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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jefferson M. Robinette, July 1977. Interview H-0041. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Losing a job at a textile mill

Robinette reveals the lack of job security for industrial labors in North Carolina at mid-century. Around 1951, Robinette's wife had a stroke and when he briefly left his textile mill job to take steadier work, he lost his job. He recalls that this was the only job he lost without understanding why.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jefferson M. Robinette, July 1977. Interview H-0041. 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:
Then you started as a twister here, too, in 1917 at the Plaid mill?
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
Yes, I worked as a twister from June till Christmas. And they closed them down; they didn't run them. And they put me in the dye house. And I worked in the dye house twenty-two years. I like to froze to death; they put me out there at Christmas. It was so cold. They didn't have heat in the dye house, and it was so cold in there. And I told my wife, "Whenever spring comes, I'm a-leaving here." But when spring come, the overseer of dyeing said the , they needed some more help. And he had to have some help to help him, and they was going to learn me to mix dyes and let me be his assistant. So I started then, and I worked there twenty-two years learning to mix dyes. And I got so I mixed the dyes, and I'd mix them and put them on till they moved the dyeing away from out there over to another plant across town. That throwed me out with the plaid mill then.
CLIFF KUHN:
That was when you left the plaid mill?
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
Yes, I went over there with the dyeing equipment and stayed over there three years. And they didn't run that regular over there, and I needed regular work. And there was a fellow Spraun that was shift foreman out here, and he opened up a shop of making temple rollers, a little roller made out of cork for looms, about that long. He opened up a shop there and he give me a job working for him, making them things. And I worked for him six years. And the mills got in kind of tough luck again, and they got to closing down. And he got so many rolls ahead, why, he had to shut down. And I went back over to Piedmont Heights to help them move some machinery over there. That's the only time that I ever lost a job by not understanding why I lost it, hardly. I still don't understand. But the way it was, I told Mr. Spraun that my wife was an invalid. She had had a stroke. And I told him I needed to work all the time. I had a chance of a job for three or four weeks over there, regular work, over at Piedmont Heights, helping Burlington Industries move machinery. And I went over there, and I'd come back by every little bit, and his work was about like it was. So I kept on. That was along about July or August. Anyhow, I come on back by till right after Christmas. I come by down there one day, and he had two boys in there at work. And the fellow that was working with me, he worked a short time and got along pretty good. He could draw a little sum from the Navy; he'd been in the Navy. And I just said to him like this, "Well, it looks like business is picking up a little now." "Yeah," he says, "I asked Mr. Spraun the other day when he was going to call you back, and he said, ‘I ain't going to call him back.’" And I didn't know that he wasn't going to call me back, but I did know he acted a little funny before. And I said, "Oh, well, that's all right then. I made a living before I went to work for him, and I'll make a living on."
CLIFF KUHN:
And so you never figured out exactly why.
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
So I never said a word to Spraun about it. Never mentioned it to him. After this fellow told me that he said he wasn't going to call me back, why, after he'd done told me he'd call me back as soon as the work picked up, I just says to the fellow, "Well, that's all right. I made a living before I went to work for Spraun, and I'll make a living on." And I worked on over at Piedmont Heights on that machine business till in July. (That was right after Christmas.) And they just kept me on there; after they got all the machinery moved, they kept me messing about doing this and doing that on different kinds of little old jobs around the machinery. In July, then, they laid me off. As far as they could go.