Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Alice Grogan Hardin, May 2, 1980. Interview H-0248. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Leaving the farm for mill work

Hardin and her family started mill work when making a living on their farm became too difficult. She recalls her first day at the mill in this excerpt, and that she and her sisters preferred it to farm work.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Alice Grogan Hardin, May 2, 1980. Interview H-0248. 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:
How old were you when you all moved into the Woodside Cotton Mill?
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
I was fifteen.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was that when you started to work?
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
Yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You were the oldest.
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
Yes, I went to work, and my three oldest brothers went to work, and Daddy went to work. Then Mother went to work through dinner hours.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What would she do during the dinner hours?
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
She filled batteries in the weave shop.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And she would do that every day.
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
Yes, every day.
ALLEN TULLOS:
From twelve to one?
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
From eleven till one. They worked two hours. See, they'd start going out in the mill at different times, and she'd go on different sets of batteries to relieve the one that was going off for their lunch.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When you went into the mill, had you ever been in a mill before?
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
Hadn't ever been in it in my life.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Can you remember that first . . .
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
I remember the first day I went in that mill. Spinning was what I went to work at, in the spinning room. And I put up an end on a spinning frame, the first time I ever went in the mill. So I knew that's what I wanted to do, and that's what I did. My daddy worked in the weave shop, and I had two brothers that worked in the carding department, and I had another brother that worked in the weave shop.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Had your father ever done mill work before?
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
No, not before then. Didn't any of us had done any before then.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How was it that he got this job for you all, or how did he find out about it?
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
We lived right around, not too far from Greenville, all of our life. Things had got tough in the country the way they started doing, so he just went and asked for a job, and they give us a job and a house. Back then I think they charged two dollars a week for a house, as well as I remember.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you remember that it was any kind of harder work or different hours you had to get adjusted to, or anything different about working in the mill from working on the farm?
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
Us children liked the mill work then better, because when we [had] worked our hours, we was off. And we had our chores to do on the farm.
ALLEN TULLOS:
So it seemed a little easier to work in the mill?
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
Yes, we thought it was easier. We had more time to do what we wanted to.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you remember any other incidents from the very first times that you all went into the mill, anything that your brothers or your father might have said, or how they reacted to it at first?
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
I don't think my father liked it at all, because he had rather be on the farm. But I think my brothers might have liked it all right. They never did say too much about it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
So the reason that you all came in . . .
ALICE GROGAN HARDIN:
Farming, where you rented, was getting difficult to make a living. That's the reason we moved to the mill.