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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 >>

Why Cobb became a loyal Democrat

Because of the Great Depression, Cobb and her husband became ardent Democrats, committed to Roosevelt's party. She explains why they changed and offers her perspective on politics in the 1970s.

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

JACQUELYN HALL:
Tell me about how you got interested in Democratic Party politics.
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
That was in the Depression years. But the first time I voted, I voted for Hoover. The next time come around, why, it was too bad; we had four years' depression. Two years of it was really bad.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What happened to you during those first years of the Depression?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
I just done like the rest of them, resisted it. That's all anybody done that didn't have nothing. A lot of the big men jumped out the window and killed theirself. Lost their money, and they couldn't take it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You said the other day that those were the hardest years of your life.
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Yes, that was the hardest, and the bluest time in my life. Because I ain't a blue person. A lot of people sets around and broods about things, but I don't. The worst thing I brooded about was when I lost my husband and when I got hurt, them two things. But that didn't last long. I got over it.()
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you out of work?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you get laid off?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Yes. They just worked the people that had children, and me and Cobb didn't have no children. But we still had a family; we had his brother, and then a woman and her son stayed at our house, and we took his aunt and her daughter.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you happen to take in all those people?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
His aunt and her daughter didn't have nowhere to go, so they come in. We done the best we could about them. And Ann Davis and her boy was staying at our house when it hit, so I wouldn't want to tell her she had to leave. And so her and Cobb just combined their... And they laid me off at the plant to work the ones that had children. It wasn't nothing against my work. So that throwed me out of work. Then I went back to work about the time Roosevelt was elected. And then everything picked up in Gastonia. All the mills went on six days a week, twelve hours a day. Then when he come in as President, he put twelve hours in and forty cents an hour. And when Roosevelt come in President, if I'd have got to work, I'd have made $7.60, and my husband would have made $9.60 on his job. And he was running second hand in the spinning room department, next to the high boss, and he was making $9.60.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you get by during those years?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Everything was cheap. When we got to work, we could make a pretty good living. But you see, we didn't get to. My husband didn't get but a day or two. Now Rex never did shut completely down; he'd get a day or two. Enough you could get you a little bread.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you able to keep on staying in the mill house rent-free?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Oh, yes, they didn't charge us any rent.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You could stay there and just work every once in a while, when you'd
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
No, the rent didn't cost us nothing. If one hit now, it'd be terrible. We didn't pay no lights, no water bills.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you vote for Roosevelt the first time around?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How come?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Because I wouldn't, because I was mad at the world. [Laughter] Because it was so hard, I wasn't going to vote. I couldn't risk with nobody. But the next time I did; I voted for him from then on. That's why I turned a Democrat. I have always been a Democrat.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But your family is ...
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Is Republicans.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you know why they're such staunch Republicans?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
I can't figure it out. A lot of people don't pay no attention to that, but I do. I listen who votes in the Congress and Senate on each and every bill. They put it in the paper, and they put it on TV. Anybody that wants to can look it up, when a bill comes up. Now every little old bill I don't look, but anything that's concerning me or our living in America, I look that bill up. You hardly ever see a Republican who votes for it. Most of them's Democrats. Votes for bills that benefits you. I saw that. That's the reason I'm a Democrat, a whole lot.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of bills have you been especially interested in in recent years?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
All the aging bills in the past or anything, now like the Panama Canal and different things. And they make out like the Panama Canal shouldn't have been. Now this bill they're looking at right now, that he's over there, is going to make a speech on tonight, well, they claim that shouldn't be. But why did the other presidents behind him, Nixon, Ford, all of them, they was trying to get that. Why? If it wasn't all right, why did they start it? So I don't know. I always look at it. But you can tell. A lot of people don't pay no attention to who votes for who. Now you take Broyhill up here. He's a good man. I imagine he is a good man. He gives away furniture by the bushels, on TV and everywhere else. But you look up his record, and he'll go all the way to get you Social Security. And any kind of war veteran, if it goes to them he'll help it. But you notice his voting record. He never votes on a bill, Broyhill don't, in Congress, the Senate. We don't need them up there if they ain't going to vote yes or no. They should vote one way or the other, I think, don't you?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Every one of them should. Let it be a Republican or a Democrat, I think they should vote yes or no on all bills. But he's never there to vote. But he's the best man you ever saw, and that's where he gets his votes. He don't help pass them bills, but he'll help everybody to get them after they do pass. See what I mean? That's the way he is.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember the night that Roosevelt was elected?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What do you remember about it?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
They was tickled. Everybody knowed-Hoover would get beat. I believe if they'd run anybody, he'd have got beat, honey. Roosevelt wasn't no outstanding president right then, but in later years he was. But I think most anybody would have beat Hoover, because he was so down. But I've had people tell me... A man stood up to me last week and told me that was the best president we ever had.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Hoover?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Yes. I told him he wasn't in my eyes. [Laughter] Because I know him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were telling me the other day about listening to Roosevelt's inauguration address on the radio.
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Yes. That's the first president I ever listened at, I mean ever come over the air. It wasn't no radios or nothing for it to come over the air. And he was the first President of the United States that they broad casted on the radio. It wasn't TV; it was radio. I had never saw a TV. The first TV I ever saw was in New York. That was before we ever got it. I was in New York and saw one. Roosevelt was swore in for president on Saturday in March. I forgot what date. He was elected the first Tuesday in November, but the presidents didn't go in at that time till in March. Now they go in in January. And he went in, but he closed every bank in America what was open; there wasn't very many of them open. I think New York had one open, and one or two different places, but I don't think these little southern towns had any open much. Atlanta might have had one open; I don't remember. But anyhow, he closed the banks, and they was closed five weeks, I think. Then he done something, made them for... They couldn't do that any more. They say they can't, but, you know, I'm still a little shaky about it. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you put your money in the bank?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Yes. I told some of them if Ronald Reagan got elected, I was going to pump me a hole, that I didn't have much but I wanted to save it. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were most of the people around you strong Roosevelt supporters?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
No, never was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about your husband?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
Oh, yes, he was convinced to be a Democrat the same time I was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did Roosevelt do then?
MAREDA SIGMON COBB:
The first thing he done was close the banks and then made them , and then he put eight hours in. That's the best feelings I ever had, about. I'd worked them long hours all my life, and we'd get off at two o'clock in the evening. I went to work the same time I always went to work, at six o'clock, and get off at two. Boy, that was the best feeling. I never will forget that. And I went home at two o'clock in the evening. It didn't seem like I'd worked but half a day. It was just a little over half a day. Then he raised our wages to forty cents an hour. That was twelve dollars a week; that was a big raise, from $7.60 to twelve dollars. That was the lowest you could pay, was forty cents an hour. Some of them raised it a little bit more than that. Anyhow, they put us on piecework, and then I made a little bit more than that. So we just got along fine then.