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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Icy Norman, April 6 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0036. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Norman gets a retirement party

Norman remembers a warm encounter with Spencer Love's widow, and the dinner the Burlington Mill arranged for her upon her retirement. At the company offices in Greensboro, North Carolina, she deflected flattery from "big shots" who told her she had helped build Burlington Mill.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Icy Norman, April 6 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0036. 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.

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Spence Love, he had been dead, I guess, two years. He was playing golf or something and had a heart attack and died. So it was about two years after he died that his wife and another lady come through the mill. They was looking around, come on down. I had my back towards them. I went to turn around, I was doffing my cones off, went to turn around. She come over and grab me and hug me, she says, "Honey you are still with us, ain't you?" I says, "Well, Miss Love." She says, "I don't see nobody I know. They all new. I'm so glad to see you. You sure have been a faithful person. You have been faithful to the Burlington Mill." I says, "Yes, Miss Love, I give my whole entire best part of my life to the Burlington Mill." She just hugged me and she says, "I'm so glad to see you." After she left, a lot of them come running over there. They'd say, "Do you know her?" I says, "I've been knowing her for forty-seven years." Now, I said forty-seven, but it wasn't forty-seven. I said, "I've been knowing her for forty-seven years." They said, "I seen her grab you and hug you." I says, "She sure did. I was just as tickled to see her as she was me." But one time, the first time they ever give a supper. They give a five year pin and a supper. They give it up here at the old Army hall. I think they tore that building down. They had a supper up there. Well, Spence and his daddy and his mama and his wife, a lot of them big shots you know, was there. They made a talk. They had tables set and had your name at your plate. I wound up and Mack Freeman was sitting beside of me. While they was talking, nobody didn't eat until they got through talking. They made the talk, how proud they was that they could fix a supper for the ones that had been with them five years. They had a little present for us and a pin, a five year pin. They had a wonderful supper. You know, Mack Freeman was so drunk, he layed on the table right beside me. That about killed me. You know, one night he lay down on that table and he eat, he eat. He never heard one word they said. I said to, I believe Lottie Adams was sitting next to me on the other side, I said, "Lottie, how come you couldn't have got beside of him?" [Laughter] I says, "Of all things, I had to sit by that thing." When the rest started to eating he didn't even realize he had eaten. So then that was the five year pin, then they give the ten year pin, the fifteen and on up like that you know.
What did they give you when you retired?
When I retired? They fixed a dinner. On Wednesday. Milton come told me, says "Icy, they're going to take you to Greensboro tomorrow." I says, "What for Milton?" He says, "They're going to interview you at the main big office." I says, "I ain't going." He says, "Oh, yes you are. They're going to leave at eight o'clock in the morning. You come in dressed. You go have your hair fixed. I want you to look real pretty." I says, "I'm pretty the way I am. You know that ain't so." He says, "You go and have your hair fixed. They'll pay for having your hair fixed. You come in dressed. They're leaving at eight o'clock. The personnel man and Lloyd—Lloyd was my boss man then—and Jimmy Jordan, that was the super. They're going with you." I says, "Can I be trusted with all them men?" He just laughed. Well, I got my hair fixed and went in dressed next morning. They all says, "What did you come in dressed up for?" I says, "Because Milton told me to dress up. He wanted to see me pretty one time." And I laughed. They says, "I have to admit you sure do look pretty this morning." Everybody just complimented me about looking good. I did try to take extra pain. I went up there to that main office. They carried me all over that thing. I met everybody. Each floor had a different color carpet, different design, different furniture. I went clean to the top. You know what they had in the top? They had the prettiest white rug. It was a beautiful thing. Beautiful furniture. Everything was white. I says, "They went all the way out with this, didn't they?" This girl that took us a tour. She was about your size, hair a little darker and she had glasses made like yours. She was the sweetest thing. She says, "Do you know what this room is, Icy?" I says, "No, but it is something. Them other rooms is something." That was the prettiest place I ever seen. She says, "This is where the big shots come. This is where they have their meetings when they gather from New York." I says, "What?" She says, "You going to meet all of them." I says, "No I ain't either. I'm going home." Personnel man laughed and said, "You won't go home until I take you home." First thing you know, all them big shots from New York, twenty-five of them. There was poor little me, scrootched up with all them men. They got to talking to me, asking me questions. They asked me how long I'd been with the company. Some of them says, "That's amazing. She's the oldest hand the Burlington Mill has got anywhere." I'd been with the company longer, that's what I mean. They talked, they took pictures. Well, they asked me everything in the book. Sort of like you ask me, questions. I'd answer them. They says, "You know one thing, you might not believe it, but if you ever come to New York I want you to come to the main office. You will have a welcome mat for you. Spence says you just really don't know how Spence Love has remarked about you. Did you know your name is on top in the main office in New York?" I says, "Huh." He says, "That's right. We knowed you by Spence talking about you. I am so proud to meet you." So then we went down to dinner. There I had dinner with all that bunch of men. I really enjoyed it. It was a whole day of it. We talked, I got to talking to them. I felt I knowed them all my life. We sit there at the table and we talked. They was taking down everything that was said. They says, "I just wish he was able to been here to eat dinner with us. He'll be here later on." It ain't Kauffman, I can't think of it now. Anyway after dinner we went back up in to another room. Then we went into the studio. They made pictures. They made all kind of pictures. They made pictures with me with some of them, pictures by myself. They says, "You know, this will be showed on T.V." I says, "You mean that's going to be showed on T.V.?" Them people from New York says, "Sure, we can't let that go by without showing it on T.V. I don't know when it will be, but we'll notify you. It will be on the "Sixty-Minutes" program." I says, "Well, maybe I'll get to see it." They then carried me into the studios and reshowed it all on T.V. I really enjoyed it, I enjoyed that so much. After they said I was going to meet all them executives, all them big shots in the Burlington Mill. After they got to talking they said they already knowed me from the way Spence Love talked. "You know one thing," he says, "you are one hand that Spence Love said you went through thick and thin with them. You have made the Burlington Industries. Your part and your faithfulness to the Burlington Industries, you have got a part in all the mills that the Burlington Mills owns." I says, "I feel like that I'm a part of it. I wasn't nothing but a young one there and I growed up with them." And they laughed.