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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 >>

Adding electricity to the mill

Durham explains how the mill transitioned from water power to electric generators, why that occurred, and what impact that had on the work the employees do.

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:
Was there any change when the mill switched over from water power to electricity? Did you have to get new machinery?
FRANK DURHAM:
No, sir, all we had to do was improve the water plant, the water wheels and generators. Inside the mill, you couldn't tell it.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Was there a motor that drove the belts after that?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes. At one time there was a big old rope drive from the. . . . The wheel run, and the big old shaft runa great big rope pulley on it that would pull direct to the card room. Now they're all motors. They finally switched them all down to individual motors.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
There are now individual motors on the machines?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes, on every one of them.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
When did that happen?
FRANK DURHAM:
It's happened gradually. If we just did , it would cost so much. We'd take down a group of drives and put individual drives on the cards, drawing, slubbers, everything, so when one broke down then, there wasn't but one machine standing.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
When exactly was it that the mill switched over to electricity?
FRANK DURHAM:
Oh, we had electricity in the mill a long time. We got electric power over here in '22, I believe it was.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
That was electric power on the hill?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes. But in the mill we didn't. We usedwater power.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Do you remember when you switched over to that electric motor in the mill?
FRANK DURHAM:
We had it so we couldin the late twenties and early thirtieswe could run part of the mill on power. We had it so we could. But it was about 1940 or '41 they put in this new water house down here and put in the new wheels. Put in one big one down there and done away with all that in 1940. I stopped the wheels off the last time they was ever stopped off-had two wheels in there-and tore the wheels out in May, 1940. I shut them both down, and they started Monday morning tearing the water house down. Tore it all out all that summer and got the new water house running and the big generator running in about November.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Did they have to shut down the mill while that was going on?
FRANK DURHAM:
No, they had power in then. They would run everything on Carolina Power. They hung the whole . That was the first time we ever had put it all on it. They put it all on electric. See, they got to that before they tore the wheels down, put in electric power and the individual drive.