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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mareda Sigmon Cobb and Carrie Sigmon Yelton, June 16 and 18, 1979. Interview H-0115. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Changing conditions in the mills

Yelton believes that one of the reasons the atmosphere at her former mill changed so much was that the company began importing college-trained supervisors rather than promoting skilled employees who had worked their way up through the mill. At the same time, opportunities for advancement had improved for women who wanted to work their way up through floor management positions, so Yelton predicts that eventually the mill may well have its first female supervisor.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mareda Sigmon Cobb and Carrie Sigmon Yelton, June 16 and 18, 1979. Interview H-0115. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

We used to have a hundred percent good work, and now it's a hundred percent bad work. Somebody out there said that they had the warehouses just running over with work that's backed up.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That they can't sell?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
That they've not sold. Said they thought they'd at least get two weeks for the Fourth of July. We used to work ten hours a day, five on Saturday, and now they're just working eight hours a day and no Saturday work. And that's the reason: they're just not selling their goods.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you think the reason they're not selling them is because the workers ...
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
I just think they've just got the people so tense, and the knitters, they're just on them all the time. And you know anyone cannot work like that, tense and their nerves all tore up. So I don't know. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if they don't shut them doors one of these days and move the plant to one of their other plants, because I don't think Gulf and Western is going to put up with that. They're a good company, and they're going to have good work.
PATTY DILLEY:
But this has been going on for a while?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Even before Gulf and Western got it.
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
It was going on, but it wasn't quite as bad then. It didn't get bad until they changed these young people. They didn't get it firsthand, working, like the hands out there from scratch on up. They read books, and you don't know nothing about a hosiery mill out of books, I mean about quality and stuff.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In earlier times, did people become supervisors who started out just working on the floor?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Yes, we had several from out there did work theirself up. But they worked up the hard way; they knew what they was doing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the route by which you could work your way up to supervisor?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
They had to knit first, and then [be] fixers, and then on up to bossman, and then on up to supervisors.
PATTY DILLEY:
These were all men?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did women ever ...
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
No, but now the women knitters are learning to fix. So maybe in the years to come they may do it. See the way things are changing.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you think that's good?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Yes. The two we had out there were very good fixers.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the men resent ...
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
At first they did, but I think they was getting used to it. Some of the old fogeys that worked out there for a long time would say a woman couldn't fix, but the younger doing all right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do the older fixers teach the new fixers the skills that they need?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Yes, they teach them. But one time I tried on their tools. You know, they've got all kinds of tools that they wear on their side. I said I couldn't even carry the tools, let alone try to fix. Them things are so heavy, they almost made me go to the floor when I put them around my waist.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It does look like a very complicated job to me.
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
But they do it. And I've noticed now ads in the paper that they're wanting knitters, but they want them to know how to put the needles in.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What does that mean, that they had to have been a knitter someplace else before?
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
Some knitters do know how to put the needles in the machines if they break, but some don't.
PATTY DILLEY:
That would be a job maybe the fixers would come ...
CARRIE SIGMON YELTON:
That is a fixer's job. They'd come and do it if they were needed. But some of the knitters learn; as they learn to knit, they learn to put the needles in, and they can do it theirself. So I don't know. Everything's just getting more and more, so it wouldn't surprise me in years to come if the women wouldn't be supervisors.