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Title: Oral History Interview with George R. Elmore, March 11, 1976. Interview H-0266. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Elmore, George R., interviewee
Interview conducted by Glass, Brent
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 164 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© 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:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-05-17, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with George R. Elmore, March 11, 1976. Interview H-0266. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0266)
Author: Brent Glass
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with George R. Elmore, March 11, 1976. Interview H-0266. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0266)
Author: George R. Elmore
Description: 183 Mb
Description: 44 p.
Note: Interview conducted on March 11, 1976, by Brent Glass; recorded in Durham, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Patricia Crowley.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, 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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Interview with George R. Elmore, March 11, 1976.
Interview H-0266. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Elmore, George R., interviewee


Interview Participants

    GEORGE R. ELMORE, interviewee
    BRENT GLASS, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
BRENT GLASS:
Since Hugh Brinton has done a lot of the work on your life, I thought I would mention a few things—or have you mention a few things—that had not come up in the interview. First of all, I don't know if you ever mentioned your birthdate and your birthplace.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I was born in Gaston County September 3, 1902.
BRENT GLASS:
Whereabouts in Gaston County?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
What they call the New Hope Road; it's down just below orthopedic hospital. At that time it was Lowell, Route 1. My grandfather had come in there—well, I told him that before—and bought up that land when he came back. He was about twenty years old when he got out of the Civil War. And he came in and worked for a man about a year, and then married my grandmother. And he started buying up land. All the children when they'd get married, he'd give them an acre or two of land and they'd build. They had a sawmill. The house that we lived in, I think my father said he paid for one day's labor. The timber and every-thing was cut and sawed at my grandfather's; and he had a brother-in-law that helped him put the roof on, put up the joists and one thing and another. And they had built that house.
BRENT GLASS:
So in other words it was all family-done; no outside labor was hired?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
My Dad had it; he was the oldest of all of those children. And he had the store, had the telephone exchange and he had this blacksmith's shop.
BRENT GLASS:
Was this sawmill by a creek? Was that how it was run?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No, it was down, and run by steam engine. And they had a well; it was down on one of the farms, by the side of the road.

Page 2
BRENT GLASS:
Did they do anything else besides saw?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
We owned a cotton gin (my grandfather did), and he had these shedding machines and thrashers; they went around. In fact, when I begin to remember it (when I was six or seven years old) he had all of the hired equipment.
BRENT GLASS:
In that area?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. And I don't know whether he went around with a pea thrasher, but one of my uncles had it.
BRENT GLASS:
What kind of thrasher?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Pea thrasher.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh, pea thrasher; yes.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Of course I remember when the first thrashing machines, shredding they were pulling that with a steam engine; and they had to watch on account of the sparks setting the barns and the hay on fire. But when I was about eight years old he bought a single-cylinder International gas engine. It had a great big flywheel on it, and it was a Magneta-Sparkin. I had quite a lot of experience with that thing before it was finally done away with.
BRENT GLASS:
You worked at the sawmill and with the… ?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No, I didn't work at the sawmill; I wasn't big enough when it was running. We had there a sawmill; then we had a cotton gin. And that gin was one gin; and I think they could maybe gin two bales a day (that's how slow it was). And if I'm not mistaken the press, you had to screw it down more or less by hand.
BRENT GLASS:
Hmm, they didn't even have a horse-powered press?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I don't know; I don't recall the gin. And of course everything

Page 3
was fed by hand; there was no such thing as suction on those. We had to pick them up in baskets and put that in to hand-feed the gin.
BRENT GLASS:
So then your grandfather and your father lived on property that they owned?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. I don't know how much… I think my grandfather had … oh, it was three-quarters of a mile on one side of the road and a half a mile on the other, and he went back half a mile to the south away from the road and at least a half a mile back the other way; we had that three-quarter mile. I don't know, he must have had … pretty close to a thousand acres. I guess a mile square is 840 acres, isn't it?
BRENT GLASS:
I think it might be 640: I think, I'm not sure. But you think he had a little bit larger than that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, he had the other farm down on the mountain at one time. Some of those places ran back quite deep. And I know two or three of my uncles took farms off of it.
BRENT GLASS:
How large was the farm that you lived on? Do you know?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, the section there (we thought it was ours) was only twenty-eight acres; but we farmed, my Dad went out and farmed on shares a lot of land for other people—especially corn. In 1914, '15, '16 we took on my grandfather's three-horse crop; I guess that must have been two or three hundred acres in that part. We took to farming on shares on all of that; had hired hands. My brother (I had a brother that's three and a half years older)…
BRENT GLASS:
And you hired other people to work it with you?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh yes. My Dad was working away; he was working away then as

Page 4
a carpenter whenever they started to build in Cramerton. [unknown] first was Maysworth: that was two and a half miles—that wasn't about two miles across the path, if you went that way across the mountain. I know he helped build that house—have you been to Cramerton?
BRENT GLASS:
Yes.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
You know that house on top of the mountain? That used to be, when it was first built, Maysworth. They had a water reservoir up on that. And of course he built around that, and that water reservoir became a swimming pool. My Dad helped build that in 1913 or '14. They changed the name of it to Mayworth. Worth pulled out and went to Ranlow and built one or two mills. Old man Oramer, he made his money out of a humidifier. And he came in there and bought it up, and he changed the Mayworth and made it to Cramerton.
BRENT GLASS:
Right. Now, when you were living on the farm you lived on the farm until 1916? Is that right?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, I never left that house until 1932.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh, you never really lived in Cramerton, did you?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I never did live in Cramerton; it was two and a half miles. We moved in in 1917 to Groves Mill in Gastonia, in January—it was 1917. When April came my mother just couldn't stand it, and she took all of them and went back to the farm to get her garden (she was a great gardener). And my sister and brother and I stayed on. It was a big five-room house, and it was new. Nobody had ever lived in it. Then my brother, he took off and went to that powder plant near Petersburg; my father was up there. That was after the war had broke out. So my sister and I stayed on in that house until September, and we went back to

Page 5
the country. And in the meantime, along about April or May of '17, we bought a four ninety Chevrolet. Of course we all contributed and paid; and I think we paid about $450. for a 1917… So we went back to the country.
BRENT GLASS:
Back in 1917?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes, in September.
BRENT GLASS:
And after that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I went to work in Cramerton. My sister, then she started rooming. I boarded the first week, but I went back home.
BRENT GLASS:
Why?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, it wasn't but two and a half miles, and heck, I could walk it in thirty minutes. I think I had to pay three dollars for room and board, and that was too much out here.
BRENT GLASS:
Three dollars a week?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Let's go back to when you first were growing up on the farm, for a minute. About how large a farmhouse did you live in? How large a home? You had a large family.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. It was six rooms. Along about 1909 or '10 my father built one more room; that made it six rooms.
BRENT GLASS:
And did you have any other people living there with you beside your immediate family?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No.
BRENT GLASS:
No grandparents or uncless or aunts or anything like that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No, no.
BRENT GLASS:
Did your father rent out land himself to croppers?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
We never owned but one acre of land.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh, I see.

Page 6
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
My grandfather deeded that to him, and that eventually ended up in my and my sister's name. And, of course, my older brother, we sold it to him about ten years ago. But it's out of the family now—the only place that's still left.
BRENT GLASS:
It's still there?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. It's been done over. My brother got it (the one that lives in Washington); he got a hold of it and he put aluminum siding—not aluminum siding, but this asbestos siding—on it. He's been manipulated the last couple of years. My first cousin and her husband who are living next door, they acquired it.
BRENT GLASS:
What kinds of responsibilities did the children and parents have on the farm when you were growing up? What did your father do, for instance?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well for years he did some of the plowing. Most of the time he would get a hired hand and telling them… I got up to about nine or ten years old and I started to make a supplemental plowhand. And of course my brother three and a half years older, the burden fell on him.
BRENT GLASS:
Because your father was out doing carpentry?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes, and of course he ran that shop. He lost the store, and it was moved down to the crossroad. He could do most any kind of woodwork. And when he was a carpenter he did the finished work, such as hanging doors and finishing off cabinets and things of that kind. And of course he could rebuild and make a wagon, a buggy.
BRENT GLASS:
Did he earn very good wages during this time?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I wouldn't think so. His big problem was that he started drinking when he was about twenty-eight. Then he'd get a little bit and order him a gallon of liquor from Richmond.

Page 7
BRENT GLASS:
Richmond, Virginia?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. North Carolina was dry. And he would stay with that. And all his friends and everybody else would gather around the shop until they run out of liquor before things straightened up again. And of course if anybody else gets a gallon of liquor everybody got in on it. Back in that time you didn't say, "This man drinks;" we would point out to one or two men in the neighborhood: "He does not drink." To be a man in that town at all you had to be a man… And they drank, most of them, 'til they got drunk. But there never was too much trouble; all of them had grown up together. And it was quite a community there, six miles below Gastonia. Now it's build up, it's solid; but it was called Elmore Crossroads.
BRENT GLASS:
What kinds of things did your mother do around the house? Was she a hard-working… ?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh my, I could tell you: she did the milking, she did the gardening. And she helped hoe and pick cotton in the field, and raised those kids. She planted all kinds of orchards; she had a green thumb. She was a whiz-bang. She wasn't but seventeen years old when she married my father.
My father's first wife died—well, most of the dates we got are here. My dad was born 12/3/66. He married Nannie Armstrong 12/30/91. Then he married my mother 1/21—no, my mother was born 1/21/80, and she married my father 1/13/98. She was almost eighteen, just lacked seven days.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, I can copy of lot of that later on, OK? I wanted to ask you what were some of the things that you would do with your father on the farm when you were living on the farm?

Page 8
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, until 1919 mostly I did some plowing. Of course I picked cotton and did hoeing.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you ever spend much time with your father?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Not out working.
BRENT GLASS:
Or just around the house? Was he home much?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, I helped him an awful lot when he was shrinking tires, and anything in the shop. I had to take out the bolts, my brother and I; and I got to where I was doing a lot of it: took the bolts out of the wheels, took off the tires to shrink them.
BRENT GLASS:
This is in the blacksmith's shop?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. And I'd help with any old job like that. And of course I was my dad's pet, and when he went off somewheres to town (to Belmont and Gastonia or Lowell or things), well he'd take me with him. From the time I was three or four years old I was his pet.
BRENT GLASS:
Why was that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I don't know.
BRENT GLASS:
Did your father read to you at home or anything like that, or play ball?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
He was thirty-five years old when I was born, and he never did take much interest in sports even in his younger days. They didn't start having recreational sports around there until I was a small kid: they began to get some baseball in the horse and cow pasture.
BRENT GLASS:
How about your mother? What kind of things would you do with her? Did you spend much time with her, helping in the kitchen or anything like that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Not much. My job was mostly the wood pile. I had to see

Page 9
that we had wood and stovewood. And when they would wash I had to draw water; I'd have to go to the woods and drag it up the grass and stuff to heat the pot. We always boiled our clothes out in the yard in a big pot.
BRENT GLASS:
Tell me a little bit about Elmore Crossroads. What kind of community was it? What would people do as a community?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Nothing except in the church. My grandfather had given land for Bethesda Church, right across in front of the house, and that's where the graveyard is now. And one of his daughters lived right west of the graveyard facing towards Gastonia, and my father right straight across. And he had a brother that had his house right behind the church.
BRENT GLASS:
Was this a Baptist church?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No, it was a Methodist church. He gave that land and most of the wood to build the first church. And long about 1909 or '10 they built another church; it had two steeples. And of course that was torn away about eight or ten years ago, and the church was moved down right at the crossroad and rebuilt in brick. But there's still a cemetery there and a Sunday school building on the old Elmore plot.
BRENT GLASS:
In what ways would you get together with neighbors other than the church?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, there was a store there at the crossroad; and Lord have mercy, that was a clearing place for everything for two or three miles around. People would come in there on rainy days and chew tobacco and smoke. And anybody that had a bottle of liquor at night, why they… They didn't close the store 'til nine or ten o'clock. And for the men they pitched horseshoes, and maybe they'd have a turkey shoot or most anything,

Page 10
horseracing or anything else.
BRENT GLASS:
Right there at the store?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes, that was the gathering spot for everywheres.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you remember sitting in and listening to the men talk?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, I was hanging around there from the time I was seven or eight years old.
BRENT GLASS:
What kind of things would they talk about?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
[Laughter] Well, a lot of them talked about women. And all the scandal in the neighborhood. They didn't mind discussing. I learned more, knew more about things, I guess, by the time I was ten years old than a lot of people did at twenty. But they didn't … the kids were supposed to know everything that was going on.
BRENT GLASS:
They didn't protect you from any of that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh no. And of course when you went into the mill you heard the dirty side of life all the time.
BRENT GLASS:
In the textile mills?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh yes. They had no scruples at all.
BRENT GLASS:
So you mean the things about the opposite sex, for instance?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
That's the way that kind of information was communicated to you?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
That's right.
BRENT GLASS:
No one ever sat you down directly and said directly, "This is the way it is." You just sort of picked it up?
That's it. Well, there was my brother and I, and two Forbes boys about our age, three Elmore boys (first cousins) that lived right across the road——they were my age and a little older—and three Ford

Page 11
boys (first cousins that lived just below the church). And we stayed around that store and pitched horseshoes during the summer, or most anything. One of the main sports we used to have was if you could get a fox hide or a possum hide or something like that, two or three of the boys maybe would go for thirty minutes and drag it two or three miles. Then they'd turn dogs loose and they would trail that thing around. Oh man, if we'd get held to a hide we'd wear them out. But the two boys would take and drag it, and they would go far right into the woods two and three miles and then circle around and come back.
BRENT GLASS:
Just to see the dogs run around?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Hear 'em run at night. Then of course we'd go possum hunting and all those kind of things at night. And of course we roamed near the two creeks (one was about a mile west of us and one about a mile east) and that river there at Oramerton. We did a lot of fishing in those.
BRENT GLASS:
Dewhart Creek?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Dewhart Creek was one of them; that's the one that runs between our place and Lowell. And the other one west of us was Catawba Creek; it starts in there in Gastonia and moves right on in down to what we call the Buster Boyd section in the South Fork Catawba. It just spills into Catawba, the river proper.
BRENT GLASS:
Where would your father take his corn to be ground? Was there a mill nearby?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Used to be Titman's Mill there on Dewhart Creek, and that was about two miles—nearly a mile and a half. And that's one of the places that we used to go in the summer, that mill pond for swimming. Lord have mercy, used to be Sunday afternoon there'd be maybe twenty kids there.

Page 12
BRENT GLASS:
This was a water-powered mill?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes, and that was run by Titman.
BRENT GLASS:
T-i-t-m-a-n?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes; and he was also our mail carrier. He owned the Titman's home place; he had inherited that from his father. But he had a miller to run it for him. Titman, he lived in Lowell and he was our rural mail carrier. He carried a route with a horse twenty-eight miles. And when the road would get dry his sons would ride it on a motorcycle.
BRENT GLASS:
What kind of things would you do as a family, either in the house or outside the house? Do you remember anything in particular: corn shuckings or other things?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No. The only corn shuckings we ever went to was when we went back to my mother's place in Lincoln County, up in above Cherryville, six or eight miles up there. We went up there once for a couple of weeks. She had a two-seater surrey, we called it, (didn't have a top on it) and a mule, and she took us in this. And they had two or three corn shuckings back in there (it was in the fall of the year), but we never had those shucking bees. Now the women did have a few quilting bees in their era, back along in 1906, '07 and '08 and those years.
BRENT GLASS:
I was going to say that the men seemed to have a place to get together at the store. How did the women get together and exchange information?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I know especially Mrs. Horseley and my mother used to visit back and forth. They lived a half a mile from us. And Mrs. Horseley was a sister to mother's uncle by marriage; in fact, they were the ones that introduced my mother to him. And of course my mother would visit sometimes.

Page 13
Some of them was always having babies. My mother had thirteen and my aunt had eleven or twelve; and the one across the street there behind the church, I think she had seven. And the lady down at the crossroads (she was a first cousin of my father's who married Mr. Forbes), she had four that lived, and then there were five or six miscarriages. So there was always birthing somewhere in there.
BRENT GLASS:
Did your father or anybody in the neighborhood make sorghum on the farm?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
My uncle that lived behind the church had an evaporator. And of course I helped there; and we would always grow an acre of cane and he would make it up.
BRENT GLASS:
You had a mill?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes, it used a mule to go around. It was two rollers that would squeeze the juice out of there. And he would cook it down. And it was a copper evaporator in sections; and it would go out of the tray and go into another when it came out.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you have any candy pulls or things like that with the molasses? Did you make candy?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Not too much.
BRENT GLASS:
Who was in charge of making decisions in the house when you were living on the farm as far as, well, whether you would buy clothes or spending money in the family or this kind of thing?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
My mother ran, she had to control everything.
BRENT GLASS:
Why was that? Your father was too busy out?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. And she always grew her garden. Well, from the time I was seven or eight years old my sister and I used to take vegetables to

Page 14
McAdenville. Then I started going into Cramerton and McAdenville a couple of times a week with vegetables. You see, Cramerton and McAdenville wasn't but about a mile apart. We generally went into McAdenville; then if it didn't sell we'd go through to Cramerton. And later I used to go on up into Lowell. A lot of people would take in stuff.
BRENT GLASS:
You would sell them to the mill people?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. We sold a dozen tomatoes for a dime; it was just next to nothing. But then the dollar was worth something.
BRENT GLASS:
Was your mother in charge of discipline, or was your father? It just depended?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Both of them. She carried a switch. I'd be liable to get a couple of lickings from her a day, and one at night when he come in to finish it off.
BRENT GLASS:
They carried a switch?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well they had them handy. And Mother part of the time carried one in her apron [Laughter] . She'd always have them handy; she didn't spare the rod.
BRENT GLASS:
What kind of things would you have to do to make her use her switch?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, if she'd tell you to do something and you didn't do it, or if you'd fight with one of the other kids. The thing that I got switched for more one summer was running off to that swimming pool, that mill pond, and not doing any work. She'd hit me at noon and tell me not to go back, and I'd be back there over in the afternoon. I got another thing after supper (it was another round), but I'd be right back the next day. I got two lickings a day for that pond, but you were chicken if you didn't go

Page 15
with your cousins and go down swimming. I got a lot of lickings that I didn't want, but you had to measure up if you were going to stay with the boys. I want to mention that down on there close were two Hanna boys, and two of my cousins; we five were all about the same age, within a year of one another. The Hannas, I don't think they had really ever used any restraint on them; they were good kids, and I don't think they really needed it. But the Elmores and the Forbes were mean devils, and they all the time in trouble. And we fought among ourselves. The Hannas never would fight with them, but we used to play with them and go fishing and swimming a lot.
BRENT GLASS:
You don't seem that you have any bad memories of getting a whipping from your parents.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh no; that was to be expected. I had a teacher once that tried to whip me in school, and I took the hickory away from her. Then I went home, and my father and mother said, "If you don't go back we're going to tan your hide off of you." I wasn't over nine or ten years old. And I went back with two great big rocks in my pocket. And she started on me again, and she did not get me whipped. She might have thought about the rocks. [Laughter] And she sat down and went to crying. She was one of them great big gals; she was about nineteen or twenty years old. She'd beat eight and ten kids a day; she kept just bundles of hickories in the corner. But I was determined that she wasn't going to hit me. She whipped everybody on the row; when it came to hit me I crawled up and down the aisle. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Was your mother in charge of, like, bathing you and putting you to sleep at night? Who did that? Whose responsibility was that in the house?

Page 16
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
You had to do it yourself. In other words, with kids coming along every two years you didn't get too much. We washed out of a wash pan most of the time. We had a back porch there (I don't think it was closed in); of course it got to be awful cold. And they'd get the pot and halfway bathe in the pantry.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you have running water or indoor toilets or anything like that on the farm?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No. Had a well; and I've drawn many a bucket of water. The well was about thirty feet deep.
BRENT GLASS:
You told me that you and your sister would go into McAdenville and Cramerton, and later you went into Lowell. What was your impression of the mill villages? Or what was the talk on the farms about the mills?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, people looked down on millhands, farm people did.
BRENT GLASS:
Why was that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I don't know. We had to swallow our pride when we lost three crops; we moved in. And soon nearly everybody in our particular neighborhood there eventually ended up: the Fords and… Some of the families didn't, but the Ford family had a big crowd of them. And they moved into Cramerton. He was a carpenter too.
BRENT GLASS:
So your family looked upon this as a failure, to move into a mill village was not an opportunity to you?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
It was a failure in a way. When you lose three crops in a row what are you going to do? All we had was what little… And of course World War I came along, and my father went to army camp and started making good money.
BRENT GLASS:
During World War I?

Page 17
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you remember people ever using the term "public work"?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No, I don't; not at that time.
BRENT GLASS:
Later on?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, I think when you get back into the thirties you began to hear it; it was when the WPA and things like that come. It come back in there.
BRENT GLASS:
A lot of people here that I've spoken to used the term "public work" to mean moving into the mill or moving off the farm and taking a job in the mill. That was why I wanted to know if it was used in that section.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you remember the day your parents decided, or your father…? Who made the decision that you should all move to the mill?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
My mother made it.
BRENT GLASS:
She did? What did she say?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I don't recall. I took her up there and he talked to her. They were building that mill at Gastonia; it was Groves Thread. A new one. The man that was going to be superintendent was already superintendent, but married a first cousin of my father's. And I took my mother up there; I don't know but what I didn't borrow a horse and buggy from the Forbeses. And Mrs. Forbes was a sister to Mrs. Weathers. Clause Weathers was the superintendent; his father was also the superintendent of Flynt mill. So we went up there and talked to him, and he said he would give us a house, give us one of the best houses there (on the corner and back down in the village). And of course there'd be three of us to work: my father wouldn't work, but my older brother and sister and I. They gave us … it was

Page 18
five rooms, but I think we had maybe three beds in one of those rooms—yes, three beds.
BRENT GLASS:
A good part of the family moved up to Gastonia. Or did the whole family move up?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
We all moved. My brother was away at Dallas in school; he was trying to get a high school education.
BRENT GLASS:
Dallas, North Carolina?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes, that was a farm life school; he had gone there. He took pneumonia and he came home; he lost out of school, so he stayed on there and worked in the mill until (I guess long in June) he went up by Petersburg with my father and worked up there. And he came back then. He went back to Dallas the next year and finished; then he came on to Trinity. And he was in the SATC; and he later stayed on here and got his doctorate in chemistry.
BRENT GLASS:
That's your brother?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Now did your father move up with you to Groves Mill?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
He did move. What did he do with the house back in…?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
He rented it. I don't know who was in that house. It wasn't but a short time for Mother: we moved in January and she went back in April. She had to have her garden.
BRENT GLASS:
That was 1917 now?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. We had started the garden. And too, she was pregnant at the same time; there was another child born, I think, in June of that year. Then in July was when we bought that Chevrolet.

Page 19
BRENT GLASS:
Do you remember what she used to say about living in the village?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No, she never said anything. She was so busy: she made all of our clothes; she was a wonderful cook. One side of her family was Dutch somewhat, the Lutzes. And of course the other side was Wells; they were Irish from the word "go," Scotch Irish.
BRENT GLASS:
And they would come visit the family?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Not too much, for we were about twenty miles… She had come down about twenty miles from where she was reared up. She had come into Gastonia and was helping an aunt of hers raise her three children.
BRENT GLASS:
That's how she met your father?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
So you worked in Groves Mill first; and then later you worked in Cramerton?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes, in Cramerton.
BRENT GLASS:
After the family moved back to the Crossroads?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. Well, they had been down in April or May, and my sister and I moved everything back (what we had) after my brother had left and gone to Petersburg. So we just went on back home. And she roomed with people in Cramerton. I was over there one week, but I stayed home. And later when I got money ahead I paid forty-some dollars for a second-hand bicycle, and I rode that a number of years.
BRENT GLASS:
What kind of village was Cramerton? How would you describe it at that time? People have called Cramerton a model mill village. What do you think about that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
It was, in other words especially the newer part. The old part was built around that water tower, you know, back in the river in the

Page 20
creek. Of course when the man was building those he told the carpenter, he said, "Put those planks close enough that the kids' leg won't fall through, and break his leg." That's the way those houses were built; they were sound put together. But when they started up Main Street, up towards where the schoolhouse and the church and everything were, in that area and near a park, there wasn't all houses the same kind; they changed. They shingled some of them and weatherboarded some; they changed the general design somewhat.
BRENT GLASS:
Was the talk around that Cramerton was a better town to work in than McAdenville, let's say, or Lowell?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh, nobody would consider McAdenville. They said in McAdenville there a number of kids never knew who their daddy was.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, so there was a difference from one village to the next?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
That's right. Now, of course the riff-raff lived in the old part of Cramerton later. I don't know how they'd select them, but they did a pretty good job. I took orders and delivered groceries three years in Cramerton. And somebody in personnel could size a man up: "Now shall I give you a decent part of the village or shall you go over in the old part?" They really segregated them. And there were very few people … if the children of or showed anything, why if they were up-and-coming in a way, they let them move into another part of the village. There was a big class distinction in that village there between 1917-18-19-20. Well, I left around in 1919 and went to Rock Hill on a farm for two years, '20 and '21. Then I came back and I worked in the mill eighteen months, then went on back to high school and finished.
BRENT GLASS:
Went back to work in Cramerton?

Page 21
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Let's talk a little bit more about Cramerton. You say that it was considered a better town than McAdenville. How about some of the other villages around there? How did Cramerton rate?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, it was nicer than the others. They had pretty good people who stayed pretty well. Belmont: there was a lot of mills over there. Lowell: those mills had been pretty well stabilized. I don't think there was too much moving in and out of Lowell mills.
BRENT GLASS:
So that when you say the riff-raff or lower elements, you mean people who didn't stay put in one place and moved around a little bit?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
That's right. Old Dr. Miller—I'll tell you this—he went over to see a family in the old part of the town, and they were milking the cow in the back hall. You'd have to know Miller to appreciate him, but he said, "Get that cow out, and scrub the back and wash your patient; then call me and I'll come back." They were a dirty bunch, I mean some of them. I used to dread sometimes going in some of those houses delivering groceries.
BRENT GLASS:
In McAdenville?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No, in Cramerton.
BRENT GLASS:
In Cramerton?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
In the old part of town. Some of the people up in the other part, the new part they called it, …
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
… were the nicest people you'd ever run into. Those people were people we knew from Lowell, and cousins of ours and people who had come out of the farms. Those farm people that went in there, they never did sink down

Page 22
as low as the people who had been for years in one mill family after the next.
BRENT GLASS:
Were these all white people?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
No blacks?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
They had a small … maybe eight or ten houses at Cramerton for the Negroes, but they were back over on the riveror somewhere between there and McAdenville. And of course we knew most of those fellows; we knew every Negro and anybody else in the community. The Negro churches were just above where I lived: two of them, Methodist and Baptist. And all of them went there on Sundays, and of course we knew every one that passed by the house.
BRENT GLASS:
Did they do any trading at the store or anything like that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. We had known them practically … a lot of them we had grown up with: went to the swimming hole together and played ball with them.
BRENT GLASS:
So you did play with these other children?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Did they keep up their houses pretty nicely over in Cramerton?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. Those Negroes, they … it wasn't like a slum area. And I have eaten in some of their houses, especially when we was out thrashing. If we went to a Negro farm, why they would feed us and we'd have to eat there.
BRENT GLASS:
There weren't as many blacks in that section of the country as there are, let's say, in the eastern part of North Carolina, were there?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No, I don't think it was Thickly … Well, in the country

Page 23
there, I would say around thirty percent of them were Negroes out on the farm. But in the town there wasn't, in Cramerton there wasn't over five percent.
[interruption]
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
My great-grandfather, he married Captain Wright's daughter? They came from down in there in South Fork and the Catawba River run together. I don't know whether it's mentioned; I told him about it. I don't know whether he recorded it.
BRENT GLASS:
I think he did get some of that, yes.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
And then
BRENT GLASS:
Right, that's right, yes; that's mentioned there.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, then I'm just going to …
BRENT GLASS:
Let me ask you something. You mentioned to me trainloads of people coming into Cramerton when the mills were starting to expand. Do you remember that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, they said that old man Charlie Armstrong, he was reared down there and lived with my grandfather. And he was quite a promoter. I don't think he had had more than a fifth or sixth grade education—and that at a country school. And they said he could hoot and holler right down at the corner in Gastonia along about 1914-15-16, and holler a time or two; and by five o'clock he'd have a new cotton mill organized. I don't think the man ever could accumulate any wealth, but he had control of three or four cotton mills. 1915-16 on into '17 in that area, they built mills galore. I don't know how many were built in Belmont, and they expanded twice in Cramerton on that mill. Then of course they built that weave at Cramerton much later than that, along in the twenties. But Gastonia, I don't know how many mills… All that south Gastonia, I think there's three or four there. There were three of the Armstrong mills.

Page 24
And of course the Gray, Trenton, Separk, Ozark and Medena, all those were old mills. But they went on out in west Gastonia and built all those. Parkdale was built in 1917; I spent nine years there.
BRENT GLASS:
Where would they get the labor for these mills?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, in 1916 and '17 there was an old fellow Hall that come from around there in Sylva. And they sent him back up there, and he'd just get enough people together and a boxcar full of furniture and bring them in there. One boy said they had to run him down, catch him and tie him and get shoes—he never had worn any shoes. But he was just a card. But they were good people; they came from back in … Murphy.
BRENT GLASS:
Murphy County or Murphy, North Carolina?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Murphy and Andrews, right on the Georgia and North Carolina line, in that general vicinity. I knew a lot of them, and they were a good strain of people.
BRENT GLASS:
You said they were different than the farm people.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, they had farmed and everything else. But there was one peculiarity about them: you didn't pick on any of them. They'd use a shotgun as well as a pistol; they believed that the shotgun and the rifle was their weapons. And you didn't push anything over on those people.
BRENT GLASS:
This was the people from the mountains?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. They were good people if you had gained their confidence. Well, I think in some way they were proud, and you had to be careful and not try to impose your thinking on them.
BRENT GLASS:
Were there very many arguments that might break out in town?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
It never started showing up too much until on up in the thirties and forties, the second generation of those people. And there's been

Page 25
an awful lot of killing and stuff out of those particular groups in around Gastonia.
BRENT GLASS:
And this is the second generation of mountain people?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Second or third generation. And of course those fellows came in there. Very few of the heads of the family or the mothers worked, but their children worked. There were some good people in there. And some of them went on into college. A lot of them went back to Mars Hill and those areas.
BRENT GLASS:
They weren't considered the riff-raff then in town?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No. They were a little bit ignorant, we thought, in those mountain schools and one thing and another. My wife can tell you more about that area from 1924. She went back up in there and taught at a country school one year, in 1925. But they're good people; they're proud people. But they had come out of there and they had just existed hand to mouth. And of course they'd come down there and make six or seven dollars a week; that was a lot of money to them.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you ever recall going into town, into Gastonia to buy anything and having people sort of look down on the mill people? Of course you said that people on the farm…
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No, they didn't dare on Saturday afternoons. That was all that was on the street nearly was the mill people there, and they were doing the buying. They were out there trying to get all the money they could out of us. Saturday afternoons we took Main Street.
BRENT GLASS:
You don't recall anybody saying, "Well, there goes a linthead," or anything like that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No. The only thing that I ever had was once with the Ragan

Page 26
family. They had a Maxwell automobile, and they came down in the community when I was a kid eight or nine years old. I was going around feeling it and the Ragan boy said … well, I was a farm kid. I forget what remark he made, "Keep your hands off of my car," and made some detrimental remark. Of course then it was just too bad. I went and told my brothers and cousins, and that boy didn't dare get out of that automobile all day. Somebody stayed there watching it for if we ever got him out we'd beat the lard out of him. But later on he built the Ragan Mill, his family. When I worked at Parkdale I got to know him quite well, and played handball with him. But there was always that remark.
BRENT GLASS:
Which one was this now?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Caldwell Ragan; he was the head man of those. But I don't think he ever realized how I felt toward him. I couldn't, I couldn't ever… He had made fun of me. The clothes I had on were neat and clean; my mother had made them. I don't know, I had a big collar around me and it had lace around it. She dressed me up like nobody's business. Just a little old country boy and all, and making fun of my clothes.
BRENT GLASS:
He said something about your clothes?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh yes: cheap homemade stuff and all that. Of course I invited him out. He was two or three years older than I. And I told my brothers and cousins. They told him a few facts of life: if he ever got out of his automobile he wouldn't be able to get back.
So that's the way of life and growing up.
BRENT GLASS:
So you say when you were growing up you were a poor family, income-wise.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes.

Page 27
BRENT GLASS:
Were you a close family? It sounds like you had some…
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
You touch one of them, why you'd have… I've had the most fights I ever had was boys jumping on my brother. And I've had my troubles getting at it on my own, but I'd fight you quicker if you touched one of my brothers or sisters any time. I was kind of halfway coward until you'd pick on some of my family. I'd use whatever I could get ahold of, the first thing. I liked to killed a man one night who jumped on my brother. I don't know how I did it. But I was on the corner of the street there, and I threw a rock and took him right in the back of the head—a man about twenty-five years old, and my brother was about fifteen and I was about twelve. That ended that fight. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Why did you go back to farming at Rock Hill? What made you do that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
My mother always wanted to farm. So my uncle had had a place at my grandfather's, sold it and gone down to out west of Rock Hill. In 1919 cotton was selling for forty cents a pound. My father had raised a little bit, and I took and made two bales. I took them to McAdenville and sold them, and got forty cents a pound: 200 dollars a bale, 400 dollars. That was when the cotton seed—of course we used cotton seed feeding the cow. And that was a lot of money, 400 dollars, all silver. The children were growing up. I had a brother that was … let's see: I was seventeen. My uncle, he had come up there to a reunion, and I had taken his family back in the car in October. Of course my mother had talked to him, and he said he was going to need a tenant. Of course my brother and I and a younger brother twelve years old, we could make a three-horse plowhand, the three of us together. And we could take

Page 28
care of a twenty bale cotton farm. So we moved down there with him on halves. He furnished the stock and the land and half of everything, and we furnished half the fertilizer and did the work.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you prefer that to working in the mills?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Why?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, I don't know. Farming is prestige, even though we were tenant farming. People, they had pride, plenty of it, and don't abuse it or you're in trouble. That's the code that's always been with them, and you have to be careful in dealing with people.
BRENT GLASS:
So working in the mill was giving up your pride?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Somewhat. I always felt like it was, that I wanted something more out of life than that.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you dream of being something when you were growing up?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I don't know what. I mean, I've looked at that time in that mill for twelve hours, and be so tired. "What was the use of going on a'living? What was there in the future? If I get old I'm going to do something." So we went down there and farmed, and raised that forty cent cotton and sold it for six cents; the market fell in August. We paid sixty dollars a ton for fertilizer. We put our crop in the warehouse and borrowed money to pay our fertilizer, and sold it the next spring. And the money I got then, I took it and paid off the fertilizer. We didn't get anything for us. My dad was working and the garden we had. And I had an acre of sorghum, and I had a man come in there with his mill and make up fifty or a hundred gallon of syrup. Then I took that stuff out to the cotton mill village and sold it for a dollar a gallon, in Rock

Page 29
Hill.
BRENT GLASS:
That's a pretty good price.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
It was, but it was well worth it. I made more money off that acre of sorghum than I did the whole farm. And of course she had a garden there, and I took some of that stuff in to Rock Hill and sold it. In '21 we planted another big crop and raised twenty-some bales. And the boll weevils were coming into South Carolina; so I went with a bunch of men and drove my uncle's car, the three men (my uncle and two other men) down there. We were gone three or four days, down in below Orangeburg and Fairfax, South Carolina, and saw what the boll weevils had done. I mean, they just eradicated everything. And I came back. My mother was wanting us to buy a hundred acre farm for ten thousand dollars; and I said, "Mother, I can't risk it. Let's go back, and I'll go back in the mill. Because the boll weevil wiped those people out, and I am not going to risk going into debt ten thousand dollars." Ten thousand dollars is an awful lot of money. It was a good farm; the house was about a six room. It wasn't painted, but it was a good substantial house and barn. And I moved them back, and I went back into the mill.
BRENT GLASS:
At Cramerton?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. Went back there in January and worked 'til September. And of course I went back to school.
Now when I first quit school in 1917 I don't know what I had gotten to sixth grade. In 1918, the fall of '18 I went back to school and went into the eighth grade. Went for five months: flu epidemic in 1918 and one thing and another, I didn't get but five months' school. I didn't have any seventh grade at all. I went three months in the ninth grade,

Page 30
and then we left at Christmas and went to that farming. I came back later and took up tenth grade. When I finished high school I had had … I think six years of schooling.
BRENT GLASS:
And you were out of high school?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
There were twenty-four months of high school and twenty-four months grammar school. I'd been to school six … it wasn't six years. And I came to Duke then. And I had fifty dollars and a suit and an extra pair of pants and a job. And when I went to get the job the lady said she'd given it to a football player; I didn't have a job. I had fifty dollars, and my brother had to come back here to teach. And he said, "Will you do any work if I get you something else to do?" He thought he had me a dishwashing job; that paid the whole board. And of course the Kiwanis Club had promised me to loan me $175 a year, the Gastonia Kiwanis Club. But I was nearly twenty-three years old—no, I was twenty-two when I entered here. And he went on and got me a job collecting pressing, and I took that. And I worked pressing laundry and that the whole time I was in school. The darn thing paid me $1.25 an hour; I made as much as thirty dollars a week.
BRENT GLASS:
That was pretty good for that time.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, I made twenty dollars for sixty hours back in the summer working in the store: twenty dollars, thirty-three cents an hour.
BRENT GLASS:
Let me ask you just a couple of other things about working the farm and working in the mill. How about the work itself? Which is more difficult, the kind of work? Which did you prefer?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, picking cotton is bad on your back, in a way; and hoeing is something you've got to get done, and you don't have all week to get it

Page 31
done with the weather. Well, of course I enjoyed plowing with the soil and any kind of plowing or turning the plow with two horses. But the stuff in the mill there; some of those jobs would be a drudge, I mean they could be a drudge.
BRENT GLASS:
Repetitive?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Some of them were piecework. Now I worked a winder one time; they paid you so much for the stuff that you produced. They wouldn't put me on piecework, and they were paying the girl running the next line. And I was keeping up as many ends and turning off the same work. They were paying me fourteen dollars and they were paying her eighteen dollars. That was 1921—'22 it was—they gave me a job winding, and you didn't have time to spit hardly.
BRENT GLASS:
No time to take breaks or eat lunch?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh no.
BRENT GLASS:
What did you do for a meal?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well we could always sit out. If you were working daylight, the hour from twelve to one the mill would shut down then. You worked eleven hours on day shift, and from six to six with no break at the night shift. And I ran warp machines some when I went back in '21 and '22. Well, I ran warp machines some in 1918 when I first went to Cramerton. I doffed twisters at Groves; then I went into Cramerton and doffed twisters. And they took me away from that and took me upstairs linking warps. Then I went to working Friday nights, and they finally put me on running the warp machine.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you ever have to punch a clock to come in?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Not in the cotton mill, but I did in one of the rubber plants,

Page 32
Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. You punched in; even when you were in the office you punched in and out.
Now I never was late in getting to the tool works, or mighty few times. I never have run into any trouble on being late.
BRENT GLASS:
What would they say to you if you didn't make production? Did they have a certain level that you had to… ?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you ever have people come into the mill, these efficiency experts come in?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Not at that time.
BRENT GLASS:
You don't know when that happened, though, that they came in with stopwatches?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes, I took time and study when they first came, my first year in college.
BRENT GLASS:
Yes. What was that like? You took a course in that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, I guess it must have been my sophomore year that I took that cost accounting, and there was a lot of time and motion study in that. I wasn't too proficient in time and motion study, but I understood what was going on. And of course I ran into it more when I was with the King mill in 1942-45 in Augusta, Georgia; we had time and motion study in cost there.
BRENT GLASS:
The idea behind that was to improve the efficiency in the mill or in the factory?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I guess it was. They were trying to get it up with the piecework rating. Some jobs you couldn't do piecework; it was just a general overhead sweepers and things of that kind. Now on production you'd use

Page 33
other than piecework method of payment—an hourly rate. But some of those jobs you couldn't come below a certain amount of pay; and of course if they run over a certain norm they'd get a premium.
BRENT GLASS:
You mentioned that you worked in Akron for Goodyear. Now they're the company that now owns the old Loray Mill, I believe.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
That's Firestone.
BRENT GLASS:
Firestone, you're right. You mentioned in the interview that you did with Mr. Brinton that you came back to Gastonia two weeks after Captain Aderhold had been killed.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
That was Manville-Jenks then.
BRENT GLASS:
Manville-Jenks, right. Can you tell me a little bit about what was going on at that time that you remember?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, the first thing … when I went in I had to hitch a ride before seven o'clock with a fellow with a car. We were six miles out in the country, and I caught a ride and I went in. The only thing that was open on Main Street until the office opened was the barber shop, and I knew the barber had been away two years, two or three years. And he said, "Why did you come back to this hell-hole for?" And I said, "Well what's the matter?" And he said, "Everything is shot to hell." That was the remark that he made; he said, "This town has had it."
BRENT GLASS:
Did you know anything about that before?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No, I didn't know it. I had gotten my job by exchange of a couple of telegrams to the cashier of the bank, the man who helped me get money from the Kiwanis Club. And I had paid most of that back. And he wired me and wanted to know if I'd be… I'd been writing to him along that I'd like to get back South. Would I consider taking over in the

Page 34
cotton? And I told him that I would. I was making 145 a month; I would come for 125 or 135. So they started me out at 135 in Gastonia, and I stayed there nine years. And I was making 200 a month when I left.
BRENT GLASS:
So when you got back to there the first thing you ran into was the barber, and this is what he told you? And what did you learn after that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, things were touch-and-go, especially out there. And it was the Loray Mill; I don't know what they were calling it then.
BRENT GLASS:
I think it was still called Loray.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
The Loray area, but it's a Firestone mill now.
BRENT GLASS:
Now.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Right.
BRENT GLASS:
You went home back to your family after that. Did they know what was going on over at Loray?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh yes.
BRENT GLASS:
What was the feeling there? How did people feel about it?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, in other words I don't know. A couple of my sisters were trying to teach—no, one sister was teaching school and two of them were away in nursing. We just met things as we could. I know when I got back that they had two or three hundred dollar debts here and there, and as soon as I got out of debt I had to assume those. They had had it rough, I mean the two years I was… And one of my brothers was in Akron, Ohio, and he had been helping out some; but I had sent him back to Duke the first year I went up there. And he got sick his junior year.
BRENT GLASS:
Were the people in your neighborhood, were they sympathetic to the strike?

Page 35
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
They were against it.
BRENT GLASS:
Against it.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
None of us were ever in favor of the unionization. We had heard too much of what had gone on in Massachusetts; that's the thing, I think, that poisoned the air. I think that if it had been unionization with local leadership it may have gone over better. I think it was a pretty tough element that came in there for organizers. They had quite a seige of that stuff in '17, '18, '19 and '20, somewhere in that time in Augusta, Georgia. And they tried to organize the John P. King, but old man Thomas told them, he said, "Go ahead and organize. But I'll throw the keys in the river and close the damn place up. As long as I'm here I'm going to run this plant the way I feel like it ought to be run. Now if you want a union go ahead, but you will not have a job here." And they never could touch that mill.
BRENT GLASS:
There were some strikes in Charlotte, weren't there?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh yes, north Charlotte. I don't know whether there was anyone killed, but there was a lot of shooting going on.
BRENT GLASS:
Around 1919, 1920 or something like that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh yes; that was terrible. Then of course when I went to Tarboro in 1950 (October of '50) they had just gotten over that spring a very bitter strike, and they broke the union there on that. And they had been organizing. Ely Walker owned that at that time. I went down there as accountant in October, 1950. You had to be awful careful the whole time that I was there. And they fired me in '54; I mean, I never made any comment for or against the union. I just tried to stay away from either side of it.

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BRENT GLASS:
What were the circumstances that caused you to be… ?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, there was a lot of people wanted it, and of course the management… I was secretary and treasurer, and the management and all were against it. I didn't feel like that I should get mixed up in it, that they had a president down there and he was the man to handle it.
BRENT GLASS:
This is in Tarboro?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
And so why did they fire you, though, if you weren't mixed up in it?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, I said something about the social life of the president, and he accused me of hurting his reputation. And I told him he didn't have any. And he said, "One of us will have to go, and I think I've got more pull in St. Louis." I said, "I guess you have." But he was a man that was a carouser; and he drank and he criticized me for not drinking. He was uneducated. He as a boy grew up around Mount Holly. And the man that was the superintendent of the mill around Charlotte became vice-president of Ely-Walker. He was managing all the mill, and he put him in as president.
BRENT GLASS:
Yes. This is the Ely-Walker Company in Tarboro?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No, of St. Louis. Ely-Walker was the biggest dry goods manufacturing people and merchants in the world.
BRENT GLASS:
So they owned this mill in Tarboro?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh yes.
BRENT GLASS:
OK. What was the name of the mill? Was it Runneymede?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
No, this was Hart Cotton Mill. Then Burlington acquired it

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a year later.
BRENT GLASS:
After you left?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. I lost $12,000. on the spot; if I'd have stayed in there another year my stock would… I had five hundred shares at $16., and Burlington paid $45 for them. But I had to turn them back then; I had bought them. And the stock was worth about $27. when I bought for $16., but I had to hold it five years before it became mine.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, this brings up something that's kind of interesting. You're a person who worked in the mill but was also brought up to the point where you were in the management in many of these mills. Did you find yourself torn in terms of allegiance or sympathies if there was ever a conflict between labor or managment?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I would have more or less been for labor more. In other words, I put out a 150-name payroll at Parkdale in 1932 and '33: 150 people. And I got six ten dollars bills: two of them went to the master mechanic, two went to spinning overseeing and two to the carding overseer. Now the section men, no one drew as much as ten dollars, and a lot of them didn't get as much as five.
BRENT GLASS:
Per week?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
We were running two and three days a week; that was before this unemployment came in. And my heart bled for those people; I seen what they were going through, but what could I do? I had a wife and two kids and trying to buy a house, and I wasn't making but … well, when I got married I was making $160. a month in '32. Got back and got cut to $150. And of course I was making about $175. a month then, in '34-5, somewhere along there.

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BRENT GLASS:
Why do you think it is that the mills have been so slow to organize, when other industries get organized all over the country? Yet you find in the South the textile mills have not been organized.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, one of the things, cotton mills are not a steady … they have their peaks and they have their lows. And the majority of them would shut those things down and throw the key away in those low periods if they couldn't run them in an organized… They cut their own throat: in other words there was too much competition, over-production maybe, and they couldn't make enough to pay the stockholders. The stock-holders never get much out of cotton mill stock. And those families, if it hadn't been for someone in the family being an officer and drawing—you know ten thousand dollars was a big salary during the thirties… That's about all they got out of it, and the rest of the stockholders got next to nothing. It just wasn't there to give. And the people knew that if they had insisted too much more there by raising salaries, that the people couldn't make it. And the man that was the head of the mills didn't have the ability to get out and get better prices; they had been whittled down. The Jewish people in the North were buying all of the thread and handling that, and they would strike a hard bargain when they'd buy that stuff. So I don't know what… And they run more the sewing rooms. They were buying stuff as cheap as they could. And of course the South, they had to stay low, because they ran Massachusetts out of the textile industry by underselling them. But it was a touch-and-go proposition. When you're talking about strikes, we had seen so much happening at Dan River. I think during World War I they had a strike or two up there, and I don't know how many times they have been having labor troubles in Dan River. Now I

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always looked at the Cannon Mill; more or less they didn't have a company union, they made it so pleasant for them over and above all other mills that the union didn't have a chance there.
BRENT GLASS:
Didn't they have a little trouble in Kannapolis?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
In the last two or three years.
BRENT GLASS:
I mean back around World War I.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I believe they did there, one time. And I think that's when they broke the back of them. Old man Cannon was one of those who would throw the key away too.
BRENT GLASS:
Most of these mill owners were local people though.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Oh yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Without much more background as far as education was concerned than some of the people working in the mills.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
That's true. They had a certain amount of leadership to organize and get out a little money. But you see what happened in 1929: the Gray-Separk chain was eight mills. Old man Separk was making about $100,000 a year, and he was just a schoolteacher from here and gone up there and married into the Gray family. And none of the Gray family had any education or knew anything. But old man Gray had the ability to organize mills, and none of his sons were capable of … All those mills were at the mercy of the commission houses that were selling. I've always said I could run every mill in Gaston County, the 150 of them, if I had a good sales agent.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you remember the 1934 strike, the general strike? Did Parkdale close during that, when they had the flying squadrons and things like this?

Page 40
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
'34?
BRENT GLASS:
The general textile strike, the one in which supposedly all the mills in the South closed.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, I was at Parkdale … and it didn't affect us much, I know. I don't recall now anything specific at that particular time.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you remember the term "flying squadrons"? Have you ever heard of that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Yes. I can't put any connection with where it was used.
BRENT GLASS:
Let me just ask you one or two more questions that I had. One was: how do you account for the fact that you come from a background very similar to many other people who worked in those cotton mills, and yet you came to achieve a great deal and made some progress? How do you explain that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, I think my mother was ambitious, and my older brother. And she instilled something in him. He was a little bit tongue-tied and a little hard of hearing; people made fun of him a lot. But he read a lot. And he would go down there to the store when he was fifteen or sixteen years old, and he would read the Progressive Farmer and tell those farmers down there what they ought to grow and how to farm, and things of that kind. He came…
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
… around here to Trinity, and he was a rabble-rouser and debating and everything else. He was one of the leaders, then went on and eventually got his PhD here.
BRENT GLASS:
So you admired him? You admired your brother?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Then my sister, she wanted to go on. And he was the one that

Page 41
more or less encouraged me to go on and try and get an education. I intended to go on and go into mechanical engineering; that was my field. But I got here and I didn't do too well in mathematics; I had a bad teacher my freshman year. I did not know what he was saying. I had made 97 in math in high school, but I just barely passed here. And I thought "Well…"; then I switched to accounting, and I always regretted that I never was ACPA. I enjoyed accounting somewhat; it was just too confining. Basically I should have been a mechanic, an engineer.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you regret having not been able to do that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Not now. Well, we came here. We had next to nothing in '54. I think I had $4,000 when I bought this house. Two boys were in college: one had already been at Duke, and one living at Georgia Tech. And my wife went back to teaching. And I went here for eighteen months and could hardly get a job. My wife went back, got her certificate, and went to teaching school: $2800 a year. A man offered me $6000 a year to stay on in a bookkeeping service here, (that was 1955). And I told him, I said, "You don't charge enough; it won't carry the three of us, you and your son-in-law and I." But I went to work for him at sixty dollars a week in '55, and I was up to eighty-five or ninety that he was paying me. Then I got a chance to go with the Internal Revenue Service for $4500, about eighty a week. Then I hadn't been a month with them until the Unemployment Compensation (I had taken the examination) offered me $5500 to take an Albemarle office. Then the people that fired me offered me another mill in South Carolina; they wanted to know what I wanted. I said, "I'll take $8500 with a ten year contract, and you furnish the house; take it or leave it." But I was making $4500.

Page 42
BRENT GLASS:
What did they say?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
They said, "Well, if you move let us have your address." None of them wanted me back in management. But after Burlington got a hold of it they had retired this [unknown] They owned the Ely-Walker. The only reason I didn't… I could have gotten that mill, but they were fixing to fire a man that had been there about twenty years, and he was up pretty close to sixty at the Calhoun Falls. I knew what was … the crowd in St. Louis, he wouldn't "gee with them."
BRENT GLASS:
Wouldn't what?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
He wouldn't "gee with them;" they'd tell him to do something such-and such a way, and they'd come back and he wouldn't do it. He was certainly an uneducated man in a way but a coward in another. And he thought it ought to be done like he had always done it. And of course they wanted it done to tie in with the way they had six or eight mills, and everybody had to do it the same way.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you admire a man like that?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, you can't do what you want to do always. If you want to be in an organization you've got to be a part of it. And the boys that's in the say set the pace. You might argue with them, or try to get them to change to your way of doing. But I realized when I went out to St. Louis there in the office and talking to those boys, they made up their mind whether it was the best way or not. But I did teach them a few things. They sent me up there to Gastonia trying to help that fellow get his stuff straight. And I went to Sherman and Post, Texas, and spent a week out there on those accountants and trying to help them.
BRENT GLASS:
Which mill was this in Gastonia?

Page 43
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
It was the one up there at High Shoals. They had labor trouble up in that area; it was just beyond Dallas, you know there where you cross the river?
BRENT GLASS:
Yes, I've been up to High Shoals.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well that's where…
BRENT GLASS:
I know a lot of these mills do end up having some trouble. What do you attribute it to: just the hard life of working in the mills?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, it depends on whoever has come in there and stirred them up.
BRENT GLASS:
It's not from within, though?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well, some of those organizers are pretty good salesmen. But I've listened to some of them. I don't know, I've always kind of felt like they were out for the dues that they could get out of the people more than they were to help them. I may be wrong there. Those people needed help, I've always said, and I sympathize with them. But I didn't want to see that outside crowd come in there and taking dues from them that basically didn't give a damn about the good will of the people. Now there's too much of that labor organization; and we see it all when you get on higher, to Hoffa and all that crowd, these pension funds. I was always in favor of labor. But the management of it, and the people's taking advantage of the poor working man, I can't go along with the organization.
BRENT GLASS:
I guess it's hard to have one without the other.
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
Well I don't know. You take a few of those aside and drowned them it would help the situation more than anything. [Laughter] I've always felt that: take them out and do away with them. Like a fellow used to say up there in Baltimore (he got fired for stealing on the streetcar), he

Page 44
said, "Well, no use to fire me. I've already built my house. And if you take somebody else on you're going to have to build somebody else a house." [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Let me ask you one last question. Of all the things that you've done in your life, what do you look back on as your proudest achievement?
GEORGE R. ELMORE:
I think that my friends that I made and what I've done in federal tax work. I have no apologies, very few. Some of those, if I'd have known all the facts I may have done a little differently.
END OF INTERVIEW