Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Evelyn Gosnell Harvell, May 27, 1980. Interview H-0250. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Starting mill work after completing eighth grade

Harvell left school after the eighth grade, eager to begin work. Her mother, a skilled weaver, taught her daughter her craft, and Harvell began weaving unbleached cloth into sheets and pillowcases.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Evelyn Gosnell Harvell, May 27, 1980. Interview H-0250. 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:
You stayed on in school through the eighth grade.
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
Yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you want to go on some more?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
No, I didn't. [laughter] I wanted to go to work. I think when you were back then at that age, you wanted to… I wish I had went on, though. So I went to work, and I went down here and learned to weave, and I just loved it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How did you get your first job?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
My mother worked, and I went in there and stayed with her. You'd go in when you wanted to and come out when you wanted to, and after school I'd go in and learn. She taught me.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was it hard for you to learn that?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
No.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was she a pretty good teacher?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
Oh, she was a good weaver. Real good.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What does it take to be a good weaver?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
Be interested in your job.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you have to have any kind of special skills or abilities with your hands or eyes, or move fast?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
Oh, yes. You weave with your eyes and your hands and your feet and [laughter] your whole body, yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What are some things that weavers can do to keep themselves out of getting in trouble with their looms and their cloth coming through? Can you kind of keep an eye ahead on them?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
Oh, yes, you can work ahead of your job.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Could you talk a little bit about how you do that?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
Keep your mind on your work. Know your job; know your looms.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How many looms was your mother running?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
I think she had eight.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What kind were those?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
I don't remember just what it was.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Were those the box looms?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
No, she was on plain Drapers.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did it have an automatic bobbin-changing machine?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
Yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And someone would come by and fill up the …
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
Fill up the batteries. Had batteries, and it would put the filling in the shuttle. Of course, that went out of date. They put in magazines. [Interruption]
ALLEN TULLOS:
That was the kind of looms that you learned first to operate,
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
Yes.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How long did it take you before they gave you looms of your own, after you had started?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
About a month or two, probably.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How many would they give you to run?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
Some were four, and some were eight. It depends on the styles that you have.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What were you all making when you started?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
I wasn't making very much. I think it was just maybe eight or nine dollars or ten.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What kind of cloth?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
We was making just plain cloth.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you know what it would be used for?
EVELYN GOSNELL HARVELL:
It would be used for sheets and pillowcases, I think, back then. Unbleached cloth, they'd call it.