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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 >>

The Great Depression hurts a mill town; the New Deal helps repair it

The sisters describe the impact of the Great Depression. A lack of orders meant that there was not much work to go around, and workers lost their jobs, but mill management tried to preserve the jobs of those with dependent families. Shoemaker and Edmonds remember that President Roosevelt quickly improved the situation at the mill, in part with the implementation of the eight-hour workday.

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:
What was it like then?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Oh it was rough, honey. People suffered.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
But Burlington Mill run the best around.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Yeah, they run the best of any other mill in the whole county.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
They made stuff and packed it back for weeks and months at a time in order to give the hands …
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Now we had plenty all the time. 'Cause we'd go to the mountains. We'd go up there and stay.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
They packed their stuff back for months at a time in order to give the help work.
MARY MURPHY:
Were you laid off at all during the Depression?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Yeah, there wasn't no work.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
Well, we worked a little bit. Maybe we'd work one day today and maybe go up there and stay all day a day. And it was on production, what we was running. Maybe we'd sit up there half of the day waiting for the yarn to come up from the dye house for us to run it, you know. But we didn't get no pay while we was sitting there cause they didn't pay us at that time. Maybe we'd make seventy-five cents or a dollar that whole day waiting on the yarn to come up from the dye house. They just didn't have the orders to get it going. But they did, they worked the best of any mill around to give the help all they could. And when they'd lay off a lot of people like that, they would try to lay off the ones where there was a man in the home to work that he could pick up something somewhere else. Me and Bill there and Miss Johnson up here.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
And Mr. Johnson was working.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
They tried to hold the ones that didn't have somebody else to work.
MARY MURPHY:
What were you saying, you'd go back up to the mountains?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
When that Depression, we went up there a whole lot and stayed. We'd bring a lot of food with us back.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
We went up there once and stayed six weeks. During the Depression here.
MARY MURPHY:
Did you still have family up there?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
We had our people. We had an uncle up there.
MARY MURPHY:
What did people do here in the city who didn't have any place else to go?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Well, didn't they start a bread line, or what's that they called it?
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
I guess that's what you'd call it, up here on Flannery Street in Burlington. People'd go up there and get coffee, sugar, bread, stuff like that. Meats and stuff like that.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Wasn't welfare. They didn't have no welfare.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
No welfare at that time.
MARY MURPHY:
Did most people vote for Mr. Roosevelt when it came around time?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
I think, yeah, they did. They was some of them though, that didn't. I think the majority voted for him.
MARY MURPHY:
When did things start to pick up, get back to normal?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
When Roosevelt went in. He was in a year, wasn't it, or two years?
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
Yeah, it started picking up. You know he went in in '32. I'll say from around '33 on up things went to picking up better. Then they put that eight hour shift on then and that helped out a whole lot, you see. That would give more people work on eight hour shifts.
MARY MURPHY:
Did the company oppose that at all? Did the company try to not put in the eight hour shift?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Not that I heard of.