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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frank Durham, September 10 and 17, 1979. Interview H-0067. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Child labor, education, and family labor system

Durham began working at the age of twelve, and when the child labor laws prevented him from having a mill job, he became a servant for a local farm family. When he returned to the mill, he worked long shifts, but he continued attending school.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Frank Durham, September 10 and 17, 1979. Interview H-0067. 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

DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Could you tell me a little bit more about your career? How old were you when you started working in the mill?
FRANK DURHAM:
Oh, Lord, I was twelve years old. And going to school , but I was twelve years old when I went to work. We had a six-months school, and you'd go to work in March and work until September or whenever it started. That's all we had six months for a long time. And there were no labor laws then. And when I was fourteen, I couldn't work. When I was thirteen, the next year I couldn't work at all, not down there, because they passed the child labor law. You could go to work when you was fourteen, but you couldn't work but eight hours. And so I couldn't work at all at thirteen. I worked that year with a farmer up here, a big farmer, Mr. Louis Lambeth. He run a store down thereOh, it was a whopper, I'm telling you. He had a big farm, and I worked on it and I really enjoyed it,the horses and mules. And I would work in the house. Mrs. Lambeth sort of took on to me, and they'd feed me. They wanted me to come live up there. But she wouldn't let me come home. I'd have to eat everything, and I'd stand there and she'd . . . . I learned to make up beds and sweep and all that stuff in the house, just like a servant, you know, but she was good to me. Just as good to me as she could be. I enjoyed it. The next summer, though, I had to go in the mill. [Laughter] I went to work at 9:20 and worked till 6:20.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Gosh.
FRANK DURHAM:
They had those hours. And several of the boys would work from 6:20 till 3:20, and I come on at 9:20 and worked on. They had it fixed Because they were running eleven hours a day and five hours on Saturday. Now these boys that weren't fourteen-go to work at fourteen and work eight hours-they had six; that's the way he'd carry on the job, you know, the whole eleven hours. I don't know why they did that; I don't know what started the 6:20. But it started at 6:20 and stopped an hour for dinner, and then it stopped at 6:20. They didn't run but one shift.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
When was that? That would have been in the 1920's?
FRANK DURHAM:
1918 I went to work. And it had to have been, I think, about 1920 when that labor law came out.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Did you continue to go to school in the wintertime after that?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes, I did. I went to school. Yes, he'd stop us and send us to school, Papa would. He was the foreman, you see. He'd put you to doing something or another down there. He didn't make no money at all out of it, . [Laughter] There wasn'twages, as far as that would go. Nobody made nothing. Well, the young'uns didn't make nothing, hardly, you know. What he did make his parents took anyhow, and it didn't make no difference because Papa bought everything. And he was nice to us.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
So the money that you earned in the mill, that was your parents'?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes, because he bought everything for us. And he'd give us a little money, but that was mighty little along in then. It didn't take much. They wouldn't let you throw nothing away nohow.