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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 >>

Strategies for and purposes of hastening the pace of work

Hargett discusses various strategies weavers used to hasten the pace of their work. In so doing, workers not only opened up possibilities for more pay, but they made it possible to enjoy a little bit of "leisure time" on the job.

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: You said you were working by the hour, but did the weavers who were working on production ever compete to see who could work the fastest?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I guess they always was competing, because they would run like fighting fire. But they had a pick clock on each loom, and whenever the loom stopped, that pick clock stopped, and they wasn't making any money. And that's why whenever they went and put a number on my board, they'd put down the time they put it there, and then when I got through with it I had to put down the time that I left it, so they'd know how much to pay them if the loom was broken. Where they couldn't run it, you see, they got paid for that then. Jim Leloudis: Did people ever feel like someone who was really making a lot of production was maybe greedy or kind of pushing the quota too high?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No, there were some better weavers than there were others, and I don't think there was any animosity about them, because I believe they all realized that they was a better weaver than they were. But whenever a loom had broke down, the loom fixer could take the pick clock off and hold it up to the belt and run up as many picks as you would have had if your loom had been running. So they'd do that, you see, so you'd check out right. Jim Leloudis: What did the supervisors think of that?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
That was within the rules of the company; they'd let you do that. Jim Leloudis: Oh, you could run it up. Did people have other short-cuts or tricks for making their production seem like it was more than it was?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, you could kick the ratchet sometime, but if you didn't know how to do that you could make a thin place in the cloth, too, and that weren't good. Jim Leloudis: You'd kick that, and what would it do?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
It'd run around just a little bit faster, kick on that ratchet. But if you didn't know just how to do that, you'd make a thin streak across the cloth, and they'd get you up about it. And they had you in the cloth room anyhow when you made a bad place and show you the cloth. And for a long time there they didn't dock you for it. But while they did; when you had a bad cloth, they docked you for it, took it out of your pay. But at these mills, we could go get an order from the bossman for cloth and go buy what we wanted. That would come out of the pay; we didn't have to pay cash for it. Jim Leloudis: Were there any other kind of tricks, other than kicking the ratchet to make the machine go a little faster?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Not that I know of. Jim Leloudis: Could you really make more money if you were kind of good at kicking that thing?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, you'd make a little bit more, but a lot of times, though, it made that bad place, and they'd put it on the pickout board then, and it would have to be picked out because there'd be a thin place across there. The pick clock was a clock just about like a little alarm clock. It told so many rotations as one pick; I don't remember just how many they were. But they'd take that off and put it up to the belt, you see, so they'd get what they deserved. If a loom was standing, it weren't their fault that they couldn't run it. Jim Leloudis: When you said it had to be picked out, would you go back and repair that thin place?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No, you'd tear it down. Let me get my pickout comb here, and I'll show you what we're talking about. This is a pickout comb. And I'd hold it in my hand like this and tear the cloth and pick out each thread. Each thread's called a pick. And some kind of pickouts, we could scratch it up. We'd cut the thread with our scissors up to above that bad place, and down below it we'd scratch the threads over to make a little thin place. Then they'd wet on it and put a little starch over it so they wouldn't spy it in the cloth room. Jim Leloudis: [Laughter] So you sometimes could hide those thin places.
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, sometimes you could hide those thin places. You could scratch them up. And the cloth usually was damp enough, you see, from the humidity where we could sprinkle a little starch over it and smooth it over it, and by the time it got around that roll of cloth it was dry, and it wouldn't be noticeable. Jim Leloudis: Why would you do that, to help the weavers out?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Help ourselves out, and the weavers, too, because with all those numbers on the board we couldn't get caught up; why, we couldn't stop and have no leisure time. And when we had a little leisure time, we usually spent it in the rest room, in there talking with somebody. But if we didn't have the leisure time, when we did get a little bit of leisure time we couldn't enjoy it, knowing our board was behind. Jim Leloudis: Would they come run you out of the bathroom if you were in there a little too long?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, they'd do that if you was in there too long, but they never come and got me out of the bathroom. And some good battery hands could fill up their battery and sit in there about a half hour at a time. But the weaver couldn't do it, nor the smash hand, nor the pickout hand couldn't do it. Jim Leloudis: That's an interesting little trick, to kind of cover that up. Do you remember anybody coming around and doing time studies? I guess they probably wouldn't have done it so much on your job, but . . .
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, they came around there checking, time you on your. . . . They timed the weaver, but they didn't time me, because I had to put down the time I went to it and the time that I left the job when I completed it, so they could give the weaver the average picks there needed to be. But they'd come down from the office with a little pick clipboard and watch the weaver, what she wove, and put down how many stoppages she'd had in that length of time and all. Yes, they had that done real often.