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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Edna Y. Hargett, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0163. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The work of a weaver

Here, Hargett describes her work as a weaver. First, Hargett explains how parents, rather than employers, were expected to train their children and then when they became sixteen, the mills would hire them. After being trained by her father, Hargett became a skilled weaver and "smash hand." In addition to describing her tasks, Hargett explains the difference between the Draper, Crompton, and Knowles looms. In addition, Hargett describes the kinds of injuries workers risked on the job. The excerpt concludes with Hargett's assertion that she enjoyed her work and the camaraderie of the workers.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Edna Y. Hargett, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0163. 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: Let's talk about your work a little bit. Tell me again how you got that first job and how you learned to weave.
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
They didn't pay you to learn how to weave then. They didn't pay a learner at all. You had to go in with your parents, so I went in with my daddy. He'd show me how to do it, and I learned how to weave and learned how to pick out and how to smash. Whenever I got good enough where I could do it and could be trusted on my own with a set of looms-at Highland Park they'd first give you eight looms for a set-they'd try me on that. And they put me on a set beside of my daddy, where if I got in a hole he could help me out a little bit. But I never did like weaving as much as I did smashing. I always loved to smash and pick out. And I got to be a real fast operator on it so they'd keep me on that job. Jim Leloudis: What was the difference in those jobs?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Pick out's where there was a bad place in the cloth, and you picked out the thread in there up to where the bad place started, then started up over. You had to know how to match your picks and all and start the loom up there and perfect get your selvage and all up together and have it perfect there. Then when we had a breakout, so many things could cause a breakout. It could be a screw loose in the picker stick; there could be a screw loose in the shuttle; there could be a harness strap broken. And you had to know how to shake the loom at the back and pull all your warp to where you get your threads lined up or your ends lined up to draw in again. And then you had to know to draw them in, and if the loom wasn't broken I'd start it up, and if it was broken I had to flag the loom fixer and let him start it up. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B] [TAPE 2, SIDE A] [START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A] Jim Leloudis: What was the weaver's job?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
The weavers had to run the looms. They had to draw in the ends, and if they had as many as a dozen ends out they could put it on my board as a smash-hand job. And they had to match the picks, and they had battery hands that filled the battery that belonged on box work, beam work where you had to fill your own shuttles then. But now they have magazines on the Crompton and Knowles looms. And when they stopped this mill down up here, we was running forty looms then. I mean it was half an acre of looms, too. Jim Leloudis: [Laughter] Was there a particular loom that you liked working on better than another?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, I believe I liked the Draper work better than I did the Crompton and Knowles. Jim Leloudis: Why was that?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
On account of the shuttles and how they matched the picks and all. Jim Leloudis: What do you mean when you say matching picks?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
That's the threads that goes across the cloth. Well, you have to know how to match that so the harness, when it goes the next time, the harness will be just right. If you haven't got the picks just right, the harness will drop down and it'll be weaving a cord, like, and you have to know how to do that. And then they had drop harness on some of it, and in smashing I had to know how to set that so whenever a loom fixer could fix the loom, why, it'd start up right. Jim Leloudis: Why did you like the Draper looms better than the others?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
There wasn't as much trouble to them, if we could have got them fixed. But after Chadwick and Hoskins sold it to Southern, they stopped repairing them much, getting the material for the loom fixers to repair them. So we had it real tough then, so whenever the Southern sold it to the Spatex, we did have it tough then. They didn't get no parts at all to repair them with, and we had to just run the looms on a shoestring, as the old saying did, because they was broken and out of fix and wouldn't half run. Jim Leloudis: When did those sales occur?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I'm not sure about the dates of just when it happened, but I was over here through it all. Jim Leloudis: You said that you didn't have to match the picks up on the Draper looms?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, you had to match them up on the Draper loom, but it was harder on the Crompton and Knowles, because they had so many more harness, and they had drop harness, too. But on the Draper they never had but over three harnesses on it. When they were weaving broadcloth over here, it was three-harness. If you didn't get the harness up right, why, it would throw the shuttle out and hit you. Jim Leloudis: Did you ever get hurt on any of those machines?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I got that finger hurt there when I worked at Highland Park. I went to push a shuttle back in there and the screw was loose and cut that, and the doctor never did put a splint on it, so that's always been like that. Jim Leloudis: So it's been a little crooked, huh?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes. The leaders is drawed in it. [Interruption] Jim Leloudis: Did other people get hurt very often? Do you remember any other injuries?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, people would get hurt in there. I fell up here one time when the mill was leaking and broke my arm. And people would get hurt with sometime a shuttle flying out on them and hitting them, especially if it hits you in your head. One woman got her eye put out. But that didn't happen in these mills; that happened in Bessemer City that I know of. It was a friend of mine got her eye put out where a shuttle hit her. Jim Leloudis: Did you feel like it was kind of dangerous work?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
In a way it was dangerous, but it was work that I enjoyed. We all fussed about it quite a bit and grumbled, but we'd love to do it over again, because the community hasn't been the same since it's not been a mill village. There's just a different atmosphere about it altogether. When it was a mill village, why, we didn't think a thing about going in and helping a neighbor do her work if there was sickness or something like that, and sitting up when there was a death in the family. But they don't do that any more now. Jim Leloudis: Why do you think that's so?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
They just got interested in something else, and I think they're distant from what they were. They don't have the love and cooperation they did have from each then. Jim Leloudis: Do you think that's because they don't work together any more, maybe?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I believe maybe that's it. Jim Leloudis: Did people carry that same type of cooperation into the mill with them? Did people help each other in there?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, we helped one another in the mill. We each had our own job to do. And we knew to do our job; if we didn't, they'd replace us. But we had a loving feeling for one another, just like we was one big family.