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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Alice P. Evitt, July 18, 1979. Interview H-0162. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Owners compete for mill workers during labor shortage

In this excerpt, Evitt remembers "runnin' frames" in a cotton mill. Mill workers were so scarce that owners, although they did not raise wages, aggressively recruited workers and would cover moving costs for families willing to work for them. Evitt remembers that all her siblings worked from a young age.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Alice P. Evitt, July 18, 1979. Interview H-0162. 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

JIM LELOUDIS:
I also want to talk about your work in the mill some. When we began, you said you went in at twelve, but that you were going in the mill before that.
ALICE P. EVITT:
I went in there and helped my sisters and learned how to put up ends on spinnin'. That's why the first day I went to work, I could run two sides-12½¢ a side, 25¢ a day. I run them awhile and then I took three. You just had to build yourself up. I got to where I could run some places-all the mills ain't alike, but machines that don't run as good-some places I could run sixteen sides. Of course it kept you goin' to go around to all them sides. In some places, I couldn't run but twelve. I run twelve at Clinton. That's the most they run there. I made a $1.44 a day on them twelve. That's a lot of walkin'. Them spinnin' frames-you know anything about a cotton mill?
JIM LELOUDIS:
Yeah, I've been through one.
ALICE P. EVITT:
You know how a spinnin' frame is. You'd walk around twelve of them and keep them and clean them, and you've got a job. Out here, I'd run four speeders, and they'd put a spin on five. When I quit out here, we was runnin' five. That's a hard job because a hard end would come through. It could just tear down everything if you don't get to it and stop it. If you don't keep them goin', you don't make nothin'. The clock's on the end of the frame. When they stopped, you not makin' anything. When I quit out here, I was makin' nineteen dollars a week. That wasn't much. They make much as that in a day now. That's what I was makin'. I was runnin' by the hank. I was runnin' frames.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why did you go up and visit your sister? Did you go to learn the job or to visit?
ALICE P. EVITT:
All my sisters were at home then and a-workin'. They'd let you go in there seven, eight years old. I'd go in there where they's at. My mother worked. She spooled. I never did learn spoolin'. I learnt to spinnin'. I'd go in there where they's at and I learned to put up ends. That's the reason I could take two sides the first day I went to work.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How did you get that first job?
ALICE P. EVITT:
Well, they's scarce of hands back then. You could get a job anywhere. They used to move us to get my two sisters to work still? They used to pay our movin' bill to get us from mill to mill here in Charlotte.
JIM LELOUDIS:
In the Hoskins chain?
ALICE P. EVITT:
We didn't move over here back then. I just moved here since I got married. They'd move us from Highland Park and get us back. Then we went to the Calvine. We lived there when I was small. They'd pay us to come back. They'd pay our movin' bill to get us back.
JIM LELOUDIS:
They competed for help, then, didn't they?
ALICE P. EVITT:
Yes, they needed help bad. You could get a job anywhere.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Would they pay you a little more if you'd come back?
ALICE P. EVITT:
They'd just pay you what they'd been a-payin'. They'd pay your movin' bill to get you back. You'd naturally go back.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why would people go back if they weren't going to make anymore money?
ALICE P. EVITT:
I don't know. Maybe they'd just like it better, or they'd start talkin' and get them back, and they'd go back.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How would they? Did they come by and visit you?
ALICE P. EVITT:
They'd come to the house. We lived at Hardin. Mr. Carpenter owned that whole place, the mill, and everything there. He had a son, Earl Carpenter. Then there was a feller up there at High Shoals. He'd slip up there and hire they hands, and they'd slip there and hire his. This Earl caught him one evening down there in a buggy beside the road and shot him-killed him. He accused him of comin' to hire hands.
JIM LELOUDIS:
He killed him?
ALICE P. EVITT:
He killed him over there. His daddy sent him off. They never did try him. He slipped and sent him off. Nobody didn't know where he was at, so they never did try him.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Do you remember any of those people comin' to your house and try to get your family to move?
ALICE P. EVITT:
Yes, they'd come in and talk and try to get us to come by.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What would they tell you?
ALICE P. EVITT:
They'd just say they'd liked our work and all. They'd love for us to come back. They'd pay our movin' bill and everything. But we always left it up to mother about movin'. She'd agree if we wanted to. We always kind of agreed together. We'd go back. Sometimes they'd make one of us mad in the mill, and we'd move on account of that.