Angie Rossner, John Rossner, and Doris Shavers Interviews

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

(traffic noise)

JAMIE STONEY: Im going to the sign

00:01:00

M1: Yeah.

JAMIE STONEY: I thought you came out already.

(break in video)

M1: Start over and come back in?

JAMIE STONEY: Right there.

00:02:00

M1: OK, and then (inaudible) Oh, OK.

JOHN ROSSNER: Well, you look like you worked hard last night.

ANGIE ROSSNER: I got to pull my shirt off because (inaudible).

JOHN ROSSNER: Howd it go with (inaudible) on your side?

ANGIE ROSSNER: As usual, it fell on the floor.

JOHN ROSSNER: Really. Mine didnt do nothing -- as usual. (laughter)

ANGIE ROSSNER: That must be nice. You got the key.

JOHN ROSSNER: Its unlocked.

ANGIE ROSSNER: Oh, you waiting for me to go in?

00:03:00

JOHN ROSSNER: Yes. Waiting on you. (break in video) Made up for Friday night.

ANGIE ROSSNER: Nathan caught me out in the parking lot. He said that John Jones told him that he tore up his warning. I asked him, Did he say he [tear up?] warning? He said, No, and I said, You better ask to see your file.

JOHN ROSSNER: Well, I wouldnt worry about that because I had an hour long discussion with John Jones in his office last night about Nathan (inaudible). Nathan [interrupted?]. [They had?] to fill out a warning sheet.

ANGIE ROSSNER: Really?

JOHN ROSSNER: Yeah, because it was clerical error. Thats the only reason he got his warning tore up.

ANGIE ROSSNER: Thats what he told me. He told me he was going to keep it in mind and he was going to ride his backside and --

00:04:00

JOHN ROSSNER: Well, I didnt get a chance to go back there and talk with Nathan, but I will tonight because he is seriously on the hit list.

ANGIE ROSSNER: He was telling me, he said he tore it up. I said, You better check file. You better ask to see your file. You know how that (inaudible).

JOHN ROSSNER: I wouldnt ask to see my file for another couple of months.

ANGIE ROSSNER: (laughs) You think he better put it off for a while, huh?

JOHN ROSSNER: Yeah.

ANGIE ROSSNER: I know hes been staying in trouble a lot.

JOHN ROSSNER: But I heard through the grape -- you know that John Jones is on top of Lloyd about that?

ANGIE ROSSNER: Yeah.

JOHN ROSSNER: So I went ahead and (inaudible) because it might have been two or three more weeks and by that time he would have got another warning.

ANGIE ROSSNER: Well, he thought that Lloyd wouldnt talk to him anyway. I told him Id talk -- find out whats going on.

JOHN ROSSNER: The best thing to do is just let it go. Because hes lucky he got it tore up.

00:05:00

ANGIE ROSSNER: Is this the answers to our last third steps?

JOHN ROSSNER: Whered you get that? Out of your box?

ANGIE ROSSNER: Yeah.

JOHN ROSSNER: I guess. Whats the names?

ANGIE ROSSNER: Uh, well, wait a minute. Ill find it in a second when I wake up here. Levon, Levon Griggs. You know that was our last third steps, or was that our (inaudible)?

JOHN ROSSNER: Yeah, his was denied. But you know (inaudible) Peters --

ANGIE ROSSNER: Denied? How could they deny harassment?

JOHN ROSSNER: It was the other part that went with it.

ANGIE ROSSNER: Oh, (inaudible) down here it says supervisor has been instructed not to use profane or abusive language when addressing employees. (laughs) I know theyre going to listen to that now.

JOHN ROSSNER: Cecil (inaudible) and thems got lawyers [out here?].

ANGIE ROSSNER: Who?

00:06:00

JOHN ROSSNER: By the way hes been cussing everybody out.

ANGIE ROSSNER: Who does?

JOHN ROSSNER: Cecil (inaudible) on first shift.

ANGIE ROSSNER: Was he a fixer?

JOHN ROSSNER: Hes -- hes one of Earls crew. They do everything, fix and scrub, and putting new [styles?] and stuff like that. And he didnt want to work the week -- the week we were off -- laid off --

ANGIE ROSSNER: Yeah, I heard about that.

JOHN ROSSNER: And he went up to talk to Dick [Reese?] and now Dick Reese is going to have a conversation with Earl.

ANGIE ROSSNER: But what about the lawyer (inaudible)? You said something about a lawyer, didnt you?

JOHN ROSSNER: Yeah, because from what I hear somebodys going to file some kind of lawsuit against him or something or against the company. I think Earls fixing to have an early retirement.

00:07:00

ANGIE ROSSNER: Did they have mine in there so (inaudible)?

JOHN ROSSNER: They should have all of those (inaudible).

ANGIE ROSSNER: But its not. Lets see, we have Levons and Johns, (inaudible), (inaudible), Levon.

JOHN ROSSNER: Thats from the second (inaudible).

ANGIE ROSSNER: Well, I dont know how they would answer mine anyway. How would they answer mine? That was about (inaudible).

JOHN ROSSNER: I thought I saw an answer for your third shift somewhere.

ANGIE ROSSNER: I saw a second [step?] answer. They were going to try to --

00:08:00

JOHN ROSSNER: Ive already (inaudible).

ANGIE ROSSNER: (inaudible) taken it in.

JOHN ROSSNER: Oh, Johns got witnesses that say that --

(break in video)

JAMIE STONEY: Rolling.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, Aunt Doris, you want to tell us about where you were born and moving into the town and so forth?

DORIS SHAVERS: I was born in Ozark, Alabama and we moved to Richland, Georgia and lived there for about four years and then I moved to Columbus, Georgia, and then I went to work in the cotton mill. And the first job I had in the cotton mill, I worked one day and I didnt even go back and get my pay. (laughs) It had no air conditioning and my clothes were dripping wet when I came out, and I 00:09:00understand that theyve improved now, that they do have air conditioning, but they were not air conditioned at that time.

GEORGE STONEY: What about the lint?

SHAVERS: And the lint was terrible in the air and how they had humidifiers and the lint and the moisture would make -- the moisture on the body would make the lint stick to the body more and to the face, and you had to constantly wipe your face from the lint.

ANGIE ROSSNER: It always feels like bugs crawling on you when it sticks to your face.

SHAVERS: Yes, it does.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you have any health problems because of the --

SHAVERS: Well, I dont know. I imagine I do. Ive had a little problems with my lung and I have had a little bit of asthma and a few bouts with (inaudible) problems, one was pneumonia and -- but I dont know -- it could be 00:10:00from that.

GEORGE STONEY: You were talking when we were here before, I think you were talking about the brown lung association -- people getting signed up for that. Could you talk about that?

SHAVERS: Well, yes, they had a church on Second Avenue. It was an Assembly of God church that they set up a place and tested the people for brown lung, and some of the people were afraid to go and get tested, but some of them did go down and get tested and checked for it.

GEORGE STONEY: Why were they afraid?

SHAVERS: I imagine they were afraid that their foremen wouldnt like it or the mill people wouldnt like it, but I dont know. But I imagine thats why they were fearful. Some of them were afraid to be seen down there getting the 00:11:00test made.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you talk about that fear? You mention fear several times.

SHAVERS: Well, there was really a fear that people felt like they needed a job, and they were afraid that they would lose their jobs if they said anything or did anything that the company disapproved of -- that the mills disapproved of.

GEORGE STONEY: What made you so pro-union?

SHAVERS: Well, I dont know why. I think that its needed to ensure healthier places to work and fairer treatment sometimes --

GEORGE STONEY: Im sorry, could you start over and say, I think we need unions for.

SHAVERS: I think that we need unions for that reason that it makes for better 00:12:00work environments, and it makes for better treatment to the people. That you need -- like we need the air and the environment looked over. We need the people that looks over, watches over that, too.

GEORGE STONEY: Now you were talking when we were here before about Columbus and unions. What do you think about the local newspapers? Was the newspaper pro-union? Talk about all that and the town.

SHAVERS: I dont think that they -- the newspapers would be for a union. I didnt -- just reading I wouldnt think that from what I rad. I wouldnt believe that they would be for unions. I dont think they have a union.

GEORGE STONEY: What about the politicians in the town?

00:13:00

SHAVERS: Well, Im thankful that they turned over every few years. We just had a turn over, and I was kind of proud of that, that the politicians dont get to stay there very long. And they -- thats one good thing for the people, we can change them.

GEORGE STONEY: You were -- when I was here before you were talking about the difference between the South, which didnt have unions, and the North that did have unions.

SHAVERS: Well, yes, I had a few friends that they left the South and they went North and they came back driving Cadillacs and people in the South couldnt afford to drive anything hardly, and we had that war come up and after the war a lot of people went to the North and they worked in union jobs and they came back and they were much better off. They were able to come back and buy South then and a lot of them have done exactly that. They worked in the unions in the 00:14:00North and now theyre back buying in the South. The Southern people that stayed here all the time, they cant.

JAMIE STONEY: Hows this sound? Train.

GEORGE STONEY: Its all right. (inaudible)

M: We can tell what she said.

GEORGE STONEY: Sure, thats (inaudible).

JAMIE STONEY: How do you feel about Angie working with the union?

SHAVERS: I think its a good thing for Angie to work with the union. She -- I think shes doing a good job.

GEORGE STONEY: I know this -- weve got to wait until the train passes. (train horn)

ANGIE ROSSNER: I remember me and (inaudible) used to go down there and watch that train.

(break in video)

00:15:00

SHAVERS: I just had an interesting story that I read to my grandchildren about this -- made it to the (inaudible) in some way, but he was from Chandler, Georgia and said that he lived next to the railroad track and it taught him how to tell time, how to count, how to multiply.

GEORGE STONEY: OK.

JAMIE STONEY: As you were saying, what do you think about Angies working with the union?

SHAVERS: I think its a good think for Angela and we need young people to do that.

GEORGE STONEY: Sorry, then I think its a good thing for Angela to work for the unions.

SHAVERS: I think its a good thing for Angela to work for the union.

GEORGE STONEY: Go ahead and add why.

SHAVERS: Well, we need the young people to take an interest in these things and carry on. The older people thats been interested are getting too old to keep it up, so we need young people to carry on.

00:16:00

ANGIE ROSSNER: As far back as I can remember shes always talked about the union, and dont get in no mills without no union. You get in -- if youre going to get in them old cotton mills, you can get in one thats got a union. She used to scold her daughter for getting in a cotton mill that didnt have a union. Tried to get her to get out of there, and get in one that had a union or shes going to have to go back.

GEORGE STONEY: And Doris, some people have talked to us, used the term lint heads and they resented or had -- could you talk about that? How other people felt about it.

SHAVERS: Well, yes, I could tell about a distant relative. We were at a funeral and you dont want to laugh at a time like this, but he told me -- or I asked him where he was working and he had finished school and gone to college and he -- I asked him where he was working and he told me and I said, Last time I heard from you, you was working in a cotton mill. He said, Do you 00:17:00know, he said, Until I went in that cotton mill and worked a few days, I felt like my parents had good sense, but after I worked in there a few days, he said, I began to wonder about them. And I couldnt help but laugh right there in the cemetery lot because he was wondering about them working so hard and sweating so profusely to make a living for the family in that cotton mill. And he told me, he said, Im glad I found my way out of the cotton mill.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you go to school with people who looked down on you because you were connected with the mills?

SHAVERS: Well, I was out of school before I was in a community where the people would do that, but Im sure that they did look down. In Columbus Im sure they did because they had a place called [Burgerville?] and then they had the mill villages and I had people to tell me that they were looked down on them by 00:18:00the middle class and upper class people. And there was a few marriages from -- that I can recall where a young lady wanted to marry a young man that worked in the cotton mill, and that didnt go over good with the family. So I know that they did look down on him, and they felt that you didnt have to have any intelligence to work in there.

ANGIE ROSSNER: And whats so funny is some of our best educated people are in that mill.

SHAVERS: Well, thats true.

ANGIE ROSSNER: And people ask -- especially nowadays, like John has got a bachelor in computer science and hes in the mill and weve got people thats got all kinds of degrees thats in there.

(break in video)

00:19:00

GEORGE STONEY: One thing that I think we can get a little bit better if -- and Doris, I want you to tell Angie about what it was like when you first went in the mills how the breathing and so forth. I know you told her, but once more and then Angie, I want you tell her what its like, how much faster the machines were so that she --

ANGIE ROSSNER: We already discussed all of that.

GEORGE STONEY: -- had her problems, but youve got your problems, too. And I want you to show us your hands and explain what -- show her your hands and explain whats happened to you because of the machines are moving so fast. And finally, get to the -- what theyre trying to do now about the 12-hour day. I know thats a lot and well see how it goes.

ANGIE ROSSNER: OK.

JAMIE STONEY: And were going.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, ask her about what it was like when she first went in the mills.

ANGIE ROSSNER: Aunt Doris, what was it like when you first went in?

SHAVERS: When I first went in I went in as a spinner and it was a lot of cotton, a lot of lint flying around. They had humidifiers and no air conditioning, and 00:20:00they had doffers that doffed the thread off when the spinners got through with it. They put them in huge boxes and you stopped the machine off and doff it off and they put it in those boxes and roll it to the next place that they worked on it. But it was really hot and full of moisture, and they had to have the moisture to make the thread twist, and it made the cotton lint stick to your body more because of the moisture.

ANGIE ROSSNER: You didnt have any kind of air at all? Didnt have fans or did you have fans?

SHAVERS: I dont recall any fans. It didnt feel to me like they had them. They might have had them but it might have been much worse without them, but I didnt see any fans, and they had blowers in there, but I didnt see any fans.

ANGIE ROSSNER: I believe they used to have open windows, didnt they?

00:21:00

SHAVERS: They would open the window and the people that worked in the weave shed would really complain and people that spinning would really complain because then your ends came down more if you caught somebody opening the window. You couldnt make as much production and it would kind of upset you. I can remember that.

ANGIE ROSSNER: I went to the weave shed -- Ive been with Hillcrest for 11 -- well, Im going on 11 years this year -- but Ive been in the weave shed for three years and theyve got air conditioning sometimes if youre lucky. Sometimes they dont. The humidifiers are still there. The conditions, I dont think, are that much better really because whenever the air conditioning breaks down, which is about once a week at least, you end up with your floors wet and youre soaking wet with that lint sticking to your face and your machines starts [stopping?] off and tearing down and Ive got scars where 00:22:00Ive tore my hands slap up where I was trying to get a quill out from the loom where --

SHAVERS: I see your hand, kind of had it rough.

ANGIE ROSSNER: Next day swollen most of thetime. But the scars are all there. Dont even look like womens hands. They look like a mans hand, calloused and --

SHAVERS: Thats hard work.

ANGIE ROSSNER: I just -- the conditions I dont think thats much better there. Theyre talking about going to high speed looms but were still using them (inaudible) looms, and from what I understand 36 years -- one of the ladies at works been there, she said theyve been there ever since shes been there.

SHAVERS: Well, theyre tall, slow looms.

ANGIE ROSSNER: I run the big looms. I run the 66-inch looms that makes two towels, two full size towels at a time which you can make better money on the big looms if you can keep them running. I havent had a -- I havent been 00:23:00doing a very good job with that lately. They been staying tore up a lot and the humiditys been messed up and the air conditioning tore down a lot lately. The floors will get so wet whenever you walk across the floor when the air conditioning is down your feet will go out from under you if youre not careful.

SHAVERS: I hope itll get better for you.

GEORGE STONEY: Aunt Doris, could you talk about some of the people that you got to know in the mills?

SHAVERS: Well, I met a lot of people in there that I thought were fine people and they just needed to work for a living and it was hard work but they had been used to working on farms and it was hard on the farms, too, so they felt that they were doing a lot better for themselves working in there. I know youve heard that old song Cotton Mill Blues and some people they got here and I 00:24:00guess they couldnt get away from the mills and they just stayed and made a lifetime career of it. They lived and died in there. I know a lot of people thats retired from there and they felt that it was good for them, but you just dont know.

ANGIE ROSSNER: The shame of it is that you get in there and you make the money for awhile and you make good time and good money for awhile, and the next thing you know, theyve snatched the rug out from under you, put you on three days and then you have to hawk yourself to the company -- the union -- or to the credit union and borrow yourself in a hole and then you have to work six or seven days and all kinds of 12-hour shifts and everything else just to catch up if youre lucky, which I havent done yet.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you explain the fact that theyre going into -- theyre 00:25:00trying to go into the 12-hour regularly now. I dont think she knows that.

ANGIE ROSSNER: Theyre trying to come up with -- whenever they bring in them new looms, they want to start a 12-hour shift, continuous shift, and its going to make it really hard on a lot of people with childcare and the older people thats been there many years, I dont think theyre going to be able to hold out to that kind of thing. But the way its been put to us, if we dont accept these 12-hours shifts, theyll take the looms and move them up north where they can get somebody to run them 12 hours a day. And well get -- itll -- I think most of the textiles around here has gone to that now, the 12-hour shifts.

SHAVERS: I think theyve gone to that, the 12-hours shifts theyre on about three days or three and a half or something like that and then theyre off about three and a half. And I imagine when youre working hard, about eight of those hours is all you can take. Four more would be a real hardship.

00:26:00

GEORGE STONEY: Could you talk about being in the mills and also trying to have a family?

SHAVERS: Well, I really didnt work in the mill when my children were coming up, but I knew a lot of people that did and they had a hard time. They would have to -- one work on one shift and take care of the children while the other one was working and the one stayed home and worked on maybe the third shift and slept in the day time and let the children kind of play around because they couldnt afford to pay somebody to keep them. So, thats the way a lot of people that I knew -- my aunt and uncle, they would -- one work on one shift and the other the other one and then they would have one leaving when the other one was coming and itd just be a few minutes that they would need somebody to watch them.

00:27:00

ANGIE ROSSNER: Its not that much different now, though. Thats the sad part about it. We still have husband and wife teams that have children that they still do that and arent lucky enough to be able to have somebody take care of their kids because theyre in the same hole the rest of us are especially when were on short time working three days and four days a week and be laid off the next week.

GEORGE STONEY: Aunt Doris, do you remember anything just specific about that 34 strike? You were talking about people being especially afraid.

SHAVERS: Well, I can just remember that they were fearful --

GEORGE STONEY: Lets start with the 34 strike and then --

SHAVERS: In the 34 strike they were fearful of -- some of them lived in the mill villages, and they were fearful or they were afraid that they might have to move or they -- it was something that they had a reason to be fearful of. It 00:28:00involves their shelter and their food and the whole works.

GEORGE STONEY: Were they worried about being blacklisted?

SHAVERS: They sure were.

GEORGE STONEY: Start over and tell me about that.

SHAVERS: Well, they were afraid that if they were found out that they were interested in the union that they would be what they called blackballed and they would have to go somewhere else or somewhere else to work and of course a lot of them didnt have anything but farm experience other than their cotton mill experience and I guess they were fearful of that. And a lot of them didnt have much education. A lot of the people that due to the Depression had had to quit school and go to work just to help the family survive and I can --