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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Gladys Harris, August 8, 1979. Interview H-0124. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Going to work out of economic necessity

Harris explains why she had to go to work, around 1940, after an injury her husband had sustained prevented him from continuing his own job. She describes how over the years at her various jobs she always struggled to make ends meet, particularly when she took a drastic pay cut from one job to the next. In addition, she also explains that she never asked for a raise in her wages, instead waiting for them to come at the behest of her employers.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Gladys Harris, August 8, 1979. Interview H-0124. 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

PATTY DILLEY:
What did your mother think about your going out and getting a job?
GLADYS HARRIS:
They didn't say anything about it because they knowed I had to. When Paul got to where he couldn't keep a job. They knowed I was going to have to do something. I started and that was it. We never had no help from nobody. After he got disabled to work, do you believe I never could get no disability for him. That law come out after you're fifty, if you were disability, you could get it. I never did get nothing for him. Course he died when he was fifty-eight, but still if I could have gotten something from the time he was fifty till then, I could have a little bit of background maybe. But we just lived from one payday till the next. I borrowed money to do things that we wanted to do, and then I'd pay it back in payments. That's the way it went. That's the way I got through the world, and it looks like I've still have to struggle. Social Security, they don't pay me enough, as high as things is, that I could make it, if I could quit work altogether. I'm planning on it, if I can work what I can work next year and draw all my money and save part of it, maybe then I can make it on my own. When I become sixty-five up there, they had a pension plan for it. I got my pension then. But you see, then I had to go into the hospital, such a big bill and everything. I didn't have nothing saved from that because I had to use it to do them things with. It's a hard matter to work and not make no more than I make an hour and save any money. You just can't hardly do it and keep up a home and everything.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you work the whole year full time?
GLADYS HARRIS:
I'm still working full time yet. I'm going to this year, but next year . . . Now I've worked all year, full time, and I still haven't made $4,000. It will take anyhow till October for me to make $4,500. You make that much and then draw all your money for the year too. So I said I'd have to work a full year about to get it.
PATTY DILLEY:
You've been there so long—twenty years.
GLADYS HARRIS:
Yeah, but they just don't pay. You could come up there and get a job, and they'd probably start you at more than they're paying me right now.
PATTY DILLEY:
It doesn't seem very fair.
GLADYS HARRIS:
It's not fair, really. That's the way they're doing me; that's the way they do. Two years ago, they hired two girls in there. They didn't have no more sense than to tell us what they started them out at. They started them out at ten cent more an hour than they was paying me, and I been there all that time. When I started to working there, they started me out—I quit the hosiery mill, and I was a-making $2.40 in the hosiery mill an hour. That was good then—they started me out at $1.00 an hour. They worked me one year for $1.00 an hour. I never did ask for a raise, though, that's one thing I never asked for. When that year was up, the man that owned the shop, he come to me, one of the owners, he said, "We watched you work and do your work and we think you're excellent. We're going to give you twenty cent more on the hour."—$1.20. So they just give me little raises like that, but when I should a had . . . Now since I retired, been old enough to retire, they raised me enough that if they would have paid me that much when they counted for my social security, I would have drawed lots more. The years that they counted from, I didn't make nothing a hour. So that makes it rough.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you never asked for a raise?
GLADYS HARRIS:
I've never asked for a raise. That's one thing I've never done.
PATTY DILLEY:
Why?
GLADYS HARRIS:
I don't know. I was always chicken or something. But lots of people, they think they got to have a raise every little bit. They usually give us a raise once a year. I never do say nothing about it. It might not be but five cents, but every five cents count. I never did ask for a raise. It just didn't bother me like that.