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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jane Squires, September 21, 2002. Interview R-0192. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tensions on the tobacco warehouse floor

Squires liked to sense a bit of tension on the warehouse floor, she recalls, because rivalry drove prices higher. As she remembers tensions between buyers, she remembers when buyers turned their ire on her instead of on one another, questioning her judgment. She rarely made mistakes, but remembers one crucial misjudgment at an auctioneer's competition.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jane Squires, September 21, 2002. Interview R-0192. 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

WILLIAM MANSFIELD:
Do you ever have disputes?
JANE SQUIRES:
All the time.
WILLIAM MANSFIELD:
Tell me about some of those.
JANE SQUIRES:
Not so many this year, on a year like this. I've had many disputes in the past, when tobacco was tight and it was allocated. [They were] daily. With each company, daily.
WILLIAM MANSFIELD:
You say you have a dispute, about what? How does . . . . . .
JANE SQUIRES:
The buyers questioning why I would knock tobacco the way I did. Especially when I first started, not so much any more. The first two or three years [the buyers would ask] "Explain that to me." [or] "Who taught you that?" That went on for a couple of years but I don't get questioned too much any more. But disputes are good. I always liked my sale when my man, that was buying for Phillip Morris and my man that was buying for Export [Tobacco] were not best friends. I always liked it when there was a little bit of tension between those two. I really liked it when there was a little bit of tension between all of them.
WILLIAM MANSFIELD:
And why is that?
JANE SQUIRES:
The competition on sale was better. Tobacco bought more. If you're buying with all of your friends, [they'll say] "Oh you can have that one." Or, "Oh, do you need that one?" I don't like a sale like that. I like [the buyers to say] "It's mine!" And [as a rule] they are going to pay more for it if they see their competition wanting it just as much. So I always liked when they were friends, but not best friends.
WILLIAM MANSFIELD:
But when they would confront you with something like that, "Why did you sell that to him?" "Where did you learn that?" How did handle the disputes?
JANE SQUIRES:
I always tried to have the way it was supposed to be done (which is what I learned from Paige). And there were times that I've been wrong. There were times I have been wrong. But I would admit when I was wrong and that always made it easier. If you're wrong and you try to cover it up, these guys know. I try not to make too many mistakes any more.
WILLIAM MANSFIELD:
[Laughter] I can't see how that would be a habit to begin with. But when you say you're wrong, what kind of mistake could you make?
JANE SQUIRES:
Let's see what comes to mind. Like I say I try not to make that many. I made one in Danville [VA] one time, [at the tobacco auctioneer championship in Danville.] a dire mistake. Let me think of what it was. We had several, must have been eight or ten buyers, and say, for instance, somebody bid 75 and he said, "Wait a minute, wait a minute, I want that." And I said, "OK, can anybody else use it at 75?" And one other buyer said, "I've got 65 on it." I said, "Ok." Well the guy that originally bought it at 75 said, "Well I had 65. I just don't have 75." Well, you can always go up. But once the pile of tobacco is yours it goes to somebody else at a lower price, you can't come down. You can raise your pile. I made that mistake one time, in front of about 25,000 people. I never made it again.
WILLIAM MANSFIELD:
That's good. Somebody said mistakes are educational things.
JANE SQUIRES:
[Laughter] I know. I never made it again.