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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John W. Snipes, November 20, 1976. Interview H-0098-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Making ends meet and wage increases during the Great Depression

Snipes discusses his years working in the cotton mill in Bynum, North Carolina. Snipes primarily focuses on wages here and the difficulty of making ends meet. Of particular interest is Snipes's reaction to the wage increases workers received because of New Deal legislation.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John W. Snipes, November 20, 1976. Interview H-0098-2. 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

BRENT GLASS:
What were you doing?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I was sweeping, twelve hours a day. We worked fifty-five hours. We worked 'til Saturday at twelve o'clock. Fifty-six hours, I believe it was. Well, I don't know whether it was fifty-five or six. Let's see… sixty-five hours. Well, then about the middle of the week they put my wife to work in learning to wind. She got about twelve cents an hour.
BRENT GLASS:
Did they pay you every week?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
They'd pay off every two weeks. And what we would do, if we had in sixty hours at twelve cents an hour, when Saturday dinner come we wouldn't have no money. We'd pawn our time to Mr. Durham, the merchant down here. We'd pawn our time to him. We said, "Now we'll pay you for both weeks next week," if we got five or six dollars worth of groceries. In other words, we'd give him an order on our time, an order on our check. Then when the two weeks was out…. It was rough; I'm telling you, it was rough. But we ate, three meals a day.
BRENT GLASS:
Did he charge you interest for that?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir. He started with nothing, and he got to be wealthy fast.
BRENT GLASS:
So which Durham would this be?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Mr. C. E. Durham, the one that's had the stroke. Mr. Frank Durham was Warren Durham's father.
BRENT GLASS:
His brother, you mean.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Frank's his brother and Warren's his son, old Mr. son. Yes sir. Well, then later on when the World War Number Two, it started, well after Roosevelt come in and N.R.A. Let's see, that was in thirty….
BRENT GLASS:
That was in the early thirties.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We thought, well they was going to let us make eight hours and pay us thirty cents an hour. Well I just thought, "What in the world would we do from three o'clock 'til evening?" Go to work maybe at seven o'clock and get out at three, and eight hours. And I'd think, "Well, then we've got from then 'til night and going to get $2.40." I didn't see what in the world…. I thought I could save that money. I didn't have no idea what we'd do with all that much money. It just weren't conceivable, hardly. Well, then things begin to move up to take good care of that $2.40, [Laughter] and we didn't have no more then than we did when we was getting twelve or fifteen cents an hour.