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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Josephine Glenn, June 27, 1977. Interview H-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Class and race among mill employees

Divisions existed among the mill employees. Race controlled who could and could not work in the mill, but even among whites, differences existed between those who remained steadily on the job and the workers Glenn labels drunks and drifters.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Josephine Glenn, June 27, 1977. Interview H-0022. 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

CLIFF KUHN:
Do you think it's better or worse to work in textiles today than when you started out?
JOSEPHINE 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.
CLIFF KUHN:
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...
JOSEPHINE 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.
CLIFF KUHN:
Is there a resentment on the part of the older workers?
JOSEPHINE 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.
CLIFF KUHN:
Was that in Swepsonville?
JOSEPHINE 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
CLIFF KUHN:
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.
JOSEPHINE 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.
CLIFF KUHN:
When was that?
JOSEPHINE 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.
CLIFF KUHN:
Was that always the case, that there were always a certain number of drunks and drifters who were working in the mills?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
To a certain extent.
CLIFF KUHN:
Who were the drunks and the drifters? Where did they come from?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
They'd just drift from one place to another.
CLIFF KUHN:
Did they stay within the county, or did some of them come from other ...
JOSEPHINE 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.
CLIFF KUHN:
Did people who held steady jobs look down on the drifters?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
No, not really.
CLIFF KUHN:
So there weren't two groups of people.
JOSEPHINE 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.
CLIFF KUHN:
They'd usually leave because they were mad at something?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
Sometimes they'd be mad, and sometimes they'd just get on a bender and just not come back.
CLIFF KUHN:
When they got mad, what kind of things was it about?
JOSEPHINE 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.
CLIFF KUHN:
What did the other employees feel about that?
JOSEPHINE 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.