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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 >>

Brief participation in a mid-1930s strike at the Plaid Mill

Lloyd Davidson discusses his perception of labor activism of the 1930s, focusing specifically on a strike at the Plaid Mill in the mid-1930s, which he and his wife briefly participated in. According to Davidson, strikes during this era often failed because people couldn't afford to stay out of work for very long and that mill owners were financially able to outlast striking workers.

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:
Well, now, there was one time in the Plaid Mill where there was some trouble, and we heard about it on several occasions, that famous dynamiting case.
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
I had to go to court about that.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Could you talk some about what you remember about that?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
Well, really, we would go to Danville about every week, go over to her parents', and there was several people from Danville that was working at the Plaid Mill and at other mills here in Burlington. And we'd go home every week. Mr. Delon, he lived in Danville for years and years and would go home every week. We rode with him a long time a lot of weekends. We didn't go every week, but a lot of weekends. But after we got a car of our own and started going on our own, we were going to Danville this weekend, and the lady that came with Betty and I to Burlington when we came over here, she says, she was going with us, and she said this——can't think of the man's name now——said he was wanted to ride with us to Danville too. So he went with us. We went on Friday evening after we got out of work and came back Sunday evening. Well, Saturday morning is when the mill was dynamited. That was during this strike. I believe they struck at that time. But anyway, this man that went with us to Danville was eventually one that was charged with dynamiting the mill. So when he came to trial, he had me for a witness to try to prove that he wasn't in Burlington on that weekend, that he was in Danville. So I had to go to court and testify that he rode with us to Danville on Friday and came back Sunday. I couldn't say what he did during that time because I didn't see him, but I was a witness to verify that he went with us to Danville on Friday and came back Sunday. So it was a lot of ill will during those things, you know. They bring on a lot of ill will.
ALLEN TULLOS:
He was convicted?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
I'm not sure. I believe he was. I believe he was. Seemed like he got two years for that. I'm not sure.
ALLEN TULLOS:
They figured he came back in…
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
Well, evidently they——you could very easily come back to Burlington in an hour or so, you know. And that wasn't enough evidence to prove that he wasn't here, because he went Friday and this was did Saturday morning, and he came back Sunday. Course, I was a witness to try to help him prove that he wasn't here, but evidently it wasn't enough evidence. And they may have had other evidence too.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What were the reasons why they would have led them to do something like that?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
Well, I really don't remember now, but you still have those things to happen now when you have a strike, you know. Like you read where there's feuding and dynamiting. Especially on these truck drivers thing, you know, going in and out of plants. You still have that any time you have a strike and all, if it lasts very long you're going to have some trouble and violence along with it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What was the cause of the strike to begin with?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
Well, just like it's always been, I guess. Better working conditions and more money. They felt like if they could force the company to give them more money and better working conditions. Course, that's just like I said a while ago about people being satisfied. You can't give anybody enough to satisfy them, cause if you give them one thing they're going to want two things, and it's just a snowballing thing. But it's working conditions, and sometimes they do get bad enough that you just have to do something to try to better the conditions.
ALLEN TULLOS:
About how many of the folks who were in the mill at that time were in support of that strike?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
I couldn't really say. It was some workers all the time. I mean, it wasn't a hundred percent. And that's where your bad feelings and your violence comes in. People going through——and some out at the gate a-picketing. And then people come going in and coming out, and that's when it gets real nasty. You know, back then everybody was out on strike would be at the gates. Now, you know, you're limited to so many that can picket, but back then you were on your own. Everybody that wanted to come to the gates and picket, and throw slurs and everything else at the ones that were working, well, they did. And sometime it just got real nasty. But I think that strike lasted maybe two or three weeks, something like that.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Well, what did you do during this time?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
We stayed out of work, I think we stayed out a week. And course we was young and we didn't know what to do. But I think we stayed out about a week. And we'd seen that we was just losing time and it wasn't going to amount to anything really, we wasn't going to get anything out of it. So we went back to work.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you all every come out on the picket line?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
We, most of the time we would stay at home. We could stay at home and see just about——we didn't live but about two blocks from the mill, and you could just about see what was going on at the mill. We didn't get involved in it too much.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Who would have been the people who tried to organize the strike?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
I don't remember who it was. I think it was American Federation of Labor, was about all we had. We didn't have the CIO and all these——I don't know how many of them there is now. It wasn't but one labor organization. Course I think this was more or less a local thing anyway.