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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 >>

Workplace hazards of weaving

Betty and Lloyd Davidson discuss some of the workplace hazards of weaving. Betty begins by explaining how she was once electrocuted on the job, after accidentally touching a live wire on a running loom. In addition, they describe some of the typical injuries they witnessed over the years, noting that it was not uncommon for weavers to lose a finger. They conclude by emphasizing that weaving is both physically and mentally taxing.

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:
When you first began, do you remember if it made you real tired?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Real, real tired. I was only sixteen years old, but I can remember coming home and falling in bed I was so tired.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How did the noise affect you?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
It never did bother me. I can't remember the year, but it was after I moved down here, and we've been down here seventeen years. How long has it been, Lloyd? Twelve, fifteen years? I was walking around starting up my looms, and I was eating. And I reached and caught a-hold of a wheel and it had a live wire. And I got five hundred and fifty voltage. And something——it felt like my brains was just going up. And I thought I was lifting the loom, but the loom was lifting me. And I hit the handle——wood. The doctor said that's what happened. My hand hit the wood and it knocked me from the loom. Couldn't move——I was paralyzed. But I could holler. And I hollered, and my overseer was up the alley. And he came to me, and of course he could tell. See, I was yellow. And I told him I was paralyzed. And so he asked me, and I could tell him that that was the loom that got me, and of course they cut the motor off. And then I passed out. I was out about two hours.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And when you woke up, could you move again?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Well, I was in shock, but I was at the hospital. They carried me on to the hospital.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When would this have been?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
It's been about fifteen years ago, hasn't it, Lloyd?
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
I believe it has.
BETTY DAVIDSON:
I guess it's been about fifteen years.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would there have been back in this time before World War II, what about people that were weaving? Were there any kind of accidents that the weavers would have?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Yeah. It's always accidents in weaving, because people are getting their hands caught in the looms, and their fingers mashed. I've been real lucky. I've never had any serious trouble, except the electric shock.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Could you lose a finger?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Oh, yes. A lot of people lost fingers.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Lots of weavers.
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Yes. And you always had to keep your hair close, and we wore dresses then, and I've had mine, just big chunks pulled out of them. And if you weren't careful, if you got caught in them, you know, it'd just jerk it off of you.
ALLEN TULLOS:
If people would lose a finger in a loom, could they still be weavers?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Well, it wouldn't be easy. Because you need all your fingers weaving, because you could get just a tiny cut and you know that would really bother you weaving.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you have any friends who lost their fingers? Do you remember any particular accidents like that?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
No, I really don't. That did happen, yes.
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
Any time you work running machinery, you should be getting hurt. And those looms would throw shuttles out too. If the loom wasn't running right, it would throw a shuttle out, and it's liable to hit you anywhere. I've got a scar behind one of my ears now where one hit me. And it just knocked my head down. It didn't really hurt me. But any time you're around running machinery, you're subject to get hurt.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Other than this time you got a shock, you weren't ever hurt?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
I never was seriously hurt.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would that be unusual?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
The shock, that was very unusual.
ALLEN TULLOS:
I mean, for…
BETTY DAVIDSON:
Yes, it's kindly unusual, as long as I have worked and never got hurt. It is unusual. But I've always tried to be real careful. And the time I got shocked was not my fault. The wire fell a-loose and got on the wheel of the loom, and see, that wore it naked.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How long did it take after you began weaving so that you were able to work this hard without being tired? Or did you ever get used to that?
BETTY DAVIDSON:
You never do, You're just tired when you quit weaving. I guess that's one reason though I keep on the go, cause all these many years, you see, and I'm still able to go and it don't bother me. Never got a leg nor nothing.
LLOYD DAVIDSON:
It'll wear you out mentally and physically, because you're studying all the time along with working all the time. And it'll exhaust you both ways.