Leona Parham and Etta Mae Zimmerman Interviews 3

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
Transcript
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Index
Search This Transcript
X
0:00

GEORGE STONEY: There were more than, oh, more than half, uh, were black.

LEONA PARHAM: Mm-hmm, well.

JUDITH HELFAND: Do you want to respond to that?

PARHAM: At lunch hour.

HELFAND: Twelve o’clock. Do you want to respond to their description of your flying squadron in Newnan?

PARHAM: Well I don’t remember them closing the mill at all. I’m not sure, that must have been, uh, the last -- the last squadron that was there because, uh, I did go one time to Newnan, we didn’t have any problems. Now, some of the people didn’t like it that we were there but they were people from -- who were not working in there, they had people working in the mill. And I guess they were just concerned that we might, oh, you know, do some damage or something but that -- that was not 1:00what we were there for in the first place. We just tried to get the people to come out on the strike. And we ju-- we were not there to force anybody.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you tell Judy --

HELFAND: What?

GEORGE STONEY: -- how far it is to Hogans-- from Hogansville to Newnan, and the fact that you used to live in East Newnan, and you knew a lot of the people inside the mills?

HELFAND: Thank you. Please, very good question.

PARHAM: Well, I did live in East Newnan one time. We came from East Newnan to Hogansville in 1924, and a lot of the people that were there that day were people that I had known practically all my life. And they seemed to think we had just all gone crazy or something, tried to turn on them, and they really didn’t understand what it was all about. That’s the 2:00way I feel about it is that they just didn’t understand because after the -- everything was settled later, we were all still friends.

GEORGE STONEY: Let’s try it again, and just first say that -- ask her -- tell her there was a -- ask them about -- sorry -- ask them about being outsiders. And then she can say, “Well, Hogansville is just 18 miles from Newnan, and we used to live over there,” and stuff, like try that.

HELFAND: OK. A lot of times when they’ve described the people that came over there, they say that they were outsiders who came in here but what we don’t -- you know, outsiders to us sounds like you live 50 miles away, so, and we knew Hogansmill is much -- Hogansville is much closer. So this time, could you explain, “I grew up there,” you might want to stop, Jamie. (break in video)

HELFAND: I’ll tell you when.

JAMIE STONEY: Go.

HELFAND: OK.

3:00

PARHAM: I grew up in East Newnan, Georgia. I went to school there, and I went to work there when, uh, my first job was in East Newnan. And I -- it’s a small place, and we knew everybody. Everybody knew everybody else, we were always, as far as I knew and still know, we’re friends. But when we went back up there on the flying squadron, they seemed to think that we had just turned against -- turned our backs on them, and we just wanted to bring trouble and chaos into their lives, which was the furthest thing from our minds. And the -- that -- that is the only trip I believe that I ever made to -- to 4:00Newnan ’cause -- but now I have been back but not on a trip like that ’cause Newnan is not that far away, it’s only 18 miles from Hogansville.

HELFAND: Now, a lot of people -- (break in video)

PARHAM: Well I don’t know where to start.

HELFAND: Well start with, “We weren’t outsiders,” maybe.

GEORGE STONEY: Yep, start with, uh, “It’s only 18 miles.”

HELFAND: Yeah, thank you. From Hogansville to Newnan, it’s 18 miles. Start from there, and then talk about how that would either make -- how that doesn’t make you an outsider or a Yankee.

PARHAM: Well, it’s only 18 miles from Hogansville to East Newnan or vice versa. And since I was brought up there, I certainly didn’t feel like an out-- outsider, and I don’t know why I should’ve been accused of being an outsider because I was really one of them. But they just got the wrong idea 5:00about it, they -- they thought we were there to force them out of the mill when all we ever wanted was to just get them to organize, and come out with the rest of us because it would have been good for them and for us and everybody concerned. Except the higher-ups who really wanted us to keep working like we were working, for peanuts.

GEORGE STONEY: Good. (laughter)

HELFAND: Great.

(break in video)

HELFAND: Pretend you’re back on that truck.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us how old you are, too.

PARHAM: I can’t even -- I can’t even imagine being on the back of a truck now. (laughter) How am I going to pretend I’m 6:00still (laughter), no, well, back then, it was nothing to climb up on a truck, and ride 50 miles but now I don’t even know where I am.

GEORGE STONEY: Now -- start --

HELFAND: OK.

GEORGE STONEY: -- the how old you were at the time.

PARHAM: Well, OK, I’m 82 now. (laughter) That was in ’34, how old was I? About 18? No, I was older than 18. I was probably 20. Oh, I was still a young person, and I -- I enjoyed doing things that -- well, being with crowds, being with people, and talking, and singing, and that’s what we did a lot of, you know, on the way there, and on the way back, we would sing, and, uh, OK, what do 7:00you want me to do?

GEORGE STONEY: (laughter)

HELFAND: What kind of songs did you sing?

PARHAM: Anything that was popular back then. ’Cause I -- I loved music, and I loved -- I used to like to sing, I used to -- could sing a little bit, but not -- no more. HELFAND: OK.

PARHAM: But --

HELFAND: Let’s shorten that, you just did that so -- (break in video)

PARHAM: Yes.

HELFAND: OK. So go with it, and do it in the first person, and be as tight and as vivid as possible. Take me on a trip.

PARHAM: Will you quit staring at me? (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: OK, you want me to get over there? (laughter) Leona?

PARHAM: No, I’ll --it’s OK, I’m just getting so hot though, I’m ’bout to die.

HELFAND: OK, we’ll be done really soon.

PARHAM: Well, you want to know what it was on those 8:00flying trips. Well it was fun. But it was always -- we were all so serious, and we did a lot of singing, the group liked to sing, we -- we talked a lot, we laughed a lot, we just enjoyed the trips. And, uh, we were just -- just out to try to help somebody else, we thought -- we thought it was good for everybody. But, uh, some of them didn’t seem to think so.

HELFAND: How old were you, were you married?

PARHAM: No, I was not married. I was 25 years old. I was not married until I was 28. And the funny thing about this was my father-in-law -- 9:00turned out to be my father-in-law -- run a store right up on [Laskew?] Avenue, and, uh, we traded with him at that time, but I never dreamed the first time that I’d ever marry his son. But you don’t ever know what’s going to take place. (laughter) Uh, in the future.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you meet your intended, uh, during that time?

PARHAM: No, I had known him since he wa-- uh, since I’d move to Hogansville, they were in store business when we moved to Hogansville, and we traded, uh, groceries -- you know, they took orders, I don’t know if you ever heard of that or not. But they took orders and delivered groceries to you [know?]. The weekends, you -- you went up and paid your grocery bill, and, uh, I knew Boots when he was just, uh, you might say a little boy because, uh, 10:00he grew up some after -- after I moved to Hogansville.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, now you, particularly, and I think your father and family were also not just in union business, but you were in the church, you were in the community, could you describe your family in terms of the whole community and all the things that you did? And tell it to, uh, Jamie.

PARHAM: Well, we --

GEORGE STONEY: “Our family, our family.”

PARHAM: -- our family, uh, believed in going to church, our mother and father had always taught us. And, uh, we went to church, oh, we went to all the social events, and always had 11:00something to do on a committee of some kind in the church. Well, I think that’s just about got it.

GEORGE STONEY: OK.

JAMIE STONEY: Why was your -- was your husband’s nickname Boots?

PARHAM: Well, I wondered that when I, you know, got used to the name of Boots. He is so -- his father had been grocery business for years, the -- in LaGrange, Georgia. They moved here in ’23, we moved here in ’24. And men would come in -- Boots hung around the store, his name was Robert but he hung around the store down there because, uh, well his mother died when he was three years old, and anybody’d come in, and drink a Coca-Cola or something, they’d always as-- you don’t 12:00remember it but back, I -- I remember when people used to say “Boots on so and so.” That means leave a little bit in the bottle for me. And Boots ca-- I mean he called boots on everybody who came in there and bought a drink. So they got to calling him Boots, and he just grew up with it. And some people never knew his name except, uh, well they knew his initials, it was

R. E. L. Parham. They didn’t know what his real name was.

GEORGE STONEY: How -- you worked in the mill most of your life I believe, you want to --

PARHAM: I would think so, mm-hmm.

GEORGE STONEY: Just explain that, after -- when did you went back in the -- when did you go back in the mills?

PARHAM: After I married, 13:00I -- I worked, uh, eight months I think, and, uh, we were expecting our first child when I came out of the mill. So I wanted to go back because I missed having my money, you know. (laughter) Wasn’t that much but I missed it anyway. And, uh, so I went back and got a job, worked eight months, and, uh, I got without anybody to look after my child, and I ask, uh, Mr. W-- [Muster Wills?]. I called him and ask him if it’d be all right for me to train somebody to watch my child because I couldn’t leave him with just anybody. And they said, “No,” he needed me now, and if I couldn’t come in just to draw my pay. So Boots said, “You go down there tomorrow and draw your pay.” 14:00And I never went back to work anymore after that.

GEORGE STONEY: What were -- when you and Etta Mae and your father continued in the union after -- after the strike was over, what did you do? We know that you --

PARHAM: Well --

GEORGE STONEY: -- went to testify for [Homer Welsh?], and all this, could you talk about what you did afterwards?

PARHAM: Now, I didn’t have -- I didn’t have to go to court, Etta Mae went to court but I didn’t. Well, everything was just normal after that, and we went back to work, and we didn’t have any, oh, hard feelings with the bosses, or -- well, we did get a -- a raise in pay, and we got an eight-hour day work -- work weeks.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you ever get anything like blacklisted, or did they --

PARHAM: No, sir.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Now, I want you to tell Judy about that 15:00 -- that after the strike was over, we went back in the mills, and nothing was ever said by the supervisors about it, if that was true, OK, tell Judy.

PARHAM: Well, we went back to work after the strike was over. And nothing was ever said about it. They accepted us back, and we were -- our record was never broken, so Etta Mae had a 40-year record down there before she came out of the mill, and actually she worked, I think, about 50 -- about 48? She worked a long time in the mill.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, how do you feel about the fact that -- tell us about your son. You had this long time in the mi-- Etta Mae, your family had a long time in the mills, tell what’s happ-- tell Judy what’s happened to your son.

PARHAM: I have two sons.

16:00

HELFAND: So tell me, what happened to Roger and the other one?

PARHAM: What happened to Roger?

HELFAND: Start with, “I have two sons,” and tell us what they do.

PARHAM: Well, I have two sons. And, uh --

HELFAND: Could you start that again, you’re touching the microphone dear.

M1: Yeah, she’s done that several, several times.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah.

HELFAND: OK. Start one more time, “I have two sons.”

PARHAM: I have two sons. And they’re both in textile. I never thought that -- I never wanted any of them to go into textile, not because I thought they were too good but I wanted something better for them than I had when I was growing up, and, um, working. But they both done real well, my oldest son is a president of Columbus Mills, he’s also a, uh, 17:00officer with the company, he has stock in the company. And he’s educated his son and his daughter, my daughter is working at -- well, my -- my grandson is working at the White House now but he is coming home, and -- and going back to college. My granddaughter is still working at the White House. And Roger has been working with Milliken, oh... I can’t remember the year but it -- he -- he went to Vietnam. He worked his -- he helped his father in the store until he went to -- in service, and then he spent a year in Vietnam, and he came home, and, uh, went to work for Milliken. And he’s had several promotions since he’s been with Milliken, 18:00and, uh, I think he’s doing real well. I have one daughter, Amy. And of course, they waited 11 years for that child, and she -- she’s had just about anything she’s wanted that money could buy. All right.

HELFAND: Is Roger in management?

PARHAM: Mm-hmm.

HELFAND: Can you --

PARHAM: You didn’t know that.

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah, so let’s --

HELFAND: Can you -- can you go back and say, “Roger works in -- in manage” --

GEORGE STONEY: I have two sons, uh, I never wanted them to go into textiles but they both went into textiles, and they’re both them in management, and tell her -- and one of them’s president of the mills, and they’ve got stock. But start, I had two sons, and then just tell us about that.

HELFAND: Just the sons, real tight.

PARHAM: OK.

HELFAND: But look at me, OK?

PARHAM: I had two sons, or we had two sons.

HELFAND: You still do, they’re alive, right?

PARHAM: Hmm?

HELFAND: We have two sons, right?

19:00

PARHAM: I said we have two sons. And I didn’t want either one of them to go into textile because I never told them that they shouldn’t do it. After they grew up, they -- they made their own choices but I said I did-- I just didn’t wanted -- I didn’t want them to have to work like I had worked when I was younger. And they both went into tex-- textiles. My oldest son is with, uh, Columbus Mills, he’s president of Columbus Mills, and he is -- he’s an officer with the company. He has two -- two children, and they’re both finished college. And my other son, Roger, went in service. And after he came 20:00out of service, he went to work for Milliken. And he’s -- I think he’s done real well because he’s had several promotions since he’s been with them. And, uh, they have one daughter, and she -- she’s had just about anything in any child in her circumstances could have. But she’s still a sweet person, just (laughter) loveable as she can be.

GEORGE STONEY: OK.

HELFAND: OK.

GEORGE STONEY: I think we (inaudible).

HELFAND: OK.

PARHAM: Well I have two daughters too. (laughter)

HELFAND: Can you stop Jamie?

(break in video)

PARHAM: Well I got halfway home, I left my key.

JAMIE STONEY: Good, cut.

PARHAM: Had to come back (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: Well -- could you --

21:00

PARHAM: Well I can go now that I told you everything that I had to tell you.

HELFAND: OK, Etta Mae, come sit down in this chair in front of me, OK?

JAMIE STONEY: Multiple [widths?]. This is a great -- this is a great shot, I got the monitor over, and then key stoning the imagines.

HELFAND: You’re OK? OK. So I want you to tell me about your belief in the union, how old you were, and what it was like to -- to be brought up by the -- to be rounded up by the National Guards and taken over to Fort McPherson. OK?

ETTA MAE ZIMMERMAN: You want me to tell you that now? OK. We went to Newnan that morning on a truck from LaGrange, I don’t even know who was driving it. But there were men and women on the truck. And we hadn’t been out there 22:00long till the National Guards come. And there’s a little boy coming up to me by the arm, told me, wanted me to get ou-- go down there, and get on that truck. I said, “For what?” And he said, “Well, I don’t know, all I know is they just told us to come pick up the ones that’s Newnan -- here at Newnan cotton mill,” so I just got on. But I found out that -- some of them already on there from Hogansville. If I’m not mistaken, there was one or two women from LaGrange, and the rest of them was boys and men. And one of the boys on there had lived in East Newnan but he told me when this stopped down here at the mill. “I bet you don’t know who I am but I know 23:00who you are,” I said, “You’re Travis [Whitman?].” He said, “Yeah, that’s right.” So we just tried to get them to come out under the sticks. They didn’t, they wouldn’t. I don’t think we ever lined up for ’em to come out (inaudible), till the guards come. We had no idea where we going, and those boys on the truck didn’t know either but then men driving the truck did know. And when we got turned up, we passed Fort McClellan or -- what was it Fort McClellan?

GEORGE STONEY: Fort McPherson.

ZIMMERMAN: McPherson.

HELFAND: If you (inaudible) --

ZIMMERMAN: We passed there--

GEORGE STONEY: Just say “we passed Fort McPherson.”

ZIMMERMAN: We went on up above.

HELFAND: OK.

ZIMMERMAN: And there wasn’t a thing up there but --

24:00

HELFAND: Can you start again? “We were on the trucks, and we got into Fort McPherson.”

ZIMMERMAN: We passed Fort McPherson.

HELFAND: OK, can you start again?

ZIMMERMAN: We got on the truck at Newnan, and the boy next to me said he didn’t know where we going. But we passed Fort McPherson, drove on up the hill a piece, and they turned off to a road where the soldiers had a barn or car-barn, there was two trucks and a car but we had to stand around there until they got ’em [empty?]. So I only want to know, “Well, where are we going to sleep?” One of them girls said, “Well, I don’t see 25:00nothing but the floor, do you?” But they did send army cot, Captain Bell come down and talk to us. And he told us because we was trying to make them people come out of the mill, but we know that -- he said, “I know you hadn’t -- I know y’all ain’t had nothing to eat, so I’m going to send and get you a sandwich,” and then there was a reporter come over there, he wanted to know the whole story. We just told him we wasn’t going to tell him anything ’cause they didn’t print it like it was told to ’em. They didn’t. Captain Bell came over, and talked to us, and said he was sorry but it was orders from Eugene Talmadge to 26:00bring us up there. He had no idea how long we was going to stay but if we behaved ourselves, we would not be mistreated. They brought us a sandwich about eight o’clock. I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before. (laughter) But I wasn’t that hungry either. But they did send cots out, and army blank-- army blankets. Each one of us had a cot to sleep on but the men -- I think Poppa had a cot but some of them men slept on the ground with army blankets. We were there one week. So that’s it, that’s the story.

27:00

HELFAND: Etta Mae, were you doing anything wrong? I mean, can you tell me -- I want --

ZIMMERMAN: We went up there to get ’em to come out of the mill and organize. But they didn’t, they wouldn’t. They thought we was up (laughter) to maul ’em with them sticks I guess, but we wasn’t gonna hit nobody. But we wasn’t up there very long till the guards come. Put us on that truck. But they sent a policewoman out there, well Captain Bell told us the night before there’d be a woman out there the next day to supervise us, but we had guards around the clock.

HELFAND: As I understand, there were at least 16 or more women with you, young women, a number of them from Hogansville. 28:00Can you talk about all of you as women, unionists, on that truck?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, I don’t remember who the-- Gassaway girl, I mean Calloway girl married.

HELFAND: OK, I -- you know, I -- you don’t have to mention specifics like that unless you want to mention, let’s say, the Horton girls because we see them in the pictures but could you talk about, you know, “I was with a group of women, and” -- and then take it from there. And maybe talk about how the reporter talked to these women, OK? Because I know that there was a whole group of you, and there’s a lot of pictures of you and all these other girls.

ZIMMERMAN: Well I know there was [Molly?] Granger, Minnie Carol, and three of the Horton girls, and me, and the Ca-- Gallo-- Galloway girl from Hogansville, and there’s -- if I’m not mistaken, there’s two from LaGrange. But there’s several 29:00from Sargent, Georgia.