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Title: Oral History Interview with Carl and Mary Thompson, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0182. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Thompson, Carl, interviewee
Author: Thompson, Mary, interviewee
Interview conducted by Leloudis, Jim
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 264 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-00-00, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Carl and Mary Thompson, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0182. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0182)
Author: Jim Leloudis
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Carl and Mary Thompson, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0182. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0182)
Author: Carl and Mary Thompson
Description: 326 Mb
Description: 75 p.
Note: Interview conducted on July 19, 1979, by Jim Leloudis; recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Jean Houston.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
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Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Carl and Mary Thompson, July 19, 1979.
Interview H-0182. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Thompson, Carl, interviewee
Thompson, Mary, interviewee


Interview Participants

    CARL THOMPSON, interviewee
    MARY THOMPSON, interviewee
    JIM LELOUDIS, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
MARY THOMPSON:
… my mind. I just can't remember names. I tried to think the other day of some of the names at the company that I worked for, and it's hard to remember. Because it has been a good while ago. But I first came in 1933 and worked down here a few months, less than a year, and went back to Greenville, South Carolina. I went to Slater, South Carolina, and worked there a while, and then I went to Judson and worked there a while, and then went back to Slater. At that time it was Carter Manufacturing Company. And then I went to South Boston, Virginia, and stayed a while. Now I don't remember how long I stayed, because I would just stay till the job was caught up. That was Carter Manufacturing Company. Then I went to Alta Vista, Virginia, and worked there a while, and that was Burlington. And then I worked at Radford, Virginia, and that was Burlington, and went to Roanoke, Virginia. And it seems to me like that was Burlington. I ain't going to say for sure. And then I came back to South Carolina, and I went to Johnson City, Tennessee, and worked a while. Went back and worked at… What's that little place in South Carolina I worked? [Laughter] I can't think of the name of it. Out from [unknown], a little town. See, they-Greensbury sent me different places that was needing work. And then in the meantime I'd go back to Slater, that was owned by the Carter Company. And then I went to another place in South Carolina—I done forgot it—and I was raised in South Carolina. And then I came back down here to Highland Park.
JIM LELOUDIS:
And you came back to Charlotte in what year?
MARY THOMPSON:
I think it was about 1939.
JIM LELOUDIS:
So you did all that moving in six years.
MARY THOMPSON:
[Laughter] Yes. Then I stayed here a little over a year, and I went to Baltimore, Maryland, and stayed five years.
CARL THOMPSON:
That was during the War.

Page 2
MARY THOMPSON:
And I worked at a chemical plant up there, the Chesapeake Bay Chemical Plant.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why were you moving around so much?
MARY THOMPSON:
Mostly it was the work I did. I made patterns, and then they made the cloth like the pattern was made. After they got all the looms filled with the patterns, you see, they laid us off or either sent us somewhere else to work. If there was somebody else wanting work, they'd call. I was a… I guess you'd call grass widow or something. Anyway, I had a little girl, but she stayed at my mother's most of the time. Sometime I'd take her with me. And so I was free to go, and I could make more money like that, and I had a child to support. So that's the reason I went around, because I couldn't afford to lay up several weeks a month and had my child to support. So anywhere they wanted to send me or I found out there was a job, I went to and worked till they'd catch up, and then I'd go back somewhere else.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You said "they." Were you working with one company that had a number of plants?
MARY THOMPSON:
Not all the time. I worked for several companies. I worked for Burlington, I worked for Carter, and I worked down here at Cone. And then I worked at Bessemer City, and I forgot the name of that company. And then I worked another place in South Carolina.
CARL THOMPSON:
They sent you to Bimburg one time from down here, and you went down there and stayed.
MARY THOMPSON:
And then when I come back I worked down here a while, and then I went to Baltimore and went to work up there at a chemical plant. And I worked up there till sometime in 1945, and I came back here and worked here a while. Then me and him got married. And then I went to that Cone's at Pineville and worked after that. Then I worked at Bessemer City after that. But then I decided that this running around wasn't for married

Page 3
people, so I went and got me a job over here at, it was Southern Knitwear then, and was supervisor over there. And then after I quit there I was out a while and didn't work, and then I went to Schoatz [unclear] Manufacturing Company as supervisor over there, and stayed over there then till my health got bad. And I quit there on account of my health more than anything else, so I didn't work for a long time. Then I went to work at this hosiery mill over here—what was the name of it?—and I run the cafeteria on the second shift while.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Was it Knievel or Charlotte …
CARL THOMPSON:
Chadbourn.
MARY THOMPSON:
Chadbourn. And then I went and put in for my Social Security on disability, and I got it on account of my heart. So I haven't worked since.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Could you explain to me a little more what this job of setting up patterns was like?
MARY THOMPSON:
It was drawing patterns. They had frames, and they put these warps on the frame and had lots of threads to it and they put it over. Well, I had to draw them threads through the drop wires harness and reed. And then they were taken to the weave room. We went by a pattern, and the way we drawed it is the way the cloth come out. Like yours would be a stripe, and his'n would be a check. And I worked on fancy work most of the time. They have got plain work, but most of my work was always on fancy. And that's the reason I was more able to travel around and get jobs, because it took special drawing-in hands for the fancy on account of it's harder to do, and I had worked so much on it. And you made more money on it.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Didn't the mills have drawing-in hands of their own?

Page 4
MARY THOMPSON:
They usually all of them had some, regular help, and then they'd get laid off sometime, but some of them had husbands and they didn't care. They'd draw their unemployment till they were called back to work. But the only one that I stayed with, I stayed with Slater about ten years. When I first started to work, I was at Poe Mill Manufacturing Company.
CARL THOMPSON:
That was at Greenville.
MARY THOMPSON:
I was just fourteen years old when I first started there and worked there in the summer, and then went back to school in the winter, and then worked again in the summer, and then got married.
JIM LELOUDIS:
I don't understand exactly why the labor was so sporadic. Why would they all of a sudden need a lot of drawing-in hands?
MARY THOMPSON:
Because they'd change patterns. They'd change the styles, just like everything else, you know; they always have changed different styles. And when they had to change styles, they had to draw a new pattern for it. They finally got draw-in machines for them. That's the reason there ain't no more of it now. There's still some. I've got a sister—I believe she's working at Poinsett now—but she's more of a plain drawing hand. And she's still working some, but she just works a while and they get caught up and lay her off. It's never been a fulltime job, that I know of, for anyone. I've worked as much as maybe a year or two and then get laid off, but that was very seldom for some people to run that far. But that's what we did, we made patterns, and then they'd run weave room. See, they'd tie them back behind the looms and just keep on running the same patterns till they changed styles, and then they'd have to be drawed again.
JIM LELOUDIS:
They'd all have to be done over again.
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes.
You see, we had to draw by a draft that was made for us to draw threads, and there'd be from maybe a thousand ends in the whole pattern

Page 5
to maybe, I have drawn them twenty thousand. That'd be finer than your hair. But you see, it's just according to the styles it was then, and now, too, as far as that's concerned. The only thing is, they've got draw-in machines now that does most of it, what little there are. There ain't so much now; most of it now is knit and print. Back then there was lots of woven material. So that's the reason I was laid off so much.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Instead of printing the stripe, it would be woven in.
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes. You don't see too much woven material now. It was better then than it is now, I thought. They just kept making different kinds of patterns and had to have different things as styles come in. But all of that's about gone now. And what they do have, mostly, they've gotten machines to do it.
CARL THOMPSON:
Them draw-in machines would take care of a lot more hands. They could take one machine, and it'd take the place of maybe ten or twelve hands, what maybe ten or twelve could do. And it was a whole lot cheaper and a whole lot faster, too, put out more work.
MARY THOMPSON:
But I was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. I was borned up there in town, but I was raised there at Poe Mill.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Let's talk about your childhood some. What did your parents do?
MARY THOMPSON:
My father worked in the mill. My mother, till she got married, worked in the cotton mill. But she had seven children. [Laughter] You know, mothers didn't work then like they do now. After they started having a houseful of children, they had a job at home. So she didn't work after she got married. But my father worked in the mill. He worked at Camperdown, and then he went to Poe Mill and worked there in the machine shop. And he worked there until about 1928, and he went to Georgia and worked a while down there, but he didn't like it too well. He come back and

Page 6
went to Union Bleachery and worked up there several years. When he retired he was working at Poinsett.
CARL THOMPSON:
I think he was a mechanic in the machine shop.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Was he a fixer?
MARY THOMPSON:
He run all kind of things, but when he retired he was running a lathe. Before then he had a cancer on his hand and had to have his hand took off. And they fixed a clamp, and he could run the lathe, because he had always worked in a machine shop. He couldn't run his other jobs, so they put him on a lathe, and he run the lathe then till he retired. He was seventy-two when he retired.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why did he move so much?
MARY THOMPSON:
Well, he didn't move so much. He stayed at Poe Mill from the time I was about five years old till I was about eighteen, I guess. And then he got a better job in Georgia. An uncle of mine knew about the job in Georgia and told him about it, and he went down there a while. And then he come back and went to Union Bleachery, and he worked there for several years. And then he went to Poinsett, and he was working there in 1945, and I forget what year he retired. He was seventy-two when he retired, but I forget how old he was then. But he worked there a good many years. But he didn't move too much, but it was always a better job, mostly. But the Union Bleachery got to where it hurt him, that dyeing stuff, you know, there, and so he got the job at Poinsett and stayed there then till he retired, until he was seventy-two years old.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What do you remember about your childhood? What things stand out in your mind?
MARY THOMPSON:
[Laughter] Well, there was a whole lot that was different than it is now with childhoods, I know, because we had to behave ourselves

Page 7
or we got punished, and we were raised to go to church. We didn't have any recreation, only what church put, out, because we wasn't allowed to go just anywhere. Some people may not have been as strict on their children, but my father and them did. Anything the church had to do, parties and all, we got to go to, but we wasn't allowed to go to dances. And our mother and father was strict; they were good, but they were strict. It's entirely different, the way it is now. And when I went to school, we had to do all of the washing and hang it out before we went to work in the morning, and come home and do all the ironing after we got home. Mama had a houseful of children. And we were made to work. I had to milk the cow every morning. We had a cow and a hog, and we lived right there in town. We still had the cow and hogs and chickens, and my job was to milk the cow every morning. And I've got up under a cow many a time when it was snowing [Laughter] and raining in the milk. Oh, it was all fun. I can look back now and say we wouldn't gripe about what we had to do; we was raised not to. And anyway, there wasn't no use in griping. The biggest thing I ever done, that I regretted mostly, was quitting school when I did, not finishing school, which I could have done. But parents then didn't make you go to school if you didn't want to. My daddy give us the opportunity; if we didn't want it, why, we had to go to work. But we had a happy childhood. We didn't have much, but we didn't know we was poor, so we were happy. [Laughter] But if it was a time like it is now, why, they'd be putting us on welfare, giving us some Food Stamps. At least I think they'd think we was on starvation [Laughter] . What clothes we got—we didn't even have no clothes much—my mother made them all. After we got big enough we made our own, but we never did have nothing but one dress for Sunday to go to church. Our Sunday clothes, you know, and then we had two dresses to wear to school. We wore one one week

Page 8
and one the next week. But we'd wear them a week at a time. But it was different than it is now, whole lots different. Maybe I'm wrong, but I really think we were better off than they are today. Children today get out and complain about nothing to do. Have to build parks for them so they can go smoke their grass and all and drink their liquor. We was always too tired. We didn't even have to think about being bored to death. We did get to go to parties, mostly church parties and sometime a friend's house, but they didn't have no dancing.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why did your parents object to dancing so strongly?
MARY THOMPSON:
I don't know. That was just the way they were raised. You know, the Baptists used to be against dancing, and my mother was always a Baptist, and so they were just against it, I guess. They was against drinking. There wasn't no drinking in our house. No cursing. That's unusual now, for the families now. I'm proud my mother raised me that way. But our father didn't do it; my brothers didn't do it. My sisters never did drink or smoke. My father did smoke cigarettes. He was the only one that used tobacco. It was just the way they were raised, and they raised us that way, and I can't see that we were hurt by it.
JIM LELOUDIS:
But did any of you ever sneak off and try any of these things?
MARY THOMPSON:
We used to get under the house and get this rabbit tobacco and roll it in paper and try to smoke it, but it tasted bad, so we never did do very much of it. [Laughter] We did sneak around and do that. And none of us never did like it well enough to smoke it. But we were mean children, in a way, just like all children were. We wasn't perfect, not by a long shot. We done lots of things that if our mother had caught up with us, we would have got a beating.
CARL THOMPSON:
Just more devilish than anything else.

Page 9
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes, we didn't do any harm. We didn't smoke cigarettes; we never thought about such as that. One time there was a girl who had some snuff, and she wanted me to taste some, and I took just a little bit on my tongue and like to strangle myself. [Laughter] I never did want any more snuff. And if my mother had knowed that, she'd have whipped me for it, but she didn't know it. We were always wanting to make things, too. My brothers liked to work with things, and we'd make our own valentines and things like that. We had things to keep busy. We sewed. And I don't know how them houses at that mill are still standing, but we used to get up in the loft when Mama and Daddy'd leave and cut the wires up there and splice it and put us lights all up in there. [Laughter] Before they got home, we'd take them down. I don't know how we helped from getting killed. Of course, the power wasn't as strong into the houses, I don't think, then as they are now. But if Mama and Daddy left us home, that was after we got pretty good-sized children. My brothers was older than me, and so they liked to fool with electricity. And so we'd just climb up in there and cut it apart, get us some lights. My daddy, see, working in the machine shop, always had wires and tape and light bulbs around the house, and we'd get them and we'd put us lights up in there. And sometime we'd want to make valentines up in there, if they was going to go to the store and be gone a good while. We done the meanest things. I've wondered lots of times how the houses are still standing, but they're still standing, so we must have done a pretty good job at it. [Laughter]
JIM LELOUDIS:
You said if your mother had found out, she would have whipped you. Was she the one who did the disciplining?
MARY THOMPSON:
She's the one who done most of the disciplining. We were a little scared of Daddy when he got mad at us for anything, but Mama was the one,

Page 10
she done the bossing. My daddy worked all the time. Then you didn't work eight hours like you do now, you see, and he was working in the machine shop, so he'd have to work sometimes night and day. I have knowed him to work two days and nights before he even got to come home. They'd had machinery break down, you know, and all. So most all men then done the work; the women done the raising of the children. I can't say that that's altogether right. [Laughter] I think both ought to take responsibility, but at that time men didn't have time to do around the house like they do now.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Who handled the family's finances?
MARY THOMPSON:
My mother did. My daddy was one of these "Live today and let tomorrow take care of itself." [Laughter] And if it had been left up to him, we'd have starved to death. But my mother was very close. She could manage real good, and she managed all the finances.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did she ever give him an allowance or something like that?
MARY THOMPSON:
Very seldom she give him anything. Of course, he always had an automobile. And she managed enough to pay the things that he needed, but I have knowed him to want a Coca-Cola, and she'd fuss that that was throwing away money. She didn't let her children throw away money. She wasn't mean, that she wouldn't let you have what you wanted, but there wasn't too much money to spend for things like that then. Not with seven children to raise. He was pretty good; he never did fuss at her about the way she managed the money, because he knowed she was a better manager than he was. He couldn't have kept an automobile to drive all the time if… There wasn't too many people around there had automobiles then. But we usually had an automobile, and if my father wasn't working at all on Sunday we'd always go up in the mountains or somewhere and take a picnic dinner, all the

Page 11
whole family. It was a carful [Laughter] , but we'd always go somewhere, up in the mountains or somewhere. You know, it ain't far to the mountains from Greenville, South Carolina. And I had an aunt that lived up there, and we'd go up there sometimes and stay all night at their house, way back up in the mountains. But it was always the family went together. My daddy wasn't a person to run around. When he went, the family went with him. I had a good father, and a good mother. Naturally we thought Daddy was the best, because he didn't have the responsibility that Mama had. She had to be a little bit tougher.
JIM LELOUDIS:
So you saw her as kind of the mean one, huh?
MARY THOMPSON:
[Laughter] Yes. But after I got bigger, I realized that it was for our own good, that she had to be. If she was like my daddy, I don't know what would become of us, because he was one of these that didn't try to make us do much. That wasn't none of his job; it was Mama's job. But I had a real good daddy; I was lucky.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You said you had your own animals and all. I guess you had a garden, too.
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes, we had a garden. The mill company gave a place to put your hogs. And the cows was back in the backyard. They had barns, with four stalls in it for four houses, and every house had one stall for a cow. But our hogs had to be on down. There was a place down there fixed for them. We had chickens, mostly, in the yard, but we had a little garden. But about three or four blocks from there there was some open land, and we had a garden there. They let us have gardens there. And we always had a garden, raised our own things and had our own meat and our own milk and butter. And my mother sold buttermilk. We liked butter very well, but we wasn't crazy about milk, so she sold milk and made money

Page 12
thataway. But we did drink what we wanted. Most of the milk we ever wanted was buttermilk. None of us children wasn't crazy about any other kind of milk. We made pretty good. My mother canned vegetables and things. Back then, people were very nice to one another, too. If one didn't have it, they wanted to divide with them, you know. People was more neighborly then than they are now. We had a good life. We didn't have things. I don't have much now—I never have had—so it doesn't make much difference to me. But still, we didn't have things like they have now. We didn't even have rugs on the floor till I got pretty good size. We scrubbed the floors. My daddy was the bossman when he was at Poe Mill, so they put water in our house, and we had water and bath and all. But all the regular mill people that lived there had pumps out on the street, and that was cooler water than what was in the house, so we'd get our drinking water out there, mostly. But we didn't have to tote water for things, but I have worked for neighbors, help them wash clothes and scrub floors for them. We'd go anywhere around anybody wanted to hire us, twenty-five cents a room to scrub a floor. And I mean you had to scrub it and tote the water from way over across the street.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
JIM LELOUDIS:
That's really interesting, that you kids would hire yourself out to help neighbors.
MARY THOMPSON:
Oh, yes, sir, we was going to make a dime every way we can. [Laughter] From the time we got big enough to tote buckets of water, some people would hire us —some of them didn't have as much as we did, too, like it is now—to tote their water to wash the clothes. They always washed

Page 13
outside and had tubs of water to wash and rinse, and a pot to boil them. And they'd pay us maybe ten or fifteen cents to tote their water for them. And we'd do that, and then we'd babysit some after we got a little bigger, and scrub floors for people, twenty-five cents a room. I never will forget that. [Laughter] I scrubbed four floors one time, me and my brother; we made a dollar, and we thought we got rich that day. [Laughter] But we did most anything that we could to make a little money.
CARL THOMPSON:
Yes, that dollar would have went farther than five dollars would go now, though.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did you have to give that money to your mother, or was that yours?
MARY THOMPSON:
We had to give it to Mama, but the only thing is, she usually bought us some cloth to make us a dress, or the boys would get a shirt out of it or something like that. We'd get cloth; then we'd have to make us a dress. Of course, if we had enough dresses right then, we wasn't allowed to have too many; we couldn't afford them. But then she'd spend the money maybe to buy ice cream for all of us or something like that.
JIM LELOUDIS:
So, in a way, you always got a little of it back in some kind of treat.
MARY THOMPSON:
I got some of it, and we'd have ice cream suppers at our church, and we'd get some of that money to buy us ice cream at the church. And boys and girls would get together and play and sing at different homes, too, and we enjoyed ourself thataway.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Tell me about some of this. I was going to ask you what type things you did when you had some free time, what type games you played and what you did to entertain yourself.
MARY THOMPSON:
We went to parties and done about the same thing… Well, I don't know what they do at parties now. I don't guess it's the same thing

Page 14
now; I guess it's smoking and all that. Now I don't know what they do, but then we played games, spinning the bottle, things like that. And of course, like all boys and girls, we loved to talk. We wasn't allowed to go outdoors or nothing like that, but get off to ourself and talk, you know. And then we'd have times where they'd all come to one house, different houses, and some of them had pianos, and we had a piano. And we'd play and sing and then sit around and talk.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What would you talk about?
MARY THOMPSON:
Like all boys and girls. [Laughter] Just different things. We'd talk about music and the church, and then we just liked to talk to one another. There ain't too much difference, only just they have more freedom now; they have too much freedom. But there wasn't too much difference; boys and girls then fell in love and fell out, just like now. [Laughter] They fell in love too quick. So I got married real young, and I had a baby, and then that cut it out, all the parties and things. Then we didn't live together too long till we were separated, and so I raised the baby. Oh, he helped some, but not much. He's dead now. But the trouble is, most boys and girls at that time got married too early. They don't get married quite as early now as they did back then, I don't think.
JIM LELOUDIS:
When did you feel like you had grown up, that you were an adult?
MARY THOMPSON:
We was just then like they are now; we thought we knowed it all when we was fourteen years old. All boys and girls thinks that. Then after they get up around thirty, they find out they didn't know nothing. That's the whole thing about it. It's the same thing. They've always thought they knowed it all when they started about fourteen.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How old were you when you married?

Page 15
MARY THOMPSON:
I lacked one month of being sixteen. I was fifteen.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How did you meet your husband?
MARY THOMPSON:
At a party at my house. He had lived in the mountains about all his life, and his daddy and him had come down and got a job in the cotton mill there at Poe Mill. And they moved down there, and his mother had twelve children, I believe, but one of them was married when I met him. And he come to a party one night there, and that's how I met him. And then after we got married, his people moved back to the mountains. They didn't stay down there very long, and then after we separated he went back up there above Slater. He went to work at Slater and stayed up there with his daddy and them.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did your parents approve of your getting married so young?
MARY THOMPSON:
No, they didn't want me to, but I did.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did you run off? Did you elope?
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes, run off. Like all of them, nearly. Back then, we thought that if we just got married, we could be free then, do as we pleased, and found out you don't ever get free in life. [Laughter] But that's just the mistakes young people makes, but there are lots of them does. Others was marrying young, and I thought I had to, too.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You said you had a child real quickly. How did getting pregnant so young make you feel?
MARY THOMPSON:
I was eighteen when she was born. Back then, I guess everywhere, around where we lived that was mostly what they did. They got married young and started a family young, but I didn't have but one. I stopped. [Laughter] But most of them did that; they had children around eighteen or nineteen years old. And I got a brother, him and his wife married when they were sixteen, and by the time they was eighteen, they'd already had two children.

Page 16
They ain't but fifty-three now. They've just got two children, but they've got seven grandchildren, some of them about grown.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You said once you got married and had a child, that put an end to things.
MARY THOMPSON:
It put an end to running around to parties. You see, married people didn't go to parties then, not with the single ones.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did that upset you any?
MARY THOMPSON:
No.
JIM LELOUDIS:
It sounded like maybe you were just a little …
MARY THOMPSON:
You worked so hard you didn't even think about things like that. I didn't. After my baby got two months old, I went back to work in the mill. We worked so hard, and then we got two rooms there on the mill village and we kept house there on the mill village.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Who took care of the child after you went back to work?
MARY THOMPSON:
My mother, till she got bigger, and then you could hire colored people for two dollars a week to come there every day and take care of them, so I hired a colored woman after she got big enough, weaned and all.
JIM LELOUDIS:
I was talking to a woman this morning who told me that while her child was young, they allowed her to come home during the day to nurse the child.
MARY THOMPSON:
I did.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did they allow you to do that?
MARY THOMPSON:
I sure did. I worked there after me and my husband separated. My father then was living at Union Bleachery. I don't know whether you know anything about Greenville or not, but it's about a mile or a little more from American Spinning Company. I don't know whether they still go by

Page 17
that name now or not. It's next there to Poe Mill. I went to work at American Spinning Company. It's a little over a mile, cutting through; it's a little more if you went around the street. I'd get up and go to work every morning, and then we got an hour for dinner. We worked ten hours then. And I'd walk home—I mean it was uphill most of the way [Laughter] —and let her nurse and then walk back and work till six o'clock that night, then walk back home.
JIM LELOUDIS:
But they didn't give you any special time off, did they, to do …
MARY THOMPSON:
No.
JIM LELOUDIS:
I talked to this woman, and they had given her breaks during the day.
CARL THOMPSON:
Well, they would, practically, in some …
MARY THOMPSON:
They didn't let me have no breaks to go home.
CARL THOMPSON:
I remember several there at Rock Hill that had babies, and they let them go home and nurse.
MARY THOMPSON:
They lived right close, but you see …
JIM LELOUDIS:
But you were a good ways away.
CARL THOMPSON:
In other words, they could walk home maybe in ten minutes, and they'd give them about thirty minutes to go home and nurse the baby, then go back.
MARY THOMPSON:
After my daughter got up in school, I went back to work at Slater and I took her and we moved up there. And I'd always work all I could. If they had plenty of drawing in, sometimes I'd work sixteen hours a day. And after she got in school, when they wanted me to work late I'd go home and get her and bring her some coloring books and pencil and paper, and bring her down there and sit her by the drawing frame, and we'd sit there and I'd work till eleven o'clock and take her home. [Laughter] I've worked many a time with her sitting right by me. [Laughter]

Page 18
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did many women do that? Was that a pretty common practice?
MARY THOMPSON:
No, there wasn't too many of them that was single like me that was raising a child. That wasn't as common then as it is now. Most of them was married people, and if they had to work they worked them hours, some of them did. Some of them that had husbands wouldn't even do that, if they had more than one child. But I just had one. And they didn't have to do it, to tell you the truth, but there wasn't very many. There was one once in a while that would bring their child if they had to have work, but it wasn't a common thing.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You said you had a black woman to come take care of her. Would she just come take care of the child, or did she help you with your housework?
MARY THOMPSON:
She'd do the housework and take care of the child. You could usually pick up right good colored people. Of course, sometime you'd have trouble with them. I never did like to, but I had to do it anyway. I went to the welfare office lots of times and asked for somebody to keep my child, and I'd always have to let them live in. And they'd send me somebody, and if they didn't work out they'd take them off of the welfare. If they done something that they could have helped doing and just didn't work out, why, they'd tell them that they'd have to work or they'd be took off the welfare. If they'd do that now, they'd be better off. Then they'd send me somebody else. But very seldom I had to report them, that something happened. They'd steal money or steal food or something like that, and I'd catch them and have to let them off, and then they'd just turn them out of the welfare.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You said they would live in. Was that pretty common? Did most of the women you had work for you live in?
MARY THOMPSON:
Most of the time they did, because when she was at that age

Page 19
from starting school on up till I had to start leaving Greenville to get jobs, Slater is in the country like, and I lived on my father's cousin's place, and that was up in the country. And I'd get help from town, because there wasn't no help around there to get. And I'd have to go get them on Sunday night and take them back on the next Saturday evening. And so they had to stay all the week. And I could get help thataway better, because there was always plenty of help in Greenville, because there was lots of colored people and they were lots of them on welfare. So that's the way I got help.
JIM LELOUDIS:
When did your mother start taking care of your daughter?
MARY THOMPSON:
She taken care of her before she started school, from the time she was a baby on up. She'd go sometime and stay with Mama a week or two at a time, but she didn't take care of her after she started school. I'd always hire somebody.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How did you feel about this having to travel around and leave your daughter in Greenville?
MARY THOMPSON:
When I'd leave her, I'd leave her with my mother, so I never did worry about it. And if I was on a job that I had to stay a while and couldn't come home, if I could come home once a month I'd come home, and if I seen I couldn't—it was too far, or I had to work on Saturday (I wouldn't have had time to come home and go back on Sunday)—I'd call Mama or send money, and then Mama would put her on the train if it was somewhere that she didn't have to change. You know, Altavista, Virginia, she'd send her up there, and she'd send her to South Boston. She'd put her on a train, and then I'd meet the train. She'd come by herself. And then I'd send her back on Sunday night. So I was with her. It never was over three or four weeks at the most that I ever wasn't around her, as far as [unknown]. But I had her spoilt to me [Laughter] . She'd stay at Mama's a while,

Page 20
and then she'd start throwing a fit, wanting to come to her mama. [Laughter] So I had her a little bit spoilt. But everything worked out pretty good. I can look back now and see it worked out a heap better than I thought it was working out then.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did you feel then like it wasn't working out very well?
MARY THOMPSON:
Oh, I'd get worried lots of times about having to leave her at Mama's and her wanting to come to me, and sometimes I couldn't take her. But I kept up with most everything she done. I knew about whether she was behaving herself or not, and so I worried some but not too much. I knowed I had to work. There wasn't no way of keeping her up, and I had her spoilt so I had to… I'm just like all the mothers; I'd give her things she didn't have to have. I wasn't like my mother; I wasn't as tight with her as my mother was with us. And it might have been better if I had been, because now she don't pay too much attention to that dollar [Laughter] , like we did. But I'd send her money, and I'd buy her things and send to her, things to keep her from getting dissatisfied. But then the job would give out. She knew I was coming back, so I didn't have too much trouble. I worried a little bit when she'd come to me because she'd be on the train by herself, but back then they'd write her name on a piece of paper and pin it on her, and her address and telephone number and all, so nothing ever did happen. We done fine. When I was in Baltimore, she came to me. Of course, she was about eleven years old then. And she even changed trains in Washington then. She had been travelling so much, she knew how to do it. [Laughter] So then she just stayed up there with me, after I got settled up there.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How old was she when you and your husband separated?

Page 21
MARY THOMPSON:
We separated so many times, it's hard to say. The first time, she wasn't but five weeks old, and then we went back together so many times. After she got about two years old, we never did go back together. We was around one another, because we worked at the same place a good bit. He went to Detroit, Michigan, and I went up there and stayed with him two or three weeks and left to come back home.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why did you separate? Do you mind telling me?
MARY THOMPSON:
He loved the women too well. [Laughter]
JIM LELOUDIS:
He was running around?
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes. He didn't want to settle down, and so we separated for good.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did you get a legal divorce eventually?
MARY THOMPSON:
We did finally get one, but it was about twelve to fifteen years.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How did people treat you?
MARY THOMPSON:
I had my friends, just like everybody else had. Really, I'm always a person, I don't meet no strangers, and I can make friends with most everybody. If they didn't like me, it didn't make no difference to me; I'd just let them alone.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did people think you were doing something wrong by not pretending to be married?
MARY THOMPSON:
Oh, I knew they did, but they didn't have the guts to tell me to my face. [Laughter] I knew that some people was kind of… You know, they always looked down on grass widows. I knew some of them felt thataway about it, but I never did have nobody that had guts enough to tell me to my face anything.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did it bother you that people thought that way?

Page 22
MARY THOMPSON:
No, it didn't.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did you say "grass widows"?
MARY THOMPSON:
That's what they called them back then, grass widows. Now I think they just call them, what? I don't know what they call people that's divorced now, or separated.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Do you know where that term originated? That's an interesting phrase.
MARY THOMPSON:
No, I sure don't.
CARL THOMPSON:
I don't, either.
MARY THOMPSON:
I've heard that all my life.
CARL THOMPSON:
I've heard it all my life, but I don't know where it originated at. But now they say, "I'm separated from my husband," or "I will divorce."
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes, that kind of branded the woman.
CARL THOMPSON:
Yes, they've quit using that "grass widow."
MARY THOMPSON:
They didn't call a man that. They were just single after they had separated, but a woman was branded a grass widow. I guess that's to separate a widow from a divorced person, is all I know. It didn't make any difference to me noway.
CARL THOMPSON:
But now, if they're not divorced, they'll just say, "No, we're not living together, we're separated," and that's all. And after they get divorced, say, "Well, we're divorced."
MARY THOMPSON:
I know they don't brand them now.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Yes, I don't think it's quite such a social stigma anymore.
CARL THOMPSON:
No.
MARY THOMPSON:
I don't think so, either.
CARL THOMPSON:
It's been a long time since I've heared that word "a grass

Page 23
widow."
MARY THOMPSON:
I hadn't heard it in years. I have to think about us calling people that's separated …
CARL THOMPSON:
You used to hear it rather often back years and years ago, but it's very seldom you hear it now.
MARY THOMPSON:
But it didn't make any difference to me. I never did worry about it. I had my own friends. I always made lots of friends, so I never did have any trouble. I still make lots of friends, and I don't worry about the ones I don't make, either. I always just try to hold my head up and do right and live as close to the Lord as I can, so I don't really worry about things like that. If nobody don't like me, well, that's just their hard luck, not mine. [Laughter]
JIM LELOUDIS:
Let's talk a little bit about how you first went to work. You said you worked in the summers when you were young.
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes. I was fourteen when I went to work in the summer. I went to work there at Poe Mill, and I went to work creeling on warpers. And then I run the warpers, and then I went back to school. And then the next summer I went to the spooler room and worked in the spooler room a good while; then I went back to school. But I quit then in school and went back to work, and I worked in the spooler, and then I went to the draw-in room and learned to draw in. And so I stayed in the draw-in room from then on.
JIM LELOUDIS:
And drawing in was your first permanent job?
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How did you get those summer jobs?
MARY THOMPSON:
My daddy was boss in the machine shop, and you know one always has pulled for the other; they always tried to work one another's

Page 24
children. So that's the way we did. We didn't have no trouble getting jobs.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How did you learn those jobs? Did you get any formal training, or did they assign you to someone?
MARY THOMPSON:
You have somebody to show you to get started. Then you just keep learning. Then, in some of the jobs, you had to work six weeks to learn, but then we never did. I never did work but three or four weeks.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did you get paid while you were learning?
MARY THOMPSON:
No. But that mill quit that. They quit and got to paying. I think they give them about two weeks to learn, and then start paying them. But I don't think I ever worked over two or three weeks without pay to learn anything. And then when I went to drawing in, that was piecework. And my sister drawed in, and she was the one that taught me, so I got the pay from the start there. They paid you so much for a warp, and so I got pay from the start. Of course, I was slow and I didn't make very much. When your speed picks up, you make more and more. But my sister taught me there. Now anyone that come in there that didn't have nobody to teach them, had to pay somebody to teach them. They wouldn't hire you unless you could hire somebody to teach you.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Oh, you paid somebody to teach you.
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why would they do that?
MARY THOMPSON:
Because it was expensive to teach anyone.
JIM LELOUDIS:
But that person would lose their pay, I guess, while they were…
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes, that's right, while they was teaching them. But most people had somebody that would teach them. But it didn't cost me nothing.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Had you ever been in the mill before the summer jobs?

Page 25
MARY THOMPSON:
I hadn't worked any.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Had you been in? Had you visited?
MARY THOMPSON:
Oh, yes, my daddy was the bossman. He'd take us down there and take us all the way through, and so we'd been in the mill ever since I can remember.
JIM LELOUDIS:
But did you have someone to teach you those summer jobs?
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes, but you didn't have to pay for that. They'd just start you off, and it was all piecework. Now creeling, you tied the threads on at the back, and you had to fill up a whole thing, and it run up on the warps then. That's the first job I ever done. Somebody showed me how; I wouldn't have been able to do it. And then after I learned to do that, I learned to pull the threads through, and then I just learnt myself warping. When the warper hand would go off to the rest room or somewhere, it's a wonder I hadn't tore up the warps, but I had seen her enough that I learned [Laughter] to run the warperjust while she was gone. That's the way I learned to run a car, too. [Laughter] I learned to run the warpers, and so he had me run warpers. You made more money at that. I was always kind of curious. I wanted to learn everything. Everything looked more interesting than what I was doing, so I'd want to do something else.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Was drawing in the only job you had to pay to get somebody to teach you?
MARY THOMPSON:
That's the only one I know of.
JIM LELOUDIS:
I guess that took a lot more skill and a lot more practice and all.
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes, it'd take more skill. And the bosses couldn't teach you that, because they didn't know it theirself. So they'd have to get somebody that knew how to draw in to teach you, and that's the reason you had to pay for that. Now that was just when I first started. Now years

Page 26
after that, the laws changed and all, and they even stopped them from working them six weeks without pay, too. When I first went to Slater, they had boys to put up the warps on the back of the frames and pull them over for us, because they was heavy. I don't know how much they weighed, but a hundred or so pounds, I guess. Anyway, they were whole lots heavier than a woman could lift. And they had boys for that, and they'd work them. They'd go out there in the country and get them boys and hire them and tell them they'd have to work six weeks. You know, country people, their money just come in once a year, and the mountain people didn't make too much noway unless they made liquor. And they'd hire them and tell them they'd have to work six weeks without money. Well, that just tickled them to death, that they'd just get a chance to work in a mill. And they'd work them six weeks, and they'd find something wrong with them and lay them off, and get other boys.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Labor for nothing.
MARY THOMPSON:
And they run it a long time like that. And then, you see, the laws …
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
MARY THOMPSON:
… when they got to talking about Roosevelt, when he come in he was going to put it on forty hours? And I said, "Well, that's dumb, going to pay people as much money to not do nothing." I thought that was the craziest thing I ever heard tell of.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You thought Roosevelt and the forty-hours thing was dumb?
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes. Well, I'd been working ten hours a day. I didn't mind it. And he wanted to cut down to eight hours a day and then pay the same

Page 27
amount of money. I thought, well, that was the dumbest thing I ever heard tell of.
JIM LELOUDIS:
[Laughter]
MARY THOMPSON:
I says, this was what was [unclear] going to make lazy people. And it did. [Laughter] Because naturally people got lazier when they worked eight hours. But they did put more work on people, on some jobs that they could do it. For us, we just went by piece anyway, so it didn't hurt us.
JIM LELOUDIS:
That's really interesting, about hiring those young boys out of the country.
MARY THOMPSON:
[Laughter]
JIM LELOUDIS:
When did you say those laws changed so they couldn't do that?
MARY THOMPSON:
Well, that's been years and years ago.
That was way before Roosevelt come in, because about the time Roosevelt come in, that's when they started that forty hours and started making them pay. They put a minimum wage on.
CARL THOMPSON:
That was back in the twenties.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Back in the twenties that they stopped that no-pay training period?
MARY THOMPSON:
I imagine so.
JIM LELOUDIS:
I think we missed it on the first tape. That's why I wanted to get that on here.
MARY THOMPSON:
I don't remember just what year it was. No, Nola was born in 1929, so it was in the early thirties.
CARL THOMPSON:
According to that, then, it wasn't long before Roosevelt came in.
MARY THOMPSON:
It wasn't. It was after I went up there to work, but it was in the early thirties. It was before Roosevelt come in. But when he come in, he changed lots of laws. He was the best President we ever had. [Laughter] But we didn't realize it then, because he was going to do so much, and we

Page 28
never had done nothing, so we just wondered, is this lots of baloney and all. But he sure did help the working person a whole lot.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How so, besides changing the minimum wage and the hours?
MARY THOMPSON:
The minimum wage, and cut it down to forty hours, and that was a big help. And then they'd keep raising the minimum wage, and naturally we'd make more money. And from then on, things has been building up. Now it's gotten to where inflation's about to take over, but he's the one that started the country building up to where it is now. And people working eight hours that had been working ten, that's a big difference.
CARL THOMPSON:
Well, I've worked eleven hours.
MARY THOMPSON:
We worked ten hours, and then worked five on Saturday, too, you see. We worked fifty-five hours a week till he put that forty hours on. And they wouldn't pay that time-and-a-half unless it was an emergency, so we didn't have to work overtime, just forty hours. Now that was a big cut.
JIM LELOUDIS:
It gave you a lot more time off to spend with your daughter.
MARY THOMPSON:
That's right. But we never had had it, so we didn't know what to do with it for a while. [Laughter] But it was wonderful. And then, you see, we got the same pay. They raised the minimum wage till we got the same pay. He was a wonderful President, the best one we've ever had. I wish we had another one that had the brains that he had. I think they do the best they can—I'm not downing no President—but I just think that everybody ain't got that gift, to have the brains he had to straighten it out. Because the country was in a pretty bad fix, you know, during the Depression, but he straightened it out, and that was good.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Tell me a little bit about this travelling around to the different jobs. How would you hear about jobs around?
MARY THOMPSON:
Through the company. They would call the company and tell.

Page 29
If a place wanted draw-in hands, they'd call a company that had draw-in hands, ask them if they'd have one to come. And they'd find out if they had work or whether they were laying them off. And one company would call another; that's the way it went. Some of them was the same company. Carter had them all over Virginia, and I was working for Carter's at Slater. And then from there at Burlington they'd call other Carter's up there, wanting to know, and that's the way we found it out.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Was there a group of you that would sometimes travel together?
MARY THOMPSON:
Sometimes there was more than one go, but most of the time I'd find out by myself. Sometimes somebody else would go with me. There was a crowd went to Tarboro, North Carolina, from here, but I wouldn't go up there with them. I had a chance to go there, but that was after me and Carl married, and I wouldn't go up there.
CARL THOMPSON:
You mean Bimburg?
MARY THOMPSON:
No, it was Tarboro, when they first started going up there. Then we did go up there and try to get a job, and Carl got one by the time the drawing in was give out, so I didn't get one. I went to Calvine Mill, too. I was working there when it shut down. I don't know whether you know where that's at.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Yes, I've been by there.
MARY THOMPSON:
And I don't know what company it was—I didn't go—but they called there wanting some drawing-in hands to Puerto Rico, and they sent some of them around. But he couldn't send none from Calvine, because we had plenty of work at the time. I said something about I'd like to go, but he said I'd be leaving the job, because he'd have to hire somebody in my place. So he called some of the drawing-in hands that we knew that was out of work, and some of them went to Puerto Rico. But that's the way it all

Page 30
happened. They'd call different cotton mills that had draw-in hands and used draw-in hands for fancy work. It's mostly fancy work that they wanted you for. Calvine was a plain mill, but that's the only plain mill I've worked in.
JIM LELOUDIS:
So most of you that travelled were the ones that knew how to set up the fancy?
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes. Most of them was wanting fancy, because it didn't pay them to learn a bunch of people just for the help they get. [unclear] It was cheaper for them to pay our way—they'd pay our way up there and pay our expenses and all and then pay us a salary—than it was to teach a draw-in hand.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Would the plain mills usually have their own draw-in hands?
MARY THOMPSON:
They usually had theirs. They didn't use very many, and it wasn't too hard to teach people the plain work, because that was just drawing straight threads through, so that wasn't hard to teach people.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Where would you stay when you would go off to a mill?
MARY THOMPSON:
They'd get you places to stay in boarding houses and hotels and anywhere close that they had. And I stayed at hotels at some of them; I stayed at boarding houses. Most of them was boarding houses, because I preferred boarding houses. I'd a heap rather stay in a boarding house, because it wasn't as lonesome away from home. But it was mostly either hotels or boarding houses.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What was it like, living in a boarding house?
MARY THOMPSON:
It was kind of family-like. Most every boarding house I ever lived in was real nice. Usually someone real nice runs it, and it's kind of like living in a family. You know, I was raised in a big family [Laughter] , so it's kind of like a home. And so I didn't mind it; I liked

Page 31
boarding houses.
CARL THOMPSON:
Yes, you'd get used to everyone after you stayed there a while, stay maybe six months or maybe sometime a year. And you'd get acquainted with them, and you'd just hate to see them leave, or you'd hate to leave yourself whenever you would leave, because you'd made a lot of friends and enjoyed yourself and all. And it was almost like leaving home, whenever you'd stay a pretty good while thataway.
MARY THOMPSON:
I wouldn't stay in just any kind. I've heard of broken-down boarding houses and rough boarding houses and such as that, but I wouldn't stay at places like that. It had to be a nice respectable place.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Would people in the houses get together and …
MARY THOMPSON:
Play cards. They mostly played cards and maybe checkers and dominoes and things like that. We'd do that every night, nearly. If there was enough there, sometime we'd go uptown or something like that, you know, at different places. But we'd play cards till eleven or twelve o'clock at night lots of times. He never would play cards [Laughter] , so that after I married I never did get to play cards. I used to play with my daughter, but she lives at Rock Hill so I don't get around her much. But I enjoyed it. There ain't no place like home, but I guess that's the nearest place like home there is, is a boarding house. And I always stayed in nice ones. The people who run it was always nice. I wouldn't stay at a rough house.
JIM LELOUDIS:
I'd like to know a little bit more about this job. You said the supervisors wouldn't know how to do it. Did that mean you could kind of go about your work the way you wanted to?
MARY THOMPSON:
Sure. They knew if you made a mistake. When it went to the weave room it showed up, and you had to go in there and straighten it

Page 32
out. But they knew that, if you was making mistakes. If you made too many mistakes, they might get after you. I don't know; I never did have that trouble. But I did have to fix some. I'm not saying I didn't make mistakes, but I never did make enough that it caused the bossman to say anything. I never would have any trouble like that. But he didn't know how to do the work. He could see how it was supposed to be done and all like that, but he couldn't have sat down and done it hisself. But he knew enough about the draft of the pattern. He'd just give us the draft. It was done in the office, and we drawed it like the draft was.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Do you feel like that gave you any more freedom than other workers?
MARY THOMPSON:
I enjoyed it more than anything I've done. I tell you, lots of people would complain about the work, but honest to goodness, I'd rather draw in than eat when I was hungry. I never got tired of drawing in. And it kept your mind occupied all the time, because if you didn't keep your mind on it you'd make a mistake. It was something that you had to keep your mind going all the time, and counting in your mind. Every thread had to be counted. And you knew just when to drop off and start another pattern and all, and it was interesting to me.
JIM LELOUDIS:
It sounds like you took a lot of pride in it.
MARY THOMPSON:
I loved drawing in. I was a person who always liked things that took a mind to do, and not just labor. Now when I went to school, arithmetic and algebra, something that took a little studying. Now I enjoyed that. But when you come to other work, reading and writing and such as that, that was boresome to me.
JIM LELOUDIS:
And of course your job was really kind of a practical application of that math.
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes, so I really loved it. I always did love to draw in.

Page 33
I wish I was drawing in now. If I was in Greenville, I'd be trying to get [unknown], even if it was plain work. I wasn't crazy about plain work, because you didn't use your mind enough on that. It's all the same thing over and over. But I'd rather draw in than eat when I was hungry. I really loved it. The only thing I ever done in my life that I loved. [Laughter]
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did those of you who were draw-in hands ever set some kind of informal rules about how long you'd work or how fast you'd work?
MARY THOMPSON:
No, you could work as fast as you wanted to. Of course, there was laws; if you worked over eight hours after the law come in, you'd have to be paid time-and-a-half. But before the law come in, they didn't have to pay time-and-a-half noway, but you still got paid for the work you done; it was piecework. And the more you worked, the more money you made, but you still didn't get time-and-a-half. But if the bossman wanted you to work and you wanted to work, there wasn't no law that said that you couldn't work or nothing like that. So maybe I'd want to work late, and if they needed me the bossman would ask me, and I'd tell him I would. I always was right up to working late, getting all the work in I could. So that's just the way it was. It was all piecework, and if I drawed in fast I just made more money. Somebody else fool around and go to the bathroom or sit around and talk and such as that, why, they just lost their money. But I was out for making all the money I could. [Laughter] So I done good at it.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did you prefer piece rate over an hourly wage?
MARY THOMPSON:
Oh, yes. That gives you the incentive to get more interested in your work, to see how much you can do. Yes, I liked piecework the best. People that didn't like to work much, that wanted to sit around and talk and

Page 34
go to the bathroom and such as that, most of them would say they'd rather work on hour work, but people that go in there to make money… See, you made more money on piecework. But that's about all I know about my work. It was kind of interesting to me, but it was boresome, I guess, to hear other people talk about it. [Laughter]
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did any of you ever compete to see who would do the most?
MARY THOMPSON:
I don't know whether you could call it competing or not. Some of us could do it whole lots better than others. There was some that could do even better than me. I could usually stay up about with the top. And there was some of them that wasn't a fast hand and didn't want to be. As long as they could make the minimum wage, they were satisfied, and so they didn't make too much. But drawing in is a good-paying job. They always paid us good.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How much did you make?
MARY THOMPSON:
Well, there was different prices. When Roosevelt first come in, we made twenty-five cents an hour. [Laughter] Before then, we didn't make that much. I don't remember much. When I first started working in the mill spooling, I think I made about ten cents an hour. But then when I went to drawing in, I don't remember just what I made then, but I've made as much as a hundred dollars a week drawing in. That was before things got… That was good money, but not every week. Just when they'd have good work, good patterns, and everything went just right.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did the other people in the mill look up to you or treat you any better?
MARY THOMPSON:
No. We was all cotton mill people, so it didn't make any difference. I don't guess they did. I never did think of myself as

Page 35
any better than anybody else.
CARL THOMPSON:
We was all just about alike.
MARY THOMPSON:
Loom fixers made about the same as we did. Everybody was just about the same. There wasn't no one no better than the others because they had a different job. We was all workers, and cotton mill workers.
One time when they laid me off at Poe Mill, me and another girl, a friend of mine, went down there at Kress's. Never had worked in a store. We got us a job at Kress's right at Christmastime. I never will forget it; it was the hardest work I ever done in my life. You didn't make nothing, though. Now them girls acted a little snooty. They said, "Well, I certainly wouldn't work in a cotton mill for nothing." I said, "I'd rather work in a cotton mill for what money I make than slave like y'all working for what y'all are making." And they didn't make no money, hardly, in the stores then, but it was the prestige, I guess, that they liked. But that's the only time that I ever heard anybody say anything about …
JIM LELOUDIS:
Were you ever called a "linthead" as a child or when you got older?
MARY THOMPSON:
No, because we lived on the mill village, and everybody else was the same thing we was. [Laughter] And we went to the church right there on the village, so everybody was the same as we was, so nobody couldn't call the other one names. That's the only time, the time I went to Kress's, and they said they certainly wouldn't work in an old cotton mill. That's the first time I'd ever heard anybody say anything about a cotton mill.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did it make you mad?
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes, it made me mad.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did it hurt your feelings?
MARY THOMPSON:
No, it didn't hurt my feelings. It made me mad. I always had a little temper, and I got about it. I said, "I sure wouldn't

Page 36
want to slave here all the time for what little y'all are making. I'd rather work in a cotton mill anytime." I went back to the cotton mill, too, after Christmas, when they laid us off. They just had us hired till Christmas. After Christmas there was some drawing in picked up. I didn't even try to go to another store. I thought, "Lord, don't give me no store work." But, of course, store work got better after that. That was back during the Depression.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How widespread was the negative town attitude toward cotton mill people?
MARY THOMPSON:
I don't know. In Greenville, South Carolina, the cotton mill people run the place, nearly. The real city is very small. It's a little bigger now, but back then the city of Greenville wasn't anything, hardly. I had a friend who moved up in the city part and had to go to Greenville High, and they said they were snooty up there at the school about them coming from cotton mill people.
But that's about the only thing I ever heard, because I didn't… My grandfather lived in town, and my daddy and mother were raised in town. But then we were raised at the cotton mill. They tried to take those cotton mills in the city several times. They had to vote on it, and so everybody'd vote for it to stay out of the city, and the city'd lose. And one year there, I know that they went and made a law that you had to pay your taxes… You know, sometimes people would pay their taxes late, because they didn't make too much, and they just paid them kind of as they got it, I guess. I don't know. But they made a rule there that they'd have to have their tax receipt before they could vote, when they said they was going to vote to take it in the city. They had lost so many times because everybody in the cotton mill

Page 37
part would vote against taking them in the city. And so they brought it up then that they'd have to have their tax receipt before they could vote. So when it come up, the mill companies paid their taxes for them so they'd know they'd have it paid on time, so they'd have their receipt. So they still killed it. And they still ain't brought the mills in the city.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why did the mill people vote against it?
MARY THOMPSON:
Because the mills would have to pay higher taxes, and we didn't want to go in the city noway. We didn't want the city.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why not?
MARY THOMPSON:
Because we never had lived in the city, and we wanted to stay at the cotton mills.
CARL THOMPSON:
They wanted to stay in the county.
MARY THOMPSON:
We lived about a mile from the city.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did the mill management come talk to you and try to persuade you to vote against it?
MARY THOMPSON:
They couldn't say they'd persuade you, no. They brought it up, and then they said that they would pay everybody's taxes, and then you could pay the mill company, and then you'd have your receipt. So everybody'd have their receipt to vote the way they wanted to. So they voted it down. And I believe that's the last time they've ever brought it up to vote the cotton mills into the city. I can't remember them ever bringing it back up. Now the city has stretched out some good bit, but it's not stretched out thataway. They've take in more land and built more houses and all, and it's went more south. But at that time the city was very small. I believe Camperdown was the only one in the city at the time. I'm not sure. Mills Mill might have been in the city at the time. I think they had one or two in the city, and, law, Greenville had I don't know how many cotton mills.

Page 38
It was pretty good-sized. It ain't nothing like Charlotte, but it is pretty good-sized, but they had lots of cotton mills. But they was outside the city, you see. But they quit fooling with them, because they seen they couldn't win. And they didn't try to vote, to my knowing. Now I left there, but still, to my knowing they never did try to vote them in the city no more. They just taken the city the other way. But we didn't want in the city. The cotton mill people didn't want the city. They'd have to pay the city taxes, and we wouldn't get nothing out of it. And the mill companies naturally didn't want in the city, because they'd have to pay higher taxes. So that's the way they kept out of the city.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Going back to your work, do you ever remember dreaming about your work at all?
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Do you remember what you dreamed, the type of dreams you'd have?
MARY THOMPSON:
I dreamed about drawing in. [Laughter] I never did dream about doing nothing else. I always loved it so it was always good dreams.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did you ever have any bad ones about it?
MARY THOMPSON:
The only bad dreams I ever had [were] after I went to supervising in the sewing room. I'd dream sometime about that and having trouble. That was the aggravatingest job that I ever had in my life. My health wouldn't have went down so bad, I don't think, if I hadn't have went for that. But I had dreams about having trouble after I went to the sewing room, but I never did when I was drawing in.
JIM LELOUDIS:
That was at Southern Knitwear?
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes. Southern Knitwear and Schultz [unclear] Manufacturing Company.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did people ever tell jokes in the mill?
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes, they'd tell jokes, and they were like they are all the time.

Page 39
Some would tell dirty jokes, but decent people wouldn't listen to them. We told jokes, but they was clean jokes.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What kind of jokes would you tell? Did you ever tell jokes on the machines or one another?
MARY THOMPSON:
Really, I never was a person could tell a joke. That's one thing I never could do. Some of them would tell me jokes, and I'd try to tell them and I'd forget them by the time I tried to tell somebody else. I never was as interested in jokes as some people are, and I never could tell them.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Do you remember some of the topics they would tell them about?
MARY THOMPSON:
No. I haven't heard no jokes in so long, I don't recall a whole lot of them. [Laughter]
CARL THOMPSON:
I never did care much about it. I'd joke [unknown], usually. If they was going to tell smutty jokes, I'd just turn around and walk off. But I never did care nothing about them, or I never did curse. And none of my people never did, my father or any of them. Anybody'd go to cursing or using dirty jokes thataway, well, I'd just turn around and walk off and leave them. Didn't care if anybody listened to them.
MARY THOMPSON:
I tell you, if you're not raised around it, you don't care for it. You can't tell me that the way people's raised ain't the way they go. They might sometime get off from it a little bit, but they'll come back. The Bible says raise the child up the way it should go and it won't depart from it, and I believe that, because I've seen too much of it. I do believe sometime they'll go out and maybe make mistakes and all, but they'll come back. If the people'd start taking their children to church and teaching them the Bible and all, there wouldn't be nearly the trouble now. There wouldn't be these children out here running around up and down

Page 40
this street at two and three o'clock in the morning. And they wouldn't be walking up and down the street smoking pot, and whatever is smoking, it smells terrible. And look like half the time they're half high, and cursing like a sailor, and just a little bitty thing. Now if they'd been raised right, don't tell me that they'd be doing that; I know they wouldn't. But I know we all made mistakes in some ways. I made mistakes in spoiling mine. But still, I raised her to be decent and respectful, and she don't drink or smoke or nothing like that, or curse. But we all make mistakes in raising them, but if you try to raise them decent and teach them the Bible and teach them to go to church, you aren't going to have the trouble with children they have now.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Was the church real important in your family?
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes, it was.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did you receive any religious training in your home?
MARY THOMPSON:
Oh, yes. We always had religious teaching in my home. We were taught what to do and what not to do, and we was taught what the Bible said.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did the family get together to read the Bible?
MARY THOMPSON:
Not all together all the time, but my mother would get some of us around. Some of them was always out playing, but she taught us thataway. My daddy was a good man, but he left everything, even the teaching, up to Mama, and he done the work. But they taught us what the Bible said we should do. What's taught a child stands in their mind the rest of their life. That's one thing I don't think ever leaves you; it'll keep coming back. And I believe your conscience will bring it back to you if you start doing things you oughtn't to, because I can't say that I've been an angel all my life. And I don't think anybody else has. But I never have been one.

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But still, if I was tempted to do things wrong, my teaching's what my conscience that I didn't do it. And I believe in teaching a child the way it should go. But then they taught more in the homes than they do now. And another thing, we were taught in the schools. We had our devotion; we was taught the Bible; we had to learn Bible verses in the school. We always had prayer and devotion every morning before we started, and we were taught what was right and wrong in school. They're not taught that now. When they took the Bible out of schools, they …
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
JIM LELOUDIS:
So if the parents didn't do it, you say the schools then would kind of pick up on it.
MARY THOMPSON:
That's right. The schools taught it. We had the teaching of the Bible and prayer and all in school, and now they have dope and cursing and sex and everything else now in school. That's the difference in the schools. That's what's ruining so many children, too, today. Schools back on, if they can't get it in their homes, at least they could get it in school if it was in schools. They'd get a little bit of it. At least they'd know there was a God, and they'd know that there's a Bible, and they'd know what's right and wrong, if they were taught it in school. Now I'm not saying you should teach denomination in school; I'm not part of that. But the Bible should be taught in school, and you should have prayer in school, and teaching right and wrong in school. And there wouldn't be so much meanness if there was. My daughter's a study hall teacher at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, and she says that it's awful, what's in school today. She tells me more than anything else.

Page 42
Of course, I hear other teachers talking about it, too, but she tells me the way they do in school. She says it's just surprising the way the children is doing in school today. And that's what makes our country, the children, so what are they going to be in the future if that's what they're going to have in schools? You think we're old-timey; we are. And we might be boresome, but we believe in being clean and believe in the Bible. And I believe if the schools would go back to prayer in school, it'd be better, too. I hope Senator Helms gets his bill through. Might be it's gone so far, it might… I don't know, though; the Lord can do wonders. So it might be that He can still turn the world around and turn the morale around in schools. Of course, it takes a little bit of parents to do things, too, but where so many of them don't have the parents to do, they could at least help some of them in school.
JIM LELOUDIS:
As you said, the church was real important in your life.
MARY THOMPSON:
Sure. We went to the Baptist church. There was a Methodist church there on the village, too, and so once in a while we'd play hooky and go to the Methodist because some of our friends would be going there. We really wasn't Methodist, but lots of our friends was Methodist. I'm one of these that believes that the denomination don't take you to Heaven. But now my parents was hard-shell Baptists. They believed the Baptists was all there was. [unclear] [Laughter] But I'm not thataway. I believe in the Bible and the Lord. The denominations helps because we've got to have something to follow. But our church was important in our lives. In fact, everything we did, all our entertainment and all, had to go through the church or the school. We wasn't allowed to go out and be rough like some.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How do you feel personally that God's been active in your life?
MARY THOMPSON:
He's been wonderful to me. If I do things wrong, I know

Page 43
that I can always come back to him. It's hard to say, but I really think that everything I got come from the Lord. I give Him credit for it, anyway. Our strength, we're able to do. I was in an awful fix with heart trouble, and I've got now to where I can go around and walk, and doing wonderful. I think the Lord is all we are, in my life.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Do you remember any tent revivals ever coming to the mills area?
MARY THOMPSON:
Oh, yes. We used to just love for them to come. [Laughter]
JIM LELOUDIS:
What were they like? You know, I've never been to one until last night. We saw the one out on Wilkinson Boulevard and decided to go.
MARY THOMPSON:
Sure enough. What are they doing out there?
JIM LELOUDIS:
There's a travelling evangelist who's got one out at Sam Wilson Road. But I was a Baptist, and never to a [Laughter] tent revival.
CARL THOMPSON:
I seen something about it in the paper.
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes, I've seen something about it. But the way they wrote it up in the paper—I don't know whether it was the paper or not—they wrote it up like it was some kind of show or something. Well, when we went to tent meetings, we went to serve the Lord and worship the Lord. We didn't go for no show or nothing like that. In fact, we wasn't Holiness; we were Baptists. But I have been to Holiness meetings, where they shouted and all like that, and they had wonderful singing and good preaching. They preached the Bible. But I ain't downing shouting and all because I don't know anything about it, but if the Lord puts it on their heart, I say let them go ahead. Any way they think is right to worship God, that's all right with me. But we used to go to some Holiness tent meetings, but most of the time it was Baptist.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Were they set up in the mill village itself?
MARY THOMPSON:
No, they was usually out in town or out where they'd have

Page 44
an open lot. The Pentecostal Holiness Church, not too far from the Poe Mill, used to have one back of their church, and we enjoyed going to them. Now they would shout and all. They had wonderful singing, and it done me good to go. But we just loved outdoor meetings like that. We enjoyed it.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did a lot of mill workers go to the Holiness church?
MARY THOMPSON:
Not too many, not where we lived. Now they may some places, but where we lived they didn't because there was a Baptist and a Methodist church there, and most of them went to the Baptist or the Methodist. But they didn't all go church. Now it was back then like it's always been: some people would go to church, and some people didn't. And there was lots of them that didn't go to church. We was allowed to play with them if they was decent children and all, but most of the time we'd have to go with the ones that went to church. Mama and them felt like they was a better influence on us. Maybe they wasn't; I don't know. At least that was the way Mama seen about it.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did your bosses ever object to people going to the Holiness revivals or to the Holiness church?
MARY THOMPSON:
No. Some of them didn't ever go to no church theirself, but they didn't object to you going. In fact, several of the bosses belonged to the Baptist church.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How about the mill owners? I wondered if they got bothered when the Holiness revivals would set up.
MARY THOMPSON:
No, they didn't care. I don't know about Mr. Poe. He was living. He started the Poe Mill. And then after he died, his son was the owner of the Poe Mill. And they lived over there between the village and town, on James Street. We used to go over there. They were very nice to us. But I don't know what church they went to, but there

Page 45
didn't nobody object to… In fact, they helped keep up the churches.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What did they do to help the churches?
MARY THOMPSON:
They paid their money into the churches, and then if they needed painting or any work done, they'd send people out from the mill to have it fixed. The church didn't have to pay to have it painted or repaired or anything; the mill company seen that the churches was kept up.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did they ever have much say in who would be the minister or what he would preach?
MARY THOMPSON:
No, they didn't have anything to say in that. It was voted through the church. No, they didn't try to dictate to the churches at all. But I don't know what church they went to. I really hadn't ever thought nothing about it. I don't even know whether they went to a church or not. But I do know that they did keep up our church. Over here at our church, Highland Park, Johnson in Highland Park give thousands of dollars to our church and the Presbyterian Church, give land for both churches, and the Methodist church up yonder. And they helped do repair work and all, too. See, the mill villages always did help keep up the churches that was on the mill villages so that the people would have churches to go to.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why do you think the companies were so eager to support the churches?
MARY THOMPSON:
I think it was because they knowed they'd be better workers and better people if they had churches.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How so, better workers?
MARY THOMPSON:
Because people that's living right is not out getting into trouble. And if you go to church and read the Bible, you know that you're supposed to work. And I really think they knew that people would be better workers and better people, wouldn't have the trouble with them. I don't

Page 46
know; I never heard them say so. I really don't know, but I imagine that was it. But they even used to have a schoolhouse down here at Highland Park. We had a schoolhouse at Poe Mill, too.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Was that part of the Parker School District?
MARY THOMPSON:
No, it was the Poe Mill Elementary School. We went to school there. It was about middle ways of the village, so everybody could walk easy. And then when we went to Parker High School, we could walk over there or either ride the streetcar or bus. But the Parker High School didn't have anything to do with the village, but the Poe Mill School did. And it burnt down one time, and the mill built it back.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You said if you went to church, you knew you were supposed to work. Did they preach about work very often in the church?
MARY THOMPSON:
No, it's just in the Bible that people is supposed to make their living by the sweat of their brow. They preached that.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You said they might have been concerned about people misbehaving. What happened if somebody in the village drank too much or something like that?
MARY THOMPSON:
If they got to giving trouble, they fired them and made them move. But that happened very seldom. I know that people has always looked down on the mill village, but really they was pretty decent people on the mill village, ones that we associated with. I do know that they would get shut of them pretty quick if they was too rough. If they was causing any trouble or giving disturbance or anything like that, they'd just fire them at the mill and get shut of them.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did they police the mill any at all?
MARY THOMPSON:
Oh, yes. They had policemen at the mill. Every mill had their own policemen.

Page 47
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did they ever come around and inspect the mill houses to make sure that you were keeping them up or anything like that?
MARY THOMPSON:
No, not that I know of. They didn't ours.
CARL THOMPSON:
They would in the mill, but they never did the houses. They'd come around and inspect in the mill.
MARY THOMPSON:
If anything went wrong in your house, you reported it down at the mill and they'd send somebody out to fix it.
JIM LELOUDIS:
We talked briefly a little while ago about the mill village, and you indicated it was a pretty close-knit community.
MARY THOMPSON:
It was. Everybody just about knowed everybody else.
CARL THOMPSON:
Just like this one was down here before it closed down. See, it wasn't but just two or three blocks.
MARY THOMPSON:
They are close-knit. Usually, if somebody gets down and out and needs help, there are always people ready to help.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How would you help one another?
MARY THOMPSON:
If they was down sick, they'd cook food and carry it to them, or any way that they ever needed help, they'd all get together and help. The mill people was good to help, too, if they knew somebody needed help.
CARL THOMPSON:
There was a row of houses up here burnt down, and they lost all their furniture and all. And the very next day, they went through the mill with the papers and said, "You know, So-and-so's house got burnt up up here, and they lost everything they had. Do you want to give them a little something?" Well, I don't think a hand turned them down. They'd give them a dollar or two dollars, five dollars. And they must have had a hundred dollars.
MARY THOMPSON:
People misses a whole lots by not having community, too, like that, because I believe it made you more secure or something. But now

Page 48
you're scattered; you work maybe a little one place, then work way over yonder, and you don't get close to nobody, I don't think.
JIM LELOUDIS:
And these people you saw every day. You lived with them, and you worked with them.
MARY THOMPSON:
And went to church with them. So it's kind of a close-knit family. And I think people misses a lots by that. I know, we don't have neighbor… The doors was always open, you know. There wasn't no such thing as burglars then. And even at night, half the time didn't have the doors shut. Sometimes they'd shut them; sometimes they wouldn't. If they did, they just had a little old thumb latch [Laughter] that you could shake open if you wanted to. And daytime, they didn't even have that on. If neighbors wanted to come in and borrow something, they'd come right on in your house. And here you don't even have no neighbors. If somebody gets sick, you don't even know it. I even had a woman, her brother or her daddy, one, died over here one time, and I seen the wreath over there. The first time I knew that there was a death over there. The woman right out here has been living there for years, and she went to the hospital here the other week. And she come out and come down here and told me she had been in the hospital. I didn't even know she'd been in the hospital. Didn't even know she was sick. You don't know the people much. I don't know; if you need them, it might be that you could call them. I know I'd do anything I could for any of them. They don't bother you, but you don't bother them, either.
CARL THOMPSON:
They're not neighborly like they was back then.
MARY THOMPSON:
No. Then you didn't think nothing about somebody coming on in your house, if they wanted to come visit. Children come in and out. But nowadays it's different. Everybody wants privacy. It's more lonesome, too, especially as you get older. [Laughter]

Page 49
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did people ever take up collections to help people make up their wages when they were sick?
MARY THOMPSON:
Yes, if they'd been sick a long time they would take up… They'd help them in every way they could. My daddy worked at Union Bleachery one time, and we went to the Baptist church up there. And if the family head was out a week sick, the next week they'd give him a pounding.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What's that?
MARY THOMPSON:
Bring food in, all kinds of food. Fruit and vegetables, canned goods. They'd give him a big pounding.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did they do things like that in the villages you lived in?
MARY THOMPSON:
Our church does it sometime, if we know anybody that needs it, but they're not as good to help as they used to. But once in a while a family gets down and out and they'll hear of it and they'll have you bring something to church and they'll give a pounding to somebody. But that's few and far between now. They don't do things now like they used to.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did that carry over into your work? Did people help each other when they got behind?
MARY THOMPSON:
Oh, yes. Of course, in my job nobody could help you. I know one time, though, I was working there at Slater, and I fell and broke my arm, right in my elbow here. And I was in a cast, and I could draw all of my warp—I could draw through the drop wires and the harness—but when it come to the reed you had to hold it different, and I couldn't hold it and draw a reed. And one of the women would always come and draw my reed for me, and I'd draw on her. Of course, I couldn't put out as much work as she could because I had to save one hand, but she'd let me work over on hers, and she'd draw my reed for me. And I wasn't out of work but a week. Of course, I had a child to support, so I had to work, but, you see,

Page 50
I had a broken arm. So if it hadn't been for the woman's helping, I couldn't have worked. My hand was in a sling three months, and they helped me that long. So, you see, they was always good to help you. Very seldom I had to call on anyone, but that's one time I was certainly glad that people was good to help then. But as far as coming and helping me when I was able to do it, nobody couldn't help you work; you had to do your own work. But as far as I know, that's the only time I ever had to have help. But there's lots of times people has to have help. But they were good to help.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did people ever sing in the mill?
MARY THOMPSON:
Oh, yes. People used to sing all the time. I was thinking about that here the other week. I used to sing all the time. When I was working, I'd just sit there and just sing, sing. And now they don't sing. I don't hear people singing now. I used to get in my car, me and my little girl, and we'd just sing. [Laughter] We'd come to Greenville, from up there at Slater, to visit Mama and Daddy, and we'd sing all the way down and all the way back. Nobody sings much no more.
JIM LELOUDIS:
When you would sing at work, would you sing by yourself, or would all the women kind of begin to sing together?
MARY THOMPSON:
We'd sing by ourself, because we couldn't hardly sing together, not in my job. But just sit there and sing and work. And then in spooling out here, I've been through the spool room lots of times, and people used to be singing, just putting them ends up there everywhere. [unclear] But you don't hear people singing much now. I don't know why people don't sing. They must not be as happy as they used to be; I don't sing, either. But they don't really sing out in church like they used to. But back then they didn't think about notes,

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either. Everybody sang out, and it was pretty. But now everybody's scared they'll miss a note, so if they ain't a good singer, they won't sing like me.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did you ever pull pranks on one another, practical jokes?
MARY THOMPSON:
No. My mother always taught us it was childish to have practical jokes, that you could hurt people, it was dangerous, and it wasn't fair to the other fellow.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did any of the other women ever do things like that to one another?
MARY THOMPSON:
No, they never did have no trouble with them. I've seen young boys sometime pull practical jokes on people, but the bosses usually called you down on that if you was in the mill, getting loud, because it was dangerous.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What type things would those young guys do? Do you remember any of them?
MARY THOMPSON:
No, I don't. They'd do anything mean till they get caught. [Laughter] But the bossmen would stop them pretty quick when they found out. When we would go to school, why, they'd pull hair and things like that, but that's about all they'd do.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did either one of you ever get injured on your job?
MARY THOMPSON:
Carl did. He's got one …
CARL THOMPSON:
Yes, a finger cut off here, then two more tore-up fingers.
MARY THOMPSON:
Two New Year's Days, straight together. [Laughter]
JIM LELOUDIS:
What happened?
CARL THOMPSON:
Caught it in a half-lap on a comber.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You worked in a card room?
CARL THOMPSON:
Yes.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Was that pretty dangerous work?

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CARL THOMPSON:
Yes, it was, in a way it was pretty dangerous. You'd have to watch yourself. On cards, especially, there were so many things that you could… Even cleaning up, getting your brush maybe caught in a belt or something or other.
MARY THOMPSON:
Really, it's about the dangerousest job in the mill now, is work in the card room.
CARL THOMPSON:
And maybe if your brush would get caught in a belt or in a pulley or something like that, naturally it's going to jerk your hand, and all you could do is keep from it, jerking maybe your hand in there or arm. Well, as soon as it caught it, just turn it loose and let it go. But some of them would try to hold it, and they'd jerk more than anybody. And I've seen them jerked in the cards thataway and maybe get their whole arm and all broke, and …
MARY THOMPSON:
It is a very dangerous job, card room work is.
CARL THOMPSON:
… the skin pulled off, maybe slam through the bone and all.
MARY THOMPSON:
My father went to work when he was nine years old, and he got his whole hand tore up, and the thumb growed back on his hand, and that's where the cancer started. Years and years, when he got an old man, he lost his hand then.
CARL THOMPSON:
I wasn't quite fourteen when I started to work. I was born in Concord, North Carolina, Cabarrus County. And I lost my mother when I was a year and nine months old. I lost her and one of my sisters and either one or two of my brothers. There was ten of us in the family. My mother died with pneumonia, and also the next to my oldest… She wasn't my full sister; my half-sister. And I believe it was two of my brothers. They died right after I was born. I was born September 25,

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1904, and my mother died in June, 1906. She died with typhoid pneumonia. And one of my sisters was seventeen years old, and she taken it and she died with it. And I won't say whether it was one or two of my brothers, because I was so young, so I don't know. I'm the baby, the last one that was born. And so after I lost my mother then, my father hired a woman to come there and keep house because all the others was working except my brother. My seventeen-year-old sister had been working, but when she taken sick she died, too, went right after my mother did. And so my oldest sister and my other two sisters were working, and so Papa didn't have no one to really care for us, and so he hired a woman to come there and keep house and look after the ones that wasn't old enough to work. I believe that a little over a year after she come there and started working, him and her married. And so I was raised then, what you might say, by a stepmother. But she was good to us. She was just as good as she could be.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did all your family work in the cotton mills, too?
CARL THOMPSON:
Yes. My daddy was raised on a farm, but he left the farm after he married my mother and come to Concord. And so all the children were what you might say raised at a cotton mill. So we stayed at Concord until I was about three years old, and moved to Fort Mill. And my father then and the only brother I had then that was living—I had another half-brother, but he was still living in Concord—and two sisters went to work at Spring's Mill there at Fort Mill. And they were there until my two sisters married. And my father and brother worked on in the Spring's Mill there until 1914. In 1912 they had what they called the Panic. Now they call it the Depression, but back then they said, "Well, the Panic's on." The mill went on short time, and they

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didn't have no orders much. My daddy was working for seventy-five cents a day in the dye house, and my brother was working for seventy-five cents a day doffing in the spinning room.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
JIM LELOUDIS:
This was what year, the Panic? Was this right after World War I?
CARL THOMPSON:
No, it was before. It was about 1912. That's when what they called the Panic… Kind of a hard time hit us. And we hadn't been living there but about a year and a half or two years. I believe it was 1914 then, and Papa went over there to Rock Hill to the Arcade Mill and got a job. They offered him a dollar a day over there, and that was when we were working sixty hours a week, from six in the morning until six of a night, and took an hour off for dinner. And so they told him, "You making seventy-five cents a day over there at Spring's. We'll give you a dollar a day, you and your boy." And so him and John went on over there and went to work. And they worked one week, and they didn't like it. I don't know what was the trouble, but Papa said after a while, "I don't like it over here. I'm going back to Fort Mill." And so we just moved back to Fort Mill, right back in the same house that we moved out of. It was one of the mill houses. And we stayed there then for about six years.
Before we left there, though, I started at school in Fort Mill. And I didn't start at a schoolhouse. What I started to school at wasn't a thing but a little three-room house, what I'd call a little shotgun house. It just had three straight rooms; that's all. They call them, I think, little shotgun houses now. It was a little red house, built right beside of Harris's Store. And I can remember it just as well as if it was yesterday. And Papa told me, "Well, you're going

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to school today, Carl." I started to crying. And he said, "What you crying for?" I said, "Papa, I don't want to go to school." He said, "Well, you're going anyway." And I said, "All right." So I went, and after I got started a day or two, well, I liked it. And I went there through the first grade. And the next year, then, when I went into the second grade, they moved it from there over to another mill house, just right across almost in front of where we were living. And I believe the schoolteacher's name was Atwater. And he didn't have but one arm, and his wife was teaching. All the grades then was right in one room there; it wasn't separated. All the children was right in one big room, just like it is here. And Mrs. Atwater taught every one of them. I reckon there was about twenty-five or thirty kids in there in the second grade. And whenever school was out that year, for every day they would ask us to memorize a verse in the Bible. They said, "Now when you go home, you read the Bible tonight, and you memorize a verse in that Bible, because I'm going to ask you in the morning to quote a verse in the Bible." And so we would. Before we'd go to bed that night, I'd get the Bible down under the lamp light (didn't have no electric light; didn't have anything but oil kerosene lamps), and I'd set the lamp on the table just like that electric lamp, get the Bible down there, and I'd go to reading it, and I'd find a verse that I liked in there. And I said, "Well, I like that one." And so I'd study it three or four times till I'd memorize it. And the next morning when we'd go to school, she'd say, "Well, it's Bible time now for our verse. I want every one of yours now. I hope you all learned one." And so she'd call them out one by one, and every one of them would always memorize that verse. And so when school was out that year, she give us, every one, a Bible. And I kept that Bible until after my daddy died in

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1936. And that Bible got misplaced somewheres or another. I've never seen it since. But it got gone, and I don't know what become of it. But whenever we moved the second time from Fort Mill, we moved back to Rock Hill. We moved there to what they call the Wymojo Mill. It was named after three people: Wylie, Moore, and Joe. And they called it Wymojo. And Armstrong from Gastonia was the owner of it and all. He would come down there from Gastonia three or four times a week and he would come through the mill and all and talk with all the hands and all, and every Fourth of July he'd give them all a picnic. We had a big place down there. They called it a park, but there wasn't a thing in it, only just a big open place and a lot of shade trees and all. There wasn't no activity or anything going on, but just a gathering. And that picnic, well, nobody didn't bring nothing. He furnished everything, and he would have two or three big tubs of ice-cold lemonade there. Said, "Well, there's plenty of lemonade now. Just drink all you want." And we'd spend that whole Fourth of July down there in that place, eating and drinking, but it was just for the community there. And I wasn't even old enough to go to work then. My first year of schooling over there at Rock Hill, I started in a regular schoolhouse. It was the first schoolhouse I'd ever went to, was down there at the Victoria Mill. And it was the Victoria Arcade schoolhouse, for the schoolchildren from the communities around. And so I went to the third grade down there, and the next year I went over to another schoolhouse, and I went to the fourth grade over there. And whenever I completed the fourth grade, I quit school then and went to work. And I'd have been fourteen my coming birthday, but I went to work the latter part of 1917. And I'd been working about ten or eleven months when World War I ended. And I can remember it just as well, whenever

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they announced that the Armistice had been signed and the War was over. They come in and said, "Everybody go home," and they shut down the mill, and everybody went home. And I remember going out. Oh, they was shooting fireworks and guns and pistols. And I was going home, and somebody'd shot a pistol straight up in the air. When I was going home, I felt something hit me in the head. And I said, "What was that?" And I seen it fall. I looked down, and it was the ball out of a pistol. Somebody had shot the pistol up, and it come back down and it hit me in the top of the head. It was just like a little rock hit me.
JIM LELOUDIS:
It's a wonder it didn't really hurt you.
CARL THOMPSON:
I reckon it went so high till whenever it come back down it had done lost its force and all. And it was just like somebody just picking up a rock or something like that, and it come back down and hit me. I reached down and picked it up. I said, "Wow, somebody shot it." I said, "Yes, there was a cartridge shell where the ball fell back down and hit me in the head." I had on a cap then. Back then I wore a cap all the time, just about.
I worked on and on till that mill shut down in about 1933 or 1934.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Was that the Wymojo Mill?
CARL THOMPSON:
Yes. When it shut down, I left there then and went over there to the Rock Hill Printing and Finishing Company and put in an application over there. They give me a job over there, and I worked over there about three months, and I didn't like it.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What were you doing there?
CARL THOMPSON:
I was just all over the whole place, just running different things. They told me, "We want you to learn up on different things so that we can replace you on something. If an opening comes, if

Page 58
it's something where you've learnt, that you can operate that machine, then we'll put you on it."
JIM LELOUDIS:
What did they do at that plant?
CARL THOMPSON:
It was a printing and finishing company, where they printed and finished all their cloth. A lot of mills from different places, even from Charlotte here, would send their cloth over there to be printed and finished. And back then I reckon there was about 1,500 or 1,800 hands worked in there then. But now I reckon there's about four or five thousand works in there now. It's triple to what it was. And they even tore down all of them houses on the Carter mill village and taken most of that village in there, just kept spreading out. But I didn't like it there; somehow or another I just didn't like it. Been used to a textile plant thataway and not that kind of work.
And so I went down there then to Highland Park, the same company this is down here. They had a mill there.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Mill Number 2.
CARL THOMPSON:
Yes. And I went to work down there on the second shift, I believe it was. I got the job on Sunday. I learnt where the bossman lived, and I'd been out of work about a week or two. And I was beginning to want to go to work. And so I said, "I'm going to go over to the bossman's house, even if it is Sunday, and see if he's got a job he can give me." So I went over there and he come to the door, so I told him, "I'm looking for work. I reckon I should have waited till in the morning and come on down to the mill, but I just wanted to find out if you did have any opening." And he said, "Well, Thompson, I'll tell you, we're starting to overhaul all the combers tomorrow, and I'll tell you what I'll do. You come in, and if I don't have nothing else I'll put you to helping overhaul, cleaning

Page 59
machinery or anything that you can do thataway." So I told him all right. And he said, "Come in on the second shift." So I went in the next evening at three o'clock on the second shift. And he said, "By the way, what can you do?" I said, "I can do most anything in the card room. I've worked from the card right on through, combers, lap machine, drawing, and slubbers. Most anything except cards. I don't want no cards." And he said, "Okay, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you an hourly job. In other words, I want you to run… Whenever you come in, you come in on a drawing, and you run one drawing long enough to make enough of laps for the lap machine, in other words, about two hours. And so then the next two hours, run enough laps on them lap machines to make enough laps to run the combers with the lap machines two hours. And you can run the combers then two hours, and then from five until seven in the morning go over there and run the slubbers two hours." So I was on four jobs. I had two hours on each job, four different jobs. And I was on that job for about six or eight months, and I liked it because it was different types of work, and I knowed it all. So he come over there one night and said, "Thompson, my frame hand over there is out, and I ain't got nobody at all." I said, "Well, to tell the truth about it, I've never had so much experience on fine frames. I've doffed around them and been a spare hand, but just running them, I've never run them too much."
JIM LELOUDIS:
What kind of frame was that?
CARL THOMPSON:
It makes the roping for the spinner. And so he said, "Well, go on over there on them, and if you get in a hole we'll help you out." I said, "All right." And so I went on over there on them. And so the next night then after I run them that night, I didn't have no trouble. I never did have to call them to help me or anything. So the

Page 60
next night when he come down there, he said, "Thompson, I want you to go on a set of cards tonight." And I said, "Man, you're talking out of your head now. I told you that I wasn't no card hand." I'd always been scared of cards. But as far as running them, I knowed I could run them, because I had learnt to run them during spare time when I was on other jobs. I'd go on them, and I learned to run them thataway. And so I said, "I can't run them cards. I ain't no card hand." And he said, "Well, go on over there on them anyway. If you get in a hole, the card grinder or myself or somebody, we'll help you out." I said, "All right. I may have to call on you." He said, "Well, go ahead. I guarantee if you get in a hole, we'll help you out." I said, "All right." So I went on over there on them. The next morning the card grinder on that set of cards come in, and he looked at the job. And he went on over there to the overseer. He said, "You got a new man on the job last night, didn't you?" He said, "Yes, I put Thompson over there on them. He said that he wasn't no card hand, but I told him that if he got in a tight, we'd help him out. We never did have to help him. But he said he couldn't run cards." He said, "Don't let him fool you thataway. Them cards is in better shape than they've been in in I don't know when. They look racked up with the laps good; they cleaned up; they're in A number one good shape." And he said, "Well, he said he couldn't run cards." Said, "Well, don't let him fool you thataway. He's a good card hand." And the next night he come back whenever I went in, and he said, "Go back on the cards, Thompson." I said, "What did I tell you last night?" He said, "Yeah. What did the card grinder tell me this morning, too? He said you was an A number one good card hand. Go on back over there on them cards. You can run them." So I argued with him a little bit. I said, "All right, I'll go on back." And so I went on

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back over there. And he kept me on three weeks. The third week he come to me—it was on Monday—and he said, "I'm going to give you this set of cards. That boy that was running them died. He had pneumonia, and he's died, and I ain't got a soul to run them." I said, "Well, you've had three weeks now to get somebody, and so therefore you're going to have to do it." And he said, "Why?" I said, "Because I'm not going to run them. I'm going to give them back to you. I don't like cards. This is the first card job I've ever had. I knowed I could run them, but I was doing everything to keep from it, because I'm scared of them. I'm scared of the cards. It's just the one machinery in the mill that I'm scared of."
JIM LELOUDIS:
Why were you scared of it?
CARL THOMPSON:
On account of I'd seen so many get hurt on them, get their arms broke, get throwed in there, and they had been throwed in and that belt would catch them, and that was when they had overhead pulleys, had the pulleys at the top of the mill. And there was one man, his shirt or something or other got caught in that belt, and that belt throwed him to the top of the mill and busted his brains out, and he fell back down.
JIM LELOUDIS:
It killed him?
CARL THOMPSON:
It killed him. He was dead whenever he hit the top of the mill. It busted his brains out.
JIM LELOUDIS:
He hit the ceiling?
CARL THOMPSON:
Yes, he just hit the ceiling of the mill, yes. They had big beams up there, and he hit them, right at the back of his head and his back and all. He just went right over the belt just like that. And so I said, "I'm just absolutely afraid of them." And he said, "Well, run them till I can get somebody." I said, "You've had three weeks. I've been on them now three weeks, and you haven't tried to get nobody." He said, "No, the reason I haven't tried to get anybody was on account of I

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was going to give them to you." I said, "Well, you're not going to do it." And he said, "Do you mean to tell me you'll quit?" I said, "Yes, I'll quit. I'd better quit unless you've got something else for me." He said, "Well, that's all I've got." And I said, "Okay." So I just walked out.
And I was out of work then for about three or four weeks, and I was boarding with my sister. And so I had some pretty good friends that was working over here, and they was coming back and forth; every weekend they would come home. And so one of them told me one weekend when he was at home, "What about you going back with me on Monday, or either go over there yourself Monday and talk with the overseer, and he'll probably give you a job, because he is hiring some now." I said, "Okay, I'll go over and see him Monday then."
JIM LELOUDIS:
This was coming to Charlotte.
CARL THOMPSON:
Yes. And so I just walked out on the highway there out of Rock Hill and thumbed a ride over here. Back then I was doing a good bit of hitchhiking and all, whenever I'd get out of work. And so I just come on over here. And I asked him for the job, and he said, "I ain't got a thing that I could give you. I wisht I did, but I don't have an opening at all now." And I was wanting work so bad till I just kept standing around talking with him, and I said, "Well, I sure would love to have a set of them combers." And he said, "Well, I wish that I had an opening for you, but I just ain't got it." So I was talking with him about thirty minutes. I said, "Okay, I'll drop back again probably next week or sometime, and maybe you'll have an opening in something or other, maybe spare work or something." And he said, "Okay, you do that. I wisht I could accommodate you." And I started on out, and honestly, I don't believe I got over ten steps until he said, "Hey!" And I turned around, and he said, "Wait a minute." And I stopped, and he come on to me. That was on a Tuesday. He said, "I'll tell you what you do. You go on home and rest up this week. You come in next Monday on the third shift.

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I'll give you a job." And I said, "Okay." So the next Monday I come in, and so I went on down there to the mill, and he said, "You got you a boarding place?" I said, "No, I haven't." And so he walked out to the gate there, and that was when I was single, and he showed me a house on this street. It's about five or six houses down here.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Is that the big house?
CARL THOMPSON:
Yes.
JIM LELOUDIS:
That used to be the boarding house.
CARL THOMPSON:
A house on this street. It was Davidson Street then. And so he showed me between the houses. He said, "You see that house right yonder, right between?" And he showed me two houses to look between. And I said, "Yes." He said, "You go there and tell her that I sent you, and see if she won't give you a boarding place." That was in April of 1938, I believe, and I said, "All right," and so I went on over there. And so I told her that the bossman had sent me up there to see if I could get a boarding place, but it wasn't no regular boarding house. It was a private boarding house, a woman and her daughter and her husband living there, and she was keeping boarders, but she couldn't take care of but just so many. But she said, "Well, I think I can take you. You don't mind sleeping in a room with another man, do you?" I said, "Oh, no, I don't mind sleeping in a room with another man." She said, "Okay. Come on then." I said, "Well, I'll go to work tonight. I'll just start in." And so I just went right on in and started boarding with her, and I boarded with her for about six months. And I left her house then and went up to a regular boarding house on North Brevard Street, Ray's Boarding House up there right in front of the Swift Jewel Lard plant up on Brevard Street, and went to boarding there. And I boarded up there until I went in the

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service, and after I come out of the service then I went down here to Mrs. Shue's, a boarding house down here. My wife was boarding down there then, and that's where me and her met.
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
CARL THOMPSON:
And so I went to boarding down there then and continued to work right on down here. And then in 1947 me and her married. We was both boarding down there, and we married in Greenville. I called up the probate judge there at Greenville and told him I wanted to apply for a marriage license and give my name and give hers, too. And so he asked me how old I was. So I told him, "I'm forty-two" and give her age then. I believe she was thirty-six. And so the weekend then, I got off. The mill was running six days a week. And so I told the bossman, "Well, I ain't going to work this weekend. I'm going off. I'm getting married." He said, "Well, if you're getting married, I'll let you off." And I said, "Well, I'm getting married, and me and the woman I'm marrying, we're going to Greenville this afternoon." That was Saturday morning, whenever I left the mill. "We're getting married right after we get there, and if nothing happens I'll be back Monday, and me and her both will go right on back to work." He said, "Okay, go ahead." And so we did. We went on to Greenville, and we got married and stayed at the O Haway Autoway Motel that night. It seems to me like it's tore down now. We come on back and started keeping house up here on this next street. It was Shue's Boarding House, but Shue had moved down here, and they had made an apartment house out of it, and there was about eight apartments in there.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Is this a white house over on Alexander, just down about two blocks?

Page 65
CARL THOMPSON:
Yes, it's a big house down right here on the left-hand side of the street, as you go down. And so as soon as we come back Monday, we just went right on up there because we'd done bought our furniture and all and had it moved in. We went to Sears and bought some furniture before we ever married and had it moved in, and so whenever we come back from Greenville Sunday night, we just went right on up there to our home. And then Monday morning we went right on back to work just like usual. And I worked down there then until the mill shut down in 1969. I believe it was April. And I went to work down there in 1938.
But as far as my child life, when I was coming up I was brought up strict. In other words, if my daddy told me what my chores [unclear] was after I come from school, I had certain things to do like getting the wood in to cook dinner with the next day, and getting the kindling in to start the fire the next morning, and bringing wood in for the fireplace and all and for the grate. We didn't even have a heater. We cooked on an iron wood stove, and we didn't burn a thing but wood. And we'd burn it in a big open fireplace. And so I had to get everything up thataway that had to be done the next morning before I went to school, and have my lessons studied and everything, before I could go out to play after supper. I'd say, "Papa, can I go up here and play a while, until bedtime?" He'd say, "Well, you can go up there and play until it begins to get dark. I don't mean dark, now; I mean when it begins to get dark, you come home. I don't want to have to call you." I told him all right. And so when it would begin to get dark, I wouldn't care what kind of game we was playing or anything else, I'd just tell them I had to go, I couldn't stay any longer. They said, "Aw, you can stay a while longer, Carl. It's not dark yet." I'd say, "Well, my daddy told me not to stay till dark, and it's a-gettin'

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dark." And so I'd leave and go home, and if I hadn't fully gotten my lessons studied for school the next day, I'd finish them. Then I'd get the Bible down and read some of it.
And we kept boarders back then, too, and we had a fellow boarding with us there that had come there and had a job and they didn't have no house for him, a fellow by the name of Lloyd. And he noticed me every night, whenever I'd get that Bible and start to reading it. He said, "Mr. Thompson, you're going to have a minister when he gets grown." And Papa said, "Well, I wisht he would be." And he said, "Well, I believe he will. Looks like he loves reading that Bible." I said, "Well, I do. I love to read the Bible. I ain't much of a reader, but I love to read the Bible." But I'd read pretty good, to be just in the second or third grade level. I could read pretty good. We didn't go to church too often there in Fort Mill. We'd go once in a while. But every Sunday afternoon, they would have a prayer meeting at one of the neighbors' houses. They would let the neighbors know it the first of the week and say, "We're having a prayer meeting at my house Sunday afternoon at two o'clock, and we want you to come." And so Papa would always go. And every Sunday, whenever he'd start, he'd say, "Carl, you want to go with me?" and I always wanted to go. I'd say, "Yeah, I want to go, Papa." He said, "Well, come on." And so me and him would go on to prayer meeting. My stepmother would never go. But me and him would always go. And both my sisters had done married, and my other brother was about four or five years older than I was, and he didn't care anything about it. And so he was off playing with some of the older boys. And so me and Papa would go, and I can see my daddy now. Whenever they would go to have prayer, he would get up out of his chair. And I'd always sit in a chair right beside of him, and I'd sit there and wouldn't even move or nothing, and wouldn't

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say nothing. And when they'd have prayer, well, it's just like I could see him now, just getting up. He would get up out of his chair and just turn right around and just kneel right down and put his arms in the chair like that and his face down thataway, and he would start to praying. And I don't remember ever hearing him pray a prayer but what he would pray for his children and ask the Lord to take care of them and nourish them. And so I reckon that's where I learnt a lot about church work and all, was just through him, by the way of going with him to them prayer meetings. And then after we moved to Rock Hill, there was a Baptist church right down there, the West White Street Baptist Church, just about three or four blocks from our home. We started going to that little Baptist church, and we all joined, me and my daddy and my stepmother. Of course, I didn't join for a long time. I went for about four or five years or maybe longer than that before I ever joined. But my daddy and my stepmother joined a good long while before I did. But they was holding a revival meeting there one week, and during that revival meeting the Lord spoke to me and told me to go up and give an account of my sins and be saved. And so I didn't do it. Like a lot of others, I said, "Not tonight. Wait till some other time. I'll wait till some other time." And so I wouldn't do it. And I went on home after the service was over. But it beared on my mind for the rest of that night and all day the next day, too. And so the next night I went back again, and I rejected that night. The Lord spoke to me again, and I said, "No, Lord, not tonight. Maybe some other time." And I rejected him again, and I went home. And the next day I was so restless all that day, it just beared upon my mind. And I was so restless during the whole time I was working, why, there was more of that on my mind than my job was. So Wednesday night I went back again. I said, "Well, it ain't

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going to keep me away from the church." And so the Lord called me again, and so as soon as He spoke to me that night, I got right up with tears in my eyes, and I didn't go up and give the preacher my hand like they do now, and say anything to him at all. I just went right on up there and fell down on my knees right in front of the church, and I started praying. And whenever I got through praying, I got up wiping the tears out of my eyes, and I got up smiling. And the preacher said, "Praise the Lord." And I said, "Thank the Lord. I am saved. All my sins has been forgiven, and I've let Christ come into my heart tonight. I'm a different creature than what I was whenever I come in here." And then I begin to help carry on the work of the church and all and done everything I could do towards what a Christian could do. And when that revival was over, he went to Clover, South Carolina, and opened up a meeting over there, and me and three or four of the other boys would get in a car and go over there to that meeting over there. And we went to what they called the Businessman's Evangelistic Club there in town. Every Sunday afternoon they had meetings up there, and we'd go up there and take part in it. And then we would go to different places, a group of us boys, and some of them was as much as thirty or thirty-five years old. I was about twenty-two years old then. And we'd go to different places and sing on Sunday evenings. There'd always be somebody that would go along that could play a piano, and we'd go to different places thataway, and we'd sing for maybe two or three hours Sunday evening. And then we'd go back and go back to church then that night. And I sung in the choir. And a few times they called on me to have a prayer service, and I'd carry on the prayer service every week thataway on Wednesday nights, usually from seven or seven-thirty until about eight-thirty or nine o'clock. And sometimes I was in charge of that.

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And then after I come over here and went to work, after me and her married then, we started going to the Presbyterian Church up here. Preacher Younts [unclear] was the pastor, and we went up there untill he resigned. And whenever he resigned and they got another preacher, it was altogether a different church. He wasn't nothing like the preacher that Preacher Younts was. He wasn't friendly, and he didn't visit like Preacher Younts did. He wasn't nothing like Preacher Younts, so we left there then and went to the Whiting Avenue Baptist, and we joined there. And so we've been at the Whiting Avenue Baptist ever since. We've been there, I reckon, about fifteen years. They sold these houses in 1953, and we bought this one and moved in it, and we've been living here in this house now ever since 1953. It was in July of 1953; that's been about twenty-six years ago. So I reckon that's just about the history of mine.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You really have put it all together.
MARY THOMPSON:
He can remember dates and all better than I can.
JIM LELOUDIS:
I can't even remember my childhood that well, though. [Laughter]
MARY THOMPSON:
He's done gone back to his childhood. [Laughter] I hope I don't go back no more than I am, but I can't remember dates. He goes back to his childhood, and he can remember dates.
CARL THOMPSON:
During the Depression, I rambled lots. I reckon I covered about fifteen or twenty of the states, mostly hitchhiking. And I did hobo a few times …
JIM LELOUDIS:
Oh, you did?
CARL THOMPSON:
In a way, just experiences. It wasn't because I just really wanted to, but I had heard of and seen so many hobos back when we was living there at Fort Mill, and also at Rock Hill. Why, we've had them to come up to our back door of a morning, sometimes before breakfast.

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Been sleeping off somewheres all night, and just got up and come on up to some of the houses, and wanted something to eat. Well, my stepmother never would turn them down. Never would over one or two come, and she'd fix two or three sandwiches and give them to them. What started me to hoboing, though, during the Depression you couldn't get no work much, and so about four or five of us boys there decided to go to Charleston, South Carolina, and see if we could go on merchant marine boats and go out, because we knowed they paid pretty good on them trips. Whenever you come back, you'd get five or six hundred dollars, maybe, for one trip, just according to where you would go and how long you would be gone and all. And some of them boys would get four and five, and some of them as much as six hundred dollars on one trip thataway. They'd just sign up right for another one, just go right back again. And I knowed some of them to stay in that merchant marine for four or five years thataway, some of them longer, because they was making good money. It was dangerous in a way, and it was hard work, but still they made good money, and they didn't mind it. And so none of us didn't have no money because it was during the Depression, and we was out of work, and so some of them said, "How are you going?" Some of them said, "Let's hobo." And I said, "Well, "I ain't never hoboed none [unclear] ," and none of them had. Had one of them a preacher's son. And he said, "Well, I never hoboed none either, but I'm a-going with you." And so we did. We caught a freight down there. It was about eleven o'clock that night, and we caught a freight and rode that freight to Charleston, South Carolina. After we got down there we bummed around there a while and couldn't find just exactly where to go to apply or anything. And in a way, after we got down there, we got to where we didn't care whether we

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did or not. We almost decided we didn't want it. Because none of us hadn't been away from home over just maybe a week or two at a time, and got to studying about it, and maybe we'd have to be away from home for three or four months. And so we all said, "Well, let's go back home." So we just caught another freight and just went on back to Rock Hill. And so I started hitchhiking a good bit. I'd take a notion to go anywhere, and I'd just get out on the highway by myself and just go to thumbing. And sometimes I'd go three and four hundred miles in one day's time. Sometimes I wouldn't have no special place to go, just going. And I'd look for work wherever I'd stop in a town thataway. I'd go around different places. But in every place, it looked like it was just like Rock Hill. No jobs. Go in and apply, said, "I'm sorry. Such-and-such a place is shut down now, and we're trying to take care of their help." And we'd go on back home. And so I'd stay at home a few days, then I'd strike out somewheres else. And I went from Rock Hill to New York, and from New York back to Rock Hill, and from Rock Hill down to Florida, and from Florida back home, and all around. And finally, there was a fellow there who was running a store in Texas, and he had come home to visit, and he was going back. And so he asked me and one of my boy friends if we wanted to go back with him. Said, "It won't cost you nothing, but just help pay for the gas." I had an uncle and aunt out there at Tyler, Texas, and I said, "Well, if I can get to Tyler, Texas, I won't have to worry because I've got an uncle and aunt out there, and it won't cost me nothing." He said, "Well, I'm going right through Tyler. I'm going about 150 miles on the other side of Tyler, and I'm going right through Tyler." I said, "Well, good, then." And so my stepmother gave me twenty-five dollars, and this other boy's brother give him twenty-five, and so we went on out

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there. And we got out there at Tyler, Texas, and we went to looking for work. We went to the oil fields and everywheres we thought would hire help. And we even had other people that we met and made friends with. They said, "Well, we're going to help you all we can." And so they would go to different places, different ones, and ask about jobs for us. And it was there just like it was everywheres else, just about. And we stayed out there three weeks, till I told my uncle, "Well, we was thinking about going on to California, but my daddy's wanting us to come back home, and his mother's uneasy and wants him to come back." And so we started hitchhiking back, and we got back to Durden, Arkansas, and we kind of had a hard time getting out of there. And so we finally caught a freight train out of Durden and rode it on into Little Rock. And when we got into Little Rock we walked out on the highway. About five dollars and a half was all I had, and the other boy didn't have but about two dollars. And there we were, about eight or nine hundred miles still alway from home.
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]
CARL THOMPSON:
And so we were standing out there on the highway, and it was almost dark, and a fellow come over there to us. He said, "Boys, I'm sorry to tell you, you all ain't going to get no rides out of here." I said, "Why? What's wrong?" He said, "Nobody won't pick you up. There's just been too much robbery going on. There have been I don't know how many picked up boys, and they would go on up the road a little piece and maybe put a gun into their back and take what money they had and take their automobile, and put them out. People have just got to where they won't pick you up. They're afraid of you. Now you boys may be

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as honest as the day is long; you may not hurt nobody. But they're just scared of you. They don't know." And I said, "Well, I don't know what we're going to do then." And so we went over there, and we both spent the night in the depot. And whenever we went in the depot, it started raining, and about nine o'clock it was just pouring down rain. And the police come in there. And he said, "I'm sorry, boys, you can't stay in here all night. You'll have to go somewheres else and stay. You can't stay in here." I said, "Well, we ain't got nowheres else to stay. We're trying to get home, and we live at Rock Hill, South Carolina, and we ain't got nowheres else to stay." He said, "Well, I'm sorry. You can't stay in here. I'm going to make my round now, and if you're in here whenever I come back, I'm going to take you in and lock you up." And I said, "Well, I don't know what we'll do." And I reckon he had been gone a minute or two. There was a fellow setting in there, and he heared it, so he come on over there to us. I don't know who the fellow was, but he said, "You boys got any money?" I said, "Yes, I've got about five dollars." And he said, "That's enough. I can get you both a room up here for a dollar tonight, where I stay. It's a nice place. If you want your breakfast in the morning, you can get your breakfast for a quarter." And I said, "Okay, let's go. How far is it? It's raining out there." He said, "Oh, it's just a little piece around here." So we went on around there. It wasn't but just a short piece, about five minutes' walk. And he called the woman to the door and told her. She said, "Yes, I can give you boys a bed. You want a bed to sleep together?" I said, "Yes." And she said, "Okay, come on in." And we went on in, and she showed us the room and all, and then went ahead and showed us the bathroom and where we could take a shower and everything. And she got clean linen on the bed and said, "If you all

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want your breakfast in the morning, you ring the bell and let me know, and you can get your breakfast for a quarter. And I said, "We don't want no breakfast. We'll go on and try to see if we can't get a way to get home." So whenever we got up the next morning, we just went right on out, didn't take the time to eat no breakfast. But we went on down there and did go in a cafe and eat, because we seen how it was going to be. And so I told this boy, "Well, let's wire home for money." He said, "There ain't no use for me to wire home for money. They ain't going to send it to me." I said, "Yes, they will. Your mother'll send you the money. And I know I can get it. I've never done this before, but this is one time I'm going to do it." And so we went down there to the Western Union office and wired in for twenty-five dollars apiece. And so it wasn't but about two hours till we went back up there and the money was there. And we went on down to the railroad station first and asked what a ticket was to Rock Hill, and it was twenty-nine dollars. I had about twenty-six or twenty-seven, was all I had. And I said, "Let's go to the bus terminal." So we went on down to the bus terminal, and it was $19.50, so we just caught the bus and went on home. So whenever we got home, that was the last big trip that we ever taken. From then on it was just short trips.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did you go back to work in the cotton mill after you got home?
CARL THOMPSON:
Yes, I went back to working in the Wymojo Mill, and I worked on there until it shut down. Then after it shut down there, I come on over here, in 1938.
JIM LELOUDIS:
That's a fascinating story.
CARL THOMPSON:
That was about the history of mine. Whether you can get anything out of it or not, I …
JIM LELOUDIS:
Oh, you've just given me a wealth of information. I thank you both

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for your time. You gave me a big chunk of your afternoon here. I appreciate it.
MARY THOMPSON:
We'll feel sorry for you while you're having to hear it. [unclear]
CARL THOMPSON:
[unknown] think he'll be able to [Laughter] , since you've had to spend so much time with us.
END OF INTERVIEW