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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Paul and Pauline Griffith, May 30, 1980. Interview H-0247. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Strategies for increasing production in a textile mill

Paul and Pauline Griffith describe various tactics textile workers used to either increase their production or to create the illusion of increased production. While this could result in higher wages, they argue it also resulted in higher expectations of workers, thus rendering it more difficult for certain workers to get by. Their comments reveal interesting tensions and workplace dynamics in the Judson Mill.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Paul and Pauline Griffith, May 30, 1980. Interview H-0247. 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

ALLEN TULLOS:
So there were things that you could do to make them run better?
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
Yeah, there were many things.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What were those? Could you name some things?
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
Well, I'd go along behind my looms and, in behind the drop wires, sometimes maybe some lint would fall back there. And I would let the loom run on and take my scissors and get that lint out. You know, they blow the looms off and things like that, and sometimes there would be some kind of a knot in the warp, and I'd work and get that seen about, before it would break the end, and keep the loom a-going. I worked on the back of my looms a good bit and that helped it to keep going.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would there be people who would try to make more cuts, or make more cloth by working when they were supposed to be having lunch, or trying to get started earlier than the real time to start up? Were there some people who tried to just make more than other people by running longer, or extra time, or things like that?
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
Yes, there were. Sometimes when they had the first shift, they'd go in early and start up. And then, after, in the later years, when they put pick clocks on, there was people that would get them a key to that clock and they would turn them things. I know for a time I filled magazines-when I first went back to work, you know, so that I could kind of get on to the weaving again-and there was one fella, he said, "I like you, Pauline." I said, "Well why?" And he said, "Well, you tend to your own business. They's some of them that'd tell on me for turning the pick clock." And I said, "Well, I'll tell you what. You're a sinner and I'm a Christian. You're going to have to give an account of the life you lived and I am, too. What you do, that's between you and the Lord. I'm not bothering your business." But he would. He'd just talk to you filling magazines or batteries and he'd turn them clocks, and he made more than any of them around there. But he got saved before he died. He died with cancer. And I'd talk to him about his soul and he'd listen to me, but he wouldn't let a lot of people talk to him. If he didn't have confidence in their life, he'd just cut them off.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did he make this key to turn the clock?
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
He had one, but I don't know where he got it. But he'd stand there. He'd just flip that thing, and he'd be talking to the magazine battery filler all the time. And the looms, a lot of them would be standing, they'd wouldn't be making their production, but he was.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What effect would that have? Say, somebody who started up their loom early or worked extra? Would the company then readjust the price at all so that everybody. . .do you see what I mean? If people worked extra they would make more money, and there might be the idea that the workers could actually work faster.
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
They would expect more production out of the other people. They made it harder on the others. It really did.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was there anything that the other workers would do about that, to try to keep that from happening? Would they go and talk to these people?
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
Well, a person like that you can't really reason with them. They're going to do what they want to, and you just have to do your best.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Well, I guess in general people might have had a certain way of doing things, and when you came into the weaving room to start, you picked up what everyone else was doing and, in order to be a good weaver, you tried to do like everybody else.
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
Yes, skills. It's a skill. You tried to improve all the time.