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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frank Gilbert, Summer 1977. Interview H-0121. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A lenient atmosphere at Conover Chair before the eight-hour workday

Gilbert describes a relatively easygoing atmosphere at Conover Chair. Workers took breaks to smoke and took a full hour for lunch until the advent of the eight-hour workday. But these benefits appear limited to time on the job: Conover Chair did not offer paid vacation or pensions for retirees.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Frank Gilbert, Summer 1977. Interview H-0121. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

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.
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.
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.
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 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.