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Title: Oral History Interview with Geddes Elam Dodson, May 26, 1980. Interview H-0240. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Dodson, Geddes Elam, interviewee
Interview conducted by Tullos, Allen
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 156 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-07-21, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with Geddes Elam Dodson, May 26, 1980. Interview H-0240. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, 1974-1980. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0240)
Author: Allen Tullos
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Geddes Elam Dodson, May 26, 1980. Interview H-0240. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, 1974-1980. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0240)
Author: Geddes Elam Dodson
Description: 222 Mb
Description: 37 p.
Note: Interview conducted on May 26, 1980, by Allen Tullos; recorded in Greenville, South Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Jean Houston.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, 1974-1980, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Geddes Elam Dodson, May 26, 1980.
Interview H-0240. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Dodson, Geddes Elam, interviewee


Interview Participants

    GEDDES ELAM DODSON, interviewee
    ALLEN TULLOS, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you remember anything about your grandparents on either side of the family?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
My daddy's daddy went to war way back. I don't know what war it was. And [my daddy] was born while his daddy was gone to war. His daddy never did get back home alive. His mother, Grandma Dodson, married again, and married a Thomas fellow. I don't know what his name was. They had one son, and his name was Uncle Tom Thomas. And my daddy had one sister, and her name was Aunt Mat Dodson.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What was your father's name?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I declare, I don't know, without he was named after his daddy. Joseph Elam.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When was your father born?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
He was not quite sixty years old in 1924 [born in 1864]. See, my brother's boys got our old family record Bible. And I tried to get him to loan it to me to let me get some reference off of it, and he wouldn't even let me have it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Your grandfather probably died in the Civil War.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, he died on the way back home.
ALLEN TULLOS:
From the Civil War.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What about the other side of the family?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
The Whittaker side. He [grandfather?] was a Whittaker, but I don't remember his given name.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Where did your Dodson grandparents live?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
My daddy said he was raised down in Piedmont [South Carolina].
ALLEN TULLOS:
In Greenville County.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You reckon he was born down there?

Page 2
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I don't know. He probably was.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was your grandfather a farmer?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes. That's what the biggest majority of people done then.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What was your father's occupation?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
He was a textile worker. He was overseer over several weave rooms, moving around. And he was a loom fixer. He had a stroke, and he died about five years later, and he was not quite sixty years old, in 1924.
ALLEN TULLOS:
He must have been born about 1864.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes. See, he'd have been way over a hundred years old if he'd have been still living.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did he grow up on a farm?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, he growed up on the farm, and he said he had cut wood in the snow barefooted a many a day. And he just had to raise hisself. He said [Laughter] his stepdaddy was afraid of him. Said he carried his pocket full of rocks all the time, my daddy did. And he said the first mirror he ever seen, he was a pretty good-sized boy, and he never had seen one before, and he didn't know what it was. And said he walked up to that mirror and seen that little old boy in there [Laughter] , and he said he made a face at the little boy, and he made one back at him. And said he got a rock out of his pocket and throwed it and broke that mirror. [Laughter]
ALLEN TULLOS:
And your father's stepfather was afraid of him.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
I guess your father left the farm and went . . .
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, he left the farm. He had a great big farm up in Oconee County before I was born. And he told me all about that. He lived in the barn and let somebody live in his house and rent it. He was a textile worker, and he rented his farm out, let this family work it, and they lived in the house, and he lived in the barn. [Laughter]

Page 3
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was that after he had gone off on his own, by himself?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, it was after him and my mother had married. He moved around, and the first thing I remember, why, we was a-living at Inman, South Carolina. And the old mill, great big old mill about the size of Brandon Mill, was down thisaway and the streets run up that way. And I was a little bitty feller, and my mother'd make me a pallet out on the front porch. I was too little to get out and run around. But I remember that, and I lay [Laughter] there on the pallet and listened to that old mill roar. And then we moved from there to Appalache. That's down to the left of Greer. And I remember moving to Appalache on a great big two-horse wagon. You know, back then a big family could put everything they had on one of those large wagons. And I set way up on the top with all that furniture, and rode from Inman to Appalache [Laughter] .
ALLEN TULLOS:
How old were you then?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Oh, I was just a little tot. I showed you that picture of me and my sister, and that was after we moved to Appalache. You know I was small when we lived at Inman. But I remember laying on that pallet. [Laughter]
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was your mother working in the mill at all then, in Inman?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
She was a weaver. And back then they didn't have these automatic shuttle eyes of thread; they had to suck the filling through the eye, and then put it in the loom, start it up.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did they have a particular name for those shuttles?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
The old suck-eye shuttles. And she wove then on them.
And then after we moved from Appalache to Greenville, my daddy was a-working, and he worked in the Poinsett Mill some when I was a little feller. It belongs to Woodside now, but it was the same company, Woodside. I was a little feller, and they run ten hours a day then, and so I had to carry his lunch. He'd run the weavers' looms through dinner hour so they could go eat their dinner. We lived about a mile and a quarter from the Poinsett Mill, and I'd carry his

Page 4
lunch every day. And he'd tell me to come on in the mill, and he made me fill his batteries—and I was just a little feller—while he run the weavers' looms. See, I knew a whole lot about the mill before I even went in one.
ALLEN TULLOS:
At that time, was your father a loom fixer?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, he was a loom fixer. Sometime he'd get an overseer's job. And when he didn't have one of them, he fixed looms. And I remember way back then if you quit, you had to work a two weeks' notice.
[Interruption]
And my daddy was overseer at a little old mill somewhere—I don't remember where it was—but when he took this job, the fellows come to him and said, "You see that fellow over yonder?" My daddy said, "Yeah." They said, "Well, he's the bully around here. He'll run you off." My daddy said, "He won't run me. I ain't the runnin' kind." [Laughter] And you had to work out two weeks' notice if you quit. And so this fellow come in one Friday and got out on payday and come back in the mill about half drunk. And he told my daddy, "I want my time. I've quit." My daddy said, "You know the rules of the company. I can't give you your time. You have to work out two weeks' notice to get your time." And he run his hand in his pocket and says, "You'll give me my time," to get his knife. And so before he got his hand out of his pocket, he was laying on the floor. And my daddy was standing over him when he got up, and he knocked him down the second time. When he got up the second time, he was standing over him and knocked him plumb out the door and pulled it to and locked it. So that night, why, the fellows told my daddy, "He's out there waiting on you." So he had his tool box in the mill, and he got his hammer and stuck it in his pocket. And them fellows waited and followed him out and wouldn't let them fight out there. So on payday he went to town and carried my oldest brother with him. And he was back in the meat market in the

Page 5
back of the store. And this fellow seen him, and he come in after him with his knife open. And my daddy had a pair of knucks [knuckles?] in his pocket, and he just put them on. And this fellow come back there and went to cutting at him, and he'd bust him with them knucks and then jump out of the way of the knife. And he cut my daddy's coat up like shoestrings and never did scratch him. And somehow or another my daddy dropped them knucks, and when he done that he reached back and got that old thirty-eight. Hit him right there and went around under the skin, come out the back of his neck and stuck up in the wall of the store. And [Laughter] he was afraid he'd killed him, and he laid out in the wood all night, thought the law'd be a-hunting him. He was afraid he'd killed him. And had my oldest brother with him. And they found out he hadn't killed him. And so then they fined him five dollars for shooting him [Laughter] , and the mill company paid that. [Laughter]
ALLEN TULLOS:
That's quite a story.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
[Laughter] I worked with that fellow down here at Dunean, and at Monaghan, too. One of the best friends I ever had. I see where that bullet come out the back of his neck, just run around under the skin. I looked at that scar, but it didn't show up here, a many a time. He was one of the best friends I ever had. He'd talk to me about [Laughter] how rough he used to be and all that stuff, and said it didn't pay. But he never mentioned that, and I never let on like I knew it, see.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did he know who you were?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, he knew who I was. [Laughter] Over there at Monaghan we got paid off in tickets with the money in there, little envelopes, and I said, "Mr. Smith"—his name was Warren Smith—"how about loaning me that? I need some money today." He just handed it to me, hadn't even opened it. [Laughter] I kept it a minute. I said, "No, I was just a-kidding you. I don't need that." And he took it back. [Laughter]

Page 6
ALLEN TULLOS:
He used to be a bully.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, he was a bully, but he didn't bully my daddy.
And then I remember when I went to work in the mill at Woodside. I was a little boy, although I went in there and went to work a-sweeping and hauling filling from the spinning room down to the weave room so they could put it on the looms. That's all I done, just rode the elevator up and down, bring that filling down when the doffers would fill up them big boxes, and then I . . .
ALLEN TULLOS:
That was the first job you had?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
That was the first job I had in the mill at Woodside. And then I got sweeping and one thing and another, and I run a band machine down under the mill. They had an automatic band machine. I kept the yarn on that automatic machine, and it twisted like a rope only it's little. We were using them for belts on the spinning frames. And I run that hand machine and watched that other one, kept it a-going. And then I went up in the weave room and started sweeping up there. And my daddy made me a reed hook out of a spoon you stir coffee with. I got one in there laying on the chest of drawers now I made myself. I don't know what went with the one he made me. But them little old two-harness weave, you just need a little old short reed hook, and the spoon was the handle. You put your thumb in the spoon and draw in them ends.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How old were you then?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I wasn't quite fourteen. I've been in the mill over sixty years. And then I learned to weave. I learned to tie a weaver's knot. And nobody didn't teach me how to weave. I just watched the weavers after I learned how to tie that knot. Back then you had to get a permit to go to work when you was just fourteen, and they wouldn't let you work but eight hours a day if you wasn't old enough.
Matt Hunt was the second hand over there,

Page 7
and I worked for him. And his daughter was already a-weaving. And he found out I could weave. And he had let her off the two hours that she wanted off, and I'd have to run her looms. I didn't like it. If she wanted off in the morning, he would let her off in the morning, and I had to work in the morning. And if she wanted off in the evening, then I had to work in the evening, and so that's the way it went. So then we left there and moved to Brandon.
My daddy had had a stroke, and he wasn't able to fix any more looms. He had a stroke shaving one Sunday night, getting ready to go to work the next morning. He sold his house on Vance Street over there before he had this stroke and bought him a little farm up in Pickens County. Thirty-eight acres with three branches running through it, and the Saluda River was the line on it. It was an ideal little farm. He had the money to pay for it when he sold our house on Vance Street, but he just paid half of it down and took the other half and bought his plows and wagon and the big old mule. It was in World I, had a "U.S." stamped on one of his hips on the back. And that bugger could pull a load, and I don't mean maybe. And my daddy rented that farm out in Pickens and let a fellow make a crop on it one year. And he decided he wanted to come back to the mill before he'd gathered the crop. And so my daddy let him come back, and he took me out of the mill, and he and I went up there and gathered the crop and stayed up there in that old log cabin.
Be up there at night, and all the hoot owls would get up on top of the house and go, "Hoooo! Hoooo!" [Laughter] And one night we heared a big blam-bam-bungle on top of the house and went out, and a big old rock fell off of the chimney [Laughter] and rolled down the house.
ALLEN TULLOS:
This was before he had had the stroke.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
That was after he had the stroke. See, he wasn't able to work

Page 8
in the mill. But we did pick the cotton and gather the corn. And we was over there a-picking cotton one day and carried the old mule over there with us and tied him on the terrace under a big tree and let him graze around while we was [Laughter] over there. We got our cotton bags full of cotton [Laughter] that evening, and I said, "Papa, let's make old Pete carry our bags home for us so we won't have to carry them." And he got him loose from the tree, and we tied the bags together, and he was a-holding by the bridle rein [Laughter] . And so he says, "All right, you've got your bags tied together. Throw them across to straddle his back." And so I throwed them up there [Laughter] , and whenever I done that he whirled and slung my daddy down, and I was a-hunting him. Looked over there and he was sitting over there in the terrace, buried up in weeds. [Laughter] And the old mule took off and went to the barn. And so we had to carry the cotton after all. [Laughter]
ALLEN TULLOS:
How long after he had had his stroke was it before he died?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
We left Woodside and moved to Brandon, and he was door watchman over there. He lived around six years. It was about four steps down from the door to the walk. My daddy was sitting there on the top step one day, and I don't remember what this fellow's name was, but he was smart, and he got my daddy by the heels and drug that poor old fellow down them steps a-bumping on his fanny. My daddy got out his knife and boy, he raked him down across there before he could get away, and they got him separated. And then he died over there on Traction Street in the first of the year in 1924. And then we stayed there, and then . . .
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was your mother working in the mill then?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
She was drawing in over there at Woodside when we lived over there. She was drawing in up in the second floor; the slasher room was up there. The draw-in frames was long, with the backs to the window. And there was an old

Page 9
man named League who worked there, and he was bad to run after women. He run a slasher. And there was an old woman come in there one day to see her up in the slash room. And whenever she went out, some of them young women, girls, got up and went to hollering out the window, making light of her. And he come over there and balled my mother out about it, and she hadn't got up out of her seat. We lived right out the end of the mill, this upper end, on Vance Street, and went home for dinner. And we set down to the table to eat dinner, and my mother began to tell [my father] about how this fellow had talked to her. And so he shoved back from the table, and his chair hit the wall ka-bam. Didn't have no rugs on [the floor]. Just hit the wall behind him. This big old table, as long as from there over yonder, the old homemade table. And he hit the wall with his chair sliding on the floor. He says, "Where's my whet rock?" And he got that whet rock, an oilstone, and sharpened his knife just like a razor. And he went back up behind that fellow that was up there. And the boss weaver was a great big old tall fellow. He weighed over 350 pounds, a big old giant. And he went back up there and asked that fellow, "What did you talk to my wife like you did for?" And the boss weaver happened to be standing there. So he said, "I didn't . . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
He said, "You're a d— lying s.b." And when he said that, why, he took his knife and made a whack at him. And the boss weaver was standing there, and he hit my daddy's arm and knocked the pressure off, but he still cut his neck open all the way around and missed his windpipe about a half an inch. Old man Wofford, the boss weaver, fired [my daddy]. He didn't [unknown] change clothes to go out at noontime for lunch, so he went and changed clothes

Page 10
and put his work clothes under his arms and started out the middle door down there. (Big old mill; the main doors were right in the middle of the mill.) He met old man Alexander; he was the superintendent of the whole plant. He said to my daddy, "What's the matter?" He told him, "Mr. Wofford fired me." He said, "Well, you're not fired. I'm tired of that fellow's way of doing anyway. You go on back on your job. If old man Wofford comes around and says anything to you, you tell him I said to come to my office." So he just went back and put his work clothes on and went on his job and went to work. Old man Wofford, after a while, come down the alley. He said, "Huh: I thought I run you out of here." He said, "Mr. Alexander said for you to come to his office." [Laughter] He went down there, and so my daddy just went on his job and went to work. And they fired that fellow my daddy cut and let my daddy work on. [Laughter]
And then we moved to Brandon, and after my daddy died my brother older than I am got a. . . . No, we moved to Brandon, and he watched the door. I told you that. Then we moved to Brandon, and we worked over there a while, and after my daddy died I was done married. I married in '24. And my brother moved over here to Dunean. Then I worked at Judson before I married, [was] working there when I married. I left there and went to Mills Mill and worked three nights [Laughter] all night, and then my brother got me a job back at Judson, and I went back over there, and then I stayed there till I married. And then I went to Monaghan and stayed part of 1926 and '27, and come back to Judson and stayed a few months, and moved to Dunean the twenty-first of March in '28, and I've been here ever since.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When did you retire?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I retired the ninth of July last year [1979]. And I stayed at Dunean fifty-one years and five months. And my wife and I have been married fifty-six years the seventeenth of this month. Never slept a night without a job

Page 11
since we've been married till I retired.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Let's go back and get a little more information on your mother. What was her name?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Her name was Mary Idella Whittaker.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Where was she born?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Her daddy was a farmer up above Spartanburg in the country.
ALLEN TULLOS:
In Spartanburg County.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes. Our grandpa's name was Henry, and I don't remember what Grandma's given name was. See, I was a little bitty tot then.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you go up there to visit them?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, I went up there and visit[ed] them. They had some plates with Hickman's Memorial Hall, a picture in the plates. And I was little, and I wouldn't eat without that. I called it a mill plate. After they was dead and gone there was some of them plates left, and I loved them so good till my mother gave them to me. And the last one got broke since we've been living here in this house. [Laughter] They had a big old English bulldog with them big wide shoulders in front, you know, and kind of bowlegged, and that big wide head with that mouth, little narrow hips on the back. And he wouldn't eat nothing from nobody but my grandma. And she had a stroke, and he like to died before she got to feed him from the bed. I remember all that. I could go out there and sit down on him with a biscuit full of steak, and he wouldn't bother me. He was a big old dog. But a cow could get out of the pasture, and she'd say, "Watch, there's a cow [Laughter] out. You get her back in the pasture." And he'd take off, and if she didn't get back in there he'd grab her by the nose, and down she'd go, just like that. Then after they got disabled to farm, they come to our house over there at Woodside on Vance Street, and they lived with us till they died. That was back in the old

Page 12
horse-and-buggy days whenever they had carriages like the West had for a family carriage. And they had the hearse drawn by horses. And whenever Grandma and Grandpa died, they carried them all the way to that graveyard up there close to where their farm was, and buried them. My oldest sister's name was Nettie. She had a leak of the heart, and she had a little boy born, E.K.; he lives over here now. She come to our house, and E.K. was born there where we lived where Grandma and Grandpa died. And she lived about three months and died there in that same room in the same corner of the room and everything. I remember all that. And then they buried her over there at Zoar Church, over below Appalache. Go down and cross the bridge and go around below the dam.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you know how your mother and father met?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
No, I don't. My mother and daddy married when she wasn't but about fourteen.
ALLEN TULLOS:
He was older than she was.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
A little older, yes. He died when he wasn't quite sixty, and she lived to be eighty-two, the mother of eleven children. There were six boys. My oldest brother's name was Estes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
He was the oldest one in the family.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
He was the oldest child. Estes, and then Nettie was next, and then Inez, and I never did see Lillian and Estelle; they had died. Well, I don't remember none of them back ahead of me. And then Clyde and Emma. She was older than I am. She's dead. Henry was younger than me. And then there was two twin boys born over on Charles Street at Woodside, Olin and Zolin. One of them died just a little while after they was born. And then they seen the other one was going to die, and they just kept the other out, and he died a few hours later. And they just put them both in the same little casket together. And that was six boys and five girls.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did your mother work regularly in the mill all this time, while

Page 13
she was having this many children?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
She worked between times. Oh, yes, over there at Woodside, after we left Vance Street and moved on Fifth Street, after my daddy sold that house, they put her a couple of draw-in racks down at the house. And just put her a full warp on there, and she'd put the drop wires and the harness and the reed on there and draw the drop wires first and then draw the harness and then put the reed up there and draw the reed. She could draw a reed just like that, in ten minutes. And I remember I used to have two racks—and I was that little then, of course—but I could draw the harness. She would draw the drop wires, and I'd set down there at that rack and draw the harness, the ends in the harness, eyes in the harness. And then she'd take and put the reed on it and then tie it up on the front so they could. . . . And then cut the pattern off long enough behind so they could take it up there and tie it on a machine full of warp. And every time she'd change, she'd just pull that warp over and get her ends up there and draw another pattern and cut it off. And they'd tie it on one of them big old automatic machines. And my sister was crippled, and she'd help her draw in some.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Which sister?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Emma. She was older than me.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you know of anybody else that ever got to do this work at home like this?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, there was several women drawed in at home.
ALLEN TULLOS:
I've never heard of that before.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, they just had that big old full warp and a wooden rack. And lay the warp on the back and pull it up over there [unknown] the yarn. Yes, that's the old stuff. [laughter]
ALLEN TULLOS:
It was pretty common back then?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, it was pretty common, this . . .

Page 14
ALLEN TULLOS:
How old were you then, when that was being done?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
That was back. . . . I forgot to put it in a while ago, but I had worked in the mill up there at Woodside some.
ALLEN TULLOS:
That's where you first started working in a mill.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes. But them was the good old days.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would several women usually work together if they did this kind of thing at home?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I don't know of nobody else that had two racks, but I think some other women had some at home that wanted to stay at home and do the housework and draw in between housework time. And I remember while we was over there on Fifth Street during World War I, why, that flu epidemic was raging, and so many people were dying. We every one had it, Mother and all of us. And I remember we was all so sick, my mother just got up and went to waiting on us, giving us aspirins and hot lemon tea. I had a mattress on my bed, and I perspired so much till it went through the mattress and dripped on the floor. That's a fact; that's right. I remember that just as well as if it was yesterday. But we all got over it. There wasn't none of our family died.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you know some people that died?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Oh, there was people that was dying everywhere with that flu during World War I. It's true, because there was a bunch of people died over there at Woodside with it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
People you knew?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, but I don't remember their name. I did then, but I don't now.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Can you remember how you felt about everybody being sick and everybody dying?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Well, it was an awful feeling. We didn't know whether we was going to live or die. But the Lord was with us, and he brought us through, every one of us. That was the rottenest sickness I ever had in my life.
ALLEN TULLOS:
It must have been really something. I've heard lots of people talk

Page 15
about it.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
It was really bad. And they lost a lot of soldiers out at Camp Sevier. Out there where the [unknown] broadcasting station is now. It's out in that section.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Talking about your mother doing the drawing-in at home, they must have been real hard up to find workers if they had . . .
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, they was just scarce of workers.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How old do you think you were when she was drawing in at home?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I was done past fourteen, and right around there.
ALLEN TULLOS:
So that would have been right around World War I. The War was going on then?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, it was . . .
ALLEN TULLOS:
And that may have been why they couldn't get enough help.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
They was kind of scarce of menfolk.
[Interruption]
ALLEN TULLOS:
Why don't you talk a little bit about some of the things that your mother and father taught you when you were growing up? Did they have any kind of sayings or things they would tell you about how to live your life or how to behave?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
One thing, when I went to church, I set up there like a little statue. I didn't cut up and hoop and holler like they do now, little tots. My mother fed me on peachtree tea, and that made me behave in church, see. And my daddy always taught me, he'd tell me, "Now, son, you don't have to ask no questions. You can watch people about good manners," and says [Laughter] , "you can learn a whole lot that way. If you go out to eat at some place, just watch somebody that's up a little"—uppity-up, you know—" and that'll teach you your manners how to do." Or he said, "Anything that you are interested in, working or anything, just watch somebody else, and you won't have to ask a question." And that's the way I learned to weave at Woodside.

Page 16
I didn't ask no questions; I just watched the other feller and took it up.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What did you mean by "peachtree tea"?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
She just got her a little keen hickory and just made some little fine strops all over your little legs and back. It didn't cut the skin, but it turned them a little red.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And that was one of the things you were told to do, you had to sit still in church.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Anything. I don't remember my daddy ever whipping me. My mother done that. I was a little bitty skinny weakly fellow when I was growing up, and so my daddy felt sorry for me. He worried about me, in a way. And he fed me on [unclear] cod liver oil to build me up. I've took a [Laughter] many a bottle of Wompose cod liver oil. Honest, I don't remember him ever whipping me. But he didn't have to; my mother kept me straight.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What about religion? Did they take you all to church as children?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes. My daddy was rough, but he went to church and believed in doing right and living right. And I know he was saved before he died, because we had killed some hogs over there at Brandon in the wintertime. My mother had worked them up, and we had worked them up, and made a great big panful of homemade sausage. And cooked the liver and lights back then. The lungs; they called it the lights and the liver. Cook that together and make that good, thick gravy in there. That was really good.
And the last time my daddy went to church over there at Brandon Baptist Church, old John Wrenn was the pastor, and old man Young was the boss carter; he was my Sunday school teacher. And [Laughter] so we went to church that Sunday, and my daddy brought old man Wrenn, the pastor John, home with us, and old man Young, the boss carter, and they had dinner with us. And my daddy said to the preacher, "John, I felt like shouting in church today." [Laughter] He said, "Well, you ought to have

Page 17
went ahead and shouted." Then when he died about two or three weeks later, why, I was standing over him when he drawed his last breath, and the doctor said he was blind and couldn't see. And they had to keep a diaper on him just like a baby. And I was standing over him when he died, and just before he took his last breath he seen the Lord or somebody and he waved his hand just like that, and then it just fell right across his face. And I took a-hold of it and laid it down. That was the last. But I'm satisfied he seen. . . . He was ready to go.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you all belong to the Baptist?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, we belonged to the Baptist church over there at Brandon.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was your mother a Baptist, too?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, she was a Baptist.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did she ever read the Bible at home?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Oh, she set and read the Bible and rocked the cradle with her toe. They had cradles with a rocker on each end just like a rocking chair. She'd set and read her Bible to us children and tell us how to do. [Laughter]
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you all have a garden in all the different mill villages you lived in?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Had a garden at all the different mills. Over at Woodside they had hogpens down in the pasture, and they had cow stalls down all around. And you could keep the cow and raise hogs. I remember over at Woodside one time, that creek goes down through there. It rained so hard till the creek got out of the banks and washed the hogpens and the hogs away, and a lot of people lost their hogs that year. And we moved to Brandon, and we had the cow stall in our backyard, down on the back of the lot. And we kept a cow way up till almost the time I married. After my daddy died, we didn't keep another cow. And I remember [Laughter] we had one old cow, she wouldn't let a man milk

Page 18
her. And whenever my mother'd be sick, my brother would go out there to milk her, and he'd put the bucket between his legs and milk with both hands. And she'd kick and kick that bucket out from between his legs and spill the milk. And when my mother'd get sick, why, then he got to where he'd put on one of her old long dresses that went down to her shoe tops and a old woman's hat [Laughter] and go out there and milk that old cow. And she'd just stand as gentle and still. And he wouldn't say nothing. He just set down there with that dress on. I raised hogs here at Dunean. They had cow stalls and hog pens down here in the pasture, and there used to be a pasture where [unclear] store is up here. And they had one down here. They had a pea field down there. The company planted the peas and let the people go down there and pick them and eat them. Down there where the ballpark is, down there right this side of the creek, before you cross that little old bridge. The company planted the pea field every year.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
ALLEN TULLOS:
Let me ask again about your mother's working. I'm trying to understand a little bit about how women who would be having so many children would go to work and then stop a while and go back, how that worked out.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
They just let them off so long. I think my wife explained to you about her mother working at [unknown] , and they'd have to have somebody to look after the children.
I remember when my mother was drawing in over there at Woodside, we had a black woman that cooked for us and kept house. And back then I wouldn't eat nothing that a black woman cooked. I thought that black would come off in the bread. [Laughter] And my mother gave me a many a dime to go out to the store and buy me a little pack of soda crackers, get a pack for a nickel. And I'd go out there and get me a pack of soda crackers

Page 19
and a can of sardines and eat them rather than eat the black woman's cooking. I thought that black come off in the food, when she was making up bread. A can of sardines was a nickel. We had an old washpot right down there, and had an old rub board to put in the tub and rub and scrub. I've got the old rub board still out there in that little old room on the back porch.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would your mother work up until two or three months before she would have a child and then stop?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, that's the way all of them. . . . Some of them worked up to a week or two before the child was born.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How long would she stay home before she would start back?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Maybe a month or two.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And she could get her same job back.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Get a leave of absence, and then go back to work.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did she do that pretty regularly?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Well, see, I was one of the last corp. [Laughter] I was born, then Henry was born.
ALLEN TULLOS:
So you're not sure about how it was with the earlier ones.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
No. I don't even remember when Henry was born. He and my daddy were right at the same age when they died. Henry didn't live to be quite sixty, and my daddy didn't, either.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did your mother like to do drawing in?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Oh, she loved it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
That takes a lot of eye strain.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did she have to wear glasses or anything like that?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, she wore glasses. I've got her picture in there on the wall. They still have them ladies drawing in down here. And then they draw some of

Page 20
them on that big machine.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How long did you get to go to school?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I just went to the fourth grade. They had to burn the schoolhouse down to get me out of the fourth grade. [Laughter] I'll tell you the story about that churn. There was an old man Pitts lived down in the country when we lived down on Cardinal Street when our children was little. And he brought milk around in big old glass gallon jugs that sold at twenty-five cents a gallon. And when the cream would rise on it, it'd be half cream. And I went to town and bought my wife that churn and lid and dasher, and she would churn and make butter. And buying milk that cheap, you didn't need no cow. But that old man'd bring that milk and butter down there on Cardinal Street, and my wife would churn. The dasher and the lid to the churn are still out yonder. That's been painted. My mother had one larger than that.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Why did you decide not to go any further in school?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I just had work and I wanted to work. And my daddy was paralyzed, and I had to work to help make a living for the family.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did your other brothers and sisters get to go to school more than you did, or not?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I think they went a little higher than I did. But you know, back when I was a young boy, there didn't but very few young people finish high school. All I know of at Woodside was three Smith boys finished high school.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did your brothers and sisters go to work in the mill?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, they went to work.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Where did they start, the different ones?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
My brothers all made loom fixers, and Clyde, the last one that died, run a second hand's job. His name was Clyde Oliver, COD, Clyde Oliver Dodson. And working over there at Poinsett, he helped the second hands over there. And if they had to

Page 21
have a roll of cloth marked off and cut it off before it got a full roll, a full cut, why, he'd go mark it. A woman come to him one day and said, "I want to get you to mark a roll of cloth over there for me. I can't find the second hand." And he just went over there and wrote "C.O.D." on it. And when the second hand seen it, he said, "Don't you know that's an insult to that woman for you to put that on that roll of cloth, ‘C.O.D.’?" [Laughter] He said, "Insult, hell. That's my initials." [Laughter] But my oldest brother, Estes, had several overseer jobs. He was at Judson and all around. He got to be an overseer. One day there was a fellow over there got mad at him and quit, and he told my brother, "If you'll just come on outside the mill, I'll give you a whipping." And so my brother said, "Okay, come on." He just went leading the way. When they got nearly to the door, he tapped my brother on the back and said, "We'd better not do that. I might want to work for you again sometime." [Laughter] My oldest brother went up in Greensboro and took a little old weave room up there. And them people up there didn't have no use for people from South Carolina. And he went up there to a little old woollen mill that was fenced in, and they had sheep in the mill yard. And he went up there and took that little old weave room. He said it was so nasty and filthy and the lint hanging down from the ceiling. And when he went up there, them people sicked bulldogs on him and everything, tried to run him off, and he wasn't the running kind neither. And so he went in there and went to work and got the mill cleaned up and got the looms to running better. They had [unknown] sicked them bulldogs on him when he went to work, and when he left up there he'd got them looms a-running so good and all, and they had got to making more money. When he left, why, they bought him a nice suit of clothes and an overcoat. [Laughter]

Page 22
ALLEN TULLOS:
Tell me a little bit about how you met your wife.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
We lived over there at Brandon on Traction Street. That was over on the other side of Brandon Mill. She lived up on West Avenue, out from Judson Baptist Church, where all them pecan trees are out through there. And me and one of my boyfriends was out walking around one day. The switch track went down behind Brandon Mill. There was a mill pond in the pasture behind Brandon Mill, and we was over there in that pasture looking around at that mill pond. and my wife and another girl come down the track, where the shifter come in there and brought freight and hauled it out. And we seen them girls over there, and we jumped the fence and went over there and met them. [Laughter] And so we took a walk. And that other girl was a great big old ugly girl. I picked out my wife; it was love at the first sight, I reckon. I told him, "Now you can have that big one. If I go to walk, I ain't going with her." So we walked plumb up to Grayson Cemetery and back. And we got to going together regular. And then she got to working down there, and I was a-weaving down there. They had put her down there; she was filling the batteries. We went to going together regular.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How long did you go together before you got married?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
We went together three years, and then we was married three years before Doris was born, the first child.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What would people do back then for entertainment?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Oh, the moving picture shows. You know where you go under the underpass at West Greenville? They had a theater down there. Goodenoughs run it. And we had mill ball teams, too, then. We'd go to mill ballgames. And then that Brandon Theater, we'd go down there.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did they have any string bands around here?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Oh, yes, Brandon had a brass band.

Page 23
ALLEN TULLOS:
That the mill sponsored.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes. Old Roy Young used to blow that old trumpet, and boy, he could really toot that thing.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What about the hillbilly bands, string bands, [unknown] and guitars and banjos?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
There wasn't no hillbilly bands much then. Just brass bands, about like Lawrence Welk has on his program.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You don't remember the Monroe Brothers being around here at all. Bill and Charlie Monroe used to be here a while. Do you remember them?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, I remember them.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you like that kind of music?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I used to like it pretty well, but not. . . . I like that old brass band like Lawrence Welk's and that big old bass horn, "A-boop-boop-boop-boop, boop-boop-boop." There was two girls named White, Vera and Mertis. Before I met my wife and married, I carried them to that theater down there a time or two. And me and the youngest one was standing out there on the outside of the mill at Brandon on the sidewalk a-talking. An old boy come along and says, "Why don't you-all get married?" And she said, "I want a man when I marry." [Laughter] She married a fellow, and he caught an old disease, and then they separated. And then she married another man; he had a cancer, and they cut his arm and shoulder and everything out, and he died. And Mertis, the oldest one, married, and she's dead now. But Vera, the youngest one, my wife and I have been out there to visit her two or three times. We was all friends there at Brandon. She's got one daughter, and right up off of the Easley highway on the left going to Easley she's got a big home. Her daughter's husband got killed on a motorcycle years ago, and left her that big, nice home. There ain't no telling how much that thing's worth, right there on that new Easley highway.

Page 24
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you all go dancing when you were courting?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Just picture shows. Go to walk.
ALLEN TULLOS:
One of the things I wanted to talk some about were all these strikes and things that went on in the textile mills back in the twenties and thirties. Do you remember about any of those?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes. I can take you over to Grayson Cemetery and show you people's tomb rocks, that got killed during the strike, that worked in the mill.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Which mill?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Judson. I wasn't working over there. But there's one tall rock like a tree over there, over on this side, with a notch, limb has been cut off? I've forgot his name, but it's over there on the rock. He got killed. There was some more got killed.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How did they get killed?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
This flying squad[ron], you know. They had got to fighting and killing, shooting one another at Judson.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you see any of that yourself?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
When they struck down here, I went in there and worked on. And the flying squad[ron] come down there, and they had windows all around the weave room of the mill, and they opened. Steel windows that pushed out, and then a rod hung in notches.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Which mill is this one?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Dunean down here. And that last strike they had down here . . .
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was that when they had the flying squadron?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, the flying squadron come.
ALLEN TULLOS:
1934.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
They had brought big boxes of new picker sticks up there and put them there in the weave room. And they had told us, "Now if them flying squad

Page 25
goes to sticking their head in them windows, start cracking heads, and the company'll stand behind you." [Laughter] I was fixing looms, and one of my women weavers got to crying. I said, "Now listen, gal, don't you cry. If they start sticking heads in them windows, you help me start cracking heads like they told us to do." [Laughter] But whenever they thought the flying squad was going to break the National Guards' line, the captain or whatever he was over them told them to load their guns, and every one of them guns clicked at the same time. And he says, "Anybody crosses the line, shoot him down." That's what kept them out. They had a line of National Guards down there, all the way down the side of the mill.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you see that?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I was standing right there with them on the outside of the door.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Outside of the mill.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes. That upper door up here, that office, you know. There was a door there.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You were in working in the mill. The mill was still running.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, it was running then. It was just about half and half, belonged to the union and. . . .
Well, I joined a union one time, and I seen I was wrong, and so I just fell out and turned agin them whenever I seen what was coming up to me. I had a family, and I had to work for them and all that. And I knew the trouble my brother-in-law had got in over here at Mills Mill when they had that strike over there.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What kind of trouble did he get in?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
He went to a union meeting one night, and they appointed him as head of the, to keep the books and everything. And so he lost his job and like to went crazy and couldn't get a job nowhere; he was blackballed.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How did the company find out that he was in . . .

Page 26
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
They knew it. They didn't hide nothing. And then finally he lost his job, and he went all over the whole country and didn't eat nothing but maybe one little old sandwich a day, and he like to went crazy.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And no body would hire him because they . . .
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
No body wouldn't hire him.
ALLEN TULLOS:
They had found out that he had joined the union.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
But they finally took him back at Mills Mill, because he was a good fellow. And he had to sign that paper, "I'll never put my signature to another union paper," and they hired him back.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What was his name?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
John Calvin Amick. He married my sister Inez.
ALLEN TULLOS:
He's not still alive, is he?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
No, he's been dead for years. Oh, yes, he went back to work over there. He was a roller shop man, covered them rollers that went on the spinning frame. And then after he went back to work, he went back to work in the slasher room.
ALLEN TULLOS:
That must have been in 1929 or something like that.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
It was well back, yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
So you knew about that already before this other one came along.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, that was before this other one happened around here.
ALLEN TULLOS:
In '34.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
But that at Judson was way back when I was just a little fellow. Way back years ago.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Where those people got killed?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Oh, really. It was when you were a little boy.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, I was a little fellow. I wasn't even working then.

Page 27
ALLEN TULLOS:
Who told you about that?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I knew all about it when it was going on.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What happened?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
They just had strikes and got to fighting, and some of them got killed.
ALLEN TULLOS:
I hadn't heard about that one before. I'll have to look into that one. That must have been 1921 or '22. You were about sixteen or seventeen years old, or were you that old yet?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
We was living over there at Brandon. I was just a young lad.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Not yet working in the mill.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
No. My wife could tell you that fellow's name that got killed, or one of them, I know, where that big tall. . . . It's way up on this side. You could drive by around there. It's right on the curve, that big rock tree trunk. You could go by there and get the date off that thing.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Which cemetery is it in?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Grayson. You go out this White Horse Road and turn in there and go down there on that first road that goes around, and go on around the curve, and it's right close to the drive. It'd have the date on it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What else do you remember about the 1934 strike, when the flying squadron came in? You say some people had joined the union before.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
The ones that joined, it finally just died down, and it passed away.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When was it that you joined up?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
It was way back during that flying squadron, but I seen where I was wrong. I knew I had to . . .
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

Page 28
ALLEN TULLOS:
How long had you been a member of it before the flying squadron came through?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Not too awful long.
ALLEN TULLOS:
A year, or half a year?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Something like that. One thing, they had some old. . . . Course I wasn't. . . . We had a meeting uptown one day upstairs in a building on the corner of Main and Washington. I went up there, and there was some old ignorant fellows. I wasn't nothing to brag on about having an education. [Laughter] And one old fellow got up and says, "I think somebody ought to go up there to New York and insult them people about it." He didn't say "consult" them. I thought, "Well, now, it's time for me to drop out." [Laughter]
ALLEN TULLOS:
Who was in charge of the union?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I don't remember their names.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Were they local people?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes. But that old fellow that got up and said that was down about Conestee somewhere.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was he one of the officials?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
No, he was just a member, but they'd give you a chance to speak what you thought.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Talk a little bit about the kind of work that you did, working with these machines and how you liked that or what you thought about it. You said you had come up with some ideas, invented some things. Tell me a little bit about how you learned about the different machines you worked with.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I done just like my daddy told me. I learned a whole lot just by watching people. And then there was some old loom fixers down there. We had a night school down there, and we didn't get paid to learn to fix looms

Page 29
then like they do now, these young folks. They give these young folks now time off, a couple hours to go to school down there in the mill to learn how to fix looms. Then we was a-working ten hours a day, and we'd go back down there at night and work. We'd tie on warps and start them up and have them ready to. . . . They were just running one ten-hour shift a day then.
ALLEN TULLOS:
That was at Woodside?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Down here.
ALLEN TULLOS:
At Dunean.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
They didn't none of them run but one shift back then. We'd go to school down there, and then they had a night school at Parker High. I went to loom fixing school at Parker High a long time at night, and they had a teacher over there. Down here at Dunean, after working ten hours a day I'd go back up there at night nearly every night and put in rocker shafts [unknown] and pick shafts [unknown] and cam shafts [unknown] and crankshafts and rebuild dobby heads and tie on warps and rebuild frictions—like a clutch in the car, you know—and all that stuff. And after working ten hours, go back to work till ten and eleven o'clock at night, and never got a dime for it, see. And I picked it up from them old loom fixers. I'd ask them questions and help them do things and run their job. And there was one old man down there, old man Moore; he didn't want you to touch his job. But old man O.B. Braswell and old man Bogan and Roy Mills would let you help them, and show you. But after I got learned, why, them old men would come to me and ask me questions. I remember that. [Laughter] Old man. . . . I called his name and done forgot it. Anyway, he come after me one day. He says, "Dodson, I've got a loom up there. I've rebuilt the box motion, put new lifting arms and everything on it, new studs, and it's a-binding. It won't work." That was old man O.B. Braswell. He says, "That long stud in there. As the long arm worked up and down, then

Page 30
the short one'd work. That thing's a-binding, and I can't get it to free up to where it'll run to save my life. Come down here and see if you can show me what's wrong with it and help me with it." I went down there and looked at it, and that big old long stud they worked on, and then the shorter one where the shorter one fastened on that long arm. And he had a brand-new stud, that old big long one. I looked at it. And that stud had a flat place on it where it stuck in the loom side where it wouldn't turn. And a nut and then a washer was on the other side on the inside. I said, "Mr. Braswell, take that stud out and turn it half over and tighten it back up." And he did and tightened it up, and that thing worked just like a charm. And then them little feeler tips, I got up a patent on them. And they run them things for years. I didn't ever get it patented. I just made it. And I talked to my kidney doctor about getting it patented, and he said, "Well, it'll cost you a thousand dollars or more, maybe, to get it patented. And then it'll do like other things, it'll get obsolete and play out and then something take the place of it." And I made them a long time. I'd take fifty cents and made eleven dollars out of it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Were they to go on . . .
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Feel the filling. The bobbin, there was a bunch wound around and around and around here, about that long. And that feeler hit right this side of that, and when all this filling up here had run out, all but this bunch, it'd slide on that quill and make it change and put in another bobbin to fill it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You know what they called the midget feeler.
[Interruption]
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
They hand-threaded them old box looms. They had a spindle down in the shuttle. And [unknown] take out the empty quill and put a full one on there and push it back down and thread it up and put it in the loom.

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ALLEN TULLOS:
And then you talked about those suck-eye shuttles.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
That was way back in my mother's days.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you remember when they changed over from those hand-changing looms to the automatic looms?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes. See, I was running six hand-changing looms at Judson when I married. They had a box with extra shuttles in it, little old, just to fit the shuttles. Keep about two extra shuttles. But it was a single box loom, didn't run but one shuttle.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Who made that?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
It was made by Crompton-Knowles. [unknown] box supposed to be a Crompton-Knowles loom.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you remember when they changed to automatic?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
They had Crompton-Knowles and box looms, like we explained the other day, run four shuttles.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What I'm trying to understand is, when they changed on this Draper loom or on these box looms, and you could make about twice as much cloth as you could before. . . .
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Oh, yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How did that show up in the wages that a weaver earned? Did the wages go up twice as much, or how did they adjust for that difference?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
All that improvement just made the weavers run more looms. Where you was a-running six looms, why, they put you on twenty-four or thirty.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Didn't the weavers object sometimes to this new invention coming in?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
There was a lot of new inventions. Them old Crompton-Knowles box looms, I run them where they changed the shuttle and all automatically.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Wouldn't some of the weavers object to this new invention where it speeded their work up but they didn't make any more money?

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GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
They put more on them, and [they] didn't make any more money.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Wouldn't the weavers get mad?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Run them for the same wages. But there wasn't much said about it till they just got to overloading them, putting thirty and forty and fifty and sixty, and some of these plaid mills, I think, went up to over 100 looms. I reckon you know that.
ALLEN TULLOS:
That's what they called the stretchout.
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, stretchout system. But, of course, they had battery fillers to fill their batteries for them. But I run them single-box looms at Judson. I had an old uncle over there that was seventy-five years old, and he run six of them little old looms. He'd trot up and down there like a young man, old Uncle George Whittaker. He wasn't too tall, and he'd just trot from one to the other, weaving over there at seventy-five years old.
[Interruption]
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I know my wife and her daddy and sister went up in North Carolina and went to weaving, and they just run two looms. And they was running six and eight down here. They went up there and stayed a while, and then they come back. We was going together then. We'd write to one another.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you see any accidents in the mill back in the 1920's or '30's?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Well, a few. Sometime they'd throw that shuttle out. It ain't been too many years ago a shuttle flew out down there in that little weave room and knocked a woman's eye out. One flew out and hit me under my glasses and knocked them off. They was a-hanging down like that on my ear. It just happened right to hit me. And I remember when I was a-weaving over in the back alley, I was a-working on a loom one day on the other side of the mill, and something [claps hand] hit me on the back of the head right back there. I turned around, and I was fixing to slap the hell out of. . . .[unclear] [Laughter]

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And I looked down, and the shuttle had hit me in the back of the head. The point didn't hit me [unknown] . It just hit me like you'd take a stick and hit me. I shook my head, and I thought somebody. . . . [Laughter] I thought, "Well, I don't know nobody that's mad at me," and I looked around. [Laughter] And that shuttle was laying there on the floor. And I remember one day down there I was down there in the alley, and the shuttle flew out of a loom down here, and there was one of them posts in the weaver alley, and it hit that post and glanced and went on down the alley and knocked a hole in the cloth down there below the [unclear]. You could stick that can through that hole where the shuttle went through there. [Laughter]
ALLEN TULLOS:
Were you working in the mills when they had the big belts on the . . .
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Oh, yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you remember any accidents with people getting caught in the belts?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
They have hit a few people. That brought back something else to me about Woodside. When I was at Woodside, they had the motors up over on a spare floor. And they had great big motors, and one motor would pull maybe half of a weave room. And the shaft was overhead, and the belts run up from the looms up to them overhead pulleys on them shafts. The motor was on the spare floor, and the water house was right over there. And then you'd go in and go around them steel hickey, you know, where people can't see in there. Go around one and then go around on the other side and go in the water house. I went in there one day at Woodside and just got around that thing, and something hit that thing behind me, go "Wham!" And I went and peeked back around; that big old wide belt that wide had broke, and the end of it flew over there and hit. If I'd have been a second or two later, it was liable to kill me. But it hit that thing. It sounded like it had knocked it down.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When a big belt like that broke, it would shut down the whole row of looms.

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GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Yes, it just quit. It'd shut down several weaver alleys of looms. And I remember there at Woodside they had that great big old steam engine that pulled that whole mill. And it had a wheel on it, back in the middle of the mill on the back side. Oh, that wheel was huge. It was big around and went up high as about the second floor. It had big old rope belts on it. You could stand up there in the window-like opening and look down in there, and that big old wheel pulled that whole mill. It run by steam, a steam engine.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Who would fire the boilers?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
They had black men that fired the boilers. And then I remember [Laughter] back when I was a boy, they had a great big old trestle there, way up high as this porch. And they'd bring them carloads of coal in there, with a drop bottom. And old man Baker was the outside bossman. And us boys'd see a carload of coal come in, and we'd run to Mr. Baker and say, "Mr. Baker, how about letting me unload that carload of coal up on that trestle?" And we got five dollars a carload to unload it. We'd take that big old wrench and let them down. It'd pour out on there. But if you could get one where there wasn't much coal under it, why, you didn't have much trouble. But it'd pour out, and then you'd shovel it out so the rest'd come pouring out. And I remember one day I had that wrench, and it'd come down with a crank on it. I went to let the bottom down, and that thing slipped and hit me right there and knocked the breath slap out of me. But it didn't knock me off. I happened to just hold on, but I was lucky. And so I went ahead after I recuperated [Laughter] and unloaded it. And then one time there come a load of coal in a carbox. And I was little; that was too much for me. I got it, and my daddy went up there that night and helped me unload it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Were there any other black people involved around the mill besides firing up the boilers?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
Not too many. Used to, back at Woodside everybody. . . . I had a wood stove when I moved in this house. Back then they had that four-foot

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cord wood come in, and us boys would get Mr. Baker to let us unload that. And he'd pay us to unload a carload and pay us to stack it. Oh, we stacked that wood up high as that porch there. A stack of it, oh, as far as from here to the other side of that house over there, several stacks. And they sold it to the help.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you ever think about leaving the work in the mill and doing anything else?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I worked at a meat market when I was a little fellow, before I went to work in the mill. I worked over there at Tenth Street. You know where Parker High is? I worked at a meat market right on that other corner over there.
ALLEN TULLOS:
But did you ever think of doing any other kind of work than mill work? Did you ever want to do anything else?
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I just wanted a job to make money. Old Bob [unclear] run that market, and he drank. So he'd fill that walk-in cooler full of meat and go off and get on a drunk and stay gone two weeks, and I'd run that market for him. And I'd get that meat down and cut it and sell it to people, wrap it up and weigh it, and they paid me. And he'd come back and say, "Well, you done a good job." And I remember [Laughter] he had big old boxes of eggs people'd bring in from the country fresh. And there was a drunk man come in there one day, and he said, "I'm going to suck some eggs now. You keep an account of them." And it sounds like a lie, but that bugger stood there with his knife and pecked a little hole in the little end, and he sucked three dozen eggs and throwed the shells out in front of the door, out in the street. [Laughter] He got through sucking, he paid me and went on out. Just messed up the yard. I had to go out there and clean that up. [Laughter] [unknown] [Interruption]

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GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
That woman was weaving on my job. The humidity would get heavy and on that single end, why. . . . I kept a piece of paraffin wax in this little old overall pocket. And when the shuttle wouldn't drive up, I'd just take that paraffin wax and make a little pencil mark right in the middle of the back of the box. That shuttle just boxed as pretty as you ever seen. And she caught me one day. Said, "I told my husband you could fix a loom the quickest of anybody I ever seen, and I never could catch you doing nothing to it. I caught you today." [Laughter] Them old worsted looms, I could almost make them call me "Daddy." [Laughter] [unknown] [Interruption]
GEDDES ELAM DODSON:
I got up a check strap on them old looms, and it worked just like a charm. You know how back then, a ballplayer'd catch a ball, he'd give back to it to keep it from burning [his hand]? When that shuttle'd come in the box, that check strap would give back on you and keep it from coming in there so solid. I made a check strap and changed it from the old one they had, and they run that for years till they tore them looms out, and I never got a penny out of that. And then I went down there in the loom shop, and the government got to making them [unclear] Drapers. They take off like lightning. You touch that levers, you're gone. The clutch, everything is in the motor. The government made them put a lock on the back , so if the loom fixer was around behind it up under there working on it, the weaver couldn't start it up on him. They had a hickey back there with a big old round stud, and they had drilled a hole in it and turned that latch over and put a lock in that hole, and lock it when they was working behind it, and they couldn't start it up. And they had to drill them holes in there to put that lock on there. And they had two fellows down there in the loom shop working on them. They had a hand vise. They'd screw that thing up in there, and one had to hold the vise while

Page 37
the other one'd drill the holes. And I made a hickey to put that thing in and hold it and take and drill them holes in there. It cut a man out, see. That hickey's still sitting down there on the work bench. I made my drill press out of a piece of channel iron and then put a piece of pipe across and put another stud down there and put a cap screw in it to hold it. And it had another piece to hold it angled.
END OF INTERVIEW