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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ethel Bowman Shockley, June 24, 1977. Interview H-0045. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Strong family roots in a working community

Shockley explains that although many of the mill workers began to acquire automobiles during World War II, when work was more plentiful, the new mode of transportation did not have drastic demographic implications for the community. Around the same time, Plaid Mill began to sell off company housing, but rather than moving, many workers bought the homes they'd been living in. "Drifters"—who only lived within the community for a short amount of time—tended to be young and single. Otherwise, the community was marked by a strong tradition of familial heritage, which Shockley's daughter, Hazel, confirms when she joins the interview towards the end of this excerpt.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ethel Bowman Shockley, June 24, 1977. Interview H-0045. 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:
When did the mill hands start to get automobiles?
ETHEL BOWMAN SHOCKLEY:
The big part, I guess, was during World War II, because that's whenever we had work, and on that thing everybody tried to get a car.
CLIFF KUHN:
Did that change where people lived? Did people live in the same area of the mill after that?
ETHEL BOWMAN SHOCKLEY:
Yes. Along just after World War II is when the Plaid Mill sold their company houses. And a lot of the help that lived in the houses bought the houses and stayed on. A lot of them are living in the same houses today.
CLIFF KUHN:
Most of the people that you knew lived in the same neighborhood as you did?
ETHEL BOWMAN SHOCKLEY:
Yes.
CLIFF KUHN:
Did you know people from other areas of town?
ETHEL BOWMAN SHOCKLEY:
Not too many.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was there a lot of turnover in the housing around the Plaid Mill? Did people come and go pretty often, or did people tend to stay for a long period of time?
ETHEL BOWMAN SHOCKLEY:
They stayed, most all of them. They didn't like come in today and leave tomorrow. Most of them, if they moved in, stayed.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Stayed for five or ten years?
ETHEL BOWMAN SHOCKLEY:
Oh, yes, and some of them are still up there that was there when they was children.
CLIFF KUHN:
And stayed on the job, too.
ETHEL BOWMAN SHOCKLEY:
And stayed on the job. And some of them, I think, went from one company to the other, didn't they, at the Plaid Mill. Some of the help. Mr. SHOCKLEY: Are you talking about going from one mill out there to another mill out there?
ETHEL BOWMAN SHOCKLEY:
No, like the Plaid Mill changed to Burlington Mills and then to Klopman's. Like Mary Taylor and them? Mr. SHOCKLEY: Oh, yes, they have stayed on as the mill changed.
ETHEL BOWMAN SHOCKLEY:
And they lived in a house . . . [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B] Mr. SHOCKLEY: . . .without a reason.
ETHEL BOWMAN SHOCKLEY:
Yes, if they come, they stayed, unless it was somebody that was boarding. We'd call them drifters. They'd come in and get them a boarding place and work a while and then. . . . But that was mostly young people. But most of the families, when they moved in a house, they stayed several years. But if work would give out, then they'd have to lay them off, and then they would move to another place.
CLIFF KUHN:
Was that the same for people of your generation stayed in the same area of town? Or did people in your children's generation move around?
HAZEL SHOCKLEY CANNON:
We just stayed in the same area of town up there in that section.