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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Letha Ann Sloan Osteen, June 8, 1979. Interview H-0254. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Osteen's family moved to a mill town in search of better wages

Osteen's father was one of many parents who moved so that his whole family could work in a textile mill. Working together, they earned more money than they could on the farm, but it was still doubtful whether the mill offered a better lifestyle.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Letha Ann Sloan Osteen, June 8, 1979. Interview H-0254. 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:
Well, you wouldn't know how it was that your father decided to come to work in the mill at all, do you. I mean, did the farming get bad?
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Oh my cousin talked him in. Said they could make more money, all them children working in that mill. I've heard my daddy say several times, said, "What I should a done is take my foot to Willie and a kicked him out when he was talking to me about breaking up in the country." But he found his mistake after too late.
GEORGIA:
Well I don't know, his children learned a trade.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Yeah.
GEORGIA:
And when they didn't want the mill, they went back to the farm.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
That's right. Well they didn't want the mill.
GEORGIA:
You had one sister that was always-they moved back from the mill and always lived on a farm. But Mama and her oldest sister stuck to the mill.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Well there was just better money to be made. . . .
GEORGIA:
If you wanted to starve to death, go out in the country and walk miles to wash and iron for people or something like that. Or get out in the field and work for maybe a quarter a day or fifty cents a day.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How was it that your father's cousin came into it. Why did he get so interested in this?
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Oh I don't know. He always visited my daddy.
GEORGIA:
Well he was somebody that I guess just went to the mills when they first began opening.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Yeah.
GEORGIA:
And maybe the first mill, he went to it, and he liked the mill work there. He trained himself on up.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Toward the end, he'd pick good help for the company. He was what they called a middle man or something. He could hire and he could fire.
GEORGIA:
Well the mills used to like to hire big families, and all of us work.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Yeah, I know it.
GEORGIA:
Now there was a good many people back when I was working in the mill. Well I went to work in '27, and there was some of 'em down there with six and eight children in the mill working.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
I know it.
GEORGIA:
Five, four. Their daddy's or mother's never did work, not where they had them big families. The children who was old enough to work did.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And would the fathers in the family work most of the time?
GEORGIA:
Yeah.