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Title: Oral History Interview with Millie Tripp, August 12, 1994. Interview K-0112. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Tripp, Millie, interviewee
Interview conducted by Pawlewicz, Valerie
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 112 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-06-09, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Millie Tripp, August 12, 1994. Interview K-0112. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0112)
Author: Valerie Pawlewicz
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Millie Tripp, August 12, 1994. Interview K-0112. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0112)
Author: Millie Tripp
Description: 101 Mb
Description: 25 p.
Note: Interview conducted on August 12, 1994, by Valerie Pawlewicz; recorded in Mebane, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Jackie Gorman.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Editorial practices
An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
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Interview with Millie Tripp, August 12, 1994.
Interview K-0112. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Tripp, Millie, interviewee


Interview Participants

    MILLIE TRIPP, interviewee
    VALERIE PAWLEWICZ, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
… the 12th, 1994. It's 9:05. This is Valerie Pawlewicz, and I'm speaking with Millie Tripp at her home in Mebane.
Ms. Tripp, I wanted to start with very basic questions. And one, what is your relationship to the White Furniture Factory?
MILLIE TRIPP:
I went to work there in 1950 and stayed until I was transferred in 1990--January 1990--to the Hickory-White corporate office in High Point.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
What did you do for White's Furniture?
MILLIE TRIPP:
I started off as filing and order entry clerk, and then I became assistant to the sales manager. From there I worked in the traffic and dealt with our customers all over the country and some in foreign countries.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
By traffic you meant distribution of--?
MILLIE TRIPP:
No, traffic into the shipping part of it. Somewhere I became traffic manager along with my other duties at one point towards the latter part of my tenure there at White's.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
You were there for quite a while?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yes, forty years.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
How did you get started?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, I was in high school, and I knew the Whites' through church, and I was the top business student at that time, and I applied for a job that was opening in order entry, and he gave me the opportunity to try. At that time White's was the big employer in the area.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Who was he?

Page 2
MILLIE TRIPP:
Who was--?
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Who gave you the opportunity?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Mr. White. Steve White.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Did you know him?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yes, he was my Sunday school teacher. I'd known him and his family through church things. They were friends.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
So he suggested that there was a job for you?
MILLIE TRIPP:
No, I learned of the job and just applied. Then he--. Normally they didn't hire people. It was in April of that year, and I was a senior. He said, "Well, I'll give you a chance."
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
So you went right from high school into a job?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Uh, huh.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
When did you start that job?
MILLIE TRIPP:
I was part-time in April, 1950.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
While you were still a student.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yes, I worked half-a-day. I probably didn't think about a long-time thing when I went there, but it was a good job, and it later turned out or maybe it always has been that people who went there stayed pretty much. It was difficult being somebody that was leaving because they were pregnant or moving or something of that nature. The jobs didn't just come open, pretty much.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Did any of your family work for White's?
MILLIE TRIPP:
No.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
So you were the first?
MILLIE TRIPP:
And only one, yes.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Gosh, that's unusual.

Page 3
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, I guess, but I'm one of the older ones in my family. There were six of us. My father died when I was twelve, and we went to work. I went to work at Rose's earlier than that. My brothers went to work at Warren's Drug.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
That was important that you worked?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, yes, we needed to work, and I was delighted to get the job. It was certainly paying much more than Rose's at that time, and I was delighted with it.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
How much were you paid when you first started?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Seventy-five cents an hour.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Was that the going rate for a new employee?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, that was, of course, the lowest rate there, and he could keep me on that or he really could have given me less as a trainee at that time, but that was the minimum, I believe, at that time.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Were there other young women like you working at White's?
MILLIE TRIPP:
There were some older. I have friends now and have been friends with them who had maybe gone to Greensboro College--had a couple of years of college. My first thinking of White's, they had, I remember back then, two beautiful girls who were secretaries to the top men, Mr. White and Mr. Bean, I believe, and I would see them. They wore the nice high heels and the pretty clothes. They just looked very nice and they were [unknown], too, I believe. But anyway, it was sort of something nice in that area, too. I remember when I interviewed with Mr. White he said, "Now, you can't wear bobby socks," of course, I was a school girl. Back then the dress was more important than it is today.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
So were bobby socks something that you wore in school?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, in school then, we did. Before I went he just alerted me to the fact that I was expected not to wear bobby socks.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
So what did you do? Did you get a new wardrobe?

Page 4
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, no, no. I didn't buy a new wardrobe. I wore my better things and wore hose.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Yep. I remember the transition for me from college to a full-time job was difficult because I had to start wearing different clothes.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, I didn't buy that much new, but I, you know, wore nice skirts and blouses and things of that nature and dressed them up a little bit with a wedge heel or whatever.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
That's an interesting perspective on a job the fact that you did have to look different.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Back in the 50s it was important that everybody, the men and the women, dressed in the office.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
How big was the office?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Probably we had [pause] maybe ten office employees. I'm talking about ladies and the management.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Right. One reason I asked about were there other young women, I was wondering who you had become friends with, and were there others like you that were just out of high school?
MILLIE TRIPP:
There were no others just out of high school, but there were some who were a couple of years older than me who had been to Greensboro College or in that type training who had jobs. I don't remember any that maybe didn't. There were some who were older who had been there some years, but I was, I remember feeling, so young. I would have been delighted to have been one of the older ones.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
[laughter]
MILLIE TRIPP:
[laughter] Cause I was the youngest there for a good while.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
And you were probably, say--.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Eighteen.

Page 5
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Eighteen. You said that you didn't know that you would stay there for as long as you ended up staying there. How long did you think you were going to stay there?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, I guess I really didn't give it much thought, but I just didn't ever dream of being wherever for that length of time, but it was a nice place to work. I remember them doing some evaluation from Raleigh--maybe they had it done or maybe I don't know why--but, I believe, they were--they and maybe Cone's--were the highest paid wages particularly in the furniture.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Cone, is that another factory?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Cone, Cone Mills. Are you familiar?
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
C-O-N-E?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yeah, you remember, they make all the corduroy and [unknown]. They are in the area I know, but I don't know where else. They, too, were the highest paying, for their employees. Of course, it's textiles and furniture workers, and so for those categories and in Alamance County, White was really one of the top paying positions.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
What did your friends think when you told them you were going work for White's?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, I don't know. A lot of them were, at that time, going to college or accepting jobs elsewhere. I can't remember what. My family was pleased, and I was delighted. Of course, I remember when I first went I had to walk upstairs and my dentist was upstairs, and I felt, gosh, I have the same feeling I had when I went to the dentist cause I was so new and didn't know anything about what I was going to be doing. The person who was there--and I took her job--was a friend, in fact, she had been a teacher of mine at Sunday school. Not that much older and she was married to a serviceman, and she was pregnant. I believe she was going to be leaving anyway, but she was leaving for that reason. Of course, she was very helpful, and I enjoyed being with her.

Page 6
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
So she stayed on to train you a little while?
MILLIE TRIPP:
For some weeks she was still there after I went to train me and it was in filling and order entries and so forth. Learning the accounts and salesman and what they expected and so forth. I worked in that and billing for about five years.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Five years.
MILLIE TRIPP:
And then Mr. Millender, who was head of sales and marketing and the new vice president, suggested that I take this job. Another girl was leaving it for, I believe, she was pregnant. And so I really thought, well, I like what I'm doing, I would really prefer that, too. He said, "Well, is there some real reason here?" I said, "Not really." But anyway, he then said, "Well, I feel it would be in the best interest in the company to do this," so I really didn't have much choice, but I wasn't upset with it. Then when I got into the other I had much chance to learn, and I learned and enjoyed so many people over the country in being in sales and customer service. I still have those friends today, many of them. When I moved down to High Point people calling in to know about White's, anything old or anything new, would refer them to me because I'm far older, had more years back, and do know the old suites and things like that to offer people, cause if they bought something in 1950 or 1960 and they would love to be able to fill in or they would need a piece of hardware or someone calls that they've had a problem and they want to file the insurance what would it amount to today in today's money and this type thing.
I had a customer to come in last week into our office, and they were from Tennessee. They had bought from White's years ago, and so the girl in the front office called me up to talk with them. They immediately pulled out a photograph of their stuff. I said that was their 7200group that was made in the 50s or early 60s. And he said, "You're right, that's what's on the back of that." He was wanting, hoping that he could get another night table. They were so delighted, and they had enjoyed it and there's was just like new, and I was sorry to tell them that we had nothing like that anymore. Of course,

Page 7
that had been discontinued for years. They were nice and that kind of thing is still a pleasure.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
That must be nice for a customer to come and to be able to place an order and have someone who understands their purchase or their order because so often in businesses now the customer service representative doesn't know the history of the building or the product.
MILLIE TRIPP:
That's true, that's true. When people are calling about a lot of things now, such as hardware that they want for something that's seventeen years [old] and things like that, now, I have to say, which until everything closed last year, I didn't have to bring it up, but I have to say, "Well, that plant closed last year, and we do not carry all the old hardware." And, of course, sometimes we didn't have it anyway, but as a rule--. We don't order to get it now, and that's too bad, but anyway.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
So you've worked in sales and marketing from '55?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Uh, huh, until now, through now, well, I still am in customer service.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Still are?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Uh, huh.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Okay. How long will you stay?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, I'm sixty-two now, and I have thought maybe I would retire at sixty-two because of the traveling and it's an eleven hour day from the time we leave until the time we get back, but after I got there and then the insurance situation the way they are and checking into social security all these things that come up in the retirement situation, I decided, well, I'm happy with it. I still feel as well, and they would like me to stay, so I'm still staying. I don't know. I haven't just come to that conclusion yet.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
How big is the staff that you work with now?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Oh, in our company now, I guess we have probably forty-some at that corporate office.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Is that sales plus the others?

Page 8
MILLIE TRIPP:
Sales plus accounting, computer people, and order entry and all the work that we used to do there only much more because we've got different plants, four plants, three now, yeah, since we closed White's, so we have three now. The upholstery division, and case goods like White's was, and a contract division.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
What sorts of changes have you seen over the time? Let's just say with the White's furniture before Hickory bought it? Did you see much change?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, White's--. One of the things--let me elaborate a little bit--one of the advantages at being at White's, I thought, and a lot of my cohorts or friends that I talked with, an advantage for being there was being able to buy their furniture because there was no way we could afford to buy it at White's cause of its high, top-end and expensuve. Their main concern was quality and design. I think over the years we very seldom brought out a group that didn't go. Of course, it wasn't as major like so many groupings brought out each market in the bigger places so naturally they run more suites [unclear] . But their quality and, of course, quality of the supplies you get is involved in that, too. That was the main thing, I think. Today dealers, salesmen, and everybody seem more like family. They're loyal, they stuck whatever, and maybe there weren't that many options for everybody out as there are today. There's so many. But the dealers I dealt with often would send me a gift to the market or something because you talk with them for years and felt good with them. And the sales rep, back then, stayed. Those jobs were coveted then. It was very difficult for them to get on with White's because they stayed until they died or something happened. Very few changes. They were excellent jobs. In going to the market--. I started going to the markets sort of as a receptionist and that type thing at our showroom in the 60s. I felt that I knew those people well. The salesmen brought their wives back then and often usually they would have a cookout or something. It was very much home stuff more than today. Today it is probably more business and maybe people aren't doing the long-time job situations that we did those years. I think people [unclear] . Like the sales reps maybe change more often and there's more--of

Page 9
course, in all areas I think people change jobs so much more. But as far as the quality of high--. I know back then we got very few things that were problems. It was really--. When they designed then--I can't compare exactly to today--but when they designed then I know the people in the plant, the vice-president, Mr. Bean, and that group of people would often say, "Well, now this is sort of--. I don't believe we can make this the way it's designed." They would figure out something that would work or change the design somewhat. I don't know whether they do that as much today or not. It seems that--and I'll show you a few pieces in the house that I bought--but they were just top notch all the way through.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
I've heard that from other people as well that they took a lot of pride in their job cause the quality of the product was so high.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Uh, huh.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
They felt that they were really making something that mattered.
MILLIE TRIPP:
And it was. I'm not saying that we don't make things today, but I see in suppliers and what I know of it that they are not living up to their word as much as they did back then. If they promised you were going to get things in you would get them. Today, no. Those things enter into, I think, a lot of situations.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
When you moved to sales you mentioned that there wasn't a lot of movement up and down because people stayed in their jobs. How long did you stay in your first job?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Five years.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Okay. Then you moved to sales and you stayed in that job?
MILLIE TRIPP:
That's where I've been ever since.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Oh, it's the same job.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yeah, it's just you, I guess, you add a little bit onto yourself. I worked for this assistant sales manager, and he left after Hickory-White came, and then I gradually did more of some of the things he did, not everything. But you just learn from being

Page 10
there, seeing, and maybe people getting your name over the years and will ask for you or will call you. You get just a little more involved just by the longevity of it, I think.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Do you remember a moment, if there was, when you decided you were going to stay at White's?
MILLIE TRIPP:
I don't think I every made a decision. [laughter]
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
[laughter]
MILLIE TRIPP:
I guess it was made for me. For one thing, I had two children, and then I got a divorce in the late 50s. My children were in school in Mebane. Most of my family worked with AT&T. They paid better, and they had better vacations, but I felt that I needed to be near here with the children so I would be here during the day in case whatever came up since I had them on my own. And then, of course, I liked my job, too, and liked the people. So anyway, I just stayed on for that reason, I guess. Whether I would have changed otherwise, I don't know, but anyway, that, in particular, and I'm not sorry. I stayed, and I accomplished things when I stayed.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
And you were from Mebane, aren't you?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yes. I went to school in Mebane.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
And your family is from Mebane?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yes, well, we moved here when I was in second grade of school. So I've been here--my family--all my life that I remember.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Where are your parents from?
MILLIE TRIPP:
My mother is from near Oxford, and my father was down near Siler City.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Why did they move to Mebane?
MILLIE TRIPP:
He started working with the Esso Oil Company here in Mebane. He was driving back and forth at that point for a while. There was another gentleman who was a good neighbor and a friend from the same area that really got him started in this. He was in printing earlier on in Knoxville. But then he decided we needed to be up here.

Page 11
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
I was thinking about you as a single mother raising her children. I know from talking to another woman that one of the advantages for her working at White's were the hours, that the hours were such that they were the same as the ones that her children were in school.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Pretty much.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
And she found that convenient. Had she worked nine to five it would have been hard 'cause there would have been those hours.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Honey, I worked eight to five all the time. I never had any change, and I didn't have any choice, really. I had a maid that stayed with me five years and never missed a day when my children were young. So that was very fortunate, and today people don't have the in-house--. Then that was the only choice. We didn't have day schools and that kind of thing.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
So your children were young?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Oh, yes.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
They weren't in school?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, no, my daughter was probably in first grade when this came about, and my son was probably three, so in that age group. I had a maid that was a beautiful woman, a black lady that we very much loved. She came to the children's weddings and things.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
What was her name?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Olie Mae Holt.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Olie Mae Holt.
MILLIE TRIPP:
She lived over in the West End. When I was looking for someone--. She used to baby-sit for Woody Durham. He was from Mebane as you may know. Do you know Woody?
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
I might.
MILLIE TRIPP:
The announcer on T.V.?

Page 12
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Okay, sure.
MILLIE TRIPP:
The Carolina guy. Well, she baby-sat for him, and his father was kin to my in-laws, the Tripps. Anyway, through them we learned of her and got her and was delighted the whole time. She was just wonderful. And, of course, it kept me from--. If the children were sick she could take them to the doctor or whatever. She did a nice job for us. She died just two years ago.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
She was from Mebane?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yes, she lived over in West End. She was just a wonderful woman. Really helped me. I had a good supportive family from my family all those years. My mother pitched in whenever. So anyway, I did not have the problem that often I see today that they do. So after we quit having Olie Mae my next door neighbor, who were in their 60s or so the and had been friends, neighbors of mine when I first moved to Mebane, we were very close with them, and they looked after the children for me right next door, this drive between. So anyway, it worked out very well for me. I didn't have the problems that so many find.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Did Olie Mae work the entire day or would she come in for certain hours?
MILLIE TRIPP:
No, I picked her up before I went to work. The children would ride with me to go pick her up and bring her back. Then I took her home at five o'clock.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Okay.
MILLIE TRIPP:
So she stayed. She did the cooking, looked after the house and the children.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Was that common to have someone to come in?
MILLIE TRIPP:
That was the way you almost had to do it unless you had a family member who was going to do it because they didn't have day schools, these things you can carry them to like we do. I guess people, maybe, carried them to somebody's house or something like that, but you didn't have those if they had somebody, people kept them like that. A lot of my friends and the people I knew back then did that. That was a job for them for the people who needed work of that kind.

Page 13
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
As a mother, say your child was sick, was the furniture factory open to you going home?
MILLIE TRIPP:
If I needed to go, which people didn't take advantage, I don't think, I don't remember anybody doing that, but if I needed to go to something I could go. If I had to run to the dentist or if I had to do this, I could run do that. Then they were not as--at that time--the feeling, I think, almost everywhere was that you weren't as free to run and do as you do today.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
You were not as free then?
MILLIE TRIPP:
No, but if you had some--. I never had any problem or anything if I needed to take Sue to the doctor or whatever, but my children were fortunate. They were not sick other than they had the childhood diseases so I didn't have any real problems the whole time for myself or them, fortunately. But they would work with you.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
You've mentioned that when you first began working for White's there were certain ways to dress that were proper. It sounded like you were allowed to make family emergency trips, but otherwise you really needed to be at work.
MILLIE TRIPP:
That's right.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
[unknown]. When did you start seeing a change in the factory? Did you start being able to wear more comfortable clothes?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, I pretty much dressed the same all the time. They did, I mean, it became as the times changed. People just changed without any set--. They didn't have a dress policy or anything like that. Times changed, and I recall once down there a girl coming in--new girl--who just came in and wore flip-flops, I believe. She was new. She didn't know, I guess, and anyway one of the bosses told her we didn't do that. They didn't expect you to be dressed up.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
But no mini skirts?
MILLIE TRIPP:
They didn't like those, no, and that kind of thing.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
[unknown].

Page 14
MILLIE TRIPP:
No, just proper dress, but I remember when pants started getting popular. I guess that was back in the 60s for women and if they weren't before. A lot of people had their own varied opinions, but they didn't really enforce that on you, I mean, some started wearing--. But I even see today, I saw someone the other day who said, "Well, we at our place, we can wear any kind of pants, just not blue." I said, "Why not?" "Cause they're jeans." I guess they didn't want to wear jeans or something. I said, "Well, that don't make sense to me, but anyway." [laughter]
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
[laughter]
MILLIE TRIPP:
And where I work today, they are not strict. In fact, this summer they put a casual dress in.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
So that you can stay more comfortable.
MILLIE TRIPP:
We can wear shorts if we want to. I'm sure they don't want short shorts--for the summer--and some do, and some dress like I'm dressed. I usually dress this way because I have more things, too--. I'm not going to go buy a bunch of the casual stuff because I don't have it, but I have some.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Speaking of dress, you mentioned that you have your own business. When did you start doing dressmaking?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, I'm not a dressmaker, by the way, but anyway I thought back in the early 80s, I thought that when I retire I want something to do, and the library building-- was a huge building, I thought--I thought about buying that and either do interior decorating, which I was taking some of that in courses, or either a dress shop, boutique or something. So I thought, well, I'm going to look into that. So anyway, that building became for sale, and I tried to buy it from the person who owned it or maybe the Realtor. They wanted more for it than I felt--. So I said I would just wait till the auction comes. I did, and I got a very good buy on the building although it needed much work. Lots of work. I didn't realize how much at the time and maybe it would have scared me off, but

Page 15
anyway, I decided I will go ahead and work on fixing that up. My sister helped me, too, then. We spread about fifty gallons of paint.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Wow!
MILLIE TRIPP:
On our off times and so forth.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
After your eleven hour days?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, I didn't have eleven hours then. I had eight hour day then. Well, the children at that point--. I waited until they had both gotten out of school and both got married--within three months of each other. So those were hard times.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Yes.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Getting through those two weddings.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Through two weddings, gosh.
MILLIE TRIPP:
But anyway, that's been eighteen years ago. As soon as they got married and gotten out, I decided I would buy this building, and I decided, well, if I'm going to do something on my own I need some accounting so I could at least read what somebody is telling me or not telling me. So I went to TCA.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Which is?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, Alamance Community College is ACC now. I just enrolled in some accounting classes at night. I was just going to take two of those. I liked it so I stayed on and got a degree, four years in all.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
I was just going to ask you. So up to this point you hadn't been through college?
MILLIE TRIPP:
No, just high school, and then I went to ACC for four years at night and got an associate degree in business. I don't know that it has helped me on my job or what, or maybe certainly in something by now. But anyway, it helped me, and I just enjoyed it. After four years I was tired of it. But, anyway, I did that and worked on the building. I rented out the building, two areas, to almost pay the payment. Then I had a plan of what I was going to do, but I was going to do it when I retired. I had a sister-in-law and another

Page 16
friend, and she came to me and said, "I'd like to know what you would think about it if you'd rent me." I said, "Well, I'll rent you the one small area. [unknown]. If you want to start that and if you do well then I'll let you have the other area." I guess the person in the other area moved out so I said, "Well, you can have that." They started and worked about six months. She became ill and later died of leukemia. Anyway, my brother and she were in on it. So anyway, I bought them out and decided that while it's that far, I'll just go ahead and buy them out and hire somebody to do it. I did that and that was in '85, I believe.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
So you were hiring out this building while you were still working at Hickory?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yeah, yes.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
You were doing all this at once.
MILLIE TRIPP:
So anyway, I hired a person to work full-time, and I went to markets. My sister has gone with me, and we go to Charlotte and Atlanta markets to buy.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
What do you buy?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Ladies apparel; coats, suits, dresses, sportswear, jewelry.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
How would you describe the look or the style that you were buying?
MILLIE TRIPP:
It was sort of more a conventional or not necessarily conventional, but a lot of that type thing. Now I have a full-time and part-time and then I work on Saturdays, of course, my sister and I still go to Atlanta. So I have been working full-time, but anyway, I like it, and I feel to improve that. When I retire I'd like three or four days and have these people still work.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
How has business been there such as at White's?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, the main part of White's was the plant employees. I had some good friends and customers from those, but there weren't as many women there. That didn't affect me greatly. I still see a lot of people through there and very pleased to do that. It's just a plus. Business is sort of the way the times are. Sort of up and down. It runs fairly

Page 17
smoothly. It isn't the big chore that a lot of jobs are. It's sort of a side thing right now, but I enjoy it. And I'm working on a number of [unknown].
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Will you stay with this business or do you think you will sell out?
MILLIE TRIPP:
I think I will stay there, and when I retire and have something to do part-time and half-time [unknown]. Do those, what are you going to want to do when you retire? Do you want to do a lot of traveling or what? I love garden--I mean the yard things. As the time comes along, I guess, whatever evolves. I would like to have more time with my children's families.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Do they live in the area?
MILLIE TRIPP:
My son lives in Mebane, and he has two children. His wife is in Mary Kay. And then my daughter is in Columbus, Ohio, now. Now I'm hoping after she gets through with this degree that they'll move back South. Until my grandson gets out of high school they want to stay there--he's got two years--until he gets through that. He wants to come to Carolina.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
UNC?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Uh, huh.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
It's a good school.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yes, so he--. I thought they were coming this month. Maybe they weren't able to work out to suit people down there to talk with them about it, but anyhow, we'll see.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
While you were working at White's in the 80s did you notice a decline in [pause] how, what factors?
MILLIE TRIPP:
What you attribute to?
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Yeah.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Ah, well, I felt that the gentlemen who were head of that company over all the years were each very bright, brilliant in their situations. I don't know that it was when newer people started in and made changes or, of course, maybe the times needed

Page 18
changing, I don't know, but in that time there was a decline. Maybe in problems and maybe in some of the 80s were some poor financial times in the country, I think. But, I know we had more quality problems at that time, and maybe there were things between the factions.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Factions being the people who were making decisions for the company?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Uh, huh. Possibly in that area.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
'Cause in sales you have seen, you would have heard the calls coming in about maybe problems with the furniture or problems with the suppliers, so you--.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yeah, I don't know about the suppliers at that point whether or not there were problems or not, no, but I had seen them since. I'm not sure other than I know there were certain quality problems, maybe the designs that they brought out were more difficult in procedures or whatever they had to do. One grouping, in particular, that came out, an oriental grouping that we are still selling.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
An oriental?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Uh, huh. I'll show you some things. We're still selling today so it's been going on since, at least, the early 80s. I can't remember what year that was brought out right now, but certainly back in June, and we had a new younger designer that designed that. It was beautiful, well received, I mean, just great time, just great big time in markets. Made copies, people trying to market it off, but weren't successful. But it went big time, and it's still a popular group. It is going to be dropped this time; the final cutting is coming in now. I remember in that particular grouping there were problems in making this. They had a real high sheen. The table tops seemed that they had problems galore with those and spent time working that out. And types of that thing that maybe they were more complicated for some reason or something that made them harder to--. Maybe they had to find new materials that weren't normal for the time or something. Back in that time it seems like things started going down. I feel that there was friction somewhere in there. I hesitate to say anything like what would cause that. I really don't

Page 19
like to get into that, but during those times [unknown] started and over the years--I don't think they ever lost money. I know the last couple of years that they owned it, right in there, is when things started happening.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
That's how you account for the sales?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, they were losing money so I'm not sure, I mean, why they decided to--. I don't know why they sold it as cheaply as I understood they did 'cause we had a backlog of orders about that deep. [measuring with fingers] It was difficult times that last year certainly. And, of course, everybody was feeling so insecure for the first time in all the years at White's even though we saw business, a few times, get very bad when orders were very slim, we still didn't have the feeling that you weren't going to have a job, but it became more and more the fact that something had to happen.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
How was it that you did not lose your job?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Oh, you mean when the merger came?
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Uh, huh.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Of course, when they bought us out all of us stayed for a good while, and then when they were going to make a corporate office at High Point, Richard Hinkle then was president of White's and he's the one making the decisions, and he took several of us from White's who were in certain positions and decided that we were the ones to go rather than the ones from the other companies such as Hickory. Those people lost that position, their jobs in that area. He said in talking with the people in the field that they by far rated us--everyone he talked to that knew, everywhere he went--felt that they were, by far, the best in the business. And of course, he worked with us and knew what we did, I guess. He gave us some extra [unknown]. Well, nobody was more shocked than we girls that they asked to go. There were five of us, I believe. So they called us one at a time down to tell us what was going to happen. We knew nothing about it. We were as shocked at that as we were when they told us the plant was closing. None of us would have ever thought of driving that far to work.

Page 20
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
How far is it?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Fifty-five miles. So it's an hour each way.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
It's a long way.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yeah, so they did say that they would buy a van and we'd chip in on the gas and maintenance. So it didn't cost us anything to go except an hour each way. It was either that or you were out a job. I'm not sorry. I didn't know how sheltered we were until we went to High Point, though. We were country girls.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
What were some of the things that made you realize that?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, the girls came in and just told things that went on and did and all around. It just amazes you that other people don't live like you do. We were--. All of us said, "Well, it's an education." Still today, it seems like there's something coming up all the week days every week that keeps you--some excitement going or whatever. There were more changes than we were used to.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
When did you hear that White's was going to close? You mentioned that it being [unknown].
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, the people from Hickory--they were trying to buy us—I'm saying Hickory, wherever they were from, certainly some of them were Hickory--came in the conference room, and I know all the bosses and their wives which was unusual were all at the meeting so I assume they were all a part of ownership. We knew then that something was certainly going to happen. I understood the different factions of the company would like to have bought it themselves, but for some reason, I don't know, they never worked it out. So anyway, when it was sold then we were shocked, you know, what's going to happen? You hear the conglomerates and they could have come in and moved new people in or whatever, but they didn't. The new owner's made lots of changes, some for the better and some for the worst.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
What sort of changes?

Page 21
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, they came in and revamped the plant, for one thing. They remodernized. The plant was old and needed that and cleaned up, just did a lot of things of that nature that needed to be done. And, of course, each management brings its own theories of what ought to be done, what dealers to sell, and that kind of thing. They made changes in all areas of the plant.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
I know one of the hardest things about the changes that one worker expressed was that someone from Hickory was brought in to take his position, supervising position, and he was put back to a different one, and then was told how to do the job he had been doing for twenty years. That was hard having someone else tell him how to do his job. Did you have a different boss? You mentioned different management style.
MILLIE TRIPP:
No, Hal McAdams, who is now vice president over here, but he had come in to take the sales manager job. He was over salesmen and [unknown] before White's closed, so he was still there, but he was not the old school, he was not of the old school. He had taken a job maybe a year before he took Charlie Millender--. Charlie Millender was leaving the company. He choose to do so, and so they hired Hal McAdams to replace him.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
You've mentioned the closing of the factory and the sale of White's, and you mentioned hearing about or being told, how were you told? How did you hear?
MILLIE TRIPP:
[Millie clears her throat] I believe Charlie Millender came and told us they had sold the company, but they had assured him our jobs wouldn't be in jeopardy, that we might even be better off or something to that effect.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Was there a general announcement just made as you walked to the office or were you called into an auditorium of sorts?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, he told us--the sales force of sales people in the sales department--he came and told us, and I'm sure the other bosses told their department.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
He just walked in and said, "I've got to tell you something?"
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, he came back, I believe, from that meeting 'cause we were, of course, there working.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
How many were you at the time in sales?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Up in that department, I believe there were six of us. [Millie clears her throat]
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
And that's how you heard? What was the reaction?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Shock, but yet he sort of smoothed it over for us in saying that there's a possibility we might be even better off.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Of the six people in your office at the time, how many, like yourself, got a job in the Hickory-White factory office?
MILLIE TRIPP:
All of us.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
All of you?
MILLIE TRIPP:
[Clearing throat]

Page 23
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
How long was it from the time you heard about the sale until the factory closed?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, the factory actually didn't close until this June and that was at the end of '89. No, well, that was in '85, excuse me.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Right. '85 was the sale?
MILLIE TRIPP:
That was the time, uh, huh. Then we stayed there until December of '89, and right after the Christmas holidays we started going to High Point.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
That was in '89. So you never saw the last day of the factory?
MILLIE TRIPP:
No. We, of course, leave from Mebane everyday and a couple of us went by after the sale to see the people.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
What was it like your last day at White's?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, it almost wasn't--. The last day we were packing up our things and getting them ready to be sent over. That packing that wasn't--. I can't remember who was working during the holidays at that point. It was sort of distressful, and, of course, not knowing what to expect other than my superior came down and talked with us some days before we left.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
To talk about the transition, your new responsibilities?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yes, and they even sort of seeing what we knew and what we did and then he planned, more or less. I was going to be his assistant. What we were going to do was we went over it and so forth.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Did you get the same pay when you made the move?
MILLIE TRIPP:
I'm thinking we got a little more pay, I can't remember, to be honest with you, but I don't feel that I was hurt financially.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
[pause] It's been different for you than for some other people that I've met who didn't live in Mebane and had to leave White's. They lost the connection to the town and some of the people there. Do you think that since you still lived here and had a

Page 24
business were able to keep in contact with people in the factory? Did you find that to be true?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yes, that helped in my situation. Helped my situation with having four or five of the people I had worked with go with me, you know, together. We were coming back to Mebane all the time, and we were talking to the plant all the time even in our jobs, so we kept that connection as much as we could and enjoyed that. [Clearing her throat] In fact, Fletcher Holmes, I talked with him this week. [unknown]. I see Margaret at church and Mr. White. So we see--. We miss a lot of people, of course, but yet we still have more connections, there's another two that just went out. I'm sure by us continuing to be working all the time in the same--. [unknown] in the same catalogues. I felt more for those people who didn't have that continuity.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Going to different jobs?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, all of us kept our same situations. We might be doing a little differently, yet it's the same. You knew you job. You didn't really have to learn. All of us had been in the job for a long time so we knew well enough that we could adjust to what changes they decided to make on us.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
So what was the hardest change that you had to make?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, I suppose, the traveling situation, and it takes all your time.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Had that discouraged anyone of the women that moved with you to maybe stop working?
MILLIE TRIPP:
No.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
No! You all continued?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Uh, huh.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
That's a great commitment for a long commute.
MILLIE TRIPP:
It is, but I think people like it. I like it. It's sort of a hassle, I mean, you get tired and just like any other job. It isn't, say, boring, you know what I mean? And, of

Page 25
course, with the commute we have, right now, we have six in the van and there's talk going on. So it isn't anything like having to drive by yourself.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Right, and who drives?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, Shirley Stout drives most of the time. If she's out, I drive.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Where is this van?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, Shirley keeps it at her house under the carport so you don't have to clean those big windows everyday. You know what I'm saying?
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
[laughter] Yeah.
MILLIE TRIPP:
And I've driven it a few times--she's been sick a week or two at the time or something I would bring it home, but I have to go to the shop every morning--I do--to turn on the air and check things and in the afternoon, so I usually park downtown. I used to park at White's, now, I park up near home.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
I think those are my questions. What sorts of things did you have in mind to put on tape when you were asked to be interviewed?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, to be honest I've said a lot more than I thought I knew to say. I don't know whether you drew out--. I said, "Well, we won't be but a few minutes." You said, "No, an hour." I said, "What in the world are we going to talk about for an hour?" But the people overall they were family. You get the feeling of family, and I still have a lot of people to come to shop just to say hello, and it's nice. And then when you go places you see them; weddings, funerals, and all these kinds of things. I still have close feelings with those people.
END OF INTERVIEW