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Oral History Interview with George and Tessie Dyer, March 5, 1980. Interview H-0161. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    George and Tessie Dyer worked in Charlotte textile mills for much of their lives. This interview begins with a discussion of their childhood and the work that their parents and grandparents did. Tessie Dyer began working in Charlotte in 1926. She describes the variety of jobs she had within the mill as well as her relationship with coworkers. George describes his job as a cotton yarn spinner as well as other jobs he had in Virginia and New York. They recall the parties young adults would attend after work—they maintain that people enjoyed their lives despite the difficulty of their jobs. The Dyers also describe how Tessie's mother took care of their sons while they worked at the mill. The interview ends with their observations about union activity at the local mills and their opinion on whether the unions were useful. They both recognize that the lack of a strong union during their working years negatively influenced their financial security during retirement.
    Excerpts
  • Second generation of cotton mill workers in Tessie Dyer's family
  • George Dyer and his siblings worked hard to help run the family farm
  • George Dyer's childhood in a Primitive Baptist Church
  • George Dyer moved in search of higher wages
  • Tessie Dyer started millwork with her parents
  • Lint and dust from cotton mills lead to the nickname "lint head"
  • Some mill workers try to start their own businesses
  • Tessie Dyer's parents gardened and raised livestock at their Charlotte home
  • George Dyer and his mother-in-law shared childcare duties
  • Tessie Dyer enjoyed social outlets after work hours
  • Wages and working conditions in local cotton mills eventually improved by unions
  • Tessie Dyer's family faced criticism for not joining the union
  • Family friends helped Tessie Dyer keep her mill job
  • George Dyer was confident in his job performance
  • George and Tessie Dyer introduced by boarding house owner
  • The Dyers are glad for their small family
  • Tessie Dyer retired when the local cotton mill abruptly closed
  • Unions have helped hold employers accountable
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Textile workers--North Carolina
  • Women in the textile industry
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.