Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Barbara Hanks, August 10, 1994. Interview K-0098. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

White Furniture Factory as a community institution

As Hanks shares memories of her father, she recalls an earlier period in the furniture industry, when all of Mebane heard its whistle morning, noon, and night; when White Furniture Factory sponsored dinners; and when factory owners gave Christmas presents to employees' children.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Barbara Hanks, August 10, 1994. Interview K-0098. 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

Cause we lived right over here in Mebane and it was snow and stuff and he would walk to work. He would walk to work. I thought, man, you really love to go to work. [Laughter] But he would. Then they had an hour for lunch. Where when I went we didn't have put thirty minutes. So, I mean, he would come home everyday and eat lunch. I remember more him working there, I mean--cause he would come home and there was little tacks all in his shoes. So we would have to get them tacks out of his shoes. And glue, he would just bring all kinds of glue.
PATRICK HUBER:
To use around the house?
BARBARA HANKS:
Yeah, because we'd tell him--and tape--if he didn't have his glue and tape he couldn't fix nothing. [Laughter]
PATRICK HUBER:
[Laughter] You never went to work, though, with your dad when you were younger, did you?
BARBARA HANKS:
No. We would go, like out front, you know all them benches and stuff. We could go so much inside the door, and we would look in. Oh, we wanted to go and check it out, but, you know, they wouldn't let us go in. But we'd stand out there and wait for him when he would get off work. The whistle, I mean, that's something in Mebane, cause at lunch everybody could set the time with that White's whistle, cause at twelve o'clock it went off and then at one it went off before we'd go back to work and then in the evenings. Cause mamma would say--I remember her be cooking-- "There goes the whistle," and we know daddy be home soon. Everybody misses that whistle, too.
PATRICK HUBER:
Would it go off at the beginning of the shift, too, in the mornings?
BARBARA HANKS:
In the mornings, uh, huh, and then I think at break--it really didn't go off like at lunch. At lunch, you know, it would really [makes whistle noise] holler it out. [Laughter]
PATRICK HUBER:
[Laughter] I guess you went to Christmas parties when you were younger that the company would have?
BARBARA HANKS:
No, then they didn't have--. Then they would--. I remember when I was in high school I was in home ec, and they had a White's dinner. My daddy worked there, and they had them a steak dinner at the Eastern High School. I don't know if it was for Christmas or why they had it for them, and so I got to help serve. I mean, I was doing it for my school.
PATRICK HUBER:
I see.
BARBARA HANKS:
But we was doing it for White's. That was really neat serving mamma and daddy. Well, it was a bunch of people. They had a lot of room. They had them a steak and a salad and potatoes, a little slice of cake. I would tell mamma and them to bring me their cake home.
PATRICK HUBER:
Would they have summer picnics or--?
BARBARA HANKS:
No, but I remember my father for Christmas that how many years you've been there they get a book. They used to could pick out--. You look through the book, and you get so many items how ever long you've been there. I remember he could pick--I forgot how long--anyway, he could pick out three things. That year it was my turn cause he would take turns with me and my sisters and mamma. My mother's still got the clocks. It's like a little old-timey grandfather's clock. There's a smaller model, she's still got that, too. She got that, and I remember I got a unicycle and couldn't ride it. I forgot what the other thing, but he would let us take turns picking what we wanted. He never got him nothing out of it, but they used to do that. I remember them doing that.