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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 >>

A 1934 strike turns violent

Robinette recalls a 1934 mill strike. (It is not clear which mill, but he was a dyer at one Burlington mill for more than twenty years.) A deputy sheriff, Robinette just monitored the situation, and was apparently unbothered when the National Guard used their bayonets on some strikers. Robinette had good reason to join the strike, though: he was making only ninety cents a day.

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

JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
I always did regret, though, that I didn't go ahead, because it was good money, and I never did make no money much in the mill business, . Like I told Mr. Scott not long ago, though, I was down there talking to him one day, I said, "Well …
CLIFF KUHN:
Henderson Scott.
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
I said, "I never did make no money much, but I made enough that I got along. I've been getting along pretty good, and so I don't regret…" I told him, "I never did make no money here." He said, "I know you didn't."
CLIFF KUHN:
[Laughter]
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
I went to work down there for ninety cents an hour.
CLIFF KUHN:
That was in 1952, '53?
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
Yes.
CLIFF KUHN:
When this strike came by in '34 …
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
No, I said ninety cents an hour; it was ninety cents a day.
CLIFF KUHN:
Ninety cents a day!?
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
Yes.
CLIFF KUHN:
Huh. And you were over sixty years old, too.
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
[Laughter] Yes.
CLIFF KUHN:
Getting back to the strike here, what did people here at the Blaid mill hear about the strike? What did you know about what was happening around the country or in the county or state?
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
They was pretty much all of them worked. There wasn't too many of them out. There was a bunch that was loafing around here, mostly was from somewhere else.
CLIFF KUHN:
Oh, yes? From where?
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
Yes. They piled around here, just milled around. There was some few of our help was out on the strike.
CLIFF KUHN:
What did you hear about the strike before it started? Had you known that there was going to be a strike?
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
Yes. We kept hearing a lot about it, other places, and finally it come on till it got here. And it brewed up pretty rough here. And one morning the National Guard come along and drove them all off, and it ended.
CLIFF KUHN:
Right out here.
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
Yes.
CLIFF KUHN:
Were you there that morning?
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
Oh, yes.
CLIFF KUHN:
What was that like on that day?
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
Well, it was a little bit rough. Some of them wouldn't move, but they stuck them a little with their bayonets, and then when they jabbed them a little, they'd get on the truck and go on.
CLIFF KUHN:
I guess so.
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
Some of them run, and some of them didn't want to move, but they jabbed one or two of them and picked them up and put them on the truck and took them on. And that was about the last of the strike.
CLIFF KUHN:
What did you have to do as a deputy then, when you were deputy sheriff?
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
I just had to keep my eyes open if anything went wrong.
CLIFF KUHN:
Inside the plant or on the picket line or …
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
Inside and outside, too.
CLIFF KUHN:
Did they give you a gun and a bayonet?
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
No, we didn't have no guns. No, the only ones that had a bayonet was the National Guards that morning.
CLIFF KUHN:
Was that during your regular shift, or did you work your regular shift, then …
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
Yes, we worked the regular shift.
CLIFF KUHN:
And then after your shift, you were deputized?
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
I think it was along about nine or ten o'clock, the National Guard, they advertised that they had to move, and they didn't listen, and so the National Guard come along and moved them.
CLIFF KUHN:
Was there resentment? Or how did you feel when you had to say something against people whom you had worked with, although you say they were mainly people …
JEFFERSON M. ROBINETTE:
I didn't have to say nothing. I just watched, and if anything… There wasn't much disturbance, and there wasn't much to be done. Them fellows that dynamited the thing out there, that was at night, and they just went along down the street and throwed them in over the fence. And there wasn't much uproar about that. The law finally just found the one that done it and tried him.