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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 >>

The Great Depression and industry movement overseas hurts the local economy

Sigmon remembers two significant events that damaged the health of North Carolina industries: the Great Depression and the movement of plants overseas. The Depression hurt simply because it shut down factories whose owners could not afford to create products that would not be bought. The lack of a market drove the move overseas as well, Sigmon explains, as modernizing to meet a new set of needs proved prohibitively expensive.

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

And textiles didn't run all the time, neither. In the early thirties and late twenties, they'd shut down two or three or four months at a time. We had it rough.
PATTY DILLEY:
And this was even before the Depression.
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
Oh, yes. The way John Geitner said, when they couldn't sell their goods, they just had so much worth in capital, and when they would get that all run up in cloth, that's all they could do, nothing else but shut down. They didn't have more capital, you see, to pay off and to buy their cotton and stuff.
PATTY DILLEY:
Would he come and tell the workers and explain that to them?
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
Oh, yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did he call them all together?
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
Yes, he'd have meetings. And Burlington's, when they bought it, they'd have periodic meetings and talk to the help, tell them what was going on. If they doing good, or say they're doing bad. Of course, Burlington was a big concern. They had so many other things to back them up. That's the reason they bought so many cotton mills out. They was in furniture and hosiery and household… Everything, I guess, you used in the house was Burlington-made.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did they give a reason for why they moved overseas?
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
They was a-getting down. They made sateen and pongee cloth. The market fell out of the sateen, and they couldn't sell it. That was when most of this synthetic stuff come in. And they went to corduroy then. And we could make the yarn all right upstairs in the spinning room and carding room, but they couldn't weave that corduroy downstairs on the old looms they had. So they said there was nothing else to do but just to shut down. They was making anywhere from twenty-five to forty percent seconds. The machines wouldn't weave that type of cloth, you see, they was just wore out so bad. And they said they couldn't afford at that time to replace them; they said it would take a million dollars to replace the looms with modern looms. So they just closed it down.
PATTY DILLEY:
And sold the machines to someone overseas.
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
And I don't know who they ever sold the building to. I think it's a storage place now. I see big trucks sitting out there.