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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eva Hopkins, March 5, 1980. Interview H-0167. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Two generations of Hopkins children work in the cotton mill

Hopkins' mother and sister also worked in the mill as children to earn wages, though supervisors were more likely to punish child workers in her mother's time.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eva Hopkins, March 5, 1980. Interview H-0167. 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

They came to the cotton mill in Asheville when my mother was about seven years old, and they went to work in the mill. It was bad back then because the children worked twelve hours a day.
LU ANN JONES:
She was seven?
EVA HOPKINS:
She was seven years old. They worked twelve hours a day, then they would go home for lunch. Then they would go back to work they would go back to work and work until six at night. Then when the children come home, they'd go out and play. They'd make play houses and things and play because they was just children. Then my dad got sick, it was during the Depression. That's the reason I went to work. I could have gone on to school. Mother tried to get me to go on to school, and I wouldn't do it. I wanted to quit and make money. I wanted to go to work. So I worked until I met my husband, we married. He worked at another mill. I worked at the Mercury Mill, used to be the old Mecklenburg, but it was Mercury when I went to work in it.
LU ANN JONES:
How many brothers and sisters did you have?
EVA HOPKINS:
I had one brother and one sister. My brother was a merchant marine sailor. He went when he was seventeen years old to join the merchant marines. My sister worked in the mill too until she married, and she moved into South Carolina. She didn't work for a while. Then she came back, and she worked at the mill off and on. At different times, she worked at different jobs. She worked at stores, and she worked at Belk's, and she worked different places. But you make more money in the cotton mills. They can say what they want to about cotton mills, but you do really make more money there than you do in these stores, clerking in stores. She went where the money was. She quit Belk's and went back to the mill.
LU ANN JONES:
You seem to know how it was when she (your mother) was working in the mill. Did she talk about that? Yes, she said the overseers and the section men-they had what they called section men-they could whip the children back then. If they didn't stay on the job and do the job, they could spank them or whip them, or send them for their parents to come get them. They never did whip any of my mother's. There's seven of them that worked, and they didn't whip any of them because my grandmother had too high a temper, and she would not stand for it. She didn't work at the mill. They would whip the children if they stayed off the job too long. They'd spank them, send them back on the job.
LU ANN JONES:
Do you remember what she did in the mill?
EVA HOPKINS:
Yeah, she was a spinner. She ran what they called sides-to sping the yarn on. After she got older, she grew up and married, she ran warpers, and she could spool. Usually, if you worked in the spinning department, you learned to do most anything in that department. In the spinning department where I worked, there was spooling, winding, and spinning, and twisters. I learned to run all of them except warpers, creel warpers. I didn't ever learn to spin. I would have liked to because I thought I would like that better. I didn't ever learn to, I learned to do a little bit, but I couldn't run a set. They called them sets of sides. You wound by the pound, production. You'd wind these threads on these cones, take them off, and put them up. Then you put new pasteboard covers over them and wind more yarn on them. Have you ever been in a mill?
LU ANN JONES:
Un-uh.
EVA HOPKINS:
Bobbins thread, and you put them down on the spindle, and you pull it up through there and you tie it with a knot. It runs on this cone. When it gets full, you take it off, and you finish putting your cones on there. That's what you creel in what they call a ball warper. Had ball warpers and beam warpers. I creeled both. I never did learn to run them; my mother ran them.