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(transcript) Oral History Interview with Mrs. Howard K. Glenn, 1977 June 27. Interview H-22. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007):
(series) Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-4007)
Josephine K. Glenn
Chapel Hill, N. C.
Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Interview conducted on June 27, 1977, by Cliff Kuhn; recorded in Burlington, N. C.
Interview transcribed by Jean Houston
Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Original transcript on deposit at The Southern Historical Collection Louis Round Wilson Library.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-CH
digitization project, Documenting the American South.
An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 24th edition, 2001
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[Interview conducted] by
Original transcript on deposit at
The Southern Historical Collection
Louis Round Wilson Library
Cliff Kuhn: Where did your daddy's parents come from?
Mrs. Howard K. Glenn: My dad's greatgrandfather came over from England.
C. K.: And he settled where?
Glenn: It must have been in Randolph County. I don't know what county that was at that time, but it was over toward Liberty.
C. K.: Why did they come down to North Carolina from England?
Glenn: I have no idea.
C. K.: Do you know his parents' names?
Glenn: His parents' names were John Baker and Sally Mann R
C. K.: And they were farmers in Randolph County?
C. K.: So your father grew up in Randolph County?
Glenn: They may have moved to Alamance County when he was real young. But I don't know a whole lot about them, really.
C. K.: How about your mother's family?
Glenn: Really, I don't know. Her parents came from Sampson in Wayne County to Haw River, but her grandparents lived in Sampson in Wayne County. They were kind of big-time farmers. [Laughter]
C. K.: Why did they move to Haw River?
Glenn: I think there was a big boom in textiles at that time, and they moved to Haw River and worked there in the mills.
C. K.: Do you know when her family moved there?
Glenn: Mama was born in 1885, and I think she must have been five or six years old when they moved there.
C. K.: Your mother's name was what?
Glenn: Carrie Johnston.
C. K.: And her parents' names?
Glenn: [unclear] and Ginny Westbrook Johnston.
C. K.: How did your parents meet?
Glenn: My daddy went to Haw River and opened up a little meat market. And they met there and married two weeks later. [Laughter]
C. K.: Is that right?
Glenn: [Laughter] That was fast.
C. K.: That's a record. [Laughter] So you were born in Haw River. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Glenn: No, I wasn't born in Haw River. I was born in south Alamance. They moved back to where his home was, south Alamance County, and I was born down there. I had four brothers and a sister. There's only two brothers living now.
C. K.: Were you one of the oldest?
Glenn: Yes, I was the second one of the gang.
C. K.: When did you start working?
Glenn: I started working in textiles in 1933 or '34.
C. K.: Did you do other work before then?
C. K.: In what year were you born?
C. K.: Did you get married before you started working in the mill?
Glenn: Oh, yes. I had four children before I started working in the mill. As soon as the Depression came on, there just wasn't anything
on the farm, especially for sharecroppers, and we didn't have our own home. And we started working in the mill
C. K.: Was that common for people to do that?
Glenn: Yes, it was.
C. K.: To go gradually.
C. K.: What was your husband's name?
Glenn: Bill Matthews.
C. K.: And you were still living in south Alamance?
C. K.: How did you and he meet each other?
Glenn: It was a kind of round about way. We didn't live too far apart, but we had never met until we were about fifteen or sixteen years old. We met through a friend of both of us. He went to school with this girl, and I ran around with her, and we met at her house.
C. K.: And he wasn't old enough to go into World War I, was he?
Glenn: No, and we had too many children during World War II. And he was working on a government project, too.
C. K.: So both of you went to the mill around the same time?
Glenn: I went to work before he did. I got laid off, and I was out for maybe a year and a half.
C. K.: At that time, which did you like more, farming or textile work?
Glenn: At that time, I liked farming. I still like farming, but I
can't do it. [Laughter] I guess I'm just a farmer.
C. K.: What did you think about entering the mills at that time?
Glenn: It wasn't a matter of choice. [Laughter] I had four little reasons.
C. K.: Which mill did you enter when you first started working?
Glenn: Virginia Mills at Swepsonville.
C. K.: What kind of work did you do?
Glenn: I was spinning cotton.
C. K.: How long did you work at Swepsonville?
Glenn: I worked there about a year and a half at that time. At that time, they would have a regular crew that they kept all the time, and when they'd get in a big order they would hire extra help to get that out. And then they'd lay that extra help off, and I happened to be one of the extra ones, and I got laid off several times. During a layoff, I'd go someplace else and get me a job and work.
C. K.: Could you generally find work around in the town?
Glenn: Yes, if you looked hard enough. I told some of them one time. . . . They was pushing the union, and I wasn't too much for it. They was talking about I'd be looking for a job when the union got in. I said, "I never have looked for one, I didn't find it. It might not be what I wanted or where I wanted, but you can always find one till you can do better."
C. K.: How did you go about landing a job?
Glenn: You didn't have to go through the employment office at that time. You could just go to a mill and talk to the overseer, and if he needed help he could hire you. But they can't do that anymore.
I understand that the job has to go up on a board, and then everybody that's there can bid on it, and if somebody wants it they get it first, and then maybe they'll hire somebody for the job that they came off of.
C. K.: Did you know any of the overseers at that time?
Glenn: Yes. When I first went to work in the mill I didn't. A friend of mine got me a job. I talked to the boss man over there, and he put me to work.
C. K.: Was that usually the way that it would work?
Glenn: Yes, it used to work like that, but not anymore. They just don't do it that way anymore anywhere, I don't guess.
C. K.: Did your husband get his job the same way?
C. K.: What kind of work was he doing?
Glenn: He worked in the cloth room in the finishing.
C. K.: Was there any difference in terms of the pay between what you got and what he got?
Glenn: Not on the same job. If you worked on the same job, you got the same pay.
C. K.: Within the cotton mill at Virginia Mills, were there some jobs that were considered better jobs than other jobs?
Glenn: What they considered skilled labor, they made more. Weaving and any kind of fixing was considered skilled, and slashers (that's preparing the warps for the loom). That's considered a good job. It's nerve-wracking, but it pays good.
C. K.: I want to know a little bit more about the Depression and also about the unions that tried to come in.
Glenn: They never did get in anyplace that I worked, and they never did have any trouble except verbal.
C. K.: What, exactly, happened? During what years did the unions try to come in?
Glenn: Down at Virginia Mills, they tried to come in in the early fifties. They thought they had it made that time until the voting came off, and they were beat three-to-one. [Laughter]
C. K.: Were you working at Virginia at that time?
Glenn: Yes. They didn't have any trouble other than verbal. There was a lot of hard feeling.
C. K.: Why did some people support the union and other people opposed it?
Glenn: I don't know. It's like that always in textiles, when some comes in, some people's for it and some are not.
C. K.: Why were you against it?
Glenn: I was against it because they had it down in Haw River, and the kind of work that I was doing, I had heard so much about how hard the girls had to work that worked on that kind of job.
C. K.: Because of the union?
Glenn: Because of the union. You'd have to come up to their standards. And we worked just about like we wanted to, as long as we stayed at work.
C. K.: Were you in touch with other people who did the same kind of work that you did in other communities around the county?
C. K.: How did you get to know people from other towns?
Glenn: A lot of people in textile mills--I didn't, as long as I had work--come and go. They're more or less on a cycle.
C. K.: Why do you think that is?
Glenn: I don't know. They're not like that as a whole, but a lot of them are. They're dissatisfied, you might say, restless.
C. K.: About what?
Glenn: I don't know. They just go somewhere and work a while, and if everything don't go just like they think it should, why, they walk out.
C. K.: Do they usually end up in the same place?
Glenn: They'll go on someplace else and work a while, but they'll eventually come back.
C. K.: Is that the majority?
Glenn: No, I don't think it's the majority.
C. K.: I've been talking to some people who stayed a long time in one place, and then some other people who moved around from job to job.
Glenn: I've got two sons that have worked in textiles, and if they feel like they're being pushed around, they'll say that's it and walk out. [Laughter]
C. K.: What do you think about that?
Glenn: Well, I don't know. At the time I was working, I felt like I had to work. And another thing that had the advantage of me, I didn't drive at that time, and I just about had to stay where I could
get to my work. I've seen the time a lot of times, I'd think, "Oh, I just can't take any more," but I don't know; you cool down. [Laughter]
C. K.: When people started getting cars, did that change where they worked a lot?
Glenn: Yes, that changed it a lot.
C. K.: When did people start to own their own houses?
Glenn: That didn't make a whole lot of difference of where they worked. If they thought they had a better job, they'd drive. I lived way down in Alamance County between Swepsonville and Saxapahaw, and worked over here at the plaid mill. But at that time, the man that I rode with had a wagon, and he'd haul riders. And I quit one time because I didn't have any way to ride. He quit; he got another job and moved out of town, and I didn't know of anybody else from down that way that drove up here.
C. K.: Did he also work in the plaid mill?
Glenn: No, he worked at Mayfair, just across the railroad track.
C. K.: How long a ride was that?
Glenn: It must have been ten or twelve miles, anyway, maybe farther than that.
C. K.: He had a car?
Glenn: A wagon. And he had a load of riders.
C. K.: Everybody came from south Alamance to work in the plaid mill or Mayfair.
Glenn: No, not everybody, but a few did. He picked up riders all along the road. As he came along, he'd pick them up. He had one that
lived right below Graham. He had one that lived down just off of Webb Avenue, below Midway. And just scattered around. First one place and then another; he would drive out of his way to pick them up, for a price. He made right much on his riders, as well as his job.
C. K.: What was his name?
Glenn: Howard Porter.
C. K.: Is he still around?
Glenn: No, he passed away fifteen years ago. It's been a long while.
C. K.: When did you work at the plaid mill?
Glenn: From '35 to '41.
C. K.: Were you still living in the county?
C. K.: And you rode this man's wagon for most of that time?
Glenn: Most of that time. Part of the time, I rode with a Mr. Farrell. He also had a wagon and a load of riders. He lived at Swepsonville, but he went way down 54.
C. K.: And people came all the way in from the country.
C. K.: So there wasn't any real difference between working in the city or working in the country.
Glenn: That's right. If you could find somebody that would come by and pick you up.
C. K.: As long as you could find the work.
C. K.: Was work in the plaid mill any different from work down at
Swepsonville or other places where you worked?
Glenn: No, not a whole lot of difference. It was at a time when you had to work awfully hard, because there was always somebody standing at the gate waiting for a job. And it looked like every time you got where you could keep a job up, they'd just add a little bit more to it. And you was always in a hole, trying to catch up. I don't know if you've ever been like that or not. You'll think, "Now I'll do this, and I'll be caught up; now I'll do this, and I'll be caught up; now I know I'm going to be caught up in just a minute." But at the end of your eight hours, you're just as far behind as you were to start with.
C. K.: Were you working every day during that time period?
Glenn: No, most of the time I was working five days. The mill was running six days, but they just wouldn't let you have any overtime, You had to rest all day.
C. K.: Do you remember when someone threw dynamite into the plaid mill?
Glenn: That was before I went to work over there.
C. K.: I think it was in '34. Do you remember anything about that '34 strike, any of the activity that went on there?
Glenn: That was at the Pioneer Plant. I don't know too much about that. I do remember hearing about them dynamiting over there and their having right much trouble, but I never did work at the Pioneer Plant. The plaid mill was Burlington Mills at that time, but it hadn't been but a short while.
C. K.: As far as you could tell from the people whom you worked with,
did it change when Burlington came in?
Glenn: I never did work for it when it wasn't Burlington Mills.
C. K.: Who was the supervisor at the plaid mill at that time?
Glenn: Walt Edmond was over the preparation. I don't remember who was the superintendent.
C. K.: Was Mr. Copeland or Mr. Williams?
Glenn: Mr. Copeland had already gone to Swepsonville, and Mr. Williams followed Mr. Copeland, but I don't remember who was the super at that time.
C. K.: Was there ever any change between supervisors? Were some better than others?
Glenn: In the departments, yes. Each supervisor had his system.
C. K.: What kind of work were you doing?
Glenn: I was working on [unclear] twisters.
C. K.: How did that work compare to . . .
Glenn: You put up however many ends of yarns you wanted twisted together, and then it comes down and twists it and runs it on a spool.
C. K.: And you left there in '41?
Glenn: Yes, I left for good in '41. [Laughter] My ride quit and I had no way to ride. And they had already asked me down at Swepsonville. I had moved to Swepsonville from down in the country, and they had sent over there a couple of times for me to come and talk to the overseer.
C. K.: Because you were known as a good worker?
Glenn: Well. . . . [Laughter] Not too good, I don't guess, but
C. K.: Was your husband working at Swepsonville at that time?
Glenn: Yes. That's the only place he ever worked, except I think he worked a month at the Pioneer Plant and got laid off.
C. K.: And went back to Swepsonville.
Glenn: Went back to Swepsonville.
C. K.: So then you went to work in Swepsonville, during the War?
Glenn: Yes, I used to work at Swepsonville, and I worked there till they closed in '70.
C. K.: And that was the last place you worked?
Glenn: No, I went to Cannon and worked.
C. K.: Cannon in Graham?
Glenn: Yes. I worked on warp mills down there.
C. K.: At Swepsonville, did you do pretty much the same kind of job all the way through, or did you change jobs?
Glenn: When you worked down there, when you worked in preparation, they did everything in there in preparation, and you had to do a little bit of everything. If your job was piled up or was standing or if they needed you worse on something else, they'd take you to another of the jobs. And you'd say, "Well, I don't know how to do this." They'd say, "Well, there it is; do the best you can with it." [Laughter] And it was learn the best way you could, and I [unclear]
C. K.: What did people in Swepsonville do when the mill closed down in 1970?
Glenn: Quite a few of them were about ready to retire, and others went other places and found jobs.
C. K.: How had things changed over those twenty-nine years that you worked at Swepsonville?
Glenn: They made a lot of improvements. They bought a lot of modern machinery over at the mill, and they built a new weave room. They put in a lot of new looms.
C. K.: Do you think the work was harder in 1970 than it was in 1941, or easier?
Glenn: I don't think you had to stay on your toes as much in the later period.
C. K.: Why is that?
Glenn: I guess one thing that made a difference, you get used to working on a job when you stay on it for a long time, and you learn how to take advantage of it. You learn the shortcuts. I don't mean by that that you do sloppy work. I just mean that you learn how to take advantage of it and get along with it faster.
C. K.: When did you move from Swepsonville? Did you stay down there till 1970?
Glenn: 1974. I remarried and moved up here. I'd been single for eight years. [Laughter] My first husband passed away in 1966.
C. K.: And he worked there pretty much till he died.
Glenn: Yes. He never worked in any department except the cloth room or the finishing department. I worked about all over the mill except the weave room, but I never worked in the weave room.
C. K.:Did you think you'd like that, working a lot of different jobs rather than just one job?
Glenn: Yes, it's a variety. I never did think I'd like to work in the weave room. I never did work in the weave room, but I did
C. K.: What did people in Swepsonville do for entertainment in those days?
Glenn: They didn't do anything much. Went to the movies or something like that. That had a community center there. Once in a while they'd have somebody over there to entertain, or maybe have some kind of gathering over there, or something up at Alexander Wilson School sometimes. And church activities. That's all there was there. And they had a ball team. Usually they had the juniors in softball, and then for several years they had a men's baseball team.
C. K.: Did they recruit the baseball players?
C. K.: How did they do that?
Glenn: There was right many of the employees that had played in school, and [unclear] . And they built a real nice ball park down there at one time. Had the bleachers and the lights and everything. It was nice. I don't know what happened. I don't know whether they lost interest or what, but they quit. But the smaller ones kept playing, and they'd have softball and basketball sometimes, square dances once in a while [unclear] [Laughter]
C. K.: Did you ever come to Burlington around that time, other than to go to work?
Glenn: Oh, yes.
C. K.: What did people come to Burlington for?
Glenn: They came to Burlington to shop, go to the movies. There was no place down there to shop other than little grocery stores there in the country, and you just didn't buy all your groceries at a place like that. You went to the chain stores or a bigger store to buy your groceries.
C. K.: You never thought about moving to Burlington?
C. K.: Why was that?
Glenn: I don't know. We lived in Graham for a little while one time, during the winter of '39 and '40, and we didn't like Graham.
C. K.: Why was that?
Glenn: It wasn't home. [Laughter]
C. K.: During all this time, did you always have a garden?
Glenn: No, not always, but sometimes.
C. K.: Was there much communication between people who worked in the mill and people who stayed in the country, the farmers?
C. K.: Were most of your friends farmers or mill workers?
Glenn: I had friends in the country and there in the village, too. And the other people did, too.
C. K.: How about your relatives? Did they stay . . .
Glenn: Most of them are in the country. I had a brother that lived here in Burlington, and I've got one that lives in Mebane now, and one lives in Selma, Alabama. And the one that lives in Mebane lived in Graham quite a while. I guess he liked it; I don't know. [Laughter]
C. K.: How about your children? Where were they born?
Glenn: They were born in the country, in Alamance County.
C. K.: In which years were they born?
Glenn: Twenty-seven, '29, '30, and '33.
C. K.: What did they end up doing?
Glenn: Two of them are in textiles. One of them's a mechanic. One lives in Swepsonville. He works at Gibsonville. He runs a slasher.
C. K.: He drives all the way from Swepsonville to Gibsonville every day?
Glenn: Yes. And one lives in Gibsonville. He works for the City of Burlington.
C. K.: And what do their children do? Are their children still working in textiles?
Glenn: No, none of them's children work in textiles.
C. K.: Why do you think that is?
Glenn: They went to school and prepared themselves for a better job.
C. K.: Did you want that of your children, or what did you want? Did you want your children to follow what you had done or kind of work?
Glenn: I'd rather they'd make up their own minds as to what they think they [unclear] . Now my youngest son, he lives in Charlotte and he's a mechanic. My daughter lives in Des Moines, Iowa. She's not able to do anything.
She had a stroke this past [unclear] .
C. K.: How did she end up in Des Moines?
Glenn: She married a man from there.
C. K.: How did someone from Alamance County meet a man from Des Moines?
Glenn: He was in service.
C. K.: At Fort Bragg?
Glenn: No, it must have been Camp Lee. She was working in the bus station someplace in Virginia and met him.
C. K.: Were you working at Swepsonville during World War II?
C. K.: Did you produce any materials for the War effort?
Glenn: Yes, we made government material, sandbag material and something else. I really don't know what it was used for. It was something that was real heavy. It was a denim weave, but it was all white and it was all cotton. I really don't know what they did with it. The sandbag material was something like unbleached, real coarse sheeting, and they used it for sandbags.
C. K.: What was work like during the World War II era? Did it change at all, or was it harder? Did you have to meet production more?
Glenn: All through the years we had production.
C. K.: So that's all the way through from 1927 to . . .
Glenn: Yes. Really, all the time I ever worked, I never got paid by piece work, but still they expected you to do so much, and you knew how much you were supposed to do. They'd give you machines
to keep going, and you were supposed to keep them going.
C. K.: Did the number of machines change over the years?
Glenn: Yes and no. [Laughter] They got more modern machines that didn't take as much attention, and naturally you had to do more. And they were high-speed; they were speeded up so much.
C. K.: How would that affect what you did?
Glenn: You'd have to put up so much more yarn for a high-speed than you would for the slower running machine.
C. K.: How about stools? Did they ever have stools?
Glenn: Yes, they had stools, but I was one of the lucky ones. I was tall and had extra long arms. I could work from the floor. [Laughter] A lot of times, I would be the only one that did work from the floor; the rest of them would have to have a stool. I have unusually long arms. [Laughter]
Glenn: I don't think they did anything about the noise level. Down at Cannon, while I was working down there they got to hollering about the noise, and a lot of the places they had to wear earplugs. But where I was at it wasn't so noisy, and we didn't have to wear them. But they did, I guess, in most of the mill. What I did, there was only three machines running in that department, and that wasn't a whole lot of noise. They didn't make much noise, and we didn't have to wear earplugs. They didn't wear them in the dye house. But where there was a lot of noise they wore earplugs.
C. K.: Do you think it's better or worse to work in textiles today than when you started out?
Glenn: I think it's better, because the machinery's so much more modern. In a way it's not as good. They have so many blacks, so to speak, and they will never carry their end of the load.
C. K.: I had heard from someone else that some of the black applicants are screened through. They have a screening procedure. If that's the case, then how do they select. . . .
Glenn: Really, I don't know how they select. I just know that they just won't carry their part of the load a lot of times.
C. K.: Is there a resentment on the part of the older workers?
Glenn: I don't think so, unless they have to carry their part of the load, and anybody resents that. I worked with some as good black people as I ever have white people. We had two service boys that were exceptionally good.
C. K.: Was that in Swepsonville?
Glenn: No, it was down at Cannon. I didn't work with any blacks at Swepsonville. They had some there, but I didn't work with them, other than clean-up boys or something like that. We had one down at Cannon who didn't get along too good with the bossman, but he was as smart a boy as I ever worked with. He'd be gone and you couldn't see him nowhere, and if I needed him I'd say, "Joe," and I don't know where in the world he'd come from, but he'd be there. And he'd always do what I asked him to. There was another lady that I worked with. He didn't like her worth a hoot. He said she tried to drive him a lot more, and he resented it. But I don't know as she did, or
if that was just her way of speaking. I got along with Joe. He was pretty light. And when I first went there, they had one that was good to work with. But he quit and come back, and he wasn't worth a hoot. I don't know what happened to him, but when he come back he just wouldn't do [unclear] .
C. K.: That's interesting that so many people switched jobs from one place to another. I still want to find out why you think that was.
Glenn: Really, I don't know, unless they're just restless. [Laughter] My brother was overseer down at Cannon on the third shift in the weave room. And he gave it up and went back to weaving, and he said that you couldn't get the work done because you didn't have the help. All they had on the third shift [laughter] was drunks and drifters. If they wasn't out drunk, they was quit and gone.
C. K.: When was that?
Glenn: That was during the time I was working down there. He said he just couldn't fight it. They was always onto him about not getting off production, and he couldn't get off production with the help he had.
C. K.: Was that always the case, that there were always a certain number of drunks and drifters who were working in the mills?
Glenn: To a certain extent.
C. K.: Who were the drunks and the drifters? Where did they come from?
Glenn: They'd just drift from one place to another.
C. K.: Did they stay within the county, or did some of them come
from other . . .
Glenn: Usually local. They'd just go from one mill to another. And believe it or not, their kind of people can always get a job. They'll always hire them again. As a rule, they're good workers when they work.
C. K.: Did people who held steady jobs look down on the drifters?
Glenn: No, not really.
C. K.: So there weren't two groups of people.
Glenn: They're expected. They knew them on sight, and when one of them would come in, they'd say, "Oh, he won't be here long. He'll be gone." Sometimes they'd stay a while, and then sometimes they wouldn't stay.
C. K.: They'd usually leave because they were mad at something?
Glenn: Sometimes they'd be mad, and sometimes they'd just get on a bender and just not come back.
C. K.: When they got mad, what kind of things was it about?
Glenn: Oh, maybe something personal, or maybe something about the work, or just whatever they got mad about. They just, "I've had it," and that was it.
C. K.: What did the other employees feel about that?
Glenn: It didn't bother them. They'd say, "So-and-so quit. Oh, well, somebody'll take his place tomorrow." And that's just the way we thought about it. It just didn't bother us.
C. K.: What were the schools like in Swepsonville?
Glenn: Really, they had two groups of people. They had the
country kids and the village kids.
C. K.: What was the difference?
Glenn: I don't know. I didn't know it until since all my children have been out of school and I worked with one of the boys that went to school from the country. Well, mine went from the country, too, till the eldest one was fourteen, and he must have been about the seventh or eighth grade. But they never said anything about it, or if they did I didn't remember it. But anyway, this one man said that the kids from Swepsonville thought they were better than the ones from the country because they dressed better. Said their parents had a payday every two weeks, and said our parents have a payday in the spring when they sell their grain, and one in the fall when they sell their grain or tobacco or cotton or whatever they have. And said the country kids--well, I knew that all the time--didn't have new clothes every week or two. They got theirs twice a year. And said he always felt like the ones from the village looked down on the ones from the country, because they didn't have as many new clothes.
C. K.: Did you feel that as a kid, growing up in the country yourself?
Glenn: Not until the last two years I went to school.
C. K.: How old were you then?
Glenn: I quit when I was eighteen.
C. K.: So you went through high school.
Glenn: No, I lacked two years. Our school was consolidated, and we had to go to another neighborhood, and that school just wouldn't
accept the other schools that were bussed in. And it looked like they felt like, "This is ours. Keep your distance."
C. K.: Was this all in south Alamance?
Glenn: No, that was in Orange County. If you drive back and forth to Chapel Hill, you know where the schoolhouse is, White Cross. I don't know what they use it for now, but there hasn't been any school there in years. It's not far from the road, but you don't see it till you're right in front of it.
C. K.: The other kids looked down on you because you were from the country, or just because you were . . .
Glenn: They were from the country, too, but they just wouldn't accept the other schools. I don't know why, but they just didn't.
C. K.: Did you ever think that you might want to work in a hosiery mill or any other kind of mill other than the ones that you worked at?
Glenn: No, not really. I know it's cleaner, but it's a lot more fragile. You have to be so careful of everything.
I worked in rayon, nylon, cotton, and blends and all that kind of stuff. But when it comes to handling hose, my hands are too rough. [Laughter] I'd have to wear gloves to handle hose.
C. K.: Did you know a lot of people who worked in hosiery?
Glenn: Oh, yes.
C. K.: So people knew people from a lot of different groups at that time.
Glenn: Oh, yes. Maybe I worked in a cotton mill, and my next-door neighbor worked in a hosiery mill.
C. K.: In Swepsonville, was there a hosiery mill?
Glenn: No, but the people come to Graham then and Alamance, Belmont, and to other hosiery mills.
C. K.: It's interesting to me how they did work at all these different places, even before people had cars.
Glenn: They did. I had an uncle said that he had worked at every mill in Alamance County except Swepsonville. [Laughter]
C. K.: There are dozens of mills.
Glenn: There are a lot of them.
C. K.: How would the word get out, say, that a particular worker was a good worker? I know that some of the companies tried to recruit people who they felt were good workers.
Glenn: If they got a-hold of one that worked pretty good, if they thought he was going to quit they'd try to hold onto him. I'll boast a little bit. [Laughter] The last time when I quit the plaid mill, my bossman told me he was going to send my time in sick, and he'd send it in like that two weeks, and I could come back. But I didn't go back.
C. K.: Why didn't you, at that time?
Glenn: That's the last time I quit, and I didn't have any way to ride, so I didn't go back.
C. K.: Did most everybody in Swepsonville belong to the same church?
Glenn: No, they had two churches there, and some of them went out in the country to other churches.
C. K.: How about your family?
Glenn: My family went to church there. I went to the Baptist. [Laughter] Two of the children went to the Baptist, and two of them to the Methodist.
C. K.: Why is that?
Glenn: I don't know. Their friends, when we first moved there. That's where their friends went, and that's where they started going.
C. K.: Did the company start those churches?
Glenn: I don't know. Mrs. Baker gave the bell and the organ. She was the owner of the mill.
C. K.: She was the first lady owner of a mill?
Glenn: Yes, her husband died and left it to her.
C. K.: Did she ever come into the mill [unclear] ?
Glenn: Oh, yes, she'd come up there and look around.
C. K.: What kind of a lady was she?
Glenn: She was real nice, just another one of the girls, so's to speak. And they lived there for a long time, and they finally moved to Raleigh. And I've heard a lot of the ones that lived there--they were about my age, and they lived there when they were kids--and they said that when her children would have a birthday, she'd throw a big party for her children and invite all the kids in the village. Of course, there were not as many then as maybe there is now. And she'd give out the gifts to the other kids, instead of kids bringing her children gifts. She'd always have gifts for the kids that she invited.
C. K.: When did Mrs. Baker die?
Glenn: I don't know.
C. K.: That was when you were still working.
Glenn: Yes, I was still working.
C. K.: What happened after that, in terms of the relationships the people who worked there?
Glenn: It didn't make any difference. The boys had already took over [unclear] . Their oldest son never married. He was the business end of the work. And the other one was just slap-happy, and he didn't care if the wind blowed or not. But as long as Ashby lived, you'd never know the difference. Everything went on. But after Ashby died, it just started going down.
C. K.: When did he die?
Glenn: I can't remember. I knew when it was, but I don't know how long it's been.
C. K.: What happened after that?
Glenn: It just went from bad to worse till they went bankrupt and had to close.
C. K.: How long a notice did they give you before it closed down?
Glenn: We didn't have any notice.
C. K.: How did they tell you?
Glenn: We had been being on short time every once in a while, and they'd say, "If I need you next week, I'll call you." And then finally I went out of work and that was it.
C. K.: Did they give you any pension or any money?
Glenn: We had a [laughter] little retirement pension there, very little, and we didn't get that for a long time. But as they become sixty-five, if they have as much as ten years' service (the last ten years), they get it. They didn't start paying it, though, for a good
long while. They finally started paying it, and I guess they'll continue, for the ones that are eligible for it. But they let us sign up for unemployment. I was out of work six or seven weeks.
C. K.: Was it hard for you to get a job at Cannon Mills?
Glenn: Not when I really tried. I kind of wanted to rest for a little bit. Of course, I went every week and asked for work different places, and then I heard there was a vacancy at Cannon. And I went down there and I applied for one in the cloth room. I had worked in a cloth room at Virginia Mills. The man that was over it said he didn't want to put me on the third shift. I'd been on the first shift so long, and I was too old to try to go back to the third shift. He said, "I'll see what works out." So about two or three days later I heard that somebody had quit in the preparation, so I called the personnel man and asked him if he would change my application and give me a chance at that, So the next day they called and wanted to know if I'd come to work that day. I told them I couldn't go to work that day, but I'd come in the next day, so I went to work.
C. K.: Did you and your husband always work the same shift?
Glenn: No. I worked six years third shift, and him on the first. My children were small, and if I worked third shift and him first, I didn't have to have somebody stay with them.
C. K.: So you'd work all third shift and then take care of the kids and then go to sleep?
Glenn: They were in school, but still I didn't want them. . . . They had always been in the country, and I didn't want them running
around over that hill all over everywhere and no telling where. I was kind of funny about them; I liked to know where they were.
C. K.: That's not so funny. [Laughter]
Glenn: And they never knew when I was going to wake up and get up. And if I went to bed and I'd say, "You all stay in this yard till I get up," believe it or not, they did it. And then after I'd get up, if they wanted to go somewhere, they could.
C. K.: What did people do where both the wife and the husband worked the same shift?
Glenn: Some of them would have a neighbor keep them, or just leave them, let them gallivant around.
C. K.: How about the little kids?
Glenn: They would have somebody keep them. Some of them had cooks. Some of them maybe had an in-law that would sit in and look after them for them. And a lot of the teenage girls would sit small children in the summertime [unclear] .
C. K.: Did people ever take their kids into the mill?
Glenn: Not much. They wasn't supposed to have them. After they got up eight or ten years old, they could go in there and take lunches. Old enough to know not to get in the machinery or anything, just go and take a lunch and come right back. They were permitted to do that at one time, but they stopped that.
C. K.: When did they stop that?
Glenn: It must have been maybe the late fifties. I know my daughter used to go every day and take lunches. [unclear] kids to take these lunches. No body there to fix it.
C. K.: Why do you think they stopped that?
Glenn: Some of the kids got so they would go where they were not supposed to. They got too big for their britches, so's to speak. And had a lot of curiosity; they [unclear] , and then they stopped it. And the management was changed [unclear] . And the company ran a dope wagon.
C. K.: For Coca-Colas or what?
Glenn: And sandwiches and things like that. They called it the dope wagon. [Laughter] No, the company didn't run it. It was catered in. If you wanted to take your lunch, that was fine and dandy. Sometimes somebody would come in and bring their lunch, but not much. When I first went down there, though, there was quite a few ladies that cooked meals and carried them over there, plates, on all three shifts. There was one lady that carried meals on all three shifts.
C. K.: She was the wife of a mill hand?
Glenn: No, she was a widow woman that didn't have any way to make a living except she had a few girl boarders, and she would cook meals and take to the mill and sell them.
C. K.: Were there many single girl boarders who worked in the mill?
Glenn: Yes, right many. My sister boarded with her, for one. She lived down in Orange County and didn't have any way back and forth, so she boarded there in the village.
C. K.: When did she start to work?
Glenn: It must have been about '40 or '41.
C. K.: Did she [unclear] ?
Glenn: Oh, no, she moved around everywhere. [Laughter]
C. K.: Why do you think that you stayed in one place all that time and your sister moved around to all these places?
Glenn: Really, I don't know. She got in hosiery mills and worked first one place and [unclear] . I think maybe that's the reason she moved around. She and her husband separated, and she was kind of restless and didn't know what didn't know hardly what she wanted. If she felt like she was getting a better job, why, she'd just move.
C. K.: Did a lot of people take in boarders?
Glenn: No, not a whole lot. Just a few.
C. K.: And they were mainly young girls? Were there young boys, too, who'd come in?
Glenn: No, not after I moved there. I don't know of any boys that boarded. But at one time, they had three boarding houses there. One of them was, I guess, built for a boarding house, but the others were just big houses, and the people kept boarders. But that was before my time. They closed the boarding houses right after we moved there. There was quite a few boys that had boarded there. I knew them, but I didn't know them at the time that they boarded there.
C. K.: Inside the mill, were certain jobs reserved for the men and certain for the women, or was it pretty much the same?
Glenn: There was jobs for the men and jobs for the women. The women didn't do the hard, heavy jobs.
C. K.: Like the dye house?
Glenn: No women in the dye house. No women in the card room.
C. K.: Any jobs that only women did?
Glenn: Yes, just women spinners and winders and toppers. And at that time, women didn't run the cotton twisters that were downstairs.
C. K.: When did that change, when women could run the twisters?
Glenn: Over the years, they began to work them in.
C. K.: How did that happen?
Glenn: Really, I don't know. It just seemed like it just happened for no reason.
C. K.: Did women take over any jobs during World War II?
Glenn: Yes, they did. Working on twisters and things of that kind.
C. K.: And that stayed after the War?
Glenn: Yes, they stayed on after the War. And a lot of things like that. There was a time when the women. . . . We used to run yarn off of a spool, but it was metal. The spool was wood and had metal heads on it. We called them iron heads, but really they were spools, and we had them on a tray. And that tray would hold twenty. And them things were heavy when you'd get twenty on there with a little bit of yarn on each one of them. Or sometimes we'd have to lift them when they were full of yarn. And we had to stack them, six high. And there was a time when the women didn't have to do that. When they would empty them, we'd just take them down. They'd be empty. Take them down and set them on the floor, and the service boy would stack them up [unclear] . [unclear] where we had to stack our own. That's [unclear] . The last job I worked on, I guess, was about the heaviest I ever had. We had some yarn. I told one of the guys from Planning, "Them things weight eight to fifteen pounds." He said, "Aw, they don't." I said, "You get in there
and hang four hundred and some of them and not stop, and you'll think they weigh twenty-five pounds." [Laughter]
C. K.: Did he? [Laughter] What kind of house did you live in in those days in Swepsonville? Did you live in the same house for all that time?
Glenn: Yes. One of the mill houses, a four-room frame house.
C. K.: What kind of rent did you pay on that house?
Glenn: When we first moved there, we paid six dollars a month, water and lights.
C. K.: That's pretty good. [Laughter] Did the rent ever go up?
Glenn: It finally went up, but I don't remember. They sold the houses in '52, I guess.
C. K.: So you bought your own house at that time?
Glenn: You didn't have no choice. It was either buy it or get out. And I didn't drive, and I worked there, and I didn't have any choice. But they fixed it so that you could buy them without too much of a strain.
C. K.: How much did it cost to buy those houses?
Glenn: Mine was about $2,600. [Laughter] Of course, they had been fixed up a lot from what they had been at one time, but they were rundown. After Mr. Williams passed away, the Baker boys just didn't take no interest in anything toward keeping the houses up or anything. And first thing, I had to cover mine, and I did a whole lot of work on it. [unclear] it was still nothing but an old barn. There was no baths then.
C. K.: Did a number of people decide not to buy the houses and leave?
Glenn: Not a whole lot of them.Some of them didn't, but the majority of them bought them. A lot of them sold them later.
C. K.: Why did the company decide to sell the houses at that time?
Glenn: Really, I don't know, unless it was going to cost so much to fix them back up, and they didn't feel like messing with them. I don't remember how much the rent was at the time they sold them, but it was six dollars when we first moved there and rented one.
C. K.: That's a good rent. I wish I could pay that rent today. [Laughter]
Glenn: Yes, don't you ever. [Laughter]
C. K.: What was health care like? Another thing that's pretty expensive today. Where did you go to a doctor?
Glenn: You had to go to town for a doctor, but at that time you could get a doctor to come out. The doctors in Graham would come out at that time if you wasn't able to come in.
C. K.: Were there midwives in the country, too?
Glenn: No, not at that time. They had vanished.
C. K.: Did you know any when you were a child?
Glenn: Yes. They're all gone.
C. K.: What are the biggest changes that you've seen in the course of your lifetime in Alamance County and Burlington?
[End of interview]