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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Orlin P. Shuping, June 15, 1975. Interview H-0290. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Running a successful business, even during the Great Depression

Shuping's mill stayed open during the Great Depression, he recalls, employing as many as nine men to run the sawmill, grind flour, or gin cotton. The operation became rather complicated for someone who only finished the seventh grade, but Shuping seems proud that he navigated the bookkeeping and negotiation necessary to run a successful business.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Orlin P. Shuping, June 15, 1975. Interview H-0290. 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:
About how many people worked here?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
We did have as high as nine at one time but most of the time about three and four. It depended. When we run the flour, when I was too little, we only run the sawmill part time. Therefore, we'd use the same help. In the flour business, when the fellows got busy cutting wheat, they didn't come to the mill and you had a couple of days you could run the sawmill and the planer. The same way in the fall of the year when they're sowing the grain you could maybe gin a little cotton for them while they was planting the grain. Normally our peak was nine men at one time. That was a long time ago. Most of them three or four.
BRENT GLASS:
What were the wages in those days? Do you remember what you payed them?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Anywahere from 12 ½ ¢ an hour to 15¢. During the depression we only paid $1.00 a day, 10¢ an hour. You could get more than you could work then. They'd just beg you to work. Then come and want flour and stuff. They'd do anything to get something. I was cutting a tree down once and a man come by, got an ax and chopped it up. He got through; he said he'd like to have a little money. He didn't have no salt for his flour. People were poor, you know. Didn't have any money.
BRENT GLASS:
Did this place operate during the depression?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Yeah, it run all the time, except this last one here a couple of weeks ago. I been busy talking to people in that time but I enjoyed it.
BRENT GLASS:
Most of the people who worked here were from farms around here?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Locally. Some of them worked here twelve, fifteen years at a time.
BRENT GLASS:
They weren't really experienced people.
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
No. They were just people you picked up and trained.
BRENT GLASS:
You trained them yourself?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Trained them yourself. I went to school, graduated the seventh grade. Fell down on spelling then. I don't have no book learning, you see. Then I took over the he work here. One man couldn't hardly look after it all. At one time, one man run the sawmill I had one man running the sawmill, one the cotton gin, one the planer. My father run the flour mill. It was a lot of book work and a lot of talking to people. In 1936, '37, '38 I got into selling a lot of lumber and sometimes I'd have five or six people waiting to talk to me at one time. I had them lined up. That way I didn't work much at all I talked a lot. Then we put in steam heat here.