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Oral History Interview with Paul Edward Cline, November 8, 1979. Interview H-0239. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Paul Cline came from a mill family: his father was a box loom weaver, his sisters were weavers, and Cline himself mastered a number of jobs at a textile mill before his declining health drove him from his job. After years of working with asbestos, from 1938 until the 1960s, Cline had developed brown lung disease. In this interview, he recalls his mill work and his struggle to wrest worker's compensation from his employer, J. P. Stevens. Cline's memories of his family's mill work and his own experiences have given him strongly negative opinions of textile mills. He describes tyrannical mill owners who forced their employees to work long hours in dreadful conditions, sadistic mill foremen who dangled children from windows, and capricious owners who might fire their employees at will. He also presents a vivid picture of mill life, describing his family's garden, their home, and his father's fondness for fighting. This interview provides a perspective on the struggles of one southern laborer not just to make a living but to stay alive.
    Excerpts
  • Employer fights to withhold compensation for brown lung sufferer
  • Working at a cotton mill was "almost like slavery"
  • A mill family grows their own food
  • Difficulties for millworkers during the Great Depression are alleviated by the New Deal
  • Child labor and child abuse at a textile mill
  • Class tensions in a mill town erupt into violence
  • Non-union workers express their frustrations through violence
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Textile workers--South Carolina--Health and hygiene
  • Textile workers--South Carolina--Social conditions
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.