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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Flake and Nellie Meyers, August 11, 1979. Interview H-0133. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tensions between school and work in the family labor system

Both Flake and Nellie Meyers describe how they did not complete school because economic conditions necessitated that they work in order to supplement the family income. Their comments on the role of education in their lives emphasizes the tensions between school and work in the family labor system in working communities.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Flake and Nellie Meyers, August 11, 1979. Interview H-0133. 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:
Did your parents kind of encourage you, as soon as you got a good enough education, to go to work?
NELLIE MAE WORKMAN MEYERS:
They just wasn't able to send us to school. My dad made our shoes, and Mother knit our stockings. And we wore aprons with long sleeves and buttoned plumb to the back, down to the bottom. That's what kind of dresses we wore, and just with nothing but a sweater, and had freezing cold and snow knee deep. We had to wade through it. That's what we wore.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you like school?
NELLIE MAE WORKMAN MEYERS:
No, I didn't. [Laughter] It seemed like I had. . . . Well, with all them children to help raise, it wasn't in me.
PATTY DILLEY:
You were more interested in helping the family.
NELLIE MAE WORKMAN MEYERS:
Yes. It seemed like we'd have to have that to help out.
PATTY DILLEY:
How many years did you go through?
NELLIE MAE WORKMAN MEYERS:
I quit when I was fifteen years old. Way back there then, they just had four hours a day in that school.
PATTY DILLEY:
And this was just during the winter?
NELLIE MAE WORKMAN MEYERS:
Yes. November and December and January and February. Dad had a big patch of woods, and we cleared that. When we come home from school, they'd say, "Now you children get your mattocks and get down there and drill [unclear] out them there stumps." [Laughter] And so we did, and we had just a little lamp to study by. A lot of times just pine knots to study by.
PATTY DILLEY:
You would light pine knots?
NELLIE MAE WORKMAN MEYERS:
And you couldn't half see, and my eyes wasn't too good at that. I didn't learn much, for I couldn't see how to study. [Laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
How far did you get through school, Mr. Meyers?
FLAKE ORAN MEYERS:
I went to the seventh grade.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you like school?
FLAKE ORAN MEYERS:
Not too good. I was kind of like her. I had to go to work to help my daddy support the children. But I liked it pretty good.