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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 >>

Surviving during the Great Depression

Hargett recalls what life was like for workers during the Great Depression. Hargett describes how the mills typically reduced their hours of operation so that fewer workers would have to be laid off. As a result, Hargett and most other workers were able to keep their jobs, but it was often difficult to make ends meet. She describes how the community found ways to survive. In addition, she briefly addresses the issue of unionization. Her mill did not unionize or participate in strikes until the early 1940s, she explains.

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: What do you remember about the Depression?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Gosh, I remember it, and we like to starve to death. They had food cheap enough, but you didn't get that little bit of money to buy it with. We was on three days a week then. And to keep a few spare hands, they'd expect you to get off a day to let somebody have a day's work. And that was hard. Jim Leloudis: You'd have to lay off a couple of days so . . .
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
They'd want you to, come around and ask you if you wanted to lay off for a day so they could let a spare hand work. And on three days a week, nobody couldn't afford to do that. Jim Leloudis: How did you manage to survive?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Well, it was tough. You could go to the store then and get a pound of liver for a nickel and a loaf of bread for a nickel and get a bag of potatoes for about a dime, so if you had the money you could live pretty good, but if you didn't have the money you had to without, and everybody had a garden back then. So we all had to depend on our gardens. Jim Leloudis: So you made it through by raising your own food.
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, we made it through by raising most of it. Of course, back then, I wasn't at home when they wouldn't let you keep the stock and stuff on the mill village like they used to do, you see. Jim Leloudis: That was after they passed the city ordinance.
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes. Jim Leloudis: Did people in the community help one another out?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, like I told you, they'd make up for them what we called a love offering and give it to them, and did that when there was a death in the family or anybody had to lose time. Jim Leloudis: How about during the Depression?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No, we couldn't make up then, because we was all in the bad shape together. But the union had a store for us, and we could go down there and get a little bit of groceries. Jim Leloudis: This mill was unionized?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, and there was only one strike. Jim Leloudis: In the thirties?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I believe it was in the forties. I'm not sure. I was when it belonged to the Spatex Company. We had one strike out there. Jim Leloudis: Let's talk about the unions some. You had said before that things kind of got better after the unions came.
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes. Well, they couldn't ride you on your job. The bossman couldn't come around and fuss with you on your job like he could before. But like I said, they couldn't get the looms repaired. If they wanted to they could send you out; if you didn't want to go out, they could send you out anyhow and give a spare hand work. We didn't like that much, and we didn't have no insurance, so we struck for higher wages and insurance, and we did win on that. But we was on strike out there, and the streetcars would go by out there, and different wholesale trucks would stop and they'd give us rolls and some of them would give us wienies so we'd cook those out there on the picket line and eat those. And the Lance people come around and gave us doughnuts and peanuts and things. We just had a good time while we was out on the strike.