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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 >>

Learning how to be a weaver

Betty Davidson describes her first job at the Dan City Silk Mill in Danville, Virginia. Davidson left school at the age of sixteen out of economic necessity. She describes how she learned to weave and explains that workers weren't paid during the training process. Davidson worked at the Dan City Silk Mill until 1932, at which point she moved to Burlington, North Carolina, with her soon-to-be-husband, Lloyd, out of economic necessity.

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:
Where did you go to work?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Dan City Silk Mill.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you remember how it was that you came to get your first job?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Yes. A friend of mine, Miss Eunice Barker, she lived close to us and she got me the job, and taught me to weave.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did she already have a job in the mill?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Yeah. She was older than I was, and she was married. She taught me to weave. And she just passed away about two years ago.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When you were learning to weave, were you being paid to learn?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
No. No.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How did that work?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
You got a job and until you went on looms you didn't earn anything.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How did you learn to weave? When would you get time? Would you just stand there and watch her?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Well, she'd take me with her on the job. And we only had two and four looms. No drop eyes. So you had to watch the work all together. And we run pure silk and georgette silk.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And she would teach you and sometimes she would let you…
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Start the looms up.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How long did that go on before you got a job? How long was she teaching you?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
A month. At least a month. But everybody learned on their own. They didn't pay you.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Generally, how long did you stay there at that job?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
About two years, and the mill closed down. And that was when we came to Burlington. March 21, 1932.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you know why the mill closed?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
Everything was closing at those times just about.
BETTY DAVIDSON:
It was during the Depression.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And then you came to Burlington. Why don't you tell the story that you told a while ago about how it was that you all were able to…
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
Well, she and I were dating and both worked at this silk mill a long with several other people that we knew, so when the mill closed we were all out of work at the same time. So her father told us, says, "Why don't you go get Vernell"——that's her brother——"Why don't you get Vernell to take you to take you to Burlington, and look up Mr. Copland." And says, "Tell him I sent you and you folks are out of work and need work." So we got Betty's brother to bring us down here and we went to several mills till we found just where Mr. Copland was. So we went in the weaving room and asked them if we could see Mr. Copland. And they went and got Mr. Copland and brought him down. And he showed us around over the mill and then he told the overseers that these were people that he knew from Danville, that they were out of work and needed work, and see what they could do for them. And so they said they could put one to work. So I taken the job, and Betty and the other couple they went back to Danville. And they came back in about two weeks and they put Betty and this other lady to work. I went to work on the third shift. And Betty went to work on the first shift, and the other lady when she came back, she went to work on the third shift. So that was the starting of our working in the Plaid Mill.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How was it that you all knew Mr. Copland?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
Her father worked for Mr. Copland in Danville, and he was a good friend with Mr. Copland. So he told us to come down here, and he didn't know where he was, but he was in Burlington. Come down, come to Burlington and look him up. See if he could help us any. All four of us came, but only one of us got a job that day. And I taken in. Went to Plaid Mill boarding house and got a boarding place. And I think it was about two weeks later that Betty and this other lady came back and they got a job then. But the other young man, he went to Reidsville and found a job. He never did get a job in Plaid Mill or anywhere in Burlington. So that's the way we got started here and that was in March of '32. And then we were married in January of '33.