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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Carrie Lee Gerringer, August 11, 1979. Interview H-0077. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Single parent family economy in a working community

Here, Gerringer establishes the background for her family. Growing up with a single mother, Gerringer explains that her parents were divorced when she was very young and her mother was left to rear her children on her own. In order to raise her three children, Gerringer's mother worked as a weaver in the Glen Raven Mill in Burlington, North Carolina, during the early twentieth century. Gerringer also recalls that she and her siblings lived with their mother at her grandparents' house. Because of her family's economic situation, Gerringer went to work at the mill at the age of fourteen in order to help bolster the family's income. Her comments offer a lens for understanding the family economy of single-parent households in working communities.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Carrie Lee Gerringer, August 11, 1979. Interview H-0077. 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:
How old were you when your parents left each other?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Well, I've got two brothers. One was two years older than I am-he's dead-and our youngest brother is sixty-eight years old, or will be the twenty-fifth of September. And I was, I imagine, about three and a half or four years old when they parted. He was just a little boy about a year and a half old when they parted.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
So you really didn't know your father when you were growing up?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
No, I didn't.Had enough talk about him, but that's not like seeing him. I seen him a few times before the last time I seen him, but, I don't know, it didn't seem like he was my daddy, because we never had been with him. And didn't none of us like him no way, so we didn't take up no time with him. I reckon we should have, maybe. There's always two sides to everything. When you get older you can see all of this, but back then we was young, and since Mama took us to raise, well. . . . And he never did help her none. She had to work. She worked up there in Glen Raven Mill, weaving. And that's the first mill I ever worked at.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
You worked at Glen Raven?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Yes. I went there when I was fourteen years old. We worked five days and a half, ten hours, and just made five dollars and a half a week. [Laughter] Wasn't that something?
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
What did you do with the money that you earned?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Mama would take it all but fifty cents.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
She left you fifty cents?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Yes. [Laughter]
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
That was quite a lot, though, then.
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Well, it amounted to right small. We felt like it wasn't right, but we didn't say nothing; we knowed better. You know children back then; they didn't argue with their parents like they do now.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
What if you needed something, would your mother get you . . .
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Oh, yes, she would get it for us if she could. But she had three young'uns to raise.