Angie Rossner, John Rossner, and Doris Shavers Interviews

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

 (traffic noise)

JAMIE STONEY: I’m going to the sign

1:00

M1: Yeah.

JAMIE STONEY: I thought you came out already.

(break in video)

M1: Start over and come back in?

JAMIE STONEY: Right there.

2:00

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: How’d it go with (inaudible) on your side?

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

JOHN ROSSNER: Really. Mine didn’t do nothing -- as usual. (laughter)

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

JOHN ROSSNER: It’s unlocked.

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

3:00

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 wouldn’t 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. That’s the only reason he got his warning tore up.

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

4:00

JOHN ROSSNER: Well, I didn’t 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 wouldn’t 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 he’s 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 wouldn’t talk to him anyway. I told him I’d talk -- find out what’s going on.

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

5:00

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

JOHN ROSSNER: Where’d you get that? Out of your box?

ANGIE ROSSNER: Yeah.

JOHN ROSSNER: I guess. What’s the names?

ANGIE ROSSNER: Uh, well, wait a minute. I’ll 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 they’re going to listen to that now.

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

ANGIE ROSSNER: Who?

6:00

JOHN ROSSNER: By the way he’s been cussing everybody out.

ANGIE ROSSNER: Who does?

JOHN ROSSNER: Cecil (inaudible) on first shift.

ANGIE ROSSNER: Was he a fixer?

JOHN ROSSNER: He’s -- he’s one of Earl’s crew. They do everything, fix and scrub, and putting new [styles?] and stuff like that. And he didn’t 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, didn’t you?

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

7:00

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

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

ANGIE ROSSNER: But it’s not. Let’s see, we have Levon’s and John’s, (inaudible), (inaudible), Levon.

JOHN ROSSNER: That’s from the second (inaudible).

ANGIE ROSSNER: Well, I don’t 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 --

8:00

JOHN ROSSNER: I’ve already (inaudible).

ANGIE ROSSNER: (inaudible) taken it in.

JOHN ROSSNER: Oh, John’s 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 didn’t 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 9:00understand that they’ve 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 don’t know. I imagine I do. I’ve 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 don’t know -- it could be 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 wouldn’t like it or the mill people wouldn’t like it, but I don’t know. But I imagine that’s why they were fearful. Some of them were afraid to be seen down there getting the 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 don’t know why. I think that it’s needed to ensure healthier places to work and fairer treatment sometimes --

GEORGE STONEY: I’m 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 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 don’t think that they -- the newspapers would be for a union. I didn’t -- just reading I wouldn’t think that from what I read. I wouldn’t believe that they would be for unions. I don’t think they have a union.

GEORGE STONEY: What about the politicians in the town?

13:00

SHAVERS: Well, I’m 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 don’t get to stay there very long. And they -- that’s 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 didn’t 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 couldn’t 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 14:00North and now they’re back buying in the South. The Southern people that stayed here all the time, they can’t.

JAMIE STONEY: How’s this sound? Train.

GEORGE STONEY: It’s all right. (inaudible)

M: We can tell what she said.

GEORGE STONEY: Sure, that’s (inaudible).

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

SHAVERS: I think it’s a good thing for Angie to work with the union. She -- I think she’s doing a good job.

GEORGE STONEY: I know this -- we’ve 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)

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 Angie’s working with the union?

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

GEORGE STONEY: Sorry, then “I think it’s a good thing for Angela to work for the unions.”

SHAVERS: I think it’s 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 that’s been interested are getting too old to keep it up, so we need young people to carry on.

16:00

ANGIE ROSSNER: As far back as I can remember she’s always talked about the union, and don’t get in no mills without no union. You get in -- if you’re going to get in them old cotton mills, you can get in one that’s got a union. She used to scold her daughter for getting in a cotton mill that didn’t have a union. Tried to get her to get out of there, and get in one that had a union or she’s 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 don’t 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 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 couldn’t 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, “I’m 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 I’m sure that they did look down. In Columbus I’m 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 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 didn’t go over good with the family. So I know that they did look down on him, and they felt that you didn’t have to have any intelligence to work in there.

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

SHAVERS: Well, that’s true.

ANGIE ROSSNER: And people ask -- especially nowadays, like John has got a bachelor in computer science and he’s in the mill and we’ve got people that’s got all kinds of degrees that’s in there.

(break in video)

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 it’s like, how much faster the machines were so that she --

ANGIE ROSSNER: We already discussed all of that.

GEORGE STONEY: -- had her problems, but you’ve got your problems, too. And I want you to show us your hands and explain what -- show her your hands and explain what’s happened to you because of the machines are moving so fast. And finally, get to the -- what they’re trying to do now about the 12-hour day. I know that’s a lot and we’ll see how it goes.

ANGIE ROSSNER: OK.

JAMIE STONEY: And we’re 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 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 didn’t have any kind of air at all? Didn’t have fans or did you have fans?

SHAVERS: I don’t recall any fans. It didn’t feel to me like they had them. They might have had them but it might have been much worse without them, but I didn’t see any fans, and they had blowers in there, but I didn’t see any fans.

ANGIE ROSSNER: I believe they used to have open windows, didn’t they?

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 couldn’t make as much production and it would kind of upset you. I can remember that.

ANGIE ROSSNER: I went to the weave shed -- I’ve been with Hillcrest for 11 -- well, I’m going on 11 years this year -- but I’ve been in the weave shed for three years and they’ve got air conditioning sometimes if you’re lucky. Sometimes they don’t. The humidifiers are still there. The conditions, I don’t 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 you’re soaking wet with that lint sticking to your face and your machines starts [stopping?] off and tearing down and I’ve got scars where 22:00I’ve 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 the time. But the scars are all there. Don’t even look like women’s hands. They look like a man’s hand, calloused and --

SHAVERS: That’s hard work.

ANGIE ROSSNER: I just -- the conditions I don’t think that’s much better there. They’re talking about going to high speed looms but we’re still using them (inaudible) looms, and from what I understand 36 years -- one of the ladies at work’s been there, she said they’ve been there ever since she’s been there.

SHAVERS: Well, they’re 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 haven’t had a -- I haven’t been 23:00doing a very good job with that lately. They been staying tore up a lot and the humidity’s 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 you’re not careful.

SHAVERS: I hope it’ll 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 you’ve heard that old song “Cotton Mill Blues” and some people they got here and I 24:00guess they couldn’t 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 that’s retired from there and they felt that it was good for them, but you just don’t 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, they’ve 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 you’re lucky, which I haven’t done yet.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you explain the fact that they’re going into -- they’re 25:00trying to go into the 12-hour regularly now. I don’t think she knows that.

ANGIE ROSSNER: They’re trying to come up with -- whenever they bring in them new looms, they want to start a 12-hour shift, continuous shift, and it’s going to make it really hard on a lot of people with childcare and the older people that’s been there many years, I don’t think they’re going to be able to hold out to that kind of thing. But the way it’s been put to us, if we don’t accept these 12-hours shifts, they’ll take the looms and move them up north where they can get somebody to run them 12 hours a day. And we’ll get -- it’ll -- I think most of the textiles around here has gone to that now, the 12-hour shifts.

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

26:00

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

SHAVERS: Well, I really didn’t 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 couldn’t afford to pay somebody to keep them. So, that’s 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 it’d just be a few minutes that they would need somebody to watch them.

27:00

ANGIE ROSSNER: It’s not that much different now, though. That’s the sad part about it. We still have husband and wife teams that have children that they still do that and aren’t lucky enough to be able to have somebody take care of their kids because they’re in the same hole the rest of us are especially when we’re 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: Let’s 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 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 didn’t have anything but farm experience other than their cotton mill experience and I guess they were fearful of that. And a lot of them didn’t 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 --