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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Thomas Burt, February 6, 1979. Interview H-0194-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Leisure time at a tobacco factory: singing on the job or dozing on break

Although many tobacco workers sang to pass time, those working packing cigarettes for shipping could not afford to distract themselves, Burt recalls. He also remembers relaxing and dozing during lunch hour.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Thomas Burt, February 6, 1979. Interview H-0194-2. 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

GLENN HINSON:
You were talking about the factory and the singing, did the men ever join in the singing?
THOMAS BURT:
Oh yeah, some of the men was up there with them. They'd sing with them too—men and women was singin'.
GLENN HINSON:
What about down on the first floor, on the basement?
THOMAS BURT:
You didn't hardly ever hear much singin' down there 'cause weren't too many men down in the basement. On the first floor, you could hear them up there singing' sometimes, and whoopin' and hollerin' and singin'.
GLENN HINSON:
Did they ever sing anyting other than spirituals?
THOMAS BURT:
Oh yeah, some of them were singin' Blues, I mean reels. There weren't no Blues songs come out at that time. Some sort of old reel, they'd sing. Some of them sang good songs, hymns, some of these old-timey reels where folks used to sing way back. There weren't too much singin' goin' on down there. You's too busy down there do much singin'. I tell you, that was a tedious job down there in that shippin' room. You had to keep your mind on what you do in', you don't, you'd mess up somethin' down there. So, you didn't have time to do too much down there but keep your mind on what you doin'.
GLENN HINSON:
What about when you got off for lunch? Did you used to eat lunch together right around there?
THOMAS BURT:
Oh yeah, everybody'd eat right down there in the factory, all them that weren't close enough to go home. A whole lot of people didn't live too far from the factory; they'd go home to lunch. As far as I lived, I always carried mine. Whole lot of them carried their lunch, eat it right there in the factory.
GLENN HINSON:
You had an hour for lunch?
THOMAS BURT:
Hour, that's all. One hour.
GLENN HINSON:
Was there ever any singing or carrying on at that time?
THOMAS BURT:
No! You didn't hear much singin' at lunch hour. Folks sittin' round eatin', some of them stretch out and get a little short nap. Some of them be sleep when the whistle blow. No, they just sit around, laugh, and talk, time to go back to work. No, weren't much carryin' on at lunch hour. Everybody's kinda tired and jaded. Some of them, soon as they swallowed, they stretch out on a basket or somewhere and go to sleep.