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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert Riley, February 1, 1994. Interview K-0106. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Strict rules at White's Furniture Company

White's had strict rules, Riley remembers, setting a dress code and carefully regulating breaks. The intensity and noise of his work restricted any behavior that the rules did not.

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:
When you were working at either of the plants were there any differences between the two? Any special rules about work like how you were suppose to dress, if talking was allowed, or just special rules about work?
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
They had real strict rules. They had a dress code, and most everybody had to wear pants, even ladies. At the Hillsborough plant when I first went there we went to work at 7:30 and had forty-five minutes for lunch. They had a whistle that would toot about two minutes before 7:30, and if you were sitting outside smoking or talking that would give you two minutes to walk from wherever you were to your place of work. Then when 7:30 came that whistle would blow again and the machines would start running. That machinery would run until break time. At break time the whistle would blow again.
CHRIS STEWART:
Break time, lunch?
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
No. Mid morning break around 9:30. That whistle would blow again and everybody would stop, get a drink of water or… Now, you could go to the bathroom or get a drink of water at any point in time, but you couldn't drink or smoke outdoors. You didn't smoke inside the plant, not in the furniture plant. Today they have designated areas fixed up for smoking, but at that time you went outdoors to smoke. You could get a drink at that time or you could eat. Eating, and sodas and smoking were not allowed during the work period. They didn't want a lot of talking during the work period because they wanted you to do your job. They felt like if you were doing a lot of talking and running the machinery you could very easily mess up something - either yourself or a piece of furniture. They wanted you to keep your mind on what you were doing. The rules were pretty strict.
CHRIS STEWART:
Did people talk anyway?
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
Well, there are certain jobs that you might could talk, but a lot of those jobs you had to have earplugs in your ear to run the machinery, so you couldn't do much talking because it was so noisy in the plant with the machinery running. A lot of times your job kept you to the point to where you couldn't do much talking because you had to do your job.
CHRIS STEWART:
It sounds like the assembly line was moving pretty fast.
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
Everything would come down the line and basically it was adjusted to keep everybody busy.