Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James Pharis, July 24, 1977. Interview H-0038. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Unusual ambition in the early twentieth century

Pharis had more ambition than most of his contemporaries, he recalls. "Back in them days," he says, people were less ambitious and happier.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James Pharis, July 24, 1977. Interview H-0038. 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

CLIFF KUHN:
Were there alot of people who wanted to be supervisors? Were there just a few people who took these courses?
JAMES PHARIS:
It was just a few, yes.
CLIFF KUHN:
Why do you think that is was just a few who took these courses?
JAMES PHARIS:
Well, back in them days people weren't cocky like they are now, you know. With the education left to looking out for theirselves everybody was just drifting more or less. Back in them days, the supervisor [Laughter] told you you didn't have to think about nothing and they told you about what to do in the plant while you were working so you just didn't have to worry. You just went ahead and worked and you didn't plan for no future. Very few people did plan for a future.
CLIFF KUHN:
Why do you think you were different from the rest?
JAMES PHARIS:
I don't know why. Just… one reason is that I always wanted to be supervisor.
CLIFF KUHN:
Did any of your brothers and sisters become…
JAMES PHARIS:
Well, my brother—he done pretty well. He first went to work with General Fire Extinguisher Company in Charlotte. He worked for them probably fifteen, twenty years and then he went into business for hisself doing the same type work only doing his own contracting.
CLIFF KUHN:
Do you think that this was something that ran in your family—this ambition?
JAMES PHARIS:
I don't know. Back in them days, people didn't have the ambition they got today. They just, more or less, just drifted. They worked the hours they had to work and saved the little money they had, what they made. And they was all happy with it. Everybody was much happier than, I think, they are today.
CLIFF KUHN:
Why do you think they were much happier?
JAMES PHARIS:
Well, because they didn't know no better. That's the only answer I can give you. [Laughter] Sometime I think people would be better off if they didn't know too much. There's more worrying today than there ever has been in the country. You'll agree with me on that won't you? People living better today than they ever lived in their life. I often think about how some of these people raise up and cause all of this trouble. These terrorists and so forth when they're living better than they ever lived before in their life. I can't understand it.