Cleveland Walton and Richard Allen Interview

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

 GEORGE STONEY: Could you gentlemen tell me when you started working in the mills and what you did?

CLEVELAND WALTON: I started working in the mills in ’33 and worked up until ’64. Oh dear.

GEORGE STONEY: How old are you now?

WALTON: I’m 72. 72.

GEORGE STONEY: So how old were you when you started working in the mills?

WALTON: Uh. I was around like 42, something like that. About 42.

GEORGE STONEY: When you were working in the mills in ’33, could you tell me what you were doing?

WALTON: I was a sweeper. Started out as sweeper and then on and on I run cards 1:00some, (inaudible), pick up (inaudible), clean up and blow the top down. Then when all that done, do that and get out of there by four hours -- get four hours to do it.. (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: What did you do?

RICHARD ALLEN: I gathered twill and helped sweep. I did some of everything.

WALTON: That’s a special job.

ALLEN: Yeah, special. Put you on this. If you be short, then you go on his job until he come in, you see.

GEORGE STONEY: When did you start working in the mills?

WALTON: About -- let me see -- about ’38, ’38 when he started working in the mill.

ALLEN: And I didn’t pay no attention.

2:00

WALTON: He got sick and he had to quit. I worked longer than he did but he stayed --

GEORGE STONEY: In ’33 was the union in that mill?

WALTON: The union always tried to get in there, but they would never accept them. They wouldn’t do it. I don’t know. To my knowledge, five or six different times, but they wouldn’t accept a union. Every time the union tried to get in there you have to get a two or three cent raise, you know. (laughter) Sure did. They wouldn’t accept it.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember any strikes in your mill?

WALTON: Well, yeah. I do. Later you know for about two weeks they strike and then finally got together and went back. So that’s the only one I was in at the time; the only one I can remember up there.

GEORGE STONEY: When was that?

3:00

WALTON: That was -- uh. Fifty-three. Fifty-three.

GEORGE STONEY: Now what mill did you work in?

WALTON: Swift. On Sixth Avenue.

GEORGE STONEY: Now in ’33, ’34, there was a big strike in Swift. Do you remember that?

WALTON: That was ’34, I believe. That’s right. Thirty-four. Yeah, I remember something went on down there, I sure did, I sure did. But we was out of work, I was out of work a couple of weeks then, but they made an agreement and went back to work and got about a nickel raise and you know, everything got settled. (laughter) Every time the union try to come in, you know, we got a little raise. When I started working there, I worked 35 hours, me and 4:00(inaudible). When I quit work, retired, I was making $4.30; that’s all I was making. (laughter) My paycheck when I started working was about $28-$30 a week. That was seven days, too, that’s what I’m talking about.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you tell us about -- would the union let you be a member?

WALTON: Well the union -- they were marching around there, you know. They begging them to come on join ‘em, but they wouldn’t let ’em do it. They were scared they would lose their jobs. I got card signed, I did; several of them did, but it didn’t do no good. They didn’t try to come up there lately, but they definitely won’t accept them.

5:00

GEORGE STONEY: We’re trying to think now about 1934, you know, when you first started working in the mills, would the union let you -- as a black person -- be a member of the union?

WALTON: No. Not then. Sure wouldn’t, sure wouldn’t. You can’t do that. Sure wouldn’t.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you tell me about the -- just a moment we want to get this -- better let this get by first – (break in video) could you tell me about your -- how did you get along with the white people and the black people in the mills?

WALTON: Well we didn’t -- we was all separate, you know what I mean? The black folk -- they done the nasty work in there, you know? They had to wait on the whites and they had a time, you know, it had a thing in that truck there and they had a what do you call it -- a dope man come by and bring groceries, you 6:00know, when it was time to eat and we had to keep working until the white people got there and got what they want and paid him and then when all the white people got what they wanted -- all the best of it -- then he had a little whistle and he’ll blow it and (inaudible). Sure did. What’s left? That’s what happened.

GEORGE STONEY: Just a moment let the plane get across. (break in video)When we talked before about two gates, could you tell me that story again?

WALTON: I can. They had a front gate in the mill; it was the whole block wide and you come up to the front gate to come into the mill. We had to go way out there on 16th; the mill was on 15th, but we had to go on 16th and park. The white people had the parking lot and then we had to walk all the way a whole 7:00block and come in the back gate. Can’t go through that front gate -- and then he’d be -- ten minutes late and they’ll send you back home, sure would. And my job was right at the front gate -- I had to walk about a quarter mile to come around there and go back down to my job. (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: Now I’m going to ask you to tell that story again and to say that one gate was for white and one was for colored. Could you do that again?

WALTON: One was white and one was for black. The front gate -- the white people went in it. They come in and out it. The black folk all the way around and come down the back gate, sure did. Sure did. Sure (inaudible) did I didn’t go toward that front gate at all. Before I quit, you know, when I retired, we were all together then. Sure was. I had done it a lot of times, be late, the little 8:00whistle blow as soon as you get to the gate and then you had to go around -- and they had to let you in that gate and I’d be late for my job and I had to go way around and come back down to go to work. Then I had to go back round and go home. (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: Did you have the same experience?

ALLEN: Yes sir. We were together. I couldn’t tell you all of that. He can because I say this much, he decided to go around it was a straight half a mile, every bit, and then come back to our car.

GEORGE STONEY: Where did you live?

WALTON: [Kraut?]. Let me see, two, twelve, eight miles out 80.

GEORGE STONEY: You didn’t live in the mill village, then?

WALTON: Oh no.

9:00

GEORGE STONEY: Did any colored people live in the mill villages?

WALTON: Let’s see -- no, no. Sure didn’t. Sure didn’t.

GEORGE STONEY: So the mill didn’t furnish you with housing?

WALTON: No. No transportation neither. No bus run every hour. We walk in the mills, crossing the river over there. It didn’t go to the mill, we had to get there the best way we could; sometimes you be late and then had to come back and wait until the last bus run to go home. (laughter) We had a time, I guess we did. We sure did.

GEORGE STONEY: Now could you talk about what happened when that changed? Or has it changed?

WALTON: Well it changed since then. It changed. You can go anywhere you want 10:00to in this. They have a snack bar in every department, white and colored all sitting around a table and eat and everything. (inaudible) But the devil. Who-hoo. (laughter) Yes, siree.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you tell me when that change came and how it felt?

WALTON: Well it came along, let’s see -- uh -- about ’42. Everything went good, that’s true. Everything was good. Oh yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember when the blue eagle came in? The NRA, with Roosevelt, do you remember Roosevelt?

WALTON: I do.

GEORGE STONEY: Talk about Roosevelt. Tell me about Roosevelt?

11:00

WALTON: He was nice fella. He brought on big change. I was so glad. I’m telling you, I could’ve jumped that high. (laughter) He’s a nice guy. So nice.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell me about him.

WALTON: He was for the black folk. He was right with ’em. He sure was. He was right with ’em. Just all the way. Nothing wrong with it. I wish he was there now. (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: Don’t we all? (laughter)

WALTON: Sure do.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you ever write the Roosevelt’s?

WALTON: I never, never could write. When I was coming up I couldn’t go to school. My mom and dad made us work in the fields. I done that until I started working in the cotton mills; I never could go to school and get an education.

12:00

GEORGE STONEY: Did you, sir, did you get an education?

ALLEN: (inaudible) couldn’t read and write. I had to do where I could understand. (laughter) I had to go the hard way.

WALTON: Wasn’t then like it is now.

ALLEN: Like he said. Was nobody but me and my momma. I couldn’t go to school. I got big enough to go to school I had to go and plow like that. Fifty cents a day. I come on up, like he say, come on up. I had to go to work.

GEORGE STONEY: I’m sorry. Could you tell us about that again? Because the camera man didn’t quite get that. Tell about why you couldn’t go to school.

13:00

ALLEN: Well, all right. Nobody take care -- nobody but me and my momma and there wasn’t nothing coming in. I had to do some kind of work to bring in food to eat and see to my momma and myself getting something to eat.

GEORGE STONEY: So what did you do?

ALLEN: Plow. Plow for a white man. That’s right. Fifty cents a day, but he give me a dinner.

WALTON: Give him half and then pay the bills out of the other half. (laughter) Sure did.

JAMIE STONEY: How big were you when you started plowing? How old were you when you started working?

ALLEN: I don’t know. I don’t know. My momma ain’t never told me. I had to ask momma, “People are asking me how old are you? You never tell me. You tell me born in March, but I don’t know more then than I did.” You understand don’t you? Tell me I was born in March; she didn’t know.

14:00

GEORGE STONEY: Now we were with a fella yesterday he was telling us -- showing us -- where the Ku Klux Klan used to operate -- could you remember -- do you have an remembrance of the Ku Klux Klan?

WALTON: I sure do. I know several people who went to the house and you know blindfold them, masks on, brought ’em -- the Ku Klux Klan right out here. That was way out there they got the man -- got a momma -- a momma, son and daughter -- all out of one house one night. Beat ’em up and left ’em in the woods. Sure did. Everybody know who it was and nothing happened. Sure did. I sure do. I remember that.

15:00

GEORGE STONEY: Now. What’s that? OK. Well that’s all right. Could you talk about the Klan?

ALLEN: The time?

GEORGE STONEY: The Klan.

WALTON: The Ku Klux Klan, you know the time when they beat (inaudible) and that’s what he wants.

ALLEN: I don’t know nothing about it but this hood about it. The hood got beat up. That’s all I can say about that.

WALTON: That’s who it was. That’s who it was. (inaudible) nobody knows. (laughter) Sure did. Sure did. And they really done that -- along that time they was -- her son was messing around with a white woman and they found it out 16:00and they got him and they got his sister and they got his momma too; his daddy was dead. They brought up him up down that hill and they killed ’em, sure did.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember about when that was?

WALTON: Let’s see. About -- that was along about ’31. Sure was. About ’31. I can remember it. Thirty-one. Thirty.

GEORGE STONEY: Were there klanspeople in the mill?

WALTON: If they did, I never did hear nothing about that. I imagine they would, though, ’cause anybody know who they was. (laughter) All of them were Klan 17:00along them times, sure was. Didn’t nobody know.

GEORGE STONEY: What about the company guards in the mill? Did they have their own police?

WALTON: They did. They sure did.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us about that.

WALTON: Well they, they -- uh -- they had -- he had two in our part you know -- they called them guards. When I come out, they were searching, seeing what you had in your pocket. You better not have something in your pocket. (laughter) Yes, sir, they sure would. You couldn’t come out of that gate with nothing. You better show that when you walk in. That’s the way it was. We had a rough time.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell me about some of your bosses in the mill.

18:00

WALTON: Well, Cecil Wiley -- he dead -- he was a white guy and he had been a dirty rascal and Pat Crockett -- he was pretty good, you know, and he was better than Cecil. But Cecil was who-hoo. (laughter) Couldn’t get along with that man. Couldn’t satisfy him at all. He was our overseer walk, walk. Crockett -- he was pretty good at times; he was a devil too. He was better than him. That was a dirty white man. (laughter) Everybody was glad when he died; I was. (laughter) Yes, sir. I’m telling you. Sure was.

GEORGE STONEY: Were there any black supervisors?

19:00

WALTON: No, sir. No way. Not now. Sure wasn’t. Not now.

GEORGE STONEY: You worked in that mill until you were how old?

WALTON: I retired at 62 and then I worked about -- I worked about two years part-time, didn’t take out or nothing -- the boss man he liked me pretty good. He was a devil too, but me and him got along pretty good. He’d call me and I’d go in -- help him get samples and stuff. He was pretty good at times. (laughter) That’s true. When they got on 12 hours, I quit. I come on in. I got the retirement check coming in, Social Security.

20:00

GEORGE STONEY: Now your daughter has been telling us about all the work you’ve done since you retired; could you tell us about that?

WALTON: Well I get up in the morning time, pick up cans, do my little carpentry work back there and then I go -- walk like three hours or more and come back home. Sometimes I have (inaudible) four or five hours. I’m thankful. (inaudible) Sometimes I made about $3. I do that exercise; I can’t just sit down and hold my hand. (laughter)

ALLEN: Not when you’re used to working.

WALTON: That’s true.

ALLEN: Go hard.

WALTON: Oh yeah. That’s what I do every morning. Get my sack and get cans.

GEORGE STONEY: She was telling me about your building on to this house. Could you talk about that?

WALTON: Well I -- I hired some of it -- but the big of it I did, you know. I wasn’t able to pay high-price carpenters. (laughter) A friend, up here, from 21:00that boy where you took his picture at -- he has some of those old (inaudible) -- he made me a good deal on -- he let me have a $7 a hundred. I bought 2600 from him. That was about the biggest expense I had. The rest of it come in and give a little hand.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Now both of you are retired; what do you want to do now? What do you see in your future?

WALTON: Well, there ain’t hardly nothing I wouldn’t do if I were able, but I ain’t able to do nothing now. (laughter) I just ain’t able; I want to do things, but I just …

22:00

GEORGE STONEY: Now could you go back and remember what it was like when you were first in the mill and could you describe it to me because I’ve never been in one of those places. So just tell me about the dust and the heat and so forth.

WALTON: Well, it was about a -- I worked in there about three, about five years before they put in air conditioning in there. They had a window fan -- in that heat -- Lord have mercy -- who-hoo. You go in there, before you change clothes and leave the bathroom, you’d be sweating, and they wouldn’t allow you no -- (inaudible)the overseer had turn the fan on, knock the hands down -- too much air and cut ’em off. Then they put the air conditioning in (inaudible) about 23:00a year before -- (inaudible). (laughter) That’s so. They did that. We did that.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you tell me about -- did either one of you break bales in the picker room?

WALTON: Bale of cotton?

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah.

WALTON: I did, I did.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you tell me about that?

WALTON: Well you had a buggy -- you know that you push, you know -- you go and take the handle, put it over there and dump it out. They have a hook -- about that long -- put a hook and the bale will come along and take that hook (inaudible) --. (laughter) Then you had to go over and fold it there and pick up a big piece, this big, and drop in the hopper. I done that for years.

24:00

GEORGE STONEY: Was that dusty and was there a lot of lint in the air?

WALTON: Oh yeah, that’s where the dust started -- in the picking room -- what you called it -- that’s where the dust began. And then when you get ready to clean up -- blow all that top down, it be -- stuff on the floor that thick. You can’t see. It’s in there. You had to do it. Sure did.

GEORGE STONEY: OK.

JAMIE STONEY: You want to hold up one sec.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. I want you to tell me again what the picker room was like because we had the wrong light on you then.

WALTON: The picker room. Had a big old hopper; longer than that pick-up there. 25:00You stepped through the cotton and had a big gate up on the back and throw the cotton in and go up on a wide belt until you get to the -- what they called it -- clean cotton. That’s where all the dust came in there. You get all that trash and then -- one bale of cotton -- some of them weigh 600 or 700 pounds -- (inaudible) and one it was eight hoppers -- you had to keep them loaded. There was one you had to bring cotton in, open it up and feed them hoppers for thirty cents an hour. (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: Can you talk about the dust and the lint? And what it was like to breathe it in.

WALTON: Well that dust -- he run a lot of people -- you know -- I know some people they’ll retire. They’ve been back to the doctor with that dust on them; sure did. It damaged my health. He cut that noise down some, though. 26:00Right now, I have ringing in my ear right now.

ALLEN: I can’t hear good.

WALTON: He’ll get you.

ALLEN: Rolling in my head.

GEORGE STONEY: Did either one of you have any trouble with brown lung?

WALTON: I have it. I sure do.

GEORGE STONEY: A lot of people have had that. Do you remember the company doctor?

WALTON: His name -- what’s that doctor’s name?

ALLEN: Hh-mm?

WALTON: What that doctor name over there in the mill?

ALLEN: The doctor?

WALTON: Yeah. Dr. (inaudible) that was him. (laughter) Sure was. That was him. Dr. (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: Did you ever use him or get to know him at all?

WALTON: I used him. He was just about my family doctor. All the children was 27:00working in the mills. (inaudible) He took all of them.

GEORGE STONEY: Now could you talk about how many children you’ve had?

WALTON: 15.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you just tell me, “Well I had...”

WALTON: Hh-mm?

GEORGE STONEY: Start out from the beginning and just tell me about all of your children, how many you had and so forth.

WALTON: Call their names?

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah.

WALTON: See. When I was working in the mill, he laughed at me. He tell me about two to three weeks to get all them children’s name and age and stuff. (laughter) I finally get them; I may miss some of them. Let’s see, the oldest one is named Elizabeth and the next one is Mildred and the next one is [Louise?] --

28:00

F1: Mary. Her name is Mary.

WALTON: Huh? Mary.

F1: Mary Lou.

WALTON: Maylo. I told you I’d forget it. (laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: Just tell me again -- just say, “I’ve had so many children, so ahead.”

WALTON: Fifteen.

GEORGE STONEY: Just say -- I need to have you say, “Well I’ve had 15 children.”

WALTON: Well I had 15 children, sure did. Fifteen.

GEORGE STONEY: How many of them worked in the mill?

WALTON: Uh. All of them. Every one of them, sure did. I got all of them jobs there. They were all working there.

GEORGE STONEY: Now did your parents work in the mills?

WALTON: No. They never worked in the mills.

GEORGE STONEY: Did your folks ever work in the mills?

ALLEN: Mmm-ummm

GEORGE STONEY: So you’re both farm boys?

WALTON: That’s right.

GEORGE STONEY: Well now, when you move -- when you move from the farm to the 29:00mill, was there anything you missed? Could you talk about moving? What was it like to move from the farm to the mill?

ALLEN: Well, all I can see is (inaudible) until I went to the mill, but when I went to the mill, I had a little money. That’s why I wanted to get in there so bad.