Angie Rossner, Doris Shavers, and Mr. Quattlebaum Interviews

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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 DORIS SHAVER: I don’t think Garrett works in there.

GEORGE STONEY: Alright then Doris. Umm, one of the things we’ve noticed is that when we look up the old papers there was a lot about uh the National Guard being here in town and Tamadge all that, at the time. But then later, people, they just -- people don’t seem to know much about it. Do you have idea why that is? People don’t seem to want to talk about it.

SHAVER: Uh. Well, they don’t want to talk about because of the way this city is set up. There’s a few people that own these mills and they, uh, the papers don’t seem interested in the unions and they uh –- Of course everybody knows that they feel like that they are doing the right thing, paying the right wages, and taking care of the people. They feel like they’re doing a good deed and, 1:00ah, that’s – There’s just not too much talk about unions, they don’t want to hear too much about unions in this city. There’s just very few unions here, and – Uh, the union people in the state and the county people look like they’re the only ones that have any money. The federal, state, and county and the union people and the rest of the people are just out here hoping for better, day by day.

GEORGE STONEY: You mentioned, uh, music. Could you talk some more about – you mentioned the cotton mill girls and so forth.

SHAVER: Well, ah, do you know at this museum they have out here now, they have, uh – I don’t know if you have had an occasion to go and see that little picture where they go and they talk about the cotton mill. He’s singing these blues, the cotton mill blues. And it shows you something about the mills there 2:00if you have been out and looked. You can see how they started and where they work. But they had especially one song, you know, where that they were singing about the cotton mill blues and the cotton mill they couldn’t get away from it. How they came and rented a low rent house, and they’re a just living from hand to mouth. And that’s the way it was.

GEORGE STONEY: Have you -- have you been to that museum?

SHAVER: I have been to that museum, just to see what that picture showed, and uh -– watch that -- It’s got pictures of different people working in there. I don’t know if you’ve been to it.

ANGIE ROSSNER: I sure haven’t. I didn’t even know there was a museum.

SHAVER: Well, you’ll just have to go, and see. (laughter)

ROSSNER: I’ll have to, now that I know there is one. I’ll have to locate it.


JAMIE STONEY: How true is it to the way the mill really is? Is it, is it a prettified, kind of cleaned up version, or.

SHAVER: Um, well yes, there’s not been many pictures about it and the ones that’s there is, uh –- they look like they’re just there doing a job, and it’s just a few pictures of a few women and a few men working there.

JAMIE STONEY: But it doesn’t give you an idea of what the lint and the heat and the (inaudible).

SHAVER: No, no you don’t see that now. But, the song, you know it kinda lets you know where we’ve come from (chuckle).

ROSSNER: It does seem like that I remember that someone talking about it and saying, you’re walking around in an air conditioned atmosphere looking at pictures and equipment, I believe, they said, or something like that. Maybe I read it in the newspaper. And said that this is supposed to give you the idea of the sweat and blood that these – that the people put out, it was almost a mockery.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you sing that song?


SHAVER: Uh no, I couldn’t. I couldn’t sing it, but I could remember that a lot of people did sing it, and it was at one time a kind of a popular song that they had around and it was played on the radio quite a bit here.

GEORGE STONEY: Did the unions have – Did the factories have, uh bands or anything like that?

SHAVER: I don’t think so. I don’t recall ‘em. But I was kind of surprised to find that they have ballgames now and a few things now that they didn’t have then, and once in a while they have a outing. I understand that they have the families out, but I have never attended the one. When I worked in there, when you got through working you didn’t feel like going to anything. (Chuckle)

ROSSNER: That’s true. Absolutely.

SHAVER: If you made it home and made it to bed you felt fortunate. (Chuckle)


GEORGE STONEY: Ah, What about churches and unions?

SHAVER: Well, the best I can remember about churches and unions was the churches were kinda quiet about it. They kinda –-complacent about things like that you know, and the people when they went to church they said very little about the unions. Just, uh, attended their meetings and left. I can’t recall hearing anything about strikes and things like that. I’m sure that some of the ones around in town did, but I wouldn’t – didn’t have an occasion to hear ‘em.

GEORGE STONEY: There was a preacher who had a newspaper and he spoke downtown on the streets against the unions, you remember him? Something – Preacher John 6:00was his name, something like that.

SHAVER: I don’t remember him. I worked here right at the time, you know, that that was going on. It was a few years later that I got here. I don’t uh – I vaguely remember hearing somebody saying something about him. I believe he got a few eggs thrown at him, I’m not sure (chuckle), but you might know more about that, but he got a few things that.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you ever go to any of the big Labor Day celebrations?

SHAVER: I think maybe once or twice we went to watch a parade or something and we didn’t uh, we had children and didn’t get to go to many things like that. 7:00But uh, I can remember a few Labor Day parades that we attended.

JUDITH HELFAND: Do you recall seeing dinner toters?

SHAVER: No, but I hear a lot about that. This Muskogee mill, I have heard a lot of people tell me that they had a job of carrying the lunches across the bridge, they’d get paid so much a week, you know, and the people would fix the lunches and they’d go to the house and pick ‘em up, and – in 1938 I think they stopped that, but I think it was still in effect in 1938. I have heard my mother-in-law tell that she carried my father-in-law’s lunch across that bridge before they got married. There had been a little boy that was carrying the lunches and that she took the job over said that she did it for free. So I can know that they did that, that they carried the lunches and waited outside 8:00for the people to come out and claim their lunches.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, could you talk about the blacks in the mills?

SHAVER: Well, the blacks that I can remember there weren’t too many to start with – it was uh, they gradually increased. The most of ‘em were in the cotton fields, picking the cotton, you know here. There was very few blacks in there, there was sweeepers that was black. They had a few of the harder jobs in there. The main – the mill that I worked in was mostly white people. And it was after 1942 that the blacks started coming into the mills. For the most part they were working in the fields.


GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember any talk about the Ku Klux Klan and the unions in the mills?

SHAVER: No, I don’t remember about the Ku Klux Klan in the mills. I don’t remember anything about that. I know that the Ku Klux Klan has always been here, and I can remember when –- vaguely hearing about things that happened that the Ku Klux Klan was involved in. But being in –- opposed or for the union I don’t know if they were for or against.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you know -- Could you talk about the foremen, and did you know the foremen and then did you know the big bosses?

SHAVER: Well, we seldom saw the big bosses. We had uh, the foreman paid us once 10:00a week and if we did anything wrong, well we’d see him, you know. Or if he thought we weren’t working, we’d see him. I saw him very little, mainly when he handed me my check is the only time that I saw him – and working, walking around in there. But, there’s a lot of noise in there and very little talking and when you talked, you had to holler and for my part I didn’t like to talk to the people because they had to holler and a lot ‘em used tobacco. And (inaudible) get tobacco on you when you talked and so I just kinda stayed on my job. (chuckle) I can remember my husband blowing off looms and he said that he’d blow behind the looms and the tobacco spit would come up in his face and he’s said I just can’t work in that. (chuckle) So he was looking for another job.


GEORGE STONEY: (inaudible)

JUDITH HELFAND: (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: Any changes?


GEORGE STONEY: Angie, anything else you’d like to know?

JAMIE STONEY: Are there many people still chewing in the mills now?

ROSSNER: We’ve got a few. We have a few that chew.

JAMIE STONEY: Is the sanitary thing about the same?

ROSSNER: Well, they -- they’ve gotten a little stricter on the rules about chewing tobacco. If you chew tobacco and you get caught spitting it, it’s considered a health hazard and you can get into some trouble. They don’t really usually push it, but we’ve got a few that chew but I don’t have anybody right around me that does now. I did at one time. I had a fixer that was bad to spit behind the loom and the whole loom smelt like spit. It used to make me sick all the time. He’s gone now, so I don’t have to worry about him no more.

SHAVER: No they have smoking booths in there, don’t they?

ROSSNER: Yeah they smoking -- what they call smoking booths, but it’s a chair’s what it is, an old metal chair with a made up pan for ashes. The ones 12:00that chew tobacco, they -- they just chew wherever, but the ones that smoke they had to go smoking chair. And we don’t really have a great deal of people that smoke anymore, I think a lot ‘ems either quit or.

SHAVER: Well, that’s true. They hear so much about health hazards now that uh a lot of ‘em are quitting and not smoking like they did.

ROSSNER: You don’t have time to smoke neither.

SHAVER: No you don’t.

ROSSNER: Not in the cotton mill, you don’t have time.

SHAVER: Well, it used to be that certain people could smoke, you know they could take the breaks, but a few couldn’t. It kinda depended on your morals, if you had kinda loose morals you could do just about anything you wanted to, if you were young and good looking in there, but um, if you didn’t (chuckle) you pretty well stayed on the job.

ROSSNER: I think they still have a – still have a tendency -- their favorites they tend to not see things, where if its somebody that bucks ‘em a little bit 13:00or disagrees with ‘em, they’ll see everything they do. I think that still kinda goes.

JAMIE STONEY: So Angie, do you think the union has anything to do with people changing their personal health patterns, like not smoking or stopping smoking?

ROSSNER: Well, I don’t know.

JAMIE STONEY: Or made them aware that there are -- the health situation.

ROSSNER: I don’t know. I wouldn’t say that, not necessarily. Now a couple of years ago, well as a matter of fact two years ago, February the 15th I had decided I was going to quit and I used the cigarest tape. Sounds like I’m doing a commercial for them (chuckle) and ah Joe Alvarez, he was a joint board manager and he and I smoked and when he found out I quit, he wanted to quit too, so he quit too. Then our mill chairman, Don Rodgers, found out we quit, so he decided he was gonna quit. So it was kinda – we called it a union thing. We 14:00all quit at one time and far as I know we all still quit.

SHAVER: Well that goes back to that thing about the Brown Lung Association. They always ask you if you smoke, you know, that’s so that if later on something comes up

ROSSNER: They can blame it --

SHAVER: That’s right.

JAMIE STONEY: They can deny it (inaudible).

ROSSNER: They can blame it on the cigarettes rather than the Brown Lung.

GEORGE STONEY: Doris could you talk about – Some people have talked about – the phrase sexual harassment in the mills. Do you recall any of that?

SHAVER: I’m sure that there’s been a lot of that in the mills.

GEORGE STONEY: When you say that explain what you’re talking about.

SHAVER: Of the sexual harassment.

GEORGE STONEY: Just start, I’m sure there’s a lot of it.

SHAVER: I’m sure there’s been a lot of sexual harassment in the mills. I’ve had people to tell me things that made me think it was a little of that 15:00in there. You know they had a movie. I can’t think of the name of it right now, but it’s about that, she was a – she was a union person. I saw that movie. Norma Jean I think was the name of it. That had a little of all the things that went on in there in it.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you think that movie was true?

SHAVER: I think it had a lot of truth in it.

GEORGE STONEY: The movie was Norma Rae, so let’s just talk about it again with using the term Norma Rae, that’s in the title.

SHAVER: Norma Rae – I think the Norma Rae movie – a lot of people thought there was a lot of truth in the Norma Rae movie.

GEORGE STONEY: In what way?


SHAVER: Well, in all of the ways about how the bosses were acting. How the people in there had to stay on the job and had to work, felt that they had to work – they had to take – I am sure that a lot of them felt that they had to take things that they didn’t want to take. And that’s to the best of my memory about the Norma Rae movie, was a lot of things in there she didn’t like.

GEORGE STONEY: What about the conditions -- working conditions?

SHAVER: Well, the working conditions were about like the Norma Rae movie. There was just ah -- If you saw the Norma Rae movie you saw that there was people that had favorite people in there. People that they wanted to use above and beyond 17:00the duty of job – of what was required on the job. And it was that way all over the South, I don’t know how it was in the North, but it was that way in the South. Or I feel that it was that way.

HELFAND: Did that movie kick up a lot of discussion around town? Do you recall?

SHAVER: I think it did for a little while and it it’s not a very popular movie around these towns. You know, it’s not like – It might be like Gone with the Wind, they might play it every ten years, but it’s not – You don’t’ see it every year or two, it’s kind of spread out.

JAMIE STONEY: (Inaudible) a couple of video rental places. It’s not available.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, yeah. I think that [inaudible], Oh, yes. OK. Yeah, go ahead.

HELFAND: I have – Did you ever see news reels when you went to the movies? You 18:00know those news reels that came up before the movies?

SHAVER: Yes, news reels.

HELFAND: Did they ever show you any news reels – Did you happen to go to the movies during the time of the strike in ’34? That sounds like a kind funny question.

SHAVER: No Judy, I couldn’t afford a movie, I was too far from a movie house. Newspapers and books was about all that I had.

HELFAND: Well, we saw some news reels that covered the 1934 strike here in the South as well as in the North. In North Carolina we saw some girls that were on the picket line and while they were on the line they were singing and one of the songs that they sang was a song that I didn’t get all of the words to because it was a little muffled on the track, because you know it was taken in ’34 so it’s sound. I was wondering if you might be able to sing that song for me. It was called Springtime in the Rockies.

SHAVER: No, but it was to the tune of that Springtime in the Rockies and it was 19:00uh – the words I don’t recall, but I know what you’re talking about, but I also heard that song where somebody had been in North Carolina and returned here, and I believe that girl’s name was Eva. I vaguely remember her singing that song in the bathroom one day. I don’t remember the words, I wish I did.

GEORGE STONEY: Well, I can sing for you. (Chuckles)(Singing) When it’s Springtime in the Rockies I’ll be coming back to you. (inaudible) eyes so blue. Once again I say I say I love you as the birds sing all the day. It’s 20:00springtime in the Rockies, in the Rockies far away.

SHAVER: Very good.

HELFAND: I have a question, it’s um – It’s kinda out of left field, but I was reading a book last night about women that worked in the cotton mills and they talked about fears that they – they talked about fears in the cotton mill and I was wondering if you grew up having heard about the cotton mill before you went into it and if you went in with any fears?

SHAVER: No, when I first went in there I was a little bit nervous about the noise, and I was – the uh – I thought you could get hurt in there real easy, but uh, I’d heard of people that had been hurt in there. I had a little -- I was a little apprehensive when I first went in there and started working. I 21:00didn’t hear many people express any fear, I think there was more a fear of starvation (chuckle) and the rent that was due then for a lot of people here in the South.

HELFAND: Did you expect to stay there for a while working?

SHAVER: No, I hope not, you know, when I went in there. During the war if you was on a job, you know, that had to do with making anything for the Army or Navy they could freeze you on a job, and I was frozen on a job at the same mill that she is working in. And um, if you wanted to quit they’d make you feel real bad, you know, you’d had brothers over there fighting and they needed blankets and socks and clothing and ah -- I can remember they had boxes on the stairwells 22:00that you put the money in so that the Red Cross could pick it up and buy – to buy cigarettes for the GIs and things like that. They would make you feel, you know, that you weren’t doing your duty if you wanted to change jobs, but just as soon as I could I did change jobs. When they lifted that, I have never worked in a cotton mill since then. I filled magazines in there and did some spinning. I never have been back in one.

GEORGE STONEY: You don’t miss being in the mill?

SHAVER: No, I never missed it. I -- I told Raf Lewis that it was good that god would let you live without working in there. (Laughter)

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, now we were talking with some fellas the other day who said they – they worked there all their lives and they said they missed it, I wondered why.


ROSSNER: They crazy

SHAVER: Well, did they –- were they foremen? I had a neighbor right behind me that was a foremen and I imagine he did miss it. But I don’t – he don’t show it. I mean it seems to me that he is glad to be retired. Everybody that I know that is retired from there, they’re kinda glad to be out. Now Mrs. Tyler, my neighbor, that worked in there for years, she said she misses the friends, ya know, but as for the work I’m sure she didn’t miss that.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you explain why the people were called lintheads?

SHAVER: Well, they were called lintheads because ah -- for one thing a lot of them had come off the farms where the cotton was grown and they went in there to the finishing department and they was lintheads because when you came out of there your head would be literally white with lint – and uh -- It’s hard to get that cotton out of your hair if it still gets in there today. My daughter 24:00had a cotton in her hairbrush right home and so I can that it’s still in there, isn’t Angie?

ROSSNER: Oh, yes ma’am it sure is. I come out every day and every day I have to wash my head. I guess we’re a little luckier now we got hairdryers and also we can wash our hair every day.

SHAVER: I see a little cotton in yours now.

ROSSNER: Yeah, I know it’s in there. (chuckles) I came right out the door this morning. Imagine it’s about full.

SHAVER: I don’t think you oughta use hairspray.

ROSSNER: It just attracts it don’t it. (Laughter)



[break in video]

GEORGE STONEY: OK, action Angie. Cut, let’s try it again.

M1: One more.


[break in video]

M1: Now.

GEORGE STONEY: Just greet her and go on in.

ROSSNER: Hello Doris.


GEORGE STONEY: Cut, that’s fine.

JAMIE STONEY: I’m gonna pan your way, so clear.

[break in video]


MR. QUATTLEBAUM: This is Lucile Holland, that’s Barbara Alice, and this is just some friends here. What do you want about – about all of ‘em or what?

GEORGE STONEY: No, just – you can turn over and see if we can find (inaudible)

MR. QUATTLEBAUM: Well, she’s in here somewhere I’ll betcha. Nope, that’s not her, not yet.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us about those people.

MR. QUATTLEBAUM: Oh these back here? This is Margie Conkey that’s – that’s in my – when I was in the Navy. And this is where we was aboard ship. They 27:00just cutting up over there – and most of these pictures is just where people, you know, is cutting up having a ball. And uh, I really don’t see one of Angela right here. I can go back.

GEORGE STONEY: OK, go back see if can (inaudible).

MR. QUATTLEBAUM: Oh yeah, I know there’s some in here somewhere. Should be. That’s Clara. That’s Bess and Henry. This is Glory Jean here. Now this is Angela. That’s Glory Jean, that’s where she was in that – went up 28:00visiting. The uh, let’s see -- You wanted some earlier pictures of Angela didn’t you? Well now this Angela here. We’re getting on back down there. This is Glory Jean again, believe it or not. And uh – wait a minute, no that’s – Barbara’s kids. This is Angela.

GEORGE STONEY: Who’s that next to her?

MR. QUATTLEBAUM: That’s her grandmother. This is Angela when (inaudible) and (inaudible) first married. Let’s see, now this is Angela too. Angela and 29:00Henry. I know it’s hard to distinguish them, but it is.

JAMIE STONEY: Tilt the book up a little bit.

MR. QUATTLEBAUM: That a way?

JAMIE STONEY: Yeah, that’s perfect.


STONEY: And the lady – the older lady on your left?

MR. QUATTLEBAUM: That’s my mother.

GEORGE STONEY: Ok, turn the page. OK put up the [inaudible]

MR. QUATTLEBAUM: This is a family portrait we had made. It’s a snapshot, but – now here’s Angela back here in the back.

JAMIE STONEY: Can you tilt it just a bit? There you go.

MR. QUATTLEBAUM: That’s Angela. That’s Clara. That’s Beth, the little one out yonder. This is Glorie Jean and that’s James and where – yeah there he is – that’s Henry and there’s me and my wife.

GEORGE STONEY: Ok, now reach for the next album.

MR. QUATTLEBAUM: You gotta [wind] up like you want me to get ‘em?


JAMIE STONEY: I’m running out of tape and batteries, so