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 >>

Other community members looked down on textile workers

The only time Mary Thompson worked somewhere other than a cotton mill, she discovered that the townspeople around her looked down on the textile workers. She reflects on how that attitude affected her.

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

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 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.