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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 >>

Looking down on cotton mill workers

Furniture factory employees looked down on, or at least pitied, cotton mill workers, Gilbert recalls. He remembers young cotton-mill workers with their hair white with lint.

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:
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 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() 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.