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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 >>

The hierarchy of mill employees

As one of the overseers, Durham dealt with complaints and problems in the mill. He describes the ways the company determined pay and the sorts of things that employees protested.

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:
Were certain jobs paid on production?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Was that for all of the jobs in the mill?
FRANK DURHAM:
No. The frame hands,hands upstairs, were paid on production. The drawing hands were paid on that, but the cards and the lapper hands were paid by the hour. Winders were paid by the pound. Spinners were paid by the side that they operated, how many sides they run.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
They were paid by the hour?
FRANK DURHAM:
No. If you run ten sides, why, you got more, so much a side. At that time, twelve was the limit. Had several ten-side spinners. Make the sides come out right, and some of them just simply weren't as good as the others and couldn't handle them all. Sweepers and doffers. Doffers was paid by the side, most of the time. They work by the hour now, and I think they've got the winding hands and everything by the hour now, just about. But it's not as good, I don't believe, as the other, because, well, when I was down there we paid near about everything on the incentive system, either by sides or. . . . The doffers got paid by the side. They tend to keep them running better, trying to make another side, you know. And the pounds in the winding room: well, you just take somebody there that can wind 300 or 400 pounds a day and another one wind 250, why, that good hand just do well to drop down to the other one if he's going to make the same pay, you know. There's got to be some way or another, and I don't know how they handle it now. I haven't been down there to amount to nothing lately.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Winders could only wind if they had bobbins. Was there ever a problem . . .
FRANK DURHAM:
Used to we'd catch up a bobbin some, but they tried to never let them catch up. If you did, you'd allow for that. I did; we did; we would allow. If they caught up and they had to sit down and didn't have enough bobbins, that was our fault, and we allowed for that and run it into their production. The man in the winding room knew how long she was up and he knew about what she'd wind in that time, and he'd mark up for it on her sheet. Every time they'd pick up her doff and weigh it they'd put it down to her name. Well, if she was up so many minutes or so long, he'd put down so many pounds.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Did the people ever come to you with complaints about how the work was going?
FRANK DURHAM:
Oh, Lord, yes.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
What sort of things would they complain about?
FRANK DURHAM:
[Laughter] Sometimes they was bad, and sometimes they wasn't. Some people was worse than others. They'd complain about the size of the bobbin in the winding room; the spinners, the doffers doffed them too soon, and the bobbin weren't full and you had to do just as much work to tie them as you would one full, you know. And just something like that. They'd say, "Well, I've got a tangled bobbin." "Here we come with some bobbins for you." Show it to you or the spinning overseer. They'd catch the spinning overseer first, and if he come to me. They'd tangle sometime. The lifting rodson a frame go up and down with the rail. They've got to be kept clean along in there. If much oil gets on, it'll stick to that rail, and it comes down here and hangs, and whenever it hangs, it'll run the yarn around there in one place, and it'll tangle. When they'd go out there to wind it off, it'd tangle. You've got to watch that. The frames have got to be kept clean, the lifting rods clean. Because the lifting rods, the rail sits on here with so many spindles on it. Those two lifting rods go up and down. If they're running clear, why, it makes good, smooth yarn. But if one gets to hanging up, why, it messes up the yarn and the bobbin.