?


HELFAND: What was the policy of working with them? How did you use black employment back in the 1930s?

MONTGOMERY: You see this was before my day, during my grandfather’s lifetime that he did this -- he was killed in 19 -- he died in 1902 or ’03, something like that.

HELFAND: And when you were running the mill, did you have black employees?

MONTGOMERY: Yes. That came during my administration. We didn’t have any black people in the mill, you see? And we began employment -- they always used to sit in the back of street cars, you know -- black people did -- but, uh, we have some supervisors now who are black and very good. But it’s taken a long time. If you go back to your parents and grandparents and see the dresses, you kind of feel you know, most generations look back and you can (inaudible). When 35:00I look at pictures of my grandmother, my father’s mother, I just -- my mother’s mother -- she used to have these black dresses and see whale bones coming out stick down in them, but they are very different you see, today and how the generations change.

HELFAND: So, what jobs did the white employees have and what jobs did the black employees have in the 1930s?


HELFAND: The black workers -- which jobs did you give them in or around the mill?

MONTGOMERY: Well, I, I, I think that -- uh -- the people in the mills through the churches and help with the churches and the schools, it was gradual that people bought the idea that all of us are human and want to be treated alike. 36:00That’s a gradual -- we never did have any problem here with -- you understand?

M1: Mr. Montgomery, a lot of the mills -- people I talked to at that time in the ’30s either had no black workers in them or if they did have black workers, they were janitors; they were people who cleaned up the restrooms, is that how it was?

MONTGOMERY: Yes, that’s right. That’s correct. It started off no question about it -- clean sweepers and so forth and gradually -- we had a real shortage of people, too, here during World War II but this was many years later, but the way it started off was like you said -- we had started off as sweepers in the 37:00lowest paid jobs -- like truckers and you understand? And the opening room, and then the card room, and then the spinners, and weavers, and it just gradually worked in that way over long period of time.

HELFAND: Did the white workers -- the white workers didn’t want to work in the opening room, or the picking room, or trucking?

MONTGOMERY: That’s right, that’s right. That was more of a manual job picking up cotton and putting it in hoppers and we had white people doing it and they didn’t like the job; they wanted to get out of that as soon as they could so we would promote them out and start with black people there and we have, of course, the policy of most mills is the oldest employees that are efficient get 38:00advances and we had some black people that were good and they gradually got better jobs.

M1: One question I had about earlier with the -- in the 1934 time -- some people I’ve talked to said that when the time came and they voted -- were voting on the union -- that they were called that they went into your office and talked to you -- that you talked to workers individually in 1934. Do you remember that? What would you tell workers at that time?

MONTGOMERY: Well I always tried to take the position that they had a right to do anything they please, but they didn’t have to join the union to get fair treatment at Spartan Mills. We wanted to give them fair treatment but you have to have supervision and you have to have rules to abide by and -- but I’ve had all sorts of stories told to me at times where some supervisors were not 39:00properly trained and they complained about having the pipes too hot, not cut off, you know, and little things that I think supervisors might pay more attention to -- but there was things that come up you always tried to do your best to explain to your supervisor anything you could do to please to get along with people. That was a very important thing in life.

HELFAND: Do you think that your colleagues -- do you think your colleagues in the Textile Manufacturers Association were genuinely surprised that the workers tried to organize and unionize in such a massive way?

MONTGOMERY: I don’t exactly understand the question that you’re asking me. I really don’t. I feel that education has done so much for the people that -- 40:00why do you want to employ someone and take advantage of them? Life is too short and you want to be fair. You’ve got to live with yourself and you want people to do -- treat people like you want to be treated yourself. I don’t know how to explain it any other way. Certainly we don’t ever want to employ somebody and work them too much, you understand? But you’ve got to have some outside advice as to what is too much. You’ve got to be efficient in your set up and there’s a lot of competition when there’s over production, so the mill --

M1: How does the textile industry get their views across to the Roosevelt administration about how they felt? How did you communicate with the Roosevelt administration?


MONTGOMERY: Well I’d always try to communicate through our association -- ATMI -- and I think we’ve always had an association -- South Carolina Association -- and we meet every year. We have an annual meeting, State Association as well as an annual meeting of the National Association.

HELFAND: Back then I think it was W.D. Anderson and Donald Komer -- they were the two men that went to Washington and helped President Roosevelt put the Textile Code together.

MONTGOMERY: That’s correct. Donald Komer was a great leader in our industry. When I was President, I got (inaudible) to make the speech for me in our association.

HELFAND: And W.D. Anderson -- when they were putting the Textile Code together, 42:00apparently W.D. Anderson said it’s very important to have the north/south differential -- that he wanted to maintain that the south got paid -- paid their workers $1 less than they did in the north.

MONTGOMERY: That’s account of W.D. Anderson (inaudible). I don’t remember that but I know I’ve always heard the story that he was responsible for the (inaudible) people getting -- to go into the manufacturing business, you see, down in Georgia.

(break in video)

M1: There was -- in all that I understood was in ’34 when that happened, when you had the strike then, you didn’t recognize the union, but they had another strike in ’36 and then you recognized the union in 1941, what changed your 43:00mind? Why didn’t you recognize the union in 1934?

MONTGOMERY: Well I didn’t recognize the union, I suppose, ’cause they had a vote. At the time that you asked me when they had a vote, they voted to put in the union here, I didn’t want to recognize them until I knew -- I have a faint recollection -- a very faint recollection -- of not wanting to have the union here and certainly I wouldn’t want to have the union coming in here without me knowing that they represented the majority of our employees.

HELFAND: I think that was a big question in 1934 -- whether these strikers -- 44:00the union people were representing the majority of the employees.

MONTGOMERY: Well, I, I don’t think anybody was -- was anybody recognizing the union until they had a vote?

HELFAND: Well, you know, I think -- you can stop for a second. (break in video) -- Carolina.

MONTGOMERY: Yes, I remember when our strike was over and there was a lot of feeling that it took some time to wear off for some of our employees who wanted to work and when they came back to work a lot of people didn’t -- they had a different viewpoints.

HELFAND: Could you -- maybe you could repeat that again -- after the general textile strike, what happened here in Spartanburg?

MONTGOMERY: Well, when the people went back to work there was friction between some of the employees because some of them were not in favor of the strike, and 45:00some of them were and we had an election -- I remember I went to Washington and we didn’t want to take back about 40 or 50 people and I was told that I had to compromise on that and we took back about 14 of the 40 people as a compromise, you understand? And I haven’t thought about this in years since, but -- you shoot (inaudible) that’s what this man was representing -- what’s the name of the group in Washington always taking the side of the -- the National Labor Relations Board --

HELFAND: The Textile Labor Relations Board.

MONTGOMERY: That you’re bound to make some mistakes and they (inaudible) -- some of our supervisors made some mistakes so we compromised and took back 46:00(inaudible) people, you understand, out of 40 and then taking those people back we had some people (inaudible) and that took some time for that to die down but some of those people very fine -- turned out to be very fine, loyal supporters. I never heard anything about friction with them at all, you understand. Whoever has -- some few people continued in the union -- and we didn’t fire them; we took them back and worked with the union right along, you understand? But they didn’t have many people in it and they finally voted themselves out, I went out in the mill and talked to the employees -- bottom line they could do what they please but we didn’t believe it was necessary to have a union --but they sometime they voted the union out here--


HELFAND: What happened to those employees that you didn’t take back?

MONTGOMERY: They got jobs elsewhere. I think some came back later. I can’t -- I’ve never checked on that to tell you the truth. But I know they must’ve gotten jobs.

HELFAND: But that happened -- there were a lot of -- after the strike there were a lot of mill owners who didn’t want to take their employees back who had been out on strike.

MONTGOMERY: Well there was something they had done during the strike like threaten people -- like some throwing rocks at the houses where some people were working -- and we didn’t think we should take some of those people back through acts of violence, you understand? But that’s -- I just don’t remember enough details. It’s not that I’m trying to keep anything from you; I wish -- that’s what I’m worried about you -- I’m really feeling 48:00today -- I’m so interested in trying to get our industry represented properly. I’m trying to think what is the best magazine, insurance company -- somebody wants to get a Pulitzer Prize in writing a story and giving facts about the textile industry. I’m very proud of it and I think the government could collect money through the tariffs because I tell you (audio skips) back on the tariffs is wasted and I know in 1913 so much money was being taken by the government, you understand? And I believe that’s the way they can get money for our government expenses to reduce our national debt and I think that’s the most important thing really in life today is to do something to decrease our national debt. (break in tape) Well, we always felt the National Labor 49:00Relations Board was somewhat prejudiced, you see? The textile industry might have been a lot of it -- had a right to be prejudice against the textile industry because I think that very little is known about the textile industry. I found out when I was trying to get -- we had a majority in congress two times, you know -- that voted in favor of doing something for the textile industry and it was vetoed by the president -- you know that -- and we just dropped it -- we didn’t continue to fight (audio skipped) the politicians when you talk to a politician now and they ask you, “Well Mr. Montgomery what the textile industry don’t agree on anything. You’ve got as many people working --” (audio skipped)

HELFAND: What were you going to say?

M1: I was going to ask you about the political support. At that time it was Reagan who vetoed those two bills -- the two textile bills you’re talking about -- um, uh -- back in the 1930s did you have a lot of support from the 50:00South Carolina Congressional delegation in Congress? Where they on your side? Did you have the senators and congressmen -- were they supportive of the industry or were they --

MONTGOMERY: Supportive, always. Always the textile people in North and South Carolina and Georgia, I think, all of them for supporting the textile industry. But we had a majority but lots of the people thought that we were sweat shops, so to speak, you see? We didn’t have people selling the idea enough. I don’t think our congressman or the industry had done enough anywhere of public relations or what not in selling our industry and instead of fighting on after having a majority in congress twice and losing by only eight or ten votes by the 51:00president’s override, what we should have done is to kept on to fight every year. But instead of doing that we just backed off and listened to our politicians and said, “Now is not the time. Now is not the time. You can’t get anything through.” And no president has come in willing to do something to give the textile industry -- they talk about protection -- I don’t feel myself -- for instance -- we’ve been paid money from our government now to use cotton, you understand? On account of the fact that we can’t buy cotton. From Europe we have to buy cotton in the United States.

(break in video)

HELFAND: That the textile industry felt handicapped by having to pay -- having to pay workers a minimum wage -- in the 1930s.

MONTGOMERY: I think we wanted to raise the standard of living in this country and I have to agree I want to give foreign mission -- I believe in foreign 52:00missions -- but I’d rather give my money away and not have our government do it, you understand?

HELFAND: I do. I do ( break in video) -- talk to each other instead -- you don’t want to take that mill worker anymore because he was active in the strike -- is that -- how did that work? Did that happen?

MONTGOMERY: To tell you, I wish I could answer your questions, I wish I could. I just don’t have the memory to do it, you see?

M1: Mr. Montgomery, I guess what she is asking is were there black lists, were there lists of people who weren’t to be hired? Were there people who were not to be hired because they had been involved in the unions?


MONTGOMERY: You mean like blackballing people? Well I have to admit that I’ve heard something about that, of course. You liked it when you employ somebody you want to look them up, you understand? You want to know something about anybody you hire now. We paid much more attention to that than we ever did, you understand? And if we knew a person was very -- the person wanted to organize us -- I certainly wouldn’t be in favor of bringing them into our company. If I knew that before I bring him in -- why look for trouble? I’d want to know myself what it was that he was going to give them, you understand. I wouldn’t want anybody coming who was a professional organizer, getting a job, coming into our company for the view of organizing our mills. Now is that prejudice? Would 54:00you not want to employ some people who you feel wanted the jobs and looked upon you when somebody comes in here and asks me for a job and tells me, “Mr. Montgomery I want to work for Spartan Mills,” it makes me feel very happy about it and certainly I want -- attitude is a lot in life -- and you want -- everybody is bias somewhat -- everybody -- and you like to have people to work with you.

HELFAND: I think at the time it um -- back in ’34 -- a lot of people were surprised at this blackballing because they were under the impression that they would be able to go back and get their jobs because President Roosevelt said that that’s what was going to happen. So, um, so that was -- I think that was 55:00-- you know - there was -- the promise of the government vs. I guess the people who ran the mills and ran the villages and owned the homes, and I guess it was a decision -- who was going to have more power? Would the government have the power to tell the mill owners how they should run their business? Or was the mill owners going to be able to maintain their authority on how they wanted things run?


HELFAND: Is that? I think --

MONTGOMERY: I think we’ve got a free country and people have a right to do -- that don’t have to be in the business -- I know some people who would just rather not do this (audio skipped) -- fight it out, I guess, if you want to do that. I know this -- that I would not want to go out and just try to organize a mill and have them in the union. I don’t mind having participation and 56:00ownership and myself -- and I value the input from our employees and I consider that very, very -- the most important part of our business.

HELFAND: Did you -- you evolved -- you’ve really gone through a lot of changes, haven’t you, all these years?

MONTGOMERY: I think so, yes. (audio skipped)

HELFAND: Do you think -- did the -- was the 1934 general textile strike something that the manufacturers talked about among themselves after the strike?

MONTGOMERY: Well I have to tell you I have been so depressed myself over not being able to sell -- I’ve tried to get for several months now -- I’ve been trying to get middlemen to give me ideas -- you understand -- of how we can get 57:00our industry on a profitable basis. Our industry happens to be the next -- we have spent more money in the textile industry of what our profits have been in that industry in modernizing in the textile industry with the exception of the computer business -- and I think that industry has done more. But the textile industry has more money invested in it, you understand? But you can employ more people per dollar invested, and that’s what every country makes to employ people and I think you can put up a textile mill and employ more people -- you understand -- than most any industry. That’s what I think.

HELFAND: Could you --