Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert Riley, February 1, 1994. Interview K-0106. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Demanding job leaves no time for idling

The demands of the sawmill meant there was no time for on-the-job recreation, Riley recalls. He adds some details about his job at the sawmill and some other positions he held at White's.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert Riley, February 1, 1994. Interview K-0106. 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

CHRIS STEWART:
Did you do things to sort of pass the time? Obviously you had to be very aware with the saw and the wood.
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
It was a busy job and you didn't have any time to do anything else but do your job. I was cutting slabs and when you are cutting slabs you had to take that twelve foot log and cut it in half. Then you had a six foot slab. We would in turn take that slab and burn it in our boiler. Once it got dried we would use the boiler to heat the factory. So what you had to do was to cut that slab in two and run way down away from your cutting table and lay that slab down and come back and another one was ready. You couldn't just throw it right where you were because if you did you soon would have slabs so high you couldn't walk. So you had a long line maybe a hundred and fifty to two hundred feet from where you were cutting. You would walk that slab there and stack it up. By the time you got back another one was ready. It was constantly moving all the time. What they would do was they had a truck that was hauling lumber. We didn't have a dry kiln there at our Hillsborough plant. All of our lumber was dry kilned at our Mebane plant. So what we would do was he would take a load of green lumber to Mebane that we had cut at the saw mill and in turn bring back a load of dry kilned to make our furniture. In the afternoon when they got caught up they would take the dump truck and throw on a load of those slabs and take them around to the boiler and dump them so the man could burn them. It was one of those deals where you had to kind of stay on the move all the time.
CHRIS STEWART:
When did you start working? You said you started working in the stockroom.
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
That was in Mebane. When I came to Mebane I went to rub and pack. I stayed there for three to four years. Things got kind of hectic to be honest with you and I just couldn't stand the pressure. So I asked to be moved from that department to another department, or I had made my mind up that I was going to do something else. Rather than do the something else I was offered a job in the stockroom. In the stockroom that's where all of our parts and things come in on trucks and then sent out from one department to another one. I had a little truck driving experience so they had a truck there so a lot of the supplies that they had to have and machines to be brought back in to around High Point and the Thomasville area. I could use that truck and go get it and when I got back I could take it and carry it back out into the stockroom. The stockroom is where we had all of our supplies. Whenever a department would come for supplies we would issue them out through the stockroom. That way when they got low you'd know to order more. We kind of half-way kept a tab on what was going out and to keep the stock built back up at the same time. Over the years I learned how to drive a truck and a forklift and several different things just by being around them. It would kind of rub off on you. I was actually working in the stockroom and driving a truck at the end of my career there.