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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eunice Austin, July 2, 1980. Interview H-0107. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Grandmother leaves her boy at home when she goes to work

Austin's paternal grandmother had to leave her children alone at home while she went to work in the card room of a cotton mill.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eunice Austin, July 2, 1980. Interview H-0107. 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

JACQUELYN HALL:
She would have started to work when your father was about eight years old?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
No, I don't think she started that early. I think he was about eleven. Because she had small children, and I think Daddy said he was about eleven years old when she started to work. Her oldest daughter died, and she had a child, and she had to take her and raise her, too, as her child. So she had a rough life.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she ever talk to you about that time in her life, about trying to support those kids?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Oh, yes, she talked about it. She couldn't stay home with them and see that they went to school. She would tell them to go to school, but so many times they didn't go to school, especially Daddy's youngest brother. He just didn't go to school hardly any. But he was real smart. He could get a job doing most anything. He was just a whiz at the things that he could do.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who took care of the kids while she was at work?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
They had to take care of themselves. They lived in what they call the mill hill, the houses real close together. I guess the neighbors probably kind of looked out for them. I don't know. But they just had to more or less look out for themselves.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did any of the kids work in the mill?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Oh, yes. My daddy's sister and two of his brothers. They worked in the mill till one was sixty-five and one was sixty-three.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you know how old they were when they started to work?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
No, I don't. I know they were young, though. Back then you could go to work, I think, when you was about twelve or fourteen years old. I believe I did hear my daddy's sister say she was fourteen when she went to work. And she's the only one left in the family living, and she's in a nursing home in High Point. Her mind is just about gone. She doesn't even know her own children.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your grandmother's job in the mill?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
She worked in the card room, but now what that is I don't know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You know how much money she made?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
No, I don't.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Not much?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
No, not much, I know, because I know I didn't make but two dollars and a half a week when I started to work. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
And that was much later.
EUNICE AUSTIN:
A lot later!