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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Betty and Lloyd Davidson, February 2 and 15, 1979. Interview H-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Family labor system and blending farm work with mill work for self-sufficiency

Betty Davidson describes her childhood in Danville, Virginia, during the 1910s and 1920s. In outlining the family labor system in which both parents and children played important roles, Davidson describes how her parents blended farming and work in the Dan River Mill. According to Davidson, her parents shared a set of looms at the mill, which her father worked during the winter months and her mother worked during the summer months while her father turned his attention to farming.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Betty and Lloyd Davidson, February 2 and 15, 1979. Interview H-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ALLEN TULLOS:
Why don't you just start back by recalling what sort of house you lived in, where it was, and things like that.
BETTY DAVIDSON:
I was born in a little four-room house in the country, the fourth child of my mother and father's, the oldest girl. And as far back as I can remember we had a big wood stove and a big wood heater and a fireplace. This is where we all got up our lessons around the big heater. We sit on the floor. And my chores——the main chores——was to take care of the children, and in the cooking my job was to make bread three times a day. And we had a big barrel that we kept the flour in, and that's where I made the bread, in the pantry. And I always built the fires in the cookstove. And we children brought in wood and packed beside of the stove and on the porch. And then as I grew older, my job was to milk the cow and help churn and wash and iron.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What about your mother and father? What did they do?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
My mother was the main one to watch after all the cooking and planning all the meals. And my father, he worked in the field with the boys. And he was a farmer. And my mother and father together run a set of looms in Dan River Cotton Mill under the supervision of Jim Copland. And my father, he would run the looms in the wintertime and go to and from work by horseback. And the horse would have to break the ice to swim across the creek. And in the summertime when he was farming my mother run the looms and she stayed in town because she couldn't ride the horse. And one day I was setting in the wagon and the cow jumped over the top of me. I remember my brother telling me that.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Where did your mother stay when she stayed in Danville?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
She stayed with a Miss Mayhew on Belmont Avenue.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was that a boarding house?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
No, just a friend.
ALLEN TULLOS:
She would stay there in the summertime?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Uh-huh. But, you know, just while the mill was running. Then on the weekends she would come home. They'd go get her on the wagon or buggy. You can't remember those things, but I do.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was it pretty unusual that a husband and wife would share a set of looms at that time?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
They let them do it. I don't know about other people.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you know anything about how your mother and father met? What about how they might have gotten their jobs at the mill? How they might have gotten their first job at the mill?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
That thing doesn't pick up shaking your head.
BETTY DAVIDSON:
I didn't want it to.
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
Well, I remember him saying that when he was a young man that his brothers and sisters moved from North Carolina to Texas. And he stayed out there two or three years in Texas with them. And he was getting up around twenty years old then. So he decided to come back to this part of the country. So he rode the train——hoboed on the train back to Danville, and he went to work in the cotton mill there. And that's how he got back to Danville. He hoboed back from Texas. His sister and brother moved out there and he went with them as a young man and he came back to Danville then and got a job there in the mill, and I think that was when they met.