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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frank Durham, September 10 and 17, 1979. Interview H-0067. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Layout of the mill and necessary working skills

Durham describes the various rooms in the mill, the machines in them, the methods workers used to run and maintain them and the ways changes in technology changed mill work.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Frank Durham, September 10 and 17, 1979. Interview H-0067. 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

DOUGLAS DENATALE:
What job did you first have when you went to work in the mill?
FRANK DURHAM:
Just cleaning up. Cleaned up machinery. Stop them off, clean everything. Learn how to clean it up. You could learn how to put the ends up that would fall. Slide along the floor and clean. They didn't have any air pressure then at all. When I first went to work down there, no air tanks, no air pumps, no nothing. Now they've got air everywheres, where they can blow and clean off everything. You had to wipe everything off then, clean it up. And shine it up and clean with a sweep broom. It looked like a brand new one when you got through. They cleaned it up better than they do now, but they had plenty of help. It'd break you up, cleaning up like that now. [Laughter] Yes, I did that first for a good while, and then they put me to learning to wind. I learned to wind, and I learned to spin, and I learned to doff.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
You really learned all of the jobs in the mill.
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes, sir, I did. And then they put me in the other room, and I learned to run stuff in the card room, cards, lappers, drawings, frames, all that stuff. You see, in a mill you start with the lapper, and every machine drafts it down. The carddraft about 125. For every inch of rolled lap going in the roll, it comes out over yonder about 125 inches of roll. And for that you go to a drawing, and it's got a draft of about seven or eight on it.that onto a slubber, and it'll draft about thirteen on it. And the spinning draft up to about. . . . You take rope and run it in the back of the spinning roll. There it'll usually draft anywhere from fifteen to twenty, twenty-five, depending on the number of yarns.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Twenty-five, that's the real fine yarn.
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes, that's right. Then they'd run it on spools or cones in the winder. That's the way they set it down here, in little cones or spools. But everything is cleaning and drawing down; it's getting finer as it goes on through.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Didn't they have to keep a certain amount of humidity in the room ?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes, sir, they do now. I remember when they first put in the first humidity. Before that it would get so hot and dry you'd sprinkle. Sprinkle them down the walls and right on the spinning frames. Wet it. It'd get to where it wouldn't half run sometimes. You'd wet in under there. And then they put in these disc humidifiers with a fan back there and a disc in front and teeth all around it. Throw out that spray, br-r-r-r-r-r, just throw a nice spray on it. Oh, that was real pretty. And they'd just shine. Then they took them down later on and got their air system; it's air and waterout. Now you can't see it; the humidity comes out of the air conditioning. Your humidity is controlled in the conditioning room; they've got a nice air conditioning system down there. That thing cost them $250,000 when they put it in, and it was a big thing, a big expense at that time. But it's a nice outfit, and they're still using it. Of course, you've got to keep it up, and then that costs right smart to keep it up. It takes a lot of power to operate it.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Does that new air conditioning system help to keep the dust down?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes, sir. They've got a dust trick in now. It takes the dust away from the cards and brings it out there. It blows out onto a screen. The screen is turning like this all the time and just putting it out down here on the floor kind of in a separate place, just a sheet of it about that wide, that holds together. It just drops on down and dusts it. Oh, it's terrible. I mean in the air it is. When I was coming along up and for a long time, that was all in the air. It's a wonder I can breathe, but somehow or another it didn't affect me like it did some folks.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Did all that dust bother people?
FRANK DURHAM:
No, not too bad. But it just killed some folks. They had to get out. Couldn't stand it. I smoked up until about ten or twelve years ago, but I quit. I seen that I was going to have trouble, so I quit smoking. I was having some sinus; breathing at night was bad. I'd wake up. But that stopped when I quit smoking. But some of that dust was terrible in the card room, especially around them cards. Whew. They stripped them cards out. You had to strip them three times a day. That dust would accumulate in the doffer as it turned between the doffer and the cylinder. The cylinder would turn this way and the doffer would turn this way, and the doffer would take it off and bring it around and make a rollcard. That was terrible dust when you went to clean that out and strip it out. And you had to strip them about every three hours, get all that stuff out. It would get to where it wouldn't do its work, it would be so full of particles and dust.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Am I right that back then, when you first started working, when you caught up with your work on the machines that you could leave them running and take a break?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes, you could. The company was real lenient; they were a good company. Now you take a fellow running card-I don't care what you was running-they got good enough at it that they could catch up. They'd get a little catch-up time, and especially one of them would watch one another's work. You hardly ever left your work unless there was somebody there watching. If you leave the thing running, it might tear up before you got back. An end would come down, and it'd tear down a dozen. But a fellow that was running frames, he'd go out to smoke or to go to the bathroom or anywheretake a break-they had coffee and stuff-he'd watch his work, and then he'd watch his. Used to they didn't have no coffee nor nothing, but now they have break times. A certain amount of hands go at a certain time on their break. Go to the break room, they call it now.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Do they have to turn off the machines to do that?
FRANK DURHAM:
No, they don't. They do like that; they have certain ones go at a certain time. They've got a certain length of time; fifteen minutes is the usual break.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Were there some jobs that it was easier to do that than others? I've heard that you had to keep a closer watch on winding machines than you did . . .
FRANK DURHAM:
Oh, yes, you did. You couldn't leave it; it just stops. It runs out, those winder stems, they do. And spinning, it'll ball up on you if you don't watch them. If you stay away from them very long, end comes down. Now used to we had these lap sticks. Every time an end come down, there was a lap stick under it just run for six ends. But now there's air that floats under there, in caseruns out the end of the frame. It don't lap, but used to that thing would lap up and start up. If the end come down it would go around this lap stick until it got big. It got so big that it would catch on another end and just keep tearing it down. But they took all that out and put in this air system. And if the end comes down, all of them down that whole frame of 300 ends on a frame, it runs to a waste box on the other frame, but by air. Sucked in there. There's that screen in there.