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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 >>

Practical jokes, hazing, and race in the mill

Employees played practical jokes in the mill where Durham worked, and most of these were ways of hazing newcomers so that they fit the system. When the pranks became more mean-spirited, however, the mill owners sometimes became involved.

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:
Some people have told me that people used to play pranks in the mill. Do you remember any of that? Mrs. Gattis was telling me that, before they were married, her husband came down to visit somebody in the mill, and the man poured a bucket of dirty water over him.
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes, they tried to do that. They'd let you off, too.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Oh, yeah?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes. They throwed a bucket of water on And they messed his clothes up. They finally found out who done it and laid him off for a week for that.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Oh, really.
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes, the superintendent did. It wasn't me; I wasn't there. I was overseer of spinning at that time. But they'd do things like that. One time there was a colored girl-a good one and a good cook-brought her lady that was spinning down there, that she was working for, her dinner or supper. A fellow dropped a little paper bag of water on her head [Laughter] , and she never would come down there any more. No, no, no. They advertised, somebody stuck up a sign there, So-and-so wanted a water-broke cook. [Laughter] SomebodyAnd the superintendent offered a five-dollar reward to anybody that would tell the one that done it, because she was a nice colored lady and well thought of. And they didn't want them bothered, the folks that would bring anything in there. But the guy that did it was in the service in World War II. He wrote him and told him that he was the one done it. [Laughter] So there wasn't nothing he could do about it, of course. He wrote to him and said, "You wanted ." But they thought a lot of one another.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Can you remember any other things like that?
FRANK DURHAM:
Well, not especially. There was something like that going all the time, some little old tricks and then playing pranks. A new hand would come in down there sometime to work, and they'd send him after a lefthanded monkey wrench, and go down there and get the key to the elevator, and the bobbin stretcher and all that stuff. Somebody that didn't know there was no such thing. Send it to a foreman or something, and he'd send them back. They'd say, "Well, I'll let So-and-so have it" or something, then run him around a little bit. Some dumb folks come to work, but they'd never been in a mill or nothing, you know. They'd play stuff like that. Oh, they just enjoyed themself by doing a thing like that.