Documenting the American South Logo
Loading
Title: Oral History Interview with Frank Gilbert, Summer 1977. Interview H-0121. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Gilbert, Frank, interviewee
Interview conducted by Dilley, Patty
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 368 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-05-14, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Frank Gilbert, Summer 1977. Interview H-0121. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0121)
Author: Patty Dilley
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Frank Gilbert, Summer 1977. Interview H-0121. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0121)
Author: Frank Gilbert
Description: 361 Mb
Description: 93 p.
Note: Interview conducted on Summer 1977, by Patty Dilley; recorded in Conover, North Carolina
Note: Transcribed by Jean Houston.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Editorial practices
An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as "
All em dashes are encoded as —

Interview with Frank Gilbert, Summer 1977.
Interview H-0121. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Gilbert, Frank, interviewee


Interview Participants

    FRANK GILBERT, interviewee
    MRS. GILBERT, interviewee
    DON GILBERT, interviewee
    UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER, interviewee
    PATTY DILLEY, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you know anything about your grandparents or where your ancestors came from?
FRANK GILBERT:
My grandfather was Jacob H. Gilbert, and my grandmother was Melinda Sigmon.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you know what country your ancestors came from?
FRANK GILBERT:
They were English.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did your grandparents do for a living?
FRANK GILBERT:
My grandfather was a miller. He had a mill back in that Catfish section, too. And I guess that's all he ever done all his life; it's all I ever knew of. He was an old Confederate soldier; he was four years in the war, I guess from '61 to '65. But you probably knew the dates.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] I don't know. I've not got a really good mind for dates. What did your father do? He was born out in Catfish, too?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, Grandpa Gilbert wasn't born there. He lived there. He was born in Lincoln County, I guess. And I guess Grandmother was born in Lincoln County. Of course, Catawba County was Lincoln County, too, then. It got to be Catawba County later on. The first thing I knew that my father done, he farmed, and the first public work he done, he worked on the railroad, the Southern Railway. He worked a good many years for Southern Railway.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did he keep the farm while he was working for the railway?
FRANK GILBERT:
He kept the farm. We worked on that, and my old Grandmother Cline (my mother was a Cline) lived with us. It was her old original farm.
PATTY DILLEY:
Really?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, my mother had three brothers and Dad bought their shares of it. Old Grandmother just stayed with us.

Page 2
PATTY DILLEY:
Did anybody else live in your house besides your Grandmother Cline?
FRANK GILBERT:
Just our family.
PATTY DILLEY:
How many brothers and sisters did you have?
FRANK GILBERT:
My mother passed away in 1912, and she had ten children.
PATTY DILLEY:
Where are they living now?
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, a good many of them are dead. I have two sisters dead, and two brothers.
PATTY DILLEY:
When they finally settled down, where did they finally end up living?
FRANK GILBERT:
Ben and Fred—that was the two brothers next to me—were railroad men all their lives. Of course, they've both passed away. They was scale inspectors for the Southern Railway. That was after they worked up to that. That's what they did, both, when they passed away.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did they work in Catawba County?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, they worked the whole Southern Railway.
PATTY DILLEY:
They worked the whole thing.
FRANK GILBERT:
On the Asheville division, they call it, between Salisbury and Asheville. And another brother—the next to oldest brother, I guess, that's living—George, he was on the Catawba County ABC force. He was on till he retired. It was when he first started, and he stayed on that till he retired. His wife passed away several months ago, and he had a stroke then and went in the hospital, and he's still in nurse care in Hickory. And another brother, Boyd, worked for Herman and Sipe, a company here in Conover. He lives over here several blocks on the other side of town. And the youngest brother—now this brother is just a half-brother; my dad got married again, and he had two children by her—Kermit… I don't know whether you've ever heard of him.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.

Page 3
FRANK GILBERT:
He was a tax supervisor a good long while. He's in the real estate business now. Then Karen—that's my half-sister—married Paul Simmons, and they live here on the east end of town. Have you heard of G. G. Simmons?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I went to school with him.
FRANK GILBERT:
That's her son.
PATTY DILLEY:
What does her husband do for a living?
FRANK GILBERT:
He's an upholsterer now. He was an electrician for years, and he's been upholstering the last few years.
PATTY DILLEY:
Where does he work?
FRANK GILBERT:
Conover Chair. And then she works with the tax offices. My other brother Boyde never did get married. He worked for Herman and Sipe about all his life after he left the farm. And then I've got three full sisters living. Pearl married Paul Lail. Right up past the post office, that first little road that turns up to the Reformed Church there, they live right there.
PATTY DILLEY:
What does he do for a living?
FRANK GILBERT:
He was an electrician, though he don't work. His health got bad a good many years ago. She worked over at that glove company, I reckon.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you remember the name of it?
FRANK GILBERT:
That Yount Glove Company, I reckon it was. They built a new plant out in Catfish, in that section out there.
PATTY DILLEY:
What is the name of that plant?
FRANK GILBERT:
Carolina Glove. Of course, she'd worked here in the glove company in Conover before that. My other sister married Clyde Rockette. She worked out there, too, in that glove company. Of course, they're both retired now. And my youngest sister lives in Houston, Texas. She was just

Page 4
here last week. That was my youngest full sister. Her name is Annie Minton.
PATTY DILLEY:
What does she do down in Houston?
FRANK GILBERT:
She's sixty-five; she quit. She's got a daughter who lives there. That's the reason she went there.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did she do up till then? Did she ever work?
FRANK GILBERT:
She worked in this hosiery mill in Conover. The Shuford chain. I don't know just what name it went under. But she retired. The last she worked, she worked in Dellinger's a good many years. But then she retired, and she has been in Houston probably a year and a half.
PATTY DILLEY:
Who was the first one in your family to leave the farm and go to work?
FRANK GILBERT:
I guess I was the first one. I was the oldest one. I left in 1916.
PATTY DILLEY:
And you went to work at the Lookout Dam? Was that your first public work?
FRANK GILBERT:
That was the first work outside of the farm, the first job I ever had.
PATTY DILLEY:
What kinds of things did you do on the dam?
FRANK GILBERT:
I didn't work on the dam. I just helped cut the timber out where the water would cover, you know, and helped burn the brush and everything. It had to be all burned off before they let the water back up over it. That's what I did; I didn't really work on the dam.
PATTY DILLEY:
Is that dam considered to be out in Catfish?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. It's the Lookout Shoals, name of it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you remember a lot of people losing their land because of …
FRANK GILBERT:
They didn't lose it; they sold it. They had to sell it. Oh, there didn't anybody lose anything. They got more for their land than

Page 5
it really was worth, I guess.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you remember what people did after they sold their land?
FRANK GILBERT:
They bought more somewhere. I don't know of any of them that are left around out there.
PATTY DILLEY:
They just bought more and moved.
FRANK GILBERT:
In a lot of places, just a little part of the land would be covered with water. Well, they bought the whole land, and then years after, why, they sold it to other people, what the water didn't cover.
PATTY DILLEY:
And then you went to Illinois in the spring of '16?
FRANK GILBERT:
'16.
PATTY DILLEY:
How come you moved all the way out to Illinois?
FRANK GILBERT:
All three of my mother's brothers went out there. One of them come back; he didn't stay. The first two went to Illinois, and then the other one went over to Oklahoma. My uncle come here one time and wanted to know if I didn't want to go with him. He said one of his sons wanted somebody to work with him on the farm, and so I went out there and worked on a farm till the War come on.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did your uncles just decide to move out in that area because there were land opportunities, or why did they move out there?
FRANK GILBERT:
I guess so. Back when I grew up, there wasn't no place… The only place a man would get a job would be to go out West on a farm or go to Southern Railway. That was about the only place a young fellow could get work. I went out there and worked for his son—he was George—and stayed till the War come on.
PATTY DILLEY:
And you went into the Army. Where did you go when you were in the Army?
FRANK GILBERT:
The first place I went was Fort Tuck, New York. I didn't

Page 6
stay there long. That was on the East River up in New York, right in close to New York City. I stayed there a month or two and then went to Cook's River to Fort Schuyler. And I stayed there until July, '18. I come down to Camp Eustace, Virginia. They call it Fort Eustace now since in the Second World War days. Stayed there till we shipped out from Fort Eustace. It was twenty-some miles over to Newport News; we marched over there with a full pack to catch the boat to go across.
PATTY DILLEY:
Where did you land in Europe?
FRANK GILBERT:
We landed in Brest, France, and stayed there I don't know how long. Stayed there till… Then we went to a little old town called Montor and stayed there then… I never got in any battle. We was ready to get to the front line the fifteenth, when they ended it the eleventh.
PATTY DILLEY:
Really?
FRANK GILBERT:
[Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
What kind of effect do you think the War had on you? Do you think it had any kind of an effect on your life?
FRANK GILBERT:
I don't believe it hurt me any. I know that sometimes it was pretty tough. Even though I wasn't in service, sometimes, though, we got pretty hungry.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, I bet. [Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
Especially when you're moving from one little place to another, till they got the rations coming in right.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you came back and started working for Southern Railway in '19?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, ma'am.
PATTY DILLEY:
What kind of work did you do for Southern Railway?
FRANK GILBERT:
I was working with the Bridge and Building Department.

Page 7
PATTY DILLEY:
So that was working all around, not in one…
FRANK GILBERT:
We built bridges, is the biggest thing we done. I reckon as far south as we got was Gaffney, South Carolina, and I worked on a bridge just out of Charlotte, between Charlotte and Belmont. We built one in Belmont there. And we built one across the Big Thicket[unknown], they called it, a little old creek called the Big Thicket. They called it a river, but it wasn't much of a river. The last work I done down there, though, was they would put in new crossings where highways crossed the railroad tracks. They put in new crossings all along there, and the blueprints they had didn't show that the ends of that cross, the boards and that covering, was supposed to be edged off. So the last work I done on that was they gave me a colored man and a little old, whatever you call them little old tramway cars, and we edged all them off between Charlotte and Greenville, South Carolina.
PATTY DILLEY:
Boy, that's a… [Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
[Laughter] Get three or four done a day and go back to camp.
PATTY DILLEY:
Gosh. So you lived in a kind of a camp?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, we lived in what they called a shanty car. That was a little car built just purpose for the business, you know. They had bunks built in it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did your father live in one of those when he worked for the railroad?
FRANK GILBERT:
Oh, yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
How often did you all see him while he was working on the railroad?
FRANK GILBERT:
He'd try and get home every two weeks. One year of that, I know he… He was a pretty good concrete man. He drew the plan for a little… They had big trestles when a railroad was first built, wooden, for a train to cross on. What I started to tell you was, this one between Newton and Claremont, he worked a year on that while he built the big concrete [bridge] for the

Page 8
creek to run through. He was there, and it was about a whole year while they filled that in. They had to fill it in mules and drag pens[unknown] then, you know; they didn't have machines like they do now.
PATTY DILLEY:
How many years did he work on the railroads?
FRANK GILBERT:
I guess he quit in 1910 the first time. And then after my mother died in 1912, he went back and worked several years more. I just don't know how many.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did he farm any in between working?
FRANK GILBERT:
We had our family there helped us. A fellow Travis lived up there. He had two big old strong boys. They helped us on the farm. That was before we got big enough to do much work.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you all pay them for that?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you got married in 1919. How did you meet your wife?
FRANK GILBERT:
I knew her about all my life. I never was around her too much, though. In later years, a while before we got married, we both went to the same church.
PATTY DILLEY:
What church did you go to?
FRANK GILBERT:
Bethel Lutheran Church. Of course, she had went to St. John's out here before. Bethel had a little parochial school out there, and they moved their membership out there so their kids could go to school in the summertime.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, I see. What section of the county is she from? Is she from Catfish, too?
FRANK GILBERT:
You might call it that, but it's not… No, she's… Do you know anything about the country much out 16?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, a little bit.

Page 9
FRANK GILBERT:
After you cross the creek and go up the hill, the first road turns to the right. She lived about a mile down there. I forget the number of the road, but it's out 16.
PATTY DILLEY:
It's not quite in the section they call Catfish, but it's out there in the country.
FRANK GILBERT:
I told you about how big and how little Catfish was. That was was an awful big bootlegging country in one day.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was it really?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. So if anything good happened along the river between… Anything good happen, no matter where it was, if it was near Hickory or near Charlotte, if they run down a liquor still and catch the other one at Catfish, no matter how near to Hickory or Charlotte they was.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] Oh, that's funny.
FRANK GILBERT:
I told Reverend Strelow, the preacher out at Bethel, that tale one time. He was asking me how Catfish got its name. I don't know how it originally got it, but when I can first remember there was a little country store back there, right close to Bunker Hill School. And it had a post office there called Catfish. A man would go to Catawba and bring the mail up from Catawba and dump the Catfish mail off at that store, and then he had three or four more places around he'd go, stores. The people would go in and get their mail like that then.
PATTY DILLEY:
So the name of the town kind of came from the name of the store?
FRANK GILBERT:
I don't know. That was the name of the post office. They had a lot of fishing for catfish back on that river. A lot of catfish in the Catawba River. I guess that was the reason they got the name from, that the post office was really Catfish. That was the name of it. That

Page 10
was before they had the Rural Free Delivery. You had to go to all them places and pick up your mail. We lived about a mile and a half from there.
PATTY DILLEY:
So your family went to church pretty regular?
FRANK GILBERT:
Oh, yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
And you went to Bethel Lutheran. Do you still go there?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, when we come to Conover, we moved to Concordia.
PATTY DILLEY:
You got married in 1919. What did you do right after you got married?
FRANK GILBERT:
The first thing I done after I got married, my old Uncle Bob Moser owned a cotton gin there close to where my wife lived. I got a job and worked there a little while, till I got this job over at Southern Railway. I worked there three or four months, maybe.
PATTY DILLEY:
You didn't work too long for the railway. How long did you work?
FRANK GILBERT:
Actually, I don't remember what month I started. It might have been April or May of 1919. The crew I was on got completely cut off in October, I think, 1919.
PATTY DILLEY:
Then you said that you taught school for a while. Where did you go to school? How long did you go to school?
FRANK GILBERT:
I didn't go to school enough to teach. I'll tell you what happened. During the War, a lot of the schoolteachers left. They could get better-paying jobs. And they just had to pick up most anybody they could to teach school in 1920 and '21. So I had an old uncle out there—in other words, he was my wife's uncle and mine—and he was on the school committee in that district. He wanted to know if we wouldn't… We didn't want to try it. We had never done anything like that. We, in fact, didn't have enough education to do that. But we took it. My wife didn't quite finish; she had to have an operation before we got through.

Page 11
I finished it out.
PATTY DILLEY:
When you were a child, how long did you go through school? Did you go all the way through elementary and high school, or what?
FRANK GILBERT:
There wasn't no high school then. No, the eighth grade is as high as I ever went.
PATTY DILLEY:
What school did you go to?
FRANK GILBERT:
It was called Piney Grove.
PATTY DILLEY:
And that was out in the Catfish section?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, it was right about three-quarters of a mile north of Bethel Church.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was this the parochial school you were talking about, the one that the church sponsored?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, this just a grade school, what we taught at.
PATTY DILLEY:
How about the one you went to when you were a child? Was this the same one?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, that wasn't the same one we taught at. No, me or my wife, neither one, went to that school. It was just my old uncle was a committeeman in that district. We had what they called the Hoke School then. And the one my wife went to was the Rockett School. The one I went to was Piney Grove. All that section goes to Bunker Hill now, all the kids around there. And a lot further up here than that goes to Bunker Hill. See, most of the schools then just had one room. I can remember when the first two-room schools were being built. When I first started school, they didn't have but one. Nigh onto all of them just had one room. I mean all that I knew. They built another room onto the one I went to and got another teacher. I couldn't say when, probably about 1907 or '8.

Page 12
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you go to school pretty regular, or did you have to get out and go work on the farm sometimes in the middle of the year?
FRANK GILBERT:
We didn't go to school but three or four months a year; that's all they had. We done the farm work. The farm work was done before we went to school, and then you was out by the time the spring planting was done.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, I see. Did a lot of your relatives live close by you when you were growing up?
FRANK GILBERT:
My old Grandpa Gilbert lived about a mile from where I lived. Pa was raised up there. And it was right close to this Bunker Hill School, too. Only three or four hundred yards from Bunker Hill School, where the mill was originally. And I had two uncles, Uncle John and Uncle Tom, and they lived fairly close there. I knew where both of them lived. Then Uncle Henry, who was one of my daddy's brothers, moved to a farm over in Iredell County and got to be a big farmer in his day. He bought one farm after another. I don't know how much land he did have when he passed away. And my two aunts on my father's side both married Mosers, my wife's uncles. That had one of the… They have a Moser reunion and a Gilbert reunion.
PATTY DILLEY:
You, by rights, get to go to both. [Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, and it's a big part of us. We just ought to have but just the one.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
Anyhow, one of the girls' husband lives in Charlotte, one of the offspring of the Mosers, you know. She introduced me to her husband, and he said, "How did you get mixed up in this Moser business? You said your name's Gilbert." I said, "Well, in the first place, my dad just had

Page 13
two sisters. They both married Mosers. One of them had fourteen children, and the other one fifteen. That mixed me up pretty bad there."
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
"Then," I said, "in the next place, I married a Moser."
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
"That's the way I got in it." [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
So you kind of jumped in it. Didn't step in it, just jumped in it. Do you all still have those family reunions?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, the Gilbert reunion is going to be next Sunday a week, the seventeenth of July.
PATTY DILLEY:
Where do you have them at?
FRANK GILBERT:
The Community Center in Conover. They didn't put in for it in time last year. Had to move it down to Claremont. You do have to rent that building, you know, and you've got to have it in ahead of time a little. We had a new president, I think. He didn't know too much about it. He lived in Hickory and didn't know too much what the setup was, and they just let it slip by, and they'd rented it; somebody else had it on our date.
PATTY DILLEY:
You have a president?
FRANK GILBERT:
We have a president of the family.
PATTY DILLEY:
Really? I had never heard of that. How does that work?
FRANK GILBERT:
You just elect him, like you would a President of the United States. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Really? That's neat.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do a lot of people do that around here?
FRANK GILBERT:
Oh, there's a lot of that. You can read in the little old

Page 14
Newton paper about every week where somebody's reunion is coming up or they done had it.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's amazing. We always had unofficial presidents of our family, I guess. They weren't ever elected or anything formal like that, but …
FRANK GILBERT:
When we first started the Gilbert, we made a rule that we'd elect a new one every year, but that didn't last long. After some of the young ones took over, they didn't pay no attention to that. [Laughter] The man from Hickory now, one of the older generation offspring is president now, Hal Bolick in Hickory.
PATTY DILLEY:
Before you left home, did your family ever change houses while you were growing up, or did you always live on your grandmother's farm?
FRANK GILBERT:
It really wasn't my grandmother's. It had been her old original farm. You see, my mother inherited one-fourth interest in it, and my …
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
FRANK GILBERT:
… and she did.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
Died in 1924. I can remember, too, when my old great-grandma, Deal, come and stayed with us two weeks at a time, she'd spend before she passed her way around with all of her children. They were in the same section around there, not too far away. She'd go and stay several weeks at a time with each one of them.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do the Gilberts still own the old homeplace?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, after my daddy died, we had a stepmother and she didn't

Page 15
want to stay out there, and they wanted to divide it up. Offered her ten acres—that's Kermit's mother now—and the household and everything, and we divided up the rest of it among all of us. She first agreed do that, but she later on, I reckon, thought it over, and she was getting pretty old, too, didn't want to live out there, and we just sold it all. Sold the land, the timber on it, all of it, to Conover Lumber Company. And after they cut the timber off of it, my brother George, the one that's in nurse care now, bought it for three thousand dollars, thirty and a half acres, and he sold it a good little while after for $93,000.
PATTY DILLEY:
He made quite a …
FRANK GILBERT:
Made pretty good.
PATTY DILLEY:
… bundle. Yes, that's pretty good. Did you ever have any particular jobs around the house? You said you worked on the farm when you were a kid. What kind of responsibilities did you have?
FRANK GILBERT:
I was the milkmaid, one thing.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
I was the oldest.Old Grandma Whisnut taught me to milk. We always kept four or five cows as milk for our own use. Then after I was big enough, those two little boys who worked for us taught me to plow. I never did do much hoeing after that. We farmed cotton, mostly, and you had to plow it and hoe it, you know, just like they do a garden.
PATTY DILLEY:
So did all of your brothers and sisters kind of grow up after you and work on the farm some before they left?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, they all worked some before they left. The oldest girl come out here not too long after I was married and got a job over at this

Page 16
glove mill here, the Warlong. And then they finally all come out here. Some of them worked in the hosiery mill. Pam worked in the hosiery mill. I guess the others all worked in the glove mill.
PATTY DILLEY:
Why did you leave home, to begin with?
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, I was getting old enough. I was going to have to get out. And then especially my old uncle was in there, and he said one of his boys needed a man on his farm [in Illinois] and was going to hire somebody. Told him to bring me along if I wanted to come, so that's why I left home.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you know anybody at the railway place when you first went to work there?
FRANK GILBERT:
Oh, yes. I knew all the men. Of course, I didn't till I went then. The foreman and the subforeman were both from Claremont, and most of them was around in this section in Claremont, Conover, and one man from Newton. The biggest part of them was Catfish men.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you have any relatives that worked for them?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, not then. My two brothers had done went with the railroad then, and they was on a different gang. And then they worked up till they got a chance to be scale inspector runner. Each one of them got a job with that. That big scales would run boxcars on and weigh them. And one brother of mine, Fred, supervised the putting [of] the scale in Knoxville, Tennessee that weighed two boxcars at a time. The train would run up to it and cut off what cars were needed on it, and the thing would just turn around. All that stuff had to be weighed before they shipped it.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's a big job. When you came to Conover, you first started working here at the cotton gin?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, ma'am.

Page 17
PATTY DILLEY:
How did you get the job there?
FRANK GILBERT:
This old Uncle John Hollar that got us the school job got me that job there, too.
PATTY DILLEY:
And so you worked there until it burned down?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, ma'am.
PATTY DILLEY:
You said you helped build the houses that Mr. Brady …
FRANK GILBERT:
Mr. Bolick was the one I built houses for, the man that owned Conover Chair. I helped on some that were just started on. Didn't work but a couple days there before Mr. Brady told me he needed me in the shop. He rounded me up. Then I told him what I could do, and he let me work in the lumber and in the shop a little while, until he found out I knew something about lumber. His lumber checker had quit him. He quit and got him a job on the railroad. So Mr. Brady gave me that job, and that was about all I ever did.
PATTY DILLEY:
For Mr. Brady, was lumber checking?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
What kind of things would you do in that job? Would it be checking shipments?
FRANK GILBERT:
What kind of lumber?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
FRANK GILBERT:
It was mostly shipped in there from… Well, it wasn't then it is later on. Most of the furniture lumber that they used then come from Louisiana, sweet gum and tupelo, such as that.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you had the job of checking shipments?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, I didn't check. I just counted the lumber when it come in. You had to count it and see if it tallied with the man shipping it, see if it tallied with his count. I never did check but one car that come right.

Page 18
I checked one carload that was eleven or twelve thousand feet, and just missed it one foot. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Gosh. So that's all you did for Mr. Brady when you worked there, all eleven years? Do you remember when the Depression hit? Was that while you were working …
FRANK GILBERT:
That was while I was at Brady's.
PATTY DILLEY:
How often did you get to work while that was going on?
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, one time I was off eleven weeks straight.
PATTY DILLEY:
Really?
FRANK GILBERT:
But it wasn't that bad all the time.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did you all make do while the Depression was on?
FRANK GILBERT:
We never did have to beg. One reason we did make it, my wife kept several of my sisters that boarded with us that worked at the glove mill, these Rockett women I was telling you about. She kept three of my sisters and two or three of my cousins; they boarded with us. And I got a little out of that. It wasn't too much, but it kept the wolf from the door, kind of.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was your wife working any at this time?
FRANK GILBERT:
She didn't work any during the Depression.
PATTY DILLEY:
It was just doing boarding. When you all first moved to Conover, did you all have a hard time finding housing? Were there places available to live?
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, I'll tell you, this man Hollar's son-in law… Ever hear of Jim Deal?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
FRANK GILBERT:
You know where he lived?
PATTY DILLEY:
I'm not sure where he lived.
FRANK GILBERT:
Just right up several houses this road, side of 3D.

Page 19
It was really an old schoolhouse at times, and Old Mr. Hollar bought it and made a dwelling-house out of it. And Jim Deal married one of his daughters. They moved in there. And Old Jim Deal and Charlie and Tom were all brothers. You know where 40 crosses…
PATTY DILLEY:
Sixteen?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, they are right in there on the left. Well, Charlie's widow lives down there yet. And they all bought lots in there, several acres apiece. And Jim got scared he wasn't going to get his paid for—he was just working there for Brady—and he wanted to move back. So Old Mr. Hollar asked us if we minded moving. They had a brand-new house down there. We done that. When moved out here, Frank was a mail carrier, and he had two children going to school there at old Concordia College. And he said if we'd keep one of them and we'd pay board for one of them, and the other one, he would pay board, he'd pay for the other one. So we got the house rent, just boarded one of them free and then the other one paid for the house rent. We moved out in the new house, and that other Hollar boy, Frank, was a mail carrier at that time. Wanted us to move there and let Joe move back up here. And we finally agreed to do that.
PATTY DILLEY:
Where did you move that second time? Where was this new house that you moved to?
FRANK GILBERT:
You know where 16 crosses Interstate 40? The road went right over where…I always laugh. My oldest boy was born there. He tells people he was born right down there in that road.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] So this house is not standing anymore.
FRANK GILBERT:
Just changed the houses is all we done. We went down to the new house, and Jim moved back up in the old one he'd been living in.
PATTY DILLEY:
Why did he want to make that change? Was he not working for

Page 20
Mr. Brady while he was out there in the new house?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, but then didn't anybody make too much money, and he was afraid… That was a pretty big debt right at that time for a new house and six or eight acres of land. He was afraid he wasn't going to make it. His family was beginning to increase and all, and he just wanted to give it up. Frank was a mail carrier, and that was a pretty good-paying job. I mean it wasn't as good like it would be now, but good then. So Frank took the new house, and then Jim moved back in the old one. We went down, and Frank gave us the house rent to let him board with us. He was a cousin of my wife. So we stayed there till Frank got married. We moved so many times, I can't think.
PATTY DILLEY:
But these were always rented houses that you moved into until you moved here?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. When Frank got married we had to move somewhere, you know. I think we moved upstairs in Mr. Les Hunsucker's. He run the old hardware store there for years. And the next move we made then was one of the new houses Brady built over here.
PATTY DILLEY:
And you did a little bit of work on those?
FRANK GILBERT:
I just did a couple days when they started it. That's where I got a job.
PATTY DILLEY:
This was right after the cotton gin burned down.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, that's right.
PATTY DILLEY:
So then you finally moved into one of those. Why did Mr. Brady build the houses?
FRANK GILBERT:
I guess just to give people a job and give them a place to move. They didn't everybody moved in those houses work for him.
PATTY DILLEY:
When people started moving into town to get jobs working for the factory, did they have a hard time trying to find a place to live?

Page 21
FRANK GILBERT:
I just couldn't tell you. About all I know about that is just my own self.
PATTY DILLEY:
Just your own self.
FRANK GILBERT:
They built houses along the… Oh, there was a few houses going up all the time up there. I just knew of Mr. Bolick; I worked for Conover Chair. I don't know how many houses we did build for him, and just in our spare time. In fact, see that white house through this woods here? We built three right there for Mr. Bolick while I was working for him at Conover Chair. We built, I think, sixty-some, just in our spare time, in the evening after work, me and three other men.
PATTY DILLEY:
So a lot of those aren't standing anymore.
FRANK GILBERT:
They're about all standing.
PATTY DILLEY:
They're all standing?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. This second house above me is one of them. When they moved it was moved down here, rolled down here, for Mrs. Hefner.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, really?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. Hefner lived in it up there, and he just give Mrs. Hefner that house if he could get someone to roll it down here. Ken Hefner was always a good rent-paying man, and he just give her that old house there, rolled it down here. I think he rolled it down for her.
PATTY DILLEY:
So most of them are still standing.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. There's a whole lot of them right in behind the Conover Medical Clinic. We built four or five on that line and then two across the branch over on the other side. And turning left after the first crossing, the buildings on both sides of that street. Five on one side and three on the other. I've built a house now and then all over town.

Page 22
FRANK GILBERT:
He didn't build them for any of his workers. He had a little money and wanted to make a profit on it. Business had got good enough then, and he didn't have any difficulty selling them.
PATTY DILLEY:
So he just built them and then sold them. He didn't build them to …
FRANK GILBERT:
No, the workers didn't live in them. Like this fellow Hefner that I was telling you about. He didn't work for Mr. Bolick, but he lived in it for a long time.
PATTY DILLEY:
But Mr. Brady built his for his workers to live in.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
He built eight of them?
FRANK GILBERT:
I know there was eight. Then the one right below the Ford dealer over here, I believe he built that one, too. I know the man who lived in it worked for him.
PATTY DILLEY:
Who was that that lived in it?
FRANK GILBERT:
Robert Setzer. His widow's living here, too. They built a home not exactly on the highway over there; it's just back off the road there. She lives there yet.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was the rent that Mr. Brady charged lower than some of the other places would rent out?
FRANK GILBERT:
Five dollars a month.
PATTY DILLEY:
What was the price that other people were paying?
FRANK GILBERT:
It was more than that, I know, but I could just make a guess, is all I could do.
PATTY DILLEY:
So Mr. Brady really didn't build the houses to have a profit out of them.
FRANK GILBERT:
No, he just built them for the employees to live in.

Page 23
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you remember when they finally sold those houses, when they stopped renting them?
FRANK GILBERT:
All I know is, Mr. Bolick at Conover Chair bought two of them over there. And one of his men that's retiring next month lives in one of them yet.
PATTY DILLEY:
Who is that?
FRANK GILBERT:
A.W. Pacer. He lives in one of those houses yet that Brady built.
PATTY DILLEY:
I didn't ask you about Conover Furniture. Mr. Brady just saw you building the houses and then asked you to come to work for him? Was that what happened, or how exactly did you get the job up there?
FRANK GILBERT:
You see, what happened… Nobody didn't get me a job. I think I just went and asked him. I remember him asking me who my dad was. He said, "I've known him about all my life. Come on to work." [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Did he? That's something.
FRANK GILBERT:
They first put me in the machine room there. No, they first put me with Mr. Lee Lail to build them houses. And then after I'd worked in the machine room half a day, in the afternoon at dinnertime he comes up and says, "There's a little job that meanwhile I wants you to do. Go down and work with Lail today and tomorrow, and then come back up here and we'll have a job for you." So I did that.
PATTY DILLEY:
So that's when you finally started checking lumber?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, I didn't check lumber just right then. I run what they call a skewer lathe. It made spindles that they put in cotton mills, for the thread to turn on. I run that till I done left here to go to the railroad; he give me this job.

Page 24
PATTY DILLEY:
So that was kind of a step up?
FRANK GILBERT:
I guess you might call it that.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you get higher pay for that?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, every now and then I'd get a little more pay up until that Depression come on; then it started stepping back down.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you remember how low wages got during the Depression?
FRANK GILBERT:
I remember how low mine got.
PATTY DILLEY:
How low did yours get?
FRANK GILBERT:
Fifteen cents an hour.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's pretty low.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. There was some lower than that there.
PATTY DILLEY:
Down there at the plant, there were some lower than that?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did wages at the furniture plant compare to the other places to work around here, like the hosiery and the gloves?
FRANK GILBERT:
Wages practically was all about the same, only that upholsterer, he made more money, and he may does yet. Makes more money, and they ain't a-working, near about. [Laughs. The implication is that upholsterers don't work as hard as the rest of the men but make more money.] An upholsterer makes good money.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were there many upholsterers back then in those days?
FRANK GILBERT:
They just had to train them as long as they needed them. There wasn't many, much done then. They first taught them putting springs in. Long about they stepped him up to an upholsterer if he …
PATTY DILLEY:
Showed promise?
FRANK GILBERT:
If he could make it. Some of them made it, and some of them didn't.

Page 25
PATTY DILLEY:
This was for Brady or under Conover Furniture?
FRANK GILBERT:
It was Conover Furniture. Brady never done any upholstery work.
PATTY DILLEY:
Why did you end up leaving Conover Furniture and go into Conover Chair?
FRANK GILBERT:
I didn't ever work for Conover Furniture over at that place. You wouldn't need to ask that question.
PATTY DILLEY:
You really didn't work for Conover Furniture?
FRANK GILBERT:
You just asked that. No, Conover Furniture wasn't called that until after Broyhill took it over. Well, really I don't mind it. I got fired. Brady fired me there.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did he really? Why did he do that?
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, it's kind of a long story. After the Depression, after it got a little bit better, you know, why… Of course, he was running under some kind of law, and the government was looking after anything that went bankrupt. The government checked into all that. So the first raise they got, there was four men; he give them two cents an hour raise. I come in the next bracket; they got a half-a-cent-an-hour raise. That's what started the trouble.
PATTY DILLEY:
The men got really angry over that?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, there was an awful to-do about it. He fired a good many of them, and a lot of them quit and went somewhere else.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was this the original Mr. Brady?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. He was the best man I ever seen, about, till that. Of course, you lose everything you had, any of us would get… The reason I got mad in there, I went to punch back in at dinnertime, and one of the men hollered, "Don't punch in, because we ain't going to work."

Page 26
I said, "How come?" They told me why. These four men wasn't a bit better than we was, I don't reckon. Give them two cents an hour, and then the rest of us half a cent, and then some of them down to a quarter of a cent.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were they just four men that were really favored above the rest?
FRANK GILBERT:
I figured that… What I wondered at, Mr. Jim Deal was one of them.
PATTY DILLEY:
Really?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, and he just favored them a little. They weren't any better workers than the rest of us. He just liked them, you know, I always thought. Now that's my… [Laughter] But the reason he fired me, I started down through the plant. We always loafed down at the boiler room. I was down there, and I heard the whistle blow. I was just coming out of the boiler room, and Mr. Brady come in there. And he said, "How come you blowed my whistle?" I said, "Mr. Brady, I didn't blow your whistle." He said, "You did. You just come out of the elevator. I saw you come out of there." "Did you see me blow the whistle?" "No, but," he says, "you're the man done it." I said, "I'm not." "Well, who did it, then?" "I couldn't tell you." I couldn't tell him. I didn't see them, but somebody did. I heard after who it was. He kept on saying I did, and I didn't take that too long, you know. I told him he could take it and stuff the boogy man with it. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
That doesn't seem fair at all. Gosh. I mean really. Was there any kind of an organized thing of the men at the plant?
FRANK GILBERT:
No. There wasn't no organized labor or nothing there. They just met, and didn't any of them go back to work after. Some of them checked their cards, you know, and seen what they done. Didn't anybody go back

Page 27
to work. They were off a week in there. I know some of them did go back. [unknown] Maybe some of them go back several months later, but didn't half of them go back.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's really something.
FRANK GILBERT:
That same day, Mr. Bolick come over there. He was a good friend of my dad, and he found out what had happened. He come over there and said, "You count lumber, don't you?" And I said, "Yes, I count lumber." He said, "I've got two big loads here that you can work on."
PATTY DILLEY:
Two big loads that you could count for him?
FRANK GILBERT:
I'd trusted him. He wouldn't be the cause of me to go down. [Laughter] I went over and counted them for him. He give me a colored man to help me throw it around from one place to another. And I saved him about a hundred dollars on them two loads. The other man had… He said he didn't know too much about it, and knew there wasn't that much in it. But I did that, and he said, "I don't know whether you'll just do any kind of work." I said, "I don't know." "I've got a little job here I'd like for you to do if you want to make out the day. There's a ditch over beside the building and it's kind of filled up with rain, if you want to clean that ditch. [unknown] If you don't mind it, you can and work the night." Come to think, I didn't mind doing any kind of work. So I cleaned out that ditch, and it was about quitting time. And he come out there and set there and talked to me. He had a man building about twenty feet onto the original building that was up, twenty feet on out f ront. Wanted to build it for his office building. He said, "I believe I want you to work on for me. I ain't got nothing right now for you to do, but help Will build that building out there." So I helped him. We built that and made an office building out of it. Right after we built that, I was fixing to go home one day, and

Page 28
he said, "If you want to work on for me regular, come back in the morning. I'll find something for you to do."
PATTY DILLEY:
So you came back.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did you first do when you went to Conover Chair after that?
FRANK GILBERT:
He first put me in the machine room then, helping out there. I worked for maybe a year, and he made me foreman in there. Then I was foreman till when I told you about Rhonie come down there and leased the building. So when I went to Rhonie, I was the foreman up there, too. Went up there for sixteen years.
PATTY DILLEY:
This was foreman in the machine room?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, ma'am. And still, every Christmas, they send me down a big box of oranges, every Christmas since I left them.
PATTY DILLEY:
Mr. Rhonie still does?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, Mr. Bost is the boss now. Conover Chair.
MRS. GILBERT:
Rhonie worked for a while, but he worked up the highway with him a good many years, too.
FRANK GILBERT:
I worked three years for Mr. Rhonie while he leased Conover Chair's machine room. Then he talked me into going with him up there. I was up there sixteen years.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did that work that he was leasing the machine room?
FRANK GILBERT:
He leased the machine room there, and the boss just had a set price they paid him for renting it. And if he had time to make more than the boss needed, why, he could build frames for other people, you know. He built frames for several different other people while he was there.
PATTY DILLEY:
I see. So it was like two little companies together in the same

Page 29
building.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
So then Rhonie made enough money to where he could open up his own operation.
FRANK GILBERT:
He built a pretty nice place up there. It'll be His sons own it now. He was retired a good many years ago. Eight or ten years ago, I guess. But his sons still run it. I was working there when I retired.
MRS. GILBERT:
I know Charles, so that's why… Brady started out making mattresses. He made mattresses first.
FRANK GILBERT:
I never made any mattresses.
PATTY DILLEY:
You didn't?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, they was making …
MRS. GILBERT:
He didn't help.
FRANK GILBERT:
Conover Chair now is making mattresses. The first thing they ever made here. Of course, they made a few of them after I was out here, but the other men made them and all.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's interesting. I want to come back another day and talk more about all the work and everything, because that's really interesting, to find out what-all happened all those years that you worked there. When your parents died, were they being taken care of by some members of your family, or did they work right up until the day they died?
FRANK GILBERT:
My mother passed away pretty young. Passed away in 1912. Well, my dad got married a couple of years after that, a year and a half or something like that. We all lived there, all living there until they were old enough to go out and work for theirselves.
MRS. GILBERT:
His father and mother died at home, and mine did, too.

Page 30
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, my father died in 1947.
PATTY DILLEY:
So your stepmother took care of them.
FRANK GILBERT:
She's still living yet.
PATTY DILLEY:
Is she still living?
FRANK GILBERT:
Ninety-six years old.
PATTY DILLEY:
Who is she living with?
FRANK GILBERT:
She's in the Shriner's Home in Greensboro.
PATTY DILLEY:
Gosh. She's pretty old.
MRS. GILBERT:
That's getting up there, about ninety-five or ninety-six.
PATTY DILLEY:
That sure is. When you were a child, who made most of the decisions in your family, your father or your mother or both of them?
FRANK GILBERT:
When I was young then, my mother had to because he was on the railroad. She was the one that hired these two boys to help us on the farm. When he was at home, he made the decisions. Of course, I reckon they talked it over. I don't know, but he'd tell you what to do.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did your mother ever work outside the home?
FRANK GILBERT:
No.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did you all like to do most when you were a family growing up, when you all weren't working, for recreation or entertainment?
FRANK GILBERT:
We had a baseball team. I was on several baseball teams around there. There wasn't much recreation for the girls, was there, Mama? [Laughter] What did you do?
MRS. GILBERT:
I didn't play base… I played pound ball. [Laughter] And then straight catching. The boys played what they called bull pen, and I can't remember anything about that, at school. I don't know whether he did or not; he went to a different school from what I did.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, we played bull pen there.

Page 31
MRS. GILBERT:
It wasn't too far apart. These two-teacher schools wouldn't be too close together, but not far enough apart that couldn't done something. But way back then, at Lyle Creek, we had some bottom land there, and we had to cross that creek, and we crossed that creek in a buggy to go to St. John's Church out here. And when we'd go to work in that bottomland we swam there in that creek when we got out—we was hurrying to get through, you know—and then it was sand up on the side, and we roasted hot dogs away back there, that long ago.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's not a new thing.
MRS. GILBERT:
And you wouldn't have thought we'd have had a hot dog back then.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] Did you ever do anything with much of your family? Did you all ever get together and do things as a family?
FRANK GILBERT:
In later years we did; that was when…
MRS. GILBERT:
I don't know whether they did things together or not. But everything we done, we had fun out of.
FRANK GILBERT:
All the kids around there would get together. One place on one Sunday, and the next time it was another one's, any kind of game or anything you wanted to play, you know. Wouldn't all be at the same place every Sunday.
MRS. GILBERT:
You know, in a way, what you folks do now, it's kind of tiresome. I believe we had it better. Maybe I'm just oldfashioned and think it was true, but we had woods all around and we had dry grape vines that we'd go on. And we'd cut them off at the bottom and swing …
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
MRS. GILBERT:
… maybe. And I had an old hen, a rooster and two hens. And we'd do that at home. Or we'd have these meetings,

Page 32
kind of like you have a fair, anywhere, and show off what we had. We done such things as that, had prizes. I went to Rockett School. And then we had the young folks', we called it a social. And about once or twice a month, we'd eat up there. And this… I forget what that person's name was. It's been so long ago. Mr. Mast is all I can remember, but there was another little old man would come, and Myrtle Rockett was the head of that. But we made country music away back there. There was a family there of Sigmons, Millie Sigmon and… What was the other girl's name, Frank? Their family, and several more. Her daddy, Fawn[unknown] Sigmon, now they all come. One played the fiddle, and then others would play the banjo, and we had what they called the tater bugs. What do they call them today? Mandolins?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Would you all meet at those and dance? Was that what you all done?
MRS. GILBERT:
Well, now, he was kind of a stranger to me in a way, because he went to Bethel Church, and about how many miles would it be apart, Frank? Right across these creeks over here, if you've ever been out Taylorsville Drive.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
MRS. GILBERT:
Like out to that creek, I went to that church out there on the hill, St. John's. Now he went back further from the… He was from Catfish. I was out at Oxford now. But I met him at one of them socials that we had up there. He left and went to Illinois. He had uncles—well, just one of them lived out there—and he helped to farm in Illinois. He was out there about four years.
FRANK GILBERT:
I didn't get anything for it, either.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] Yes, he had told me something about that.
MRS. GILBERT:
When he come home, why, we had one of them little

Page 33
what we called hot dog shindigs. We were having this little fair, and we'd show it in the school. It was in the evenings, but we had a box supper. Did you ever go to box suppers?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I've been to one.
MRS. GILBERT:
And this was in the spring of the year, and I thought I'd made myself a real pretty one. I took yellow paper and orchid ribbon. And my mama was pretty good to us. She fried some chicken, and we baked a cake. We had chicken and cake and everything in those boxes. And some of the boys up there [Laughter] found out he'd come home and I'd been writing to him, and they run the box up on him. It brought right much for the school. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I remember people doing that one night when my father was bidding on my mother's box.
MRS. GILBERT:
Then this lady who lived close to us, Mary Rockett, was kind of an old maid. She taught school. But she had a boyfriend at that time, and they run hers up. How much was hers, Frank? They run it up to—that was money, you know, back then, when they didn't earn so much—seven dollars and something. Or did you give that much for mine? Do you remember?
FRANK GILBERT:
Eight dollars and something, I think it was.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter]
MRS. GILBERT:
Well, then, hers was seven and something, and they run it up on her. [Laughter] He bought two. He bought one; somebody told him it was mine, and it wasn't mine.
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, that one. That one didn't cost so much. I got that one for two.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] Oh, you all had such fun.
MRS. GILBERT:
So that's how we met, and sometimes when I look at it, it's the best thing in the world we could have done. I was on the list

Page 34
where they judged the chickens that afternoon. Oh, they brought fruit and brought everything they had, just like any other fair. And I thought he never would get through those little chickens, and he was kind of an elderly-like old bachelor, and I was so tired I didn't know what to do. So I went in the schoolhouse [Laughter] when I got through, and I got me a big old apple. I didn't care whose it was; I was tired. And I got up in the schoolhouse building, and I had that apple in my hand, and I looked up, and he had a camera and was going to make my picture, and I pulled the window down. [Laughter] And he said he was going to get me in a good pose for him. He said, "How about throwing me that apple?" I told him he could come up and get it, and then he did.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] Was that kind of a hobby, taking pictures?
FRANK GILBERT:
I still have the camera.
MRS. GILBERT:
He's got that same Kodak.
PATTY DILLEY:
Really?
MRS. GILBERT:
And it's about fifty-eight years old.
PATTY DILLEY:
Gosh.
MRS. GILBERT:
I don't know how long he had it before he met me.
FRANK GILBERT:
I'd say I had it probably a year before.
MRS. GILBERT:
But during that time; he went back out there, and he went in the service from there, and a little bit after that we decided to get …
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you ever have any other hobbies like that? Like working with wood or anything, after hours of working at the furniture factory?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, I've done a little work after hours.
PATTY DILLEY:
What kind of things would you do?
FRANK GILBERT:
I made a good many picture frames.

Page 35
MRS. GILBERT:
He started making his grandchildren little chairs, and he'd upholster them. But he got tired; he got too many grandchildren. [Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
And Mr. Bost was up at Conover Chair. I don't know how many, a good many years I made a good many picture frames every Christmas for him. He's retired now from up there. Now, I saw him not too long ago. I said, "Done threw all those picture frames I made for you away, I guess." "No," he said, "my wife wouldn't take a million dollars for them."
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] That's neat.
MRS. GILBERT:
I crochet, and I've got a lot of my crocheting work here. And I tatted. I tatted my little baby brother a little cap out of pink medallions. I got his picture made in it. And I made a yo-yo bedspread. Did you ever hear tell of them?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yo-yo bedspreads? Yes, I've heard of them.
MRS. GILBERT:
You sew it around. You've seen little dolls where you made those little… Now that's the way you made the spread, only you just put them together where you'd put them on a doll's leg. You've seen those little old dolls. It's just like that.
PATTY DILLEY:
Those make pretty bedspreads; they sure do.
MRS. GILBERT:
But I never did crochet a bedspread. I've got one that my sister-in-law… Did you know George Gilbert at Newton? His wife died. What's the name of that church that George goes to?
FRANK GILBERT:
George Gilbert?
MRS. GILBERT:
Yes. I know it, but I can't think of it. It's the same kind we go to; it's at Newton down here.
PATTY DILLEY:
Grace Reformed?

Page 36
MRS. GILBERT:
No, it's the Missouri Lutheran.
FRANK GILBERT:
It's the new Lutheran church. Probably been there ten or twelve years.
MRS. GILBERT:
But his wife just done some of the most lovely work you ever saw. She had cancer of the bone, and while she was at it, during that time while she was up. And George came up here one evening, and he had that and I almost cried. It was the prettiest thing. And he said, "Vivian wants you to have this." And she had so much pretty work. She got forty-some dollars for some of those bedspreads.
PATTY DILLEY:
Ooh, that's a lot of money.
MRS. GILBERT:
I'll show you mine. I left it on the bed. I shouldn't have done it. I don't know how it's going to look, but I don't let anybody else wash it; I wash it myself in the washing machine.
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, got through with me, and then she wants to talk to you a while. [Laughter]
MRS. GILBERT:
Well, I'd better keep my mouth shut, I guess. May be I'd better go back. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, we'll get you in a minute.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, this name stuck on that tape recorder won't be right [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
I'll just have to put both of the names. [Laughter] I don't have too many more. Some real general questions.
How do you feel that Conover has changed over the years?
MRS. GILBERT:
Oh, if you'd come down here, you'd have seen. There wasn't nothing in here when we moved down here but woods. [Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
We built this house here in 1938, and there wasn't another house along this road in this section anywhere. Miss Sarah Bolick lives way over there to Graded High, and Earle Bolick there. At least a mile and a half to the nearest house.

Page 37
MRS. GILBERT:
The two houses right below that second brick house, Frank helped to build. They're still down there. Farrell lives in the first one.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you see that it's grown a lot in size and people? Do you think that people have changed any over the years?
MRS. GILBERT:
Oh, my, you wouldn't believe it.
FRANK GILBERT:
Just as long as it comes, you don't notice it too much, I don't think. If you'd been here then and not been back till now, you'd have saw a wonderful change in the people and everything else, but I didn't notice the change in the people too much.
MRS. GILBERT:
The young people is what's changed. They're so much different and live different. Of course, you've got more modern things than we had, too, and different things to do.
But of all they've got to do… One of my sons lives in that second brick house there. They're gone to Carowinds today, and they've got three active children. Now they make music. The two older ones are in the Newton band. Denise plays the clarinet, and Donnie plays the saxophone. And they didn't think… He was kind of… I don't know what they call it. He couldn't communicate too good or something. He hadn't spoke a word till he was in the fourth grade, I mean to his teachers, but they let him write everything, see? He made awfully good grades. So when he got in the high school there at Newton, at the first school they went to, Denise had a clarinet and she had played that, her class did, and Donnie wanted to try it. And what's his name, the man that teaches …
PATTY DILLEY:
Stockner?
MRS. GILBERT:
Stockner. And he said, "He wants to try it so bad, let him try it, and if he can't do it, why, it won't cost you a thing."

Page 38
And you know, he marched in the band last year and played.
PATTY DILLEY:
I was in the band when I was in high school.
MRS. GILBERT:
You come in there last year, too? Or you was in the band?
PATTY DILLEY:
I probably wasn't there. I was in there five years ago. Five or six years ago, I was in.
MRS. GILBERT:
Yes. Well, I don't think he'll be professional, but then I guess that was wonderful that he learned to play it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
MRS. GILBERT:
And the little one now, he's through the school over here. They went to the Christian Day School. And he wants the drums now, and he's already got them and put in for them. They'll have all three of them in …
PATTY DILLEY:
The band, yes. I guess that's all I've got to ask you today, but I want to come back and talk to you again some more about the work.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
PATTY DILLEY:
I wanted to talk to you some more today just about your work in the furniture plant. Before I talked to you about everything [Laughter] under the sun. I had a list of every place you worked. First you did farm work. You worked out on the farm, and then you worked on Lookout Dam. And you went to Illinois farming. And then you were drafted in the Army. I don't remember whether you told me or not: did you ever go overseas?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, ma'am, I was overseas. I never did get into any fighting, though.

Page 39
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, you didn't?
FRANK GILBERT:
No. We was supposed to go in the fifteenth; it ended on the eleventh.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, really? [Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
We was supposed to replace the Forty-first Devision on the fifteenth of November, and it ended the eleventh. We was already packed, ready to go.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were you all happy about that or sad that you …
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, some of them was, and some of them wasn't.
PATTY DILLEY:
How about you? [Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
Really you didn't care too much. In fact, I'd have liked to got into it a little. I don't know what might have happened, but…
PATTY DILLEY:
But it would have been, I guess, exciting.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you see a lot of new things over there?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, a couple unusually new.
PATTY DILLEY:
What kinds of things did you happen into?
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, all the farming country looks different from what it does here now. It wouldn't be over, oh, I'd say pretty near square around to that second house down there. And they'd all have a big, high dirt fence around there and a kind of hedge planted on top of the dirt.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's really neat.
FRANK GILBERT:
And proud of each man's farm. Then you would see when he was plowing, it didn't differ how wet it got, they plowed right on through it. You could see water running behind them in the furrow whenever they plowed. It might be a plow, a horse, and an oxen together, you know.
PATTY DILLEY:
That was different.

Page 40
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. I had never saw that before.
PATTY DILLEY:
How about the cities over there? Did they seem different?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, they was different. Then the women about all wore wooden shoes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, that must have been …
FRANK GILBERT:
Unexpected. It seemed to me like a lot of those things, the cities so near whipped out and didn't have too much. And I don't know if they wore them all the time, because I seen a woman dressed in the prettiest silk you ever saw, and to have wooden shoes on… [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
That would really be different. Do you think the War changed any of your ideas or your ways of looking at things?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, not much.
PATTY DILLEY:
It was just an experience.
FRANK GILBERT:
I'm still staying in America [an American?].
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] Yes. That's for sure. So after you came back from the Army, you worked for the Southern Railway for a couple of years, and built bridges for them?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, ma'am.
PATTY DILLEY:
And then you said you taught school for a year.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, I tried to.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did you feel about teaching school?
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, I didn't like that too good. It would have been all right, but some of the kids was a little worse, I think, than they ought to be. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, really? Misbehaving, kind of?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. Yes. And the more you talked to them, why, it seemed like the worse they got. As a matter of fact, I wasn't trained to teach

Page 41
school, you know. I just took it anyhow, and a lot of teachers left during the War, and they just had to take up whoever they could get.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you felt a little uncomfortable being put in that position.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I bet so. I'd be afraid some of my students might know a little more than I did. [Laughter] That's what I would be scared of, more than anything. Do you regret making that decision to take that job?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, not at all, but I never did like it.
PATTY DILLEY:
You finished out the school year, though, didn't you?
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, my wife had to go to the hospital. She didn't quite finish hers. I finished my part of it.
PATTY DILLEY:
I guess then you moved to Conover, right after the teaching job.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, ma'am.
PATTY DILLEY:
And you moved all those different places. I still haven't figured that out yet. [Laughter] But you moved all around Conover.
FRANK GILBERT:
Here come my daughter and her husband.
PATTY DILLEY:
They're from the mountains?
FRANK GILBERT:
They live in Tennessee.
PATTY DILLEY:
The ones up north? He's the one that's the chaplain.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, ma'am.
PATTY DILLEY:
I don't want to interrupt your visit. [Interruption]
PATTY DILLEY:
And you started working for the Conover Gin Company? What exactly did you do for the Conover Gin Company?
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, I did different things. I knew pretty much about gin. I'd worked for her uncle one time before. And he put me to ginning the cotton. I'd have the same thing to do all day. And planed. You were planing the lumber and all such as that for houses. He had a sawmill, so it made the

Page 42
lumber out of the logs, too. And he done all that just at one place. My main job was running the gins, though. I didn't have that to do all the time, but that's what I did when they had that to do.
PATTY DILLEY:
So after that burned down, tell me how you went about getting a job at Conover Furniture. How did that happen?
FRANK GILBERT:
I knew Mr. Brady.
PATTY DILLEY:
I think you said before that he knew your father.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did he know your father?
FRANK GILBERT:
I couldn't just tell you now, but he just knew him. Mr. Brady was a man that everybody in the county, about, knew.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] Oh, really?
FRANK GILBERT:
He was the county commissioner a good many years. About everybody knew him.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I understand. You got the job there at Conover Furniture, and how many years did you stay there?
FRANK GILBERT:
Eleven years, from '22 till '33.
PATTY DILLEY:
You said that you checked lumber, or you had counted it.
FRANK GILBERT:
Uh-huh.
PATTY DILLEY:
Is there any way that you go about learning how to do that? Was it something you had to learn, or was it just an ability?
FRANK GILBERT:
I knew how to count lumber all my life, ever since I was big enough, because we had learned that in the public schools.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, really?
FRANK GILBERT:
And then a lot of that stuff was just practical, you know, something you'd learn in later years, so I knew quite a bit about lumber. Mr. Brady's lumber man was leaving; he was going to the railroad. He asked

Page 43
me if I wanted the job, and I told him I'd try. I didn't know too much about grading it, but I guess we got along pretty good at that. Lumber was shipped there in cars then; it wouldn't come on trucks like it does now. I never did hit a carload exactly, but I missed several [by] just one foot, what the other man was checking on.
PATTY DILLEY:
Save him money that way then?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. See, a lot of these people would hoo-doo you if you didn't watch them. Just like there are people who would now.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was there any shortcut way of doing that? Exactly how do you go about counting lumber?
FRANK GILBERT:
You had a lumber rule. The rule was thirty-six inches long, and it was real limber; it was made out of bamboo wood. And it had a hook on the end of it and a handle on the other end. You just laid that across a board, and if you knew how long the board was, it'd give you the actual feet in that plank just where you measured it, if it was eight, ten, twelve, or sixteen, whatever it was. The eight, ten, and sixteen was on one side of the rule; then you had to turn it over for the twelve, fourteen, and eighteen on the other side. You had to know the length of that wood just by looking at it. Say this was twelve feet long here. The bottom side of that bar rule you read on a lower line. And you'd just hook your rule on there, and say it was six inches wide and twelve foot of lumber. Well, that'd be six feet in it. And all like that.
PATTY DILLEY:
So it gets complicated. I can see why you had to get …
FRANK GILBERT:
No, it's not a bit complicated after you learn it.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
Of course, you'd have to know the length of that board just

Page 44
by looking at it. It didn't take long to learn that. Of course, I knew that anyhow.
PATTY DILLEY:
So they taught you how to do this in grade school?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, they would teach us how to count lumber. How many feet was in a board and all like that. Didn't have rules. You learned that just by… All twelve-foot-long lumber had the same… If it's eight inches wide, there'll be eight feet in it, and if it's ten inches wide, there'll be ten feet in it. Then if you ever run across that little short lumber, six feet, you just have to divide that by two.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, I see. So you kind of learned the arithmetic part in grade school and the practical application doing the work. So you never had to work with any kind of machinery or anything like that, or did you?
FRANK GILBERT:
The only machine I worked with at Mr. Brady's was before I got this lumber-checking job. I run a skewer lathe, they called it, a lathe that turned out spindles like they used in cotton mills to put the spools on. I made a good many, but I didn't work too much in that.
PATTY DILLEY:
That was just a machine like you pop in a piece of lumber, and it turns it?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did anyone have to teach you that job when you first went in, or did you just kind of watch and learn how to do it?
FRANK GILBERT:
I just had to look at the man who was already there and helping (help him?). There was two who done that. There was one man on a different lathe. He turned out the heads. If you ever saw one of them spindles, it had a head about that big around. Well, the bigger the spindle, the bigger the head on it. That head fit down and…

Page 45
I never did see them work myself in the cotton mill. I never was in but one, and it wasn't that kind. But it had to fit down in a certain way; it had to be a certain size. And then this part I made, you had to cut a little groove on there about half an inch long around that smaller rim; it had to be the right size to fit in that edge. Then it was glued on there.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was your lumber-checking job fulltime?
FRANK GILBERT:
Oh, it was fulltime, yes. This other job, that was before I had that opportunity. I didn't do that long.
PATTY DILLEY:
I was wondering, if you had the lumber-checking job, could you get the lumber checked in for a shipment and then be able to do something else around the plant until the next shipment came in, or was it just continuous?
FRANK GILBERT:
The only time I ever had any time to do anything else was when it was rainy, and the trucks didn't come in, and the cars. We didn't work in the rain.
PATTY DILLEY:
You had to work outside.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, I had to work outside. Them carloads of lumber, I just checked a layer across and then threw it out to the boys outside.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, I see.
FRANK GILBERT:
There wasn't too much lumber come in on trucks like it does now, but there were a few coming in. You couldn't do that if it rained. All this other, I could do when it rained. I'd have just threw it all out there on a pile and then hacked it after it quit raining. I could work fast and throw a lot of it out. People wouldn't work in the rain outside.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you not only had to check the lumber, you had to hand it down

Page 46
to people? You had to help unload if after you had checked it?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, I had to check a whole layer across the car, and then threw it out to the people.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were you ever assisted in your work by other employees? Did you have people helping you?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, there was employees helping the whole time.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were there any times when you just didn't have anything to do, like if there weren't any shipments in and it may have been raining?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, a rainy day, or any other time I didn't have a thing to do, I run a cutoff saw, and it cut off the lumber the length they wanted it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Are those machines dangerous in any way?
FRANK GILBERT:
Any machine is dangerous if you don't watch it.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you never lost a finger or anything.
FRANK GILBERT:
I lost that much of it.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's pretty much.
FRANK GILBERT:
I never done any of that. It was seventeen years before I ever got cut at all. I didn't do any of that over at Conover Chair.
PATTY DILLEY:
So how did you do this?
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, I can tell you how, but you probably won't understand.
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, go ahead anyway.
FRANK GILBERT:
Anyhow, I got that nail cut off in what they call a joiner. The blades run right up here real fast.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I know what you mean.
FRANK GILBERT:
I was making a little pattern. I was marking out some stuff for the bandsaw, and I was making a little pattern about that long, marking it,

Page 47
and I couldn't get it to lie still. So I always took them and then set it over that joiner, and the heart blew out of the middle of it. So I done that, and it didn't get quite enough; it still didn't suit me. I went back again and… I learned one thing: you ought to look however time that somebody else was running that head up. It was cutting a whole lot more. I laid it down to hollow it out more in the middle, and it jerked out of my hand and my finger right back in it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Ooh, yes.
FRANK GILBERT:
It took that nail plumb off.
PATTY DILLEY:
It took off the top part of your finger?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, it just hit my hail and and hollowed it out till it was… Dr. Tim Twiner[unknown] said, "We might as well take this thing off." And said, "No, I ain't going to take it off, but it ain't going to hang by the nail." Said, "I'd rather take it off."
PATTY DILLEY:
So he kind of just patched it up?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, he patched it up. And then I cut it two more times. You can see the marks there.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
FRANK GILBERT:
The last one was out at Mr. Rhonie's place.
PATTY DILLEY:
When any of the workers hurt themselves like that, did the company pay for the doctor?
FRANK GILBERT:
The company paid for it, yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
They paid the doctor bills.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
MRS. GILBERT:
One got his hand cut off when he was working up there.
PATTY DILLEY:
Who got their hand cut off?
FRANK GILBERT:
Dewey Little.

Page 48
PATTY DILLEY:
Is he still alive today?
FRANK GILBERT:
Oh, yes. Cut his hand off about like this.
MRS. GILBERT:
And lived, and he's married and got a family. He's a nice-looking fellow.
PATTY DILLEY:
Cut right there? How did that happen?
FRANK GILBERT:
I think that was mostly his fault. Everything he done, wanted to be in a hurry, to him. And I think if it hadn't … He was cutting a round top back to put on top of a chair, and he cut one end of it and then run it over to the other side to cut the other end. Had a stop on it, showed right where to cut it, to set it up. And he was … [Mrs. Gilbert interrupts.]
PATTY DILLEY:
I've got a copy of that.
FRANK GILBERT:
That's what you done on Roy Ham. Do you remember him? He played that dulcimer down at Deal's church when we was down there.
MRS. GILBERT:
No, I remember being down there, but I don't remember him.
PATTY DILLEY:
But he got his whole hand cut off.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. They had to take it off way up here.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, really?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. He cut it off right at an angle across there.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you know if he got any kind of… Nowadays, it seems like workers get some kind of… I don't know what they would call it.
FRANK GILBERT:
An artificial arm with a kind of hook on it?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, he got one of those things. The company bought him one of them, but I don't think he ever could make much of a go at it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Could he work on after that? Did he continue to work?

Page 49
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, they gave him a job as long as he wanted to work, something he could do, but he didn't stay too long. I don't know what become of him. He's working somewhere else, some other furniture factory in Newton.
PATTY DILLEY:
He said it had a lot of bad memories for him.
FRANK GILBERT:
Kind of bad memories for me, too.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you see it happen?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, I didn't see it happen, but I heard him holler and I went on over there. He had a box down under, that the blocks fell in after they cut off, and that hand lay down in there.
PATTY DILLEY:
Ooh, gosh. I think I'd better stop that.
FRANK GILBERT:
I grabbed him by the arm and took him up to the office and got someone to take him to the hospital.
PATTY DILLEY:
I bet he was hollering so; I can't imagine. Were there any females who worked at Conover Furniture at all?
FRANK GILBERT:
No.
MRS. GILBERT:
No, I don't think there were.
FRANK GILBERT:
There wasn't anybody, only Miss Lula Brady worked in the office.
PATTY DILLEY:
She was the only one in the whole place?
FRANK GILBERT:
And then in later years they got another girl, the Caldwell girl. Lula was the only one. She's living yet, Mrs. Lula Barker. I don't know whether you talked to her or not.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I've talked with her.
FRANK GILBERT:
She was Mr. Brady's daughter.
PATTY DILLEY:
How many black people worked at the plant at this time? Were there any?
FRANK GILBERT:
There wasn't as many as there are now, but there was probably…

Page 50
I don't know whether I can think of all of them just right off. Old Uncle Bert Baker, we called him, and four of his boys and two of his grandsons worked here.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, really?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, and they were really a good-working family of black men.
PATTY DILLEY:
What kind of jobs did they have in the plant?
FRANK GILBERT:
Bert, the old man, helped me out on the lumberyard. His sons had different jobs, around in the paint room, I think, I believe that's where, what they called rubbing filler in. Put the filler on to sand it, and then you had to rub it awhile to get all that off. And if there was anything with holes, that would fill it up and they could paint it better.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was Hill Baker Bert's brother, who worked there in the boiler room?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, Bert was Hill's daddy.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, I see.
FRANK GILBERT:
Let's see, there was Hill and Coot and Frank and Baxter. I guess that was all. of them. Now Oscar Baker worked there, too; he was Bert's grandson. Ott was Bert's grandson; he worked over there, too.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, they had quite a few of them.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. It seemed like there was another one, but I've done forgot his name.
PATTY DILLEY:
I had talked to one—I don't know if he worked there while you were there—Oscar Baker?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. I think we've always called him Ott. Oscar was his real name. Yes, he worked over there when I worked over there.
MRS. GILBERT:
I thought he worked up here at that factory. Trendline.

Page 51
FRANK GILBERT:
He worked up there in later years.
MRS. GILBERT:
He was working here while you were there.
FRANK GILBERT:
I worked with him for Mr. Brady over there.
MRS. GILBERT:
I thought so.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was there a supervisor over the lumberyard?
FRANK GILBERT:
They didn't have a supervisor especially over the lumberyard. It come under the regular superintendent. Of course, I never did see him much.
PATTY DILLEY:
Who was the superintendent?
FRANK GILBERT:
Mr. Carroll Herman.
PATTY DILLEY:
Is he still living?
FRANK GILBERT:
He's been dead a good many years.
PATTY DILLEY:
He's the one that married Mr. Brady's sister? Or Mr. Brady married his sister? Something like that.
FRANK GILBERT:
Mr. Brady married his sister.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you weren't really supervising.
FRANK GILBERT:
I was just kind of the boss of my part.
PATTY DILLEY:
While you were working there at Conover Furniture, they never had those kind of studies like they do now of how fast people can work?
FRANK GILBERT:
No.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did they ever have those at Conover Chair? They had had those at Trendline, and I didn't know whether they had had those at other places around.
FRANK GILBERT:
No, I never did work in a place that was under that.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were there any kind of rules at the plant? How about smoking? Could you smoke in the plant?
FRANK GILBERT:
At the time, no, you couldn't smoke in the plant, I don't think.

Page 52
MRS. GILBERT:
Where I worked, they had certain times that you could …
FRANK GILBERT:
At Conover Chair now, they've got a regular smoking place. It's in the lunchroom. When they eat lunch, you know, they can… They didn't have that then, though.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did they have any kind of informal place where people could go slip off somewhere?
FRANK GILBERT:
People would go outside and smoke in the time you was allowed. They had a period twice a day. A lot of the real smokers, they'd slip out and smoke more, though. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
They could get away with that.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
It seems like it was a kind of a easy-going place to work. How long did you all get off for lunch? Did you have a regular lunch hour?
FRANK GILBERT:
We got off an hour till the eight-hour law come in. We had an hour off for a good lunch; we worked ten hours a day. Worked eleven hours a day. Then when we started to work just eight hours, they just cut thirty minutes off of lunch.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you get a lot less work done in eight hours than ten hours, or did you have to speed up some?
FRANK GILBERT:
I believe they done just about as much in the eight hours as they did in ten.
PATTY DILLEY:
So it seems like they got the same amount of work done; there was just a little bit less pay for it? Because they worked less hours?
MRS. GILBERT:
They had more hands working, too.
FRANK GILBERT:
I got more pay for the eight hours than I did for the ten.
PATTY DILLEY:
That was good.
FRANK GILBERT:
After it got started, you know, but not at first.

Page 53
PATTY DILLEY:
When did they start the eight-hour thing? Was that while you were at Conover or up here at …
FRANK GILBERT:
I was up here at Conover Chair.
PATTY DILLEY:
What time did you all have to be in at work?
FRANK GILBERT:
Seven o'clock.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you all have any kind of a punch thing?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, had a punch clock. That's when it went on eight hours, that they got the punch clock. Of course, it was eight hours all the time I worked at Conover Chair over here.
PATTY DILLEY:
How about at Conover Furniture? Did they have the punch clock there, too?
FRANK GILBERT:
They had a punch clock down there in later years. They didn't have at first. At first, when I got the lumber-checking job, I had to keep the time on all the men who worked under me.
PATTY DILLEY:
How many holidays did you all have while you worked over here at Conover Furniture? Did you have any at all?
FRANK GILBERT:
You didn't have any holidays you got paid for.
PATTY DILLEY:
How does that compare to your working up here at Conover Chair?
FRANK GILBERT:
We never got paid for any holidays up here as long as I worked there.
PATTY DILLEY:
I guess that's a relatively new thing, the paid holidays. Do you get any kind of a pension or anything from Conover Chair?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, ma'am.
PATTY DILLEY:
Just the Social Security?
FRANK GILBERT:
I think it was about two years after I left, they started the pension plan. I just left too soon.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes. Could people over at Conover Furniture take off work in the middle of

Page 54
the day to go to the doctor or something, without notifying the supervisor, or did they have to tell someone before they left?
FRANK GILBERT:
As far as I know, they could just go anytime.
PATTY DILLEY:
And then come back and go back to work?
FRANK GILBERT:
Come back and tell where they'd been. They wasn't too particular about that along then, not like they are now.
PATTY DILLEY:
So it's changed now, I guess.
FRANK GILBERT:
The only time I ever heard them say anything about that, three other men and myself… They put up a Ford plant in Charlotte. They were going to ship the parts in there and assemble Fords down there, and we heard they was hiring men, and we went over one day. We never told Mr. Brady. He never said a word to me, but he really got after John Hefner, who lived up here in the country. I think he was the one. He told the rest of us off. [Laughter] He [Mr. Brady] never did say a word to me.
PATTY DILLEY:
John was one of the three that went with you?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. Well, he was the one …
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
FRANK GILBERT:
I think we went with John Moore, as well as I remember now.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did they work out with you?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, neither one worked with me. But I can't think right now who the other one was that went. There was John Moore and John Hefner. There was four of us. I don't remember, but that don't differ, I don't reckon.
PATTY DILLEY:
I guess you all didn't get the job, because you came back?
FRANK GILBERT:
No.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were they hiring people?

Page 55
FRANK GILBERT:
No, they wasn't hiring anybody then. But they did hire some after that. They never did make a go of it; it didn't last but a couple years.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you remember how much you all were getting paid then?
FRANK GILBERT:
That was before that Depression come along. The most I ever made was $3.75 a day over at Conover Furniture. Three seventy-five a day for ten hours is thirty-seven and a half cents an hour.
PATTY DILLEY:
And then the Depression came on.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, and then I got cut down to fifteen cents an hour.
PATTY DILLEY:
What was the longest time that you ever went without working?
FRANK GILBERT:
I was off eleven weeks one time and never done a thing.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did you do during the eleven weeks? Did you have your garden out here during that time?
FRANK GILBERT:
I didn't live here at that time, but I always had a garden wherever I lived. I don't remember whether that come in gardening time or not.
PATTY DILLEY:
I was just wondering if your garden kind of helped pull you through.
FRANK GILBERT:
It would. I think what would be the best help was the girl boarders, some of my sisters and a couple of my cousins. That helped us. Now they had pretty regular work in the hosiery and the glove mill; they had better work than we had. I mean more regular. Made a little out of that. Everybody had to hit the bread line.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you never did have to.
FRANK GILBERT:
Never did.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did a lot of people that worked in the furniture plant with you have to go out and hit the bread line?

Page 56
FRANK GILBERT:
There was a lot of them that did. They had a place up here right across from the depot building where they went to get their food. There was as high as 250 people there in that line at one time.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you know anybody that went on relief? How did they feel about having to do that?
FRANK GILBERT:
It was something they couldn't help. I don't know how they felt. No use to feel bad about it; it was something that just couldn't have been helped at that time. There are a lot of people that's on now that's too lazy to work. Most everybody I knew worked then. There wasn't no welfare or nothing like that you could get on.
PATTY DILLEY:
How do you feel about welfare and food stamps and that kind of stuff today?
FRANK GILBERT:
It's all right what it was meant for. There's a lot of people on it that wouldn't need to be. They'd rather be on welfare than to work steady.
MRS. GILBERT:
And don't you think the ones that run it, come the time when they get money, build such big, fine buildings. They put the money more in there than they do to help the persons. I know one thing that they do to the poor people. We've been lucky enough we never had to be on it, and knew how it was. They didn't mind taking their house. I'm talking about if you had a person to be sick a long time. I don't know which is the worst, these homes they've got, or the way they used to do that and take almost everything a person had, their house. Help you out, you know, and then take your property.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes. I don't know which is worse.
MRS. GILBERT:
It's bad either way, don't you think?
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, I know it.

Page 57
MRS. GILBERT:
But you know, we were talking about people on the bread line? Down there at Newton they have these little old… What do they call those houses, Frank, they built? It was for the Army or something. I know one person that lived in them.
FRANK GILBERT:
The government built these houses. My brother Kermit lived in one of them when he first got married.
MRS. GILBERT:
People could stay there that didn't have nowhere else to stay.
FRANK GILBERT:
Three C's. That's what I'm talking about.
PATTY DILLEY:
The Civilian Conservation Corps. And so your brother worked in that kind of …
FRANK GILBERT:
No, they lived in one of those houses when he first got married, a while.
MRS. GILBERT:
He come a long way, didn't he? [Kermit is in real estate now.] [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
That was a long time ago that they …
MRS. GILBERT:
He's in real estate now, but he worked down there in that post office there. But his wife works there yet. I bet you know them. No, I'm thinking about his sister Katharine is married to G.G. Simmons.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I know G.G. He went to school with me. He's going to State. Or I guess he's already done.
MRS. GILBERT:
That's Frank's sister's son.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did any of the workers over there at Conover Furniture get together and decide how much work could be done? Like just go to Mr. Brady and say, "Well, you're whipping us too hard, and we think we can get this much done"?

Page 58
FRANK GILBERT:
No, not much.
MRS. GILBERT:
You mean like going on strike.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I guess so. Did they ever have any strikes?
FRANK GILBERT:
We went on strike a couple times. But it never did do much good, because we didn't belong to any union. There's no use of striking if you don't belong to a union.
MRS. GILBERT:
I think this place up here, Charlie Bost, now he's just one of the finest. Now every Christmas, ever since Frank's worked up there, every year he comes down here with a bushel of beautiful oranges. He's never stopped. Like Santy Claus, every Christmas. And he used to give us a little something along with it, but he don't anymore. [Laughter] And the nicest thing he ever done, he borrowed one of my sons when they had a father-son banquet. And it made me feel so good that he wanted Don.
PATTY DILLEY:
He borrowed one of your sons to be his son?
FRANK GILBERT:
He didn't have any.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's sorta nice. That's neat.
MRS. GILBERT:
But he had a daughter.
PATTY DILLEY:
It sounds like he was a good person to work for. Was it the whole plant that had these little strikes, or was it just one part of the plant?
FRANK GILBERT:
It was all of them.
PATTY DILLEY:
And would they sit down? I wanted to find out more about that.
FRANK GILBERT:
Just sit down and didn't go back to work.
PATTY DILLEY:
So they didn't have apicket line or anything.
FRANK GILBERT:
No.

Page 59
PATTY DILLEY:
They just sat down inside the factory. People talk about, workers in North Carolina don't ever do anything like that. But I've found it happens quite a bit. It's just never a big thing, as it is up north, or out of proportion and such as it is up there. But how long would the strikes last?
FRANK GILBERT:
Sometimes they'd last all day. I don't think they ever had but three when I worked there. That was all after that Depression come on. Before, we all had pretty good work. We didn't make much, but it didn't cost as much to live like it does now. You could live pretty good. But then after that Depression come on, a lot of people had a hard time.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was there any special event that would cause one of these strikes to happen?
FRANK GILBERT:
Did I tell you about that one, where they give us a raise?
PATTY DILLEY:
I think you mentioned a little bit. Maybe you could talk more about that.
FRANK GILBERT:
There was four men, the men that was making the most; they raised them two cents an hour. The rest of us, they give us a half-a-cent-an-hour raise. Now that's only a nickel a day, working ten hours; that didn't amount to much. It was the thought of the thing what made them mad.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I guess they were mad. So they had a strike over that?
FRANK GILBERT:
They had a strike over that. That's the time I got fired.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I remember you telling me that. Did Mr. Brady fire a lot of people over that?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, he didn't fire too many.
PATTY DILLEY:
How many of the workers in the plant went on strike? Was it almost all of them?

Page 60
FRANK GILBERT:
All of them but those four men, as far as I know.
PATTY DILLEY:
I think you mentioned that Jim Deal was one of them.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, he was one of the ones that got better paid.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was Ralph Simmons one of them?
FRANK GILBERT:
Ralph Simmons, Willard Simmons, and Flake Meyers. Flake Meyers was a brother-in-law to the Workman boys. Did you ever meet him?
PATTY DILLEY:
No, I never met him. But those were the four who had gotten …
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, them was the four that got the two-cents-an-hour raise.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did these four men think about that?
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, they didn't think it was fair either, but they didn't strike.
PATTY DILLEY:
But they didn't strike with you. [Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
No, they wouldn't. They naturally wouldn't. I wouldn't either, if they'd given me a little more than they had. That's all gone now; I done forgot all about that. I mean I don't hold nothing against anybody now.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes. Sometimes it happens like that. Tell me more about Mr. Brady firing you, exactly how it happened.
FRANK GILBERT:
I went to punch my card when I went back to work at noon, and I didn't know anything was up. And old Mr. Marion Hefner—he was the man that lived beside of me—said, "Don't punch your card; we ain't going back to work after what happened." So I went on down. I was just going going down to the boiler room. About everybody was loafing down there. And we got an hour then, and I always went back so we'd have about a half an hour to loaf, shoot the bull. And I got down to the boiler room, and in no time somebody blowed the whistle. And just as I was going in, why, Mr. Brady come out. He said, "How come you blowed my whistle?" I said, "Mr. Brady, I didn't blow that whistle." He said, "You did." I didn't. That's one thing I thought was uncalled for.

Page 61
PATTY DILLEY:
So that same day you kind of joined up over there at …
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, Mr. Bolick come after me that same day.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did he find out that quick that you had …
FRANK GILBERT:
I don't know how he found out, but he found out I'd been fired. Somebody told him, of course. He had some lumber, and he didn't have a lumber counter, didn't have any man that knew a thing about it. So he come over there and got me to go back and count that lead of lumber for him. So I got that done, and he said, "I don't know what kind of work you do, if you mind doing anything at all. If you want to make out the day, that ditch on the other side of the building there is kind of filled up," he said, "if you want to make out the time. You don't have to if you don't want to, but if you want to do that you can make out the day. "I said sure did. And he come down about quitting time. He said, "How would you like to work with me all the time?" I said, "I'd like that.
And I had to build a little piece on the end of the building [Conover Chair Plant down] to the end of the road. He said, "If you want to come back and help Will in the morning, help him build that building." So I went back up and helped him. Worked on regular then.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was there any kind of competition between Conover Chair and Conover Furniture?
FRANK GILBERT:
No. Conover Furniture was new in the furniture business. They was making dining room suites and dressers. The biggest thing they made when they first started was old kitchen safes, we called them. I don't know whether you ever saw one of them or not.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, we've got one in our house.
FRANK GILBERT:
Tin doors and little holes cut. They made piles of them when they first got in the furniture business, Conover Furniture did. But it wasn't called Conover Furniture then. It wasn't called Conover

Page 62
Furniture until Broyhill took it over. And they made lots of them old kitchen things, tin and wood. They made dressers and bedroom sets and such as that. Then at Conover Chair they had more upholstered furniture.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, I see. From the very beginning they made different things. So there wasn't really any competition for products. Was there competition to get workers?
FRANK GILBERT:
There might have been competition of that sort. I don't know.
PATTY DILLEY:
How about today? I understand that the Broyhill plant over here manufactures upholstered furniture, at Conover Furniture?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, they don't make any over here.
PATTY DILLEY:
What kind of things do they make there at Conover Furniture?
FRANK GILBERT:
Oh, they make that [upholstered furniture]. I didn't know that until a neighbor down there lives in the second house there. Several years ago, one of Don's little girls boxed butterflies and moths and such as that. And I walk her to school. Doug Smith passes her every day going to work. I said, "Doug, could I ask you, would you get them for me, a few drawer ends, just to mend the drawers in my dresser and such as that? If I get a couple or three of them ends, I can make just exactly what I need." Said, "I'm sorry, we don't make anything like that." The only thing they make at Conover Furniture now is dining room chairs. All in the world they make. And they ship them all out for all these dining room suites you see give(n) away on these programs. You see them from Broyhill.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, now you can tell everyone Conover Furniture makes all the dining room chairs that Broyhill makes. They don't make a thing but

Page 63
the chairs anymore. Most of this stuff, the way I understand it, is took out to a warehouse, and it's all shipped in a group together.
PATTY DILLEY:
So they match it up with the tables they make in other plants.
FRANK GILBERT:
They make the tables in some other factory.
PATTY DILLEY:
It seems like industry is getting so specialized. So Conover Chair just makes upholstered furniture.
FRANK GILBERT:
Upholstered furniture is all they make.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did they ever have any of these kind of strikes or anything like that at Conover Chair?
FRANK GILBERT:
No.
PATTY DILLEY:
So Mr. Bolick must have been a pretty easygoing guy, I guess, to get along with.
FRANK GILBERT:
Mr. Bolick was a good man and an honest man and everything, but he fired some people that I thought he oughtn't to have fired, maybe.
PATTY DILLEY:
Why did he fire them?
FRANK GILBERT:
I wouldn't want to say too much [unless] I see it won't go out to the public.
PATTY DILLEY:
You don't have to say their names or anything.
FRANK GILBERT:
He fired one man, and his wife worked in the sewing room. Said, "Go bring your wife along with you. I don't want her anymore either." And so he went and got his wife and then said, "Now that woman what rides with you from Alexander County. Because she wouldn't have no way to get to work, take her along. I don't need her anymore."
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, people are funny. They can be good people to work for, but then they just have a quirk or something.
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, that's the way I always took it. He never said a word to me in his life, not bad. He just fired a lot

Page 64
of people like that. He'd just lose his temper, you know. Had a little old colored boy, I bet he fired him a hundred times, and then he'd go back after him before night.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] Who was this?
FRANK GILBERT:
That was Rat Rheinhardt. I don't know what his name was; we called him "Rat" all the time.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's funny. Then he'd go right back after him. [Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. [Laughter] He'd go back after him before dark. Rat would make him mad about something. Another time, he had an old colored boy, Walter Smith, worked for him. He was a good worker but just naturally slow. And he worked in the machine room part of the time with me, and then part of the time he filled furniture cushions. And Mr. Bolick come down there one day. I always had him run a drum sander, sand legs and feet. "Well," I said, "you know Walter. He works pretty good. You know how slow he is." "I know he's slow, but," he said, "the durn devil doesn't try sometimes. He won't work. And you tell him he don't need to come back anymore." I said, "Mr. Bolick, he works up in that other place the most. You tell him. Or let the foreman, let Bill Farland tell him." He was the foreman over that place. "No," he says, "you tell him." I said, "Mr. Bolick, I ain't going to do it." He says, You tell him." So that was sometime in the morning. And about three-thirty, when we got off. A little before then he come back, and he said, "What are you going to do this evening after work?" Me and Carol Hawn and Oct Shook—the man that lived right there in this next house; he's dead now—were building houses around in our spare time for Mr. Bolick. He said, "Boys, I know old Walter's slow, but he's a pretty good nigger. You know what I'm going to do? I got some land

Page 65
over across from Niggertown, and I've got a notion to build old Walter a little house over there and let him live in it."
PATTY DILLEY:
This was Mr. Bolick saying this?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. [Laughter] He says, "You see Carol Hawn, and if it suits him we'll go over there this evening to lay off a place to start building." And we went to work and never stopped till we got done, for old Walter. [Laughter] It was just a thing like that he would do.
PATTY DILLEY:
He seems like he has two different parts to his personality. He can lose his temper one time, and then the next he can just be as nice…
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
I would have trouble trying to come to grips with that. [Laughter] Because, you know, you usually think of a person as just straight good or bad.
FRANK GILBERT:
That happened a lot of times, though. He hired Herman Bolick, his nephew, and fired him and made him take his wife along. The best sewing woman he ever had in the sewing room there. I don't think he ever did a thing in his life.
PATTY DILLEY:
You usually don't hear of them firing their own relatives.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. [Laughter] It didn't make no difference to him when he got mad.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did he ever fire anybody that was ever trying to make workers strike or any kind of organizing people?
FRANK GILBERT:
We never did have nothing like that, never done nothing like that up there.
PATTY DILLEY:
I just wondered if anybody got fired for even talking about stuff like that.

Page 66
FRANK GILBERT:
That never was mentioned up there. Of course, all of them knew how he was, how his temper was. A lot of people, he didn't… I always figured that it was just somebody maybe that he didn't like might have said something to him right at the time to make him mad and all that.
PATTY DILLEY:
So I guess you just stayed out of his way and did your work.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. I never did… Of course, at times I had pretty much of a temper, too, but I never did hook up with him. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
So you worked as a foreman.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, I was machine room foreman. I think I worked eighteen months, and then he made me machine room foreman. It wasn't long.
PATTY DILLEY:
Eighteen months after you started working there, after you had gotten fired at Brady's? Eighteen months after that you became a foreman. Gosh, that's a big step. Was that plant running a lot better than Brady's plant at the time?
FRANK GILBERT:
I doubt if they did, but in fact, I don't just remember how long it was before Brady's plant got to running. He run under a bankruptcy law a while. I think they run pretty good a while then. But Mr. Bolick run about all the time. I never did miss a day under him. We built eighty houses for him. I think they said eighty. They put out a fifty-year brochure here, at Conover Chair. It was sometime this year.
PATTY DILLEY:
I saw that. It's really a nice thing. It has a lot of old pictures in it. You all built eighty houses?
FRANK GILBERT:
I didn't know how many; I never kept no count of it. That second house right up here before this one, we built that one, and Marshall Huffman lived in it for a long time till he died, and then

Page 67
he give Mrs. Huffman that house and paid to have it rolled down here.
PATTY DILLEY:
So did he mostly rent out his houses?
FRANK GILBERT:
He never built any just for his employees like Mr. Brady did; he just built them to rent.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you build these houses just in your spare time?
FRANK GILBERT:
Spare time in the evening after work, or summertime. You'd get off at three-thirty; you had a lot of time you could work.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you like doing that?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. I always liked to make all the money I could.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] Yes.
FRANK GILBERT:
My son lives in one of them now. You can see that weather-boarded house.
PATTY DILLEY:
The white with pink trim?
FRANK GILBERT:
We built that, and then the one below it, too. We built them all over town. Over here behind the clinic, we built a bunch of them in there behind, right straight behind Conover Clinic, and then we built five up on the street that turns up to the left, four or five turns over to the right.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you were never out of work?
FRANK GILBERT:
Kept us a job all the time.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's pretty neat. I wanted to ask you some about when you all switched to the church up here in Conover. What church were you going to before then?
FRANK GILBERT:
Bethel Lutheran Church out in the country. Know where it is?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
FRANK GILBERT:
It was a country church. We was both raised in that church. In

Page 68
fact, we was out here I don't know how many years, a good many years, before we joined out here. It was that Depression, didn't have no car a while. We just decided to move out here where we could walk here.
PATTY DILLEY:
You had a car for a while?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
And you used it to …
FRANK GILBERT:
Drove back and forth in it to church.
PATTY DILLEY:
And so during the Depression, or as a result of it, anyway, you started going here to Concordia.
FRANK GILBERT:
I could forget about a car then.
PATTY DILLEY:
What was your reaction on first going to the church? How was it different than the Bethel Church?
FRANK GILBERT:
There was quite a bit of difference, a difference in the people, mostly.
PATTY DILLEY:
How were they different?
FRANK GILBERT:
It was just a feeling you get. Just as soon as church is over, everybody splits and goes home here. Now at Bethel, they'd stand around and talk for a half an hour after church was over. [Laughter] That was the biggest difference in them. Both was the same kind of preaching. In fact, old Reverend Mennen, who was preaching over here when we joined, had preached out at Bethel, too. He might not have preached but one year out there, maybe two; I just don't remember.
PATTY DILLEY:
And he come to Concordia.
FRANK GILBERT:
That was the biggest difference I found.
PATTY DILLEY:
The people weren't quite as friendly, I guess.
FRANK GILBERT:
I think you put it right right there.

Page 69
PATTY DILLEY:
They weren't quite as friendly as the ones out in Bethel. When you first came here, were the people who went to Concordia more well off than people who would go to the country churches like Bethel or St. John's?
FRANK GILBERT:
There was some few that was. There wasn't anybody but farmers went to Bethel. They's some big farmers, though; they was pretty well off. There'd be some, maybe, like me that had a job in town, but still went back to that church.
PATTY DILLEY:
It seems like Concordia had all the big people that owned everything in town. Did Mr. Bolick here at Conover Chair go there?
FRANK GILBERT:
He belonged to Concordia.
PATTY DILLEY:
So then the Bradys …
FRANK GILBERT:
I think Mr. Brady belonged there, too.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did you feel, going to church with people that owned all these factories and stuff?
FRANK GILBERT:
I didn't mind that a bit. My wife didn't feel too good about it. She got used to it. She never minds a bit now, but…
PATTY DILLEY:
But it never really bothered you a whole lot?
FRANK GILBERT:
It never bothered me a bit in the world. [Laughter] I felt just as big as they did. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, that's a good attitude to take. I guess I've talked to your wife more about how she felt. I think she had told me a little bit earlier about first going to the church and her impressions of it. She said she soon got over it.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yeah.
PATTY DILLEY:
I understand you were a …
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]
PATTY DILLEY:
You were financial secretary of the church five years?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was that something you had to be elected to?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, you had to be elected to it.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you took kind of an active role in the church.
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, if you'd call that an active role. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
What kind of things would you do?
FRANK GILBERT:
You had to pick up the money every Sunday. You had a book; you had to keep track of how much each one gave and all that. Had to count the money and take it to the bank that day if you could get it done. I never will forget one little thing that happened. Do you remember Mr. Walter Moelmann who died a week or two ago?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
FRANK GILBERT:
He was treasurer part of the time when I was secretary. And it was over two years, and I hadn't made a mistake with the bank's count, too. And one time I was a nickel short; I made it a nickel more than what the bank made it. And Mr. Moelmann come down there, and he says, "Mr. Gilbert, you've got to be a little more careful."
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] Missed it by five cents.
FRANK GILBERT:
[Laughter] It was over a thousand dollars some weeks.
PATTY DILLEY:
Gosh. That's a lot of money, really, for a church to collect in a morning.
FRANK GILBERT:
He was just that kind of man, though. He was town clerk here a good many years. He was that kind of businessman; he just wanted everything exactly right. Well, there's nothing wrong with that. But

Page 71
PATTY DILLEY:
That would tickle me. [Laughter]
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. [Laughter] That kind of tickled me.
PATTY DILLEY:
I'm sure it would. I wanted to find out where all your kids went to school. Did they go to the graded school here in Conover?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did they ever go to the Christian Day School?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, I don't believe they did. That was another thing the Depression killed. They had one before that, and they was without one a good many years. I don't think either one of my kids ever went over there; I know they didn't. But now my grandchildren go there. Of course, they just have six grades. Well, I don't know that. Pat's kids go over there, and Ben, my greatgrandson, goes over there.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was the Christian Day School ever open when your kids were going through public school?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, it was never open.
PATTY DILLEY:
If it would have been open, would you have sent your kids there?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
So the tuition wasn't real …
FRANK GILBERT:
It wasn't that bad that it made any difference. Of course, I really don't know…They didn't get any better education over there. They took part of the day and taught the Bible, more or less, more like Sunday school. The school might get nothing from it; the [public] schools weren't allowed to.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you think that would have been a good influence?
FRANK GILBERT:
I think it would.
PATTY DILLEY:
To have the Bible taught, because now they don't do that anymore. I guess they outlawed prayer from the schools.
FRANK GILBERT:
If you go over to the Christian Day School, you can teach

Page 72
anything you want to there; I mean it's legal.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, but in the public schools they can't do that. I guess your children all went to the grade school up here?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, went through the grade school up here and went through the high school at Newton.
PATTY DILLEY:
So they did have the high school built by that time.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. The one that works over at the post office graduated from high school twice.
PATTY DILLEY:
Twice?! How did he manage that?
FRANK GILBERT:
It was legal. It didn't have but eleven grades when he graduated, and then two years after they had all the twelve grades. And so he went back for the other grade, and so him and this girl, Lila, that was here a while ago, both graduated together. He was two years older than she was.
PATTY DILLEY:
So how old was he when he finally graduated the second time?
FRANK GILBERT:
He graduated from the eleventh grade; that would be seventeen, wouldn't it? He'd have been nineteen when he finally graduated this last time.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did the college close down during the Depression, or did it burn down in the middle of it? I know it burned down.
FRANK GILBERT:
The worst of the Depression was over. That college burned in 1935. The very worst of the Depression was in '30 and '31 and '32. I don't remember; I don't believe it closed down, though, during the Depression.
PATTY DILLEY:
So none of your children ever went through that.
FRANK GILBERT:
No, they never went over there.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did any of them ever get the chance to go on to college at that

Page 73
time? I guess it was kind of rough then.
FRANK GILBERT:
No, they didn't. The only way they got to go to college was through the service. The middle one works. Another one lives in the brick house right up there, and he never did go to college at all. But Farrell went to Valparaiso, Indiana, to the Lutheran College. He went there several years.
PATTY DILLEY:
On the GI Bill?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. And he got a chance to get a good job in the Post Office, and he quit up there and took a job in the Post Office. And Bill, the other one that lives in Claremont, graduated on the original[unknown] GI bill from Lenoir-Rhyne; he finished up there.
PATTY DILLEY:
It seems like that GI bill gave a chance for a lot of people that couldn't afford it …
FRANK GILBERT:
The boys never would have went to college. Here comes Bill now. [Interruption]
[text missing]
PATTY DILLEY:
I wanted to ask you some questions about when women first started working in the industry.
[text missing]
FRANK GILBERT:
A few women worked at Conover Chair when I first started working, in the sewing room. I think that was right, and one other woman worked there while I first started. They work about as many women as men now.
PATTY DILLEY:
What jobs do women have in the plant today?
FRANK GILBERT:
They work all over the plant.
PATTY DILLEY:
Are there any places where they're especially concentrated?
FRANK GILBERT:
They're mostly in the sewing room, sew all these different parts of the seats and the backs and all that together.
PATTY DILLEY:
And that's piecework, that's on production?

Page 74
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. But then [now] they work around all through the machine room. I used to go up through there. But it's been about a year, I reckon; I'm hardly able to go any more. But I used to go up there a lot after I was retired and just walk around and watch them work. And the women would go around tailing the saws, they call it. A man will run the lumber through the saw, and a woman catch it and throw it on the truck behind.
PATTY DILLEY:
So that's where they mainly work, in those two places?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
So it's about half women and half men now, today?
FRANK GILBERT:
I think it is. Maybe not quite half.
PATTY DILLEY:
But pretty much compared to what it used to be, I guess.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, there are a whole lot more women. While I worked up there, didn't any women work in the machine room; not a single one was.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were women treated differently than men in the plant?
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, I don't know. Ordinarily, any man would treat a women a little bit better than a man he was working with [Laughter] , me or anybody else. But as far as the bosses treating them any better, I don't think it made any difference. Of course, they didn't put a woman to doing the things she wouldn't have been able to do because some was too hard on her.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did women workers ever have to clean the mill or the plant, or did they have special jobs of people that were janitors?
FRANK GILBERT:
They mostly had colored men to do that. But now they'll take anybody that'll do it. The colored people, most of them want a white-collar job.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I guess everybody does. So they never used the women workers

Page 75
to clean up around the plant.
FRANK GILBERT:
No.
PATTY DILLEY:
They always had somebody special who was getting paid for that.
FRANK GILBERT:
After I started working for Rhonie Chair Company, a good many women worked up there.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did any of the supervisors at Conover Chair that had a lot of women under them ever play favorites with some of the women? Did you ever hear of that going on?
FRANK GILBERT:
As far as me knowing, I don't know, but I've heard they did.
PATTY DILLEY:
What kind of things would go on?
FRANK GILBERT:
The women who worked in the machine room were just under the regular supervisor, but the women that was working in the sewing room was under the sewing room foreman. He wasn't the class of the superintendent, but whatever he said in the sewing room would go. And I heard that that man played a lot of favorites. I wouldn't say it was true, but you know, sometimes you hear things.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did families that had their daughters working there ever worry about them working there in a plant by those men, and worry about them getting …
FRANK GILBERT:
I never did hear it if they did. It was a nice place, you don't need to worry about that. There wasn't no body mistreated.
PATTY DILLEY:
Your wife worked quite a bit, a long time at Warlong Glove?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Has she worked in any other glove plants?
FRANK GILBERT:
She was working down at Southern Glove when she retired.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you ever want her to stop working?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, I just let her do what she wanted. [Laughter] She

Page 76
wanted to work.
PATTY DILLEY:
You never worried about her working?
FRANK GILBERT:
No.
PATTY DILLEY:
Who helped with the child care and the housework while your wife was working?
FRANK GILBERT:
She'd have different ones. We had a colored woman who cooked for us some. And Don—that was the youngest one—wife, she'd take him on over to Mrs. Carl Abernathey, who kept him for a good many years for $2.50 a week. I don't remember any of the others ever staying with anybody. We had that colored woman stay right in the house then. But after we didn't have no one but him [the youngest son], we just took him to… Mrs. Abernathey's about the only place I remember him staying.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did you all do with your wages when you got them? Were you all able to save, or did most of the wages go just towards living expenses and all? ?
FRANK GILBERT:
You mean at Conover Chair?
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, yes, over the years. What did you all do with …
FRANK GILBERT:
I never did get a cut at Conover Chair; they always raised you a little. No, I don't know. Those upholsterers made most of the money around.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I've heard that.
FRANK GILBERT:
Wherever they worked, they made most of it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I've heard they get paid quite a bit.
Did anybody at the plant ever get mad? Were they dissatisfied with the fact that the upholsterer was getting paid so much, and they weren't?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, I don't think they got mad about it. They'd talk about it, though. In other words, they'd kid the upholsterers about it. They'd

Page 77
tell them they weren't worth a durn more than they was. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
They knew they weren't getting paid six dollars an hour or something.
FRANK GILBERT:
They all just funned on it.
PATTY DILLEY:
So it wasn't ever any kind of a competition.
FRANK GILBERT:
No. Each man had to do his own part.
PATTY DILLEY:
Could people in the machine room ever change and get an upholsterer's job? Could people switch around in the plant?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, I know a good many of them did. Yes, they'd give you a chance to do that.
PATTY DILLEY:
I was just wondering how fluid moving was …
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, they could do that.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did Conover Chair ever offer any kind of recreation things there?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, not then, not while I was there. But they do now. They've got a bowling team, a softball team.
PATTY DILLEY:
So they have a lot of things now, I guess. Is that mainly one group in the plant that does that?
FRANK GILBERT:
I wouldn't know for certain, but I think they just pick them out anywhere. Anybody joined the softball team if you'd come and play softball, I guess.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did you all do when you got off work, like at Conover Chair?
FRANK GILBERT:
That's when I built those houses up here.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, yes, that's right. So you worked; you didn't have too much time to mess around after work.
FRANK GILBERT:
Just loafing time. Go to chicken fights.
PATTY DILLEY:
Chicken fights. You all went to chicken fights?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, could do that, too, if you wanted.
MRS. GILBERT:
He raised them.

Page 78
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you raise chickens?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, I raised fighting roosters a good many years. I never did fight with any, but I was just raising them to sell.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was there money in raising them? Would people pay for them?
FRANK GILBERT:
I made a little on it. Never got rich.
DON GILBERT:
Shipped them all over the world. I remember the time you got your biggest order. For fifteen of them, what was it, about fifteen dollars?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, I shipped them to the Hawaiian Islands.
DON GILBERT:
Why, they shipped them to the Philippines.
FRANK GILBERT:
Every state in the union, all except Oregon. I never did sell one in Oregon.
DON GILBERT:
But there was a little money in it. Black feathers instead of black gold.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] That's funny. Were you real friendly with the employees at work? Did you ever do anything with the other employees at work after you all got off, besides building houses?
FRANK GILBERT:
That's about all I ever done.
DON GILBERT:
We used to have a square dance on Saturday night down here at the scout hut.
FRANK GILBERT:
I'd forgotten.
DON GILBERT:
Yes, there used to be a square dance right there Saturday night.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
The watermelon cuttings? You mean you haven't mentioned the watermelon cuttings and everything they had.
PATTY DILLEY:
Would you all do that sometimes after work?
FRANK GILBERT:
Oh, if we done that, we done it in one of the recesses.
PATTY DILLEY:
Who would sponsor it? Who would buy all the watermelon?
FRANK GILBERT:
The boss would.
PATTY DILLEY:
In all, it seems like you've worked so long in the furniture

Page 79
industry. Did you ever dream about doing any other kind of work, or what kind of work you would like to do if you had a chance?
FRANK GILBERT:
You might call me a liar. I never had ten dreams in my life. [Laughter] Now that's true. I dreamed about Santy Claus one time when I was a little fellow.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you ever think about doing any other kind of work?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, but that kind of would worry me sometimes. I'd think about something that maybe I didn't know exactly how to do. I'd think about it and wonder how I'd do it the next day. In later years, after I was semi-retired, I built all of the patterns and the samples. That kind of got me down sometimes. That was all up at Mr. Rhonie's.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were you ever either proud of or embarrassed by working in the furniture industry?
FRANK GILBERT:
No.
DON GILBERT:
I think he was probably proud of it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes. It sounds like you were proud.
DON GILBERT:
You can put down that his sons were proud of him.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter] Okay. Because some people …
DON GILBERT:
There's a lot that are not.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, it never did get me down that I felt down about it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I find that people that I know that work in the furniture industry are really interested in their work and really enjoy it.
DON GILBERT:
If he don't want to answer it, then I'll answer it for him. The original Germans were wood workers, did wood work. We have a lot of Carpenters, and we have a lot of Sigmons? And Zimmermans? You know what "Sigmon" is in German?
PATTY DILLEY:
No.

Page 80
DON GILBERT:
It's "worker in wood."
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh.
DON GILBERT:
You know, they settled all in this valley. As a matter of fact, on my other side—not the Gilberts, but my mother's grandfather preached. He was a Lutheran minister.
PATTY DILLEY:
The Mosers, yes.
DON GILBERT:
He did one service in German, and he had one in Lutheran. [English] But to make a long story short, "Sigmon" in German is a man that works in wood, so we have a lot of Sigmons. But he [unknown] to learn English. So then when he was coming along, say he'd just come out of school, then they took all the English last names, see, so that would be Carpenter. So then the Sigmons changed their name to Carpenter, because that's a man who works in wood. So really, all these names are related to the giant industry that we have. And that's probably why even, why we have the Broyhills. The Yadkin valley cuts right through the mountains.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
DON GILBERT:
But he [Broyhill] was still in a little pocket of people who worked with wood, who made furniture naturally. Sometimes he acts like a pioneer, but, if you really trace this whole thing back, he was really in a little pocket of people who devoted their entire life to the woodworking industry… But that's a few things that I know, for what they're worth.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter]
DON GILBERT:
Just a bunch of politicians had to come in and screw us all, the Sigmons and the Carpenters.
FRANK GILBERT:
No, my great-great-great-great-great-granddaddy was Sir Alfred Gilbert, half-brother to Sir Walter Raleigh, don't you know that?

Page 81
[Laughter]
DON GILBERT:
There was also one named William Gilbert. There was one named Sir William Gilbert.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's really interesting.
DON GILBERT:
For instance, he can take you through all this woodworking part; then, if you need to carry that on over into plastics—related furniture—I can do that.
PATTY DILLEY:
Okay. [Laughter] I see you'd be a good one to interview. [Laughter]
DON GILBERT:
See, I've grown up through the infancy of the woodworking industry, plus the carryover into plastics. So then when they got the waterbeds, that was about the end of the furniture industry.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Laughter]
DON GILBERT:
That's it.
[text missing]
PATTY DILLEY:
I can see that furniture seems almost like a way of life and not just like any old factory job. Is that the way you feel about it? I don't want to be reading things into it.
FRANK GILBERT:
I really, I thought you got to know a little bit more than a lot of these other factories like a cotton mill or something like that.
PATTY DILLEY:
I've heard some stories around town about people from cotton mill hill. Do you remember, did people around here label people as coming from cotton mill hill?
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, that's what they called it. In fact, one of my uncles lived on the cotton mill hill, and he had one of those three cousins I said never been here. They got away from the cotton mill finally and worked at the Akron, Ohio rubber plant.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did people that worked at the furniture plant think they were… I won't say "better"; I'm not meaning they were snobs or anything about it, but did

Page 82
they think they were a little bit better than people that had to work in the cotton mill?
FRANK GILBERT:
I think they did. I can remember the Conover[unknown] girls and the boys. They'd come in from work with their hair all cotton. It's not as bad now, because they've got the humidifiers in the cotton mills now, and it does away with a lot of that cotton dust. But they'd come in with their hair just full of dust and the lint all over their clothes and such as that. Pitiful-looking thing. Then it wasn't healthy.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, I know that, because the workers get brown lung.
FRANK GILBERT:
It's not so bad now. They've done away with a lot of that lint.
PATTY DILLEY:
But I guess it was a hard job; it was a hard life in those cotton mills.
FRANK GILBERT:
I don't know that it was too hard, but something you had to stay at. Had a good many machines you had to watch.
PATTY DILLEY:
What I meant was more like it was not really as much hard work but kind of a hard life.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, that's it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Bad working conditions with not very good pay. I had an aunt that had to work in that. She didn't last too long. She had a heart attack and was glad she was gone. I was just wondering if people really looked down on these people that had to go work there.
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, anyway, I always thought they did. I never did just look down on them. A lot of people did, I remember.
PATTY DILLEY:
But they were kind of pitiful. I guess someone had to work doing these awful, terrible… That somebody had to do those jobs. Did you ever, in all your years of working, feel like just quitting?
FRANK GILBERT:
No, I never felt like completely quitting till the old master

Page 83
cut me down and I had to quit. I wouldn't have quit then. I semi-retired in 1959. And then I'd go back in what time I could work. I couldn't make but $1200 a year when I first retired. I'd go back, and I built samples for Mr. Rhonie in all the spare time I could.
PATTY DILLEY:
How was that work compared to the work you'd done earlier?
FRANK GILBERT:
I had done that before, I mean building samples some, but I didn't do nothing but build samples after I had partly retired. Well, it was kind of like any other thing; some days you had it easy, and some days you had it pretty tough.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did you like most about working all those years in the furniture industry?
FRANK GILBERT:
I reckon no use to tell a lie. It would be the money I liked the most. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
I guess that would be it.
[END OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[TAPE 4, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE B]
PATTY DILLEY:
You didn't like that kind of work the most.
FRANK GILBERT:
It was pretty hard work then, building bridges. Had all the lumber creosoted to make it last good. And you'd hit a hammer on that, that old creosote would just fly all over you and burn. Your face was just sore all the time, about. It was terrible. That was the only job I ever had I really didn't like.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you look forward to each new day?
FRANK GILBERT:
Oh, I guess I did.
PATTY DILLEY:
What do you think is the best thing that's happened to working people in your lifetime?
FRANK GILBERT:
I think it was when they got on the eight-hour day. I

Page 84
believe that was better, about, than anything that ever happened. That gave more people work, and it wasn't as hard. Ten hours was hard to make if you had work that was kind of hard, like that lumber. When I'd unload lumber out of a car, now you do that ten hours a day, especially if it's big heavy lumber, you'd done a day's work then.
PATTY DILLEY:
So the eight-hour law let you have some free time after work.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, had more free time.
PATTY DILLEY:
Can you think of anything bad that's ever happened to working people, or the worst thing that's happened in your lifetime? Has anything bad happened?
FRANK GILBERT:
I wouldn't know anything ever been really bad. Couldn't think of anything that I thought was really bad.
PATTY DILLEY:
So it's just kind of improved, I guess. Did you ever wish that you didn't have to work at any time?
FRANK GILBERT:
No. I don't reckon it'd be any use to wish that anyhow, if you had to work.
PATTY DILLEY:
When you first left the farm and went to work, how long did you expect to work?
FRANK GILBERT:
I never had any idea.
PATTY DILLEY:
Never thought, working, that you…
FRANK GILBERT:
The first place I worked, I reckon, was down there when we built that old dam. I helped them cut off all the timber that the water would cover. When they built the dam, it would back it up. I helped cut out that timber. That was the first, really, job I ever had outside of on a farm. We cut down all the timber twelve miles up the river from the dam and burned the brush and trees and all after it got cut.
PATTY DILLEY:
In that early time, did you ever expect to get promoted, to get to

Page 85
be a foreman someday?
FRANK GILBERT:
I just never thought about that much.
PATTY DILLEY:
It just came along. Were you surprised when they promoted you?
FRANK GILBERT:
Well, no, not exactly.
PATTY DILLEY:
You were hoping to get promoted?
FRANK GILBERT:
The way I got it, Carroll Hall was a good bandsaw man. I couldn't have run a bandsaw if I'd wanted to at that time. And he was the foreman, too, and Carroll don't have time to be a foreman and run the bandsaw, too. That took all of his time when I was working there. Of course, he wanted somebody else. So I was glad to take it when I got a chance.
PATTY DILLEY:
How do you think Conover has changed over the years?
FRANK GILBERT:
Oh, it's changed considerable. When I built this house here in 1938, there wasn't a house over this road till… You ever been over to that nursing home one way over there?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
FRANK GILBERT:
When you make a right square left turn to go down through, there was a house right there, and all along this road there wasn't another house.
PATTY DILLEY:
So that all was in the country. You all were in the country.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, when we built down here, there wasn't… Well, that was the nearest house to us, because that side is colored town over here. Of course, this street over here people all lived along too. That was a farm. It wasn't built up much then. They got down into old Mr. John Bolick's place. He had a pretty big farm, and he built all over it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, his old farmhouse is still standing there.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, it's still standing. Then George Huffman from

Page 86
Hickory owns it, I guess.
PATTY DILLEY:
So it's really built up a lot.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you see a change in the people?
FRANK GILBERT:
Oh, I guess it's come about kind of gradually, and you don't notice too much just from day to day. It would have to be kind of drastic changes to see it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you think people are different today that live around here than they were back when you first started living here?
FRANK GILBERT:
Oh, not too much.
PATTY DILLEY:
How about the work available and the wages around here? How has that changed over the years?
FRANK GILBERT:
The wages have changed considerable and gone up all the time.
PATTY DILLEY:
How about the work available? Has that changed much?
FRANK GILBERT:
Conover's a pretty good town for having work available. Of course, sometimes part of it's kind of dull, but you expect that anywhere.
PATTY DILLEY:
So it's pretty much been a prosperous community. I know it's been a long time since you had children in the public schools, but do you see the schools changing any over the years?
FRANK GILBERT:
It's changed, I know, but just how it's changed, I don't know.
PATTY DILLEY:
It's been a long time since you've had children in the schools.
FRANK GILBERT:
Anything to do at the school, we always went, like graduation or anything like that. Of course, none of my kids never was in the band, but Don's children, that live in the second brick house, Denise and Donny have both been in the band, and Darin's going. He's trying, because he's going there.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I remember your wife was talking about that. I was in the band at Conover. Do you remember when they brought in integration to the

Page 87
schools here?
FRANK GILBERT:
Oh, yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
What happened then when they did that?
FRANK GILBERT:
Didn't too much happen in the schools as it did the eating places. More happened there.
PATTY DILLEY:
What happened?
FRANK GILBERT:
They first started to bus colored kids in the first grade—they first started with them—then by the time they grew up, why, it was all right. Yes, I remember—it was in 1953, wasn't it?—when the first school was integrated in the United States in Little Rock, Arkansas. Oh, they had a time there with Orville Faubus.
PATTY DILLEY:
What happened when they did the schools here?
FRANK GILBERT:
Never too much happened.
PATTY DILLEY:
How about the eating places?
FRANK GILBERT:
We didn't have too much eating places. We had two colored cafes and one white one. I don't think there was but one white one in town. One of these fellows run one of the colored cafes. He got a bunch of, I don't think they were local colored people—they were mostly from Claremont—but they all went to the white cafe up there and eat. And that man that run that was man like Mr. Bolick; he'd get pretty fiery sometimes. And the first thing he done… They let the colored people eat up there, but they had a certain place for them to eat. But this old boy, he was going to eat up front. I didn't see it; I seen the crowd milling around out there. But before long, they began to leave. I asked one of them, "What's the matter that you're leaving so soon?" Because I always got along with colored people good, and I'd kid them a lot and all. He said, "If you'd seen that gun Mr. Lynch brought out, you'd know why we're leaving."

Page 88
PATTY DILLEY:
Gosh.
FRANK GILBERT:
He had brought his gun out and told them, now, if they wanted to eat, come on back where the rest of the colored people eat; if they didn't, just get on away. And they left. I don't think they ever did try it anymore.
PATTY DILLEY:
They never did try it. Is that down at that…
FRANK GILBERT:
Then they had a skirmish up at Bowman's Drug Store.
PATTY DILLEY:
What happened up there?
FRANK GILBERT:
A bunch of young black boys had ordered themselves a milkshake, and after they had about half of it, took it back in and wanted their money back; they said it wasn't sweet enough. It was a bunch of young colored, maybe some of them high school age and younger. He got in an argument with them, and I passed the drugstore about the time it was happening, and I knew one of them. I said, "What's the matter?" "Mr. Bowman sold us some milkshakes that wasn't sweet enough, and we wanted our money back, and he wouldn't give us our money back." I said, "Are you telling me the truth?" "I reckon I am." I said, "I don't believe you are. You know the girls who work in there didn't make milkshakes no different from what they sold anybody else." Said, "We thought they was different, anyhow." And Mr. Bowman come out there and he was real red, said, "The best thing you can do, boys, is leave here. The next time I come out, I'm coming out with a pistol." I didn't know whether he would or not, but I told them boys, I didn't know Bowman, but I said, "Now, the best thing you boys can do is just go on away like he said and don't cause no trouble. You can't get anywhere by causing trouble anyhow." They went on off and never did any more about that.
PATTY DILLEY:
Gosh. So those were the main controversies that opened up integration.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, that was about the only troubles I know of they had around here.

Page 89
PATTY DILLEY:
This is the first mention that I've heard of it, and I've been trying to find out, because I knew something must have happened. I mean something's bound to happen.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
And I couldn't find anybody that remembered anything exactly. [unknown] about that.
FRANK GILBERT:
It was a lot better here than it was lots of places. We didn't have too much… We didn't have no big trouble, I think. Now Winston-Salem down there, they burned half the stores down in Winston-Salem, the colored people did. I had a cousin; I saw him up here at our meeting last Sunday or Sunday a week ago. He had a nice clothing store, and they burnt it down.
PATTY DILLEY:
One of your cousins.
FRANK GILBERT:
One of my cousins' store.
PATTY DILLEY:
Gosh, that's too bad. That kind of thing does happen.
FRANK GILBERT:
I reckon they had to have a little revolution to get what they wanted.
PATTY DILLEY:
I guess so. But I'm glad to hear that this area didn't have a whole lot of problems. Of course, there's not a whole lot of blacks that live in this area compared to other places, too.
FRANK GILBERT:
No. There's a pretty good little settlement of them over there, but they always was pretty decent. All that ever I knew were pretty decent kind of people. There was a lot of them descended from them old Bakers and Clines.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, there's a lot of Bakers over there. There's a lot of them.
FRANK GILBERT:
One was Frank Baker. Me and him got to be pretty good buddies. He used to help us around, help a plow and do anything that you wanted

Page 90
him to. I said, "How come there's so many Bakers over there?" "Well, I just can't tell you. There is, come to think of it. There's near about[unknown] more Bakers than there are niggers, ain't there?" [Laughter] He was just full of fun like that. He was the first colored man I learned to know when I come to Conover. We worked together for Brady.
PATTY DILLEY:
After they had the civil rights case and everything, did that change where blacks worked in the plant? Were they able to get better jobs in the plant after all this integration stuff?
FRANK GILBERT:
They didn't right here. I was working at Conover Chair when that happened. Didn't have a bit of trouble up there. Of course, there wasn't but a few worked up there. This old Walter Smith that I was telling you, and Rat Rheinhardt.
PATTY DILLEY:
Where did they work in the plant?
FRANK GILBERT:
Most of the blacks worked over at Conover Furniture and Brady's. A good many of them worked over there.
PATTY DILLEY:
When you were working at Conover Chair, what jobs did the blacks have in the plant? You said some of them were janitors.
FRANK GILBERT:
Old Walter Smith worked down with me in the machine room part of the time, and then he filled cushions part of the time he had. And his wife worked there, too. I never did know just what she did. She didn't work around the machine room. Then little Rat Rheinhardt. That was the only colored people worked there while I worked in there. There wasn't many then.
PATTY DILLEY:
I guess you had a lot of them working with you at Conover Furniture, though, at Brady's.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, there were a whole lot more worked over there. In fact, there was some work over there most white men wouldn't do, and they never

Page 91
did mind doing it, it didn't seem like. I believe they had a will to work.
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, I guess if that was the only job you could get, you had to take it.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
So they would do jobs up there that those other people wouldn't want to do.
FRANK GILBERT:
That's right.
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, sometimes it works out for the best. Sometimes these men would get a job. I guess back in that time it was hard for any black man to get a job. Do you have anything you want to add, anything that I've missed or is important?
FRANK GILBERT:
The only thing is, I haven't told you too much about Rhonie's.
PATTY DILLEY:
No. Why don't you talk some about working there?
FRANK GILBERT:
He was an awful Christian man. He'd spend fifteen minutes every morning with a Bible reading and prayer and called everyone to lead the prayer. That was about the biggest difference between him and any other place I ever worked. There was one little funny thing I'm going to tell you about that. We wasn't supposed to have over fifteen minutes, but Roy Rice would take more than that. He'd ask him a lot of times to lead the prayer. And he had a little old boy working there. He wasn't over eighteen, I don't think. Just full of foolishness. He went to Mr. Rhonie one day. "Mr. Rhonie," he said, "how come you don't call Dad to lead the prayer any more than what you do?" Said, "Oh, why are you asking that?" Said, "He prays so much longer than these other men. We get to rest more with him." [Laughter] It actually happened.
PATTY DILLEY:
So would you have prayer at the beginning of every work day?

Page 92
FRANK GILBERT:
The beginning of every day.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was that the only time?
FRANK GILBERT:
That was the only time.
PATTY DILLEY:
How big an operation did he have?
FRANK GILBERT:
I told you he was called Chair Machinery[unknown] a while. He did more work up there than he did down here after he got a plant of his own. We made frames for the various furniture companies: Greenville, South Carolina; Carolina Comfort over in Alexander County; Comfort Chair and Quality Chair, both in Hickory—we made all their frames. We had, I expect, seventy-five men, probably, at that time when he started.
PATTY DILLEY:
So it was just like one huge machine shop, and all you all did was make frames.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes. Didn't make nothing but frames. He finally built more on his building and leased one end of it to a furniture and upholstering firm. They just built it recently. Of course, his boys took it over when he retired, and they built it with altogether new machinery. I don't think they're doing anything much only for Burrick in Greenville, South Carolina. He's a big furniture man. He takes about all they can make now, the way I understand it.Way he does it is to send one of these big tractor trailers up there, and they load it. Telephone for him to come and get it, bring another and send it down, and they load it. It's that way all day long, all week long, you might say. Sometimes order too much one day.
PATTY DILLEY:
Of all the places that you've worked, like Conover Furniture and Conover Chair and Rhonie's, which people did you like working for the best?
FRANK GILBERT:
Conover Chair and Rhonie's, there wasn't any difference.
PATTY DILLEY:
It was like doing the same thing, because you worked in the machine shop at Conover Chair.

Page 93
FRANK GILBERT:
… was both good men. I worked for him and Mr. Bost together, and he and Mr. Rhonie both were were just as good men as ever lived, I guess, I mean to my way of thinking.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's kind of neat. You had a way to commute, though; you had to ride all the way past Hickory.
FRANK GILBERT:
It was exactly twelve miles from my driveway to work.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's not too bad.
FRANK GILBERT:
Not too bad.
PATTY DILLEY:
Why did he decide to locate all the way up there?
FRANK GILBERT:
He lives up there. He was machine room foreman in a big furniture plant in north Hickory, but his health got bad. In fact, he had a pretty bad heart attack a while back.He got over it pretty good, and he decided he wanted to go on his own a little. That was the first big move he'd ever made. [Train whistle]
That was about the biggest thing about Rhonie's.
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, we're done, I guess.
END OF INTERVIEW