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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Barbara Hanks, August 10, 1994. Interview K-0098. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Remembering work at White Furniture Factory

Hanks's father did not want her to follow him into furniture factory work, she recalls. He thought it was a dirty job, and it was. Hanks remembers the pervasive odor of lacquer and the bandaged fingertips of the workers who sanded furniture. As she remembers the factory, she describes some of the furniture production process and her role as inspector.

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

When I went there they--. I think--. When my dad worked--I remember I wanted to work there when he did. He just--. I don't think he really wanted me to.
PATRICK HUBER:
Why's that?
BARBARA HANKS:
Cause to him he thought it was just too dirty, you know, for his daughter to be working there. But then, after I did, and he seen how much I enjoyed working there, I mean, I was really making very good money for being--. You know, cause I don't have a real high education. He was really surprised I stayed there. He didn't think I would stay there, which one of my sisters didn't. I mean, it was work, you know to work, I mean, and you didn't go in there looking pretty cause, I mean, all the furniture, you know, all the chemicals and stuff. I enjoyed working there.
PATRICK HUBER:
What did the--? Could you describe what the rub-and-pack sort of looked or smelled like or the noises?
BARBARA HANKS:
Yes, it smelled like lacquer all the time. The look, I mean, you know, it was an old building. You'd think it was going to fall in at any time. [Laughter] And we was upstairs, and it was just a big open room. It had a line, and the line would move. Then it had a platform up there where the guys were standing, cause when it would come off the finishing you would have to pull it up onto our line. Then as it come down, you'd sand the drawers. That's where it started. Then it would come on down. You had to pull the tape and stuff off it. It would come on down, and then they'd have to pull it off and do the tops, and then push it on the line for us to rub it and get it all cleaned up. Then it would go on and get the hardware on it, and then it would come on around. Anything wrong with it it would be fixed and everything. The noise. It wasn't really noisy. Just when the machines--. When they'd have to do the tops. It wasn't like real loud or nothing.
PATRICK HUBER:
Was it dusty?
BARBARA HANKS:
No, not--. The only dust is when you sand the drawers. The person that had to do that, that was, you know--. You'd sand your finger tips cause I used to have to do it. You'd think that sanding all day with your hands, I mean, the whole tipe of fingers--. Most of em they would tape them up. Everybody that had to do would put tape around the tips of their fingers. With sanding all day, and getting up in all them corners and stuff. You had to kind of be pretty fast doing it cause it was coming off that line and you had to get them--. They'd get mad at me, too, cause if they didn't feel right I'd have to send them back, and they'd have to do it over.
PATRICK HUBER:
You mean when you were an inspector?
BARBARA HANKS:
Yeah, when I was inspecting. Some of them would get real aggravated. [Laughter] That's how it had to be.
PATRICK HUBER:
Was that hard having to do that?
BARBARA HANKS:
Inspecting, yeah. I mean, that was--. Rub-and-packing, yeah, you just done it and went on, and you didn't have to worry about it. Inspecting, I mean, you wanted it perfect, but every piece you couldn't get perfect. I mean, you just couldn't do it. When it would come back it would upset me, you know, when you send a pie out and the customer--.
PATRICK HUBER:
You had inspected it?
BARBARA HANKS:
Yeah, and it come back because--. I mean, a lot of times the person--the customers--wouldn't understand, you know, like when they pack it up and take off it's going to get dinged up and everything. Some of them would be really mad, you know, like, they would send letters, and I'd have to read the letters what they said. Yeah, it was a little rough sometimes. I had a go-by case--a sample case--and this is what all of it is suppose to look like, well, sometimes they all wouldn't look like that. [Laughter] So I would say "No" and not let it go. Then the boss man would say, "Yeah, it ain't that bad." And so I was like, "Wait a minute, now, okay, I'm not supposed to, but you're telling me to, but if it comes back this is going to be on me." It was like--. And so then we would start. I would start putting them--. Like if I say--. If I said I wouldn't let it go and they decided to let it go, I would put a little mark or something on the statement that they told me to let it go. So when it come back I would say, "Hey ya'll told me." [Laughter] Cause, I mean, everybody is a lot. But most of it didn't come back, but some customers would we'd all have to watch the video tape.
PATRICK HUBER:
What would the video tapes be of?
BARBARA HANKS:
It's really hard to believe that something like that could get out, but I guess as fast as was going and stuff-like putty inside the drawer, you know. Like little dings on the outside of the case. Stuff like that.
PATRICK HUBER:
They'd video tape that and send it?
BARBARA HANKS:
Yes, and send it back and say, "We don't want this." I always told them, I said, "Them people just ain't got nothing else to do, maybe." [Laughter] They just had to find something wrong with it, I mean, it wasn't like be something real bad, bad, but then again, if you're going to pay that kind of money I wouldn't want that neither. I can look at it both ways. But it just seems like when you're down there they just all look at me like, "Why did you let this go?" I'm like, "Wait a minute." But, you know, you're only human. Stuff get by you.
PATRICK HUBER:
Did you have somebody inspecting your inspecting then?
BARBARA HANKS:
No.
PATRICK HUBER:
You were the last?
BARBARA HANKS:
Right, and if it went it's cause of me. I had a stamp, too, you put on the back of it, and it had my initials and the date and White's Furniture.