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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Joseph D. Pedigo, April 2, 1975. Interview E-0011-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Participating in the flying squadrons in 1934

Pedigo describes how he and his fellow union members participated in the flying squadrons during the 1934 general strike. Although his factory was not involved in the strike, his union worked to help other striking workers in the area. In particular, he describes here how they tried to prompt workers in Danville and Hopewell to walk out and join the strike. While he argues that the flying squadrons he was a part of did not face violent opposition, he notes that the threat of violence was real and that it was a risk they were willing to take.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Joseph D. Pedigo, April 2, 1975. Interview E-0011-1. 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

WILLIAM FINGER:
What do you recall about it? You said that you went over to Danville.
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Yeah, there were a bunch of us in the flying squadron that went over there and didn't get to Danville. We were stopped before we got there and turned around. A fellow by the name of George Moorhouse was the staff man at that time and he got a group of us, everybody that would go with him and went over.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Were you scared?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Not particularly, it was more of a lark than anything else. We got involved in one episode that got a little scary, as a matter of fact, one of our people went off the road and got killed coming back to Roanoke, at Hopewell, Virginia, where there is a Tubise-Chatillion plant. We took a flying squadron in there and they found out that we were coming and locked the gates. We had a bus, some of us went in cars, some in a bus and we pulled that damn bus up beside the fence and climbed up on it and went over the fence. We started going into the plant and told people that there was a strike on, "Come on and let's go." We didn't have an incident the whole time, there wasn't a lick passed and everybody just came right on out and closed it down. The management was so scared, they must have thought that we were a bunch of thugs. They had a Norfolk and Western boxcar on a siding and the management all loaded up in the boxcar and went out. There was an amusing aftermath to that. Many years later, I became joint board manager in Rome, Georgia at a Tubise plant, a former Tubise plant, now owned by Celanese. The man that was the labor relations representative was one of those that rode out of Hopewell in a boxcar.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Is that right?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
And the plant manager was one of them.
WILLIAM FINGER:
I guess that they had been transferred down.
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Oh yes. I never mentioned a word about this incident in Hopewell until the strike. But before that, I had a meeting, one of the first meetings that I had with the company, when we got through with the grievance conferences, … the man that was the labor relations representative for the company was the biggest liar that I have ever heard talk. So, when we got through with the grievance conferences, he said, started reminiscening and said, "You know, up in Hopewell, that's where I came from, that was awful up there in '34, a bunch of thugs came over there with sticks and clubs and beat our people over the head and beat them into the floor and dragged them out of that plant." I sat there and let him tell me all about it, you know. There wasn't a lick passed.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you have sticks and clubs?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
No. Some of the guys might have had something in their pockets but all we did was just go in and say, "Come on, let's go."
WILLIAM FINGER:
Tell me about a flying squadron. Where did you get your name?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
That was dubbed on to us for some reason, I guess by the newspapers during that period of time. We would just get a group together and pick a target and go on down. The picking was done by the organizer, the UTW organizer that was in charge. The rest of us just went for the hell of it.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How many people went to this Hopewell plant?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Oh, there must have been fifty of us.
WILLIAM FINGER:
And you didn't hesitate to climb over the fence?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
No.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You didn't think that there might be National Guard or State Troopers there?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Well, that's the chance that you take, you know that there is that possibility, but when you are that age and got a lot of stars in your eyes, well, you don't worry about that.