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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 >>

Lack of dogmatic control over workers in a cotton mill

Jones again emphasizes the primarily favorable working conditions she experienced at the Bynum, North Carolina, mills. In an earlier excerpt, Jones had focused on working conditions; here, she focuses more specifically on "rules" in the workplace. According to Jones, rules were fairly lax and employees were able to take breaks at their own will and were not punished for taking time of for holidays or illnesses. Later in the interview, Jones notes that a union never formed; here, she attributes the absence of dogmatic control as one reason workers stayed on at the cottom mill although they may have found higher wages elsewhere.

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

MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were there certain rules at work? Could you take breaks at certain times, or did they have rules about eating there or not eating there or smoking or anything like that? Or drinking?
LOUISE JONES:
No. There were some of the hands that would catch up. They wouldn't have to work. Their work would run so long, and if they wanted to smoke they'd go outside and smoke. And if we wanted to eat something, though, we'd just eat it. We weren't compelled to work that way. We'd just take our own time and eat if we wanted to eat something, a piece of candy or something like that, during the time we were at work.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about going to the rest room or anything like that?
LOUISE JONES:
We went just whenever we felt like we wanted to go. We didn't have any certain time to go.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you have to be at work on time?
LOUISE JONES:
Supposed to.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And you were supposed to be there at six in the morning?
LOUISE JONES:
Six in the morning, work till twelve and have an hour for dinner. Go back at one and work till six that night.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What if you were late?
LOUISE JONES:
They wouldn't say much to you. I'll tell you one thing: the people that have worked here have had as good a chance. . . . I think that's one reason a lot of people stayed here and all like they did. But they were not so strict on them about the little things that you're speaking of, like they are at other mills. You know, a lot of places they go it's wired in around, and they fasten that gate at a certain time, and you don't get in or out of that gate till time for you to quit work. But it's never been like that here. If they could catch up. . . . Paul was a doffer, and if they caught up with their frames before some of them were full enough to be doffed off, if they wanted to run to the store they could go to the store and come back, and like that. They've always had the privileges like that here, and I think that's one reason people liked to work there, even though they didn't pay as good wages here as they did in some other places. But we didn't have as much expense. We didn't have as much house rent on us, and it's to be looked at in different ways, I think.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were there holidays that people had off from the mill? Did you have vacations or anything like that?
LOUISE JONES:
They'd have some time off for Christmas.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
About how long would you have off?
LOUISE JONES:
I don't remember. It wouldn't be but just a few days. The time of the week that Christmas was on, maybe. If we had the weekend, we'd have another day or two with it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was Christmas about the only one?
LOUISE JONES:
Maybe there were other lawful holidays. Maybe they'd stand a day now and then. I just don't remember too much about that. If we weren't able to work, we had the privilege to stay at home. They didn't say anything to us about not being on the job, unless it was just negligent on some of the part of people that worked. If they thought they weren't trying to work and didn't try to do what they could when they were down there, maybe they'd say a little something to them, but that wasn't often.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
If you were sick or something, would you just send word that you couldn't come?
LOUISE JONES:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But were you paid if you were sick? Did you have sick time?
LOUISE JONES:
No, we didn't. If we weren't down there on the job, we didn't get paid for it. If you got sick down there, you could go home.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was there ever any kind of council of workers or of employees to help make rules or to talk about problems or anything like that?
LOUISE JONES:
There was nothing more than just like the superintendent and the one that was over the spinning. If you needed to know something, you'd go and ask one of them.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But you'd do it, usually, individually?
LOUISE JONES:
Yes.