Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Julius Fry, August 19, 1974. Interview E-0004. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Impact of the National Recovery Administration in one southern textile mill

Fry describes his reaction to the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the implementation of the National Recovery Adminstration in 1933. With shortened hours and increased wages, Fry explains that this allowed workers a new kind of freedom they had previously been denied. Indeed, he recalls that when these measures were implemented, it "was like the emancipation of the slaves." According to Fry, the actions Roosevelt took to relieve workers had a decisive impact and served to align workers with him politically.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Julius Fry, August 19, 1974. Interview E-0004. 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

On july 17, 1933, that was after Roosevelt was elected, the NRA came into effect in my plant and reduced my hours from 12 hours a day down to eight and increased my pay from about $8 a week to $12 minimum.
BILL FINGER:
How did that happen, without the law?
JULIUS FRY:
It was the executive order of the President. Someway or another, that was the way they established NRA. Now, the records are clear on that, you can look at them if you are interested. But the NRA established, that was the National Recovery Act, I believe it was. It was later declared unconstitutional. That's what touched off the court packing incident.
BILL FINGER:
But in the meantime, the Wagner Act got through, so. . . .
JULIUS FRY:
Yeah, it got through in '35, I think it was. But my hours were reduced from 12 to eight and the pay was increased from $8 to $12 and that was such a tremendous thing to me and I was so attunded to it that I kept that date on one of the posts in the mill there. And if that old post is still there, that date is on it. But that was like the emancipation of the slaves. That's exactly what it was. And I felt highly emotional about it. Because we had been nothing up to then except slaves. And I really felt free. And I had so much time on my hands, getting off a two in the afternoon, I would go to work at six and get off at two, no break for lunch. And so much time for awhile there that I didn't know what to do with it. It was something new to me, and it just felt so peculiar.
BILL FINGER:
So, when you are using the term "Depression", you are only talking about up to 1933?
JULIUS FRY:
Yes. Of course, we were still in it, but the recovery started with the election of Roosevelt and the New Deal. He closed the banks immediately, put everything on sound footing. It was a very dramatic action to live through at that time. Especially as a lowly worker, you know, down at the bottom of the totem pole.