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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 >>

Workers found others who would train them to do new jobs

Mary Thompson explains how she found work and then convinced other women to teach her how to do the various jobs.

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:
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 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?
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.