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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Murphy Yomen Sigmon, July 27, 1979. Interview H-0142. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Starting work as a child and leaving upon discovery

Sigmon went to work at a shoelace factory in Hickory, North Carolina, in 1928 at the age of fourteen. He recalls keeping an eye out for government inspectors looking for child laborers, and when one showed up at his factory, he had to quit.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Murphy Yomen Sigmon, July 27, 1979. Interview H-0142. 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

I went to work in 1928.
PATTY DILLEY:
In the shoelace factory?
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
Yes, and my brother and my sister. The one you talked to down there, Mareda, she was a-running braiders, and my brother was a-running on the third shift. And they needed somebody, and I'd been down there helping out after school, and I knowed pretty much how to thread them up and run them. And they wanted to start up all of them on the third shift—my brother was just running about half of them—and he got me on. But I couldn't work on the third shift if they found it out.
PATTY DILLEY:
Why not?
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
The child labor law had just come in around then, and they couldn't work under sixteen. See, I wasn't sixteen yet; I quit when I was fourteen from school. They said they'd let me work; if the labor man come along, I'd have to quit, though. Checking.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did one ever come along?
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
Yes. I worked three months, and he finally come along and I had to quit.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did he find out? Tell me about that.
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
He checked the books. See, they had to have me down in the book. He found it out that way. And I was making pretty good; I think it was $14.40 for a week, forty hours. And that was away back there when times was rough. That was before the Depression hit. And over at the mill, they wasn't making hardly anything.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you were making more than people that were making …
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
Oh, yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
The cotton mill?
MURPHY YOMEN SIGMON:
Yes. And my brother was making, I think it was $18.60. But they just paid me $14.40. When I had to quit there, I just worked three months.