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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ernest Seeman, February 13, 1976. Interview B-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Becoming father's apprentice during adolescence

Seeman recalls how he left school, per his father's orders, around 1900 when he was twelve years of age in order to begin working in his father's printery. His father had established the printery during the 1880s and expected that Seeman and his brothers would take over the family business. As a result, all three sons were apprenticed in the shop during their adolescence. Seeman would spend the next seventeen years working within and helping to build the family business.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ernest Seeman, February 13, 1976. Interview B-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

MIMI CONWAY:
When did you leave school to begin your working career? How old were you when you left school to begin working?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
When I went to the printing office?
MIMI CONWAY:
Right.
ERNEST SEEMAN:
About ten or twelve, I guess.
MIMI CONWAY:
Yes. I think you told me you were twelve.
ERNEST SEEMAN:
Well, my father thought we all were going to have to work, and he was aiming to make a printing factory with three heads to it. That was a bad move: we didn't get along together.
MIMI CONWAY:
You and your two brothers?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
I had two brothers: Wallace and Henry. Wallace was more practical than I was, and he took to the business better. My father sent him to Raleigh to Kings College to learn shorthand and bookkeeping, and he just let me roam in the woods. I wasn't harnessed very well.
MIMI CONWAY:
But one day when you were a boy, didn't he come to you and tell you it was time to work?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
At the breakfast table: that's where he always broke unpleasant news.
MIMI CONWAY:
What did he say?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
Well, I thought it would be all right. That was his orders; I had nothing to do with it.
MIMI CONWAY:
What did he say to you that morning at the breakfast table?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
"Well, it's time you boys were getting to work now. You're going to have to run this printing office." And they had a big dynamo he had bought. He had bought a big paper cutter. He went into debt for all these things. He was personable and people liked him, and he was honest, and he knew his stuff.