Thom Malcom and Telia "Mame" Griffith Interview 1

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible)

THOM MALCOLM: What happened after that eight hour day when


M1: Just a second, OK.


MALCOLM: Ma, what happened after the eight hour day got put into effect?

M1: The dog was making nosies.

GEORGE STONEY: Lets try it again. Try it again.

JUDITH HELFAND: (inaudible).

MALCOLM: Ma, what happened after the eight hour day was put into effect?

GEORGE STONEY: Ok the next one.

HELFAND: OK. Um, Moms walking around, is that OK?

M1: Im not hearing anything.

HELFAND: OK. Do you remember any attempt when they tried to get a union in?

MALCOLM: Do you remember any attempt where someone might have tried to get a union in?


HELFAND: Should we do that again?

GEORGE STONEY: No, its fine.

HELFAND: OK. The next one was, how did you deal with problems back then, when you didnt have a union?

MALCOLM: Ma, how did you uh, deal with uh, problems back then when you didnt have a union?


GEORGE STONEY: And illustrate the problems.

MALCOLM: Say like if your supervisor was giving you a hard time, saying you wasnt running your job, what did you do about it?

HELFAND: OK. Mom, what kind of count-- what kind of -- was it county or country? Country (inaudible)? You said, Ma, what kind of country is this? What kind of country is this, Ma? Remember, she said this is a, you know, the gun country.

MALCOLM: Ma, what kind of country is this? Besides Warrego country?

HELFAND: Do it one more time, with some enthusiasm.

MALCOLM: Ma, what kind of country is this, besides Warrego country?


HELFAND: The next one was, what happened to you during the Depression?

MALCOLM: Ma, what happened to you during the Depression?

GEORGE STONEY: Again, just tell me what happened to you during the Depression?

MALCOLM: What happened to you during the Depression?


HELFAND: OK. Ma, when did you take the shirt -- when did you take the third shift?

MALCOLM: Ma, when did you take the third shift?


GEORGE STONEY: Just um, like them -- what -- what -- what year was it, or what time was it when you took the third shift?

MALCOLM: Ma, what year was it when you took the third shift?

GEORGE STONEY: And keep looking at uh, Judy (inaudible).

MALCOLM: Oh, Im sorry.

GEORGE STONEY: Try it again.

MALCOLM: Ma, what year was it when -- when you took the third shift? When they started putting shifts in the mill?


MALCOLM: Ma, what year was it when you took the third shift and they started putting different shifts in the mills?


HELFAND: OK, yeah. OK. And then can you explain -- you -- you helped her, you agreed with her, and you said, Oh yeah, the third shift was when it went from eleven oclock until seven in the morning. But (inaudible)?

(break in video)

TELIA GRIFFITH: Do you want me to answer?

MALCOLM: Yeah, because were just doing it for the --

JAMIE STONEY: For the camera.

MALCOLM: -- for the camera.


HELFAND: OK. Can you explain what the hours were? What -- how many hours there were on the third shift, and what time it went from until?

MALCOLM: Ma, in the third shift now, that was at night, like from 11:00 to 7:00 in the morning?

GEORGE STONEY: Good. But dont -- keep your eyes always on her. Dont shift over there.



MALCOLM: I didnt know I was doing it.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah, thats fine, yeah.

HELFAND: Do it again George?

MALCOLM: You want me to do it again?

HELFAND: Yeah, please.

MALCOLM: Ma, the third shift, that was at night from 11:00 in the morning -- I mean 11:00 at night to 7:00 in the morning?

GEORGE STONEY: Try it again.

MALCOLM: Ma, the third shift, that was at night, and it was like from 11:00 at night to 7:00 in the morning?


HELFAND: OK. Did your husband help you with the housework?

MALCOLM: Ma, did your husband help you with your housework any at all?

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Now just tell -- talk about the difference now.

HELFAND: Do you help with housework?

MALCOLM: Do I? Yeah. I -- you want me to tell about --

HELFAND: No, just like you did to your mom. Well, I help with housework.


MALCOLM: Well, I help my wife with the housework, and uh, and she dont really make me do it, but she works too, just like I do, and I -- you know, she works eight hours a day, just like I do, and she -- she deserves not to have to go home and work like a dog every day, just like she does at work.


HELFAND: Who watched your children when you were both working? That was the other question.

MALCOLM: Ma, who watched your children when both of you were working? Did you have to hire a babysitter?


HELFAND: OK. Um, before, when you answered that, you said like for instance, Annas on the first shift, and Im on second shift. So, I watch my baby while -- you know, we take turns watching the kids. So, why dont you explain that to me?

MALCOLM: You know, uh, were you and your husband on opposite shifts where he could watch them while you worked, and you could -- like me and Anne, you know, shes on the first shift, and Im on the second shift, and she, you know, I watch them while shes working in the daytime, and then she watches Katie 00:05:00while -- while Im at work.

HELFAND: OK. The next one is when you lived in the mill village, can you tell me something about -- well, why dont we try it this way? Tell me something about what you remember about living in the mill village? Put it in your own words.

MALCOLM: Ma, how about telling me about how it was to live in a mill village back when you were working in the mill, and, you know, some of the things there was to do, and how your neighbors were, and what kind of people they were.

HELFAND: OK. Why dont I ask you one more time, just for --

JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible).

HELFAND: Oh, OK. The next time I ask you --

JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible)?


HELFAND: Just, you know, tell me about living in a mill village. Just leave it like that. (inaudible).



MALCOLM: Ma, tell me about how it was to live in a mill village.

HELFAND: OK. Now the next one, where I work, were talking about -- could you tell me what would have happened, well, what we were talking about was two jobs, 00:06:00what happened, two -- you know, did they ever put you on -- did they ever put you on two jobs?

MALCOLM: Ma, did they ever uh, lay somebody off beside you and make you run two jobs and not -- and pay you the same amount of pay as just if you was running one job?


HELFAND: OK. Now I want you to tell me, you had explained to her what happens at your place when they do that.

MALCOLM: Where I work at Ma, because we have a union, if you have to run two jobs, theyre going to have to pay you double pay.


HELFAND: All right. OK. Did you ever meet President Roosevelt?

MALCOLM: Ma, did you ever meet President Roosevelt?

GEORGE STONEY: Just uh, tell me, talking about Roosevelt, did you ever meet President Roosevelt?

MALCOLM: Ma, were talking about President Roosevelt, have you ever met him?

HELFAND: OK. Should -- should we try it again, George?



HELFAND: OK. You were real excited when -- when you thought that -- that idea that Ma could have met him, did you ever meet President Roosevelt?

MALCOLM: Yeah. Ma, have you ever met President Roosevelt?


MALCOLM: I was smiling, because Ma was over --

HELFAND: (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: I know, we got that. We got that.

HELFAND: OK. All right George, I think that basically --

M1: No, no, no. We need some yes maams, and no maams, and -- and some things like that, and some nods and things like that.


HELFAND: Oh, and did anybody ever look after you with a -- come after you with a stopwatch? Timing you?

TELIA GRIFFITH: (inaudible) shake his hand.

MALCOLM: You want me to ask about the stopwatch?



MALCOLM: Ma, had anybody ever timed you with a stopwatch before, to see how fast yu could do your job?


MALCOLM: Ma, has anybody ever timed you with a stopwatch before to see how fast you could do your job? See how long it takes you to do certain things?

GEORGE STONEY: And then tell about the -- what they do at your place.

MALCOLM: Where I work at, I was timed on my job, because we filed a work 00:08:00overload grievance, and for eight hours, a guy followed me around with a stopwatch, followed me to the break room, to the bathroom, to the supply room, everywhere I went.


HELFAND: How did you feel about that?

MALCOLM: I didnt like it worth a damn. I aint going to tell you what I told him when he followed me to the bathroom.

GEORGE STONEY: (laughter) OK.

M1: Some yes maams, and some nods.


JAMIE STONEY: Yes maams, and some no, maams.

MALCOLM: Just say yes maam, no maam?

JAMIE STONEY: Yes. Yeah, youre agreeing with what shes saying or whatever.

MALCOLM: Yes maam. No, maam. Yeah. Yes maam. No, maam.

GEORGE STONEY: (inaudible)

MALCOLM: Yes maam.

GEORGE STONEY: Rub your chin.

MALCOLM: Drop my chin?

GEORGE STONEY: No, rub your chin.

MALCOLM: Oh. (laughter) Yes maam. No, maam.

GEORGE STONEY: Just nod. Laughing. OK.

JAMIE STONEY: Remember what she said she was going to do to the man with the stopwatch?


MALCOLM: (laughter) I remember what she said she was going to do to me.

HELFAND: Im going to skin you alive.

JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible)?


(break in video)



M1: Why dont you do it from a side view?



HELFAND: And Im going to throw out -- if we could start with, about your grandfather, he worked in a mill, and he never had money for the car or any of that stuff, so you took walks, and then connect it to that first time he got ill with anybody.

MALCOLM: OK. Start now?


MALCOLM: Uh, my grandfather, he worked in the mill probably for 45 years, and uh, he worked in a non-union mill, but I think at this time, it probably wouldnt have mattered if it was union or not, because textile workers, the pay scale was so low, he didnt never have a car, you know, couldnt buy his own house.

M1: All right, time out. Can I get you to speak a lot louder?

MALCOLM: (inaudible)? OK, my grandfather, he worked in the cotton mill for 45 years. And he never could afford a car, or a house, or any of the luxuries that I got now. Ive been working in the textiles for 16, 17 years now, and uh, that -- that shows me one thing thats changed, but I never remember my 00:11:00grandfather getting ill about anything very much, but because he didnt have a car when I was a child, every Sunday we went for a walk, every Sunday. And one Sunday we was walking by the new gas company building they were building, and just so happened the construction workers that was building that building was on strike. And they -- but they had scabs out there working on Sunday. They had scabs -- scabs out there working on Sunday, and thats the first time I ever seen my grandfather get ill at anybody. And um, and he told them what he thought of them, he thought they were scabs.

JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible)


JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible)

MALCOLM: No. (inaudible)

HELFAND: We were talking about --

MALCOLM: Am I talking loud enough?

M1: Yeah. Yeah, youre fine now.

HELFAND: We were talking about your -- your granddaddy getting mad because these scabs were working (inaudible).

MALCOLM: Yeah, and this is a man that never worked in a union place in his life, but he knew what a good thing a union was. Because he had been working in a 00:12:00place where they just put you on any job they want to, seniority didnt mean nothing. And when I went to work at that mill, I was 16 years old, same mill my grandfather got kicked out of when -- when he was 65 years old, and couldnt run his job no more, the same mill, I was laying up filling. There were people that had been laying up filling for 25 years at that plant, but because I was young and was fast, before I was 17 I was running a weave job. And heres people that have been in this plant for 20 years, running a $3.58 an hour job, and here Ive been with this plant seven months, and Im making $6 an hour, just because I -- you know, just because Im younger and quicker and more able to get around and get the job done. And thats something that a union will stop, itll -- it lets the people that deserve the jobs with the seniority, thats been here fighting to make these companies what they are, it gives them a chance to move up and get better paying jobs, and get a better quality of living.


HELFAND: Now you were just telling me that you went from a non-union mill that your granddaddy worked in for years --


HELFAND: -- and then you went to one where there was a union already established, and then you came here.

MALCOLM: Well, the first thing I -- that I noticed was that when they carried you in the office, here was this guy coming with me, somebody I worked with, and we get in the office, and hes all of the sudden -- you know, I really didnt know really what a union was about, or how the grievance procedure worked, anything like that, and heres this guy taking up for me in the office, you know, this never had happened before where I worked at the non-union plant, if they wanted to write you up, you and the boss, Im writing you up, if you dont straighten out, youre fired, you know? Just that plain and simple. But I found out that we had a -- we had an option, we had somebody to go with us, and we had a grievance procedure. And they just couldnt write you up because uh, they had a fight with a wife that day, or they got -- they got drunk that night and had a hangover, you know, like supervisors want to do sometimes, they want to take out their home frustrations, they couldnt get away with that anymore. Thats one of the main things I like about the union, 00:14:00and -- and also, youre able to negotiate your wages, they just cant say, Well were doing a little bad, we aint going to give you but 1%, you know, you got to say so, you know?

HELFAND: You know, can you tell us, you know, Jamie do you want to stop for a minute?

(break in video)

MALCOLM: Plant called Lester Industries, and it used to be Opelika Manufacturing. Where we sit right now used to be a schoolhouse. This now is a union office. This lady I know, shes like a grandmother to me, I call her Ma, really she is my -- I wont say shes my grandmother, she used to go to school in this schoolhouse. And then years later, she worked in this mill. Now, its my union office, and it -- to me, it seems like its still someplace to learn.

HELFAND: (inaudible)




HELFAND: Do you want to ask anything?

JAMIE STONEY: No, I think its fine.


JAMIE STONEY: Then what Id like to do is (inaudible) shift to the side. 00:15:00(break in video) (inaudible) sort of in the doorway, OK? Yeah, were rolling.

MALCOLM: What you doing today, George?

GEORGE: Been messing around.

MALCOLM: Ready to go to work?

GEORGE: Yeah. You?

MALCOLM: No, but lets go anyway.

GEORGE: Yeah, we got to go.

MALCOLM: You know youll be late, theyre going to write you up.


JAMIE STONEY: You want me to hold on a wide shot, or zoom in?


(break in video)

JAMIE STONEY: We got it.

(break in video)

MALCOLM: All you could do, we (inaudible). Plus I think my (inaudible).

(talking in background, inaudible)

MALCOLM: We got it.

(talking in background, inaudible)


(break in video)

JAMIE STONEY: We got them in the same shot.





GEORGE STONEY: No, no, its for educational television.

F1: Huh?

GEORGE STONEY: Public television.

F1: (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: (inaudible)

F1: Itll be on tonight?

GEORGE STONEY: Oh no, (inaudible).

(break in video)


M1: Its rolling Jamie, hang on a second.

MALCOLM: Can I go out?



(overlapping dialogue; inaudible)


(break in video)





GEORGE STONEY: OK. Start it, and then hit the -- the btton.

JAMIE STONEY: Thats what were doing.


F2: So I went on up in the mill, and the boss hired me. He asked me how old I was, and I had to go to the doctor and all this, and that, and the other, but anyhow, uh, I went on and asked the boss, and he said yeah, he wanted me to work. Well I was too little to reach the pullers, so (inaudible) Im going 00:24:00(inaudible) was the [fixer?]. So he goes and makes me a little bench. I stood it up by the spooler, the spooler is running on belts then, wasnt no, you know, like now.


F2: And uh, so Id stand up on that, and Id tie that knot, that knot around my hand, you know, it was running slow, it wasnt running speed fast like it is now. But anyway, he seen that I wasnt doing so good on that, so he took me off that, and put me to -- to back winding. Well he watched -- I watched him, and we see that old uh, school woman coming. He put me down in the big box 00:25:00and put a lid on me.

MALCOM: Hed hide you, would he?

F2: Yeah. And whenever shed go out the gate, go off, well then hed come over and help me out of that box, put me back to work. (laughter)

MALCOM: Put you right back on the job.

F2: Right back on my job.


F2: Well I worked --

M1: George, George. Nobody else is cutting --

(break in video)


(traffic sounds)

(break in video)

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M1: Its set. Go. That truck, and then youre clear. Get it quick. Its clear, the light changes fast.