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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 >>

Workplace injuries in a textile mill

The Durhams remember some of the dangers of mill work, including whirring belts and live electric wires. They cannot clearly remember whether the mill compensated injured workers.

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:
Did people ever get hurt with all those belts running around?
VERNON DURHAM:
Yeah, there was some of them.
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah, some of them did.
VERNON DURHAM:
The belt break, and the end of that buckle hit you on the head it'd knock you out sometimes.
EULA DURHAM:
Who was it—didn't Joe Johnson get hit with that belt one time?
VERNON DURHAM:
Frank did too.
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah, I thought he did. Joe Johnson did too, I know he did.
VERNON DURHAM:
Switch box blowed up one day in Frank's place and knocked him out.
EULA DURHAM:
He was lucky about it.
VERNON DURHAM:
And Jones down here, hurt him. And Stanley Combs like to got killed.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What happened to him?
VERNON DURHAM:
He was wiring up a motor and leaning over the motor or something or other. He got in a live wire there and just fell over. And Frank finally grabbed him and got him loose from it, said he'd have been dead in a few minutes if he hadn't got him loose from it. They carried him to the hospital.
EULA DURHAM:
Well, he stayed in the hospital a long time. Well, Ed Moses did too. Don't you remember when Ed got burnt down there too? Knocked out or something?
JIM LELOUDIS:
What type of injuries would those belts cause people? Did people get caught in them?
VERNON DURHAM:
Sometimes there'd be a break in the buckle end where the buckle was on it, hit you, it'd hurt you. But the electricity done most of them, I imagine. Switch boxes blowing open. Stanley got hurt the worst of anybody down there, I reckon.
EULA DURHAM:
One time, when I was working in the post alley down there, framed, I worked where the motors was all up in—well, there was a line of posts down there in the alley and the motors—switch boxes—was on them posts. And come up cloudy that evening, just the worst cloud. And Joe Johnson was section hand down there then. Now he was pushing the switch box. The lightning would knock the power out, and you would have to push the switch boxes back in. And he hit that switch box. I was standing about like I am in this chair to him when he pushed that end. And I just had had my hands up like that reaching to take hold of him to go around him. About that time it blowed out, and I just throwed my hands down like that. And the man that come down there, the electrician, to fix that box, he said if—it like to killed him, burnt his face and arms and all—he said if I had of touched him, said it would have killed me plumb dead. Said when I touched him it would have throwed it off him and on me. And said it would have killed me slam dead. I said, well I'll get out of this alley right now. I ain't going to run this side no more. Well, that scared me to death. He said that was the way it would work. Said maybe it would burn you, but if I touched you it would kill me. Said a double voltage would come out from it, the motor and him, to me. I said, "Lord have mercy, supposing …" And I had done had my hands up fixing to go like that and go around him. He said, "Well, you're lucky you didn't. It would have killed you stone dead."
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did the mill pay any compensation for people who got hurt.
VERNON DURHAM:
They had this insurance on the help. And they pay them so much percentage of what they made a week.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How about when you two first went to work?
EULA DURHAM:
I don't know whether they did then.
VERNON DURHAM:
I don't know how it used to be.
EULA DURHAM:
No, I don't believe they did way back then. I believe that started when Herbert come in, didn't it?
VERNON DURHAM:
No, that was before then. Used to be about forty or sixty percent of your wages.
EULA DURHAM:
Well, I never did get none.