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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George R. Elmore, March 11, 1976. Interview H-0266. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Fighting to defend his honor and that of his family

Offering a look at some of the rhythms of mill town life, Elmore remembers squabbling with a boy who insulted his shabby clothes, and his willingness to fight those who insulted his family.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George R. Elmore, March 11, 1976. Interview H-0266. 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

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 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.
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]