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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lacy Wright, March 10, 1975. Interview E-0017. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Reaction to flying squadrons during the general strike of 1934

Wright remembers what he thought about situations during the general textile workers strike of 1934, particularly the role of "flying squadrons" in the area. Wright was working at the Cone Mills Revolution plant in Greensboro during this time. The Cone Mills workers did not participate in the strikes, and as a result, they were a potential target of the flying squadrons, whose goal was to get more workers to walk out and join the strike. Wright describes here how his employer told him that he and the other workers would be expected to "defend" the plant should the flying squadrons come; however, Wright declared that if the flying squadrons arrived he would avoid involvement on either side. Wright did not disagree with what the flying squadrons were doing, but he explains that he could not afford to lose his job during those years and thus he remained neutral to labor organization at the time.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lacy Wright, March 10, 1975. Interview E-0017. 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:
Let's go back. Did you ever hear of a flying squadron?
LACY WRIGHT:
Yes. I mean, a lot of things happened while I was at Revolution.
CHIP HUGHES:
That's right.
WILLIAM FINGER:
1934; September 1934.
LACY WRIGHT:
You know what I told my boss down there one night? We went in down there. I don't know whether you ever saw a picker stick on a loom or not.
WILLIAM FINGER:
A what stick?
LACY WRIGHT:
A picker stick, they call it.
WILLIAM FINGER:
What's that?
LACY WRIGHT:
It's on a loom; it makes a shuttle go through the warp. And it's a hickory stick about that wide and about that thick, and it's about four feet long—three and a half, four feet long. And it was hickory, solid hickory. Now they'd taken a bunch of them and piled them at the mill door when they begin to hear about these flying squadrons, you know. And I went to work one night down there and my sister's overseer, a fellow by the name of Roy Lynch, he come to me. He said: "Wright," he said. "Now we got pretty good evidence that they're going to shut us down tonight. We've got picker sticks at all these outside doors." He said: "If they come, what we want you to do, we want you to go out the door and get you a picker stick, and go to the mill factories fence."
WILLIAM FINGER:
Your foreman told you that, Lacey?
LACY WRIGHT:
The assistant foreman.
WILLIAM FINGER:
The assistant foreman. Did he tell everybody that, or particularly you.
LACY WRIGHT:
Told everybody. Went around there and cornered them and told everybody.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you like him?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, I'll tell you what I told him, now.
WILLIAM FINGER:
OK.
LACY WRIGHT:
I said: "Roy, you just let me know when them fellows get here, that flying squadron. And," I said, "in place of going out on that side of the building and getting me a picker stick, I'm going back on this side and find me a hole. I'm going out of here."
WILLIAM FINGER:
You were going to get out of there.
LACY WRIGHT:
I'm going to get out of there. And he looked at me. He said: "Well, you think that's the best thing for you?" I said: "I tell you. I like my job, but I don't like it well enough for somebody to kill me for it." And I said: "I figure them fellows come here, and they come here with ideas that they are going to stop this mill."
WILLIAM FINGER:
You knew what they were coming for.
LACY WRIGHT:
Absolutely. And I said: "To my thinking, they going to come here for pay. That's my opinion of it." I said: "Now I may be wrong, but I ain't going to test to see whether they come here for pay or not. I'm going over there to find me a hole on the back side, and I'm going out of here."
WILLIAM FINGER:
How'd you hear about them, the first time?
LACY WRIGHT:
Oh man, it was all over everywhere around here. Everybody in the mill knew.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How did they know?
LACY WRIGHT:
Oh, it was in the news, in the newspapers.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you think they were bad people? Did the news say they were going to try to stop the mill.
LACY WRIGHT:
No. No, I didn't think they were bad people.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you think they were good people? Did you think they were crazy?
LACY WRIGHT:
Well, I'll tell you what I thought.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Did you think they were people like yourself?
LACY WRIGHT:
I'll tell you what I thought, at that time. I didn't say much about it, because I couldn't afford to.
WILLIAM FINGER:
Right.
LACY WRIGHT:
I said if them people were that interested in getting them a better situation where they worked, that they were willing to get out of here and go somewheres to try to shut somebody else down, even if they had to fight about it, that they mush have something that we didn't already have. That's exactly what my thoughts was.