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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Louise Riggsbee Jones, October 13, 1976. Interview H-0085-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Favorable recollection of working in the cotton mill

Jones describes working conditions in the Bynum, North Carolina, cotton mill, where she worked as a spinner intermittently from the late 1910s into the early 1940s. Jones remembers working conditions fairly favorably, noting that there were few serious injuries and relative freedom of movement among workers. Although the air was often filled with lint, Jones recalls that workers were free to move about and stand by the open windows whenever they needed to. In addition, socizliation among workers in the mill was not prohibited.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Louise Riggsbee Jones, October 13, 1976. Interview H-0085-2. 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

But did people ever get injured in the mill, that you know of?
LOUISE JONES:
I don't remember whether they did much or not along then. I don't remember it. Maybe sometimes they'd mash a finger or something like that. Nothing serious.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What was it like inside the mill? It was a brand new mill. Was it real clean and nice, or was there lint?
LOUISE JONES:
Yes, there was right much lint. There was more lint in it then than there is now. They don't have as much lint now as they did when it first started. They've done things to try to keep it down.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was it hot in there?
LOUISE JONES:
Yes. They opened the windows then. They'd keep the windows open all the time. But now they have air-conditioning in there, and they've closed up all the windows and padded them. You can't see through the windows at all. And I just miss seeing the lights at night. Used to, when we were out there, when they ran at night, the mill was lit up and it was so much company to you to look down and see all the lights in the mill. But you can't see a light, only just one or two on the outside, now down there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you worked, could you see out the window when it was open?
LOUISE JONES:
Yes, we could see. We could go to the window and look out whenever we wanted to, but they can't see anything out now.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
That must have been nice, to be able to look out.
LOUISE JONES:
It was.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was it noisy in there? Could you talk to each other?
LOUISE JONES:
Yes, it was noisy, but we learned to talk. And when you're used to the noise, you can understand better. Somebody going in that wasn't used to it, you'd have to talk louder to them. We'd have to talk louder than just natural talking.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you work so fast and furiously that you didn't really have time to talk to each other, or could you talk?
LOUISE JONES:
As I said, Paul's sister Martha, she worked in the alley; my side was here, and her side was over here. We could talk to each other. When we'd pass each other, we could speak, or we could stop and talk. It just meant that when your bobbin ran out and you needed another bobbin on there, you weren't making anything till you got your full bobbin and got it started. If you took time away from your work, you didn't get off as much. But we could stop and talk if we wanted to. And in some of the other jobs the people could talk a little more than we could. The spinners. They'd pass and re-pass in the alleys; they could stop and talk. And some of them would catch up a little while. We never did catch up unless we caught up with the bobbins and didn't have any bobbins till they'd doff them from the spinning frames.