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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Emma Whitesell, July 27, 1977. Interview H-0057. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Changes in mill life, social and technological

Whitesell describes some of the changes that have visited the mill industry, and life in North Carolina, over the course of her lifetime. She cites a number of changes, such as in mill technology and the dissolution of neighborhood bonds. One thing that has remained constant is the need to work hard to earn a living.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Emma Whitesell, July 27, 1977. Interview H-0057. 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:
How had things changed over that time?
EMMA WHITESELL:
Oh, I just can't tell you. They just changed all completely.
CLIFF KUHN:
What were some of the ways?
EMMA WHITESELL:
The machinery ain't like it used to be, and you'd have to run so many. They had looms, you had to run about a hundred and some looms. They had shelf fillers—people to fill shelves, and ones that control the looms. The warp mills, they changed them—they not exactly like it. 'Course the material they make is different.
CLIFF KUHN:
Do you think it's a better place to work than when you started, or worse?
EMMA WHITESELL:
Well now, they ain't working there no more.
CLIFF KUHN:
But I meant, textiles in general.
EMMA WHITESELL:
I don't know whether it would be or not. People have worked there, they really give it down the country, say they have to work so hard. But we've always had to work hard. When you do a job you got to work hard. [interruption]
CLIFF KUHN:
You were talking about work, you said you always have to work hard.
EMMA WHITESELL:
Well, I've always had to work hard in the mill. Or anything else you go at, if you do a good job you've got to give 'em eight hours of work, or ten hours of work—when I started to work, they had to work ten hours a day. But people say it's so hard now, they can't make production or something. But I've always found it about the same—you had to work, if you made anything, if you was on production. And I'd always rather work on production, I've worked both, but I'd always rather work on production.
CLIFF KUHN:
How about the neighborhood of West Burlington, how has that changed?
EMMA WHITESELL:
Oh [laughter] , it's just all turned around. I used to know everybody at Plaid Mill and Elmira and now I don't know my next door neighbor.
CLIFF KUHN:
What would neighbors do with each other back then?
EMMA WHITESELL:
Well, back then, when I moved over there where I'm at now—well not in the same house, my mother lived in there. Well, the neighbors would visit in the morning before they even washed their breakfast dishes they'd go visit one another. My mother come and lived with me in sixty two. She said to me, Emma you ain't got no neighbors. And I'm living in the same house she was living in. I said, Momma I got good neighbors, but they don't bother me. And I said, if you need 'em they're there. Other times, they're busy about their things. Television hasn't done a whole lot for the neighborhood, 'cause if you go in and they're looking at a program they don't want to stop and talk to you.