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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Herman Newton Truitt, December 5, 1978. Interview H-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Improved compensation for mill workers

Truitt believes that the economic status of mill workers has increased since the 1940s. Then, mill workers scraped by and class divisions between mill management and employees were strong. At the time of the interview, Truitt sees mill workers living comfortably because of "the equalization of wages."

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Herman Newton Truitt, December 5, 1978. Interview H-0054. 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

Would you say it was a general practice that a lot of mills would close at lunch for thirty minutes, close everything down, or was this unusual here?
I couldn't quite say. I remember the mill here did it, and probably some of them other mills did it also. Then there were some that felt like they were more modern and had to keep it working all the time.
What was the name of this particular mill?
This was Glen Raven Cotton Mill. In the late twenties when we first came out here, the average worker in Glen Raven Cotton Mill would make less than eleven dollars a week. I don't remember exactly what it was. $10.87 or something close to that. Of course, the weavers would make a little more and the boss men made a little more. But it seems to be that there was just one set wage for ordinary work in the cotton mill. That was for working five and a half days, ten hours a day, five hours for the half a day. Some of the mills probably—well, I'm sure that the mills, say Plaid Mills and Mayfair—it wasn't Mayfair then, the Elmira cotton mill—they paid a little better wages than Glen Raven. Of course it wasn't a great deal more. Then as time went on the Japanese stopped letting us have silk and nylon was developed. And opening up in Burlington and other places were nylon hosiery mills. Mills that made nylon hosiery for ladies, and they just took the place of silk. Silk never did come back. But a knitter in a hosiery mill, a nylon hosiery mill, would make twice the wages or more that a weaver would make in a cotton mill. All the young men wanting to go into mill work would go into the hosiery mill. Back in the earlier days there probably was more class distinction among people than there is today because a man doing ordinary work in a cotton mill, making less than eleven dollars a week—he had probably enough to pay rent, buy him a little something to eat, a few clothes, and that was about all. Of course, he was probably looked down on somewhat. He didn't associate socially with the boss men or the owners of the mill, who were in a different class. Over the years that has been eliminated a whole lot because of the equalization of wages. People working in the mills now make a good living wage, and they drive as good as automobiles as anybody.