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Oral History Interview with Gladys Florene Harris, 1979 August.
Interview H-124. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007):

Electronic Edition.

Harris, Gladys Florene, interviewee

Interview conducted by Patty Dilley

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[Full interview, ca. 64 MB, 1 hr. 10 min.]

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Source Description:
(transcript) Oral History Interview with Gladys Florene Harris, 1979 August. Interview H-124. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
(series) Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-4007)

Gladys Florene Harris
28 p.
Chapel Hill, N. C.
Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Interview transcribed by Sharon King.
Interview conducted in August 1979, by Patty Dilley; recorded in Hickory, N. C.
Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Original transcript on deposit at The Southern Historical Collection Louis Round Wilson Library.

        The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-CH digitization project, Documenting the American South.
        An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 24th edition, 2001

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Revision History:

Oral History Interview
with Gladys Florene Harris,
1979 August.
Hickory, N. C.
Interview H-124. Series H. Piedmont Industrialization.
Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-4007)

[Interview conducted] by

Patty Dilley

Transcribed by

Sharon King

Original transcript on deposit at
The Southern Historical Collection
Louis Round Wilson Library

Page 1

Oral History Interview
with Gladys Florene Harris,
1979 August.
Interview H-124.


        PATTY DILLEY: What did your father raise?

        GLADYS HARRIS: We raised corn, cotton, sweet potatoes, peanuts, strawberries, just about everything.

        PD: Would he sell his crops anywhere?

        HARRIS: Yeah. Then there was a market for strawberries, and we would start picking strawberries on Monday morning. We picked strawberries from sunup to sundown till Saturday at dinner. Bob Martin, he'd taken all the strawberries that we had. The sweet potatoes, he had a house that he cured them. We sold them in the spring. We made a good living, a better living than you make now, work like you have to work. I got married then when I was seventeen or eighteen. We stayed with them a while, then we moved out to ourselves. We had one child. I still help them to farm because I didn't know nothing about the public works then. Then when we were married, when our son was three years old, he had an accident with his own car. It run over him and he had a bad concussion of the brain. He wasn't able to work; he worked about eight years after he got hurt. It was for twenty-seven years before he died that he didn't do anything, only just piddle around the house.

        PD: This is who?

        HARRIS: My husband. I went to work, and I paid for two homes. I paid for one, we sold that one. I paid for another one and sold that one, and we built this one. I paid for this home, every dollar by myself, and wasn't making but about $2.50 a hour. It cost $8,500.

        PD: How long have you been living here?

        HARRIS: Twelve years. We moved here on Christmas Eve and in three years, that Christmas Eve, and then in February is when my husband died.

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My dad thought I had to go down--they moved to Gastonia--he thought I had to go down there and live with them, but I just stayed here. I knowed I was going to have to stay by myself sometime, so I stayed by myself ever since he's been dead, eleven years I think. I stayed by myself everynight. I don't think a thing about it.

        PD: Why did your parents decide to move to Gastonia?

        HARRIS: When GE was built over here. My baby brother lived down there. When GE built over here, people was wanting property around here. All this territory in here--my daddy had 137 acres, I think it was--they was wanting the property to build on to be near GE. So he just put it up for auction. My brother wanted him to come down there and buy a farm that was close down there that they wanted part of, but they couldn't buy. I guess they'll get it all because they helped take care of mama and daddy. Daddy was ninety-one years old in June and mama's eighty-eight. She'll be eighty-nine if she lives till December. I've got a long life family. My grandmother, before, she lived to be eighty-nine--my daddy's mother. It's a old family. They lived to be old.

        PD: What do you remember about your grandparents?

        HARRIS: I remember them because we lived with them. Anything that I wanted, that my daddy couldn't get, my granddaddy got it for me because I's the only girl. I had four brothers, but I was the only girl. He died when my son--my son was born in July--he died in November. He sat on the back porch and rocked that baby. He was starving, and we didn't know what was wrong way back then. I was breast feeding and my milk wasn't no good, and the doctors couldn't find it out--had arthritis first. He would rock that baby from sunup to sundown. He had hurt so bad when he got sick and died that it was pitiful. They were realy good people; they really helped to take care of of children. My grandmother didn't

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weigh but ninety-five pounds; she was just a little tiny thing, but grandpa was a huge fella. That was my daddy's parents. My mama's parents lived at Cherryville. I never was around them much because I don't like that territory down in there.

        PD: What's wrong with Cherryville?

        HARRIS: I don't know. I never did like to go down in there. As quick as I got big enough that they couldn't make me go, I didn't go. That's the reason. That's the reason I can't stand to be around mama and daddy. I don't like that territory down there.

        PD: Gastonia?

        HARRIS: It's on this side of Dallas a little bit, up Cherryville highway. I don't like that territory at all. I think I'd go crazy if I had to stay down there. I was borned and raised here, right in this territory. I've always lived here and I guess that's the reason I feel so so close to it. I have one brother lives on the other side of Monroe, and then that one that lives at Dallas. Then a older brother lives down here at Conover, and my other brother lives over on Sweetwater Road. I live here.

        PD: When you were growing up and you got married and stayed at your home, how did you meet your husband?

        HARRIS: These friends of mine had a party and he was there. This girlfriend of mine and her boyfriend, they said to me, "Let's go get something to eat." I said, "No, I got to go home." My brother was with them and five a half years younger, had to go with me. They wouldn't let me go by myself. I said, "No, I got to go home. I got to take him home." My girlfriend said, "Let him stay here with my parents till we come back." That's the way we started. From then on, we dated.

        PD: How old were you then?

        HARRIS: I's seventeen, eighteen. I never dated till I was

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        PD: How long did you all date before you got married?

        HARRIS: We started going together in June or July, one. We got married in the next October.

        PD: Was your husband working anywhere at the time?

        HARRIS: Yeah, he worked in the furniture factory. He helped to make frames.

        PD: What plant?

        HARRIS: Hickory Manufacturing. He changed and went to hosiery mill at Roaring Rivers. He finally got to where after he was hurt, had that accident, he got to where he couldn't work at all then. The doctor said it was that clotted blood on his brain. Back then, they didn't know what to do. That was made his mind go blank. His mind would go blank and after he had that lick, he'dtake some kind of a spells. The doctor called them epileptic fits, but they weren't. They were something similar to it, but they weren't exactly that, but they didn't know what else to call them.

        PD: Which was the better job, doing the hosiery or furniture?

        HARRIS: Way back there then, one was about as good as the other, but when one was prospering, the other would be down. It was just a good year for the furniture one year, and next year it was good for the hosiery. Now, I think it runs about on the level, about as good for one as for the other now. Along after we got married was when the Depression was; we got married in '28. It wasn't long after that when the Depression was, and everybody felt it hard then. We never did want for anything. I guess because daddy had a farm and everything. When the depression was, they were about the only ones that didn't want for nothing. The ones that worked at the shops or at the mills and didn't

Page 5

have nothing besides that, they had it rough.

        PD: When did you first start working?

        HARRIS: Soon as she was nine years old. I'd been married about twelve years first when I went to work. I went to work in a hosiery mill though. Inspected socks then, and that's been about forty years ago. Would you believe I made more an hour then than I'm a-making right now inspecting socks? I was on production, and I really could throw it out then. While I was working there, this place was going bankruptcy because they paid so good. The people that run it was from Murphy up in the mountains. They didn't realize what other places paid I guess. They paid a lot higher than the others. They had to sell it out. Red Heifer bought it out, and he said that he'd take the hands with the machines and all. So I went on down there and went to work. When I got down there, I started pairing. I paired socks down there then. They put me to getting the samples and all. I had to do all the sample work and everything. That's what I've done ever since then.

        When I quit that--I was there fifteen years--then I went to Kaiser Roth. He got sick and his work began to go down. Because Paul wasn't able to work, I had to work everyday. So I went to Kaiser Roth and got a job--my daughter-in-law worked there--and I got a job there. When I got up there, though, they didn't put me on production there. They just paid me by the hour, and I did the samples and all that. I worked there four years, and I got so sick of that place that in the morning when I'd start to work, I just felt like I was going to choke to death if I didn't vomit or something, just dreading to go to it.

        We was living above Sweetwater School then in my husband's old home place. Hickory [-Frye Mfg.] was about a five minute walk from where

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we live. One evening I come home from work at the hosiery mill and I told my husband, I said, "I'm going down there and see if they need any hands." He said, "You don't know how to do nothing"--I's inspecting then--"You don't know how to do nothing." I said, "Well, maybe I don't know how to do nothing, but maybe they'll teach me." So I went down there one evening, and I asked them about a job. They asked me if I knew anything about sewing. I said, "I don't know anything about sewing in here, but I make clothes and things at home." He said, "You want to work a notice where you at, don't you?" I said, "All that's a-quitting there and been working a notice, they don't let them work a notice, they fire them." They won't let them work up there after they told them. I said, "I want to work the week out, and I'm not telling them. I'm going come on home Friday evening like I'm going back Saturday morning. Saturday morning I'm going to call and tell them they can give my papers to somebody else, I won't be back." He said, "If you quit us, you won't do us like that, will you?" I said, "No, I'll work you all a notice, unless you're going to fire me whenever I tell you I'm going to work notice." He said, "Okay, if you're not going back on Saturday morning up there, just come down here Saturday morning." I said, "Okay, I'll be here." Would you believe--I knew the girl that was over the sewers, teach them how to sew and all--when I went in there Saturday morning, this girl, she sit down and she sewed one cushion. She got up from one machine and she said, "There it is, Gladys, take it. I know you can do it. Sit down there and start." That's the way I learned to sew! Didn't nobody stand over me and tell me what to do and how to do it. When I got started up there, they put me to making samples there. I made samples every place where I've ever worked. I make their samples, and--it's a home-owned place--for everybody that's in the family that

Page 7

wants anything made, I have to make it. They won't let anybody else make it. I told them the other day, if I live till next August when my birthday is, I'll be seventy. Then, I want to quit whenever I've made the amount that I can make. They said, "Oh, you won't do it." I said, "Yes I am too. They better be getting somebody else to do this work, part of it." But I enjoy my work, I dearly love to sew.

        PD: Are you on production now?

        HARRIS: I'm on pile work. Whatever they want done, I had to do like that. Repairs and things like that, I do them. We get along pretty good.

        PD: What was it about the work for Kaiser Roth at that hosiery place that was. . . .

        HARRIS: It was the overseers or whoever was over you, they was just outrageous. When I worked for Red Heifer--I worked for him for fifteen years--we didn't even have a boss. We just had a floor lady. We all done just the same way. We knowed what we supposed to do and how we supposed to do it. Nobody bossed us or nothing. I think that was really what was wrong. When I went to Kaiser Roth, they were so bossified and strict and everything. I think that's what got on my nerves so bad. Too, they had a couple up there that was so bad to run to the big boss if you done the least little thing, they would run to him about it--always keeping something stirred up. I don't like things like that. I think everything ought to go along smooth, like be no difficulty between anybody, I don't think. Some people's not satisfied unless they got something stirred or an argument or a fuss or something. While I worked with Kaiser Roth, they started making leotards, and they put me out there cutting them and sewing them to start with. I been into lots of little odds and ends things.

Page 8

        PD: You talked before that work in the hosiery was tedious?

        HARRIS: Well it is. It's more tedious than furniture factory. In other words, your socks have got to be perfect, or they want them perfect before they go out. You have so many shades to pair from and can't let a hole go through, not to let a mend go through in the first class or anything like that. It takes good eyes and you got to be on your toes whenever you're on production especially, trying to make something and a-pairing them. I don't know, I just prefer sewing. I don't know why I stayed in the hosiery mill as long as I did. It was just dreading the change of jobs. I just don't like to change jobs. I reckon that's the reason I've been in this furniture place as long as I have--nineteen years July 31. If I stay till next year if I be able to work, it'll be twenty years. I think long enough at one place.

        PD: When you were back working as an inspector, that's at that first plant, what was the name of that place?

        HARRIS: They call it Cherokee Hosiery Mill.

        PD: How many people worked there?

        HARRIS: Near seventy-five. It wasn't many.

        PD: Where is that plant?

        HARRIS: You know where you go into Hickory Manufacturing Company, that building there? That's where it was. They had the building rented. I guess they'd been there about a year is all.

        PD: Did a lot of the women whose husbands worked there in Hickory Manufacturing, did the women work. . . .

        HARRIS: No, they just scattered around different places. As the usual thing, it never looks like, Patty, that anybody around here, their husband and their wife, it doesn't look like they worked close to where their husbands worked to be accommodating or anything like that. It

Page 9

looks like they would rather be further away or something.

        PD: I wonder why?

        HARRIS: I don't know. Where I'm working now, lots of wives and husbands work there. The men are upstairs in the upholstery department; the women are downstairs. They used to wouldn't. Lots of places wouldn't hire men and wives.

        PD: Really?

        HARRIS: No, they just hire one. I don't know why they're like that, but that's the way they are lot of times.

        PD: Why did you decide to go and work in hosiery in the first place?

        HARRIS: I know when my husband's health begin to fail him, I's going to have to do something. His sisters were loopers. Where they looped at, they let me go and learn to loop. I went to Hollar Hosiery Mill and started working there a-looping. I just couldn't do it. It was hard on my eyes. I had weak eyes, and it was hard on my eyes. I quit that, and I said I was going to find something else. That's when I found the inspecting job and went to inspecting. Whenever that mill was sold out and Red Heifer bought it, then's when I went to pairing. I paired then all the time there for fifteen years and got samples and all. When I went up to Kaiser Roth, I still paired up there. I prefer pairing better than I do inspecting.

        PD: What are the differences?

        HARRIS: Inspecting you pulled them on a board and you had to turn them as you pulled them on that board and turned the board to look at them. Pairing, they're on a table, you have your stacks and bring them over in front of you and pair them, lay them in pairs, lay them out and put them in a bunch. Then you lay them off on a board until you get a dozen pair of them.

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        PD: You had to pull on this thing. Was that hard on your arms?

        HARRIS: Yeah, that's hard on your arms till you get used to it. After you get used to it, you don't mind it, but it makes you awful sore till you get used to it.

        PD: At the Cherokee Hosiery, did they have a floor lady there?

        HARRIS: No, they had a boss there. They had a man that was over us there. The man that owned it, he had an office upstairs that he stayed in all the time.

        PD: Did you know him?

        HARRIS: I learned to know him.

        PD: What was he like?

        HARRIS: He seemed to be a good guy, really. He was big-hearted. He believed in giving you a fair deal. He didn't believe in. . . .

        PD: Was this the guy from Murphy?

        HARRIS: Yeah. He just didn't believe in making a slave out of you and not give you nothing for it. I think that's the reason they went busted because he paid his hands too much according to what the other places paid.

        PD: What was his name?

        HARRIS: Richard Parker.

        PD: Is he still around town?

        HARRIS: I don't know if he's here in Hickory yet or not. I'm not heard nothing from him in a long time. I don't know if he's still here, or whether he went back home or what happened to him.

        PD: So Red Heifer bought the plant out. Is that the name of a string of hosiery mills?

        HARRIS: That was the man that owned that one. That was a homeowned plant too. He's dead now. He died a couple of years back.

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        PD: What was he like?

        HARRIS: He was a good guy to work for. He was real good. He didn't bother his hands whatsoever, as long as you done what you supposed to, you didn't notice he was anywheres around. He was real good. I guess that's the reason he thought he didn't need no bosses over us because everybody went on about their business and done what they're supposed to. We got along just fine without anybody being over us like that.

        PD: What's the difference between what a boss would do and what a floor lady would do?

        HARRIS: A floor lady works, and a boss thinks they ain't supposed to do nothing but boss. That's the best way I can put it. But she worked just like we did. She just saw that the work got out and that was it.

        PD: I was thinking a floor lady was like a woman boss.

        HARRIS: It's not really, no. Where I'm at in the furniture place, I have a woman for a boss. Then we have this girl who gives out our work and everything. They's difference there. The one that gives out our work and all, she can't tell us to go home unless the boss tells her. She can't tell us anything unless she tells her to tell us. So that's the difference in them.

        PD: Would you rather work under a woman boss?

        HARRIS: No, I'd rather have a man boss, really.

        PD: What's the difference?

        HARRIS: A man is more firm and distinct about it, and a woman is too partiality. Now that's the difference. A woman has got her friends or her pets and that's it. A man, I think, is more firm about anything that you really know when he means it and when he don't. A woman, I don't know, they just can't be as firm as a man can. I don't know why, but they can't. I guess because I'm a woman, maybe that's it. I don't

Page 12

think I'm supposed to have a woman boss.

        PD: When you were on the second job after the first one that you did, inspecting--you did looping first--how long did you loop?

        HARRIS: About six weeks. I didn't loop very long.

        PD: You learned from some of your friends?

        HARRIS: My sister-in-law learned me. Back then, if you didn't demand pair or anything to learn, they'd let you just come in a plant and watch them and let you sit down and try it and all back then, but they won't do that now.

        PD: How many hours a day did you work when you first went in?

        HARRIS: I believed we worked ten then.

        PD: Was this before the eight hour law?

        HARRIS: Yeah.

        PD: Back during the Depression, your family were farmers?

        HARRIS: They were farmers.

        PD: So they were able to make it?

        HARRIS: They made it okay.

        PD: You were married then?

        HARRIS: I was married then, but we didn't want for anything because if we didn't have no food ourselves, daddy gave it to us. He raised his meat, and he had his cows for his milk, raised chickens for the eggs, everything. They didn't buy anything unless it was sugar or something like coffee. They had their lard when they butchered, rendered out the lard, so they had everything.

        PD: How often would your husband get to work during that time?

        HARRIS: He'd get to work maybe one week out of two or three. They would take turns about going to work. It was still pretty bad when he was in the hospital. During that time when he was hurt--back then, he

Page 13

was in the hospital ten days and ten nights, and his hospital bill was $125 then. Two years ago when I was in the hospital, had my operation, my hospital bill like $200 was $7,000. Now isn't it some changes? It's ridiculous.

        PD: Where did you all get the money to pay that bill? Did you have the money saved?

        HARRIS: No, we borrowed it from this old man that had a farm on up here--you know where that nursing home is off of Tate Boulevard up here, up on the hill--this old man, he had a farm in there. He had money saved up. My daddy went and borrowed it from him till my husband got able to go to work and make it to pay it back. He give him a note for a year. In a year's time, we paid it back.

        PD: That was just shortly after you all got married.

        HARRIS: Yeah, three years. Well, it's been nip and tip with me all my life. I've always had to work and do this and do that. If we had a home, I had to work to pay for it. I don't know how I struggled through it all, but I did.

        PD: Did your parents ever do any public work or were they always farmers?

        HARRIS: No, they always were farmers. My daddy, he logged some, drug logs for this sawmill. That was natural for a farmer to do whenever there wasn't no farm work to be done, in the winter time.

        PD: So he'd be making extra money?

        HARRIS: Extra money. My mama never did work a day away from home in her life.

        PD: If you had your grandparents, were your grandmother kind of responsible for looking after the kids?

        HARRIS: They did it more or less together. Grandma, she would do

Page 14

the housework and mama would go to the fields and help in the fields. Grandma would do the cooking, and she would go to the field in the afternoon. It was just the routine that everybody did then. You don't think how it would be really till you live through it.


        HARRIS: He [her brother] worked at a filling station before he got married. When he got married, they had their home that they moved into. Then I was next. My other brother, it was years that he didn't get married.

        PD: Did he live at home all this time?

        HARRIS: Well, when he wasn't in service. He was in service for I don't know how many years. When he'd get out of service, he'd come back home and he'd work at the filling station, hauling produce for people and things like that. Then he finally got married, and I never did see his first wife. You might think this is a story, but I didn't. This one man told him, he says, "You're going to marry that girl, and you don't know what she does when you're . . ." She worked on second shift and he's at home. Says, "You don't know what she does when she's working." He thought it was all right, he trusted her. So this boy that told him that, one night he seen her and this man somewheres, so he goes and gets my brother. takes my brother, shows them to my brother where they're at. He saw that. He didn't do a thing, he went and got his clothes and all and come home. About 1:00 when she went home, he wasn't there, so she come down to my parents' house a-knocking on the door wanting to know if he was there. Daddy told her, yes he was there, but he wasn't wanting to see her. Would you believe, that's the last there's anything to that. She got her divorce and that was it. About three or four years, he got married again. He's got four children. He as a boy and three girls.

        PD: What did he end up doing?

Page 15

        HARRIS: He went to GE over here working. He worked at GE till he retired. He retired when he was 62. He has a used car lot now that he messes with and just piddles about. On Friday, before my husband died on Sunday, his wife just walked off and left him. She left him for another man. He had this five-year-old girl; that was the baby. Would you believe, he raised her? He raised that kid. She lacks one year to be through high school. Two of his children are married, and one lives at home with him. That's just the way that is.

        PD: What did he do before he went to work for GE?

        HARRIS: Just odd men's jobs, work at service stations and haul trailers for people and all things like that.

        PD: You're the only one in the family that ever went to work in a plant?

        HARRIS: Yeah, really. My baby brother, he used to work in a hosiery mill before he went in the service, but he wasn't old enough to work not too long before he had to go in the service. He worked a couple years. After he come back out of service, he worked at Dallas in some kind of a steel plant or something. Now he has one of his own that he operates by hisself now. He don't work for nobody.

        PD: A little place in his back?

        HARRIS: No, down on the Gastonia highway, he lives.

        PD: Does he have anybody working for him?

        HARRIS: Oh yes, he has people working for him all around the area. Then my other brother, he's in service I don't know how many years he was in for. He to make a career of it, then he finally got married. He come out, he didn't make a career of it. He went to work for this big company in Charlotte, the steel construction place. Now he's the boss over people at these different places and they send him here, there,

Page 16

and everywhere. His home is out from Monroe. His wife goes with him part of the time, and part of the time, she stays at home. All their children are married, all but the baby boy. Only he's not at home either. I reckon he's a-helping his daddy--he works for his daddy.

        PD: What did your mother think about your going out and getting a job?

        HARRIS: They didn't say anything about it because they knowed I had to. When Paul got to where he couldn't keep a job. They knowed I was going to have to do something. I started and that was it. We never had no help from nobody. After he got disabled to work, do you believe I never could get no disability for him. That law come out after you're fifty, if you were disability, you could get it. I never did get nothing for him. Course he died when he was fifty-eight, but still if I could have gotten something from the time he was fifty till then, I could have a little bit of background maybe. But we just lived from one payday till the next. I borrowed money to do things that we wanted to do, and then I'd pay it back in payments. That's the way it went. That's the way I got through the world, and it looks like I've still have to struggle. Social Security, they don't pay me enough, as high as things is, that I could make it, if I could quit work altogether. I'm planning on it, if I can work what I can work next year and draw all my money and save part of it, maybe then I can make it on my own. When I become sixty-five up there, they had a pension plan for it. I got my pension then. But you see, then I had to go into the hospital, such a big bill and everything. I didn't have nothing saved from that because I had to use it to do them things with. It's a hard matter to work and not make no more than I make an hour and save any money. You just can't hardly do it and keep up a home and everything.

        PD: Do you work the whole year full time?

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        HARRIS: I'm still working full time yet. I'm going to this year, but next year . . . Now I've worked all year, full time, and I still haven't made $4,000. It will take anyhow till October for me to make $4,500. You make that much and then draw all your money for the year too. So I said I'd have to work a full year about to get it.

        PD: You've been there so long--twenty years.

        HARRIS: Yeah, but they just don't pay. You could come up there and get a job, and they'd probably start you at more than they're paying me right now.

        PD: It doesn't seem very fair.

        HARRIS: It's not fair, really. That's the way they're doing me; that's the way they do. Two years ago, they hired two girls in there. They didn't have no more sense than to tell us what they started them out at. They started them out at ten cent more an hour than they was paying me, and I been there all that time.

        When I started to working there, they started me out--I quit the hosiery mill, and I was a-making $2.40 in the hosiery mill an hour. That was good then--they started me out at $1.00 an hour. They worked me one year for $1.00 an hour. I never did ask for a raise, though, that's one thing I never asked for. When that year was up, the man that owned the shop, he come to me, one of the owners, he said, "We watched you work and do your work and we think you're excellent. We're going to give you twenty cent more on the hour."--$1.20. So they just give me little raises like that, but when I should a had . . . Now since I retired, been old enough to retire, they raised me enough that if they would have paid me that much when they counted for my social security, I would have drawed lots more. The years that they counted from, I didn't make nothing a hour. So that makes it rough.

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        PD: So you never asked for a raise?

        HARRIS: I've never asked for a raise. That's one thing I've never done.

        PD: Why?

        HARRIS: I don't know. I was always chicken or something. But lots of people, they think they got to have a raise every little bit. They usually give us a raise once a year. I never do say nothing about it. It might not be but five cents, but every five cents count. I never did ask for a raise. It just didn't bother me like that.

        PD: When you first were at the Cherokee Hosiery Mill, did you have any friends there?

        HARRIS: Oh yes. I've had worlds of friends everywhere I've been. I'd make friends with the rankest stranger.

        PD: Would you all do anything after work together?

        HARRIS: Lots of time, they would come home with me or something like that. I hardly ever went home with any of them because I felt like my duty was to come home where Paul, because he wasn't able to do nothing at work. They would come home and we would have something to drink and eat something or something like that. I'd have a cake made, do something like that--just talk. Monday was my birthday, and I got the most pretty gifts. I told those girls up there, I said, "I didn't think there was anybody in here thought that much of me." Some of them went together and got me a pretty locket. I said, "I just didn't think you all thought that much of me." They say, "You just don't know how much we do think of you." I said, "You better be a-thinking it now because one of these days I won't be around for you to think about me." I can be friends with anybody if they give me half a chance, but you can't be friends with lots of people, they won't let you. That's what I told them up there the other

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day. I told them that was just like a big family to me up there at the shop because I'd been there so long. Course, naturally they's some that I like better than others, I'll have to be frank about that. Some of them you can't get along with, and you have to more or less just pass and re-pass them and leave them along the rest of the time. Some of them, just like a sister. I never had a sister, I didn't know what a sister was like, but I knew some of them was better to me than a sister would a ever been. Some sisters that I know, they fight and fuss, go on like dogs and cats. I figured we got along better than sisters.

        PD: When you were working in the hosiery plant, when you were inspecting, how many years did you inspect?

        HARRIS: About three years.

        PD: Were there any competition among people for the best work?

        HARRIS: Oh, yes. They could look and see the sack and the number on it and all, and they'd know who'd looped it. They would work to get that sack of work. Oh yes, there's plenty of competition there.

        PD: They could tell who. . . .

        HARRIS: They could tell. A good looper didn't have no looper holes. I've never been like that to want to get the best work because I don't think it's fair to the other person to want to get all this good work. That's where I think a good boss would come in good there not to let them do like that, but they do them things. And now, up there where I'm at, this girl that gives the work out, she knows what sews good, she knows what sews bad. You better believe she's got some pets that she gives the good work to, and others that has to do the bad work, and I'm usually the one that has to do the bad work. This girl--I don't know where she went today--that sews the same kind of work that I do, she sewed a cushion yesterday that had a made border that went in it. The pillows that went

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in it, they had her zipper in them. Then they pleated on each side where that zipper went in them, they had a box pleat on each corner. You had to start your welt where that zipper was and welt that thing together that your zipper would be just like that when it was opened at the end of the pillow, that it would be right tied shut. She left all three of them pillows for me to do, and I had two sets of them yesterday. I had a set like that again today, and they was crooked cotton, the ones were today. That's the way they do me. I just work, I got to sew. I just work and say nothing about it because I know I ain't going be there always to take it. Somebody else will get that work whenever I'm gone. It won't be me a-doing it. They'll have a day a-coming, so I'm not going to worry about it.

        PD: When you were working back early, if you had complaints or something about a supervisor, what would you do about it?

        HARRIS: Back when I's in the hosiery mill--now down at Red Heifer's, but after I went to Kaiser Roth--they would inspect, you'd paired your lots. Some of them would have as high as fifty dozen in them. You'd put them all on a board and stack them up five one way and five another, like that. They would stack way up. Then they would go to be transferred and stamped and all like that to be put in boxes to be shipped. If them girls [interruption] Whenever they start to put the labels and transfers and all that on, they'd find holes, they wouldn't do nothing. They'd just stack that lot back up if they find a hole or two holes in the first few dozen. They'd stack that lot all back up. It would come back to the pairing department, and it would have to be inspected again. I never did have to do none over, but lots of them did. One time, they got me out there going through all these that these others had paired because I was on our thing; I wasn't on production because I done the samples and all. They got me out

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thirds and everything paired together in the firsts. So if they didn't check it like that, lots of bad work would have went out.

        PD: So a pairer was like a second person that would inspect?

        HARRIS: Yeah.

        PD: They would inspect what the inspector already inspected. When you were working and something on the job went wrong, like maybe somebody wouldn't work their load, or you just had something you wanted to complain about, who would you take your complaint to?

        HARRIS: The boss or whoever it was that was over us, that's who you'd go to.

        PD: How about when you were first working with the man from Murphy?

        HARRIS: We had to go to him if we had any complaints.

        PD: When Red Heifer bought the place, would you go to Red Heifer or would you go to the floor lady?

        HARRIS: I went to the floor lady then; I wouldn't go to him.

        PD: Why?

        HARRIS: I don't know why, I just always would tell her whenever I found something wrong or something. I'd always would tell her. She would see it through then from there on.

        PD: Would anybody go over her head. . . .

        HARRIS: No, she's always just go on to him about it if she couldn't straighten it out herself. So, that's the way it would go.

        PD: When you were working throughout your work life in hosiery and sewing, have you ever been in contact with any union organizers or any of them. . . .

        HARRIS: No. One time when I worked for Red Heifer he shut down one whole summer on account of the union trying to get us to vote for the union to come in. He just shut his place down. Because Paul wasn't able to work, he let me work. He had three women that were in different departments,

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that was the floor lady; he let them work, and I worked with them. That summer, we just cleaned up odds and ends and all like that and straightened the place out more or less. Then after it died down about the union, he started back, up full swing again.

        PD: About what time was this?

        HARRIS: I don't know. I don't have no idea really.

        PD: Did you ever see these people from the union?

        HARRIS: Un-uh, no. One of the men that worked for him is who they contacted, and he's the one that tried to get the people to say that they would vote if they had a vote. When Red got a whiff of it that something was going to happen, he just closed the plant down.

        PD: Did the guy get fired?

        HARRIS: Yeah, he didn't get to come back after when he started back up. Red said that he didn't want nobody working for him like that. Talking about the union, this GE plant over here, there ain't no way I'd vote for a union. No way in this world, after I saw how they acted and done belonging to the union.

        PD: What did they do?

        HARRIS: Throw tacks in the road, knock people's car light windows out and all of those things. Just rude!

        PD: Would this be while they were on strike up here?

        HARRIS: Um-hum, yeah. They used to picket right up there at the entrance to the plant. One morning I got up, I knew there had been an awful racket all night long, but I didn't know what it was. I got up one morning, you won'd believe this, but the cars was parked all the way back down here to my mailbox on both sides of this road down this way. I knowed right then something was a-happening. I knowed they was up there, and I could hear them a-hollering and a-cussing people that was going by. I

Page 23

didn't do a thing, but I got on the telephone, and I called the law. When I told them, I said, "I'll tell you one thing, they're using all kinds of vulgar language up here, and it's not fit for people to be around to hear. If you all are any law at all, you'll get up here and you'll straighten it out." That man said, "I'll tell you what, the law's up there." I said, "The law ain't a-doing nothing then." He said, "The law can't do nothing with all that many people." He said if they saw one do something that's wrong, they can arrest him, but he said, for that cursing, "That's all of them and they ain't no way we can do nothing about that." That one time, they were really wicked. I was even scared to go out past them to go to my work. I ride with somebody else, but I was scared to go. I used to go right up there and stand and wait for my ride, but after they had that awful strike like that, I didn't go up there another day and stand for my ride. I had a friend that lived straight up here on the road, and I went up to her house and stood and waited on my ride. That one time that they struck, that was awful bad. All that I've ever heard and seen, I'm not telling you no story.

        PD: Do you think that unions were always like these people up here?

        HARRIS: That's what I wondered. I know they's other unionized places around here, but you never heard tell of stuff happening like it has up here. This friend of mine who works at Central Telephone at Hickory, she says that one time they struck up there, and they had a mess just kind of like they had up here. She said she stayed at home; she wasn't in on it. She told them that she didn't belong to it. She told them she wasn't coming to get into at the doors to work and them up there acting like they's acting. She stayed at home. I think I would be scared to death, myself to work around a place that has a union. They act like all these people act because I'd be scared they'd knock me in

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the head. They would get fierce. This building right out here's the union hall.

        PD: I had seen the sign when I rode by your house one day. Did you hear anything about back in the 30's they had those strikes over in Gastonia and around here? Did you ever hear anything about that?

        HARRIS: I heard about them, but I don't know anything about them, just that they struck. I think they were pretty rude too. That was the cotton mill.

        PD: I just wondered how far news traveled?

        HARRIS: It traveled all right. You could read about it in the newspaper and hear it on the radio, but it's not like it is now when you got TV. You'd see all this stuff a-happen on the TV. You heard about them things back then. It just got around.

        PD: I wanted to ask a real general question about Hickory. How do you see it changing over the years?

        HARRIS: That's hard to say there, but it's not like it used to be whatsoever. It used to be that square there where they got all that old brick and stuff now--there was a square in there and a road went all the way around. So many of the buildings and all, they torn down. To me, they just demolished it. If they want to have any stores for people to come in and buy, they just don't have them anymore. They don't have many. Since Sears has left and Belks has left, and Penny's has left, and Woolworth's. I guess McClelland's is still there, I don't know really.

        PD: I know Woolworth's is, but I don't know about McClelland's.

        HARRIS: Is it Woolworth? Maybe it's McClelland's that's left. I know there's not but one. Grant's was up there and it's gone. There just isn't many places to shop anymore in town. I bet you it's been two years since I've been up town. I don't go up there anymore. I usually just

Page 25

sit down right there at the telephone with the Sears catalog. Underclothes I have to have and all, and just order them, don't even go to the stores. We'll go to these outlet stores or something like that, but as to go to the mall or anything, I don't care anything about it. I said the mall has taken the city of Hickory. All the stores are about away from it. Anybody'd hadn't been there in ten years would never know the place, I don't think.

        PD: It has changed a whole lot.

        HARRIS: It has changed something terrible. All that block in there is where the fresh air market was. They tore all that down, but the fresh air market. It really isn't the same place whatsoever. They made a restaurant out of the old depot. Taken all those old side tracks out from up there. We got all that mess up here.

        PD: Is this community called Oyama around here? What's it called?

        HARRIS: No. I don't know. It's not called anything. They call it the Fair Grove Church Road. Oyama just comes about where the railroad is. There used to be a little old station up there on the railroad they called Oyama. People could get on and off the train there. That's the reason that was called that.

        PD: Have you ever ridden on a train?

        HARRIS: One time from Hickory to Newton, that I can remember about riding. Mama used to take us, she said, when we were little. Daddy had a half-brother in Rock Hill, South Carolina. She would go down there on the train with us when we were little, but I don't remember it. I'm not scared of a automobile, but I don't put too much trust in a plane and no trust in a airplane whatsoever. Have you ever ridden in a plane?

        PD: Yes, I felt every time I got in it, I was just happy to get

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        HARRIS: I don't know why, but I've always been skiddish in a airplane. My friend up the hill, she'll get on a plane and fly to Florida see her daughter and not think a thing about it. She said she's going take me one of these times with her whenever her daughter could bring her back in the car, just fly one way. I said, if you ever get me on one you might, but I don't know if you'll ever get me on one or not.

        PD: Have you ever taken any big trips anywhere?

        HARRIS: I have never taken but one trip, and that was three summers ago. My friend, Alice Wilson, she wanted me to go with her to Florida--her daughter lives in Florida. She wanted me to go with her down there. She said we'd go to Disney World and all those places. We'd been a week that year. It was the year before I got sick that fall.


        HARRIS: If I'm not here, he'll know where I'm at. He's called ever since his daddy died, every night. He don't go to bed unless he calls and see how I am before he goes to bed. I don't think about it a-being him, though. I think it must be his bed time.

        PD: Did you do the men's socks?

        HARRIS: Yeah, that's right, men's socks. They didn't make ladies hose where I worked, at any of the places. In fact, they don't make lady hose there like that. This friend of mine up here--it was on the end of my tongue, the hosiery mill that she worked at in Newton--they made ladies' hose because she bordered them. I know the name of it, but I can't think of it right now--Ridgeview Hosiery. People goes down there yet and buys them from the place, hosiery sale, because you can get them cheaper. I don't know why they always made men's socks, but that's what

Page 27

it was. Kaiser Roth, they did make children's socks and all too, but they didn't make any children's socks at Red Heifer. They were always men's hose.

        PD: Was your maiden name Bumgardner?

        HARRIS: Right.

        PD: Do you have a middle name?

        HARRIS: Yeah, Florene.

        PD: What was your father's name?

        HARRIS: Garland Bumgardner.

        PD: What was his parents' names?

        HARRIS: Robert Bumgardner and Francis was his mama's name.

        PD: Were they farmers?

        HARRIS: Yeah.

        PD: Do you know where they were born?

        HARRIS: They were born in this county, I guess.

        PD: How about your mother?

        HARRIS: Ina. She was a Carpenter before she was married.

        PD: Where was she born?

        HARRIS: She was from Crouse. That's not Gaston County is it? What county is it?

        PD: That's in Lincoln. Do you know if your parents went to school?

        HARRIS: Yeah, but I don't know what grades. Back when they went to school, I don't think they finished. I don't think they had those grades like we had. I figure they went as far as they could go. I know my grandma did because they just had those blue-back spellers. She said that's all that they had. When they finished that, they were through.

        PD: When you were in school, did you have those?

        HARRIS: We'd taken geometry and French, things like that. It's

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not like it is now. I don't know how kids get by now, really.

        PD: What was your husband's name?

        HARRIS: Paul Harris.

        PD: Where was he born?

        HARRIS: In Catawba County.

        PD: He worked as a framer?

        HARRIS: Um-hum.

        PD: What's your son's name?

        HARRIS: James H. Harris. I call him James Hugh all the time.

        PD: He works for. . . .

        HARRIS: Woodcarving.

        PD: Could I get the address here?

        HARRIS: Route 2, Box 99, Conover. The code's 28613.

        PD: What is your date of birth?

        HARRIS: 1910.

        PD: Do you remember how old you were when you first started working?

        HARRIS: About twenty-eight. That's a rough guess, but it's along there somewhere.

[End of Interview.]