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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Murphy Yomen Sigmon, July 27, 1979. Interview H-0142. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Sigmon's work at the cotton mill, including doffing and fixing spinning frames

Sigmon offers more details about his work at the cotton mill, including his positions doffing and fixing spinning frames. Sigmon spent forty-five years there, until 1973, when the mill moved overseas.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Murphy Yomen Sigmon, July 27, 1979. Interview H-0142. 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:
Did your father also work in the mill?
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
Yes, he worked some in the mill.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did he do?
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
He worked out in the opening room, and the outside carpentry. He baled the waste and done carpentry work on the houses and stuff. They owned the whole place then, the Geitners did. I remember when the eight-hour law come in, when I was making $5.60 a week for fifty-five hours. And Charles Jones was over the spinning and carding, the spinning room boss. And I was a-running twisters and doffing seven frames at that time when it come in, and I was making $5.60. And he come to me and said, "You know, they raised the minimum wage, eight hours, forty cents an hour." That's what they started it off at. And he come to me and he said, "You're going to get a big raise. You'll be making twelve dollars." He said, "I got you $12.50. I got you fifty cents more than they have to pay you." [laughter] He thought that was a whole lot, you know. Well, it was, back then. And he said, "You'll be making twelve dollars and a half a week for forty hours. They'd have to pay you time and a half if you work on Saturday." He was telling me about the fifty cents; he got that much more for me.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] But you didn't really put too much …
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
No. I think more of the big raise the government gave me.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] But he tried to pretend like …
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
Yes. And I went on from there, doffing, and then I learned to fix the spinning frames. Before we got into the War, it was 1941 when I went on the third shift. They just had the two shifts running then, and they was wanting to start the third shift up. And they didn't have nobody to go on and look after it. Charlie come to me, and he wanted me to go on the third shift. He said it would just be a few weeks. He said, "You can doff, and you can look after it. You can put on tapes or bands." (It was bands then.) And he said, "We'll just start up twelve frames. It will just be a few weeks. It will be two spinners and you." I said, "Well, I'll try it." And from then on, every couple weeks they would start up a little more and add a couple more hands on the third shift. And I was still looking after it. And we got the whole shift a-running on the third shift, running three shifts. By the time the War broke out, in 1943, I believe it was. And I stayed on it until about '47 or '48. Then they had an opening on the first shift, fixing, and I took it.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did you learn how to fix?
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
Just watching the other ones and helping them a little. I was doffing; I had time when I'd get around. Maybe I'd have thirty or forty minutes before I'd have to start back in doffing again, until the frames got full. I'd be around with them, watch what they done, help them a little.
PATTY DILLEY:
They didn't mind.
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
No, they didn't mind showing you back then. They was glad for you to learn, before you could step up. I stayed there on the first shift, and then they wanted somebody on the second to fix, and I went on the second. All totalled, I was there forty-five years and nine months. I started in 1928, and they shut the mill down in 1973. And I worked the last week; it was December 12 it ended. Me and the bossman, J. P. Sweet—he was the shift overseer—we worked there until they run everything out and shut it down. And people from overseas tore the machinery down and moved it out and moved it overseas.