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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 >>

A pleasant social atmosphere at textile and furniture factories

Austin enjoyed a rewarding social life at Ridgeview Mill and later at Conover Chair, a furniture maker. At the mill, employees received a half-hour lunch break, enjoyed chatting as they worked, and if they finished their assigned tasks, they could leave their positions and talk with friends. Austin paints a picture of an amiable work environment.

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:
… people to socialize much during work hours?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Not too much. You had to stay on your job. I worked the second shift, and we would have a lunch period. We went to work at four-thirty, and at eight-thirty we could stop for about half an hour. They had a cafe, and the man had what he called a buggy, and he'd load it with sandwiches and bring it through the mill, and we could buy sandwiches off of it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you could talk to other people during that.
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Yes. Well, if you caught your job up, you could talk, but as a usual thing you didn't have too much time to socialize; you had to keep on the job.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You couldn't talk while you worked.
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Yes. There would be two of us working, one at one end of the table and one at the other, and we could talk to each other. And then if the girls on the next machine were on a large-size hose, if they got their job caught up they would come and talk to us. We got to socialize quite a bit when we'd be on a large size. You take an eight-and-a-half foot in a full-fashioned hose, that's not very long, and you really had to work to get your what they called then bars filled, and you'd have twelve that you had to fill. And if you'd be on a size ten or ten-and-a-half, you didn't have to work near so hard, because you had more time. And you could work real hard, you'd have time to get up and go to the rest room in between or get you a drink of water.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have any choice?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Of the size you were on? No. You had to go by whatever orders they had.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So it was assigned to you what you were going to work on.
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Yes, they had orders. It depended on what kind of orders came out of the office. That's what you had to go on. Because each man that was running a machine would get a certain allotment of what size they was supposed to make, and that's what you had to go by. Those machines were set up for the size, and they would narrow down the foot, and it was done mechanically. And whatever size they had orders for, that's what they had to make.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have any other breaks besides just your lunch period?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you worked how many hours?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Eight.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And it was a thirty-minute …
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Break period.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you ever have any kind of birthday parties or any kind of thing like that around work?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
No, not then. But in later years… I worked at Conover Chair for nineteen and a half years. And we would have birthday parties every month up there, everybody that had a birthday in the month. We'd all bring a covered dish, and we'd eat. One of the ladies brought a big pot that was electric, and we'd cook beans and make soup and just do a lot of cooking up there. When I first went to work there, it was more like a family. It was just a small place, but as the years went by it kept growing and growing, and my last few years there it wasn't nothing like it was when I first went to work there. But I enjoyed working there. I enjoyed the ladies I worked with.