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Title: Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, February 3, 1976. Interview G-0040-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: McGill, Eula, interviewee
Interview conducted by Hall, Jacquelyn
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 344 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© 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:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-05-19, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, February 3, 1976. Interview G-0040-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0040-1)
Author: Jacquelyn Hall
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, February 3, 1976. Interview G-0040-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0040-1)
Author: Eula McGill
Description: 420 Mb
Description: 95 p.
Note: Interview conducted on February 3, 1976, by Jacquelyn Hall; recorded in Atlanta, Georgia.
Note: Transcribed by Patricia Crowley.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series G. Southern Women, 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.
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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.
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Interview with Eula McGill, February 3, 1976.
Interview G-0040-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
McGill, Eula, interviewee


Interview Participants

    EULA McGILL, interviewee
    JACQUELYN HALL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Tell me something about your early life: who your parents were and where you grew up.
EULA McGILL:
I was born near Resaca, Georgia on May 15, 1911. My father worked in an ore mine in Sugar Valley, Georgia, which was a short distance from Resaca. And when that mine was worked out (or what they called "played out"), when they'd got all the ore that they could get out economically they shut the mine down. And we moved to Gadsden, Alabama.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, let's talk a little bit more about your life in Georgia. You were born outside Nance's Spring, right?
EULA McGILL:
Near Nance's Spring.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Which was what?
EULA McGILL:
It was a big spring where a lot of people in and around there came and got water. It was just kind of like a community spring, but it was on Mr. Bob Nance's land.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you lived on his land?
EULA McGILL:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Rented a house?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, rented a house.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The area you lived in, was it part of the area that you called the "pocket"?
EULA McGILL:
No, no.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Nance's Spring wasn't in it?
EULA McGILL:
No, the "pocket's" beyond Sugar Valley, about three miles out from Sugar Valley.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Would you describe that area, though?
EULA McGILL:
Well, it's mountainous; now it's made into a national park, but

Page 2
at that time people lived in it. As I remember, most people lived in there because they had a big artesian spring in there and it made good whiskey. [laughter] Back in the early days there was a lot of moonshining, whiskey-makers in there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They ran the whiskey across the state line?
EULA McGILL:
It wasn't much good for farming. Well actually, I imagine it looked pretty much then like it is today, because there's not much area in there (that I can see) that could be farmed because of the terrain.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were people that you knew involved in moonshining?
EULA McGILL:
No, I didn't know them. But my uncles were pretty good drinkers, and I heard of it because they drank.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So your father, then, would walk from Nance's Spring to Sugar Valley to work in the ore mine?
EULA McGILL:
I assume he walked; I don't know of any other way he could have gotten there. And it's not a bad walk; I could walk it, you know. There was a dirt road through there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You moved to Resaca so he could be nearer to his work?
EULA McGILL:
We left Resaca and moved over in near Sugar Valley sometime after I was born.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you moved first from Nance's Spring then to Resaca, and then from Resaca to the mine?
EULA McGILL:
No, I call it Resaca because that's the post office, see; I say Resaca because Nance's Spring's in that Resaca area. And Resaca is just a little bitty place—you know, a grocery store and a mill and a post office and a few houses. Just a small place.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh I see, OK. So you moved to Sugar Valley, yes.

Page 3
EULA McGILL:
Yes, shortly after I was born we moved over to Sugar Valley to be a little nearer. Now from Sugar Valley up to the mine the men rode what they called the "dummy line:" it was a little old dinky engine with a car that they used to transport stuff from Sugar Valley up to the mine, and the men rode this car. I was on it one time as a kid, I remember. And it always was jumping the track, and the men'd have to get out and put it back on. But the mine used it primarily to transport things from down at the depot or Sugar Valley up to the mine area.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And then your mother got a job in the night boarding house, is that right?
EULA McGILL:
Momma? Yes, Momma run the night boarding house, and we lived in there for a while.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did she do?
EULA McGILL:
She cooked at night the midnight meal for the men who worked the night shift. They'd come out to eat.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she also raise her own food?
EULA McGILL:
I don't remember at that particular time whether there was any room for a garden or not in that area.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have cows, chickens, things like that?
EULA McGILL:
Not then, no: bought everything from the commissary that we needed.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember what your father did in the ore mine?
EULA McGILL:
No, I don't. He probably did maintenance work because of the nature of his work—he was a carpenter. And I think he was what we would call a jack-leg electrician. I think he worked as maintenance, because that's what

Page 4
he'd mostly done (I mean later); I assume that's what he was doing then.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember that mine? I mean, do you remember how it was?
EULA McGILL:
I can remember in my mind; I can see how it looked with the steamshovels digging out the side of the mountain. Big steamshovels dug up the ore and loaded it onto the cars and brought it into what they called the washer, where it was washed. It was all right out in the open, right near the area where, I guess, there was a dozen houses.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who did the washing?
EULA McGILL:
I remember seeing young twelve and fourteen year old boys sitting by this belt; they'd look for rocks and things and throw them out before it went into the crusher.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did any women work there?
EULA McGILL:
No, no women worked around there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did you start to school?
EULA McGILL:
My first year at school was there. I don't remember whether they just allowed me to come or whether I was actually enrolled in school. But I did go to the little old school there that was for these children, the people who worked in the mine.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The school was just for the children that worked in the mine?
EULA McGILL:
Or ones who lived in that area.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were just four years old, though.
EULA McGILL:
Yes, I was between four and five years old. My sister went, and I may have just gone along because she went. They used to be not too strict about the younger children coming. But I did go to school there, because I remember the first poem [laughter] I ever recited from memory was there: it was a Christmas. . . .

Page 5
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember anything about the school?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, an old one-room schoolhouse. In north Georgia we used to pick up (I was trying to think of what this was the other day), us kids near the school picked up . . . it looked like diamonds. What are they called? Quartz?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
EULA McGILL:
And there were a lot of them; it must have been pertaining to the ore and the type of ground. The kids would say: "Oh, if you get a shoe-box full of these you can send them off and get you a watch." You know, the fancies of kids! We used to gather them at recess and after school, and dig for these shiney little rocks.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right. I remember we used to dig for sassafras roots.
EULA McGILL:
Well we did; my mother was a great sassafras drinker. And every spring we had to have sassafras along with our poke salad (that was a wild green). The mountain people particularly gathered a lot of wild greens to supplement their diet, because most people back in those days lived mostly on cornbread and peas. My mother used to enjoy going into the mountains and picking the wild greens. They have a thing called (and I like it today—they cultivate it, by the way, in Tennessee and Virginia) highland creeces. Oldtimers called them creecy-greens.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Never heard of them.
EULA McGILL:
I don't know if you've read these Foxfire books now; well, it speaks of all those greens that my mother. . . . I bought all of the books so my grandchildren would have them, because I learned about them by eating them when I was a kid. My mother knew all those wild greens: dandelion, [unknown] and lamb's quarter, poke salad, creecy-greens as well as watercress.

Page 6
We always ate watercress; it grew a lot up there. A lot of people had pellagra because of their diet. And in fact, you may be interested to know that it was only in the early fifties (I think; I believe it was in the early fifties) that Georgia quit issuing yeast. For years the government, whether it was federal government or state government, issued yeast to supplement people who did not get enough green vegetables—especially the people in the hills who couldn't preserve or didn't grow or didn't get enough green vegetables. We always had it: winter greens (we'd go to the wild greens). We used to dry green beans; in Tennessee they called them shuck beans, in north Georgia they called them leather britches. You take the green bean and you string it on a string and you hang it up to dry. Then in the winter you take it down and soak it overnight in water and cook it, and it's almost just like it was picked out of the garden like green beans. Because people didn't have canning facilities and cans to can in too much. . . . My mother always saw to it that we had a fairly balanced diet, and didn't just rely on the corn meal. In fact, my dad never did like corn bread; we always managed to have flour some way or other, but there was a lot of people that didn't.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, tell me about your grandparents, your father's family.
EULA McGILL:
Very little I know. Most of what I know is from what I heard from my sister talking [Clara Pringle], because, as I say, we left that area when I was five years old. And I don't suppose I went back for any length of time until years later.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But your grandfather was from Tennessee?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, my grandfather.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Your paternal grandfather?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, was from Tennessee. And my grandmother got acquainted

Page 7
with him when he served in the Union army.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She was from Dalton?
EULA McGILL:
Dalton, Georgia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you never knew that grandfather?
EULA McGILL:
No, no, because he passed away when my father and his brothers and his one sister were real young. And my grandmother came back there because she had no way to provide. And my father as a young man went to work on the farm with his cousin and lived with his uncle and farmed. His oldest brother worked on the railroad, and he must have went to work quite young. And he lost a leg on the railroad.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Your father did?
EULA McGILL:
No, my uncle; my father never worked on the railroad.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right.
EULA McGILL:
Then later he cooked. You know these camp cars, they called them? After he lost his leg he cooked for the crew on these work cars; you know, they slept and ate on the cars, and went up and down repairing the track for a certain distance. Then he later opened a restaurant in Dalton, Georgia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your grandfather's name?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know my grandfather McGill's name; if I ever knew I have forgotten it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about your grandmother McGill?
EULA McGILL:
My grandmother, her name was Nancy Elizabeth Loner, L-o-n-e-r.
JACQUELYN HALL:
OK, so your grandfather died and your grandmother came back to be with her people in Georgia; and your father went to live with who?
EULA McGILL:
Luke Loner.

Page 8
JACQUELYN HALL:
Luke Loner? Did he have to quit school young to do that work? Or do you know when he quit school?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know, no. Then he had a younger brother Robert who stayed in Tennessee (or if he came back to Georgia he went back to Tennessee) with some of the relatives there. I believe he stayed with a cousin called Tommy McGill around Gray, Tennessee.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that when your father learned carpentry? How did he learn carpentry? Do you know?
EULA McGILL:
Well, he learned carpentry by learning from some worker, or apprenticing to someone else. He built barns and houses. He always worked as a carpenter, to my knowledge. I remember, he told me one time about early life, getting him a job in the cotton mill in Dalton. I know he was laughing and talking about the language that people used [laughter] in the mills. He got him a job in there and he didn't like it; my dad just didn't like to be inside. And he didn't last in there very long; he didn't like it. And he was laughing and telling me about how the people talked. If they were going to be out the next day, [laughter] he said they'd say, "I'm going to st'out tomorrow." They didn't say "stay out;" he'd laugh about some of the language people used in the mills, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he see cotton mill work or people who worked in cotton mills as being not as well accepted?
EULA McGILL:
Well, no, I don't think that; my father just didn't like it—the lint and all got to him. Then I think he tried briefly coal mining in Tennessee a little bit. And he told me then that he couldn't stand being closed in. He told me he got him a job one time and tried to work in the mines with one of his cousins; and he said you had to lay in water. He said the

Page 9
mines were very bad. He didn't like that; he couldn't stand that, so he became a carpenter and went through life as a carpenter.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about your mother's family?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know too much about them. My mother's father was John Wilson, and my grandmother died before I was born (my grandmother Wilson).
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did they do for a living?
EULA McGILL:
Farmed, yes; my grandfather was a farmer, a very good farmer. Had what we called a little bit of "bottom land"; people in the mountains thought that if they had a little bit of bottom land they were a little better off than the people who had to farm the hillside. He had a farm laying right in there between Resaca post office and Nance's Spring, on each side of the railroad. And my mother and her brothers (back then the trains burned wood, when she was growing up), [unknown] they used to cut wood and sell it to the railroad. They'd stop at Resaca and get wood for the engine. And they used to help supplement their income by what they called "cutting cord wood" for the railroad.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Her parents were part Cherokee, weren't they?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, both of them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Both her parents?
EULA McGILL:
Descended from Cherokee indians.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember them talking about that?
EULA McGILL:
My mother did; she was very proud of it. She always liked to refer back; every chance she got she'd tell people that she was part Cherokee Indian [laughter]. She was proud of it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was that?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know; she just felt like, I reckon, that she was different

Page 10
from other people, and she was proud of it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How many children did your maternal grandmother have? How many brothers and sisters did your mother have?
EULA McGILL:
Twelve—no, there weren't twelve. Jess, Charlie, Doc, Rena, and the one that died, Momma and Aunt Mae.
JACQUELYN HALL:
A lot of children, then.
EULA McGILL:
Seven. Her oldest brother Jess had twelve. Florence, eight! I'm forgetting them. Florence is the only one remaining alive now.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about your mother's education?
EULA McGILL:
She had no education; none of them ever went to school.
JACQUELYN HALL:
None of her brothers or sisters?
EULA McGILL:
Never, except the younger ones. Aunt Florence had a fairly good. . . . I don't even know if she finished grammar school or not. She and Aunt Rena were the only ones that I remember could even read and write. Even Uncle Charlie, who was younger than Momma. . . . If there were any schools around there when Momma and them were growing, I never heard of it. A lot of times they'd have a school in a church, you know, in the winter months, because the school had to let out when the kids had to farm. It was not a nine months' schoolterm, even back then around in the rural area up there. And most of the people worked on the farm and they weren't encouraged to go to school, unfortunately.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your mother work in the fields?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, she liked it. As long as she lived she always liked the outside.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She didn't work inside, do the housework?
EULA McGILL:
No.

Page 11
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did all the kids work?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, all the kids had to help out and work. Momma, though, was the only girl that worked in the field. She preferred it that way. Aunt Mae was the housekeeper, and Aunt Mae was older. And, of course, the other girls were younger. And when my grandmother passed away my mother had married, at the age of seventeen, and the unmarried children and my grandfather came and lived . . . or, rather, my father and mother moved in the house with my grandfather and looked after the younger children until they married and left the home.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And so they sent the younger children to school, the younger brothers and sisters?
EULA McGILL:
Yes. The two younger sisters, Aunt Florence and Aunt Rena, they did get to go to school pretty much.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did your mother feel about not being able to read and write? Was she self-conscious about that?
EULA McGILL:
No, she wasn't. I think she would love to have known how, but she was very clever. Anything she wanted to know she asked my Dad. My Dad read to her an awful lot.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He read out loud to her from books?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, the Bible—both of them were very religious and attended church. Anything she wanted to know she asked Poppa—very quietly [laughter]. She was very clever about it; you never would have known that Momma couldn't read and write if you had met up with her, the way she talked. Of course, radio later on helped her, and she loved television; it had just been invented or became available just before she died, but she really enjoyed it, because she loved to know. And she listened to everything on it; she always had the

Page 12
radio going.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your father ever try to teach her to?
EULA McGILL:
No, and I've often wondered about that. And I'm ashamed of myself today. Maybe when I was going to school, a lot of times it was just me and her at home alone; I could have probably helped her. Maybe I was too embarrassed, or maybe I didn't want to embarrass her by asking her if I could teach her.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right. Do you know when your mother and father were born?
EULA McGILL:
I'd have to look up; we've got an old family Bible that's got all that in it, but I swear I can't remember. Let's see: Momma died when she was sixty-eight.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When was that?
EULA McGILL:
I believe she died in '55. Poppa was sixty-three, and he died in 1946.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were your father and mother's names?
EULA McGILL:
Momma's name was Mary Rachael Sue Ann, and Poppa was Joseph Hamilton.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Joseph Hamilton McGill. Now how many kids did they have?
EULA McGILL:
Two, my sister and I; my older sister, seven years older.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She was born in 1905?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, I guess so.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you were born in 1911.
EULA McGILL:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Your mother only had the two children then? But she raised her. . . .
EULA McGILL:
Oh, we had from time to time cousins living with us, because my mother's oldest brother passed away and he had twelve children. And my

Page 13
aunt couldn't support them all, had no way—although my grandmother stayed with her most of the time (and my grandmother had a pension from the federal government by my grandfather being a Union soldier) and helped out. But they couldn't no way supply enough. So they moved to Dalton, where the oldest girls went to work in the mill, in the cotton mill. Different relatives took the younger cousins who were not able to work; except there's two that they put in a girls' school, like an orphanage. So we always had some of the relatives. And then later on my mother had a brother who mysteriously disappeared (he had worked on the railroad), and his wife and children came and stayed with us. And then she went to Chattanooga and got a job in a hosiery mill in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They lived with us at the time we were in Gadsden, Alabama. All of these cousins came and lived with us when we were in Gadsden, Alabama; see, we left Georgia when I was five, and my uncle didn't die until after then (my mother's oldest brother).
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh I see, they came down to Gadsden.
EULA McGILL:
Yes, they lived in Gadsden and went to school—stayed with us and went to school.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your father read to you when you were a kid?
EULA McGILL:
No, seems like I've been reading all my life.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Really? Do you remember when you started reading?
EULA McGILL:
No, but I just can't remember when I couldn't read.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you don't remember his reading out loud?
EULA McGILL:
No. But he read to Momma; he'd read her the newspaper. We always took a newspaper; I don't even remember when we ever didn't have a newspaper come into the house. When he was short Poppa got ahold of books. I remember an old blue-backed speller (and we still have it; my sister still

Page 14
has it), what was known as the blue-backed speller. It was a standard for people who went to school and learned back in those days; it was a very standard book.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What do you remember about your childhood in Sugar Valley?
EULA McGILL:
Very little. Yes, I can remember I was about four years old, maybe three and a half. . . . I'm just guessing, because we moved to Alabama when I was five. And since then I remember fairly well, because I was very sick the first winter me moved to Gadsden (I had pneumonia and measles, and was very sick). And from then on I can remember vividly.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now how did you father decide to move to Gadsden?
EULA McGILL:
Well there was no work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But how did he find a job there? Did he have relatives already there?
EULA McGILL:
My uncle first went there, my mother's brother Charlie, and went to work for Gulf State Steel Company.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So he helped your father get a job there, or told him something?
EULA McGILL:
Well, he told him he might get. . . . So we went down and he went to work, just before World War I.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And what exactly did he do for Gulf State Steel Company?
EULA McGILL:
He was a carpenter, maintenance, you know. You know those blast furnaces then (I don't know if they have to now, they may have got some changes in the way they smelt the ore), when they'd burn out inside, to be relined the carpenters had to go in there and build forms. And then they had to repair tressles and keep the tracks around in the plant, in the steel mills. Most steel mills have train tracks through there to take the ore in. Well, just a lot of carpentry work has to go on around a steel mill.

Page 15
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was building the forms dangerous work?
EULA McGILL:
Well, it could be. I remember one night (Poppa was working nights) he went into the furnace to start, and evidently they hadn't cooled down enough. And someone turned some steam on, and he was pretty badly hurt. They brought him out, and he had a scar on his head; it looked like when the doctor sewed it up he left coal dust, and he had a black mark across there. Evidently he didn't clean it; that's what I thought, that maybe they didn't clean it good enough when they sewed it up.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you go to school then in Gadsden?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, and I was frightened—we all were. I can remember, every time there was an accident in the steel plant they'd blow the whistle. A lot of people back in those days did not have time clocks in their homes, and everything then blew a whistle for starting time: the textile mill did. They'd blow a whistle for a certain length of time and let you know you had so much time to get there; then the whistle blew for work time. Then it blew for lunch and for coming back after lunch, and at quitting time. But if the whistle blew other than that we knew there had been an accident, and it used to frighten me. I'd be in school and I'd hear that whistle, and it used to frighten me to death, because you heard it a lot. But that was the only time my father was ever injured.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You started to school, then, in Gadsden? I mean, you kept on to school in Gadsden?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, that's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What do you remember about going to school? What was the school like then?
EULA McGILL:
Oh, it was a very good school, and the land was donated by

Page 16
the Dwight Mills; it was called Dwight School. And it was in the textile village; it was the only school that they had there. Now this part of Gadsden's called Alabama City. Later on they built another school over near the steel plant called Forest—no, that wasn't called Forest School; I don't know what . . . . Later on they built one called Forest School; but I never went to the school (one of my cousins who lived with us did) because it only went to the fifth grade. It was mainly for the younger children who wouldn't have so far to walk to Dwight School, which went. . . . At the time I first began it went through the seventh grade; then we changed over and had a junior high. And when the school system changed, that's when we started junior high and then went over to senior high. When I first entered school you had grammar school and high school; you went through the seventh grade, then you entered high school. But during the time I was going to school we went into a junior high school, and they built a junior high school right near the Dwight Mill. I went to the junior high school when I completed it over in the Dwight Mill. And it was a huge building: it was three stories high. We had a very good school. The physical building had a big fence around it. Boys and girls were kept separated; the boys had to be on one side of the playyard, and the girls on the other. We had to clean those yards; we had to pick up the paper (we had big barrels). We were not to throw any paper down. And every so often we cleaned those schoolyards, kept those schoolyards clean. We had a janitor, but that was part of the routine, that we cleaned the schoolyeards. It was a beautiful place: it had trees all around.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you go to high school?
EULA McGILL:
I sure did, and I enjoyed it. We never resented having to clean up, because we were proud of it. [Interruption]

Page 17
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you live in the mill village?
EULA McGILL:
No. First we lived in a rented house, then we lived in a steel plant house in the steel plant village—company-owned house. My Dad liked to be close to work; we moved within two blocks of the gate he had to go in to work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But the kids from the steel village and from the mill village all went to school together at Dwight School?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, yes. That was the only school.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you feel a difference between the different kinds of kids? And were there different heirarchies or class at all?
EULA McGILL:
No, no. We all went to school together. Frankly, I can only remember two students in my class that came from the mills. And as I think back now I just wonder if they didn't go to school, or why I can only remember two children that went to school in my class. And of course I had a cousin, Kathleen Loner, whose father was a superintendent of the mill, and my grandmother's nephew. She was a grade ahead of me, and they lived in a big house where the supervision of the mill had a separate place in the village that they lived. And it was right up on the hill near the school.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They had a nicer house, then?
EULA McGILL:
Yes. [laughter] The superintendent had the best house, and then the next guy down; and when you went into the regular what we called "straw bosses," they lived in the village, but usually a better house. They had about five houses on this hill where the top management lived.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there some kids in the school that were better off than others?
EULA McGILL:
Oh yes. In my class there was Sue Frances Shaddix, whose

Page 18
father was the company doctor for the steel plant. (And I just read in the paper just the other day where he'd passed away; he was close to ninety years old. He passed away just before Christmas.) And her mother had studied for the opera. And Sue Frances and I were very good friends; in fact, we used to play after school together, because their home wasn't very far from ours. We'd walk home from school. Then back then people who owned stores were considered to be a little better off financially. And Mabel Putman's father ran a store, and she was a good friend. Then I had another good friend (she's the one that talked me into going to work in the mill with her) Dorothy Stringer. She was an orphan; she and her brother were orphans. Her sister's husband worked in the steel plant, but her sister (to help supplement) worked in the store—dry goods store, they called it then (sold piece goods and things like that).
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you really played with children from all different. . . .
EULA McGILL:
That's right. We always managed to sit close together in class, Mabel and Sue Frances. Mabel and Sue Frances didn't get along too good, for some reason or another; I think their mothers clashed and were a little bit jealous of each other. I was closer to Sue Frances than I was Mabel, because she was kind of a timid, shy person and I always'd kind of be protective of Sue Frances. Then I had two very good friends, Italian girls who lived near us that went to school with us; their fathers worked in the mill.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there blacks working in this steel mill?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, some blacks, not many.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Men or women?
EULA McGILL:
During World War I, yes, there were some black women working

Page 19
there for a while, but I didn't see them any more after the war.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They were actually doing. . . ?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, because they'd come out, they were. . . . In the summer time I used to take my father's lunch to the plant gate, and he'd come out and get it; sometimes he'd come out and sit down on the grass and eat. My mother'd always taken him to the plant gate a hot meal at noon, and in the summer I took it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about the mill?
EULA McGILL:
Cotton mill?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes. Did people bring lunches up to people who worked in the mill?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know, because they worked a little different than the . . . . That's when they worked twelve hour day they had a lunch period, but they stopped off at noon.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I remember you talking about passing the mill walking to school, and seeing the. . . .
EULA McGILL:
. . . The older children bringing the little children out. Yes, the mothers would come out on the grass and nurse the babies.
JACQUELYN HALL:
At a certain time in the day?
EULA McGILL:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When?
EULA McGILL:
As I remember it they'd come out at ten and two. I'd see that mostly in the summer, because I had a friend who lived in the cotton mill village and in the summertime I used to visit her. The mill was run by steam and it had a big lake, and she and I used to sit on the side of that lake and read books. That's when I remember mainly seeing these women come out and sit out on the grass to nurse the babies.

Page 20
JACQUELYN HALL:
Later on did that custom cease, when you were working in the mill?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know; oh no, it didn't happen, I didn't see it. I worked nights; I only worked a very short time on day time. The boss tricked me. He came around one day and asked me whether I'd work nights for thirty days and he'd put me back on the day shift. He told me a lie; I never did get back on days [laughter]. And I hated it; I hated that night work. But I worked the rest of my time at night.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you like in school? What interested you?
EULA McGILL:
Everything.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you want to be when you grew up?
EULA McGILL:
Never thought about it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You never did?
EULA McGILL:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have any sense of your parents' wanting you to be something?
EULA McGILL:
No, no.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But they were clear about wanting you to go to school?
EULA McGILL:
Oh yes, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did they want you to finish high school?
EULA McGILL:
Yes. It was the worst thing that ever happened when Poppa wasn't able to let me go on to school.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about your sister? Did she go to school?
EULA McGILL:
She never cared too much about it. She never read. She's just different from me. She just wanted to quit school and go to work, when she didn't really have to. She just didn't like school; she quit school and went to work in the hosiery mill when she was fourteen. But I would like

Page 21
to have gone on to school; I was unable to because of the financial situation.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So when did you first become aware of unions and union activity?
EULA McGILL:
Oh, when I was about seven years old, when the activity started around Gadsden during World War I. There was quite a bit of union activity. My mother went to all the union rallies when she heard of them; we'd get on the street car and go.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You mean not even whether your father was involved or not?
EULA McGILL:
My father had to work; he never was off during the times we'd have these little rallies, unless it was on Saturday or Sunday. He didn't dare go; if he was seen there, you know, he was likely to get fired, because most of the people who went were people who were already in the unions. There were no laws in those days, no protective laws whatsoever; you had no chance. And if you valued your job, why, you were very careful. It had to be done very quietly. But some of the men who had, you know, already obtained recognition, they attended.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of organizing was going on around Gadsden during the war?
EULA McGILL:
The Textile Workers were organizing the Dwight Mills; the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers were trying to organize the Gulf State Steel; and the Iron Molders and the Founders; and I don't know what union it was (I assume it was the Car Repairmen) in what we called the car works. There was a plant in Gadsden that made railroad freight cars (boxcars, they were called), and it was called the car works. There were two stove foundaries, one in Attalla and one in Gadsden. Now [unknown] Alabama City and Gadsden is all Gadsden now, but at that time they were separate. Where we lived was considered Alabama City, and when we

Page 22
say Gadsden today we really speak of Gadsden. But at that time Gadsden and Alabama City and Attalla were different; had their own municipalities. But Alabama City and Gadsden have been consolidated now for years.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was your sister involved in the hosiery union?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, she joined at the hosiery mill. Then she later worked in an overall plant there for a while that was unionized. But she was a knitter; they made socks, not full-fashion hosiery. There's a lot of difference in full-fashion knitting and seamless knitting. Back then all the fashionable hose had seams.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
EULA McGILL:
She was active mainly because the man that she was going with was very active in organizing in the car works. Mainly, I think, it was because of his interest that she had interest, because later she seemed to lose all interest in unions—in fact, tried to discourage me when I first joined. It was actually a fear of me losing my job, I guess. She was the only one in the whole family that tried to discourage me from it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But her boyfriend was very. . . ?
EULA McGILL:
At that time, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about your father?
EULA McGILL:
Well, he was active to an extent, but they never got going as good in the steel mills at that time as they did some other places. For some reason or other they just couldn't get enough interest. My father joined, because I remember the first time that we had a discussion in the house. As I remember, we came in; my mother had been to a Labor Day rally (had a big barbacue and a parade and speaking, and we had been there). I guess it was the first time I'd really paid attention to the speaking.

Page 23
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were the Labor Day parades like? Could you tell me a little bit more about the parades?
EULA McGILL:
Oh yes, they were very elaborate, as I remember it—might not be considered elaborate today. But they'd have flat-bed trucks, and like if a man was a blacksmith he'd be up there doing his job on this truck. And if somebody'd have a sewing machine or a knitting machine. . . . The bricklayers would be laying brick, and the carpenters hammering—on each float.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there women on the floats?
EULA McGILL:
Oh, there were a few women, because the textile, as I said. . . . The mill came out on strike during that, because they lost the strike and lost out entirely in the Dwight Mill. We had a neighbor that was very active in that strike. There were some women in the overall factory, which had a union contract. And I can't remember, it didn't last very long; that overall plant closed down and went out of business right after the boom. And most of the unions that were organized in the foundaries and in the mills (well, they never got a contract in Dwight Mill, but in the hosiery mill and in the overall factory) right after the war was over and, I guess, the labor supply got a little more plentiful, the companies were able to defeat the unions, and they lost out. And they didn't revive up until in the thirties.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you came back from a Labor Day parade?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, we came back in the afternoon and were eating supper, and I remember very distinctly saying, "Well Poppa, what is a union?" And he said, "Well, I'll tell you: a union is an organization of people getting together to try to better their working conditions. Now," he said, "I carry a union card, but don't tell anybody, because the union's not recognized where I work and I'd lose my job." And I never told anyone. He told me, I remember

Page 24
very distinctly, "All a person has to sell is their labor, and you ought to try to get the most for it." And he said, "As long as anybody in this world's got more than you've got, try to get some of it." At this particular time I remember it (and it impressed me, and I repeat it over and over), he said, "If a person lives in this world without trying to make it a better place to live in he's not living, he's just taking up space." [laughter] It stuck to me all through the years. And I agree with him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you were very much aware of unions, and saw unions as a good thing, and admired your father for being involved in the unions very young?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, and admired this man my sister went with. He was a good bit older than her, and he was a big influence on me too at that time because of his activity. He was very much in the front; in fact, they had a warrant out for his arrest and he had to leave the state. And he never came back [laughter] to Alabama to work anymore.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did they think he had done? What was he accused of doing?
EULA McGILL:
Well, there was some dynamite in the car works office, I suppose, that went off and destroyed part of the office. And he was among the ones that they had warrants out for, accusing them of being involved.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And he left the state?
EULA McGILL:
He left to avoid prosecution; and he never came back to work in Alabama again, because in the thirties when we started organizing around he was still active in the union, in the railroad brotherhoods. He went to work out of Jacksonville, Florida for Seaboard Railroad. And he came to Birmingham one time on a meeting, during the time we were having it, and he came out to see us. Of course at that time I was very involved in trying to organize textiles.

Page 25
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he realize he had had such an influence on you?
EULA McGILL:
Oh yes. Then I saw him later on while I was in Jacksonville one time, and I called him and went out to his home and had supper with him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was his name?
EULA McGILL:
Lelus Waddell—L-e-l-u-s Waddell.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So how did you happen to start your first job?
EULA McGILL:
Well, this friend of mine Dorothy Stringer, they were having (her sister, who of course had children, and she had her mother-in-law there, and Dorothy and her brother lived there), they were having a pretty hard time making ends meet, and Dorothy felt the need to try to help supplement the income so she was going to get her a job in the mill during the summer. And she talked me into going up. Dorothy was about a year older than I was, maybe two, and I was only fourteen (big for my age). They didn't question you back then if you told them you were. . . . Well, if you were sixteen, to go to work you had to have a school permit to prove you were sixteen, so I told them I was seventeen, so I'd avoid having to prove it—because I couldn't prove it, I was only fourteen.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there a lot of people working in the mills at fourteen?
EULA McGILL:
I guess so. I know I did; they never questioned it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But the mill required a school permit?
EULA McGILL:
If you were sixteen you had to prove you were sixteen. [laughter] They never asked you to prove it if you said you were seventeen. So we knew all the tricks.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did your parents feel about your going to work that summer?
EULA McGILL:
Well, Poppa never did want me particularly to work in a textile mill, I guess because of that first experience he had in one. And he swore

Page 26
up and down that I'd never work in it. Well, I got the job while he was out of town on a construction job, and I was able to outtalk my mother.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was she against you working there too?
EULA McGILL:
Well, not as much as my father was. He'd make statements that no child of his would ever work in a cotton mill.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was that?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know, I guess that first experience. He just thought it was unhealthy. Well, a lot of cotton mill workers back in those days were looked down on; a lot of good people, but they were just looked down on for some reason or another in those areas where there weren't many textile. . . . I don't know why. Maybe it was because so many of the kids worked in there and never got an education; they seemed to be looked down on if they weren't people who wanted to do better. I don't know, people just thought if you worked in a textile mill that there wasn't much to you.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I wonder what he wanted you to do?
EULA McGILL:
I have no idea.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He thought you would get married and not work?
EULA McGILL:
No, they threw a fit when my sister got married. I don't know; I reckon they thought we'd stay home the rest of our lives. I mean, they didn't want my sister to marry, and she married when she was eighteen.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why didn't they want her to marry?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know; I was only eleven years old at the time, and I know that they didn't. I guess they thought she was maybe too young, I don't know—although my mother was married at seventeen. But people married earlier, I guess, back then.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Exactly how did you get the job then? The two of you just. . . ?

Page 27
You had an in, didn't you, because of your cousin?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, you almost had to, yes. No, not with my cousin who was a superintendent, because I never did let him know who I was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How could he not know who you were?
EULA McGILL:
Well, you see, my grandmother passed away, and there for several years we didn't have no. . . . He used to come to our house and visit when my grandmother came to visit. Well, we were separate from them; they lived on one side of town and we lived the other. And since then I grew up. He used to come through the mill and stand and look at me, and I think he was wondering if he didn't know me. But I'd go on just like I didn't see him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why didn't you want to let him see you?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know, I just don't have no idea; I guess I didn't want the people to know that . . . or I was afraid maybe he'd know how old I was, and that I shouldn't really be in there. Well I remember, he used to come through—well, he didn't come through much because he was superintendent (you know, the head man there)—and, my God, I guess there were two thousand people who worked there, you know, with two shifts. It was a huge place: from the gate of the mill to my station where I went to work, it was two blocks. It was a huge mill.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, how did you get the job then?
EULA McGILL:
Dorothy knew somebody, and she arranged for us to get the job.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And what did you do, exactly?
EULA McGILL:
Spin the yarn. You know, it goes through carding, and then it runs in what they called warping (and it's coming like a roll of cotton onto a spool). Then it comes through this bunch of rollers and it's twisted into yarn. I have to say I wasn't very good at it; I never did like it.

Page 28
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you learn your job? How were you trained?
EULA McGILL:
They would put you with someone for a day or two, and then they'd just put you out there on your own.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Just for a couple of days? That's all the time it took to learn?
EULA McGILL:
To show you how. They didn't pay you.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You weren't paid while you were learning?
EULA McGILL:
They paid you when they considered you sufficiently trained to go on the payroll. And in my case I worked six weeks before they started paying me, and Dorothy did too. And for the first fifty-six hours of work I got $3.16, but we had to pay for ice. They charged us ten cents a week for ice. I never had no ice water, but we had to pay ten cents a week (they took it out of our paycheck) to buy ice. Had a big thing up here with coils, and they put the ice in there, and it was supposed to run out and give us ice water. Well, you had to take glasses to drink in if you drank, or a lot of times you'd fold up paper and drink out of it. They didn't have fountains; it came out in a spigot. But I never had no ice water, because they never had any ice in there; I never saw any ice water, but we paid a dime a week for ice. And a penny out of every dollar we made went for the company doctor; whether we used him or not we had to pay for the company doctor. I never used him, but I paid a penny. So I had $3.03 left.
JACQUELYN HALL:
$3.03. A week?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, I made $3.16 for the first week they paid me; I paid a dime for ice and three cents.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How much did you make after that first week?
EULA McGILL:
Well, three or four dollars. They paid you so much an hour (you didn't get paid piecework), so I don't remember making any more than

Page 29
that until. . . . Along in the winter after I went to work in the summer, during that time the people who had donated the land to build this mill had it stipulated that that mill had to operate thirty years without being closed down for as much as thirty days.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now how could they make a stipulation like that?
EULA McGILL:
Well, I assume to assure that there would be employment there. During that first time I worked there the thirty years was up and the mill closed down and retooled. It was down for a good long while.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who donated the land?
EULA McGILL:
The Agricola family. It was closed down (I forget) over thirty days; it was closed down a pretty good while.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you were just all laid off and not paid?
EULA McGILL:
Yes. No one worked, except maybe people in there setting up machinery and stuff. And it was retooled. Now when we left there to go out it was the boom years (about 1928), and I had gotten up to $18. a week, and that was an unheard of amount.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Eighteen dollars a week?
EULA McGILL:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now this was about 1925?
EULA McGILL:
No, no; I went to work there in '25.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How long did you work in that first period?
EULA McGILL:
I guess a couple of years, yes, because it was during the time there that thirty years was up. And they shut the mill down, and it actually changed hands; they brought in new management. My Uncle Jim lost his job with the company. They brought in an entirely new set-up—I mean, top management. A lot of the supervisors in the plant stayed on, because the supervisor I

Page 30
worked for did, who was the uncle of one of my best friends—his name was Osko Cochrane. And I can't remember that old man's name that came down as superintendent. But when I went in to work the first day, I went in and I saw the change, and the work was different from what I had. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now how had it changed?
EULA McGILL:
Well, the type of yarn. You see, I had been working on what we called "big yarn" that went to the warpers, and that was easier for me to do. Well, when I went back in there it was small yarn, and we had four bobbins up here that fed in, where I used to have one up here and one down here. I now had two up here and two down here that fed in to make the finer yarn. And it was going to be harder for me to do, I saw that. So I asked what they were going to pay; and they had cut us down to $7.50 a week.
JACQUELYN HALL:
From $18. down to $7.50?
EULA McGILL:
For twelve hours of work, sixty hours a week. See, you didn't even stop to eat.
JACQUELYN HALL:
No lunch?
EULA McGILL:
At night no stopping off to eat; you worked six to six (six o'clock at night to six in the morning). You ate on the run.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Any breaks at all?
EULA McGILL:
No breaks. So when he told me that I just walked out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you say?
EULA McGILL:
I just didn't say nothing; I just walked out. That's when I said to the boss, "What're you going to pay me?" He was standing there talking to me, and I said, "How much is this going to pay?" And he told me, and I said, "Well, good-bye," and walked out the door.
So at this time my mother and father were living down just a little ways from Gadsden in a place called Steel [unknown] on a

Page 31
friend of my father's farm. And he was building some buildings for him. So I had to go home.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Let me go back just a little bit. Summer came to an end; you planned just to work there for the summer and go back to school in the fall. But when fall came your father had lost his job at the mill, right?
EULA McGILL:
Right; well, he'd already been out of the steel mill, but this job he was on played out. He'd already lost his job in the steel mill just previously to that, and then he got this job with the Alabama Power.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Building dams?
EULA McGILL:
Working on the dams.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And so he had left Gadsden and was moving around, and you moved in with your aunt?
EULA McGILL:
Yes; no, Momma and me stayed there, and he came home once in a while then, when I was first working. When I got the job in the mill he was already working for the Alabama Power, but me and Momma were still living at the same place. We had to move out of the company house, but we were still living there. When you lose your job you had to move out of the house; you couldn't stay in the house no more once you didn't work for the company.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, when you saw that you weren't going to be able to go back to school in the fall, was that a big thing? I mean, were you unhappy about that?
EULA McGILL:
It was with me, yes; I was very unhappy.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How was that decision made? Your sister was working, right?
EULA McGILL:
Well, the man my sister married was in Birmingham; she moved to Birmingham when she married.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Would she contribute any money to the family?

Page 32
EULA McGILL:
No, no, no.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who decided that you should keep on working? Was it you or was it your father?
EULA McGILL:
Well, I guess it was me, and they didn't resist because a paycheck was needed, some money coming in. So I went home.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes, down to Steel?
EULA McGILL:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
After you lost your job?
EULA McGILL:
So my aunt wrote me a letter and told me that Osko Cochrane, the boss, had seen her in the grocery store and asked where I was; and she told him. And he said, "Well, get in touch with her and tell her to come back to work, but to talk to me before she comes—if she wants to work." He knew I needed to work, and he was a friend of the family (his sister and my mother were very close—lived next door to each other—and we knew him, you know.) So he worked nights, of course, like I did, so I went over to his house, and his niece went with me (we were good friends). We went over to his house and he was just getting up as he slept days. He told me, "You come on in. You're going to have to talk to [his nickname was "Wild Bill," but I can't remember [laughter] his name] him now. But," he said, "just listen; don't say nothing." He was considered to be pretty rough, this "Wild Bill," the superintendent then. So when I went in he says, "Oh, you want to come back to work?" And I said, "Yes." And he said, "Well didn't you walk out?" And I said, "Yes." He said, "Why?" I said, "Well, because I had my pay out in half, and I just got mad and walked out before I thought"—because I wanted to go back to work, you know. So he said, "Well, go ahead and begin to work." So Osko was waiting for me when I went up the stairs; he was waiting

Page 33
for me at the entrance to the spinning room, and he said, "Well, how did you get along?" I said, "Pretty good;" so I went to work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
At $7.50?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did anybody else react the way you did when they went back and saw the changes?
EULA McGILL:
No, no, no.
JACQUELYN HALL:
There wasn't a lot of grumbling or people quitting? Or most people just said OK and did what they were told to do?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know; I just know what I did. I didn't talk to nobody.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who were the new owners of the mill? Did it change ownership?
EULA McGILL:
It changed again later, so I don't remember who. It still went by the name of Dwight Mills, but I think some bigger textile company took it over. As I remember it, when I went there it was kind of locally . . . it was just Dwight Mills. And later at the beginning of that period when the mills began to combine and go into bigger companies. . . . And it changed later; when it was last operated it was Cone Mills.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember efficiency experts?
EULA McGILL:
That's when the Bidot system came in, the stretch-out came in there about that time. The Bidot system, they called it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Bidot?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, it was a Frenchman named Bidot.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were a part of it?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, it was part of this business that cut my wages—give us more sides to run and stretched out the weavers.
The weavers were always considered the aristocrats in textile, and I remember they used to talk about they needed roller skates to watch all their looms, you know. Yes,

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it was part of the struggles there in the turn there coming into the thirties, that Bidot system (or stretch-out, we called it).
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about spinning? I thought spinning was a fairly skilled task in a textile mill? Is it not one of the. . . ?
EULA McGILL:
Well, it's not as skilled as weaving. Weaving's the most, I think; it was higher paid than any other, as I remember it, among the jobs. Women mostly, but a lot of men were weavers; very few women, as I remember it, were in weaving. And I tried to get away from spinning so I could get into something else. I always considered my hands were too big and I was too tall for a spinner—I had to stoop too much, you see, to get down. I was not cut out to be a spinner. And I never could get transferred out into nothing else. I asked to be going into winding (felt I could do better) or the warping, where you had to reach high to take the big spools and put it on this frame, and it run down into a big bin that run the warping to go down into the weaving room. And I always figured I'd be better off there. It looked sensible to me to put me over in something like that (me and my height), but I never could talk them into it. I never was able to move; they just wouldn't transfer you, hardly.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, were there a lot of other women and children working in that mill?
EULA McGILL:
No children when I was in there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
A lot of women?
EULA McGILL:
Oh, all of us were women; all of the spinners were women. Spinners, spoolers, warpers—all women, and in the card room a lot of women.
JACQUELYN HALL:
After you quit school and were working there full-time, working the night shift, did your social life revolve around the mill and the people

Page 35
that you. . . ?
EULA McGILL:
No, never associated, I never associated with the people in the mill. I just lived in a different part of town, and Dorothy (the girl who worked with me) and I still had the same friends. I never associated.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And there wasn't any . . . ?
EULA McGILL:
Not because I felt any different, but because I just didn't live . . . my friends were different, and I just still associated with the same people that I'd gone to school with.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And while you were at work there wasn't really any time to get acquainted with people; there weren't any breaks.
EULA McGILL:
No, no, you didn't have no time to talk, no. You didn't get to talk; you yelled at each other through the room if you talked to somebody. You didn't get time to leave your job and go nowhere else, I guarantee you; there was no idle time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about the lint and noise?
EULA McGILL:
Oh, it was terrific; I couldn't stand it. I hated every day I ever spent in there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Really?
EULA McGILL:
It was uncomfortable.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you get through the day? I mean, twelve hours standing!
EULA McGILL:
Well, you had to; you had to eat, you had to live, you needed the money.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you do? I mean, what did you think about while you were standing? How did your mind work in order to get yourself to stay in there?
EULA McGILL:
You didn't have no time to think; you were watching those ends, and if they'd break down you had to be there to put them back up.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
You had to really concentrate on your job?
EULA McGILL:
You had to concentrate on that job.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It never got to be just automatic? You had to really concentrate?
EULA McGILL:
Oh no, no, you had to watch it. You had to set in your roving, you had to clean those machines; you had to clean all your cleaning, pick rollers. You had to pick out lint, take the clapboards, they called them, (boards that you put on the top of the rollers), take them off, you had to clean those things twice a day. You had to wipe and clean all under that roving and keep those machines clean—plus you had to run the machines. And I guarantee that it was tough.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What would happen if you got behind?
EULA McGILL:
We used to call it getting "stuck up." There were so many ends coming down; the machines would run on. An end would break—maybe a slub would come through and break the end. It would break off coming through the . . . sometimes the roving wouldn't be right. It would be too weak and it would break before it even got in to the roller. Well, when that broke down it didn't bother you, because it just meant you'd have a less spool to pick up. But cotton didn't just come out and ball up. But you had rollers under there that caught the cotton when an end would break, and the roving would keep coming through. Well, if you didn't get there pretty quick so much would get around there that it would fall out and tear all those others down, and then you'd call yourself getting "stuck up."
JACQUELYN HALL:
And what would happen? What would you do? Would that hold up other people?
EULA McGILL:
Well, you could not catch up unless you had help. Well, I had a couple of good people that were good spinners near me, and they helped me

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a lot. I couldn't have made it if they hadn't helped me, because I just absolutely was no good at the job. I didn't like it, plus I just was not cut out to be a spinner. I was awkward at it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But they would help you when you got "stuck up"?
EULA McGILL:
One lady in there, the day shift woman, used to have all my cleaning up done when I got in there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?
EULA McGILL:
She just liked me, and was sorry for me. She was an older woman. And she'd have my rollers picked and cleaned out one of the roving before I'd get in there in the afternoon. Of course, during the night I had to do it again [laughter] after midnight, but Lord have mercy, sometimes somebody'd help me. I could not pick those rollers good; I'd tear my ends down when I'd start, or let that old stuff fall in. I just wasn't good at it, that's all. I tried, I really tried, because I needed to work. And I remember one night (it was later) I was running some work, and oh God, it just wouldn't run good; it'd break constantly. It was when they started making Ausenberg (the material we now call Ausenberg), and this stuff is made from the sweepings off the floor—or it was at that time, and I think it still is now, because you can see splinters in the cloth. I can take you and show you now. The sweepings off the floor, they'd take it and rerun it. And those things [unknown] every fourteen minutes, and you could only run four sides. And I could get so stuck up, because it'd break constantly because of the slubs coming through there (the pieces of splinters off the floor and dirt, lints and slubs). So I got so darned fouled up I just shut it all off; and I said, "Well, I'll clean it up and start them up one at a time." The boss said, "Now what are you doing?" I said, "Well, I can't

Page 38
get caught up, so I'm going to stop them off and clean them all up at one time, and see if I can keep them cleaned up." So he let me go. Now then we were spinning by the hank; then they started paying us by the hank. They had clocks on the end of the machine and you got paid. . . . And if that machine wasn't running you weren't making nothing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about your boss, I guess it'd be your straw boss that was right over you? How did they treat you? What were they like?
EULA McGILL:
I never had any trouble with them because, like say Osko Cochrane, he knew me as a kid. And while they didn't make it no easier on me they didn't ever. . . . I've heard them curse women in there and talk to them like dogs, but they never did me that way. I heard language that I'd never heard in my life when I went in that mill; I'd never heard no such terms and profanity and vulgarity and just downright what people'd call gutter talk—things I'd never heard that I heard.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was this the bosses talking to the women?
EULA McGILL:
Bosses and the people too; they'd talk in front of you and everybody.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the women talk back to the bosses?
EULA McGILL:
No, no, very few ever talked back. But they'd just curse you; and I mean, they'd just curse you, when they got mad at you about the job. But, as I say, I never had no trouble; Osko knew me as a child, and he didn't talk to me that way if he had to get on me. I know he has had to get on me a time or two about something, because I wasn't too good at my job. But still he didn't talk to me like that. In fact, I never heard Osko talk to nobody like that, but I did hear some section bosses, what's called section bosses.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How would the women respond to being talked to like that?

Page 39
EULA McGILL:
Well, they just had to take it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did they complain to each other, or did you hear them talk?
EULA McGILL:
I guess they just took it as a matter of course, that that was life. Well, not at that time I didn't hear anything.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, along in there you had a brief excursion into marriage.
EULA McGILL:
Yes, but I'm going to leave all that out. I don't want to, because I've always left it out. Like I said, you know, I've had two marriages, but I'd just rather not go into them, because to me it played such a minor part—except I had a son out of the first marriage, which I've very proud of. I'm glad I did, and had the child. But it was such a brief thing, you know. I mean, the marriage was unfortunate; the only good thing is that I have a son out of it that I'm very proud of. It's uneventful as far as my life's concerned; it didn't affect my life except that I had the son.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But that was when you were about sixteen?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, I was sixteen; he was born when I was seventeen. And I quit work, of course, when I found out I was pregnant, and went back home. My Dad had a job then, and I went back home and stayed until . . . well, I actually never left. Yes, I did leave home again, because my Dad and Mother moved on the farm; I continued to work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did your parents respond to your having a baby and your marriage and everything?
EULA McGILL:
Well, when they'd found out that I'd married (of course, a lot of my friends were doing those silly things back then), and they didn't know it until it'd done happened, they were very unhappy about it, but there was nothing they could do. And I became pregnant right off the bat; of course, they were very happy about the child.

Page 40
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that right?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, yes. I'll say this, my son's had a very happy life and my mother and father are responsible for it, because I had to work to make a living. They raised him for me, and he got the very best of care. I don't know what I would have done; I couldn't have been able to travel and take a job with the union had I not had a mother and a father who. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that your only child?
EULA McGILL:
Yes. And also my sister and her first husband separated along about that time, and they had her children; and they were all raised together, kind of like brothers and sisters.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that right?
EULA McGILL:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, let's see. You quit your job when the retooling came, and you went back, and then had the baby. When did you. . . ?
EULA McGILL:
See, I went back to work, and I didn't work very long and then I had to quit because of that. Then we went to south Alabama with Momma. After I quit work, see, me and Momma moved down with Poppa. Momma stayed with me as long as I worked there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I thought you lived with your aunt?
EULA McGILL:
Well, I did, though that's when I came back and went to work the second time. You see, I'd already had the child. It may be a little confusing, but when I quit that time I already had the child. I was living with my aunt and I quit, and Poppa was working then. You see, I'd already had the child and he was about a year old; but he was with my mother and father and I was staying with my aunt and helping her. Actually, I was helping her and her two children; I was not giving a penny to my mother and father at that time,

Page 41
because her husband had disappeared mysteriously (my mother's other brother). And I was living with her; in fact, my income was helping keep her and her two children up, because she had no other income. And then when I quit her brothers had to help her make a living. And then later WPA came along, and she got a job on WPA.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Let me ask you just a couple of back questions. Before that when you were working, how did you spend your money, I mean, during that first summer and then. . . ?
EULA McGILL:
Well, when my Dad worked. . . . What can you spend? Three dollars?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you give your money to your parents?
EULA McGILL:
No, the summer I worked and Pa was working I just blowed it in. What can you do with three dollars [laughter]? Do you buy a pair of stockings? A pair of stockings was $1.95 in those days. And you had to wear stockings; women didn't go barelegged in those days, and you wore silk stockings.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It was hardly worth . . . working.
EULA McGILL:
Well, the only thing I can say is it's a dang good thing I had some experience, so when this Depression come on. . . . There was a lot of people that couldn't get a job. I know that I helped a woman; the Depression come on and she came to work where we were at Selma Manufacturing Company. And she told a story and said she was experienced, and she wasn't. And this boss I had (who I'll get to later in my union activities) was a very nice person. And he came to me and said, "Eula, this lady over here has come in and told she's experienced, and she's not." He said, "I confronted her and found out. If she's ever worked before she certainly has lost all ability to do the job." And he said, "I hate to let her go, because she started

Page 42
crying and talking about how hard she had it. I wonder if you and the girls would help her until she can learn." So we helped her; he kept her on and we covered for her 'til she could get experience to carry her own weight.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about when you were coming up and starting to court and run around with. . . ?
EULA McGILL:
Didn't do much of it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You didn't?
EULA McGILL:
No. I had only two boyfriends. I didn't start getting interested in courting at an early age like a lot of them did. Both good friends I had, Dorothy and Ethel (and I cannot think of Ethel's last name—this girl I was talking about whom I used to go over on the lake bank and read with), they were both older than I was. And we used to have parties at the community house, you know, play parties and serve refreshments. And that's the only time we'd ever. . . . You know, we'd go and, like, play these little old silly games. I remember a boy that went to school with me in my class, and me and him was good friends, but it wasn't like courting. He used to walk me home from the party, or if we'd have something in school he'd walk me home.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You didn't really have dates?
EULA McGILL:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about after you quit school and started working? Did you start courting then?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, that's what I was fixing to say. I guess I had two, one before my son's father. I think that everybody was married and I thought that was the thing to do; I wasn't too much interested in him [laughter] actually. I think I thought "Well, hell, everybody else is marrying, you

Page 43
know." It was just a bunch of kids in my age group that thought that was the thing to do. They were married, and I thought, heck, I would marry too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
OK, so how did you finally, then, quit your job at Dwight Mills and move to Birmingham? How did that come about?
EULA McGILL:
Now, let me think for just a minute. I quit that one time and I went back. Do you know I just cannot remember that second time I quit. Oh, my sister came up there, yes, visiting her friend who came back up there, and she says, "Why don't you come stay with me and get you a job in Birmingham?" So I did. I was pretty much burdened down trying to help my aunt, to tell you the truth, and I didn't have nothing. Whatever I was making I was giving to her right then, because my Dad and Mother were living down there on that place and raising what they ate. And they had a cow, and then he was doing these buildings. So my sister came up there one day and saw: you know, here I was up there working this way. What future did I have? (She was a good bit older than me.) And here were my aunt and the two kids, and I guess she thought it was just a dead-end street; she said to me, "Why don't you come?" And so I quit and went and stayed with her. But I did the same thing for her, because she and her husband separated, and everything I made went to her. I had to to keep working, for her and us to eat.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you got a job a Kresses, right, in Birmingham?
EULA McGILL:
No; you know, that's another thing, you see. That brief encounter, I worked at Kresses when we first came back to Birmingham the first time, before we went back to Gadsden. See, that's the first job I had after my son was born, when we came back from south Alabama to Birmingham. Worked there, I guess, about six months. That's when Poppa run that little restaurant out near the Selma Manufacturing Company. See, by Kresses being in

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Ensley, when we moved out there I got the job in Selma Manufacturing Company to be convenient. My brother-in-law and my sister, we all lived out there and ran this restaurant. And my father built a big pavillion out by it and we had dances twice a week in this pavillion—any way to make, you know. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you charge admission or something?
EULA McGILL:
Yes. Well, there was a bunch of people that was having it at their house, and they got to talking to Poppa. They had like a club, a group of people—back then people made their own entertainment, pretty much. And they had been meeting and having these dances at the people's. . . .
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
EULA McGILL:
. . . but just a group of people that liked to get together rather than go to people's houses. So Poppa built this place near the building where the. . . . See, we had a little grocery store, like, and a sandwich shop in there, and we lived in the back. It was a pretty good-sized place, and my sister and brother-in-law, we all lived together. And my brother-in-law worked in town; he was a plasterer, and he was working regular. And Poppa ran the place; and then twice a week we had the dances—and then anybody could come. But they were very nice affairs.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have a local band?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, the musicians come and they played for part of the admission, see.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you like working as a clerk in the department store, in comparison, say, to working in the cotton mill?
EULA McGILL:
Well, the pay was about the same. It was in a way nicer than work in the mill. Of course it wasn't any easier, in one term, because you had to clean up every night after you left work. [Interruption]

Page 45
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were talking about working behind the candy counter.
EULA McGILL:
Yes. As I remember, we had to go into work at eight o'clock then; the store opened at eight and closed at six (we had a half an hour to eat)—except Friday and Saturday night we stayed open 'til nine. You had to work; you know, you worked from eight to nine at night, plus you had to clean up after you got through. You had to sweep behind the counter, clean up everything, replenish. You had cleaning jobs to do all during the week, too, if customers were scarce. And if you took any bad money, then you had to make it up. I remember a woman one time came in (and the candy counter was just at the end of the door) and she stood right at the end and gave me two Canadian dimes. I didn't notice them; they took it out of my pay for taking those two Canadian dimes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So how did you start working for Selma Manufacturing?
EULA McGILL:
Well, that's when my Dad and brother-in-law moved out there and started this little store and sandwich shop and . . . dance hall, if you want to call it that. And I was way on the other side of town, way over off of north Birmingham—in fact, the place we were was out in Tarrant, Alabama. [Interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you were telling me why you decided to start working for the Selma Manufacturing.
EULA McGILL:
So I was out there, you know. At first I didn't work; I helped Poppa in the store and place. So one day I just decided to go over and see if they were putting on any hands, and got me a job. I guess that was about 1930, I imagine.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were eighteen?
EULA McGILL:
About eighteen, nineteen. So I was working there when we

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started organizing in the mill.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you do there? What was your job?
EULA McGILL:
I was spinning, because they made the sugar bags. I had to still do that; that was the only thing I knew to do. And I had to still do that because you had to tell them you were experienced to get a job, and I didn't have a chance to do anything else.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about your wages?
EULA McGILL:
You know, I can't remember what I made when I first went there. It must have been about four or five dollars a week. I remember there a time right after I went to work there in the winter, they didn't pay us all in money. As I remember it I was making six dollars a week, and they gave me three dollars and three dollars in script to spend at the A&P store, because they couldn't pay us all—just in the height of the Depression there, just before Roosevelt was elected. Then later, though, I was making $5.10 a week, because Joe came over to me one night and he had some black work running. I don't know, it was an experiment or something, but they had some black, and you couldn't hardly see it at night. He couldn't get nobody to stay over there; he told me if I'd go over there and run that black work that he'd help me out and he'd give me two dollars a week more. So when payday came I still had $5.10, and I was working sixty hours a week. So I went to him and said, "Where's my two dollar raise?" And he said, "What?" And I said, "You promised me two dollars if I'd stay over there on that black work." And he said, "Did I?" I said, "You know you did." "Well, I don't know how I'm going to fix it." I said, "Well, I'm expecting it." So I got two dollars a week more for that; and I was making $7.10 a week for sixty hours when the first minimum wage law came in under the NRA—twelve dollars a week for forty hours.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your wages go up when the minimum wage law came in?
EULA McGILL:
Twelve dollars a week for forty hours. So I worked the second shift then, and they put on a third shift, see.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were working conditions like there in comparison to your first job at Dwight Mills?
EULA McGILL:
Terrible!
JACQUELYN HALL:
Worse?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, because the company wasn't as good a company. They didn't keep their places clean. But so far as supervisors, I have had no trouble with supervision. I have to say that, I just didn't have any trouble per se with any personal clashes with the bosses, with my immediate supervisors.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Your supervisor there was . . . very helpful to you.
EULA McGILL:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was that?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know, he just took a liking to me some way or another. I never missed any time from work, and I was never late. I couldn't miss no time. Some people did lay out; how they did it I don't know, but I never lost a day from work. I had to be there because I needed to work; if you didn't work you didn't get paid, so I had to be there. I needed the money, what little I got.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he treat you better than he did the other women?
EULA McGILL:
Well, he was a pretty nice fellow to everybody, but I would say that he did, by the fact of giving me the two dollars a week more—which he had to finagle and fix some way or another, because they never would have allowed it. I would say yes. I know when we started organizing he came down and said, "I understand that they're trying to organize a union." And I said,

Page 48
"Yes." And he said, "I understand you're on the organizing committee." I said, "That's right." And he said, "Well, I just want to know why. Haven't I always been good to you?" I said, "Well, you've done all for me that you can. My Dad always told me if I wanted a drink of water go to the head of the spring. I want to get to the man over you." He just laughed and walked off, you know. So in our department he never tried to interfere; that's all he ever said to me about my union activity. Except he came back one day (and there were a couple of black women that worked there—and they made less than we did; they paid them less).
JACQUELYN HALL:
They did the same work?
EULA McGILL:
He laughed one day at me and said, "Hey, you going to get Rosa into the union?" And I said, "Yes, if she'll join." (She was one of the black women.) He said, "You going to call her sister?" I said, "Sure I'm going to call her sister; I work here with her, don't I?" And he just went on; that's the only thing he ever said to me.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you think of him as a friend of yours? Or was it that kind of. . .?
EULA McGILL:
Well, not really friend; but I'd say this, that he seemed to have a little more respect for me than he did the other people, and he'd come down and chat with me.
I read all the time, and on the streetcar I had books to bring back and forth with me (because I had about an hour to spend on the streetcar coming and going to work). And he used to come down at night and pick up my book and read it while I was working, and bring it back to me just before I'd leave. Whatever I was reading, he'd come down and pick my book up. And then too, I always (I'm not saying this boasting) changed clothes; I never did wear on the streetcar what I worked in.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
You mean after you'd get to work you'd change clothes, and then change clothes again?
EULA McGILL:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was that?
EULA McGILL:
Well, because I didn't like to go on the streetcar like I. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of clothes did you wear to work in? Were they dirty?
EULA McGILL:
Well, you'd get lint and you'd sweat (it was hot, hot), and I just didn't feel like getting on a streetcar with other people. And I guess, too, I didn't much want people to know that I was working in that type place—I don't know why, but I just did that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there certain kind of clothes that people wore in the cotton mill that were distinct, so you could tell?
EULA McGILL:
Well, just cotton dresses, yes. We all had to wear aprons to put our waist in. There were a few lockers back there in a corner, and he let me have one of those to keep my clothes in. And I guess I was the only one that changed.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had he been a worker himself? Had he worked on the floor before he became a supervisor?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know. He had worked somewhere else before he came there, in that type of work: he had to be, to learn it, because you had to know what you were doing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you get any better at spinning?
EULA McGILL:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You still weren't any good at it?
EULA McGILL:
No [laughter].
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you still had to do it?

Page 50
EULA McGILL:
No, I didn't like it. I was better than this friend of mine, though. [laughter] Ruth [unknown] (she was a good friend of mine that I got acquainted with in there), I was a lot better than her, because she was miserable. Me and her, neither one were no good at it. And she later quit there and went to work for Kresses and retired. She was a good bit older than me; she was older than my sister—Ruth's way up in years.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you were working there when the '34 general strike came along? Can you tell me something about how you began to organize the union there? Who started it?
EULA McGILL:
Well, for a long time they didn't want me to know it; they were afraid of me, you know, because I never associated with the people. I lived in another part of town, I had to travel by streetcar, and I never had any encounter with any of the people in the plant. I didn't know any of them, just except to see them at work. And you never had time to talk; like I said, you worked twelve hours, you quit working and you went home. On the weekends I never saw any of them, because I was on one side of town and they were on the other.
JACQUELYN HALL:
There was already a local there?
EULA McGILL:
No. I'm trying to think there just a minute. Anyway, I did not know it was started until the what we called section hand, he came to me one night and said, "Did you know they're having a union meeting Saturday?" (Now he was like a straw boss; he was eligible to join the union, but he was borderline supervision and worker.) He had had an experience one time; he was from up around Decatur, Alabama, where right in the twenties they had a strike. And that railroad yard moved and the people blamed the union with it. And he had worked in there, so he was kind of against unions because of that experience.

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So he says, "We ought to go and see what's going on." So I went—not for the reason he did—because I was union. I didn't tell him because I didn't trust him. So I went, and that's when I found out, you know. So when I went and talked favorable, they put me on the organizing committee; that's how I got into organizing. That's when I met Alice; now, she worked in the same mill, but she was at the meeting too, because somehow or another she had gotten in touch with the people who were organizing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
This was Alice Berry?
EULA McGILL:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you went to that first meeting, were these all people out of that mill, or was there an organizer there?
EULA McGILL:
Out of that mill; that was the meeting for that mill.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there an organizer from the United Textile Workers Union there?
EULA McGILL:
That's right, yes sir: John Dean and Albert Cox.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Ah, they were there at that meeting? And had they contacted and started that?
EULA McGILL:
They had contacted some people, yes; it had been going on, but I didn't know about it then. They told me later they were afraid to approach me, because they didn't know how I felt. And because, I reckon, my sister made clothes and her husband had a pretty good job, I was a little better dressed and I changed clothes, they were a little bit leary of me. They didn't know whether to let me know at the beginning or not. So I was put on the organizing committee. And this same woman that I helped train, she lived in a little place called Central Park near where I lived in Ensley Highlands. And when we got to town we transferred to the same streetcar to come out to the factory, and so one day I approached her [laughter]. Told her we were

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organizing, and I said, "Do you want to join?" I never will forget how she looked, Jackie. She'd forgot, you know, that she'd come to work in there and desperately needed a job. And in the meantime her husband had a pretty good job with the WPA, and he was making seventy-five dollars a month, which was big money. He was some kind of a clerical worker, and I think he had some kind of job in the office in the steel mill, as I remember, because she came from the same section. But anyway, I talked to her, you know, and I told her I was organizing. And I'll never forget, she said [you know, people back then wore hats—I didn't, but she always wore a hat back and forth to work], "Well, I may not work long. You know, I really don't have to work." And do you know what I said to her? I said, "Hell, me neither; I could starve to death." I didn't throw it up to her that she wouldn't have been there if me and this other girl hadn't helped her. But this is to show you how people, when they get on their feet a little bit, how they can change. I mean, it was either work or starve, you know; and in her case it was just about that too, but that's how she reacted.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How many people did you have in the local union before the strike?
EULA McGILL:
Well, you see, the minute you joined you started paying dues. We paid a dollar to join and twenty-five cents a week dues. And when we set up the local we had to have, I think, twenty-five people paying dues before we could set the local up—I believe it was twenty-five to get a charter. We set the local up and I was elected secretary-treasurer. We never had too many people pay dues; they just wouldn't pay, if they had it in the first place. But we acted just like a local.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were these all women in this plant?
EULA McGILL:
No, no, we had a good many men working: the doffers were men,

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a lot of the weavers were men, all the section hands were men.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who were the most active people in the local? Were they men or women? Weavers or spinners?
EULA McGILL:
Both. We had some very good active men who had been in the unions before. We had one man who was section head who had been in a machinists' union, and he turned yellow on us in the strike—sold us out. Didn't sell us out, but. . . . And we had another man who was very active, and he chickened out on us too in the strike; his son didn't, his son stuck with us.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who were the local officers?
EULA McGILL:
I can't remember. There was a guy named Rogers who was president (I can't remember his first name), and I can't remember any of the other officers right now except him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you the only woman officer?
EULA McGILL:
I can't remember if I was the only woman or not; I don't think so. I believe Mabel Abson . . . was an officer, her or her brother. And then we had a Sicilian girl and her brother that were very active too working there; can't even remember that boy and girl's names, but they were very active.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were the grievances that you had, and what motivated people to organize the local?
EULA McGILL:
Everything: more money, better conditions, and certainly sanitation. It was everything, and the main thing was conditions of employment plus money. You were at the whim of the boss: you'd go up and ask or say something and "If you don't like it, hit the street," that was the answer you got to anything you wanted to say. You couldn't talk sensibly to the boss. Mostly you didn't ask, because you knew what it was going to be; if you had a

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beef you didn't. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
But how do you account for people at this point being willing to organize the union, try to do something about these conditions?
EULA McGILL:
Had no place to go but up. Couldn't go back; up was the only place you could go.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were people aware of the NRA Textile Codes, and that you were supposed to be getting more than you were?
EULA McGILL:
Well, you see, when Roosevelt took office he practically had no opposition down South. Newspapers and everything were very quick to publish everything, because everyone wanted to get the country back on its feet. So consequently these people were expecting, they were ready to try to do something.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They thought that Roosevelt was going to do something?
EULA McGILL:
People looked up to him; and he was a dynamic person, as you very well know, and was well-loved by the average person. They felt protected; they felt that now was the chance for them to do something for themselves. And a lot of people who had had some union experiences before and failed. . . . You must remember the mines had tried to organize in the twenties and failed, and out of that came some people who were still hoping some day to organize. They hadn't killed the labor movement when they lost and failed; there were still some people in all plants who were ready to take advantage of anything to get the union.
JACQUELYN HALL:
People were aware of Section A?
EULA McGILL:
That's right. In fact, I know of three guys in our factory that had had previous union experience. One was an electrician; he worked as a journeyman electrician, and he was a union man. And these two guys had

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worked the railroad yards, and when they closed down they had to move into something else. And they would come into work [unknown] (machinists, millwrights), and they were called section hands. They were kind of over us, but they repaired the machines and kept the machines going, and kept the work in order.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were the most active people in the local the more skilled workers or section hands?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, in our case, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that right?
EULA McGILL:
The weavers. We looked to them, because they were the ones that could control the thing. If you didn't have the weavers and you didn't have the section hands or the loom fixers, they were looked up to because they were skilled, and they couldn't be replaced easy.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh. Well, what about the more unskilled workers? Were they willing to come into the local?
EULA McGILL:
Oh yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Or were they waiting?
EULA McGILL:
We kind of looked up to those people; the section hands, the loom fixers and the weavers, they were kind of looked up to. Anything they'd do we felt like it was good for us too, because they were already making more than we were—precious little, but they were making more.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, what happened when the management found out that this local was organized or was being organized?
EULA McGILL:
Well, they fired some people; there were some people that lost their jobs. Of course, after the strike. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Coming back to events that led up to the strike. . . .

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EULA McGILL:
When the mills went from two twelve-hour shifts to three there became a shortage of workers, and particularly in ours. There was a big mill there, a Comer Mills, at Avondale, much bigger than this one where they made the material for the sugar bags. It was a much better run mill, a bigger company, more powerful. The old man that owned this mill, that bought it out and started it up, came out of Mississippi; his name was Ames, A-m-e-s. When we started organizing and he got wind of it, he shut the place down one night and called us all together and made a talk. He told us how he came and opened this place up, and people were needing jobs and they were hungry, and he'd been losing money constantly. And I listened to this for a while and I couldn't stand it no longer. He was begging us not to quit and go over to the other mill and go to work. And some nights we couldn't start up the second shift; there wouldn't be enough people in there to start up, because, as I say, they began to compete for the labor. He was begging us not to quit and to stay with him, because he'd operated the place more or less just for our benefit. So I said, "Hey, may I ask a question?" And he said, "Yes." And I said, "Well, if we all get a job somewhere else then you won't have to be responsible to see that we get a paycheck, so it should be to your advantage if we could leave and go to work somewhere else." [laughter] We come back upstairs and Joe said, "Why in the name of God did you say that? Why did you have to open your mouth?" I said, "I could not stand there and be made a fool of. How can a man stand up and think you're so stupid, that he's running the place at a loss yet he's begging us to stay and work? It don't make sense. I could not stand it."
They fired a little old woman that was a good bit older than me; I can't remember her name, but me and her became good friends. She was very

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active in the union; she was a weaver. And they fired her, and they fired the president of the local, and eventually got me, after I went to Washington. I can't remember right now any more, but some did get fired. That Sicilian boy got fired too (I can't remember his name), got clipped right out. I think he thought nobody would stick to him; in that area there weren't too many Italians. Apparently they all went to the steel area, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the black women join the union?
EULA McGILL:
Oh yes, we had about seven or eight black people that worked there at one job or another, and they joined.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now before you went out on strike, did you take your grievances to the manager or try to get anything changed?
EULA McGILL:
No, no.
JACQUELYN HALL:
There were no negotiations going on back and forth?
EULA McGILL:
No, they wouldn't recognize you; they wouldn't even talk to you.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you try to send a delegation to talk to them at all?
EULA McGILL:
Oh yes, we had a committee. We wouldn't have asked them to negotiate had we not had a majority. But no, there wasn't really nothing in that Section that could give you really any power; there wasn't much teeth in it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
To enforce it, right. So how did it come about that you went out on strike?
EULA McGILL:
Well, you know, Frank Gorman, president of the United Textile, he got up and just called for a general strike. And hell, everybody come out, non-union as well as union. [laughter] I mean, people began to come out

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of the mills that hadn't even gotten around to forming a union. It was a massive walk-out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
This is what I wanted to ask you. In July of '34 people in the mills in Alabama went out on strike before the strike was officially called in September by the United Textile Workers.
EULA McGILL:
Is that in Huntsville? Yes, not all of Alabama, I don't think, but Huntsville probably, because Huntsville was strongly organized, and their mills were owned by northern New England men. They felt a little more secure that they would get something, and they did get contracts in Huntsville.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now did you go out in July, or did you not go out until after?
EULA McGILL:
I was out in July.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You all went out in July? Well, then that was before the strike was officially called.
EULA McGILL:
Yes, I don't remember. But anyway we went out, because I remember we was out on the fourth of July.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What I'm trying to understand is, it was really the workers themselves in the local unions who went out on strike that forced the United Textile Workers to officially. . . .
EULA McGILL:
I don't think so. I wouldn't say one way or the other, because my memory isn't that good. I don't know if we came out before the general strike or not in that particular place; I can't remember.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, if you were out in July. . . .
EULA McGILL:
Well, we were out; I know we were out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How was that decision made to go out? Do you remember the day that you went out?

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EULA McGILL:
No, I don't. Well, I was the second shift; the first shift struck. And then when we arrived there, see, it was already on.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you don't remember the local union . . .?
EULA McGILL:
I don't remember how the action was taken; I just don't remember how the decision was made to strike. It seems like we struck over them firing Jim Rogers; seems like that was actually what triggered it, when they fired the president and this little old lady (she was older than me).
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did everybody in the plant go out?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, we shut it down tighter than a door nail, because we were in the mining area (the mines were organized by that time). We had the support of the miners, we had the support of all the building trades—you know, we had a pretty good labor movement in Birmingham. And so we were tight; nobody worked, and we had a fence around the gate. They tried to scab, like I say; they brought a truckload of strikebreakers in there. And these two guys that I was telling you about helped recruit them; sold us out—didn't sell us out, but they turned.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They were scabbing?
EULA McGILL:
They would come in and try to bring these scabs in, but they didn't get in—didn't get through the gate.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you keep them out?
EULA McGILL:
We got in the gate; they couldn't get in. We had help.
JACQUELYN HALL:
From the miners?
EULA McGILL:
Yes. Everybody when we had trouble, we'd all go help each other, you know. Most of our men had kind of chickened out on us, and most of us that were sticking were the women.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that right?

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EULA McGILL:
Most of the men in our department chickened out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They didn't go back to work, but they just what?
EULA McGILL:
Tried to help break the strike, recruited strikebreakers. They came in from Georgia (they brought them in in trucks), and they came in with police.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did the men chicken out and not the women?
EULA McGILL:
I just don't understand that, unless they thought they were going to lose—which we did. We might not have if they'd stuck with us. This young fellow that I told you a while ago that stuck with us, his daddy (I'm trying to think of his devilish name, that old guy—I can see him now) was one of the fixers. I know when they came this little kid was standing there (he was a young fellow), and he said, "I can't hit my daddy, so you all get him and I'll get somebody else." He told me that the company gave him a hundred dollars to help recruit—a hundred dollars was a lot of money in them days.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have a picket line around the mill?
EULA McGILL:
Yes. There was a fence, that's one good thing; they had a fence and they had to go in gates, and it was easier to take care of it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there any violence and fights?
EULA McGILL:
Those strikebreakers didn't want to fight; and of course they just didn't even get off the trucks. And these two guys that I'm telling you about, they came up and tried to get us to get out of the way. No, there weren't actually no fights. They come up and we wouldn't move. [unknown] The people, [unknown] they weren't really strikebreakers, trained strikebreakers (or they would have crushed us); they just recruited them for jobs, to come to work—I don't know what they told them. They knew a strike was on but

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they weren't real strikebreakers in the true sense of the word; a strikebreaker is trained to break strikes and to fight, to do whatever is necessary to break the strike.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you live during that time that you were on strike?
EULA McGILL:
Well, I was fixing to say. Right after we struck I was living with my sister, and all she had was what I was bringing in. So I had to go back, and I couldn't stay and continue to picket; I had to go back and stay at home. So I'd just come back now and then, you know, to help out with the union activities, because we didn't have no money to live on. We didn't have no strike benefits. I stayed as long as I could, but I had no income, I had no way even to get out to the picket line (I had no carfare), so I had to go home and stay for most of the duration of the strike in order to have some place to live and eat.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did people get federal relief?
EULA McGILL:
I didn't know of no federal relief. I remember we used to go to stores and ask if they'd donate. Stores were pretty good; a lot of them were locally-owned little stores, and they'd donate maybe just a sack of flour here and a piece of meat there, and some shortening here. We'd come back to the union hall and divide it up among the ones who were the most needy. All I ever got was a dollar to have my shoes half-soled; that's the only thing I ever got—I never asked for anything. But as I say, I couldn't stay because I had no place to stay. And my sister lived way on the other side of town and I didn't even have carfare; she couldn't furnish me carfare, and her children were out with my mother and daddy. She'd gone to work selling cosmetics trying to make a little money.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did the managers react to the strike? What did they do? Did

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they come out and talk to you? Did they have armed guards out?
EULA McGILL:
No, no; they shut the gates and shut down the mill. The bosses just left the mill—except they had a watchman, you know, to watch it. But there was no activity at the mill; they didn't attempt to open it up, except that one time they brought that truckload. They couldn't run it with that one truckload; they were on a flatbedded truck standing up like a bunch of cattle, but they couldn't have operated it with that.
See, there were one or two paid organizers in the state, and they couldn't supervise; we were just more or less left pretty well to fend for ourselves the best we could. And they had to spend, of course, a lot of their time in Huntsville because they had more people out and three big mills: Dallas, Merrimack and Erwin Mills were all out. And of course they got contracts there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I was going to ask you whether the flying squadrons came.
EULA McGILL:
Those flying squadrons were the ones who were going to other mills that weren't closed down.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have any people that participated in flying squadrons?
EULA McGILL:
No, no. They tried to go down to some of the places that didn't, like Talladega, Alabama (you know, they didn't come out, the Talladega Cotton Factory, they called it). And there were a few places, you know, that didn't, and they were trying to shut them down to make it more effective. I can't remember if the Alabama Mills. . . . There was a bunch of mills started up by the [unknown] out of north Georgia; I don't remember whether they—no, they come along later; they opened them mills later.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you send any representatives to the UTW convention in September from your local?

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EULA McGILL:
No, didn't have no money.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did the strike come to an end?
EULA McGILL:
Well, we just called it off.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did people react when the United Textile Workers Union called off the strike? Did they feel like the union had given them as much support as they should have? Did they feel sold out at all when it was called off?
EULA McGILL:
Well, some people (for instance Jim) got just very disgruntled, Jim Rogers. I know me and him had a physical fight [laughter].
JACQUELYN HALL:
You and him did?
EULA McGILL:
One time in the union hall, fighting about the representatives, you know. [unknown] squabbling, because they had really no true leadership. And Jim took to drinking a lot, and he caused a lot of confusion. Well, not no physical fight; he knocked me down [laughter]. But this woman I started to tell you about who helped me a lot in the mill. . . . He was drunk at the meeting and just making a mess of the meeting, and I went to ask him to please sit down. He was just going on and on and on and on, and somebody was supposed to introduce this speaker. We had a guest speaker; you know, we'd do that, try to have a little rally. Different people would come around and talk, more experienced union people. We were having a night meeting, and I went over and said, "Jim, why don't you go ahead and introduce the speaker?" And he turned on me. And this good old friend that I got (she couldn't read and write; she'd always depend on me to tell her everything and read things to her, and she used to help me a little bit), she got up and she told him, "Don't you jump on her." And she started fighting him—she was that type of person—and in the fracas he knocked me down [laughter]. So that was a mess.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
So you didn't feel like there was good strong leadership at the local level?
EULA McGILL:
No, no. Not enough good advice, and not enough communication. It wasn't nobody's fault; it was just bigger than they could handle. They weren't prepared to handle something that big. I remember that after we went back in the plant to work, why, they made this one guy a boss, strawboss—one of the guys that had sold us out. He came down there and started saying something to me one day, and I said, "Oh, you get away from me, you scab." And he said, "Well, I ain't no scab, but I can't swallow that Frank Gorman." I said, "Well, I don't have to follow Frank Gorman. If you're a union person you don't pick out somebody and just follow them, you follow the union." But that's the only thing I ever heard. You know, but of course he was trying to fix. . . . He said he was still a union man; he was trying to blame it on Frank Gorman, and we never had seen him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you get any help from the State Federation of Labor? Were they wholeheartedly behind the strike?
EULA McGILL:
No; I mean, they just weren't able to give any kind of physical or financial support.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So when the strike was called off and you went back to work, you yourself didn't have any feelings of disillusionment with the union?
EULA McGILL:
No. It was something we tried and failed, like the people during World War I: I'd seen it, they tried and failed. And you get a little stronger even if you fail; you get a little stronger each time. That's the way I felt about it, because I'd seen what had happened in World War I. It didn't disillusion me that we failed that time. Some people won; we weren't a failure. We didn't win, but look at what we picked up, and look

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at the unions that are still in existence today from that. There were gains made, although we may have lost.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did other people in your local feel that way? Optimistic?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, later on we had a union in that place where I worked; later on after I left there they organized. And somebody else bought it and it was a union shop later on. Link Belt bought it, and they organized a union.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did other union organizers and leaders come out of that local besides yourself, or are you really the only one?
EULA McGILL:
I'm the only one that lasted. Alice was on the staff first, but wasn't too. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
So when you went back to work, how were things different than they had been before you went out on strike?
EULA McGILL:
In our department, no difference, because (like I said) we hadn't had much problem. We had Joe as our overseer; he was over the department, and we had never had too much discrimination or nothing. It wasn't no better or no worse.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you kept on trying to negotiate a contract?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, we kept trying. That's when Steve Nance entered the picture, and we still tried to meet and tried to negotiate some of them people back to work. And we finally just gave up. I guess at the time then [unknown] and we had nothing to go on. But we had several meetings, but just talk—you didn't get nowhere. The Supreme Court made their ruling and declared the NRA unconstitutional; that ended any . . . . The company didn't have to. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, tell me how you got involved with the Women's Trade Union

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League.
EULA McGILL:
Well see, I was a delegate to the Central Labor Union. Now, Miss Mollie Dowd during that time had become active in the Textile Workers' Union. Where she come from I don't know; I never knew her, but I learned after I did get acquainted with her that she was a resident of Birmingham, and at one time worked for Loveman, Joseph and Loeb, a big department store there. She had been active with another bunch of women in the Women's Trade Union League.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You met her at the Birmingham Central Labor Union?
EULA McGILL:
Well, actually when she began to work with the United Textile Workers too I got acquainted with Miss Mollie. Then after we lost, of course, the people who were paying dues just lost our local. And so as long as I worked second shift I couldn't attend no meetings of the Women's Trade Union League. I don't remember just when Miss Mollie tried to set the chapter up. But then she was let go—of course, the Textile Workers didn't have any money, and she was let go from the Textile Workers' Union. But she still was on the executive board of the National Women's Trade Union League. And we set up the chapter: Polly Brown worked at Pizitz Department Store (they didn't have a contract; she was a member of the retail clerks); and this Morris girl (you know, I told you); Miss Louise O. Charlton was a lady judge there; and Miss Velma Smiley (she worked at the courthouse; she joined and she was very active). And oh, good gracious, I can't think of that lady lawyer; me and her got to be good friends. She didn't make much success as a lawyer, but she was a very good person. What was her name? I thought of her name the other day. Cora. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
How many members were there?

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EULA McGILL:
We never had a big chapter.
JACQUELYN HALL:
About how many would you say?
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
EULA McGILL:
I'd say about. . . . Most of them were wives of men who worked for the labor unions; we tried to get numbers, you know, to help us.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How was it divided between working women and professionals? How many of each?
EULA McGILL:
Well, you couldn't have but ten percent of your members from non-trade union people. We had Miss Smiley, Louise O'Charlton, and Cora (I can't think of Cora's last name right now; I want to say Cora Thomas, but I'm not sure—this lady lawyer), and then some of the wives of the guys in the red ore mines. But they couldn't come much, because they lived down in Bessemer, and they had their own auxiliaries too. Back then practically all the crafts' labor unions had auxiliaries; the wives belonged to the auxiliaries to the local, but most of them weren't working women. The mine workers had an auxiliary, and the red ore miners had auxiliaries, and the railway brotherhood had auxiliaries. We tried to get those women, but of course they were took up with their other activities.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were the relationships like between the working women and the professional women? I mean, was the relationship good, or was there some condescension from one side to the other?
EULA McGILL:
Well, it was. No, as far as I was concerned it was very good, because most of them were sympathetic, and they pretty well listened to us as guidance. And then they threw their political influence or their influence where they could help us. More or less we would set the program and they would help us any way they could. They were sympathetic to it.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
And what kind of things did you try to do?
EULA McGILL:
Well, I remember there was a lot of dissension among domestic workers in homes, and women and young girls who worked in restaurants. A lot of it was just practically unpleasantness they had to take from men in order to hold their jobs. And then too, we participated (when the ore miners struck) and helped to get up food and clothing. We'd collect food and clothing from everywhere we could. And we'd help groups that were trying to organize if they needed anything.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were the domestic workers themselves trying to do something about their conditions?
EULA McGILL:
No, no; really they weren't.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you become aware of the problems of domestic workers?
EULA McGILL:
We were trying to talk with these women who did hire. And I remember we got one woman to kind of act—she finally didn't stay. Her husband owned a big dairy there, and we tried to work through her clubs to try to make it a little easier on these domestic workers. It might be hard for you and somebody to understand, but it was a hangover from the old days. Mostly black women, if they quit a job (didn't like it somewhere), well then word would get out that they were thieves, and they couldn't get a job nowhere else. Or if the man of the house or the son wanted to abuse them, if the wife caught them then naturally she got the blame—sordid and unpleasant things like that, mainly. We were trying to work through this other group of women to make them understand, to stop doing this. We were trying to help them without their knowledge.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Trying to help the domestic workers without their knowledge?
EULA McGILL:
Because we knew what was going on among them. We wanted to

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make it a little easier on them, because they didn't dare. Certainly a black woman in those days didn't dare try; if she was going to be blacklisted for quitting a job she didn't like, she certainly wasn't going to come to somebody and ask for help.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right. Were you aware of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, the existence of that group based in Atlanta?
EULA McGILL:
No, I sure wasn't.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Or the Women's Anti-Lynching Association?
EULA McGILL:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I didn't know whether they were active in Birmingham or not.
EULA McGILL:
If they were I didn't know anything about it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did your sister get to be president of the Women's Trade Union League? Was she involved in that from the beginning as well?
EULA McGILL:
I'd rather not have this on tape, what I'm going to say now. [Interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
You're saying that the League didn't hold together?
EULA McGILL:
No. And then about that time. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why didn't it hold together?
EULA McGILL:
I guess they just couldn't keep enough members, and didn't get the proper support. Back in them days the men didn't really support the women like they should have either.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where did you try to get support for the Women's Trade Union League?
EULA McGILL:
Among the unions. I guess it was about the only chapter in the South. Of course, we helped the Amalgamated in Chicago start; the Women's Trade Union League furnished the leadership to help build the Amalgamated.

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But a lot of people didn't know anything about it; it was new to them and they were just indifferent toward it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you involved in trying to get support from the unions or from the Federation of Labor for the League?
EULA McGILL:
No. Most of the time, you see, when the League started I worked the second shift. I didn't get to go to the meetings even. It was only after I got fired, and it didn't last too long. I couldn't even go to the meetings when I worked second shift, because they met at night. Then after I got fired, of course, I attended and tried to do. . . . Then I went to work full-time as an organizer and was not in Birmingham. But the Birmingham chapter was short-lived.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see. You went to a convention in Washington?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, during this time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
To the '36 convention?
EULA McGILL:
I wasn't a delegate from the chapter; they gave me the trip, they called it a scholarship. The national League brought me because of my activity as a volunteer organizer in trying to help; they brought me up there kind of as a little bonus, I guess, to give me a little special attention. Polly Brown and Miss Morris and my sister went from the League, and Miss Mollie Dowd. I went along as the guest being paid for by the national organization.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see. And what was that trip like for you?
EULA McGILL:
Well, that's, you know, when I got fired for making that trip. When I got back I got fired, but I never regretted it. I lived hard a year afterwards; I had a real tough year after I got fired. Well, needless to say, for a kid that never had been anywhere in their life. . . . I remember

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we drove up there in my sister's car, and I wanted to stop at every historic road sign and read it. I never had been. I remember going through. We drove it, and we started like at six o'clock in the evening, and we drove as long as we could and stopped to spend the night. And I never had been in South Carolina. Of course, going through that Piedmont region seeing all them big textile mills lit up at night (I never had seen such big textile mills in my life) impressed me. We went through the Piedmont region, you know over highway eleven right up through there. We started about six o'clock in the evening (it was in May) and I believe we drove . . . I don't know whether we stopped to spend the first night. But we got a room in a tourist home, they called them—a house that rented rooms to tourists. And I remember the next morning when we started out we went the wrong way. The road signs weren't marked as good as they are north and south, and we were to change highways at this particular town. And the next morning we drove fifty miles the wrong way on the road [laughter] before we realized we were not going towards Washington. And I can't remember, but it seems that we drove to in the morning, and we slept 'til about seven or eight o'clock and then finished driving into Washington the next day. We arrived in Washington about seven o'clock on the second night. It seems like we just spent one night on the road. And we met down at the hotel before we went up to the White House (because Mrs. Roosevelt had invited the Alabama and the New York delegations to be her guests at the White House, because she was a member of the New York League). We had breakfast with her every morning and chatted with her. The first night we were there we were welcomed by the president himself, and we had a nice chat with him. And that was the first time I knew that he was in a wheelchair; you know, I did not know that he had to be in

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a wheelchair. And his youngest son John was with him. Although I had known he had had infantile paralysis, I didn't know that he was that bad—crippled. And it was quite an experience.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you think about the convention itself?
EULA McGILL:
Our main thing right then was trying to get the Textile Bill passed, which was a minimum wage law for textile workers. We had already accomplished, you know, getting prison labor work out of the prisons, with the labor movement and other groups (not primarily union groups, but other groups).
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember discussion at that convention about whether to put money into organizing the League in the South?
EULA McGILL:
Oh yes, yes, and to help in organizing the unorganized, yes—to do what they could.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They were pulling back from the South really, though, at that time. The League was not. . . .
EULA McGILL:
It hadn't made its gains in the South; no, it never did—mainly around New York, Chicago and places like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So how did it come about that that caused you to lose your job?
EULA McGILL:
Well, you see, I knew I was going, and I had gone and asked my boss if I could be off. I didn't tell him why I wanted to be off, but I went and said, "I'd like to be off the week of so-and-so"—whichever week in May this was. And he said, "Well, wait 'til nearer the time and come and ask me again, and if I can possibly do without you I'll let you go, let you be off." So about a week or so beforehand I went and said, "Remember, Joe, I asked you I wanted off the week of so-and-so?" And he said, "OK." I never told him why; he never asked me. But when all this came out in the paper about us being

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guests of the White House and everything, when I got back I didn't have a job because of my union activity.
JACQUELYN HALL:
There were articles in the Birmingham Herald?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, it came out in the newspapers, our pictures and everything, yes, because they thought it was quite a treat, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you arrived back at work and walked in. . . .
EULA McGILL:
When I started to go in I was called to come by the big office. The big office set out here away from the mill, like a little house, and you'd go around the office to go inside the entrance to the mill. I started to go around, and they pecked on the window and told me to come in the office. So the general superintendent over all (they had another place in Mississippi) said, "I didn't know we had any unions here." I said, "We don't." And he said, "Well, what is this thing you just went to?" And I tried to explain to him. And his daughter was there, and she was right interested; she was trying to ask me what all happened. She wanted to know from me, you know, about the trip. Well, he made her be quiet. So he told me they didn't need me anymore.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So that was it?
EULA McGILL:
That was it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you live, then, that year?
EULA McGILL:
Well, I had this girlfriend who had worked there in the plant with me. She worked on WPA, and I stayed with her. She had a furnished room (sleeping room), and she and I had a donut and a cup of coffee every morning [laughter]. Then Mrs. Bernie Maxwell, whose husband worked in the [unknown] plant, me and her had been very active. She had worked in a bakery, and we'd been very active in our days when I was on the organizing

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committee. I used to come to town early before I had to go to work, and she'd meet me downtown. We'd go around to these bakeries trying to organize them. So she'd always invite me, a standing invitation for me to come to her house at night for supper. So that's how I lived. As far as money, once in a while maybe one of the guys would slip me a couple of dollars, you know, just to help me out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you kept doing volunteer organizing?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, all this time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who for?
EULA McGILL:
Well, I helped any. I went with the Mine Workers' Union, the red ore miners; I tried to help them strengthen their auxiliaries. The women in the auxiliaries, every time they had a meeting they'd invite me. We'd have these all-day affairs; they'd bring lunch, and they'd have little projects, you know. They were like clubs, but they were interested in helping the union. I attended all those, and there was any number of them going on around Birmingham. I worked with those ladies, and tried to help them do things that would help the labor movement—especially buying union-made products. That was one of our prime objectives in the auxiliaries. I tried to help organize the steel mills; I'd help deliver leaflets at the plant gate. Became very good friends with a group of men that later on became representatives of the Steel Workers, and some of them directors. They came out of those mills there at Ensley and at Fairfield; and I got acquainted with them through the organizing efforts in the thirties, although they didn't get their unions until in the forties. Bill Crawford, who migrated to Alabama from Akron, Ohio, came in and worked the sheet mill; his son's now a representative. Bill became director here in Atlanta later on. And Earl Crowder, who went

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on the staff of the United Steel Workers; Rube Farr, who was director of steel in Birmingham; any number of the guys in the Mine Workers' Union.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you get your first paid organizing job?
EULA McGILL:
When the drive went on, the A.F.L.. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
The Textile Workers' Organizing Committee was set up, yes.
EULA McGILL:
Yes, that's the first. Mr. Mitch, who was the district president of the United Mine Workers, called me up and asked me to come down to his office.
JACQUELYN HALL:
William Mitch? This was about 1936, do you think? 1936-1937?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, probably the latter part of '36. And he called me up and asked me to—I remember it was raining like hell that day, pouring down the rain! I went up there and he told me that there was going to be some organizer put on to organize textile, and asked me why didn't I send in my application if I was interested in the job. And I said, "I don't know if I can do it." He said, "Well, that's what you've been doing. Of course, what do you think you've been doing but organizing?" So that's why I made application for the job and was put on the staff.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you were working under Steve Nance, then?
EULA McGILL:
Franz Daniel actually hired me; and I cannot remember, I think they split up the area, and Franz went up into Greenville and that area and Nance was put in charge. I didn't know Nance very well.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you go up to Atlanta to be interviewed?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, by Franz Daniel.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And so you started organizing for them then? What did you do? What was that like?
EULA McGILL:
Well, I came back to the Birmingham area and we had tried to

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organize. We had still some interest in that Comer Mill there in Avondale, and I primarily first worked in there, and around Birmingham. I guess I was on there about a year. You see, at the time I was put on the staff I was active in trying to. . . . Homer Welch, who was an organizer for the United Textile Workers, had gotten into trouble in Talladega. You see, they didn't strike with the general textile strike, and after the strike was called over they got a wage cut. They got very anxious for a union; and Homer went down there, and they signed up and they came out on strike. Some shooting occurred on the picket line or just about dusk dark, [unknown] one afternoon late, and some people were shot. And they were after Homer for it, of course—he was a representative there. He had sneaked away, gotten away and came into Birmingham, because he felt that if he was arrested down there he would not have a chance. And it so happened that one of the guys active in the strike (and I believe they had a local set up; I believe he was the president, but I can't remember his name—I'd have to look in the file) was arrested and put in jail there that night. And they found him hung next morning. They claim he hung himself, but nobody believes it. We went down there the night it happened. We heard about it (we were in Birmingham), and when we got down there a man who worked for the Conciliation Service, a Mr. Cooper, happened to be with us. And when we got down there they had a bunch of women in jail that was littered in the back with buckshot—strikers—and they wouldn't let them see a doctor. And he didn't exactly lie, but he went up there and told them that he was representing the United States government and he demanded that they see a doctor. He didn't say what division, but it done the trick. So Homer stayed in jail in Birmingham for a long time, about six months. And during this time Roderick Beddow, who was considered to be about the best

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criminal lawyer in Birmingham at that time, had been hired to represent him or to defend him. He was charged with murder. And, of course, Talladega County was trying to get him back; and, of course, we had more strength for the union in Jefferson County, and we were trying to hold him in jail there—because we felt if he went back down there that he would not get . . . we knew he wouldn't get good treatment, and probably the same thing would happen to him that happened to the other man. So there was bickering back and forth between the two counties, but he stayed in Birmingham until he came to trial. But during this time it seemed like (I don't know, I don't want to say how it came about; I don't know if I actually know), but anyway Homer was telling me that when he was going to trial Roderick had been pulled off the case. And he felt that Roderick, having done all this primary work, was better to represent him than bringing a new person in to represent him. He said that the union wasn't going to pay for the lawyer—you know, for Roderick. At that time in the textile locals we had joint councils set up, and they had meetings about twice a year—the Council of Textile Workers. And I had been going around to all local unions (not just textile, but any local union) trying to make up money to help pay for defense attorney for Homer, to keep Roderick Beddow. So I got up at the Council of Textile Workers and asked (told them the case and asked); and Homer, of course, coming from textile, was well-liked. Well, there was a guy there who worked for the Textile Workers' Union (this is the story I got later), he goes and tells them that I was trying to set up dual unions.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I can't understand how you would get that story out of trying to raise money for somebody's defense.
EULA McGILL:
Well, I'll tell you what I think: I think he felt that there

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was a layoff coming, and he was trying to make some way or another to get kept on himself. I don't know either, but that's exactly what I later found. I wasn't fired, I was laid off in the layoff. And while he came on to work after I did he was kept on. Homer was let go too, see. So Homer said, "I'm going to go to New York and talk to them." And I said, "Well, I'm not; if that's how they feel, I'll just go ahead about my business." So I didn't do anything about it; I just took the layoff. But my sister at that time was on the payroll of the Textile; she came to work after I did, but they kept her. So I just went with her and worked on just like I had been. Actually, I was doing her job, because she'd take off and go somewhere; I was there doing the work and she was gone—but that's neither here nor there. But I still worked, and she fed me, because she had a check.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you were out of a job again?
EULA McGILL:
I didn't have a paycheck; I was working, but I wasn't getting paid for it. So, I just didn't know what I was going to do. Then in the meantime my sister got laid off from Textile, and she didn't have anything to do. She had been feeding me, because I'd been actually doing her work. So I went back to Birmingham, and me and Ruth got us an apartment together—this old friend of mine that I lived with. She still worked for WPA and I was still trying to find some work. The Typographical Union had their national convention in Birmingham; they didn't have too many women in their union, so they wanted some women to kind of be hostess and help them with their social affairs and things, so they asked me if I'd help them. Of course, I wasn't getting paid for it, but I was doing it. I was happy to do it. So I'd been down there, and it was about midnight; I'd gone home and [laughter] I'd just gotten in bed when Clyde Mills called me. He was a member of the

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Typographical Union and he had been put on as southern director for the Amalgamated Clothing. He called me up—well, actually Miles Horton called me first and said, "Hey, what are you doing?" I said, "Well, God almighty, I just laid down. I was going to run home and get me a few hours' sleep; I haven't had any sleep." And he said, "Well, I've got somebody here I want you to talk to."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now where had you met Myles Horton?
EULA McGILL:
Oh, I had met Myles when I was in Textile; in Memphis, Tennessee is where I met Myles. I was working in Memphis with the Textile Workers' Union. It's right funny how I met Myles. I was staying at this hotel, and he called me up and told me who he was. And I said, "Well, you wait; I'll come down to the lobby"—because like I told you a while ago, we were very careful not to let [unknown] men come to our rooms.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was that any men in your room?
EULA McGILL:
That's right. And Memphis at that time particularly, the auto workers were really in a passle with the Ford Company, and Memphis was really bad—-they had all kinds of labor spies. And the Crump Machine was trying to keep the unions out of Shelby County, particularly Memphis, and we had to be doubly careful. The ILG had a strike on at the time, and Louise McLaren was there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that where you met her?
EULA McGILL:
And Myles laughs about that until today, when I said, "You wait right there." I don't go meet him by myself; I called Homer's room. Homer Welch was there with me. That's the last assignment me and him had with the Textile Workers, the TWOC. And I said, "There's a guy down in the lobby says he's Myles Horton, and he's from Highlander Folk School and he's for the

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unions also. I want you to go down there with me." So we went on down, and that's when I met Myles.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Interesting.
EULA McGILL:
And Myles was the one that called me. And so Clyde says, "Hey, how would you like to go work in Amalgamated Clothing Workers?" And I said, "Fine. When do I start?" And he says, "Well, get up and come back down here; I've got to leave town." I got up out of bed and went back down there and talked to Clyde. But Myles told me later that he was asking about my sister Clara, and he said, "That ain't the one you want. You've got them mixed up. The one you want is Eula McGill." Now that's what Myles told me later. So evidently them old friends of my sister's were still trying to. . . . I'm sorry to say it, but my sister's just that type of person: she just couldn't stick to nothing. She went to work later with the International Ladies' Garment Workers. She couldn't stay; she didn't have patience that it takes, you know. She didn't really have her heart in it, like you have to have it; that's what I think, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How come you never went to work for the WPA when you were. . . ?
EULA McGILL:
I worked one day for WPA.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you hesitate so long to go that way?
EULA McGILL:
Well, I don't know. I guess we were always independent; my mother was that type of person. I remember in the Depression during the Hoover days they were sending flour; the government was issuing flour to people. Poppa said, "I think I'll go down and get us a sack of that flour." Momma said, "no, you ain't going down to get it, no sir. We've got something to eat; we don't need to go down and get their flour." I don't know, I just had a feeling that it was giving up. I was giving up, it was just a last

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resort—and it was a last resort. I just didn't feel like I could continue on, this girl working for WPA and her keeping me up and me feeling like I was . . . maybe she thought I was too good. And I went down and got to work one day on the WPA.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you do?
EULA McGILL:
They put me to work with sandpaper, sandpapering school desks.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And that same day you got a job?
EULA McGILL:
That night. So when I left work, see, I went home and dressed and went down to the Typographical Union for the affair that night. And I just got home about midnight and went to bed—because I walked from the hotel where it was out to where our apartment was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was this in 1938? Do you know when you started?
EULA McGILL:
No, it was in '39, because I went to work on the Amalgamated payroll in '39.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know the other people that were TWOC organizers, the other southerners that they put on for that campaign?
EULA McGILL:
Other southerners?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who did you work most closely with?
EULA McGILL:
With Homer Welch and Tommy Sparks. See, I stayed mostly around Birmingham, and there wasn't much textile. Now, of course, there was Helen Gregory, Matt Lynch; but we all kind of worked together there then at Amalgamated. Matt was with hosiery division, Helen was with hosiery division. And Matt's president of the State Labor Council in Tennessee now, Matt Lynch. Let me see, Ray Nixon (well, I can't remember)—Ray was a director. [Regardless of whether we were organizing a textile mill or garment factory, we worked together.]
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you went to work for Amalgamated, then, you went to Atlanta, you moved to Atlanta.

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EULA McGILL:
My first assignment was here, on the Cluett-Peabody campaign. Then I went from there to Greenville, South Carolina.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you get involved right away in the Cluett-Peabody Plant?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, my first assignment in the Amalgamated was on this, me and May Bagwell.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Tell me about May Bagwell. What was she like?
EULA McGILL:
A very nice person. Her home is here, and me and May worked together.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She wasn't a worker herself, was she?
EULA McGILL:
No. I don't know what May's real background was. She worked for a while, women's work some way or another.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But she was an organizer?
EULA McGILL:
Oh yes, but that's the way a lot of organizers . . . we had a lot of organizers that didn't come out of the industry then. We didn't have nobody to pull from. And a lot of our people that had membership wouldn't have fitted in at that time then; some of our northern organizers, they wouldn't have fit.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So in order to have southern organizers you hired people that didn't come out of plants?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, most of the kids were college students, and people who were really dedicated people. May and Hilda Cobb, and there was a girl named Clemmie Shucks—and we used to laugh about it, shucks and cob—and Grisilda Khuman.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now, when you went on with Amalgamated, were there very many women organizers?
EULA McGILL:
No, that was the beginning of women; even textile didn't hire

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many women.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did they hire you?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know—oh, the Amalgamated? Well, the Amalgamated had been a different union. In my history of the Amalgamated study this has been more liberal and more broad-minded, more socially-minded, I think, than any other union.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you aware of that before you went to work for them?
EULA McGILL:
Yes. I used to know an old tailor at home; his name was Mueller, M-u-e-l-l-e-r. I used to go down on Saturday mornings and sit there and talk with him a lot. I got acquainted with him because I was trying to organize the alteration workers in the stores when I was on the organizing committee of the Central Labor Union. And he was a member of the journeyman Tailors' Union, and about that time they had become affiliated with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers. He was telling me about the Amalgamated Clothing Workers; I'd just go around on Saturday mornings and sit with him while he worked, and he really gave me an education in the Amalgamated Clothing: talking about Hillman and Revechek and Rosenbloom.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was it like being a single woman paid organizer, traveling around, living in motels?
EULA McGILL:
Well, at first we didn't live in hotels. We might stay in a hotel a night or two, but then we had to get a furnished room; there wasn't money to pay hotel bills. I remember very well when I first went to work for the union, I got twenty-five dollars a week. I couldn't afford a car; of course, cars when you were organizing the textile mills back then weren't as important as they are now, because the people lived in villages and you could walk from house to house. And I got five dollars a week for meals and

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my room rent.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was this from Amalgamated that you got this, or from TWOC?
EULA McGILL:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you make when you worked for TWOC?
EULA McGILL:
I made twenty dollars a week when I worked; I don't remember if I ever got a raise. Twenty dollars a week, and of course we paid bus fare, carfare. I didn't get any food allowance. But you didn't get along too good on that; you done the best you could.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you were working for Amalgamated were most of the other organizers men?
EULA McGILL:
When I first went to work for the Amalgamated in '39 there were mostly men. Let's see, there was I and Hilda and Grezelda, Polly Galloway; no, we were mostly women.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were mostly women?
EULA McGILL:
Later on Ed Blair come to work; and we had, of course, Clyde the director and then Buck Borah was director. It was mostly women.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Thinking back, do you see yourself having special problems or special advantages being a woman in that kind of work? In some ways was it harder? In some ways was it easier than if you'd been a man?
EULA McGILL:
No, I don't see that it was certainly any easier. In some case at first I think that it was a little harder, in that women tend to listen to men more than they do women [laughter]. And that's true today, to some extent, not so much in our trade, in the factories now, because as I grow older I've tended to have more respect from people listening to me, by my vast experience that I've drawn from. And too, men resent sometimes especially a young woman trying to tell them something. But actually, I never

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had from the men I worked with . . . I was never treated any different from the people I worked with than if I'd been a man. Now I can truthfully say that that is my case. I never was tried to be held back; I never was tried to be looked down on, that they knew more than me because they were men. I never had that problem from the day I first entered the labor movement and got active in the Central Labor Union; I never had that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Don't you think other women . . . ?
EULA McGILL:
I've had men oppose me when I was trying to get their wives active in those auxiliaries, telling me that their wives had a place in the home, and that I ought to marry and [laughter] have me a home. And I said, "What if I don't want to, you know?" They told me that's where I ought to be, back home raising kids instead of out trying to work. Anyway, I did have some opposition; I don't know why they didn't want their women active even in their own auxiliary. I'd try to tell them, "Well look, your wife spends the money. Isn't it best that she be educated in (I didn't say union-orientated, because we didn't use them words in those days). . . . Isn't it better that she know what the story is, so she can support you?" But I did have that problem; these were mostly from rank and file men that were officers of local unions, not from international people.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about people's attitude toward a young woman traveling alone and living that kind of unusual life?
EULA McGILL:
Well a lot of people, I think, would suspect the worst of you, because women didn't. And even today sometimes they say, "Oh, do you drive by yourself?" There's still women today who ask me, "Do you mean you travel by yourself? Aren't you afraid?" Even today I get that when I travel, maybe, distances. I go somewhere to a meeting outside of Atlanta

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fifty or seventy-five miles and I drive back at night, "You mean you're going to drive back tonight by yourself?" It's just something that they never have done, and they just can't understand that we do it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, was it hard for you at all when you first started out to be so independent and take care of yourself, to go into strange situations and move around so much?
EULA McGILL:
Well, I think that I got a lot of basic training before I ever went on the staff and started traveling, that I tried to handle myself and approach people in such a manner that I put them at ease. Now, sometimes you'll run into a lot of people who would insult you.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of people?
EULA McGILL:
Well, a lot of this sort of people that would try to say, "Why don't you get a job and go to work? Why do you come around and try to stir up trouble while we're happy, and the boss gave me a job when I needed one?" In other words, they looked upon us like some kind of a racket, like they were doing us a favor to join the union. They're doing something for us, they're not doing something for themselves. And sometimes people would do it to hide their fear, actually. You can't let these things bother you, and you can't feel hurt at these people. You have to understand that it's new to them. I always remember where I was when I worked in the plant, and how I saw people around me. . . . Well, I used to be afraid; every time I'd see a boss coming, I was afraid he was going to come down there and jump on me or fire me. And I always try to remember, I've never forgotten that I worked in a plant just like these people, and had my fears and anxieties. And while I never bought nothing on credit (you couldn't get credit). . . . I never owed nobody nothing, because I didn't have enough money to buy nothing. I had to

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get by the best I could. I never bought anything on credit in my whole life until I went on the staff as an organizer and bought me the first automobile. I had to buy it in my sister's name because I didn't have no credit rating; she had to go in it with me so I could buy an automobile, because I didn't have any credit rating. Today credit's used again, and in a way they have more to lose if they join and lose their job; and the fear of losing that job is still there. People weren't as afraid of that in the old days, because hell, they were hungry working, and they were barely existing. As my mother told my sister when she was trying to talk me out of being active in the union, "What if she loses her job? She's eating and sleeping, and she'll eat and sleep some way if she loses her job." So that's the way most of the people felt in the textile mills in the early days: what have I got to lose?
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you were working in Atlanta, Steve Nance died in '38, so he wasn't there when you went to Atlanta.
EULA McGILL:
That's right, no, he died not long after letting me go.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who was your boss? "Buck" Borah?
EULA McGILL:
Clyde Mills.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He was the director of the southern campaign.
EULA McGILL:
Yes, for Amalgamated.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Wasn't Borah in Atlanta?
EULA McGILL:
"Buck" came on after Clyde; Clyde left and went with the National Mediation Service.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who were some of the other people you were involved with in Atlanta?
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
EULA McGILL:
. . . to Greenville to Wing Shirt, and tried to start a campaign there.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
So you weren't in Atlanta very long?
EULA McGILL:
Not very long at that time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see. So you didn't really follow that Cluett-Peabody campaign all the way through?
EULA McGILL:
No, and May didn't either. May left the Amalgamated, and I don't know where May went when she left. She voluntarily left the Amalgamated. I told you I was going to try to find out where she was from Connie, but I haven't had the opportunity.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you run into the Atlanta Industrial Union Council?
EULA McGILL:
Yes. Charlie Gilman was president of it, and they were very helpful to us in the area. The automobile workers, you know, had gotten organized here. I made a trip or two there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
A trip or two where?
EULA McGILL:
To the meetings. And the automobile workers, as I remember, is about the only industrial union in the CIO, you know, and steel.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about Lucy Randolph Mason?
EULA McGILL:
Lucy [laughter]; poor Miss Lucy.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you think about her?
EULA McGILL:
She contacted me when she first came to Alabama, and, as I say, I was working with these auxiliaries; it was during the time that I was without a job, without a paycheck [laughter]. Had a big job, but no paycheck. And she was put on by John L. Lewis. I think John L. thought with her name and her background and all that that she'd be a big factor in trying to neutralize some of the feeling among the bosses, the manufacturers. I know when Miss Lucy came into Birmingham she contacted me, and I went down to meet her. And she was telling me what she was going to try and do. She

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was going to talk to the Comers and some of these big officials, and she had an appointment with Mr. Comer the next day. I said, "Miss Lucy, you're wasting your time." "Oh, he supported Roosevelt, blah blah blah." I said, "Miss Lucy, you're wasting [laughter] your time." She discovered she was wasting her time [laughter]. I don't think it had any effect on the labor movement. You ain't going to reach bosses that way; you're going to reach bosses when your workers are organized and have enough bargaining strength to make them talk to them. That's usually the time you get the bosses to sit down and talk with you.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, did you think at the time that that kind of PR work that she was supposed to be doing was pretty futile? Did other people think that?
EULA McGILL:
I don't know how the people felt. I thought, in the first place—-well, I didn't do anything, because maybe I thought I'm not smart enough to figure it out. Maybe it is something. But I did not think that that was the way you would approach. . . . I mean, that's like the Republicans, like Jerry Ford's going to give this tax break again to the manufacturers so they'll hire labor. Just like Eisenhower in the fifties: it just don't work that way! You have to start at the bottom; you have to put money in people's pockets to spend, to buy things so they can make more things. Well, the same thing with the labor movement; you don't organize by going and saying to the boss, "Hey, be a nice guy and let us have a union in here." Now, if we could do it that way I'd be perfectly happy to do it, but then I'd want to educate the workers to think for themselves and to run their own union. But you're not going to meet that kind of enlightened management, then or now. Very seldom will you run into a type of person who recognizes and realizes their workers have a right to organize, and don't resist their efforts.

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There's very few of them. And today with the big conglomerates you don't even see the man who owns it. Everybody's just working for the big corporation; everybody's afraid of their own job. So unless you organize the workers and make them want to help themselves, your chance of helping the workers help themselves is pretty futile, because nobody's going to deliver it to you on a silver platter.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were people resentful at all of the money going to somebody like Lucy Randolph Mason, and of her activities and her presence, and her being hired on the staff? Was there any disgruntlement?
EULA McGILL:
I didn't hear any; I don't think so. I guess they felt (if they felt at all) like, "Well, this can't hurt us, and it might help us." Gilman supported her pretty much, I think, there at first. But I never had much dealings with her, because she was mainly around Atlanta—that first encounter, you know, and I'd run into her at meetings now and then. But we never crossed paths much.
JACQUELYN HALL:
This is just kind of a general question about workers' education; were you ever much involved in workers' education arm of the union?
EULA McGILL:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of importance do you attach to that?
EULA McGILL:
I think workers' education in our industry has to be a continuing thing. You cannot pick up people off a machine and take them to a school a week or two, and expect them to come back and make good leaders. They gain something; but most of the time you try to cram them with so much that to me it confuses them, and they don't know what to do when they come back. They don't know what they've learned—in fact, they haven't learned very much. Because going away for just a week or two, or something like

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that, is not. . . . The least you can do, you might can instill them into coming back and trying to learn more as they come back. But when I was a business agent, I tried to carry my educational program on at the same time I was handling my union work. I always tried when I had a grievance (a worker had a grievance) to explain to that worker how we got it settled, and if we had to compromise why we had to take a compromise, and if we lost it why we lost it. I'd explain to them the terms of the agreement, and also try to tell them something about the economics of the industry. If we didn't get it settled, why we didn't get it settled, because we weren't strong enough in the industry to get the type of contract we needed. Every union meeting I set a part aside, under [unknown] that I got up and talked to them about something: current events, building their union stronger and why they had to. I think that the business agent can do the best job, if they are so of a mind to, and will adapt themselves as to educating their members—if their members will come to meetings. If they don't come to meetings, I think that you have—and I did this; I don't say everybody can (I didn't have a home life; my whole life was in the union). At lunch hour I was at the plant; if I was where my shops were in town that day, I was at the plant at noontime. And if there was a lunchroom in the plant I was in that lunchroom trying to get acquainted and talk, just among the general membership, if they had any questions they wanted to ask. Mainly I encouraged them to attend their meetings, because if you could get them to attend meetings and you make that meeting interesting, usually they'll come back. And I am very fortunate in saying, when I was a business agent, with the exception of one of my locals I had good attendance at meetings. And I had what I called continuing education: I had a new member packet that I'd made up myself,

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mainly about how to protect their earnings, how to take their grievances up, who their job stewart was (and I gave a list of job stewarts). And I tried to talk to every new worker that was hired; I didn't always make it, but I tried to. When I'd get the names I'd look them up at lunchtime.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In the thirties and forties, what did you think about the concept of resident workers' education that Highlander and the Southern Summer School were trying to do?
EULA McGILL:
Oh yes, for two or three months, yes; some very good work was done, I think.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you thought that that was effective?
EULA McGILL:
Yes, I did. I think that these institutes for a week or two, like going up to this college or that, I'm very sorry to say this, but I think you recognize this. . . . And I'm not throwing no slur at no workers, because there's college students today that don't even know when they attend these things what the people are talking about. They can't listen and understand; in the first place, they can't read with understanding—am I right? I have gone to meetings, and I sit there and I know those people weren't even—I can look at their eyes and tell they didn't even know what in the hell was being said. And if you don't get right down to them and talk to them at their level. . . . I have talked to college graduates that didn't understand what I was talking about when I was talking about the labor movement. There's been nothing in the schools—maybe a paragraph in there [laughter].
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right. Exactly.
EULA McGILL:
So what do you expect? In two or three weeks you're going to educate a worker, whether they were college level or can't read and write? I'd rather take on [laughter] some that can't read and write and try to talk

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some sense into them than one of these persons that think they know it all, and don't know a damn thing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you recruit people as you were working as an organizer to go to the workshops at Highlander or the Southern Summer School?
EULA McGILL:
We supported Highlander, the Amalgamated did, because number one: I want to say now that we never had (as far as I know, and certainly in any of the places I've ever been) a segregated meeting. We held a lot of our conferences at Highlander so that we would not have to segregate our members, because we had two all black local unions (all black: one in Hopkinsville, Kentucky and one in Montgomery, Alabama; and we had the laundry workers in Chattanooga that was a majority black). That was before they hired them, mostly, in shops; you know, before the Fair Employment Practice Act. So we used Highlander a lot for that reason. We used Lake Junaluska for some too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But did you feel that picking out promising union people from the locals and sending them to some place like Highlander was effective in creating leadership, local leadership? Did you see that actually happen?
EULA McGILL:
No, I can't say that I have. A lot of times maybe the one who could be free to go—now, you must think about that we've got a majority of women. A lot of women can't up and go, can't leave the family. So consequently, maybe somebody went who it was convenient for and could go, but they weren't the best people to have gone. So maybe sometimes we didn't get the best candidate. Then some who did go came back, and they thought they knew it all, and so they were uneffective because of that attitude when they came back. Because they'd been away for school two or three weeks, all of a sudden they had all the answers. So they didn't approach the people right,

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so it was ineffective.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your contact with Louise McLaren?
EULA McGILL:
I met up with her in Memphis.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know her then after that?
EULA McGILL:
No, after that I never did; like I said, I lost track of her. Those few weeks that I was there in Memphis (I got my letter of termination while I was in Memphis) she was there with the ILG; they had a strike on.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about Brownie Lee Jones?
EULA McGILL:
I don't remember Brownie Lee; that name sounds familiar, Brownie.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She took over the Southern Summer School later on in the forties, when it moved to Richmond. She was head of it.
EULA McGILL:
That name sounds familiar. You see, in there from '43 up until about '50 I was a business agent confined to Tennessee, and didn't travel around as much as I had organizing. I didn't come in contact with people. And I didn't come in contact with too many people in North and South Carolina until just, say, the last three years when I was getting in that area. And a lot of people are names to me that maybe I've met or maybe I didn't meet, but I didn't really know them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, let me ask you just about this little incident in Lucy Randolph Mason's book, To Win Thes}e Rights. She tells about this incident in which she doesn't tell the name of the town, but some town (she calls it "blank") where the Amalgamated was organizing and sent Ed Blair in to organize. And he was run out of town and they sent you in, and you were forced to leave your hotel room and leave town, and they sent her in?
EULA McGILL:
She's got that all mixed up. Miss Lucy must have been out of her mind when she wrote that thing, because that's all mistaken. I read

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that. She's talking about Sparta, Tennessee. What happened was, Miss Lucy came up and investigated afterwards and talked about it; the Amalgamated didn't send her in. Ed was over there in Sparta. He called me up and told me (they let him call me; I was in Knoxville), "Eula, these men are going to take me out of town. Can you come get me?" Ed didn't have a car; he'd just come back out of the Navy—no, that was before he went in the Navy. Anyhow, he didn't have a car [unknown] He said, "They're going to take me to Cookville; you pick me up in Cookville." and I said, "Yes, I'll pick you up." So I drove; it was right about nine `o clock when he called me, and it's a good drive from Knoxville to Cookville—and back then there was crooked roads. Well, some time in the morning, after midnight I come to Crossville. Here's Crossville, here's Sparta, and here's Cookville. Here stands Ed out in the middle of the street, because they'd brought him to Crossville; after he told me they were going to take him to Cookville, they decided to bring him to Crossville. So he's standing in the middle of the street so that I won't lose him, so I won't miss him when I pick him up. That's what happened. I went over to get him; they didn't send me. But now Lucy come back up there later and talked to us; she went around and talked to some of these men trying to find out what happened. But that's what happened. I read that; Miss Lucy's all mixed up. You know, she got a little bit off about the time she wrote that book; things as I remember it, she didn't have it right like I knew it. And, you know, she praised Charlie all over the earth.
END OF INTERVIEW