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Title: Oral History Interview with Roy Lee and Mary Ruth Auton, February 28, 1980. Interview H-0108. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Auton, Roy Lee, interviewee
Author: Auton, Mary Ruth, interviewee
Interview conducted by Hall, Jacquelyn
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 204 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-03-15, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Roy Lee and Mary Ruth Auton, February 28, 1980. Interview H-0108. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, 1974-1980. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0108)
Author: Jacquelyn Hall
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Roy Lee and Mary Ruth Auton, February 28, 1980. Interview H-0108. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, 1974-1980. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0108)
Author: Roy Lee and Mary Ruth Auton
Description: 337 Mb
Description: 53 p.
Note: Interview conducted on February 28, 1980, by Jacquelyn Hall; recorded in Maiden, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Jean Houston.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, 1974-1980, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Roy Lee and Mary Ruth Auton, February 28, 1980.
Interview H-0108. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Auton, Roy Lee, interviewee
Auton, Mary Ruth, interviewee


Interview Participants

    ROY AUTON, interviewee
    MARY RUTH AUTON, interviewee
    JACQUELYN HALL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ROY LEE AUTON:
… born out here in the country about three or three and a half miles from here in Lincoln County. There was five boys and four girls, but part of them's dead now. And I'm a twin. We moved to Maiden when I was about eleven, and I'd already cut so much wood that I didn't care if I ever seen another fireplace or not. Because when I was a kid, that was the only way we had to heat. Then I went to school, and I didn't learn nothing. Walked every day that I went, because didn't know what a school bus was. And I quit in the seventh grade and got me this job at the furniture factory, a whole dollar and a half a day for a ten-hour day. I went to work on Saturday morning and worked till dinnertime. At dinnertime on Monday, then, a boy who was tailing a planer quit. So the boss come back there and asked me if I wanted a job tailing that planer, and I just spoke up, I says, "It pay any more?" He said, "Yes, a quarter a day." I said, "I'll take it." So I took that. This old man that run it was trying to kill everybody that he got to tail it. And I just about worked my fanny off for about two weeks, and I got the hang of it good then, and it was easy. So I kept moving on up then, because I'm mechanically inclined and do just about any kind of work. So I kept getting better jobs, and one time I was on the triple drum sander, and my twin brother is the only man that I've ever found that could catch what I put in it. So he was off one day, out sick, and they put this old man up there, and I was running chair stretchers. Must have had ten thousand on one truck, and I was putting them in, just all it would take. And this old man over there just a-hollered, and I just went on like I didn't hear him. He didn't have a good armful on the truck at all. All the rest of them was in the floor, piled up about this high. And I walked over there and just laughed at him. I said, "You used to try to kill me. Now I was just showing you what it was like." So I

Page 2
got up one morning and went down there to work, and I was over about a hundred yards from it, and I happened to look up and it wasn't there. [Laughter] It burnt down that night, and I didn't know it. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter] What a shock.
ROY LEE AUTON:
So I was out of a job at that time. Things was pretty hard to find a job. And they said they was going to need some toppers at the Ridgeview [Hosiery at Newton], but they wouldn't pay you to learn. So I went and learned on my own. It took close to three months to learn it before I got a penny out of it. Then whenever they needed one I was ready, and I got the job. At that time I was making a total of $17.50 a week, and that sounds like peanuts now. But I traded cars and got married and bought what furniture I could get by for two rooms and was paying cash for my groceries and rent. Of course, my rent wasn't but about four dollars a month. And you could eat pretty good on three to four dollars a week, because the price of coffee was fifteen cents a pound; a twenty-five-pound bag of flour was thirty-five cents; and gas was running around nineteen or twenty cents. And I did buy it one time for nine cents a gallon. But I worked up there it must have been six or seven years. And I come out one evening, and there was a union man standing at the gate handing out papers. Well, I stopped and lit a cigarette, and he give me one of his papers, and the superintendent was in the office looking out the window to see who talked to him. And I never stood there two minutes, I know, but the next day they had my time made out. And that was a pretty good thing, I guess, but I couldn't get him to give me a reason why. Because I knowed I could get back pay if I could get him to give me a reason why. So I just took off east and went to Burlington—that was the hosiery center of the South—and found me a place where they was just opening up a mill and putting in new machinery. And I got a job there, and they'd pay me a day's

Page 3
wages if I was coming home for the weekend to see if I could bring any more back with me. So I'd stop up at the mill, and I got one or two to go, and then the superintendent told the watchman not to let me in. So I just stopped at the gate, and he'd say, "I can't let you in." I'd say, "Well, I don't need but two or three this time. I'll catch them when they come out." And every weekend they paid me a day's wages, let me come home on Friday and paid me for that day plus give me ten dollars to buy gas. So I took right close to forty hands away from him by him treating me like he did. Then I went on over there and worked till Uncle Sam called for me.
I never had paid any income tax, because you used to didn't have such a thing. When they called, I had done got my notice to go when I had my tax filed, as I was going to have to pay a little. And the man said they'd fixed it up for me. Said, "The hell, you don't want to have to pay nothing. You're going off to service." And he fixed it I didn't have to pay nothing. So I went on and lived through it; about four of us out of 250 came back. So I come back, and I thought I was ready to go back to work. I called, and they told me to come on in. And I went, and I worked two nights on the second shift. Then my buddies from Florida called me and said they'd like for me to come down there for a week or so. So I just called over to the mill and told them that I wasn't ready to start back yet. I said, "I promised myself a ninety-day furlough if I lived to get home, and I'm going to take some of it." They said, "Okay. When you get ready to come back, come on." So I went on and run around for three or four weeks and went on back and went to work. I got out of the Army at Fort Bragg and caught a ride from there to Graham, North Carolina, stopped and bought me a motorcycle and rode it on home. And then after I rode it a while, I thought, "Well, they're a little bit dangerous," so I sold it and bought me

Page 4
an airplane. So I flew it a while, then traded it and got me a little better one. I've had five of my own and belonged to several flying clubs. And I come up here dating her by plane. So after we got married, then… So that shows you I've been married more than once.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter]
ROY LEE AUTON:
I went to work in a garage and found out that they was crooked, and I quit. Then I went to carpentry work and worked for a couple of years at that, and Uncle Sam called again. Had another quarrel going in Korea, so I had to go over to help with it, and I come back. I got broke all to pieces and was in the hospital nine months all together, the hospital and the rehabilitation. And I lost my balance; when I'd squat down and get up, I didn't know which way to go, so I thought maybe I'd better not house carpenter, because when I was carpentering I'd get up and walk around the house or anything. So I started plumbing then, took a job for another plumber, and then I decided I'd try for a license myself. And I went to Raleigh; I think it took three times before I made the grade. Every time I'd go, on the second day I'd take a sick headache and I'd fail. So the last time I got me some glasses, and I passed. But the little old prints they'd give you was so small, and you had to scale those lines and count fittings and all that. Why, it just run you crazy. So I come back and went in the plumbing business and did that until I got the job down at the hospital. And I've been down there ten years this past September. But I've had a hard life.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You sure have.
ROY LEE AUTON:
Married three times and through two wars and over 3,000 hours flying time and rode motorcycles all my life. Still do. I've got a 450 Honda down in the shop now. I don't fly too often anymore; it's gotten so expensive.

Page 5
I've still got my license, but if I want to take a flight I just go rent one.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'd like to start back at the beginning and ask you a few details about things as you went along.
ROY LEE AUTON:
Okay, anything you can think of.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When were you born?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, that's been a couple weeks ago.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter]
ROY LEE AUTON:
The twenty-third day of February, 1913. So I'm sixty-seven last Saturday.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember anything about your grandparents?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes. My grandparents on my mother's side stayed with us quite a bit. He had a long, chin beard down about this far. And he could set down and read a funny paper, and every picture he'd read, he'd set there and laugh a little bit before he'd read the next section. And I don't know why he did, but every night before he'd go to bed he'd get his money out and count it. He was a good old man. But my granddad on my daddy's side was part German; that's where the name originally come from. And he come from Mecklenburg County, over around Huntersville. They had nine boys and five girls; they had a baseball team in the family. And all of them had got married except two of the boys, the youngest and another one. But my granddad had one of these old cars. I don't know if you ever heard of it or not; it's called an Overland. And it had red rubber tires on it; red-top Pierce tires is what they were. And they was the toughest tires I've ever seen; you wore the car out, but the tires was pretty good yet. And after my grandmother died, he started dating a widow woman. And he'd drive this old Overland up there. And say this thing was the house here. He'd just turn in off the road and come straight in toward the front porch

Page 6
and stop. He'd walked with a walking cane until my grandmother died. So he throwed his cane away when he started dating. And then he went to Newton and traded that old Overland and got him a 1923 T-Model. So, on his way home, he thought, well, he'd stop and take his girlfriend for a ride. So he come up the road and turned in there like always, and on the T-Model when you push your clutch all the way down, you throw it into low gear. So that's what he did, so he run into the porch and tore it up, and the porch roof fell in on his car and tore the top off of it. [Laughter] But they went on and got married anyhow. So when he took her in, this youngest boy that was at home walked out the back door. So she told the other one, "There's not room enough here for me and you both." He said, "By God, I was here first. Hit the trail." [Laughter] And he stayed, and she stayed, too, but he didn't let her bluff him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So there were two still at home?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes, but the youngest one didn't even speak to her. When she come in the front door, he went out the back. But this one stayed a couple of years till he got married.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why were they so hostile toward her?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I don't know. So this one that stayed is the only one in the family that's living now. All the rest of them died. My dad died at eighty-four. This one that's living is next to the youngest, and he's about seventy-nine.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did your father do for a living?
ROY LEE AUTON:
He used to fire boilers like in a mill. Years ago this Union Mill down here—it's called American Efird now—had boilers that burned cord wood. They'd buy wood from everybody that wanted to sell wood, and he fired those boilers I don't know how long for fifty cents a twelve-hour night.

Page 7
And he bought him a little farm out there in the country where I was born, and paid for it with that fifty-cent-a-night job. And my mother went to work in the spinning room at ten cents a night at seven years old.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where did she go to work?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Down there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
At Union?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes. When they was just kids, old Martin Carpenter was the one that built the mill. Cotton mills never have went up too much. They're about as low a paying thing as are in the textile line. Now hosiery has done pretty good.
A while ago I was telling you about when I started in the hosiery business, and then I got paid off up at Newton because I was talking to that union man a minute. So they just done me a favor. I went to Burlington and found me a good job that paid a lot more money.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you get involved with the union at all when you went to Burlington?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No. I'll tell you, I seen so much of that mess around here that wasn't a union. Now that's the only union man that I seen that I knew to be a union man, though. There was a bunch in Gastonia that called theirselves the Flying Dragons?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Flying squadrons?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes, flying squadrons. And that wasn't a durn thing but a crazy mob.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you see them?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I've seen a bunch of them. They'd stop at a mill, and a couple of women would go in to a woman that was at work and grab her dress and jerk it up over her head. And while she was trying to get it back down, they'd push her to a door or window and throw her out. And there was a good many

Page 8
hurt like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The flying squadrons would come to a mill and …
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
There were women in the squadrons?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Well, I wouldn't call them "women" or "ladies." There's better words to use on people like that. Looked like a bunch of durn drunks to me.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did they do that?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I don't know. They didn't have no organization, so what could you look forward to? And there was several killed over to Gastonia. And some mills they closed down and never did open back up, and people darn near starved to death.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was this during the 1934 general strike that went through the whole Piedmont?
ROY LEE AUTON:
It was in the thirties, in about '33 or '34.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where were you that you saw a flying squadron?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I've seen them come through here and Newton, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What mills did they go to?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I know they stopped at Carolina. I don't know if they stopped at Union or not. And they went to the glove mill in Newton. And down in Gastonia, I was actually scared to go through that town.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know people that were working down in Gastonia during all that?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No, but I was younger then, and I went to Gastonia quite a bit. But they just about made a ghost town out of it for a long time. But they said that Albert Campbell was a preacher and he was leading it. And I seen him, but he made out like that he wasn't in it. But he was raised right here

Page 9
in Maiden; I knowed him. So whenever I see a man not over twenty feet from him that I knowed for fifteen or twenty years, why, it's kind of hard for him to lie out of it to me. Of course, he didn't tell me, but I was down at the Carolina Mill when he was down there and walked all around.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was he down in Gastonia at the time?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes. That's where he was living at the time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He came up here with the …
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, they'd have cars and trucks loaded, maybe five hundred, and they'd just go to a mill and just take over.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did any people in the mills around here go out on strike when they came through? Did they join them?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No, they didn't join them. They got out of the mill; if they didn't, they'd put them out. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
So they did succeed in closing some of the mills down around here.
ROY LEE AUTON:
Some of them never did open back up. My brother-in-law lived down at Carolina. They went out till after they left, and they went back in and started back up. And they went to a glove mill in Newton, and this old boy that run it had his pistol in his hand, and he said he'd kill the first s.o.b. that took over the switch. They was going to cut the power off. And he said, "If it has to be cut off, I'll cut it off." And he cut it off, and after they left he started back up.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was that the superintendent or the owner?
ROY LEE AUTON:
He was the owner, Robert Macon Yount. That was a pretty bad time, though. If there was any sense to it, it would have been different. But there wasn't no organization to it; it was just a disorganized mob, about

Page 10
like the Ku Klux Klan and those Communists were over in Greensboro.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Have you ever been in a place where there was a good, well-organized union local?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes, I've been in them, but I've never worked under a union, and I don't think I ever would if I lived to be two hundred, from what I seen back in the thirties. But I know that in the better places, like these car factories and things, it helps the working people out. And they've tried to get in a lot of hospitals, and in a big hospital it might be right. But in a small place it don't work, because it just makes enemies among friends, is all it'll amount to in a little place. And I've seen them fight down there at Gastonia. You know, somebody wanting to work, and he'd start to cross the picket line, and I've seen two and three fists against one's head at the same time, just because he was wanting to work. Start to cross it, why, a bunch dive in on him and just beat the devil out of him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you know what caused that strike at Gastonia?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No. Nobody else did. To tell you the truth about it, in later years I read a story on it. It was a Red Beal, I believe it was; he was a communist. [Fred Beal, organizer for the National Textile Workers Union] And he was the one that started it. If I knew I'd ever need it, I'd have saved that story.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes, and I know the guy you're talking about.
ROY LEE AUTON:
You know more than I do then. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
I can't remember his name, but it was Beal.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

Page 11
ROY LEE AUTON:
They found out that he was a communist. But from that time until the union come up there to try to pass out those leaflets, that's the first union papers I've seen in my life.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did that incident at Ridgeview happen?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, that was years after. That must have been anyway up towards '40.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you think the fact that the textile industry is not organized has anything to do with the fact that wages keep on being so low in textiles? Do you think a union could help get the wages higher in the textile industry?
ROY LEE AUTON:
It would get it higher here in the South, so that's the reason the union keeps trying to get down here. But a lot of the mills is paying better to try to keep people from voting it in. Now the union won't mess with Duke Power; they don't even try to get a-hold of them, because Duke pays a lot higher wages than the union scale is. So what's the use to pay to belong to something when no chance of it helping? The closer the union gets to a mill, they get a little nervous, I guess, because they'll give a little raise. You can notice that; it'll happen every time. If one mill goes union, the rest of the mills within a certain distance of it will give their hands a little more money and try to keep them satisfied. And as long as the hands don't vote for it, they can't come in. They can't keep them from having an election, but if the union don't win they can't come in.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why do you think it is that people around here don't vote for the union?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I don't know. I've just been one individual working for myself [Laughter] , and let everybody else do what they want to do.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I wanted to ask you a little bit more about your mother. She

Page 12
went to work at the mill when she was seven years old?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did her parents do for a living?
ROY LEE AUTON:
They worked in the mill, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Wow, so they go back a long way. Your mother's mother worked in the mill?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes, they all worked in the mill. See, the mills used to build a house and furnish your house while you worked there. And they lived in the mill house for years. And now no mills furnish houses anymore, and you might be working fifty miles from where you live, so that's what's taking all the gas.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember your mother talking about her experiences as a working child?
ROY LEE AUTON:
When she first started she had a little old box she'd have to push along to get up to where she could put the ends up. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was her job?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Spinning.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She was a spinner at the age of seven?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes. That's what she started out doing, spinning.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So she didn't ever go to school at all, did she?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Well, she went some sometime or other. The Blue Back Speller was all they had, but she was pretty good at reading and writing, So I know she had to have some. And my dad was, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your family go into the mills when they first opened here, when they were first built?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I would think so. That's just about the time it was built, about the time they…

Page 13
JACQUELYN HALL:
Both sets of grandparents worked in the mill?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No, my dad's daddy had three or four farms out here on the Buffalo Shoals Road. He farmed and run a dairy, and there was something for all those kids to do.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How come your father had to work in the boiler room to get land? Could his father not give him any land or help him get started?
ROY LEE AUTON:
He probably could have, but he didn't, and my daddy just went to work and bought his land. Fifty cents a night; that's pretty low wages. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were your mother and father like?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I thought they was the greatest.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were they pretty strict?
ROY LEE AUTON:
If my daddy told you anything, you'd better believe he meant it. But he never did have to whip me but one time, and I thought he was going to kill me. I found out who was boss right quick.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did he whip you for?
ROY LEE AUTON:
It was over nothing, to tell the truth about it. We was visiting down at one of my uncles', a bunch of kids sleeping on the floor, what they call a pallet, just made a pallet bed. And my older brother was reaching across one of my first cousins, picking at me, and I kept hollering at him to quit. My daddy thought I was the one making the noise, so he come in there and took his belt and tore me up. And then he felt bad about it after he found out that I wasn't… Well, he was about to get the doctor with me. Durn near killed… [Laughter] But I knowed who was boss from then on.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you know he felt bad about it? Did he say something?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes. My older brother was sorry over it, too. He told him it

Page 14
was his fault. But he'd done beat me up so bad, he didn't even get him. He just walked out. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
How old were you at the time?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I was just a kid about seven or eight. My mama was all the time using a long hickory switch, and that didn't hurt. She wouldn't hit hard enough to hurt any. I didn't mind hers, but I knowed I didn't want no more of my daddy's.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you live in a mill house when you were growing up?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No, I was born out there by the end of… They had already quit the mill.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your mother quit, too?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes. She was staying at home, and my daddy was house carpentering and farming. I remember when I was five or six years old I started picking cotton, and I was around eight or nine when I started plowing. So after I started plowing, then I did all the plowing and the rest of the kids did the hoeing. My daddy'd go off to work carpenter work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The girls and the boys both did the same work in the field?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes, I did the plowing, and the rest of them done the hoeing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you want to farm at all after you grew up?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No, and it's like I said a while ago. See, we had to cut our wood. Me and my twin brother'd take a crosscut saw and saw wood, and my daddy'd split it. And I cut so darn much wood when I was growing up that if I'd been in a twelve-room house, I wouldn't put a fireplace in. At that time there wasn't such a thing as a chain saw. I wouldn't have minded it so bad if we had the conveniences of stuff like that, but when you've got to do it by hand it's work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you say your parents moved into town then later on?

Page 15
ROY LEE AUTON:
They bought a farm that's just about a mile from here. It's right over across here, I'd say a half a mile out of the city limits. So we moved up there, and I started going to school over at Maiden. And whenever I turned fourteen in the seventh grade, I just quit and went to work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was the school very different in Maiden than it had been out in the country?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes. You couldn't be quite as mean and get by. It was a country school—it wasn't but two rooms—and if you didn't have a couple fights every day, you didn't learn much.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you one of the fighters?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes. I had fun. See, I was a twin, so my older brother and his buddies were about the same age. When we first went, they would just shove us in on bigger boys, and it'd make them mad, so they'd start a fight. So me and my twin both, we was smaller, but we'd both usually take care of them. So in about the next year, then, I was doing it all by myself. [Laughter] I'd have a fight on the way to school and one at recess, one at dinnertime, and one in the evening recess, and one on the way home from school.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were the girls doing for fun all this time, while the boys were fighting?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Sometimes they'd fight. But it wasn't like it is now. People would fight and enjoy it. It was a whole lot of pastime. Now I've stood up before and fight until we give out. And I'd say, "Well, let's set down and rest." Set down and rest till you felt like going again. Look over at the others, "Well, you ready?" [Laughter] Get up and go at it again. And after it was over, nobody mad at one another. But if a fight starts now,

Page 16
one'll try to kill the other one just as quick as he can; they're scared of him. And I guess the reason we did fight as much as we did, we wasn't mad. Lord, we'd play with each other after we got done fighting. It's like I said, I figure it's more a pastime. But sometimes it's a rough pastime. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you just decided on your own to quit school and go down and get a job. Did your parents have any objections, or did they encourage you to do that?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No, they didn't say nothing to me about it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You just told them that you were doing it?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you get your first job?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I heard they was needing a fellow, so I went down and checked on it, and sure enough they was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the name of this plant?
ROY LEE AUTON:
At that time it was called Maiden Chair Company.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your first job there?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I started tailing on a cutoff saw. I did it till dinnertime on Saturday and till dinnertime Monday. Then I took the other job, tailing a planer.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I don't know how that works exactly. What was the planer doing that made it so hard on you?
ROY LEE AUTON:
See, a planer is just a big wide machine; this one was probably this wide. And you run your lumber in there, and it's got the blades that planes it off smooth.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What is the man that runs that called?
ROY LEE AUTON:
He's the operator. So this old man would just cram it in there

Page 17
as hard as he could, and, see, it was coming right out of the dry kiln, lumber. And you catch it and get it on the trucksand get it out of the way. Well, he'd try to kill everyone he got.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Just by pushing it through real hard and real fast?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No. It pulls it through, but he'd keep it in there just as much as he could, as much as it would take. And after about two weeks, I got the hang of it, and there wasn't nothing to it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was he doing that?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I don't know, but he had six or eight to quit on him. About two weeks is as long as he'd keep one. And I toughed it out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did they usually hire young boys to do that job, or did men sometimes do it?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Sometimes men did, but most of the time a young fellow goes who's never worked nowheres, something like that's all he can do. But I'd say after the first two weeks I had it made from then on. And then they seen I had a little potential to me, and they started moving me on up, and it wasn't too long till I was doing pretty good, to be in furniture work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your best job that you had before the plant burned down?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I was running this triple drum sander at seven dollars a day, and I'd started at $1.50 a day. I've run all the machinery in a furniture place, but I've got all my fingers.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that unusual?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes, you don't see many in the machine room that's got all their fingers.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What would happen when somebody got a finger cut off or got their hand hurt? Did the company pay for it?

Page 18
ROY LEE AUTON:
Well, I guess. They'd take them to the doctor or a hospital, but I never did get one cut off, so I really don't know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Which did you like better, working in the hosiery or working in furniture?
ROY LEE AUTON:
The hosiery is a lot better job. It's not as hard work and not dusty, and you've got some women around, too. In fact, there's more women in a hosiery mill than there are men. And it paid more money. It was a pretty good job, but full-fashioned is over now. It's all panty hose now. See, full-fashioned machines was altogether different from these little circle machines like the ones that makes socks or women's hose on, in just one little machine. It don't take up but about this much floor space. Well, these would make twenty-eight at a time, those big long machines. And the footer would put the foot on thirty-two at a time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you a topper the whole time you were there?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, no. I topped somewhere from a year to a year and a half, and then I started running a legger, making the legs. The topper had to put them on needles and transfer it over bars to put the foot on. They'd put those bars in the footer and transfer it onto the needles, and then it'd start up and knit the foot. But when I went to Burlington, the first machine I went to work on was what they call a combination. It did it all, put the foot on without topping or anything. So I liked that pretty good. A brand-new machine, too, and the one I was running up at Newton must have been twenty years old or more.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When was that that you went to Burlington, in the early forties?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes, around '40.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where did you work there?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I worked over at the Glen Raven Knitting Mills at Altamahaw.

Page 19
Then I've worked at the Foster Hosiery Mill over in Burlington. I've got along working pretty good at anything I ever did. Now this time that they paid me off because I talked to that union man is the only time that I've ever been fired in my life.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did you get married the first time?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I wasn't but nineteen.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where had you met this girl that you married?
ROY LEE AUTON:
She lived about three miles up the road towards Newton. And she left one time while I was at work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She just left?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes, I was working the third shift. Well, she was mean as a snake. But she left while I was at work, and it suited me so good I never have asked her why. You know, back years ago, in the thirties, this little talk about flying saucers and stuff like that? I've actually seen them, because she [Laughter] had a temper. And I'd be sitting at the table eating, and she'd break a plate over my head, and I'd just eat on like nothing had happened. But if she was stubborn enough to break that second one, I'd just [Laughter] smack the devil out of her. But she'd throw a plate or a saucer at me and miss, and it'd hit the wall and bust and leave dents in the wall where it had hit.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was she like that from the very beginning?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes, her daddy was mean, too, but I always took his advice, I reckon.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did he say?
ROY LEE AUTON:
She was slipping out dating, and he didn't know who. So I didn't think much of that, and I told her I was coming over to the house next Saturday night. She says, "I can't. My daddy'll run you off." I said, "I don't think so." So she told some of them down at the mill that

Page 20
I was coming over, and some of the people down there said, "The old man'll run him off." And my first cousin was working there at the Carolina Mill. Said, "No, he won't run him off." So I went, and they was eating supper, so she come in and we was in the living room. When I knocked on the door, she was expecting me, so we was in the living room. So after a while the old man missed her and wanted to know where she was at, and the old woman said, "She's got a date." So he took it on himself to come in there and see who, so he come stomping through the hall and knocked on the door like he was going to knock it down. And she went to the door, and I was setting there on the couch with my legs crossed like a country gentleman. And he looked at me right mean. He said, "Didn't I tell you to stay away from over here?" [Laughter] And I said, "Old man, if you've ever spoke to me, I don't know it." So I got up and walked over to the door where he was at and just leant against the door frame. And I said, "Old man, I come over here trying to act like a gentleman. You know I walked all the way over here. And when I leave, I'm going to walk, but I'm not ready to go yet. And in the meantime, if you think you can beat hell out of me, why don't you try, and we'll see which way it goes." So he turned around and walked off as mad as a bull, but he didn't bother me no more. And they made ice cream that night, and he was a fool about homemade ice cream, and he was so mad he didn't eat none, and I ate his part.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter]
ROY LEE AUTON:
And I went back the next night and any other night that I wanted to. He never did bother me no more.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he get more friendly towards you?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes. After he seen I wasn't afraid of him, he was all right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What made you decide to marry this particular girl?

Page 21
ROY LEE AUTON:
Just like a young'un, I reckon.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
ROY LEE AUTON:
… a good year.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had you had some warning from the way she acted while you were dating that she was going to be pretty bad tempered?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No. Not necessarily. But I know where she got it from, is her daddy, because he was the same way.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How long did you live together?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Seven years, something like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have any kids?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes, one. I was working on the third shift, trying to sleep in the daytime, and she'd want to go somewhere and just put him in my room when he was just about a year, about, to a year and a half old. And naturally, put him in my bedroom he couldn't get out, the first place he'd come was crawl up on the bed and wake me up. And I've been laying trying to sleep a lot of times, and her set there and smoke and shake the ashes in my ears and stuff like that, just to aggravate me. She tried to kill me a couple times, and I was too mean.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did she try to kill you?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Well, to tell the truth, every woman was a whore but her. We could go through a town that I'd never been through before, and if we met a woman walking on the street and I happened to turn my head to look at her, she'd say, "Now who in the hell is that goddam whore?"
JACQUELYN HALL:
She was real jealous?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I don't know, but she was hard to get along with. My mother was trying to get me to leave her and said she was going to kill me. I said, "Well, if she does it while I'm asleep, I won't know nothing about

Page 22
it, but I'm not going to let her while I'm awake."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Your mother thought she was going to kill you?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes, because she was all the time pulling a knife on me or something. And she grabbed the pistol one day, and I happened not to have it loaded, and it snapped. So then she tried to close it and got my shotgun, and it wasn't loaded.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What would set her off into such a rage?
ROY LEE AUTON:
It didn't have to be nothing. Just like when I was there at Burlington, I was working the third shift, and they was putting in some more machinery. And they offered me a combination machine on the first shift or a legger on the second. Well, with the leggers I could make about twenty dollars a week more money, so I figured I'd take the second shift, and that's what I told them I'd take. Either one was better than the third shift. So I went in on Saturday morning and was telling her about it. I was supposed to start on that job on Monday. I was washing for breakfast, and she said, "Well, which did you take?" and I said, "The legger on the second shift." And she said, "You goddam sonofabitch" and throwed a butcher knife at me, and it just stuck in the back of my leg. I just pulled it out and throwed it down on the floor, never even picked up a towel to dry, and just walked out. So I went off and got about half drunk and stayed three days.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why would she…
ROY LEE AUTON:
I don't know, but when I come back she was just as nice as she could be.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kept you with her for seven years?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I don't know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was she good-looking?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes, she was pretty. But when she left, she was up here a week

Page 23
at her daddy's. And the next weekend I caught a bus and come out, and I got my brother to take me over there to get my car.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She took the car?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes. And I didn't mean to take her back. I didn't run her off. And so the old man and woman wanted me to take her back with me. I said, "No, she left on her own. I come to get my car; I need it. And everything is just exactly like it was when she left and will be that way till seven o'clock next Saturday. And if she's back by that time, there'll be nothing said. But if she's not, I'm going to load every damn thing up and bring it to her." So she wasn't back the next Saturday morning, and I just got the mill truck and got a nigger to help me, loaded it up and brought it to her. And then it wasn't but a very short while till I got a card from the draft board to come up there, and I went up there, and they said, "Have a seat." And I'll be darned if they didn't know more about me than I knew myself. Now, where they got all that dope, I don't know. [Laughter] I went out and went home, and it wasn't but a couple weeks till they drafted me. When I was overseas then, some of my friends would write me and tell me how she was doing. So I didn't think it was much of a way for a woman to raise a young'un, so I wrote her a letter one time and told her, "As soon as I get out of this mess, I'm going to put in for a divorce." And it wasn't but about two weeks till I got a special delivery air mail letter with six words in it, and it said, "I'll gladly sign the goddam thing." So I come back just like I told her, and I believe it was the day after I got back that I went and put in for a divorce. Then she sued me for alimony, so I had to go up before the judge in Newton, and he said it would be three weeks before we could have a trial, and I would have to pay forty-five dollars—that's fifteen a week—until trial time. And then it would be whatever the court said. So I just went and got me a lawyer then and sued for the kid's custody, and got it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did it go to trial?

Page 24
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes. So I got him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of arguments did your lawyer make that won the case?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Proved that she wasn't fit to raise him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had she been running around with men, things like that?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Well, she wouldn't get nowhere to live, and I'll tell you, she took up living in a damned old wrecked car in a car lot; there's where her and that young'un was sleeping. And when I found out stuff like that, I just decided I was done with it. And I took him then, and my mother kept him for me till me and this one got married, and then we took him and kept him till he had to go to service, and then he got married while he was in service.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you meet your second wife?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, she worked… The second one. [Laughter] This is the third one. The second one worked at the mill I did over in Burlington. And you know, I thought she was a religious woman. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter] You don't have very good judgment.
ROY LEE AUTON:
She just talked like a lady. And I ended up marrying her. So she was going somewhere every night, and I always wondered where, but she said to a hen party and I wouldn't be interested. I didn't think that that was what it was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were living in Burlington at that time?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Right out the city limits. And we was over at her cousin's on Friday night, and I had to work on Saturday and she didn't. So she was telling her cousin about she didn't have to work the next day, and just like a fool I said, "Well, being as you don't have to work, I think I'll lay out." And she got hot as a firecracker. So I just didn't say nothing else. I just got up and went to work the next morning. See, the

Page 25
mill owned a school bus, and I'd ride it instead of driving my car. So I caught the bus and went on to work, and then I tore my machine up on purpose about eleven o'clock so I could go home. It wasn't but about six miles to catch a ride, and I just walked out on the road and caught a ride. I walked in, and she said, "What in the hell are you doing here? Do you expect to catch me in bed with a man?" I said, "It wouldn't surprise me a goddam bit." So I just went on out the back door, and my car was sitting out at the back of the house. Just like if this was the house, and the driveway would go right to the back, and the car was sitting right about at the back corner. And I got out there doing something to it. It wasn't ten minutes after I went out there till a man come, and he didn't even see me, he was so interested in getting in the house. And I had an old Army .45 in the car that she didn't even know I had, and I took it in and explained to him that he didn't live there [Laughter] and run him off, so then I packed up and left.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did she say when all of that happened? Did she try to explain anything?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, she was sorry she was like that, but she wanted me to… Said she thought a lot of me and wished I'd stay and live with her. And at the time I was thinking about trading airplanes, and the one I was going to trade for was $3,000 difference. So she made the offer if I'd stay with her and let her do as she pleased, not say nothing about her, if she brought a man in and shacked up with him that'd be her business, and if I wanted to bring a woman in and shack up with her it'd be my business. She said if I'd stay with her and live like that, she'd pay the difference on that plane. And I was kind of hot anyhow and I was already mad, and I said, "You can stick that damned airplane up your fanny with the wings

Page 26
crosswise." So I loaded up and left. But to make a long story short, this one here is the first one I dated when I first started dating, and then did all that running around and come back. Her husband died just about the time I got back from World War II. So I was kind of lonesome one night, and I happened to think about her and I wrote her a letter and asked her for a date. So I got an answer back to come on, and we started dating and ended up getting hitched, the way we should have the first time, I guess.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter]
ROY LEE AUTON:
And it looks like we might make it. We've been married over thirty-two years now. And she had a daughter by her first husband, and I had the boy by my first wife, and they're both married. My boy has got two boys, and her daughter's got two girls. And I think just as much of her daughter as I do my boy. In fact, I don't believe I could have thought any more of her if she'd have been mine. They all live in South Carolina.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I wanted to ask you just a little bit more about the places that you worked. Did you know the Carpenter family that started the mills here?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes. I really didn't talk to the old man too much. He had a son that I talked to a lot. They had two big houses downtown. I remember when the electric lights first come to town. A hundred and ten volts was all they were. But they were the first that had an electric stove. Now it cost them to get it, but they had one. They had to put up three transformers back of the house in order to have power for an electric stove. And this one old house burned down, and I don't know just how long it's been since it burned, where the old man lived, but he was already dead. But they had the first running water in town. Of course, they had pumps theirself, and this old house was three storeys high. And up in the attic above that third storey, they had a tank about as big around as this kitchen, and it was probably this deep. And they had a pump would

Page 27
pump water up into that tank, and then a gravity feed to the faucets. And they had the first commode that was here in town, and you ought to have seen that thing. [Laughter] I was in the plumbing business when I seen it, but if it wouldn't have been damaged I'd have liked to have it, just as a souvenir. The bowl was made out of cedar and lined in copper. Now you could have took that thing and polished it up, and it would have been pretty. But when they took it out and put in a later model, they just laid it on the ground in under the house, and the termites ate that wood off of one side of it. So if it wouldn't have been ate up, I'd have cleaned it up and set it down there in my shop as a souvenir.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you find Burlington a very different place to live and work in than Maiden and Newton?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes, because it was the hosiery center of the South. And I believe there was 127 hosiery mills down there, compared to one in Newton. Plus they had some weave mills, too. But I don't know where any cotton mills were. But it was a growing town. I don't know just what the population is now.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have any difficulty getting a job in hosiery in Burlington? Weren't jobs scarce at that time?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Not when I went. This mill was just starting.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you had experience.
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes. They were just putting the machines in. They had two machines in it when I got there. And they put me on one of them on the first shift. It'd take close to two months to put a machine up and get it to running, and then I'd come up here and get somebody else to go. So in the long run I had most of my friends over there anyhow [Laughter] , when we got all the machinery in.

Page 28
JACQUELYN HALL:
Weren't there enough people in Burlington that were wanting jobs in hosiery mills? Why did they have to send you back here to get workers?
ROY LEE AUTON:
What they want is experienced people. And see, it takes six months to teach anybody to run one of those things. And if they've got to pay somebody while they're learning, if they can get somebody that's already experienced, it's a lot better than paying somebody six months to learn. It makes a whole lot of difference. You see, that was around '39 or '40, so things was improving some then.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You said one nice thing about working in the hosiery mills was that there were more women around. Were there not any women in the furniture industry?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Not at that time, there wasn't a one. In the office maybe they had one or two, but there wasn't a one that worked in the plant. And when I went to Conover and worked in one up there a while, there wasn't any there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You worked at Conover Furniture?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Conover Furniture. That's the first thing I did after this one burnt down. I went to Conover and worked up there six or eight months.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When Mr. Brady owned it?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I don't know who owned it. It was Conover Furniture, is all I knowed. I never did even notice who signed the checks.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you leave there?
ROY LEE AUTON:
It was on the night shift, and I don't think they run that shift but about three months, so when they closed it off, then I went to the hosiery. I don't know why they started up the night shift for three or four months; they must have been behind with orders or something. But it'd work all night, ten hours a night, as long as it lasted.

Page 29
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did it make things different to have women working?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Well, you wouldn't want to work somewhere where everybody was women, would you? Never see a man? [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well… [Laughter]
ROY LEE AUTON:
You've got to enjoy the pretty things in life, too. That's the way it is down at the hospital, too; it's mostly women.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What is your job at the hospital?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Well, I went and took a job as a maintenance man, and then I ended up getting the engineer's job. The one that had it before I went went off and got him a college education, and he come back and got the personnel job, so that put him over me. And he tried to kick me out; when I turned sixty-five he tried to retire me, and I wouldn't leave. It made me mad, and I stayed for meanness'sake. He had done promised the job to a younger fellow. It didn't make any difference to me; it kind of made me mad at the time, what he was trying to do. But I'd let him push me all I meant to be pushed. First he called me in twenty-three days before my birthday and said, "Set down. I want to talk to you about your retirement." And I said, "What retirement?" He said, "You told me you was going to retire." I said, "Like hell I did. I told you last summer when you made me mad about that damn fan upstairs, I said, ‘If it's going to be a rat race around here like this all summer, I'll take early retirement and see what the hell you can do with it."’ So I went on and had my birthday, and nothing else said. Then the first of March was going to be on a Wednesday, so he come down there on Friday and said, "Well, I'm going to take you off as department head the first of March and let Neil take over. And you'll work on at the same money." I said, "By goddam, that's what I've been wanting all the time." And he just done me a favor and didn't realize it, because I don't have no responsibility and don't work as hard

Page 30
as I did when I was the boss. I knowed it had to be done then, and now I don't give a damn. But I knowed he couldn't fire me as long as I done my job, till I was seventy. And I knowed if he tried to cut me one penny, I was going to the Labor Board. So he didn't try that; I think he knew what I had in mind. But I've had it easy; it's been a gravy train since. See, before I was on call every night, all night long. And now I work one weekend a month; I'm on call those two nights.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
JACQUELYN HALL:
With the different supervisors that you've worked under along the way, have you had conflicts with them or had to stand up for your rights in that way?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No, just tell them what I think, and if they don't like it, I don't care. Because a fellow like me can be kind of independent, because I do anything. I'm an electrician, a plumber, a painter, a paperhanger, ceramic tile. I've got my state plumbing and heating license plus a pilot license, and not many of your fools got stuff like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter]
ROY LEE AUTON:
With what you say a sixth-grade education. I had just started in the seventh grade when I went to work. And I'd say, on the average, I'll out-spell any of your high school students and stuff like that. I think education is the greatest thing that there is, if a fellow has got any sense to go with it. An educated fool is the damnedest fool that there is, too. I've seen them that didn't know nothing that had seven years of college. In fact, we had one in the Army, and he actually didn't know his left from his right and had seven years of college. And anything that was in a book, if you asked him about it, he could tell you pretty well what

Page 31
you wanted to know. And he was the fastest on a typewriter of anybody I've ever seen. But a simple thing like putting a ribbon on it, when it needed that, then he had to call an old country boy like me in to put the ribbon on. And we was up in the Ozark Mountains, and he wanted me to teach him to drive a truck. And I'll swear to God that I was scared to death all the time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter]
ROY LEE AUTON:
Ride along with one hand on the switch key and the other one on that old emergency brake. And that boy never did learn to drive.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you learn enough about plumbing to pass the state license test?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I worked for another fellow that thought he was a plumber, but he wasn't. He was working under his uncle's license, but he didn't do too good a work. In other words, I learned how not to do it by working for him. And I just decided I was going to go try it, and I didn't know a thing about it. I hadn't seen any books or anything. I didn't know what to expect the test to be like, so I failed the whole durn thing. So then I ordered me four little books from Alden[unknown] on plumbing. See, they had questions on this old-timey stuff like they used to do when they first come out, and tools that you never see or hear of now is what you did it with. How to right[unknown] joints and stuff like that, but these books showed all that, had the pictures and then it told what you used them for. I remembered some of the questions, and I'd go through those books and try to check it out. Well, the next time I passed two parts; it's in three parts. And I believe I would have passed the whole thing, but I didn't have my figures up high enough, I believe is what was wrong. So the next time I just about doubled the price. They was doing about a five-storey building, a pretty high-priced building, and I just about doubled the price

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on it, and come on back home. You don't know, because it's a month or so after you get home before they ever let you know. So I got my license.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you prefer plumbing to working in hosiery?
ROY LEE AUTON:
When I come up here and got married, I left the hosiery mill. Because that one that I wasn't with but five weeks was still working there, and I just thought I'd better just get away from here[unknown].
JACQUELYN HALL:
You just wanted to get away from Burlington?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Well, I'd started dating this one in here at that time. Well, right here is the new book. There's a whole lot of people got it now. See, I'm the first one listed in Maiden. I was the only one for years.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were the only licensed plumber in Maiden?
ROY LEE AUTON:
For a long time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Could you have brought your wife back down to Burlington to work down there if you had wanted to? Why did you decide to move up here?
ROY LEE AUTON:
We didn't. She lived here.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You had already come back up here. You had quit your job in Burlington when you and your wife split up.
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes, and just left over there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You just left because you wanted to get away from town.
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It's quite a feat.
ROY LEE AUTON:
Every time they have that exam, which is twice a year, they'll send a little pamphlet, maybe four or five pages, just who passed during that exam.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did people around here ever open up small hosiery mills in their own homes, in their garages? I know that happened in Burlington quite a lot. People would get a couple old machines and start …

Page 33
ROY LEE AUTON:
Kenneth Parker started in his car shed up the street here, and he ended up building more to it, and then he built more, and he must have been working fifteen hands in it. And then he sold it out, and whoever bought it moved it somewhere else.
JACQUELYN HALL:
About when was it that he started?
ROY LEE AUTON:
It was back about the time that me and my wife got married, about thirty years ago.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He was the only person you've known of around here to do that?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes, except downtown there's been mills come and go. The building's there, but a mill would rent it and move in, maybe stay a couple years and then move out, and somebody else move in. And then they'd go out. I don't know if anything's in the building now or not; I don't believe they are.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were working conditions like at Ridgeview?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Well, like normal, I guess. And the faster you work, the more money you can make while you are working. If you don't stop the machine off except when you make your changes, you can run a dozen in about forty minutes. After you run your warp, right at the top of the stocking it's about this wide after it's doubled? But it comes out single, about this far. And then you pick those bars up—they've got little hooks on them—and set it down with the needles like that and come up, and you push your stocking down, take your hand and run across there and knock it down on the needles. Then you turn your bar over like that and unhook it, and put a rod through there and hook the straps to it to keep it from stretching out.[unknown] And then you start the leg. Then you've got about fifteen minutes; you can ease off to the rest room to smoke a cigarette while it's knitting the leg. But you've got to know that the yarn's going to hold up that long.

Page 34
So if I got any yarn getting low while it was making that welt, I'd run back behind and tie one on. And if I run twelve dozen, I'd smoke twelve cigarettes. [Laughter] Every time I'd get it going through the leg where I didn't have anything to do, I'd go smoke. So after I come back from World War II, the assistant super come to the rest room and caught me smoking. I just had lit it up. He said, "I've got orders to fire anybody I catch smoking." I said, "You have?" He said, "Yes." And I said, "Well, that's the only thing I know you can do about it, because I learned to smoke before I learned to knit, and I figure I'll be smoking after I quit it." He said, "Did you smoke when you was here before?" I said, "Yes. If I run fifteen dozen, I smoke fifteen cigarettes." He walked out, and I wasn't fired. [Laughter] And it wasn't two weeks till they put a chair and an ashtray at every machine. So by not being afraid of him, I guess I helped everybody out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You mean there were no chairs where you could sit down?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes, we had a chair where we could sit down if we wanted to. See, you had a cabinet at the end of the machine where you'd lay your stockings on. You'd count them up and tie them up in dozens. And you wasn't supposed to smoke in there, because you know how ash off of a cigarette will just burn a hole in a stocking. But you get started in the leg like that… And he brought ash stands around to all of us. We could set down there, and we could look at the machine to see that it was still going all right. Set there and smoke, and then go and see.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had other people been doing the same thing that you were doing?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Probably was, but they'd just give a puff or two and get rid of it and get back out as quick as they could. If I'm going to do anything, I want to enjoy it. If I'm going to smoke, I want to enjoy it. And I wasn't afraid when he caught me.

Page 35
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there other rules and regulations about people talking to each other or how many breaks you could take, things like that?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No, because when you're on piecework you don't take many breaks. You see, I was doing all I could. The machine was running; there wasn't a thing I could do while I was… That's when I'd smoke, is when it was running in the leg, where I knowed it would be about fifteen to twenty minutes before there was anything else to do.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there opportunity at the plant for people to talk to each other or have birthday parties or do any kind of socializing around?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I never seen any during work hours.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Could people talk to each other while they were working?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes. A lot of times there'd be half a dozen in the rest room at the same time smoking. It would depend on where your machine was at. When you're getting paid by the dozen, about eighty-five or ninety cents a dozen, and you run fifteen or eighteen on a shift, while you're supposed to be there working you're going to be there working, because you know you've got all that time while it's running the leg. And the faster you can pick those bars up and get it started, then turn your welts, the more money you're going to make. While the machine stands still, you're not making nothing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there some people who were very slow and had a hard time?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Well [Laughter] , I was slow.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were slow?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No, I wouldn't say I was so slow, but there was a boy that worked in the alley with me. When I'd go in, I know what a machine will do, what it'll stand, and they had a rheostat switch on the switch box behind the machines. And I'd go into work …

Page 36
[Interruption]
ROY LEE AUTON:
And I'd turn mine down about three notches. Well, he'd run back behind his and turn his up about six notches. And he'd stand there and look at the machines and see that his was running faster than mine. But I always wrapped one to two dozen more in eight hours than he would. And he said, "I can't figure it out. I know my machine's running faster than yours, but you always get more stockings than I do." I said, "There ain't nothing to figure out about it." [Interruption]
ROY LEE AUTON:
So he said, "Well, what's the difference?" And I said, "I run a dozen at a time, and you take off anywhere from eighteen to twenty at a time." And he was running it too fast and it would break needles, so that makes bad stockings. [Interruption]
ROY LEE AUTON:
I never had any trouble anywhere I ever worked. If I'm going to work, I'm going to work; if I'm not, I'll quit. I didn't have any trouble. I worked in a garage, and the head mechanic was so crooked he made me mad. And the next morning, after thinking about it, I thought I'd just quit. So when I went in to tell him I thought I'd just leave, he said, "Why? What's the trouble?" I said, "Well, there's not any yet, but I seen yesterday that if I stay around here, I'm going to have to beat the hell out of you, so I think I'll just leave before I have to do it."
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was going on that was crooked?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Him. I'm honest; I try to be. And I don't want nothing that don't belong to me. What started it all off, somebody come in with a car missing. He wouldn't let you work on it till they had left. And then check it over, and maybe the points need filing and setting, so that

Page 37
straightened it out. But you've got to sell him something. So he'd bring a coil over there for you to put on, which was secondhand; it had been took off somebody else's car. Wash it in gasoline; you know, it'll look about like a new one then. And you just take his old coil off and throw it there on the work bench, and put that one on. He come back to get the car, and, "You had a bad coil," and charge him for a new coil. One out of a dozen'll pick up the old parts to take with him. So after they leave, you just take some gas and wash that one off, and you've got it for your next one. And I've seen him charge people for putting the head gasket on a car, and there wasn't a wrench put on it. See, there's asbestos in the edge of a gasket. Well, when a car motor gets kind of greasy, you don't see it, because it's the same color. But you can take a coal chisel and scrape the edge of that gasket, and it'll shine just like a new one. And I've seen him scrape them off that way and charge them for putting the head gasket on, which will run about fifteen to twenty dollars, and hadn't put a wrench on the car. But what got me was a couple of old boys I knowed didn't have no money, just old country boys, and they had a ring gear carrier[unknown] broke in a Dodge truck. And I knew what it cost for a Chevrolet; it was $6.45. And I don't believe it would have been much different for the same part for a Dodge. So he told them they had to have ring gear carriers, ring-gear pinions, and all the bearings in the rear end. So they left it, and I was the one that put them in. And they had to pay for all that stuff; it was about $145.00. And the only thing it needed was that ring gear carrier, and there shouldn't have been over fifteen dollars' labor on it. I figure they should have got out for twenty-five dollars anyhow. But he sold them all that stuff that they didn't need, so that made me mad. I feel sorry for some people. And I've always tried to help old people. And real old people, if they had pump trouble or anything, I'd go fix it. And a lot

Page 38
of them would try to pay me. I'd say, "No, I can give you that much." And I went and did it. Anytime you do anything like that, I think you'll get your money back seven-fold. I went to an old feller's house. I expect he was close to eighty. Had a couple of bad freezes. Had one of these old legged tubs, you know, the ones that set off the floor. I walked in the bathroom, and that was setting up like that, and the lavatory was laying down in the middle of the floor [Laughter] , and the commode had busted open; there was about half of it laying out on the floor. And this old man was just about crying.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter]
ROY LEE AUTON:
I just laughed at him. I said, "Don't worry. It's not too bad." [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter] Sounds pretty bad.
ROY LEE AUTON:
You see, it froze up and those pipes just stretched, lifted the end of the bathtub up, lifted the lavatory plumb off the hook on the wall and it fell off. [Laughter] But it didn't take me but a couple hours to straighten it out. He was tickled to death. And his pump went bad one time, and I sold him one. And he said, "Is that a good pump?" I said, "I think it is. If it …
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
ROY LEE AUTON:
… go start it or whatever it needed. And he tried to pay me, and I wouldn't take a penny. I'd just laugh at him when he'd try to pay me. That was one of the best old men I ever knew, though.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where did you get your principles, do you think? What made you this kind of person?

Page 39
ROY LEE AUTON:
I don't know. But I do just about anything, and I've never had any training on it. Like down at the hospital, I've built all kinds of desks and stuff. They just give me a kind of idea of what they want. I don't draw no plans or anything; I just figure it out in my head. There's one thing for sure: can't nobody copy none of it until it's made, because they don't know what it is. [text missing]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you ever think about trying to become a hosiery machine fixer?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, you were?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes, I was fixing at the time I left.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was that your main job in Burlington?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I went as a knitter, but before I left I was a fixer.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How long did it take to learn how to be a fixer?
ROY LEE AUTON:
It didn't take me long. But some people would never learn it. If a fellow is inclined to be a mechanic, he can be a mechanic, but if it's not in him, it's no use for him to try. When I come back from World War II, there was several garages wanted to hire me, because I took care of equipment, trucks and stuff like that, through the War, and they figured, "Well, if…" They had this program on where they could hire people on some kind of way on the GI Bill that they'd pay you some, and the government some. So they wanted to hire me like that. I told them, "Hell, no. I don't have to work on a program like that. I know what I'm doing. And I don't believe in taking money off the government. The only way that I would consider hiring to you is you pay the whole thing, but I won't take it like that." They said, "Why?" I said, "You pay fifty percent of what I take in. I don't give nobody half of what I make." And that's what they

Page 40
do. Fifty percent of what you take in. If you take in five hundred dollars, you get two fifty.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did another fixer teach you?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No, I actually learned it on my own, by running the machines. See, I know what machinery'll do. I had what they call a pick glass. It's a real good magnifying glass. And it'll fold up; you can carry it in your pocket. There's a little stand that opens two ways, and when it opens it's got an inch hole in the bottom. And you look through that magnifying glass, and it's strong enough that you could see a silk thread on a stocking and see which side it was being cut from. And that way it would give you an idea what was doing it. See, if it's cut from the bottom side, it was a… [unknown] come over here. I want to show you the bathroom. [Interruption]
ROY LEE AUTON:
… but I never did care for it sports much. I always went for racing, motorcycling, flying, stuff like that. When I first come home from World War II, he [his brother] had bought tickets for Golden Gloves fights in Charlotte. He used to fight some, and I've boxed with him a lot myself. But he thought that'd be a good place to take me. And I went with him, and I was kind of bored all the way through. And coming back, he was bragging about what good fights that was. And I said, "Goddam, you ought to have been over there where I was. You'd have seen some fights." [Laughter]
MARY RUTH AUTON:
There's his twin brother. He dresses up; Roy don't. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
You don't look a whole lot alike.
MARY RUTH AUTON:
They're not identical twins.
ROY LEE AUTON:
We're as much different as day and night.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You're very different kinds of people, or just different-looking?

Page 41
ROY LEE AUTON:
We look different, and we are different.
MARY RUTH AUTON:
They are different.
ROY LEE AUTON:
With all those different things I can do, he might be able to put a light bulb in.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter] What does he do for a living?
ROY LEE AUTON:
He runs a grocery store.
MARY RUTH AUTON:
And he's got a big old woman bigger than me.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter]
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Them Autons really like big women.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter]
ROY LEE AUTON:
That's all he known. [text missing]
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you were young, were there any people that played music around here?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I can't play a darn thing now; I've forgot it all. I used to could pick a guitar, blow a mouth harp, or play a piano.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did you learn all that?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I learned on the old organ Mama had.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she play?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes. And I learned on it, and it and a piano are so near alike, if you play one you can play the other. But the only thing I remember about it now, I still know the notes. But I've forgot how to read the music. I used to could read the music.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did people get together and play and sing?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes. And there wasn't too much when we was just growing up as kids. I lived close to my uncle, and he had a bunch of kids, too, and we was all the time having what I call cow pasture ball. You don't go by the rules like umpires and things, but it's still fun. And then we had

Page 42
horseshoes. And you invent different games. We played a lot of taggy. That's a homemade game. You just cut you a stick—the ones we'd cut would be about as long as this, and bigger around than this thing—and you taper it off on one end, kind of sharp. And you have a stake in the ground then, so you lay that thing up on it. The tapered end'll be sticking out like that. Then you have a straight stick about this long that you use for a bat. You walk up there, and you hit this thing, and it'd fly up there maybe four or five feet high, but it's spinning. And then you take a swing at it and knock it far as you can. And if you get a good lick on it, you might knock it a hundred yards. And you'd have to run to it to see how many steps it was. I forget just how the rules was, but somebody else runs and gets it for you, and then if he can throw it back and hit the stick that you batted it with, it's his turn. We'd spend a lot of hours like that. And then we'd go out to our creek and several places we'd climbed up and cut grapevines to make swings where we could swing out across the creek and back. And when we'd run out of grapevines, we'd maybe take a rope and make one. And some of them couldn't get across. I never did end in the water. We started to walk on tom walkers or stilts.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Tom walkers, you called them?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes, we called them tom walkers when we was kids, but the name of them is stilts. We'd make our own, of course, and sometimes make pretty high ones. I've walked on them, I expect, probably as high as this ceiling. before. I had to get up on the side of the corn crib to get on them. And we had our own swimming hole one time. And I thought, well, if they wasn't too high, I could get them out in front of me and run and throw them down and just hold them tight and go up yonder like the fellow does when he's pole vaulting. And hit them things with my feet, walk right on.

Page 43
But I had some about six feet high, and I got to where I could get on them pretty good with running.
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
ROY LEE AUTON:
It was over my head at that time. And I thought, "Well, I can throw them down [unknown] and walk across." So I cut back and run and throwed them in there and jumped up on them, and the durn things just went right down in the mud and stood straight up. And I couldn't jump to either side; I just had to drop off in the water. [Laughter] The bottom was soft enough that they just stuck in the mud. Now if they'd have fell over either way, I could have jumped and got on the other side.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there any local bands around here back when you were young?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes. I took a tenor banjo, and I played a little bit in a string band one time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
There was a string band that played in Maiden and around?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Yes. One of my first cousins was in it, and Mac Crow was the main banjo man, though, with a five-string. And he was called the banjo king. In fact, I don't believe I've ever heard anybody better. I know you've seen Roy Clark play on "Hee-Haw"? I know he was as good as Clark or better. He's dead now. He died of cancer.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the band have a name?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No. At that time, a name didn't mean nothing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you give up playing?
ROY LEE AUTON:
That was about the time I messed around and got married and moved off.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you think of yourself as a religious person?

Page 44
ROY LEE AUTON:
Well, in a way, and in a way I don't. I believe in a religious life, but I don't go to church. But I used to go all the time. I was superintendent of the place, and I have taught some, but after Korea I don't go. I got broke up, and I can't be still. If I sit still—say, go to preaching and sit still—my leg goes to sleep, and I don't even know it. I go to get up and just fall one way or the other. And if you go and just squirm around all the time, they think you're disinterested, and that's the reason I don't go. Oh, yes, I believe in it. And I think that I'm as good as the one that goes all the time, because I've got to have a little talk with the Maker every day.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What church did you go to?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I'm Baptist.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you feel about being so injured in the Korean War? Did you feel at all bitter about that?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, no. It was just an accident. I didn't get shot. I have been shot, not by what you would call a bullet but by shrapnel, shell fragments. But this was a truck turned over down a mountain. And it wasn't my fault, and I don't think it was anybody's fault. It was just a trail, more or less, and we had sixty-eight Koreans on the back, and we wasn't going much faster than a feller can walk. And I met a truck, and we was over on the side next to the cliff. And it just felt like a back wheel dropped in a hole. And I don't know how deep the hole was or nothing, but what it did, all those Koreans' weight against that side, and that thing just flipped off like a pancake. It was seventy feet straight down, and then another 240 from there on to the river, and I ended up on the other side of the river. It killed thirteen Koreans at the time, and I was beat up pretty good and knocked out for about forty-five minutes and bruised up

Page 45
pretty good and four ribs broke and the sacroiliac shattered and pelvis in five places. And they didn't think I was going to live and kept me on a hospital shift for a week. When they seen I was going to live, then they flew me to Osaka, Japan. And then they put me in a cast and flew me back over here. I was in Fort Bragg a month and a day from the day I went down the mountain.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you think about the Vietnam War?
ROY LEE AUTON:
I didn't believe in that, and I didn't believe in Korea. I believe in fighting for your rights if you declare a war and fight. But damn this police action stuff. What I figure it is, it's nothing but a prosperity deal[unknown]. During World War II we had a good army, and old General Patton can't be beat for a general. He was tough, but we were, too. When he told you to go take a town, he meant to go take it. And my company used something over seven hundred replacements, and there was four of us that originally went that come back. And I don't think that that's too bad in a way, for what we did. I put more than two thousand away myself. I was a machine gunner, and I got pretty bad with it, I mean to do good work. But people think you're crazy when you say that you can cuss and pray at the same time, but I've done it; I know. And people that's never been in a place like that don't realize what you can do. Because you figure if you don't have a minute to live, that you want to get every one you can before you're dead. And I've stopped several counterattacks myself, just by being like that. It's crazy to talk about and comical in a way. Just be riding along, and because you see somebody not dressed like you are, just shoot him, because if you don't, he'll shoot you. But see, we went over there a declared war, and we fought like hell and won. But like Korea, I got over there and they said, "Now don't load your weapon. Wait'll you're fired at,

Page 46
and somebody'll give you orders to load." I blowed my top right then. I said, "Any time you want to check mine, it'll have every one in it it'll hold unless I've got it tore down cleaning it. I lived through one war by being ready, and I'm planning on going home this time." And I kept it loaded, too. Of course, we didn't fight as much in Korea. I was in the Engineers. But sometimes we'd go to build a bridge and get attacked by guerillas. Then we'd have to kill all night[unknown] before we could finish the bridge. It took us three days to round them up one time. [Laughter] But just have a rifle, and you can't work for it. You set it down, and then you'll be a hundred feet from it when they start firing at you, then you have to crawl to it or get to it the best way you can, and I've crawled to it before. But Vietnam was the same way. It wasn't a declared war, and they'd just send out people every day to try to see what they'd get into. That's no way to fight a war. And whenever you take something, keep it. See, they'd just go out and look for something and then come back to the barracks. Well, we did do better than that in Korea. But the first time we got up to northern Korea, you could see the stockpiled enemy stuff across the river, but you wasn't allowed to shoot into it. And you wasn't allowed to shoot the soldiers on the other side. Well, all you could do is turn and come back, and then they'd come back across and face you. It was just like a football game, backwards and forwards. I don't believe in stuff like that. And there was as many people killed in Korea as there was in World War II. And look how many was killed in Vietnam, and then lost it. And if they'd have turned loose on them like we did in World War II, Vietnam would have been over in ninety days. So I say if you're going to fight, fight, and if you're not, run.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you living here when they integrated the schools and started

Page 47
hiring blacks in the factories around here?
ROY LEE AUTON:
Oh, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of effect has that had?
ROY LEE AUTON:
We've had very little trouble right here. There was a couple of fights at the school, but nothing serious.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did people feel about integration?
ROY LEE AUTON:
It didn't seem to bother them too much. It don't bother me. During World War II we was in the white outfits, and if there was any blacks in, they was in the company of their own. And they wasn't worth a damn. A nigger's got to have a white man to drive him. They had a colored tank battalion, and they got a commitment by radio to attack. After spending probably a million dollars to train them, they got in their tanks and started out, and they done met the enemy in twenty-five minutes. And when the enemy started firing at them, every damn one of them jumped out and run off and left their tank sitting there. And after that they started putting the blacks with the whites in service. And I'd say in Korea for at least fifty …
MARY RUTH AUTON:
He didn't tell you he hooked a rug, did he? [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he do this?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That is really beautiful. I love the colors.
MARY RUTH AUTON:
My son-in-law needlepoints and cross-stitches and hooks rug and carries them all the time. He just stays at it when he's not working.
JACQUELYN HALL:
This is the …
MARY RUTH AUTON:
The one I showed you [unknown]. The one that works at Duke Power. He had high blood pressure, and he started doing stuff like

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this, and he don't have it anymore.
JACQUELYN HALL:
To calm himself down.
ROY LEE AUTON:
That's what he does to relieve tension. [text missing]
MARY RUTH AUTON:
I don't want to do nothing. When I quit work, I quit. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
How long have you been retired?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Five years. I quit when I was sixty. They wanted me to do something I couldn't do, and I told them I couldn't do it, and they said, "Well, that's where we want you," and I just walked out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did they want you to do?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
I'd had a winder for thirty years, one machine, and this little old bossman, he comes in and he says, "You don't have a winder anymore. You'll work where I tell you to." Well, I had arthritis in this finger, and it was swelled up, and it hurt it to pull tubes off. And I had cones on my winder. And he was going to put me over on one where they had different kind of guides, and all tubes on it. I told him I couldn't do it. He said, "That's where we want you." So he went one way, and I went the other one. I quit in September, and I messed around till February, and this man on TV kept saying, "If you don't sign up, we can't help you." [Laughter] So I went and signed up. And I drawed for over a year, and then by that time I started my Social Security, so it was the best thing. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
That sounds like a smart move you made.
MARY RUTH AUTON:
I know it, and it just got to where I just couldn't do my work at home and work down there like they wanted me to work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The work had gotten harder?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Yes, it gets harder every year. Older you get, the harder

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it gets, I mean the more they want to put on you. So I just walked out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Even before they wanted to change your machine, had it been getting harder?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Well, yes, but as long as I was on my own winder, I didn't mind it too much. I was going to try to make out till I was sixty-two anyway, but whenever he started… We was going to have to change every day, change around. Now you know yourself that you can do better on your own job. But they made them change every day.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I don't understand why it would even be to their advantage.
MARY RUTH AUTON:
I don't know. He just wanted to show them that he was boss, I guess. So I just couldn't dig that. [Laughter] I wanted to know what I had to do when I went in the morning. I mean, go in not knowing what I was going to do.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I really have been wanting to talk to some women that worked in textiles around here. Would you be willing to talk to me a little about your life?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Well, it's not much. I just worked, and that's about it. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, I'd like to hear a little bit about how you …
ROY LEE AUTON:
She learned how to chew tobacco after she got started, and still does it.
MARY RUTH AUTON:
I've chewed tobacco ever since I was fifteen years old. I got along pretty good till that last bossman come in.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's when the change started?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Yes, that's when I quit. I just couldn't take him no longer.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had the mill changed ownership?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
No, just got a new super or assistant super or whatever. They got him off of the golf course. He didn't know what he was doing no way

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when he come in there.
ROY LEE AUTON:
They just hired him because he played golf.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Because he played golf?!
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Yes, he was a golf pro, wasn't he?
ROY LEE AUTON:
No, but a couple of these fellows played golf, so they hired him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that the only place that you've ever worked?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
No, I worked at Boger and Crawford at Boger City. I worked down there two different times. I worked a while, and then after I got married I got pregnant, and I went back to work when Pat was twenty-two months old, I believe. I worked down there about ten years in all, and then worked down here thirty.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you change from one place to the other?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
I quit work for three years when Pat started to school. I was going to stay at home with her when she started school. And my husband got sick, and I had to go back to work, so I got a job down here close home. And so he died when she was ten years old; he was thirty-four when he died.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did he die of?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Chronic nephritis, Bright's disease. He was sick two years. He was over at Duke in the hospital when he died. He was in and out for the whole two years.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What had he done for a living?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
He was a painter, and then he went to work in the mill. We both worked at Boger City. And then he started painting. He had painted some before, and then he worked down there, and then he started painting again. So then he was in Asheville painting, and he got to where it was so much trouble to go back and forth and all, so he just got him a job down

Page 51
at Carolina. And he didn't get to work too long before he got sick down there, though.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How old were you when you got your first job?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Fifteen. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you start out doing?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Winding. I would all my life. I've never done anything else. Well, I doubled a little and spooled a little, but didn't have a job doing that. I had a job winding. That's the only way I can take a job.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What do you mean?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Well, winding, that's the only thing I wanted to do, because I didn't know how to do nothing else and I didn't want to learn. Because if you learn to do different things, they'll change you around. And I didn't want to learn, because I didn't want to do nothing else.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is winding an easier job to do than some of the other ones?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
It's not too easy; it's just that I didn't want to change around.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you just already knew how to do it.
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Yes, and I didn't want to change around. When I went to work, we worked all night then. I really wasn't supposed to go to work till I was sixteen, but my uncle was the bossman. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
So he just put you on.
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Yes. But law, we didn't have to work none hardly then. Maybe we'd work two or three hours a night and just run around and have a big time the rest of the time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How come you had to work so little?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Well, we just didn't.

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ROY LEE AUTON:
They used to didn't try to kill people.
MARY RUTH AUTON:
You used to didn't have to work like you do now.
ROY LEE AUTON:
They get more production off in eight hours now than they used to in twelve.
MARY RUTH AUTON:
When my husband was sick, I'd get up every morning at six o'clock, and I'd have to do all my work here, and I'd run to Hickory and get him something to eat because he was on a diet and all. And I'd have to bathe him and shave him and everything. And I'd go to the mill to rest. But my land of mercy, it just got to where you couldn't hardly come home and work after work, because they worked you so hard. Of course, I think women's the cause of it. One'll try to beat the other. Especially after they put production on. See, we wasn't on production then. But after they put production on, one would try to outdo the other, and I think women's the cause of the jobs getting so hard. Because men don't work like that.
ROY LEE AUTON:
No, a man'd tell them to take it and jam it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do people get mad at the women who are so competitive?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Yes, they don't like the ones that works and makes it hard on them, but there's nothing they can do about it. I got a sister-in-law, and she works just like fighting fire, and they all talk about her. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Does she realize they talk about her?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
I don't guess she cares. [Laughter]
ROY LEE AUTON:
After that dollar.
MARY RUTH AUTON:
As long as I could make a living, I didn't care whether I beat the other feller or not. I mean, you know, as long as I got a decent payroll. When I went to work, I didn't get no pay for seven nights, and then after that I started making as much as anybody, $15.95 a week. I thought that was pretty good back then; I didn't know what to do with all

Page 53
that money. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you living at home?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you give any money to your folks?
MARY RUTH AUTON:
I give them three dollars a week. That's what they charged my brother and sister. And my brother wasn't working then, and he said, "Well, if it come to it, well, they'd just take all my money." I said, "Yes, they take all of my money, I'll quit, too." [Laughter] But I bought my brothers and sisters clothes with some of it. [text missing]
END OF INTERVIEW