Helen Johnson and Corrine Lindsey Interview 2

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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GEORGE STONEY: Okay. And just listen to her if you would please.


STONEY: Okay? Go ahead.

HELEN JOHNSON: Uh, you want –

STONEY: [Inaudible] Ma..Ma..Mama or whatever you call her, I'm reading from --

LINDSEY: Granny.

JOHNSON: And where do you want me to start honey?

JUDITH HELFAND: Well, it’s a -- it’s a little --

JOHNSON: Is it down here where you got it underlined?

HELFAND: That’s, that’s right but if you want to skim it a little bit and throw out a little fragment here and --


HELFAND: -- a little fragment there and then end up on that.

JOHNSON: Hold just a minute then let me read it.

LINDSEY: [inaudible] on a table


JOHNSON: Mama, this is what the journal wrote about the strikers in 1934. "Strike prisoners in cheerful mood. Said Viola Horton, a girl of about 17, was telling that she had three other members of her family and they were imprisoned by the militia. 'Besides myself,' she said, 'there is Belle, Eula, and Olivia.' 1:00'They got your Pa, too,' said another girl. 'Make it five then,' said Viola. As the girl talked, members of several National Guard companies were busy driving their stakes setting up a field kitchen, erecting a barbed wire with an enlargement around the men’s prison. The men did not appear unhappy and some of them joked with the guardsmen and newspaper men. A man said he was J.T. Justice, a Grantville carpenter. He was arrested by mistake along with two or three other fellows who weren’t doing any picketing. The folks will be provided for comfortably and the women in a tent outside the barbed wire entrance and the men outside the, uh, guard gate. Of course, the prisoners will be guarded closely. We’re going to give them regular meals and try to make 2:00them comfortable. One of the men is in custody said he was H.L. Welch, president of the textile sales at Hogansville. He said he was arrested carrying arms but had a permit to do so. The girls referred to him as 'our leader.' Some of the women prisoners said that they had children at home but he believed that they were being -- but that they believed that he was being -- they were being provided for. Prisoners were given a regular supper at 8:00 Monday night, Adjutant General Langley F. Camp said, and they will be fed by regular fare. Said strike prisoners in a cheerful mood."

LINDSEY: I’ve learned more about that strike since, uh, I mean just seeing 3:00that movie than I’ve ever heard over. Really.

STONEY: There’s a paragraph by, uh, the [Silverman?] girl --

HELFAND: I don’t think it’s in there

STONEY: Oh, it’s not that.

JOHNSON: It’s not in this one.


HELFAND: Okay. You know could you read that paragraph about Homer. It was actually Hogansville. He’s president of the Hogansville union and you said sales.


HELFAND: And then when you finish that paragraph you all might want to talk about Homer and if you’d ever heard of --.

(break in audio)

STONEY AND HELFAND: [Singing] He’s far away.



M1: [Inaudible] remember that song

(break in audio)

HELFAND: That’s it. You did it right.

JOHNSON: Okay I got you. Well, where do you want me to start reading?

STONEY: Right there. The headline.

HELFAND: Right from there and uh --

JOHNSON: From the, uh, cheer --

STONEY: Read the headlines and then cut down there.

JOHNSON: Strikeful -- Strike prisoners in cheerful mood. Okay.

HELFAND: And then you go down to one in the middle. And when you’re done with the paragraph, talk about Homer. If he’s in there talk about that.


JOHNSON: Okay. Ready?

HELFAND: Okay. Mmhmm.


STONEY: Mmhmm.

JOHNSON: Mama, this is one of the uh articles that appeared in the Atlanta Journal. Strike Prisoners in Cheerful Mood. And this is telling about Homer. "One of the men in custody said he was H.L. Welch, president of the Textile Union in Hogansville. He said he was arrested carrying arms but had a permit to do so. The girls referred to him as 'our leader.' Some of the women prisoners said that they had children at home but believed that they were being provided for." So, you know how the people, the women in Hogansville felt about Homer.


JOHNSON: How they felt that he was, uh, leading them on to a better life. And you know how [Leola?] gave away shoes and all when they were needy. Sometimes she was a little upset because he was giving away everything. But that was the 5:00type of man he was. And I feel like that -- that he did this because he had the compassion and the -- he was a man before his times, a crusader. Course I’m prejudiced. He was a favorite of mine. A second father. But, this is the type of man he was and if he was carrying arms he did have a permit to do so. And he was their leader. He was a leader of that particular time. 1934. They needed someone like that to -- to lead them out of the uh oppression that they were under. With their little wages and long hours they needed someone to give them a reason to go on. Don’t you think?

LINDSEY: Yeah. I think so.


STONEY: Okay, one more thing. The paragraph about uh --

HELFAND: Etta Mae?

STONEY: Etta Mae.

HELFAND: What if we were to tell you that --

(break in audio)

LINDSEY: He just, uh, vanished and didn’t --

JOHNSON: But they didn’t --

LINDSEY: They didn’t come back on a visit for a long, long time.

JOHNSON: They did make him leave town but I never know why, being just a nine-year-old child, I never knew why they left. I really didn’t. I didn’t know why they left.

LINDSEY: And he used to be so crazy about Hogansville and he -- he didn’t show up back there for a long time after, when they left. But we didn’t know why they left.

JOHNSON: And you must remember that a lot of people weren’t ready to strike in those days. This was uh early thing that, you know, just like the woman’s vote, they didn’t get that for a long time. The crusaders and pioneers of that era that got things going, it’s not till later that they’re recognized for -- way I feel, you know.


HELFAND: A lot of people don’t know about this man at all.

JOHNSON: That’s right.

HELFAND: Because this has been kept a complete secret, because they’re ashamed of it.

JOHNSON: Mm hmm.

HELFAND: So, Homer Welch. Nobody knows what he did. Talk about that. How do you feel about that?

JOHNSON: I feel that the fact that nobody knew about Homer Welch and what he did for them was an injustice, as far as I’m concerned. I feel like that, uh, that he is a hero and that he did do a lot for people and people today are reaping the benefits of what he did in 1934. I really feel that way. It took a real special person to do what he did. Not everybody had the gumption, if you will, to do it.

STONEY: Now we have just read a little history of Hogansville. Very well written that was put out a few years ago. It’s got all the history of the business. It’s got all the history -- even the Civil Rights movement.



STONEY: And very clear about blacks and so forth and so on.

JOHNSON: Mm hmm.

STONEY: It’s nothing about labor at all.

JOHNSON: I don’t doubt it.

STONEY: Why do you think that’s true?

JOHNSON: Oh I just think a lot of people hid their heads and uh and uh in the sand as far as things happening, or they were just uh willing to go along with the status quo. I feel that way. I don’t know that much about the movement but I feel like that it took somebody of a special character to let them really realize what was happening. All this working 12 hours and very little pay and it took a leader to uh get them going. I feel that.

STONEY: Great. Okay.