McKinley Marchman Interview 1

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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GEORGE STONEY: What you did, and then the last three years you got the white man's job.

M1: Truck.



MARCHMAN: Now? Well, ah, those picking arm looms now, they had to fix them shelves. You had go put -- and grease it and oil it, fix the shelves. And, ah, the last three years there, you could call it oiling and greasing, but them shelves had to be fixed, too, when they put a fur in it, something like, to hold that thread when it's packed in there where they feed it off like when they're weaving it, you had to hold the end where it wouldn't come off (inaudible) something like you put some little holes in there and put something like hair in 00:01:00there and it holds that thread and keeps a tension on it where it's just pulling out going through that shed to make that cloth? If you don't, it'd be too much slack and it'd make a bad place in the cloth. The next thing, you got to grease 'em. Now that's a job, getting all up under them things. And, ah, I liked it, though, (inaudible) wasn't so heavy is what it was. So I made that little toolbox. I's the first colored that ever had a toolbox setting up on the table like the whites did. Them fixers, they had toolbox wrenches, and I was like (inaudible). I'd get a 7 wrench. I'd buy me the wrenches and put 'em in there and didn't hardly know what to do with 'em, but I had a toolbox and a lock on it -- they locked theirs. And then that -- I was telling my wife, "Lord, I'm a-fixing." And I was. I don't how good, but I got $3.75 an hour. That's something I hadn't done in about 20 years. (laughs) But I -- I, ah, done some 00:02:00-- anything in the cotton. I took out waste sometime when I wasn't doing nothing, piling and carried it over to the waste house. But that wasn't my job. I tell you, the one was out now, you'd do his. One man'd do two-three jobs. There wasn't no such a thing as your job. You don't anything they'd tell you to do, if you could do it. But you didn't get the pay. But you -- you done it if you boss man tell you to do that. You could just go on and do it if he said, although you knew it wasn't your job. You got to do what he said or you go on. They'll see you and send you home. So --

GEORGE STONEY: What happened the last two years?

MARCHMAN: You mean on the job? Well, when I go in there in the morning late, oh, I was making coffee for the boss man when I got this promotion in the office. I'd go in there and the first thing I done in the morning when I went in there, instead of going on -- I went and got a -- they had a great big coffee pot that's kept in the office. But my first thing they told me to do was go in 00:03:00and get the coffee ready, it would last all day, a great big thing of coffee there. I had to go in there -- cause I liked coffee, too, you know. So I (laughs) -- like I was the president of testing. Wasn't nobody in there and I's making it. I'd pour me out a cup for the first (inaudible) and put all the sugar in it I wanted to. Everybody -- now it sat right there all day and anybody -- the bosses come in, they'd drink 'em a little coffee and look at me like I didn't know. I said I know how it taste cause I -- I made it. (laughs) And then the next thing that I done from there, I had to go to the men's restroom and sort of clean it up, too, you know. Yeah, clean it up. It wasn't my job, but that's what they say you do. And then 'bout the time for me to go out there and start greasing on my loom and get some shelves going. Carry waste -- I done some of everything (inaudible) down there. And the next thing I done was the ladies -- the white ladies run (inaudible) and one of them was the boss 00:04:00man's wife running deamers(?). And she had to pull that yarn off of them things with their hand, on the quiller when they brought it down (inaudible) up in beamer balls. But she would get me to come in there and she would pay me for doing this. And I could quit my job very easy out there, she told me, cause he, the boss man, he wasn't going to tell me not to go out there and pull it off for Mary Alice. That's her name. So that I go out there and pull that off, she give me now, for about 3 quills a day, she'd give me a dollar-and-a-half a quill to pull it off and ball it up. So, gosh, I'm (inaudible). So I's glad to do that. Just when they said, "Pull this off," I just laid my wrench and things down and go on out there and do it and there wasn't going to be nothing said, cause he's the boss man, you know? And, ah, I got me a little money enough to 00:05:00(inaudible), you know. I liked to do it. I liked that little change, and it wasn't all out job. They had a machine to get it together, pull it off them beamers and put it on a big wheel. Turn the switch on, roll over and pull that off. Then when they roll a great big spool full of it on there, you'd take it and get a good sharp knife and cut it off in mop yarn, they called it, long pieces. Put it in a box, lay it in a great big shoe box till you got it packed full, they strap it up and carry it to the waste house. I's busy, all right. That was my job, too. They said do it.

GEORGE STONEY: And what did they pay you for all that?

MARCHMAN: They didn't pay me for nothing, but the lady that wanted that pulling off there, cause this other, that was all my job. The ladies, two of 'em, Miss Kraft and Miss Huff, they was running the beamers, but it'as too heavy for them to pull off and I was glad to get to pull it off and the boss man wasn't going 00:06:00to say nothing cause one of 'em's his wife and she's the one that telled me. So I just quit what I's doing and go out there. Anybody asked where I was, nobody wasn't going to tell him nothing cause he wasn't going to tell him that I's doing that out there.

GEORGE STONEY: Now the last three years you said that you got a job that the white man had had before. Could you tell me about that?

MARCHMAN: Say that again?

STONEY: Now you said that the last three years --


STONEY: You worked at a job that the white man had worked before --

MARCHMAN: Had all the time. White always have running that job. Wasn't no colored fixers, wasn't no colored oilers, but we had a fella that came here from somewhere. Now he was a young manager there and they wouldn't let us drink water out where they drank water there. We -- they had a water cooler. We went there we'd have to get a bottle of -- a Coke-Cola bottle and go to the water 00:07:00coolers and catch you some water in the bottle and drink it out the bottle, not stand up there. And you couldn't drink, turn it on on these coolers and bend over and drink water like the white. You drank it out of a bottle. You couldn't even drink it out of there. And Mr. Hunt come here -- no, they finally, 'fore Mr. Hunt come, they stopped 'em from drinking out of a bottle and they was (inaudible) and then they set us up a little something on the side of that water cooler, looked like a little appliance that they uses in bathrooms. When they set that over there, we could drink out of that little old bowl like that. You could drink out of that. Well, when Mr. Hunt come, he took 'em all out, threw all them things out and all of us could drink out the same cooler -- out the cooler there. So that was -- we first started a-doing that, they didn't like. You'd be drinking water, they would come up and they just didn't like you 00:08:00to drink water there. And we did. That's the way we'd drink it. "Get you something in a bottle and walk off and drink it's what. Don't bend over there drinking out of there." And it was through the whole mill like that.

GEORGE STONEY: When did that change?

M1: Let me, let me adjust something George.

[break in video]

MARCHMAN: When did that change? Well, it had been changed -- that change right after World War II.

STONEY: And why?

MARCHMAN: And why?

STONEY: Uh hum.

MARCHMAN: Well, the government of something allowed that to happen. They had to report it. And they had to do it. They had to do it -- so I was told as far as drinking water out the same water cooler. And they had to come up to a minimum wage, nd that throwed us to begin to getting a little money for what we 00:09:00were doing. At that time there wasn't no such a thing as a minimum wage. They just paid you what they wanted to. Now why? I think the Federal government had something to do with that. I'm sure it was. If it hadn't, it have still been the same way.

STONEY: Now you said, told us yesterday that you were working as something like a loom fixer and all of that --


STONEY: -- and for the last three years you got that job and you got paid for that job.

MARCHMAN: You got paid for it, yes, sir.

STONEY: Starttell that as though I never heard that story before.

MARCHMAN: You never heard that before?

STONEY: You just tell that as though I never heard you tell before.

MARCHMAN: Well, they put in some looms there. At the cotton mill, they didn't have picking arm looms, but they had 'em -- Calloway had 'em in LaGrange. They finally bought some picking arm looms. It was a brand-new loom. They ain't many weavers knowed how to weave on 'em, but they's a colored guy came here from 00:10:00LaGrange. He's the only one that knowed anything. He was working at Calloway in LaGrange and he's the only one knowed anything about them picking arm looms. They didn't know a thing about 'em. And then this old gentleman retired and they'd been several retired and I had got a better job, but Mr. Hart come there and he told me, "William I see your history. You was next in" -- he was the manager of -- he told the second hand to tell me, "You's eligible for it." I said, "I appreciate it." He said, "Well, I'm going to give it to you." So he give me this job, ah, greasing them brand new looms. He wanted to make sure they'as greased and then you had to pick the shell mains where you put the thread in there and it goes back and forth through that loom. And sometime you have to keep 'em up and fix them little hairs in there where they keep a tension 00:11:00on that thread, not too -- rattle off too fast. And you got to grease 'em and make sure that you grease 'em. Don't -- they wouldn't -- sometimes they'd catch a-fire and you got to try to put 'em out, if you got 'em put out. They's some stuff there for you to put 'em out, but it'd put yo' eyes out, too. (laughs) Burn your eyes, you know, dust.

STONEY: Now what did you do the last three years that you were in the factory?

MARCHMAN: Fixed, oiled, fixed picking arm looms --

STONEY: Just say the last three years.

MARCHMAN: The last three years, that's what I --

STONEY: Just start off with, The last three years I did all that.

MARCHMAN: The last three years, that's what I -- I made more money the last three years than I made the whole of the balance of the time that I worked there, $3.35 an hour.

STONEY: Okay. Now we want to switch over to tell us about building your houses.


MARCHMAN: The houses?


MARCHMAN: Oh, I (inaudible). I went in service in '42. Just had a little shotgun house right there, three rooms in that house. My mother was living there. I was staying with Mama and I had a sister. She and her old man was parted. And she moved with us just 'fore I went in service. Wasnt but three rooms, she had some furniture, and I had Dr. Byrd(?) to build another room over yonder to where she'd have room. And I sent the money back and paid for it when I went in service. When I come outta service then, she was still living -- I built that room off this away to make more room. Now that was in '47. I come back in '45. And I married in '47 and built this house here. I built this old house for rent. I said it was going to be a rent house. It was just lumber and sheeted in. Then when I was married and started living in the thing and decided 00:13:00we'd built another room over this away and we run one over yonder way. And we still ain't got no -- it wasn't our intention. But we got started living here and retired and couldn't do it then, you know. That's all a long story, but it's true.

STONEY: Now did you ever live in a mill house?


STONEY: Mill house.

MARCHMAN: A mill house? What you mean by that?

STONEY: Did you ever live in a house that was owned by the mills.



MARCHMAN: Well, the -- the mill houses was all white in them villages. Well, the company finally sold them houses there, they -- they kept all them houses -- you ever been through that village? Well, they kept 'em, company kept 'em till they rotted down and then they was -- they sold 'em at a nice price and the mill companies couldn't do nothing but work and pay for 'em, cause if you -- they 00:14:00sold 'em at a nice price. Mill company used to own every house over there. All the coal -- they furnished the coal, the wood, the houses and blowed a whistle ever morning 'fore light. They stopped that. Four o'clock they'd blow and blow it about a hour and wake up everybody. Well, they've stopped that everywhere now. And then they decided that, "Well, we'll sell them houses now. They got to be repaired." (inaudible) said, "I need 'em up anyhow" and they sold 'em at a nice price. They had to buy 'em. They didn't have no choice. Well then, they built some new houses over there. They sold them, too. Well, colored didn't live in 'em. If you want to know, colored didn't live in them houses. They's a few little houses around up there. Didn't many people in Hogansville own their own houses there. Reason I didn't, because I usually was staying out in the rural there. Come to town. I'd walk up the highway about a mile. But when I 00:15:00come out of the service, most of 'em built a little house for the children, you know.

STONEY: Now do you remember -- well, you were just a child -- back in 1934 there was a great bit strike here. Do you remember anything about it?

MARCHMAN: Naw. I heard about it.

STONEY: Tell us about it.

MARCHMAN: I don't know much about when that -- you said there was a strike? Well we had -- they had it 'round here, but they usually -- if they found out that you was trying to strike, they'd fire you, you know. That's the way. You couldn't -- I wasn't working in the mill in '34. 39 when I went to work down there, but I heard about it, but I wasn't working down there. They done what they -- the company done the things they wanted to do and you had to do what he say do if you wanted to work there. I remember the manager whose name was Dave 00:16:00Reid. He stayed there a long time. He's dead. And then Calloway used to own that mill, Calloway from LaGrange used to own it. United States Rubber Company bought it and then later on, Goodrich come there and bought a stock with 'em and that's the -- but I had come out from there by then. So what I was saying, they moved out most of it over to Thomaston. They got a mill over there 'bout three times as big as Uniroyal. And they going on, and it's down. I think the plant is just about closed down there, from what I can gather.

STONEY: Now I want to go back to something we talked about before. You said that the blacks didn't work in spinning, they didn't work in doffing, they didn't work in weaving and that kind of thing.

MARCHMAN: No, sir.

STONEY: I said why is that, "Well, they didn't know how to." And when I asked you later on, you said, "Well, they do now." Do you think that it was just 00:17:00because people didn't know how or they wouldn't let 'em try?

MARCHMAN: Oh, they wouldn't let 'em try. If they'd have knowed how, they couldn't've done it.

STONEY: Start off and tell the whole thing.


STONEY: Just as though I didnt ask you the question. So your gonna tell your grandchild about it.

MARCHMAN: You know how it was. You just want me to say it.


MARCHMAN: Well, they couldn't do it. They didn't know how to do it. We've never been to school or nothing to get enough education to know how to do that.

STONEY: But a lot of those people who were doing that didn't have an education -- white people didn't have an education either.

MARCHMAN: They let 'em go on and do the best they could about it, till they could learn' 'em. But you didn't hae -- if you didn't know, you just didn't know.

STONEY: How much education did you have?

MARCHMAN: Third grade! I learned from my daddy when I was seven, a houseful of young 'uns. And I couldn't go to school, it 'bout almost like this because the onliest time I could go to school when it was wet and couldn't plow. We lived 00:18:00on Mr. Ascue's(?) wedge farm out here about 10 mile. And I was seven years -- I went to plowing when I was nine. And it were wet, I'd go to school a little bit, barely learned how to write my name. I had to plow and I never could go to school back then cause I had to plow and raise them young un's, and Daddy got killed when I was seven years old. I never knowed the use of a father, but I knew my daddy. But then I come to be the little man and I got big enough to plow a mule by 10. I was farming for myself, me and my mama then, you know. My mama used to plow. She dead and gone. I hope she's in heaven, because we come up the rough side of the mountain. But we still alive. That's what counts, you know? I am. She go.

STONEY: Well, when did you get your education?


MARCHMAN: When'd I get it? I ain't never got it! I ain't never been to school. I didn't go. I couldn't go when I came out of service cause I was working on second shift and you couldn't go to school at night. You know, you could go to school. Sam would pay you to go to school to get a little more education, but I never could go cause I couldn't swap shifts with nobody. So I's on second shift and couldn't swap with nobody, so I didn't (inaudible) get a little money. They called it a 52 pointer -- I never put my name on a thing since I come outta service since I come out. Signed something now, for money or something.

STONEY: But you know how to read and write and figure and all of that.

MARCHMAN: I can figure a little bit and read and write my name. You believe that? It's true.

STONEY: How did you learn?

MARCHMAN: You can write your name and add a little bit, you ain't going to do no hard lot of multiplying and stuff like that, and things like that. You cant go up there. You can do everyday stuff, but, you know. I guess it's 00:20:00all right to not do it. I was talking before, maybe I didn't need it. I'm still alive. You know, folks know too much sometime! (laughs) Oh, my Lord! I'm preaching now! Sometimes -- you've seen people that know it all and they can read and write. They just ain't got no mother wit. Now don't ask me what "mother wit" is, but they claim that's a great help. What you think about it? That's common sense?


M1: Ok.

STONEY: Thats great.

M2: Thats wonderful.

[break in video]

JUDITH HELFAND: List for me all the jobs that a black man or woman couldn't do in the mill and then list all the jobs that they could do

STONEY: Werent allowed to do.

HELFAND: -- weren't allow to do. I know they could do it -- weren't allowed to 00:21:00do, weren't given an opportunity to do. Am I being clear?

MARCHMAN: Tell you -- tell you why?

HELFAND: Im asking you could you list, like a laundry list, all the jobs that black men and women werent --

[break in video]

HELFAND: And then tell me all the jobs that they did do. Ok? Like a list.

M2: Take it into parts Judy.

HELFAND: Ok, could you tell me, tell me all the jobs that black me or women werent given the opportunity to do inside the mill.

MARCHMAN: Well ok--

HELFAND: And repeat--

MARCHMAN: All except sweeping and mopping, mopping the floor? The balance of 'em, all -- all -- all except that. Like weaving or spinning or the spinning room or the weave shop or the -- or the, ah, machine shop, warehouse. (inaudible) all white men. Only thing that's they job was to sweep and mop the 00:22:00floor and pick that waste. That's -- that's -- back then, but 'fore I left from down there, 13 years ago, they was doing 'bout anything in there that the white did -- like weaving and running quillers and beamers and upstairs in the card room. And it's hot up there, but that pays good. But they was -- they was doing all of that then. But I was a-speaking when I was there. When I come up, there wasn't no colored doing much of nothing. The warehouse work a lot of colored. Trucking that big cotton, they was a lot of colored men working. Most of the men -- maybe one or two in the office over at the warehouse, but that was -- most of the men -- most of them was colored -- trucking that cotton in boxes and stuff shipped in there that had to be good, strong men. But they just got 00:23:00paid a salary by, you know, what they paid there, whatever they was paying there. They paid by the hour. But that's about all the colored folks did down there, all them years they was down there. Used to be there was very few colored people working in the mill way back yonder.

M1: Why?

HELFAND: Why were there so few colored people working in the mill back then?

MARCHMAN: I guess they didn't figure they could get it done without using colored people. 'Bout like baseball. You know, there used to be very few colored people playing major league baseball, you know. But they -- I don't know why. Just let me ask you say why. Listen, I'm not trying to be smart, but 00:24:00don't tell me. I think I know.

STONEY: Thats great, thats great couldnt be better.

HELFAND: You know,--

[break in video]

HELFAND:-- most of these white cotton mill workers told us that they were looked down upon and they were called lint head.

MARCHMAN: They was called what?

STONEY: Lintheads.

HELFAND: Lintheads.

MARCHMAN: That mean you ain't got no sense. That mean no schooling. That don't mean sense. Lint head? Well, as I told you, I was a lint head. I never did get no higher'n the third grade. That was some kind of head, wasn't it? But she say, "Well, how did you do that? You say you fixer while you didn't go to school none." There wasn't too much. I seed it done so much and that mother wit, that I said, that helped me along a little. What did you say mother wit was you read? You didn't get finished. What you said it was? What was that, 00:25:00"mother wit"? I think they's something now that kind of give you common sense, don't it? Don't it leave you, the mother wit? You say, well, a crazy man, he don't have mother wit. He know how to go to bed and put his clothes on. He just don't -- I never learned what mother wit was. But it's a mighty fine thing, I think, but that's all I got to rest on is mother wit. And the Lord, He's got -- He's a father got some wit, I know. I don't know 'bout Mama, but I know He's the man that could show you the way. And He'll show you the way if you ask him. He certainly will. He will make a way outta no way. And sometime you got to call on Him. He never leave you alone. Now I done went to 00:26:00preaching, ain't I? (laughs) Well, that's the truth of the light. When you tell the truth, you're preaching, though, if you're telling the truth. Anytime you tell the truth, you's preaching. But theres a lot of preachers don't tell the truth everything they say. But the Lord know what He's doing and He'll show you the way. And He won't let you go too far wrong, if you ask him to lead you.

HELFAND: I'm wondering

[break in video]

HELFAND: -- about Mr. R.J. Terrell.

MARCHMAN: Oh, yes. I've been knowing Brother Terrell a long time.

HELFAND: Now did you know him when he was working in the mill?

MARCHMAN: Oh, yes'am. He drove a truck. He was a truck driver. Yes, I've been knowing him. He -- he worked down there a long time. He lost his wife not long ago.

HELFAND: He said that he as listed, I think, as a yard man?

MARCHMAN: Yeah, he was a yard man.

HELFAND: And he never -- but he was really a trucker. So maybe he never got 00:27:00paid as he should have been.

MARCHMAN: Yeah. That's right.

HELFAND: Can you, can you tell us about that?

MARCHMAN: Well, he -- he was a truck driver. They had a scale for truck drivers. Might have paid a little more to drive a truck, but he done a lot of work. That's a tougher job, driving a truck. And he unloaded it and loaded it and drove it. Never had them boxes -- they didn't have a tracer to roll 'em off and he just set there and drive. He was (inaudible) working, hauling from one mill to another. Across the road there was a mill, Uniroyal, then, of course, the old mill, where I worked at -- till they tore it down -- used to be an old mill there. They tore it down and moved it across over there in the weaving department and built it onto the new mill. And they had that heavy machinery, they hauled it. And he unloaded it and loaded it and go right back and get another'n. But he was paid -- they was paying him a little more than was a sweeper, but wasn't no whole lot more. And then they'd take out, "Let's 00:28:00take it out your check" and he didn't bring home much. But, as I say, you could take that -- we would bring it home then and buy a little food because, ah, food wasn't as high as it is now. You could get by. Ever four days, they'd take it off of you. Didn't pay it this week, they'd pay it next. That's the reason I (inaudible) retired, to get a little shake at the first of the month, Social Security. But you got to mind how you spend it. You spend it too fast if you want to! (laughs) You got to look before you leap! But where you going to get paid ever five-six days, oh, if I don't pay it, I can pay it the next payday? I miss that. I miss that. But a little money come in like that, but you got to -- ever 30 days, you could starve to death by that time.

HELFAND: When you were working --

M2: Change tape.