Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Icy Norman, April 6 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0036. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Norman's father buys her nice dresses

Norman continues her recollections of her first job at a shoe factory. She remembers her thrill at receiving her paychecks for $5.50. (Earlier she remembered earning $2.25, so she may be recalling salaries from two different positions.) She still tried to pass the money on to her father, though, who vigorously resisted her efforts. She remembers that her father "ruint" her by buying her lovely dresses; she has not been able to satisfy herself with her own fashion choices since.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Icy Norman, April 6 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0036. 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

I was scared to death. I didn't go for no job. I just went to see it. He carried me over there and he told me to stay with Aunt Leotta. She showed me everything about it. Well, I could sew on a [unclear] sewing machine, but these here was electric. Anyway, I reckon it was electric, too, because you just mash a pedal and the thing would just fly. He put me out by myself. He put me on the leather part, he put me out making the linings. Well, I messed up I don't know how many. That machine would go so fast and I was scared to death, too. Well, I didn't go home and did mama throw a fit. She told Dewey, "You get in that car and you go down there after that young one. She's not going to go to work." Dewey says, "Mama, I can't. She's already at work." My daddy says, "Aw, Charity, they'll cook her. She'll come home if Dewey goes down there." Dewey says, "No, Aunt Leotta told me to tell mama to fix some clothes and send Icy and we'd be home Saturday." I stayed down there and stayed at Jenny's. Well, you know, I loved to sew anyway. I just enjoyed that after I got the hang of it. It didn't take me over a day to get the hang of the machine. So then he put me out sewing the vamp of the leather onto the sides. After I got on that I made a little more money. I made five dollars and a half a week for five days and a half. Saturday I went home and mama just had a fit. My daddy says, "Charity, now just hush. Let that young one work if she wants to. She don't have to work. If she likes it, let her work a while." Well, I went back. Aunt Leotta come back Sunday night. Instead of going to Jenny's Sunday night we went to work Monday morning. We would just cross that little old branch, at dinnertime, and go in Jenny's house. She'd have a hot dinner on the table. We'd eat dinner and go back. We'd work until six o'clock. We'd eat supper. I was really liking my job. Of course, I didn't make nothing but I thought that I was rich when I got that five dollars and a half. You know they didn't take nothing out of it. I'd go home and I never would open—you know then they would pay you in a little brown envelope about that long, and it was sealed up and would tell how much was in that envelope—I never opened my envelope. On Friday night—no, on Saturday. On Saturday Dewey brought my daddy to the doctor down there. While my daddy was in the doctor's office he come up there and got me and Aunt Leotta. Well, went on home. That was my first paycheck. We got back home, my daddy had to lay down and rest a little while. See, we had to go nine miles from Elkin to where we lived. So mama had the dinner on the table but he had to lay down and rest a while. I went in there and I says, "Papa, here's my money. Look and see how much I draw." He looked and he says, "I'm tickled for you." I says, "It's yours." He says, "I don't want it. That's your money." I says, "Uh-uh. It's yours." He says, "You take this and do with it whatever you want to do with it." I says, "No, papa. I want you to have it." You know as long as he lived I give him my money. He go to Elkin, he'd go like sometime through the week. He would surprise me when I went home on Saturday. Mama didn't like it at all because she was short of me helping her do all that work. I'd go home on Saturday—we got paid every week. I'd take my money and give it to my daddy. He says, "I'm tired of you giving me that money. I don't want it. It's your money. You take it and buy what you want to. If you don't want to buy nothing, you save it. I says, "No, I want you to have it." He says, "I don't need it." "Well, you take it." He'd go down there. I'd come home on Saturday. About once a month he'd have me the prettiest outfit you ever seen. He was the best somebody to buy clothes. I know one Easter he went and bought me a new dress and a new pair of shoes and he got me a hat and he bought me a spring coat. First spring coat I ever remember seeing. Oh, I thought it was the prettiest thing I ever seen. You know right today I can't buy nothing I'm satisfied with. My daddy, he could go buy things for me and it was just perfect. My mama, she couldn't buy nothing that I liked. Mama would go buy me things but I didn't like it. But just seemed like my daddy knew exactly what to buy me. And today I can go see things that I think that I like. I get home and I don't like them. That's one thing I think my daddy ruint me. He ought have made me start buying things. He was the best thing you ever seen. He would go to town. He bought all of mama's clothes. Mama never did offer to go buy her an outfit. She was like me. She would get home and she was dissatisfied with it. He'd go pick out. He knowed exactly what to get that would look good on her, that would look pretty on her. Well, after he died. The shoe factory then went busted and I was out of a job.