Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Alice P. Evitt, July 18, 1979. Interview H-0162. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Striking as recreation at cotton mill

Evitt participated in a strike at her mill in the 1930s, possibly as part of a general strike in 1934. She describes the strike as if it were a picnic: workers got together, ate hot dogs, and eventually returned to their jobs even though they did not win the raise they wanted. Evitt joined the union and participated in the strike because all her coworkers did.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Alice P. Evitt, July 18, 1979. Interview H-0162. 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

JIM LELOUDIS:
Do you ever remember any attempts at this mill or any others you worked at to organize a union?
ALICE P. EVITT:
Yeah, I was on a strike out here.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Were you? Out here? When was that?
ALICE P. EVITT:
That was back in the 30's.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Was that 1934? The general textile strike?
ALICE P. EVITT:
We didn't stay out long. We went back to work-didn't have no trouble or nothin'.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Tell me about that strike. That sounds interesting.
ALICE P. EVITT:
Well, they struck. They said if anybody come to work, they was goin' to throw them out, but nobody didn't go. They'd go out there everyday. Just hang around and walk around and talk's all we done. Nobody didn't try to come in. There's a meetin' up here, and they'd serve hot dogs and things at the meetin'. Just had a good time. They finally, though, went back to work. They didn't have any trouble back then. They went back to work. They'd go down at the church, they'd give us somethin' to eat. Give out stuff-the union did-put potaters, beans, stuff like that that you use to cook. We got some groceries down there.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How did you get involved with the union?
ALICE P. EVITT:
I was workin' in there. When they all struck, I come out too. I didn't want to be throwed out [laughter].
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did the organizers ever come around and talk to you?
ALICE P. EVITT:
I belonged to the union.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Oh, you did?
ALICE P. EVITT:
Yeah.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What made you decide to join?
ALICE P. EVITT:
Everybody else did out here and I did too. So I joined. I didn't have much to do with the strike. I didn't hang around out there much.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You didn't go on the picket line?
ALICE P. EVITT:
I'd go out there some and walk around and talk to them and come back home. I didn't stay out there like they did. I didn't know if there'd be any trouble or not, and I didn't want to be in it if there was.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why did the strike end?
ALICE P. EVITT:
They all decided to go back to work, and they went back to work. Just like young'uns [laughter].
JIM LELOUDIS:
What were they upset about? Why did they walk out?
ALICE P. EVITT:
They wanted a raise.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did they get it?
ALICE P. EVITT:
But they went back to work.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why didn't they hold out till they got it?
ALICE P. EVITT:
I don't know. I guess they all just got tired of it and went back to work. The union wasn't too strong back then, so they went back to work.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did you attend any of the union meetings?
ALICE P. EVITT:
Yeah, I been to the meetings.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What would go on there? What would they tell you? What would you do?
ALICE P. EVITT:
A lot of things. You had to keep it secret and everything. They'd tell you lots of things to do, but didn't half of them do it. They didn't pay 'em no attention. They had a union, but it wasn't organized right or something. I don't know what happened. It just didn't go right.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Do you remember any of the things they would talk to you about?
ALICE P. EVITT:
Yes. They'd talk to you about when you struck. Stay out till you get your raise and don't let nobody in-don't let 'em go in over you and such as that.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did they ever call the police in or anything like that?
ALICE P. EVITT:
Un-uh. That's been a long time. When it first started out. . . .
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did the management negotiate with the workers at all?
ALICE P. EVITT:
We didn't see them. They didn't come out there. We went back to work, they just treat them like nothin' ever happened. Just all that was in the strike would come out there. None of them didn't try to get back to work. I reckon there would have been trouble if they would of.
JIM LELOUDIS:
The management never talked to you about wages? They just kind of held out too?
ALICE P. EVITT:
So they just decided to go back to work and went back to work. I was glad. I don't like to be in that.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why didn't you like it?
ALICE P. EVITT:
I was afraid if they'd keep on, maybe they'd be trouble. I don't believe in trouble. If I can't do somethin' for somebody, I sure don't want to do nobody no harm. I always been that way, and I didn't want in no mess. I just never did believe in causin' trouble. That did cause a lot of trouble, such as that.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What type of trouble?
ALICE P. EVITT:
People who'd come to go to work a lot of places, and they'd fight them. They'd get in fights and everything. I didn't want to be messed up in all of that.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Were there fights here?
ALICE P. EVITT:
No, they didn't have a bit of trouble here. They was lucky. Had-a, I wouldn't a been in it. I'd just left and gone. I didn't stay out there much anyway.