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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ivey C. Jones, January 18, 1994. Interview K-0101. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Previous factory owner's personal style is not replicated by the new ownership

Jones remembers that Mr. White, the plant's owner, practiced a personal style of management, showing up at the plant on Christmas and appearing at their funerals. That changed with the arrival of new management, who were not only uninterested in employees and their families as people, but were also uninterested in employees' suggestions for improvements on the factory floor.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ivey C. Jones, January 18, 1994. Interview K-0101. 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

JEFF COWIE:
Before the buy out, before you knew anything about it, did you ever have any personal relationship with Mr. White? Did he ever walk around the plant? Did he talk to anyone?
IVEY C. JONES:
He would always shake everybody's hand at Christmas and say, "Have a nice Christmas, have a safe Christmas." That was basically all of the dealings that I had with him. If he walked in the plant he would look up and casually throw his hand up. Some of the people he had close association with, but the majority of them he didn't. It was the type of thing even if he didn't know you, if you worked for his company and someone in your family died or had you died, he was still come to your funeral or to your wake. When Hickory bought the place out, it wasn't like that. I know on occasion that people in the plant had been told, if somebody they worked with died to go to the wake that night, because they can't let everybody off to go to the funeral. Once you were dead that was just it, they were through with you, they didn't need you any longer.
JEFF COWIE:
Did you ever see this letter that was in The Enterprise?
IVEY C. JONES:
Yes, I saw this in The Mebane Enterprise. I remember Mr. White saying, "When the going gets tough the tough gets going.
JEFF COWIE:
What do you think of that?
IVEY C. JONES:
Well, I guess that's true because whether it's tough or not, when they tell you to go you've got to get going. [laughter] That's basically the way I see it. Whether it's tough or not, when they tell you to get going you've got to get going. Even after the buy out I think Mr. White stayed in contact with White's and knew basically what was going on. I would see his car by the main office. Some of the people he knew personally by face and personally by name, but I never was one of them.
JEFF COWIE:
Is he a pretty important figure in town? You are pretty far removed out here from town politics.
IVEY C. JONES:
My son goes to school in Mebane so I am still in town every day. Yes, I guess you could say he's an important figure, but not as important as he used to be. I mean, White's used to be the thing, you know, White's, White's, White's, Mr. White. He owned a lot in Mebane and so when White's shutdown that was basically it. It was just like Mr. White was the pillar of the community. He had a family owned business that had been there for a hundred and some odd years. He was a very respected man in Mebane, a very respected man, he and his family both. Once Hickory came in that was just basically it. They weren't concerned about family. They weren't concerned about what the community thought. They weren't concerned about what the employees of White's thought. It was just a commodity, we got to make money, and this is it. This is just basically the way I felt. It's the type of thing where I wouldn't say anything to a man behind his back that I wouldn't say to his face. That's the way I tried to get along with management. If I had something to say, I would just come out and say it. The worst that I felt like they could do was fire me because I know they definitely couldn't beat me. That's how I got along with them, because I knew to a certain extent that they wanted your opinion and they didn't want your opinion. You just knew how far to go. You would just give it to them whether they wanted it or not.
JEFF COWIE:
What sorts of things might you--?
IVEY C. JONES:
For instance, if you had your opinion about the way something could be done that would make your job run better or to make the particular line run smoother, they would say, "Yes, that might do it." They wouldn't necessarily take that into consideration, but maybe a day later they'd come back and do it the way that you had suggested and say, "I'm glad we came up with that idea." It was the type of thing that you never came up with the ideas, they always came up with the ideas and you just followed through with them.
JEFF COWIE:
Would you get in arguments with management ever?
IVEY C. JONES:
I wouldn't necessarily say you'd get in arguments because you didn't argue with management that much. I mean, you might could give your opinion to a certain extent and then after that, that was it. They had the mentality of, "It's my way or the highway, and if you ain't satisfied with the way I told you to do it, just punch out." It wasn't the type of thing where you could interact with management a lot. With supervisors you could, but with management you couldn't. It was the type of thing where you give some suggestions and sometimes they would listen to your suggestions, but if they had their minds made up to one particular way they wanted to do things, you couldn't change their minds. If you couldn't conform to doing it their way, they would have to get rid of you and find somebody else that would. You could give your opinions to a certain extent and they would listen to a certain extent, but that was just basically it. It was the type of thing where we hear you, but we don't hear you all at the same time.