Joe Jacobs Interview 3

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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JOE JACOBS: This is the president over there, and it was a fabulous thing. Thousands of people. Thousands. Where do we go with now?

GEORGE STONEY: OK, well -- you’re just -- you’ve just gone to Newnan.

JACOBS: All right.

GEORGE STONEY: So, where the squad -- Flying Squadron there in Newnan.

JACOBS: OK. (sighs)

GEORGE STONEY: Rolling Jamie?

JAMIE STONEY: We’re rolling.

GEORGE STONEY: OK.

JACOBS: All right. When I told Hollihan that, oh -- he just -- he could not believe it. He just -- no, no, no truth to it -- to the fact that they were gonna go get the squadron at all. Well, I couldn’t persuade Hollihan, I went over to Googe’s office. Googe’s office was over in the Hurt building, which was three blocks back this way. I talked to George. George called him up. I asked him who he had talked to. I remember going over the detail. Finally, he turned to me, he says, “Well, it’s his union. He’s running it. He says 1:00there’s nothing gonna happen.” Of course, I don’t have to tell you what happened. What happened was that they rolled down there, they intercepted the Flying Squadron, both men and women, they turned around and hauled them back to Fort Benning. Not Fort Benning, Fort McPherson up here in Atlanta. Benning is down in Columbus.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, start over and just say that they hauled them, they started hauling them.

JACOBS: Yeah. They hauled the men and women to Fort McPherson, which is here in Atlanta. When we got the word, and I think we got it through the newspapers -- when we got that word and I remember running up to Googe’s office and Hollihan was there, then. And, of course, I need not tell you that I was just mad and -- 2:00but I was controlling myself, because he, he was the boss. Uh, he was trying to find out just where they had them and what charges, if any, that they had. When he called the National Guard’s office, they wouldn’t tell him anything. When he was calling, trying to reach the governor, and this was in the evening, already, the governor -- they couldn’t find him anywhere. When we finally found out where they were, we found that they had put them in the area where the internment of German prisoners had taken place during the World War. We then talked with -- “What are they charged with?” We got all kinds of answers and 3:00no answers. We could never talk to the adjutant general. We could never talk to Tallm adge. Hollihan couldn’t -- I remember, Hollihan went over there with a handful of the, uh, City Federation people who had been in political things with Tallmadge and all that other business and they said, “Well, when we go with you, he’ll see us. The reason he won’t see you is because he doesn’t know you,” and on and on. They go over there and they wait, they tell him that, uh, the governor’s, uh -- it was busy -- this is by report, I didn’t go with the group -- busy, couldn’t get in, they’d wait a while, finally he had to go off and make an appointment, whatever it was. One day, two days, finally we got word through, again -- I think it was the papers, might have been the radio at that time -- that they had them out at the camp. Googe then called the man who 4:00was in charge of the United States Army post here at Fort McPherson -- I think it was the Fifth Army, or whatever the army command was -- to see if we could get in. It took us, I think, three days before we finally got in. When we got there, they had the m in the tents. They had them all in this area. I remember looking around because, if they got tents, they got to have a place to eat, they got to have a place for a toilet, of some kind. I saw no toilets. I remember asking some of the people who were there, “Where are the toilets?” And they told me, “Behind the tent.” I said, “The women, too?” He says, “They go behind the bushes.” I’ve seen since then, of course, pictures of, uh, the 5:00guard and how these people were supposed to be happy. I didn’t find them happy. They wanted out. They wanted to get back with their families. Some of their families had come up to Atlanta, see Hollihan, see to Googe, to see anybody they could. Uh, I understand some of them went to Tallmadge’s office to see about getting them out. “What’s the charge?” The charges were anywhere from treason, insurrection, riot, uh -- I really don’t know what, even to this day, what the final charges were. They stayed there. Oh, we, uh, (laughs) Googe got (laughs) the head of the AF of L on the pho ne, he called the president of the United States. They tried to get the president some of his people to call Tallmadge. There were more calls going on all over the place, 6:00until we finally got them out. What that did, though, by and large, was to destroy the Flying Squadrons, and you can understand why, and the reason why it did was because then people knew that they risked getting locked up, put in jail, interned, or whatever it was. And the talk among the trade union people at that time was, “They don’t treat us any better than they did the enemy. When they captured prisoners of war, they put them over there. They took us and put us over there, just like we were the enemy.” And, of course, I don’t have to tell you that a lot of these people were good Americans. All of the closed down of mills was with a American flag in front of the crowd, and a lot of times with a Confederate flag in front of the crowd. People carrying other flags, and here 7:00they get locked up and they got soldiers, and by the way, in those days, the soldiers had bayonets on their rifles. They didn’t go around like the rifles that we have right now, they have the bayonets. And if you look at the film, of that day, you’ll see that they had the bayonets on. And the bayonets were never put on, as I understand it, until the soldier had been instructed, if necessary, to use the bayonet, if you have to do it, in order to do whatever you’ve got to do. And they resented it. And what made it even worse was that so many of the textile workers’ sons, husbands (laughs) were in the guard. Were in the guard, and that created a real problem.

GEORGE STONEY: OK. Just a moment, we got --

JAMIE STONEY: We’re rolling.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, tell me about Cartersville.

8:00

JACOBS: An incident occurred during that time that always stands out in my mind. We kept hearing about mills where they sent the guard in, and where we had no contact with the people inside. We had not had any effort for those people to be brought out of the mill, or if they were brought out, everybody came out, so nobody knew what was going on inside. In talking with, I think it was Hollihan again, we had heard -- got a rumor that a National Guardsman had been shot. The story was, he might have been dead. Up at Cartersville, at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Plant up there, and that nobody could find out anything about him. So, they asked me if I knew anybody up there, and I didn’t. And then I remembered 9:00that there was a young man that worked for a repair jewelry place here, Jimmy Norrell. And I remember that he was in the guard, I said, “You know, he may be up there. Let’s find out.” I checked with his family, and sure enough, he was, because a lot of the people from Atlanta were sent up that end of the count ry, and the other places close by, and then they drew on the National Guard in the immediate areas where they could, which, by the way, also led to problems, because, in some instances, the husbands or sons wouldn’t turn out for the guard, and, uh, and I suspect that if you look in the records of the guard, you may find that some of them were court-martialed or else had penalties assessed against them because of the fact that they would not serve. So, I get in my 10:00little Ford. No, first I went to see the man that ran the place. I got a letter from him saying that it was important that I talk with Jimmy Norrell, because he was doing some work for a customer, and they had to deliver it or ship it to him, and they did not know just how far it was or where it was, or what he had done with it, on and on, whatever the excuses were, I don’t remember the exact detail. And I took that letter and on this man’s stationary and I rolled up there and when I rolled up there, right at the entrance there, there are the sandbag s. They had a circle of sandbags, a big gate there.

GEORGE STONEY: Start again. So, “When I got to Cartersville.”

JACOBS: Yes. When I got to Cartersville, at the main entrance, there’s a circle of sandbags. Sitting behind the sandbags, oh, four, five soldiers. And, on each side, one side you can go in, and one side you could come out, and there were guard patrolling it. Sitting outside, alongside of the road, were people 11:00who had come out on strike, the mill was down completely. Mill was down completely. I didn’t stop to talk to them because, obviously, that would not have been the proper thing to do. I went up to the group in the sandbag, I asked who was in charge, they wanted to know why, I told them I had a letter that I -- was addressed to Jimmy Norrell who was a member of the unit that was inside, from his boss and his company, that he had left in such a hurry that he hadn’t taken care of his situation, that I had to see him. I sat out there for a little while, they took the letter, they went back to wherever the, uh, center of the control point was. Came back. “You can come in.” Not only you can come in, but a coupl e of them went with me. They trotted alongside of me and took me over to where the, uh, tents were. And to his tent, and sure enough, there was 12:00Jimmy Norrell and he had his rifle apart and he was cleaning it or fixing or whatever it was. So, they stood around for a minute or two and I told them who I was and he was glad to see me, and told him that his boss was sorry that he had to go, and the usual pleasantries, and then I noticed they left, and uh, I said, “Now, he wanted me to take care of this,” and he looked at it, and then he told me where he had put it and what he had done and, uh, how to find it in the, uh -- apparently, they had -- in the big safe that the man had, they had little boxes, where they put particular things in, and this wasn’t in the one he normally would put it in, but he put it in another, either because of the value of it, or whatever the reason, so that’s why that we were able to say he couldn’t find it. So, I said, “How you been doing?” “Oh,” he says, “I’d like to get the hell out o f this place.” I said, “What’s the 13:00matter?” He said, “Look,” and the ground was wet, been raining, mud, it was sopping wet. He pulls his little pup tent open and the ground is wet and he has, uh, he has gotten -- what do they call the thing that you, uh, that you put strips of wood and then you, you fix them together, you put a palette. He had put, found a palette somewhere and he’d put (laughs) his thin mattress on top so it wouldn’t get soaked. (laughs) Laying there on the ground. And I said, “Well, I can understand why. The weather hasn’t been good.” “Yeah,” he says, “Not only that, but,” he said, “you see,” and he pointed to a tent right close by, one or two over. He said, “The guy over there almost killed somebody yesterday.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said he was cleaning his rifle and hadn’t unloaded the damn thing (laughs) and he said a bullet ricocheted and the guy screamed. He says, “I don’t know whether he got hit or he didn’t get hit, all I know is that there was a commotion and the MP’s 14:00came running and everything else, we were up all night on account of it.” So, I said, uh, “What’s going on other than that?” He said, “Well,” he says, “I guess there’s a handful of people in there, I understand they’re primarily supervisors, and what they’re doing is that they’ll start up the machinery, they’ll run it for a while, and then they’ll close down the machinery in that department, then they’ll start it up in the next department to make people think that they finished the work in that department and moved it to the next and moved it to the next, moved it to next.” He says, “Ain’t nobody doing anything.” He says, “As a matter of fact, the, the supervisors, the,” uh, uh -- oh, I forget what the top name was, it’s not called a supervisor in the textile mill. “They are mad about having to come in and just waste their time standing around, not doing anything, when they could be doing, 15:00doing something that really was worthwhile.” So, I saw him. I came on back. He told me that, “If you want to see what else is going on,” he says, “instead of turning back and going back the way you came, take this road,” and he showed me the road that swung around, that took me all through the village and all around where you could see whatever was going on. Which I did. And then I went back and I reported it. And the thing, of course, that I reported was that nobody had been killed, but that somebody had shot off a rifle, and by the way, I understand, later on, that one or more of the guard who were out on duty, they’d gotten hurt by same sort of an incident, where they didn’t unload the rifle like they were supposed to, and the gun went off and somebody got hurt. And then I came on back, I reported it. Our reports, up until 16:00that time, was that there were a fair number of people who did not come out on strike. And who were working in the plant. And who, allegedly, were producing something, because that company had run -- they ran their own trucks at that time. They had run their trucks out. You couldn’t tell whether they had finish ed goods in it or not, but it gave the appearance that they were -- had finished goods, and they were running the stuff out.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, now, let’s shift over to the Fulton Bag strike, where there was something about a railroad car, and, uh, tear gas.

JACOBS: Well, Fulton Bag was one of the hard nuts. And the reason that it was a hard nut is because my recollection is that, in an earlier day, there had been an effort to organize. I’m not sure whether they finally struck it or not. But 17:00it was unsuccessful. And when we tried to get them to come out, there was a place off of Memorial Drive where boulevards kind of swings near a -- near the old, old cemetery, uh, that goes way back to the early 1800s. We used to have a small area there that belonged to a old time textile worker who had bought that little piece of property and at one time it had a little store on it. And he let us use that as a sort of a headquarters, and they couldn’t run us off of it. And I’m gonna get to the business about the, uh, the, uh, gas and the railroad 18:00car. In the village, also, because it was in the Atlanta area, and they didn’t have as much control over the stores.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, this was in Cabbage Town, isn’t it?

JACOBS: In Cabbage Town.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, just start--

JACOBS: Just, just behind, just behind the Else's place is, you see. We, and we had, by the way, where Else's is, too. Right behind the mill, the mill faced on the -- on the -- on the boulevard and as it made a swing to the west, a street continued straight on, which was a little narrow street full of holes, and there were a few stores there, little grocery stores, uh, little furniture store -- old furniture, not new furniture. There -- those people ran stores there who were quite sympathetic, by the way, to the strikers, but had to walk on the tightrope, because otherwise they would have trouble with the, with the Else's 19:00family. They put the word out not to trade with them. Uh, we used to hold our meetings there. And the reason I mention about that is that further to the south -- oh, four blocks -- a series of railroads goes across next to the Else's property. Those were the railroads that we used to bring in the goods and to ship out. Those, by the way, were the railroads that, when Sherman came through Atl anta, that he was destroying as he marched toward Savannah, those were the railroads which to there were being used in part are the new ones for the new MARTA system that has been built in Atlanta. I did not see the, uh, teargas thing. I learned about it when I went over there one day, that it, it had just 20:00either happened the evening, the afternoon before, or early during that morning, and they claim -- and this is the story, as I got it -- they claim that some of the guards that the Else's people had -- I don’t -- it wasn’t National Guard, these was security guard -- probably Pinkerton, because the Pinkerton was the big one at that time -- had thrown a gas bomb, or whatever they call the thing, at a number of people whom he thought were strikers on the railroad track. Anybody get hurt? Not that I ever knew. Anybody go to the hospital because of it? A lot of talk about somebody having been gone, but it, it, it, it just like the gas, it disappeared. Oh, uh, I remember that, uh, Hollihan got some of his people to protest about throwing the gas at the strikers and all 21:00this other and the Else's said that, uh, it didn’t happen, uh, but if it did happen, that they were justified in doing it, which, to me meant that some -- something did happen about it, just what, I can’t tell you. Just like a lot of other stories. For example, we, we went down there one day and they said that three people had been killed overnight by security guards. Where? It was supposed to be very -- on the very far end by the warehouse, where the warehouse stuff, and in a very dilapidated place which used to belong to somebody and they let it fall in, because it was real, uh, poor, poor property over there. I remember, we, we got a committee to go and get together and we head over that way -- I say, “we,” the committee heads over that way -- they look and look and look and they haven’t found the bodies yet. But rumors like that rode, just like when they picked up our people on the Flying Squadron? The next day, 22:00everywhere there were rumors about w ho got picked up in addition. They were picking them up here, they were picking them up. A lot of times I thought that they were being generated by the mill people, in order to scare our people, so that they wouldn’t want to be in the Flying Squadron.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, could you talk about the exposition strike?

JACOBS: (laughs) Well, you see, all of that is part of the exposition strike, just like the rip-it that they had way back down at Fulton, just like a rip-it that they had over at Piedmont, just like one they had over at Scottsdale, which is further out towards Decatur. As I remember them, those -- that strike was the result of some of the people, some of the workers -- not necessarily all of them 23:00at all, because most of these didn’t happen that way, and a lot of them, it started with a small group. Sometime it caught fire, sometime it didn’t. Exposition, just like the history of other strikes that we had here, when it came out, they were full of enthusiasm, they wanted a union, they were gonna fight for the union. Didn’t have anything to fight with. It was a matter of time, who could starve who out. And they got starved out. That was the story there. They, they would form a union -- first thing they’d do is they wanted a union, so they could say, “We belong to something.” And I remember, for years, after some of these strikes were lost, and the exposition was one of them, they had people who belonged to the union, they never paid dues, but they 24:00belonged to the union, they were union people. And they knew them to be union people.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, do you think that, uh, Gorman called off the strike prematurely?

JACOBS: No, I don’t think that Norman called -- Gorman called off the strike prematurely. Gorman had run out of gas. Gorman had run out of funds. Gorman hadn’t paid his organizers. He had run out of money. They were using money that was supposed to be used for payroll to keep these people in the field, to try and help the poor devils who needed help. (laughs) He didn’t have any money. If they had said, “We will help you, we will give you money.” Some was coming, but very little. It wasn’t there. The -- what was going on was a revolution again. You had thousands of people. How you gonna feed them? A lot of 25:00them were beginning to be put out of houses. Those that belonged in the mill village were getting notices. “We want you out of the house.” One of the things that helped to break it in the final run was that even though some of them were doing without food were getting food wherever they could get it, they were putting them out of the house. The workman circle that I was telling you about that my father belon ged to? When the strike took place, we set up a committee. A lot of these people who belonged to the workman circle in this town were small store owners. A couple of them were out near the Else's in Cabbage Town. That committee got a pledge from just about every one of those who were the store owners. That each week, they would give them -- oh, I don’t remember 26:00whether they called it a bushel, uh, bag of groceries, or whatever the measure was -- that they would give them at least that. And that committee went around for weeks, getting the groceries to help these people and turning it over to the strike committee. They had done that in previous strikes. And what makes me smile is that even though some of the people in the AF of L who did not look at textile workers like they did others, remembered, for example, that when we had the transit strike here, and the transit strike was the electrical workers’ union, we had helped them out in the same fashion. They knew to come to the workman’s circle. And get these b as-- these, uh, bags of food, and that took care of them. But when Gorman called it off, he thought two things. I’ve 27:00always said he was, he was like (laughs) a guy being pushed off of a cliff. He was being pushed off of a cliff because he couldn’t give food and lodging to his people who were crying for it. Roosevelt, who was supposed to be helping the administration, had been promising -- the head of the AF of L had been promising Greene that he was going to help them, he was gonna do something. (coughs) It didn’t come. When he finally got the so-called arrangement, that there would be no blacklisting. Gorman figured if, if we called it off, now’s the time. “I’m out of funds, I’m out of whatever it takes to keep this thing going. I go over the cliff if I keep it up.” And there was a real struggle within the organization, as I remember it. Should we keep it up or shouldn’t we? There 28:00was some of those who would counseling him, “Stay with it, if we go down, we all go down, and we go down together. We’ve done eve rything we could. We go down with dignity.” (laughs) I don’t know, I don’t know how you go down with dignity when you lose everything. He says, in arguing with them, and I can remember, I didn’t hear him do the arguing, but I remember his people down here, we’d meet in Googe’s office, and they would be talking about what one said, what the other said. We’d say, “Look, here’s the time to do it. The president has promised us these people won’t blacklist. The president has said he’ll do this, he’ll do this, he’ll do this. We can’t go any further. This is the right time.” That’s why he called it off. You know, you can always second guess the guy who has the responsibility to make the decision. (coughs)