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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Edna Y. Hargett, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0163. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Portrait of life in mill villages

Here, Hargett describes what it was like growing up in various mill villages during the early twentieth century, focusing specifically on the time her family spent living in Rock Hill, North Carolina. Hargett explains the kinds of chores she and her siblings did around the house and in the garden. Additionally, she emphasizes the community worked together in such tasks such as the butchering of livestock. Finally, she discusses the role of race within these mill villages. In addition to Rock Hill, Hargett's family also lived in Charleston, South Carolina, and Burlington, North Carolina, before settling in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Edna Y. Hargett, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0163. 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: That's interesting, you say you didn't have time to play. Did each child have chores that were his or hers?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, they sure did, and they had it to do. Because when they said do it, they meant it. Jim Leloudis: What was your job?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I had to bring in the wood for the stove and stake the cow out and had to help slop the hogs. Then we had chickens, and we had to gather in their eggs. Jim Leloudis: And that was when you were living in the mill village.
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes. They didn't have a city ordinance then like they do now. Jim Leloudis: Did most people have animals with them?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, I think most of them did. Jim Leloudis: You said you had a garden. What type of things would you grow?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Daddy had an old plow, and he'd put a harness around him, and we had to stand behind that and guide the plow. Jim Leloudis: And your father would pull it. [Laughter]
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, he'd pull it. So we raised vegetables, just like they do nowadays, and we had some fruit trees. Then when we got our work done at home, we had to study our lessons by a lamp. They didn't have electricity back then. Jim Leloudis: It sounds like with the garden and the hogs and cows and all, you must have been pretty self-sufficient. Did you have to buy much from the grocery store?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, they had to buy quite a bit of stuff, the sugar and coffee and things like that that you didn't raise. But Daddy raised his meat, and we had the cow-we had milk and butter-then we had the vegetable garden. But times was hard. Daddy told me he'd worked many a day for fifty cents a day. I never done that, but he did. Jim Leloudis: Did your mother can?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
My stepmother did. I don't remember my mother. Yes, she'd can and make syrup peaches and peach pickles and dried apples. And then, as I said, we raised our own pork. And we had a cow for milk and butter. Then we had a chicken that laid our eggs. Jim Leloudis: Did you ever sell any of that, or did you consume most of it yourself?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
They consumed it theirselves. Then Daddy had bees, too; he would raise our honey. Jim Leloudis: Did he sell that?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
He sold some of it, but not much of it. I remember we had two great big old apothecary jars sitting on each side of the mantel in the kitchen, and he kept it full of honey in the comb; it was so pretty to look at. But till today I don't like honey, because I had to help rob the bees and was stung too many times. I don't want no honey. Jim Leloudis: [Laughter]
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
That filled me up with honey. Jim Leloudis: You said your stepmother canned. Did women get together at the time or . . .
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No, you canned it in your own home. Jim Leloudis: How about when it was time to butcher the hogs or the cows? Was that kind of a social occasion? Did people help one another?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, they helped one another with the killing of the hogs. There was a colored man around there usually went around, and he took his pay out in meat. But when ours was killed we was always in school, because we'd make pets of them and we couldn't stand the idea of it. They already had them killed when we came home. Jim Leloudis: So this man kind of travelled around from house to house, and you could get him to butcher your meat for you?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No, he lived there in the community just like we did. He was good at killing them right there on your own lot. And they had the big barrels of hot water they rolled them over in and shaved them. Then they had to fasten up on a pulley somehow or another and gutted them. Jim Leloudis: That was at Highland Number 1 or Number 3?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Number 3, I believe, is at Rock Hill. This was at Rock Hill. Jim Leloudis: What did the black man do? He didn't work in the mill, did he, or was he a groundsman or what did he do?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I really don't know. I think he worked in the mill, too. I believe he was a truck driver for the mill company. I'm not sure about that now, it's been such a long time. Jim Leloudis: Were there many blacks living in the mill village?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Not many, no. Most of them was on farms. Jim Leloudis: Were there many working in the mill?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I don't remember seeing many of them. The sweep person was white people, but the scrubbers were usually black people. And the ones that did the bathroom work were black. Then we had a black man that delivered the coal for us. We had outdoor bathrooms. Jim Leloudis: What did people in the mill village think of blacks living there? Did they mind that?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I never heard that discussed at all. We always called all the black peoples "uncles" and "aunts." We didn't call them "Mr." and "Mrs."; it was "Uncle" and "Aunt." Jim Leloudis: But no one really objected to them living there?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I never heard any of it.