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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mattie Shoemaker and Mildred Shoemaker Edmonds, March 23, 1979. Interview H-0046. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Details of mill work and mill life

Shoemaker and Edmonds reveal a few details about mill work. The sisters describe the different shifts at the mill, workers' practice of leaving their machines running when they took their lunch breaks, the rough sorts of people who worked at the mill before the town's incorporation, and the arrival of a church.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mattie Shoemaker and Mildred Shoemaker Edmonds, March 23, 1979. Interview H-0046. 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

MARY MURPHY:
Did you both enjoy working in the mill?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Yeah, at one time I did. I worked up there two years on the third shift and never lost a night.
MARY MURPHY:
When was the third shift? What time would that be?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
From eleven o'clock to seven in the morning.
MARY MURPHY:
Did you like working the night shift?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Yeah, I really loved working on the third shift. I'd rather work on the third shift than any shift.
MARY MURPHY:
Really, how come?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
I don't know. I just love working on the third shift.
MARY MURPHY:
(To Mattie) What shift did you like the best?
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
I worked the first.
MARY MURPHY:
Did you like that?
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
I enjoyed working the first shift. When we first come over here, like I said, we worked all day or all night, whichever shift we was on. But when we first come over here we worked on the night shift. We'd go to work in the evening and work till. Plenty of time we'd go to work at four o'clock in the evening and work till four o'clock the next morning. Part of the time it was six o'clock in the evening to six the next morning. But we got an hour for lunch of a night. See that knocked off just ten hours.
MARY MURPHY:
Where would you eat?
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
Up there in the mill.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
We'd take our lunch with us on the start. They didn't have no eating place in there. Then later years they did put a place in there and we could get hot lunches and all in there.
MARY MURPHY:
When you got to take your lunch hour then, did they shut down the machines?
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
No.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Now, we shut off our machines.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
But the weaving room couldn't. But we could shut our winders off if we wanted to. Or eat and run, either way we wanted to do.
MARY MURPHY:
What did most people do, did they shut them down?
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
Most of them left their machines a running.
MARY MURPHY:
How come they did it that way?
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
Well, I reckon they just left them running rather than stop them off and go back and start 'em back up is all I know.
MARY MURPHY:
Did they pay more if you worked on the night shift?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Yeah, they paid more on the third shift.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
They paid more on the second shift than they did on the first.
MARY MURPHY:
So would people try to work on the second and third shift?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
No, they'd all try to get on the first.
MARY MURPHY:
How would they choose who got to work on which shift?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Well, if they needed anybody on the second shift they'd tell them it was all they had. Sometimes you could swap with somebody. Maybe somebody would rather be on the second shift so they could be at home in the morning. They would swap with some of them. Back at that time they would try to change them around, people that didn't have children, put them on the third shift.
MARY MURPHY:
Did most people live in the neighborhood that worked up at the mill?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
When they first started off they did. But after they sold the houses they didn't. We had a lot of country people come.
MARY MURPHY:
Was that at a certain time a lot of country people came in?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
That was in '28. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
MARY MURPHY:
Were they mostly farming people?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Did they farm? Yeah, they'd go home just like they do today.
MARY MURPHY:
So they'd work in here and then go back to the country?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Yeah, they went back and forth.
MARY MURPHY:
What was it like here when this area wasn't incorporated?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Just as rough as pig-iron.
MARY MURPHY:
Really? What was it like?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
They'd get out and fight and cuss and carry on like that.
MARY MURPHY:
Did you feel like it was a dangerous neighborhood?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Yes it was. I don't know whether they'll all give you that or not. But we felt like it was.
MARY MURPHY:
Who were the people out there fighting?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
We didn't know them all. After they sold these houses they got rid of them.
MARY MURPHY:
So they were the people living in the houses and working in the mill? The ones that were originally here?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Uh-huh. They'd fight, honey, up there in the mill.
MARY MURPHY:
What did they fight about?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
They'd just get mad and fight. They were rough. I was working out there in the weaving room. You know they had a winder out there and they'd change them out there one day. I was out there working, just like going from one room to another. And I heard something go "clammety". I looked down and the blood was coming down the floor. Right above me laid a man and another man had took an iron pipe and knocked him in the head. It was rough, honey. Don't put all that stuff in there because they'll think it's awful. Now after we got incorporation it changed.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
After Preacher Swinney set that church.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Yeah. That changed a whole lot of it, too.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
Oh, yeah, it changed it all.
MARY MURPHY:
What happened then?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Everybody, people got going to church. I guess they seed the wrong they was in and they changed.
MARY MURPHY:
Was there no church around here until Preacher Swinney came?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
He started up that church over here at Glen Hope in the school. Wasn't that where he started that?
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
Uh-huh.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
He came here a little while before we did.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
He come here in '27.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Then he went …
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
He had an old building up there on the corner of Graham and Beaumont Avenue. And he held service up there. And I believe the Glen Hope Church was set up this new church up here. I believe it was set up, it seems like '32, I don't remember.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Now we don't go up there. We're Catholic.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
It was long about '32. The front part of that was built after the back part. There was a back part and then they built the front part on to it. Now he did brought it out.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Yeah, he did brought it out. Him and Sheriff Davis. Them's two that really brought it out. Then they got incorporation. Then we got city.
MARY MURPHY:
Was it just like when Preacher Swinney came and found a church and …
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Yeah, he'd hold revivals and that.
MARY MURPHY:
Did most of the neighborhood go?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Yeah. They finally got them. They'd go around to their homes and hold prayer services.
MARY MURPHY:
What would Deputy Sheriff Davis do about all the fighting?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
He'd go get them.