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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 >>

The New Deal boosts textile mill wages

The Durhams remember the financial ups and downs of mill work, in particular the generous wages established by the National Recovery Administration of President Roosevelt's New Deal, and the starvation wage that presumably preceded them.

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:
While we're in the thirties, earlier you said something about the NRA. How did the mill run in the depression?
EULA DURHAM:
Well, we'd go to work at six of a morning and work till six at night. Get a hour for dinner. And I was spinning then. And I was making twelve and a half cents an hour. And when NRA come in, they raised me to thirty-four cents.
VERNON DURHAM:
When NRA come in, it was thirty cents. Forty hours, thirty cents an hour.
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah, I thought I was rich. I wound when I first went in there, and some of them would work six days. Now we worked till dinner on Saturday.
VERNON DURHAM:
We worked sixty hours a week.
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah. Worked six hours on Saturday, and it was about five or six of us winding girls, we'd count up what we'd made on Friday night and if we'd made five dollars we didn't do nothing Saturday morning.
VERNON DURHAM:
Before NRA come in, there was a depression. It was on short time down there.
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah, I know it.
VERNON DURHAM:
And President Roosevelt come in and he changed it, put it over on forty hours a week, thirty cents an hour. And all over forty hours paid time and a half. So, that's what caught them napping. We was working they didn't do it then, but eleven hours a day but the depression come on, they went to working eight hours a day—like you was on a vacation. Just being to eight. But during the depression, things was bad.
EULA DURHAM:
Lord, yes.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How bad did it get?
VERNON DURHAM:
They come down to about ten cent an hour, and on short time at that. You done good if you made seven or eight dollars a week. We weren't on unemployment insurance—no, we didn't have any. But now, if things get dull now—if they don't make as much as twenty-four dollars a week, they can draw unemployment.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How did that affect people working in the mill?
VERNON DURHAM:
What—the unemployment?
JIM LELOUDIS:
Yeah, when they cut wages and hours back so much.
EULA DURHAM:
Everybody like to starved. That's the truth.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How did you make it through it?
EULA DURHAM:
I don't know. Just survived some way or another.