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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Flossie Moore Durham, September 2, 1976. Interview H-0066. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Daily operations at a cotton mill

Durham runs through some of the day-to-day operations of the cotton mill where she worked as a child and young woman.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Flossie Moore Durham, September 2, 1976. Interview H-0066. 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

BRENT GLASS:
Were there any rules in the mill that you had to obey?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
Well, of course they had some rules, but not bad.
BRENT GLASS:
What if you were late for work? What would happen?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
Of course, they had long hours, and you had to go through them long hours, and all the time.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was there any kind of whistle that blew when the shift changed?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
Yes, there was. They had a bell down there. It would ring if they was leaving or coming or changing or anything. And they had a whistle…Of course, it was steam het up. Down below there was a boiler room, they called it. And the mill was het up by that for a long time.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Could you hear the whistle if you were in your house?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
Oh, yes. We could hear the whistle or the bell either.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And that's how you knew when it was time to go to work?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
. They'd usually ring the bell or something like that about ten minutes before changing time. Everyone knew all those things then. And the mill run regular then, night and day, all the time. But that mill burnt down. It was a real nice wooden mill, though; it weren't brick.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When did it burn down?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
About 1918 or somewhere along there. I'd been married some years.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you remember the day it burned down?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
It burnt down on Sunday; I don't remember the date.
BRENT GLASS:
I mean do you remember when it happened?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
There was a storm on that evening in the summertime, and lightning struck it. And a bolt of lightning went right through that mill, just setting fires cotton. It sure did, that was . And the mill burnt down that evening.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
No one was working in the mill on Sunday.
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
No, the mill wasn't running. There wasn't anything going on. A watchman was down there. There was a watchman always looking after things, day and night.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did they ever run a shift on Sunday?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
No, never did work you on Sunday.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When would you quit on Saturday?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
The evening shift would quit ten o'clock Saturday night. I've worked every shift they had.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When did they start putting on three shifts?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
They never did have three shifts here then, just two shifts. But each shift worked twelve hours and kept the mill running. They kept the mill running at that time, unless something stopped it. They started up Monday morning, and they run till ten o'clock Saturday night. They'd stay up thirty minutes at breakfast and thirty minutes at supper.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you go home and eat breakfast and go home and eat supper?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
Yes, we'd go home and eat breakfast and go home and eat supper. And that's all it stood unless it had to.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you work all of the time except the thirty minutes? Did you get any other kind of rest time?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
No. That's all. Like I say, when we moved to Bynum I was on what they called the morning shift. And at twelve-thirty at night, the watchman would come around, knock on the door and wake you up. put on your skillet pan and get ready and get down there about one o'clock at night. And you worked till one the next day. And that's the way it went a long, long time.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Then when you came home, would you go to sleep?
FLOSSIE MOORE DURHAM:
We'd usually sleep in the evening some then and then go to sleep again after.() Sleep weren't like it is, all night, of course. Yes, I remember all them days.