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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eula and Vernon Durham, November 29, 1978. Interview H-0064. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

First job at a textile mill

Eula Durham describes her first job at a textile mill in Bynum, North Carolina. She took the job in 1929 at age sixteen, a considerably older age than that at which many of her contemporaries entered the workforce. She started out doing odd jobs.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eula and Vernon Durham, November 29, 1978. Interview H-0064. 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

JIM LELOUDIS:
How did you get your first job in the mill?
VERNON DURHAM:
Well, I'd go just as a spare hand. My daddy was boss man, and I'd go, just around in the mills cleaning up. Didn't have no air hose then, had brushes and things to clean off, which I started off. Then I learned to doff, and I started doffing. In a few years when I learned the machinery and everything I got to be a fixer and then got to be a foreman of the spinning room.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How old were you when you started?
VERNON DURHAM:
I was sixteen.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What was that first job like as a spare hand?
VERNON DURHAM:
Well, you'd do odd things. They had a sprinkler system, but it was out of date; it just had fans that blowed humidity out. Then in the summertime we'd have a sprinkler blowing on the alleys and get it damp, you know, so the work would run better. And you would have to clean up the frames all under there on the rockers and idlers and all in there. Didn't have no air and no blow pipes. Well, you learned to do things and when somebody was out you'd have to work in their place, till you got a regular job.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How many spare hands were there?
VERNON DURHAM:
Well, I imagine there was about three, three young boys, and we didn't make but, I think it was—what did we start them off at? About fifteen cents an hour?
EULA DURHAM:
What?
VERNON DURHAM:
What was it the young spare hands made? About fifteen cents an hour to start off, wasn't it?
EULA DURHAM:
Twelve and a half cents. That's what I made.
VERNON DURHAM:
Twelve and a half cents. And then the top pay, other than management, was twenty-four cents an hour.
JIM LELOUDIS:
When was this?
VERNON DURHAM:
Well, it was in the forties, wasn't it? No—thirties.
JIM LELOUDIS:
That's when you first went to work?
VERNON DURHAM:
I went to work about …
EULA DURHAM:
1929.