Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James Pharis, July 24, 1977. Interview H-0038. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Challenges of acting the middleman between bosses and employees

Pharis describes the difficulty of acting as a middleman between the bosses above him and the employees beneath him. He chose not to socialize with either group, and resisted efforts to draw him into the church community.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James Pharis, July 24, 1977. Interview H-0038. 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:
It seems that, to a degree, as supervisor you're sort of in the middle—on the one hand you had to deal with the management and also with the workers. How did you feel about being in the middle?
JAMES PHARIS:
Well, sometimes it'd get pretty pinky. For instance, the way Burlington Mills handled things back in them days was… a big methods and standard man would come down or somebody would come out of Greensboro down here and we'd have a meeting. Well, they'd have a plan. In that plan was getting more work out of somebody for the same money. Then they'd put it up to the overseers to sell the people and make them happy with more work for the same money. If you didn't do it, then the question would be, "Why couldn't you sell them on it?" That was the only thing that ever worried me at the Plaid Mill. Trying to sell the people and make them happy and, you know, that's one hell of a job.
CLIFF KUHN:
Well, how would you go about doing it?
JAMES PHARIS:
I'd just do the best I could. That's all and had pretty good luck with it but I'd never know when there was going to be a flap about it. We never did have one.
CLIFF KUHN:
What did you feel about that?
JAMES PHARIS:
How did I feel about it? Well, I was working for the company and I'd do everything in the world I possibly could to put that plant over.
CLIFF KUHN:
Outside of the mill itself, who did you associate more with—with people who worked in the weave room, with people in managament?
JAMES PHARIS:
No, I didn't never make a practice of associating with the managament. I never would forget what the preacher at the Hocutt Memorial Baptist Church told me one time. He come to me and wanted me to come to church, come to Sunday School. I was going to church. He wanted me to come to Sunday School. I says, "Preacher, I could tell you a hundred different things. The reason I don't come to Sunday School is because I don't want to. You know it and I know it. If I wanted to, I'd go. That's the only answer I got." He says, "Well now, how about you joining that church over there. It'd be to your benefit to join. Now all of your supervisors is a member over there and it would help you alot to join over there." I says, "Now listen, Preacher. If you want to talk church with me, you talking on the wrong line. I don't join nothing because my boss is a member if I don't want to join. If I go to Baptist Church, or join the Baptish Church it's going to be because I want to join the church and not because my boss is a member." He laughed. He never did say anything else to me about it. That was while church was so close to the job.
CLIFF KUHN:
So outside of work, who were the type of people you associated with?
JAMES PHARIS:
They was just like me. Just ordinary folks. Some worked down there and some didn't. I never did get out and socialize too much no way.