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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George and Tessie Dyer, March 5, 1980. Interview H-0161. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Lint and dust from cotton mills lead to the nickname "lint head"

Tessie Dyer remembers the dust and lint that surrounded mill workers and how she learned the meaning of the term "lint head." She and other mill workers tried to clean the lint off their clothes, but it was very difficult. Her husband thinks that the lint affected her health.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George and Tessie Dyer, March 5, 1980. Interview H-0161. 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

LU ANN JONES:
Is the place where you worked, was it hot, was it dusty?
TESSIE DYER:
It was kind of dusty. The spinning room was; you'd get cotton on you. [cough]
GEORGE DYER:
That trouble now, that's what's giving you all that trouble-bronchial trouble.
TESSIE DYER:
I remember one Saturday before I was married, my sister and I, we went to town. They wore black, gaberdine coats then. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
TESSIE DYER:
They had those street cars out here-wasn't buses, they was street cars. We went up here to the corner to catch the bus. . . .
GEORGE DYER:
You mean the street car.
TESSIE DYER:
Yes, street car. All those people from the Johnston mill there-I said, "No wonder a lot of people were called lint heads." Because they didn't care how they looked-they got on the bus. When I got to town, I was just about covered in cotton, and my sister was too, and we still laugh about that.
GEORGE DYER:
You mean it got off the people to you?
TESSIE DYER:
The wind was blowing and it blowed that lint on us, on those gaberdine coats. We liked not to ever got those coats clean.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you try to clean them off once you got off the car before you went around town?
TESSIE DYER:
Un-huh. It was in March. I never will forget that. I know we went to church the next day, we still had some on us. We just couldn't get it off, it was hard to get off.
LU ANN JONES:
What was people's response of people they called the lint heads? What did that make you feel like, or make people feel like?
TESSIE DYER:
I worked with a woman in the mill and she was kind of grouchy. She went fixed up all the time-she looked real nice. She said that that was why so many people in the mill was called lint heads because they didn't try to fix up. They'd just say, "I'm working in the mill, I don't care how I look." She wasn't like that.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you try to be like that too?
TESSIE DYER:
Um-hum.