Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Carl and Mary Thompson, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0182. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Description of drawing-in

Mary Thompson explains the how drawing-in worked and why her job as a skilled pattern maker meant that she changed jobs and locations frequently.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Carl and Mary Thompson, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0182. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JIM LELOUDIS:
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 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( ) 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?
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.