Homer Logsdon Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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0:00

M1: [OK, I guess we -- OK.]

GEORGE STONEY: OK, Homer, tell us about the first time you went in the cotton mill, how old you were, and all of that.

HOMER LOGSDON: Well, I first went into the -- the textile mill, uh, I was 15 years old. And, uh, my first job was in the spinning room, as a sweeper. I worked one night, and, uh, I was transferred to the weave shop. And, when I went in, the noise, and the lint, it was heavy, picking at my nose, and rubbing my nose, and, uh, I thought it would drive me crazy, but, I finally got used to it. And I went in the weave shop, and I was a filling boy. And the years went on, 1:00I learned. As I went on --

M1: I’m sorry, George, we need to stop, I’m getting some r-- (inaudible)

(break in video)

STONEY: OK, tell us about your experience, uh, early in the cotton mill.

LOGSDON: When I first went into the cotton mill, I went as a sweeper. And I -- I think I may have started maybe around, maybe about $9.90 a week. And I worked one night in the spinning room, and I was transferred into the weave shop. And, I got to be a fill-in boy, uh, maybe at $12 a week. And, uh, things went on, 2:00and, I could do my job at about half of -- half of (inaudible)--

STONEY: OK, let’s start over, sorry. You were much better the first time, because you told us about what the lint was like, and what the heat was like, and all of that, and you also told us how old you were. (break in video) Don’t wanna change t-- make that change. OK, uh, let’s try it again, OK, sir? Uh, tell us about how old you were, and all of that, what it was like, when you first went in the cotton mill?

LOGSDON: When I first went into the cotton mill, I was 15 years old. And, I went in as a sweeper, in the spinning room. And, uh, I’ve -- I had never been in a cotton mill before, and, uh, the lint, and it kept me running my nose, and my eyes, and what have you. But I managed to get through it, and I was transferred to the weave shop. Of course, when I went in there, the noise was 3:00twice -- the sand, and everyplace else. But you get used to that inside. Of course, I would make about $12 a week then, and that was a whole lot. And, uh, as time went on, uh, I learned to weave. I had a friend that -- all the older guys had obviously their own -- full of mud, I was fast, and I wanted -- I also wanted a better job. Now, I was never was satisfied with the job I had, I also wanted a little better. And, I learned to weave, and, uh, when I did learn, I finally talked the boss into letting me have a set of looms. And he wanted to know if I could run ’em, I said, “Sure, I can run ’em.” He said, “OK.” So, we -- we just [settled in my hours?] to work, so that didn’t matter much to anybody else, but I was really interested in, excuse me, in 4:00weaving. But it had -- uh, the Depression, whatever, hit, and, uh, that knocked us all out, I guess. And then, when it -- we got back to our -- I guess we went on a strike.

STONEY: No, no, tell us about, uh, working on production, what it -- was it like to work on production?

LOGSDON: I enjoyed working on production. They thought I was young, and I was fast, and if I had that pick clock going, I knew I was making money. And, uh, as I said, I was fast, and I -- I could make as much as the loom fixers at weaving. And, uh --

5:00

STONEY: OK. Now, tell us what happened when the NRA came in.

LOGSDON: Well, when the NRA came in, the best I could remember that we -- without the -- minimum wage was 30 cents an hour, and we went on eight-hour shifts. And that’s when everything began to blossom. And then, when -- when the s--

STONEY: Oh, OK, (inaudible).

(break in video)

M1: Speed.

STONEY: OK, when Roosevelt -- go ahead.

LOGSDON: When Roosevelt was elected, he says, well -- the NRA came in, and it says we’re going on eight-hour shifts. And, the minimum wage would be 30 cents an hour, because that raised all of our wages, with ri-- the weavers could 6:00make, uh, maybe 25 or 30 dollars a week, back when they were making eight, nine dollars for 11 hours, and they began to work for eight hours, and make 25, 30 dollars a week. And then, we had a -- a nationwide textile strike. And, I think, all the -- our outfit, I think we were pretty well satisfied with what we were making. But, we went out in sympathy for the strike. Well, when we went out on the strike, uh, there was so many of us, when the strike was -- when we went on the picket lines, the police come in, and run us off of the picket line. They got an injunction against us, and come to find out, half of us didn’t 7:00have a job. Well, we didn’t know -- we didn’t know we were blackballed, or blacklisted, but -- which went on to better -- to what we could do, I guess. And, uh, but, we had one friend --

STONEY: Now just, OK, tell us what happened to you after the strike was over.

LOGSDON: Well, I started telling about [that toward Tex?]--

STONEY: No, just say after the strike was over, OK?

LOGSDON: Oh. Well, I don’t know exactly if the strike was over, because I don’t remember when it was over. But we knew we didn’t have jobs. And this friend of mine was -- had people in Texas. And, I had a good car, and he wanted to know if I would take him and his wife and son to Post City, Texas. And, uh, I said -- he told me how much he’d give me. And I said, “Yeah? I’ll take 8:00it.” So, we took off to Texas, and I -- I guess had never been out of Kentucky and Tennessee. And, so we went across those desert lands, and to me, it was a desert land, because that’s back when the cows was dried up on the field. Red River was dry, and the [grass is almost really explored?] the West. But it had -- we got to Post City, Texas. And then, we -- there’s a textile mill there. And, they wanted to give us both jobs. And I told [Mr. Self?], I said, “[I couldn’t work in there, I’d smell the death?]” because it had a concrete top on it. But we went on to Hope-- Hobbs, New Mexico, and they said they’d give us a job fighting oil fires for $5 a day. And I said, “No, I’ll go back to Tennessee.” And he said, “I’ll stay in -- in Post 9:00City.” So, I left him and Post City, and back to Tennessee I come, to Knoxville. And, uh, I fooled around. And there’s a contractor, uh, [Home Mill?], had a place across the street from where I lived at that time. And I kept asking him about a job, so he, uh, set about. Well, that one morning, he told me if I had a hammer, to come to work. Well, I went to work. And, uh, was working for this contrac-- contractor. And, uh, [horses I saddled, which, you know, little?]. And, uh, I was driving a truck. Of course, this had been -- I don’t have any more (inaudible). But Mr. Beale was the personnel man at Cherokee --

STONEY: OK, I’m going to ask you, how did you finally get back to the mill?

LOGSDON: That’s what I --

STONEY: OK, but I want you to incorporate that in the question.

10:00

LOGSDON: A qu-- when I was -- with this contractor, I was driving a truck. And Mr. Beale stopped me one day --

STONEY: No, but sorry, we don’t know who Mr. Beale is, so you start it --

LOGSDON: OK--

STONEY: Said, uh, “A few months after the strike, I was back at home, working for a contractor, and the boss came over, and said ‘Would you like to work again?,’ OK?”

LOGSDON: Wh-- what I s--

STONEY: You said -- OK --

LOGSDON: When I was working for this contractor, I don’t know how many months it had been. But, it [had some folks?] -- the company man wanted to know if I wanted to come to work. And I said yes. And he said, “Well, you and your wife come in t-- Monday night, and you’ll have your job. So, I started back in the mills. And, I never did know I was blacklisted, or -- they never did 11:00tell me, but, I was glad to get back to my job, because I enjoyed it. So, uh, I guess that’s the long story about getting back to work.

STONEY: OK, all of that’s very good. Now, let’s talk about, uh, the kind of attitudes in the town, uh, we’ve been to some places that talked about people as kind of lint-heads, and people that worked in the cotton mills as low-class. Could you talk about that? Is there anything like that here?

LOGSDON: No -- you know, I guess we lived different from most people, because each individual had their own house, company didn’t own any of that. And everybody had to dig for their self. The company couldn’t say you have to move, because the company didn’t own nothing. And everybody w-- most of the 12:00houses in their neighborhood, in their category, was that everybody that worked in the [modern?] mill, or in the textile mills, because we had plenty of them at that time. And the -- none of us had any money. But, we were all happy. What we had worried about, the next day, because nobody give us any trouble, they did say it’s -- I don’t know what the newspapers printed, because, at that time, I didn’t care what they said. And the -- I think, most, as I say, the older people might have read the papers, but the younger people didn’t. We just took it as it come.

STONEY: Now, what did you think of labor unions? What did you know about labor unions as a boy of 19 or 20?

LOGSDON: Well, when -- when they started talking about unions, uh, I didn’t know much about unions. Course, my dad was a railroad man, had been all my 13:00life. And, uh, but he never encouraged me to do -- in fact, he d-- when I was 15 years old, I left home. And he never did, in fact, tell me what to do, because I’d done what I wanted to do. And, uh, I’d done what other people, older people, were doing. And when the union come along, and they organized, well, the company didn’t say nothing about it. We all just went on about our business, and we’d sign our union cards and pay our dues. I don’t remember if the company ever took our dues out or not, but we paid our dues. And, uh, but that was the only union that I’d ever been in, but, uh --

STONEY: Uh, could you -- let’s go back to the picket line now. You were talking about somebody who carried the flag.

14:00

LOGSDON: We had a big guy (laughter), I would -- we always called him the “big mouth and head.” But anyhow, he was bigger and older than us younger guys, and there he was, with that flag, going down the street, singing a big song, and, uh, we got to looking for him the next morning. It -- we peeped in the window, and there he was, on his center loom. And we thought, well, that’s the way it goes, but [it here -- thank God?] (inaudible) [I guess it’s?] on the picket line, and the guys were beginning to drift back in, one at a time, and the -- I don’t remember what happened to me, whether I was -- didn’t care, or, uh, what happened, but it here, I thought, well, if I said I was going to stay with the guys, I’ll stay with them. And that’s what I’d done, and, this I say, uh, when I went back to my job, I didn’t have one, so, 15:00that’s the way it happened.

STONEY: OK, now I’m going to mention some people’s names, and I want you to respond. Foots Weaver?

LOGSDON: Well, best I can remember, he was the pre--

STONEY: At the top, not “he,” but, “Foots Weaver,” OK? Tell me about Foots Weaver.

LOGSDON: Uh, d-- Well, Foots Weaver, the best I can remember, was the president of the union. But, uh, as I say, I don’t remember too much about it, because we had our meetings, and -- and our secretary, and, uh, the president, and, uh, we listened, to see what the older people were having to say about -- as I said, there were [much of us?] young fellas that -- we didn’t know much about a hill of beans, we were doing what the other people were doing. So, uh --

16:00

STONEY: Did you go to any of the meetings, and where s-- tell us where the meetings were, and describe the meetings?

LOGSDON: You know, I -- I tried to remember that, I don’t remember --

STONEY: Remember what? The, t--

LOGSDON: I don’t remember where our meetings, if we had it at the labor hall, uh, but it here, we’d get together, and some of the -- they all had the discussions, what to do, what to do, but, I really, I don’t think there are fellas who wanted to go on a strike, because were satisfied, the company was -- they tried to stay a little bit ahead of the union, uh, but they never did discourage us about the union, because, uh, I think they paid a little better than union wages at that time. And they’ve alwa-- as far as I can remember, all the way back, they always did.

STONEY: Now, do you ever remember anybody in your factory talking against the 17:00unions, like the secondhands, or anything?

LOGSDON: I never heard anybody from the secondhand, or the boss weavers, uh, we would talk, of course, it --

STONEY: Now, start again, and say “I never heard anybody talk a-- against the unions,” all right? Now --

LOGSDON: I never heard anyone, uh, ever say anything against the union, as far as their bosses, or, superintendent, because, they were just one big family. We’d talked with a -- the president, if he come in, because he, he was -- I think he was a real nice man, and, uh, but, uh -- as I say, I think ours was a sympathy strike. It wasn’t because we were unsatisfied with our work.

STONEY: That’s exactly what that’s -- couldn’t have been said better. That’s a beautiful -- a short, precise – (break in video) just said, “Just get to right to it.” (laughter) That’s beautiful. OK, uh, let’s see what 18:00else we want. Uh, I’m going to read you -- oh yes, another person.

LOGSDON: I don’t know --

STONEY: OK, then we won’t do that.

(break in video)

M1: Speed.

STONEY: Tell us about Lucille Thornburgh.

LOGSDON: Well, Lucille Thornburgh, I don’t remember if she was the secretary of our union or what, but, uh, she was, like, the rest of us, I think she was young, and, uh, ambitious, and, uh, I think she thought she was doing the right thing too, just like the rest of us. And, uh, up to this day, I think she’s always been, uh, after she left the textile mills, I think she’s always been ambitious, and, like I was, I never was satisfied with what I had, I wanted a little more. So, uh --

19:00

STONEY: Well they keep talking in the papers about her -- the pretty Miss Lucille Thornburgh.

LOGSDON: Well, best I remember, Lucille was a -- a beautiful gal, a girl, and, of course, we called them “gals,” or whatever we wanted to call her, it didn’t make any difference to her. And, uh, I think, maybe, as time went on, she might turn out to be an organizer, um, because I lost track of her for years. But, the best I can remember, I haven’t been in contact with her in years and years, so I wouldn’t know Lucille, but I asked about her, and I off-- and, uh, I used to know her brother-in-law, and I’ve kind of kept up with her. She don’t know it, but I did. (laughter) But, uh, as I said, I haven’t seen her in years, uh, so, but, uh, we had a lot of beautiful girls, 20:00uh, that worked on the winders in different places in the mill. I always thought we had pretty girls, and, uh -- but they didn’t think it’s a disgrace to work in a -- they call it “cotton mills,” but I called it “textile mills.” And, of course, we never did call a Cherokee a cotton mill. It’s Cherokee Spinning Company. And, uh, as I say, I just think we was always just a big happy family.

STONEY: OK, Judy, take over.

M1: [Go ahead, sir?].

(break in video)

JUDITH HELFAND: It seems like a lot of people are ashamed of their union experiences, or ashamed of their family’s experiences, and won’t talk about it.

LOGSDON: Oh, I -- you know, I can’t see why anyone would be ashamed of working the -- in the cotton mill, or the textile mill, because that was an honest 21:00living. And you earned every penny you made, uh, but, in our section, nobody looked down their nose at anyone, because we were all equal. We was all trying to make a living.

HELFAND: Now, what about being ashamed about your union experience, 57 years after it happened, or not telling you that your sister-in-law was a member of the union?

LOGSDON: Well, you know, it’s hard to remember, uh, 50 years ago, but as far as the unions, uh, is concerned, uh, it was a big experience to me, As life go-- went on, because, in the later years, I went in business for myself, and, of course, I didn’t have a whole lot of people working for me, but, I expected them to work like I did, to earn their money. And, but -- as far as the 22:00union’s concerned, uh, I worked in Oak Ridge when I come out of the service, uh, but we didn’t have a union then, but, uh, later on, there is a union in Oak Ridge. But, uh, I never had any more experience with the union, after I left Cherokee.

HELFAND: OK. Some folks that we’ve met, they don’t want to talk about it at all.

LOGSDON: Well, you know, I can’t understand people being ashamed of what they done 50 years ago, because, uh, as I started off at 15 years -- oh, my dad said, “You’re a man?” He said, “When you go to work, and you don’t go to school,” he said, “you’ve got a long time to work.” Well, maybe other people didn’t understand that, or other young people, but when I went in the 23:00-- the cotton mills, it was a big experience to me, because I learned the work, and I learned how to take care of my money, it’s one thing, because I think the Depression caused that, and, uh, after I went into business for myself in the later years, I’ve hustled, I’ve worked, and I’ve earned every penny I’ve ever made, and I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done, as far as working in the cotton mill, or, whatever.

HELFAND: What about joining the union?

LOGSDON: Right, uh, when I joined the union, I was doing what the other people were doing. And, uh, I stayed with them, I done what I said I’d do, and, of course, a lot of my buddies didn’t do it. And as a lot of them didn’t do it, and they had to move on like I did to greener pasture. You know, I don’t 24:00know if, uh, if the weave shop was exactly the cause of the strike, but the weave shop was the leader of Cherokee Mill, because if we didn’t work, the other mill couldn’t work. So, uh, as I said before, I -- I don’t think, uh, we won the strike. But we done it in sympathy of other people, because I don’t think other people made the money we made.

HELFAND: Y-- you gave this very vivid description about the inside of the mill, and how it felt, and the moisture, and all of that. I --

LOGSDON: Well, you know, when -- in the weave shop, of course, in the spinning room, I guess it was the same way, because when those frame run, the spinning 25:00frames, and they -- the humidity, they had a big humidifier, was up overhead, and it was sprinkling water out, and sometimes, it -- it was almost like a shower. But, uh, they said we had to have it, uh, to -- so our warps, so our looms would rub, because our ends would break. They got too dry when the reed was going back and forth, and the harness had blown up, and then it -- is, uh -- warp was real dry, whatever. Your ends would break, and you couldn’t keep your looms running. But, we learned to live with it, we’d get in there, and we’d sweat, and, uh, I’d say it’s 80, 90 degrees, because they didn’t let y-- you couldn’t open the window. If you opened the window, there’d be some weaver over complaining about wind coming in, and making his job run bad. So, we all just sweated it out, and, that’s the way we done all -- all of us, we was all used to it.

26:00

STONEY: OK.

HELFAND: OK, [it’s definitely?] –

(break in video0

LOGSDON: Oh. Uh, back then, I thought we were all on a picket line. And, because there was people just mingling, and, you know, it’s about 500, about 500 employees, or 600 employees. And, of course, the street was full of people. And, uh, we had to be on both sides of the street, and then, when they called the police out, they made us get off the sidewalks, and we had to keep moving, and, uh, the next day, the injunction come along, and, of course, uh, whatever they said, that’s what we’d done. We never did have any trouble, as far as I know, there was never any trouble at, uh, at Cherokee.

27:00

(break in video)

LOGSDON: -- last, maybe when we all come out, we didn’t think it would last, and then we’d all go back together, or, I don’t remember exactly the details of it, uh, but, uh, anyhow, uh, the ones that wanted to go back with, is the ones that, uh --

HELFAND: Now, uh, tell me about the -- the constable again. I guess he was -- he -- the constable that did all that deputizing, was that in -- that was in response to that injunction, I imagine.

LOGSDON: Well, as far as -- as far as I know about -- can remember about that deal, uh, the policemen, the city police, I don’t know why they decided they didn’t want to stay there, uh, but anyhow, the company hired this constable, and he hired some deputy sheriffs. Uh, he deputized some guys, it wasn’t 28:00deputy sheriffs, he deputized some guys. And then they got out, and they walked up and down the sidewalks, and we had stayed out in the street across the road. And, uh, what happened after that, I don’t remember.

HELFAND: You -- you tell me that y-- it was that you all were pretty angry, because they were making us move from one side to the other, and that they -- you almost felt like a group of cattle, and they --

LOGSDON: Well, when the -- we always called him the old police chief, York, he’d come out there, and, I guess because he was the chief of police, that he could just say anything, or do what he wanted to do, in fact, he did. He just said, “you’ve got to keep moving,” and then, the first thing he knows, he moved everybody off the sidewalk, into the street. But, uh, I don’t remember too much about it, but nobody had any trouble, like, we might have 29:00“yeah-yeahed” him a little bit, give him a rough time when he was trying to push us off the sidewalk and onto the street. But, uh, as far as I know, nobody was ever arrested.

HELFAND: Was there any violence?

LOGSDON: Not that I know of. Everybody did some catcalls, a strike -- scabs, or something -- but if they were, I don’t remember.

HELFAND: What about those guys -- can you turn it off for a sec—

(break in video)

LOGSDON: [Strike?], and that’s the same times we were, and we’d visit them, and they’d visit us. But, of course, when the injunction come through, that stopped all of that. If we needed them to walk a picket line, I think they would have come, and if they needed us, we would have went over there. But, uh, they ended up winning their strike. And now coal has a strong union today.

HELFAND: OK. (break in video) [Helped?] form this union, certainly before the strike.

30:00

LOGSDON: You know, I don’t think any of us knew too much about a union. But, we all -- it was like a family, and the -- the amount of thoughts, we might have thought, that would have made a family stronger, by having a union. And, uh, as far as a stretch-out, we didn’t have that. The bosses didn’t hassle us, and the bosses didn’t have anything to say to us about the union, and, as far as I can say, the union might be good for some people, and some companies, or some organizations, but, at that time, Cherokee really, if they -- if we had come out on a sympathy strike, they might still ha--