Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
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 >>

Entertainment in the working community

During breaks and on weekends, community members gathered to sing and make music. Durham claims that the family labor system and paternalism made his employees happy and playful.

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

It was just a happy family almost looked like; it sure was. They didn't make. . . . There was no future to it, as far as that goes, except for just living, but they all made a good living. I tell you, a bunch of cotton mill folks, they used to say, is about the happiest people on earth, because the company looked out for them, shelter and everything. And another thing, they spent everything they made, about. [Laughter] See, you worked, and most of the time your wife. And sometime there'd be three or four checks in one family going, and that's pretty good. The children would be paying board and the man and the wife working, and working on different shifts enough to keep the home a-going. And it wasn't near as hard as some folks thought it was, because there was more money coming in there than they thought, for a lot of them. And it kept things going along pretty good.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Somebody was telling me that they used to sing during breaks. Did they get together outside and sing at all or tell stories?
FRANK DURHAM:
Oh, yes, they would sometimes, yes. There was always somebody on the job that was , and they was going along pretty good. And they would; it was sort of a quartet thing. They loved to get together and sing sometimes.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
A quartet?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes. The watchman, he'd come on. He used to sing tenor. [Laughter] He was a tenor singer. The poor fellow's gone now, but they really did enjoy singing. And the mill would stop. Sometime at night, when they'd show up on the eleven o'clock shift, they'd get together and sing up there in the card room. All the time I'd be up there taking down the hank and looking around, I'd hear them back there singing.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Do you remember what they used to sing?
FRANK DURHAM:
No, I really don't especially. They'd sing a lot of songs that they knew at that time. Offhand I don't remember none. I don't remember none to amount to anything. But I know they were singing something.