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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George and Tessie Dyer, March 5, 1980. Interview H-0161. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tessie Dyer started millwork with her parents

Tessie Dyer learned millwork as a child by going to work with her mother and father while her grandmother watched her younger siblings. As a supervisor, her father could get her transferred to a full time position when she was ready. She quickly learned her new job and enjoyed millwork.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George and Tessie Dyer, March 5, 1980. Interview H-0161. 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

TESSIE DYER:
The mill company down here sold these houses. My husband and I bought this one, and my father and mother stayed with me. They died in 1963. My father died the first day of November, and my mother died the fifteenth of November. The shock of my father's death caused my mother's death. My father was eighty-three and my mother was eighty-one when they passed away.
LU ANN JONES:
They came here and they went to work in the mill.
TESSIE DYER:
They worked in the mill down here.
LU ANN JONES:
Who took care of you and your brothers and sisters while. . . .
TESSIE DYER:
While mother worked? My grand-mother.
LU ANN JONES:
She was here too?
TESSIE DYER:
She came too. Then we lived out on the next street.
LU ANN JONES:
Did your parents work the same hours? Did they go to the mill together?
TESSIE DYER:
My mother worked in the spinning room and my father was overseer in the card room.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you visit them in the mill?
TESSIE DYER:
That's how I learned to spin. I'd go and help my mother, afternoon when I'd get home from school sometime. When I went to work, I worked in the spinning room, I don't know how many years. My father asked them to transfer me to the draw-in department. So I stayed there until I retired.
LU ANN JONES:
Did it seem like fun to go into the mills when you were a child?
TESSIE DYER:
Oh, yes.
LU ANN JONES:
Can you describe what the mill looked like?
TESSIE DYER:
I just didn't know what to think about it when I first went in, especially the card room, it made so much noise. Then I worked in the draw-in room. That's where you have beams, they draw those threads in to make cloth.
LU ANN JONES:
How old were you when you went to work full time?
TESSIE DYER:
I was eighteen.
LU ANN JONES:
Had you finished high school then?
TESSIE DYER:
No.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you want to finish high school, or was it time to go to work?
TESSIE DYER:
When I did start to work, I didn't want to stop.
LU ANN JONES:
Can you remember your first day at work?
TESSIE DYER:
I worked with my mother a lot. Then they just put me sparehand in the spinning room. My mother, she retired from there. Her health got bad. So I didn't like the spinning room then. I went to work then in the draw-in room. I just thought I couldn't do that. My brother-in-law was foreman down there then. The first day I worked, I was just so depressed about the job. I didn't think I could do it. I could tell you what I did, but you still wouldn't understand. I built harness then for the draw-in hands. I didn't draw-in. The first day I worked on this new job after they changed jobs-they always making something better for the employees-I told my brother-in-law, I went up there and sit in the office, I said, "Fred, I can't run this job." He said, "You learnt the other job, and I know you can learn this one. You just go on back. You're doing okay." That kind of picked me up a little bit. So I did better the next day. It just kept on till I worked there a long, long time. I really did enjoy my job working in the draw-in room.
LU ANN JONES:
What year was it that you went to work?
TESSIE DYER:
I couldn't tell you to save my life.
LU ANN JONES:
When were you born?
TESSIE DYER:
September 29, 1908.
LU ANN JONES:
So that was about 1926 that you went to the mill if you were eighteen.
TESSIE DYER:
Something like that.
LU ANN JONES:
Were there a lot of other young women in the mills then?
TESSIE DYER:
Um-hum.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you have fun in the mills, tell jokes?
TESSIE DYER:
Yeah, when we'd catch up we did.
GEORGE DYER:
They worked ten hours a day back then. Worked up till Saturday at noon at 12:00.