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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 >>

Pranks and workplace congeniality

In this excerpt, Hargett focuses on relationships between employees, particularly in regard to workplace jokes and pranks. Although Hargett argues that the workers really didn't have much time for practical jokes, she does describe in detail how she pulled a prank on a fellow worker who kept stealing her tobacco. In addition, she describes some of the ways in which workers tried to work situations to their advantage and how some tried to steal cloth. Overall, Hargett suggests that workplace interactions were generally congenial.

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: In that little bit of time you did get to talk, did people ever tell jokes in the mill, or pull pranks on one another?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I could tell of an instance where I pulled a prank. It wouldn't be very nice. [Laughter] Jim Leloudis: Let me turn this tape over. I'd like to hear it. [END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A] [TAPE 2, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
About everybody in the mill used snuff. Well, I just had a box overturned there, and I'd keep my snuff can down under it. And there was a weaver in there who'd always, when I'd leave my board, just use my snuff. She wouldn't buy snuff; she'd use my snuff. And several other weavers told me about it. And I tried to catch her with it. I'd take a drop wire-that's what you run a thread through, and when it drops down it'll disconnect the loom-to put the snuff in my mouth with, a broken drop wire. So this woman kept on about it, and I told her a time or two that somebody was getting my snuff, and she didn't seem to pay it any attention. So I went and got some cayenne pepper and poured in it. Jim Leloudis: [Laughter]
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Opened a new box and poured out half of it and put some cayenne pepper in it. So whenever she went over there and got some of my snuff, I was over in another part of the mill and didn't know anything about it. Well, it burned her mouth, and she worked right there at the water fountain anyway, and she run down and run there, and she couldn't work being her mouth got to burning, so she had to go home. The bossman was suspicious about something like that. He asked a lot of us around there if we knew what happened to. . . . I started to call her name, but I'd better not, because she's still living and she wouldn't like it. Said she'd got a-hold of something that was too hot and burnt her mouth. And there wasn't none of us knew anything about it. He asked me, and I didn't know anything about it. So she lost about three days of work, and she came back, but she never did steal no more of my snuff. Jim Leloudis: [Laughter]
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
It was the cayenne pepper I put in there that burnt her mouth. Jim Leloudis: I guess that did set her on fire.
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Well, she never did steal any more of my snuff; from then on, she bought her own snuff. Jim Leloudis: [Laughter] Did people ever pull any other types of pranks on one another?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Not that I know of, because we didn't have time to do that. We all had a job, and we had to run it. Jim Leloudis: Did you ever tell jokes?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Sometime they'd tell them in the water house. That's the bathroom, you know; we'd call them water house. But like on my job, I didn't have time to kill time in there, and I didn't hear any of them, but some of them would tell jokes. You'd hear of them telling them. Jim Leloudis: What type jokes would they tell?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
They'd be ugly jokes. Jim Leloudis: Did they ever tell jokes on one another, or jokes that involved machines?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Not that I recall. I know we had a loom fixer one time was awful bad to get mad when you flagged him. So I flagged him one day, and he put up three empty bobbins and one full bobbin. It was for the second hand. I had to flag the loom for the second hand and for the loom fixer, too, because it had to be marked as a bad place. And this loom fixer came there first, and he got mad. We had a piece of wood that was painted green on one end and red on the other one, and it had a hole in each end of it. And you put it over little old prongs on the back of the loom to keep the loom from jarring it off. You had to stick that hole over one of those little prongs. So he'd come up there and he'd grabbed it down and threw it over on the other loom across over there. So he weren't supposed to do that; he was supposed to fix the loom, and it made him mad when you flagged him. Well, he just tore up a warp for me, and I reported him. I put the flag up there, and I reported him. And he got down there on [Laughter] his. . . . He just sat down flat there and took his hammer and just beat on the floor. He was so mad he didn't know what to do; he just sat down there and beat on the floor. Jim Leloudis: Because you had reported him?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, because I had reported him. Jim Leloudis: What happened when you reported him?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
They got after him about it. They didn't fire him or nothing like that; they just got after him about it and told him he shouldn't do that. And of course he was mad with me for a while, but he got over it. Jim Leloudis: [Laughter] That is something. Do you remember any other things like that that happened?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No. Sometime people would steal their cloth and throw it out the window, if they had a car out there. Jim Leloudis: [Laughter]
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
And when they'd get a chance, they'd run out and get their cloth and put it in the car. If they'd catch them at it, they'd fire them, because you wasn't allowed to steal the cloth, but a lot of them did steal it and got by with it.