Thom Malcom and Telia "Mame" Griffith Interview 2

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0:00

 THOM MALCOLM: (inaudible)

TELIA GRIFFITH: I can’t hear (inaudible) stop (inaudible).

MALCOLM: OK.

MALCOLM: Y’all ready?

CREW: Yeah, go.

MALCOLM: OK, can you remember somebody ever calling you a lint-head, ma?

GRIFFITH: Well, if they did, do you know what I’d tell them?

MALCOLM: What’s that, ma?

GRIFFITH: I’d say yeah, I’m a lint-head. I’m proud of it. I’d be working today if I could. That’s where –- that’s where I got my living. That’s where I raised my children. I’m proud –-

MALCOLM: I tell them the same thing.

GRIFFITH: -- to be a cotton mill hand. I wish to God I could go back today. It’d like to kill me when I come out. I cried for two weeks, that I didn’t eat -– I bet you I didn’t eat two handful because I had to lose my job. I got so old I couldn’t work. That’s right. I loved my job. I got it up 1:00here, but it ain’t here. That’s right. It done give out now. I’m like an old automobile. It can go so far and then it’s got to be fixed but they can’t fix mine. Mine done gone.

MALCOLM: Oh, you still got –-

GRIFFITH: Oh, but up here I could (inaudible) this house off up here in my brain and head, but this old body just won’t let me. That’s right. I loved my work when I worked in the mill. And I was hardly ever out unless I was sick, or one of my children was sick. I worked rain, shine, sleet, or snow. Get up Lucy, you got to go.

MALCOLM: (laughter)

GRIFFITH: That’s right.

MALCOLM: That’s the way I feel about it too, Ma because textiles is a good living and it’s certainly --

2:00

GRIFFITH: It certainly is.

MALCOLM: -- and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

GRIFFITH: And I loved my job. I worked in the mill, and I loved it.

MALCOLM: I enjoy mine too.

GRIFFITH: Even when I went through hard times in it, I loved my job.

MALCOLM: You -– you know, what we’re doing is we’re learning from you and what you know it -– you may not think it’s valuable, but you been around a long time and the things you know we can learn from you things that –- that you learned in life that maybe will help us with some of the things we want to do wrong –-

GRIFFITH: That’s right.

MALCOLM: -- and that’s why we think this is valuable to us.

GRIFFITH: Yeah.

MALCOLM: Because what you know -– the knowledge is more valuable than any dollar to me.

GRIFFITH: That’s right.

MALCOLM: Do you remember when they was getting the union in Opelika what, some of the things that went about at Opelika Manufacturing?

3:00

GRIFFITH: Well, yes, they wanted them to sign up. Wanted to sign up for the union, but the –- I didn’t sign up because I couldn’t pay that fee. They charged me seven dollars. Take seven dollars out of my paycheck, but you see my husband wasn’t drawing too much and I had to pay my rent you see --

MALCOLM: Yes, ma’am.

GRIFFITH: -- and take care of my house stuff, but I was treated just as good as the union. The union treated me just like the rest of them.

MALCOLM: Did they?

GRIFFITH: Yes, they certainly did.

MALCOLM: Did the people go out on strike when they was trying to get the union in in Opelika?

GRIFFITH: Oh, yeah, they’d go on strikes, yeah.

MALCOLM: Do you ever remember any account of violence or was it strikers, were they nice to you and –-

GRIFFITH: No, they never hurt nobody, but they just stay out.

MALCOLM: So they -- they really weren’t there -– they weren’t trying to 4:00cause no trouble?

GRIFFITH: No, they wouldn’t causing no trouble.

MALCOLM: They just wanted to have –-

GRIFFITH: They just -- they just stopped off until they’d agree with them and then they’d go back to work. I worked two hours or three hours.

GEORGE STONEY: Did the bosses ever talk to them about not joining the union?

MALCOLM: Did the supervisors -– did they ever talk to you about not joining the union or?

GRIFFITH: Oh, yeah.

MALCOLM: What -- what -- would he say to you?

GRIFFITH: He’d just say well, I wouldn’t join it.

MALCOLM: Did you -–

GRIFFITH: So no, you don’t want to.

MALCOLM: Did you ever ask him why?

GRIFFITH: Well, no. I told him -- I just tell him -- I told, “Why not?” He said, “Well, you just don’t want to.” And lots of them, if they mentioned union they’d let them go. They’d fire them. Now I know that to be the truth.

5:00

MALCOLM: Did –- did -- did your supervisor ever tell you that if you joined a union that he would fire you or anything like that?

GRIFFITH: No.

MALCOLM: But you have seen that happen?

GRIFFITH: I have heared of it, yeah.

MALCOLM: All right. You know that’s still happens today?

GRIFFITH: Huh?

MALCOLM: That still happens today.

GRIFFITH: Yeah.

MALCOLM: You know if –- if you work in a union plant and you quit and try to go somewhere else that’s not union, and they find out that you are in the union it’s very hard to get a job.

GRIFFITH: They won’t hire you.

MALCOLM: They won’t hire you, and that’s still today.

GRIFFITH: They sure won’t.

MALCOLM: And that’s something that we still have in common even back when you was working, and it’s still the same way today.

GRIFFITH: Yeah.

MALCOLM: That’s something we still have in common.

GRIFFITH: That’s right. But I think union is -– is a pretty good thing, don’t you?

MALCOLM: Oh, I love it to death. I think it’s one of the best things a working man ever –- working men and women.

GRIFFITH: That’s right.

MALCOLM: You know, cause it gives you a say. You don’t just have to -– you don’t just have to take what they say laying down.

6:00

GRIFFITH: Uh-huh.

MALCOLM: You know, you -– you got -– it -– it gives you certain rights to –- if you work at a place that’s not union and the supervisor wants to fire you, he just fires you.

GRIFFITH: You know, another thing I can’t understand why would they say now, like, I was running my job and you wanted my job and you had more seniority than I did and you’d bumped me off of my job and take my job and, you know, I don’t believe in that.

MALCOLM: You’re not -– you shouldn’t be able to do that if –- were -– were we work at now we have it what we call a union contract and it says that unless your job’s cut out, you know, you can’t just go in there and say well, I want Miss Lucy’s job. I’m tired of running mine. You can’t do that, you know, but say, like, if they take your job out, they’re going to lay you off, then you can bump the least seniority, you know, it’d be the person with the least seniority.

GRIFFITH: Yeah.

7:00

MALCOLM: That’s to get the people that’s been there like six, seven -– say like you’ve been –- you work for Opelika for 30 years, and here’s a guy over here that they just hired two -- and he ain’t been working there two years and he decides he wants your job, that’ll stop him from getting your job because you’ve been there 30 years. He can’t bump you.

GRIFFITH: Yeah.

MALCOLM: You understand what I’m saying?

GRIFFITH: Yeah.

MALCOLM: It gives you job security. In other words --

GRIFFITH: Well, I heared them -– I’ve heared them bumping people that’s been on there a long time and they take a notion they wanted their job and they’d bump them and cause them to lose their job.

MALCOLM: Well, that’s what the union’s supposed to stop is things like that right there.

GRIFFITH: Yeah.

MALCOLM: In a non-union plant they -– they’ll do it, you know? If they say well, Henry over there we don’t think –-

GRIFFITH: I don’t believe in that.

MALCOLM: I don’t either.

GRIFFITH: I don’t believe in taking a person’s job away from them that’s been there a long time.

MALCOLM: No. And companies are real bad about it after you been there for so 8:00long you and you can’t run your job so good no more, they want to pressure you or threaten you into taking a floor sweeping job or make --

GRIFFITH: Yeah.

MALCOLM: -- them retire or something like that.

GRIFFITH: No, I don’t believe in that. Do you?

MALCOLM: No, but they’ll sure do it.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, now ask her about what’s the best thing that she can remember from her job and the worst thing?

MALCOLM: Ma, what’s the best thing you can remember about working in the mill and the worst thing? First – first, tell me the best thing you can think of –- can remember about your job in working in the mill?

GRIFFITH: Well, I just liked it. I just liked my job.

MALCOLM: Was it an adequate living or?

GRIFFITH: A what?

MALCOLM: Did you make enough money to get by on?

GRIFFITH: Well, yeah, I made enough money. I made real good.

MALCOLM: Well, what did you like about the type of work you were doing or?

GEORGE STONEY: No, just --

GRIFFITH: Yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Just don’t suggest it. Just say tell us about the –- the 9:00happiest memory you have of the mill and just wait.

MALCOLM: Tell us about some of the happiest memories you have of the mill?

GRIFFITH: Well, I don’t know what. It -- I didn’t have no problems, and I liked my job, and I -– I’d go in, I’d work, and I’d –- I’d done my job, and I go home.

MALCOLM: All right. Can you remember some of the bad things about working in the mill? Surely some bad things happened to you. I know that they’ve happened to me in the mill.

GRIFFITH: Well, yeah, I do. The night -- the night that I come out of the mill. Do you want me to tell you that?

MALCOLM: Sure.

GRIFFITH: All right. They had two colored girls, and one of them went to the doctor and the doctor told her she couldn’t lift nothing. I’ve cutten off a 10:00bad work then, I’d done got old then and I done got 65.

MALCOLM: Yes, ma’am.

GRIFFITH: And this other one she had four children and she would go on welfare for her four children, and a check for herself to keep the children, plus she was working. See what I mean?

MALCOLM: Uh-huh.

GRIFFITH: Well, she wouldn’t work. And I done got 65, and I couldn’t keep up that spooler like the young girls could. And I spooled that night, that Sunday night I went in to work I spooled that night and I couldn’t -– I got to where I couldn’t keep it up, see?

MALCOLM: Yes, ma’am.

GRIFFITH: I done got old. Well, I done that all right that night. Well, then I cleaned up that work the next night, that was Tuesday night. Well, then 11:00Wednesday night this girl that had all these youngins. She stayed out to make me spool again that night. They made it up between them two for her to stay out so I’d have to spool again. And I just go to Mr. Pat -- Paterson, he lived right over there. I just -- well, Leroy Mims was the colored boss. He told me I had to spool and I told him I said, “I spooled for you Sunday night. And I can’t spool tonight.” And he said, “Well, you have to go see Mr. Pat.” So I went to see Mr. Pat. And Mr. Pat said well, he says, “I got this girl 12:00over there on your job, on your piece job and the doctor said that she couldn’t lift but she could work and I ain’t got nothing else for you to do.” I said, “I can go home.” And then he said, “All right, I’ll take you home.” So I come on home. And he said, “Now, if you’ll go to the doctor and get a slip that you’re not able to spool, you know, and keep the floor up I can keep you off of it a little while, but I can’t keep you off forever,” see. I had a spare job, you know, all over the mill working, you know –-

MALCOLM: Yes, ma’am.

GRIFFITH: -- I could creel warpers, I could spool a little bit but not regularly, you know what I mean?

MALCOLM: Yes, ma’am.

GRIFFITH: Every night, every night. I done got too old. You have to be young to keep up with them automatic spoolers. And so I -– I knew if I went to that 13:00doctor and got that slip of paper that –- that I wouldn’t be able to draw my unemployed because you got to be well to draw that. So I just told him I said, “Well, we’ll see about it.” So I called Booth Ingraham at the –- at oh, out there in front of the mill. The personnel office. I called Booth Ingraham. I told Booth Ingraham how they was doing me. He told me to come down there. And I went down there. And I went down there to see Booth and he give me a piece of paper and told me to go up –- upstairs and see my boss man. I went 14:00up there. And Mr. Nobles was the boss, spooling boss. And I went up there and Mr. Nobles told me -- I told Mr. Nobles how they done me, and I couldn’t spool every night, every night. And he said, “Well, it’s time for you to retire anyhow.” He said, “You’re done 65 and you need to go out.” And I said, “Oh, no, I don’t want to give up my job.” I want my job because I loved it. I loved working. And then he said, well, I’m going to fix it to where you can draw your (inaudible) and I will stick –- just fixing to start my social security, you know, it was coming in. I done signed up for it. And 15:00so he fixed my papers, and I went up there and drawed my social security. But then girls made that up for me to spool every night, and I was not able.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, (inaudible) just a moment.

(break in video)

MALCOLM: Back when you first started in the mill, can you tell me all the jobs you ended up knowing how to do, you know?

GRIFFITH: Yeah.

MALCOLM: (inaudible)

GRIFFITH: (inaudible) First job when I went in the mill is put me to spooling. Well, I was so doggone little and short I couldn’t reach the spool. So (inaudible), he made me a little step up. And I’d step up and tie that in and let that thread go. It was on a bobbin, on a wooden bobbin. They got (inaudible) now, or did have. And so he -– he decided he’d move me. So he 16:00put me around there to back winding. That was not back winding, but running the thread off of one spool onto the other. That emptying up the spool, you know, to –- to put more new thread on. And so then -– then I went from there to the winding room. I got a little bigger you know. I was a little growing a little taller. I run winders. I run them big old, long comb winders for no telling how long. And then I went from there to the hand press winders. I run winders there. And then they took them hand presses out and put in these 17:00automatic spoolers, and I worked on them, but I fill batteries too.

MALCOLM: That was in the weave room, right?

GRIFFITH: Yep, yeah. Uh-huh.

MALCOLM: So you’ve run back winding, spooling, batteries. Did you –- just tell me all the jobs you –- all the jobs you ended up knowing how to run before you retired.

GRIFFITH: Huh?

MALCOLM: Just tell me all the jobs you ended up knowing how to run before you retired.

GRIFFITH: Well, I’ve –- I’ve creeled warpers, I spooled, and I run winders and I doffed twisters. And I run the reel machine that was to run thread, you know, like that on a big old reel machine and I have –- I have weaved a little 18:00bit with (inaudible).

MALCOLM: Uh-huh.

GRIFFITH: Went through (inaudible), and I have picked out some, you know, a little bit. Now I didn’t have no job at it, I just helping the girl on her job. And that’s about all that I know about the mill.

MALCOLM: That’s a lot.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, hold it. Just a minute.

(break in video)

JUDITH HELFAND: I got that time it just make –- you know, it just helps Ma, you know -- it just figure out the –- that year and stuff I (inaudible) because it’s so hard sometimes, you know, history, it’s so long, you know, it’s like she might have been.

CREW: I don’t think –- (break in video) I don’t see we’re rolling.

MALCOLM: Mom, tell me a little bit about the difference when Roosevelt, you know, he took over and got the (inaudible) in and all the difference between the 12-hour days and the eight hour days, and what you might have done with your 19:00extra time when, you know -- when you had -– got to quit working and you went on 12-hours a day and you went on eight hours a day, what you did with that extra time you might have had?

GRIFFITH: I cleaned my house and stuff on the extra hours, of course.

MALCOLM: Do you remember when that happened was everybody excited about it, or did people not want it?

GRIFFITH: Oh, yeah they were proud of it, yeah, knowing that they had just worked eight instead of 12.

MALCOLM: It was a lot better, wasn’t it?

GRIFFITH: It was a lot better, yes. Yes, 300 times better. I loved it.

JAMIE STONEY: Tom, we’ve heard some stories how some towns had, in the newspaper that with all the extra time that the workers were going to have that there’d be a rise in crime and drunkenness and just hooliganism. Did she ever –- ma, did you ever hear anything about that?

20:00

MALCOLM: Did you ever hear about when they –- when they –- when they first put that change in from 12 to eight hours, the newspapers played it up that with us having so much extra time on our hands that we was going to start riding, and staying out on the street corner drinking, did –- did anything like that happen or did you ever hear about anything like that happening?

GRIFFITH: No. No, I sure didn’t.

MALCOLM: But do you remember them saying that in the newspapers that all these mill workers got all this extra time they’re going to be robbing people, and staying out on the street drinking, did you ever read that in the newspaper?

GRIFFITH: No, I sure didn’t.

M1: What about the beedo system, stopwatch has she ever clocked or anything?

MALCOLM: Were you ever timed on your job? Did you ever have a man standing over you with a stopwatch timing how long it took you to put up an end or creel a warper, or did they ever time you with a stopwatch?

GRIFFITH: Not that I know of. I’d have took up something and knocked his head off.

MALCOLM: Where we work at now, Ma, they do it all the time.

21:00

GRIFFITH: Well --

MALCOLM: All the time.

GRIFFITH: Well, I’ve seen them do the postman that way, you know, take you how long you on the mail route.

MALCOLM: Our weavers –- before they can get qualified, they time them on a stopwatch and if they cannot do these certain things on the machines in a certain amount of time, they don’t get qualified. They have to go to back to their old job. If they just hired them they –- they’d fire them if they –- they can’t pass that certain amount of time.

GRIFFITH: I ain’t -- nobody about to stand over me and look at me.

MALCOLM: I have, and I don’t like it. (laughs)

GRIFFITH: I don’t like it either. Now --

MALCOLM: You know that –- ma --

GEORGE STONEY: (inaudible)

MALCOLM: Go ahead, mom.

GRIFFITH: Old man -- old John Tilly, he walked up behind me one night and stand there watching me work. I says, “What do you want?” And that was my boss too. I said, “What do you want?” “I’m just watching you work.” I 22:00said, “You watch somebody else. I ain’t got time to fool with ye.” I just kept working.

MALCOLM: Did he go on?

GRIFFITH: Yes, sir.

MALCOLM: You know these people with these clocks even follow you to the bathroom when they’re timing you on your job? (laughs) I was timed on my job, you know, fixing job you don’t have to do something in no certain amount of time, but they wanted to know how much work we was doing every day. They’d follow you to the bathroom, and time how long it takes you to go to the bathroom.

GRIFFITH: They wouldn’t have followed me one time they wouldn’t have got halfways in --

MALCOLM: (laughs)

GRIFFITH: -- because I stuck there for a bobbin of thread and I knocked his head off. I’d say you follow somebody else, not me.

GEORGE STONEY: Good, that’s great. OK.

(break in video)

MALCOLM: The Social Security you get every month, and what it all goes for, and maybe how much you have left?

23:00

GRIFFITH: All right. I get –- I pay $150 a month for my house rent. I pay $40 a month for my gas. Well, and now that’ll take $10 out of that hundred. I put it over here, that’s $22 with a $12. I get $100, and I get $512 a month. Well, $150 goes to house rent, $40 goes to gas, this $10 goes over here and makes this $22 all right. There’s my -– but I have to borrow me a little money along to get by on until my next paycheck. All right, I have to pay that back. Well, then that’s my water, my lights, and my cable bill, my 24:00phone bill, and whatever on that –- on this, and I have to eat a little bit, and pay my insurance, and my medicine bill, and whatever, you know, little things that I need out of this one. And how much is that left, that’s --

MALCOLM: Not much.

GRIFFITH: -- $22.

MALCOLM: Do you know that you get a pension from the mill you retired from?

GRIFFITH: I get $25 a month. I ain’t going to lie to you.

MALCOLM: And how long did you work there?

GRIFFITH: That’s workman’s pay.

MALCOLM: How long did you work there?

GRIFFITH: Twenty –- well, they -- just show I worked 20 year I got $25.

MALCOLM: A month?

GRIFFITH: I worked over that, but that’s all they give me. Now what else?

25:00

GEOGRE STONEY: Let’s try it again. So, it needs to be shorter.

HELFAND: Also Tom --

GEORGE STONEY: It needs to be short.

HELFAND: Also Tom, she didn’t tell us how much she makes – how much she gets –-

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah.

HELFAND: -- in accumulated check, you know, when she gets the $500 –-

GEORGE STONEY: Yes, starts -– she should start with I get $500 a month and this is the way I spend it.

MALCOLM: OK, Ma, what –- what they want –- want us to do now is to say how much you get every month, you know, say that first, and then say how much you spend in all, and then tell how much is left.

GRIFFITH: Well, I get $512 a month, all right. Now you want me to tell you how much I have to spend out of it?

MALCOLM: Yes, ma’am.

GRIFFITH: I pay $150 house rent. I pay $40 a month gas bill. Well, that takes a $10 out of that $100. I put it over there with this $12, that makes $22; ain’t that right?

MALCOLM: Yes, ma’am.

26:00

GRIFFITH: All right, then I borrow a little money along until I get my check again for the little things that I need around the house. Well, then I’ll take this here one and I’ll pay my water, my lights, and my gas, my phone bill, my cable bill, and all out of that. Well, then I have a little grocery money here, insurance in home, and medicine, and doctor, and I have about $20. And then I have that there little mill check that’s $45, $46, $47. That’s right.

MALCOLM: That’s how much you have left every month?

GRIFFITH: No, I don’t have that much every month. Then I have to have my grass cut too, you know?

MALCOLM: Yes, ma’am.

27:00

GRIFFITH: I have to have it cut about every -– every twice every two months, you know, since it’s rained.

GEORGE STONEY: Ask –- ask her about her pension. Did you get a pension?

MALCOLM: Did you get a pension from the mill?

GRIFFITH: I get a textile working fund.

MALCOLM: And how much is that?

GRIFFITH: Twenty-five dollars a month.

MALCOLM: A month.

GRIFFITH: I got that from the Opelika Mill.

MALCOLM: Opelika Manufacturing?

GRIFFITH: Uh-huh.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, now one more thing. Ask her about if she thinks it’s important that all of this be recorded and should they –- the mills that keep closing down, do you think it’s important that they keep them up so people will know what the life was like in the past? The whole business of history. Just this is fishing, but just see if it works.

MALCOLM: Ma, do you think it’s important for us to get all of this on tape so the people that are in these mills that are shutting down will see the history 28:00of it, how all this come about, and some of the things you experienced, do you think it’s important for all this to be recorded?

GRIFFITH: Well, yes, I do. Let people know what’s going on. Let people wake up. They’re asleep. Let them wake up and see what’s going on. Don’t you feel I worry about it?

MALCOLM: I hear you, Ma.

GRIFFITH: That’s right. Show them what is what. Tell them what’s what and they’ll know what’s what. Let them open their eyes and see what’s going on. A poor person ain’t got a chance after they get to where they can’t work, take care of theirself, they ain’t got a gentleman’s chance. They’ll dump them off in some old folk’s home to take care of them.

29:00

MALCOLM: That’s right. That’s the way they do.

GRIFFITH: That’s the truth.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Beautiful.

CREW: All right, let’s get room at this point.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, everybody’s got to be quiet for 30 seconds.

CREW: OK, got to be real, real quiet. OK.

GEORGE STONEY: OK.

HELFAND: We’re going to –- no, we’re going to feed you the questions that you asked Ma, and you’re going to –-

30:00

GEORGE STONEY: And you’re just (inaudible) asking momma the questions.

MALCOLM: Would you tell them --