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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Thomas Burt, February 6, 1979. Interview H-0194-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A string of jobs

Burt runs through his laboring history: he moved from packaging cigarettes, to digging clay for bricks, to hauling junk, to farm work, to a job on a streetcar line, to a job at a sawmill, to farming, to railroad work. While Burt's resume may not be of interest to researchers, the way he moved from job to job, often leveraging family connections or luck, might be of interest.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Thomas Burt, February 6, 1979. Interview H-0194-2. 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

After I come twenty-one, I went to Durham. I stayed in Durham some before then. But I went back to the country on the farm and stayed on the farm till I come twenty-one. I messed around, quit the farming and went off to Durham. The first job I got after I got in Durham, I went to work at the Bull factory. I worked at the Bull factory, I reckon, six or eight months. When I first went there and start to work, they put me down in the shipping room where they put labels on the packs of cigarettes. I worked down in there for a while. Then they wanted me to come up and help sweep the floor every evening an hour or hour and a half before quittin' time—sweep the floor so the floor would be clean the next morning. I done that for a while, and it give me the worst cold. I just got to coughin'. They all told me, if they'd me, they'd quit cause that's dangerous goin' into TB. I quit and walked around town and messed around town three or four weeks before I found another job. I was standing on the street one morning, and Eulis Holloway—colored fellow I knowed there—he come up from down where he was roomin' and come out there to catch his way out to the brick yard. He asked me, "Boy, what you doin'standin' here?" I said, "Well, I'm just standin' around. Maybe I might luck up on a job." He says, "I believe I can get you a job." I said, "Well, if you can, good." He said, "I believe I can get you a job out there on the brick yard where I work." I said, "Well, if you do, look out for me." He said, "I'll tell you, I'll find out today, and we'll get together tonight, and if I find out, you get ready and go on out there and go to work in the morning." That was Thursday or Friday morning. He say, "Or either you can work till Monday morning to come in." He went on out there and asked old man Cheeks about if he want another hand. He told him, yeah, he could use another hand. He say, "Well, he wanted to know could he wait and come in Monday, or any morning anytime." He say, "Well, that's just up to him. I'll keep the job open for him if he'll come Monday morning." That Monday morning, I got up and met him up there and we caught the truck. I went on out there and went to work. Out there diggin' up clay. Had a clay hole. You dig the clay and carry it on up where they made the bricks. I worked out there two years till they went out of business. The next job I got was drivin' wagons—old Squat's junk shop, haulin' iron. I drove for them two years. The man where was runnin' the shop was a police. Luther Byrd was his name. Everybody call him "Police Byrd." He had a butler boy stayed round the house all the time; he raised hogs out there where he lived, and had some horses. This boy just stayed out there to keep the stables all clean. When we'd go in every evenin', he be done fed and had water out there. We didn't have to do nothin' but take them out. This boy what done that, home was in Winston-Salem. He take sick and went home. Old man Luther then jumped at me to take his job. I didn't want the job to start with, but they just worried me so bad till I went on there and went to work. I stayed there six months around the house. I'd milk the cow and feed the hogs, and chickens. He stayed at the edge of town; he's buried up in town. I stayed around there for about six months, then I quit and come on back to the country. I helped my daddy on the farm for about two years. They cut a sewage line out here from Durham to Neuse River. I got a job on that. I worked on that until it got up to the edge of Durham. That job went to the bad. I went back to Durham and worked on the streetcar line—used to be a streetcar line here in Durham. I worked on that for a while. I didn't like that; I worked on that about three or four months before I quit. I went up in Lebanon township and went to work sawmillin' with Will Markham and his brother Walter Markham—two brothers run the sawmill up there. I went up there and went to work with them. I went to turnin' logs. I stayed with them, I reckon, a year and a half or more. They went busted and quit millin', so I come back home again and worked a year or two on the farm with my daddy. Then I strayed off and went to workin' with old man Will Connally. I worked with him three or four years—sawmill. Finally, I quit him and went to old man Justin Keason. I worked with him till he got all messed up, and they sold him out. He just got so far in debt with the company down in Durham furnishing him horsefeed and someplace that he was gettin' all his equipment for the framing mill. He just got so deep in debt till they just busted him down. I walked around a month or two, hangin' around Durham, playin' guitar, me and Minnis Cates. Finally I come out of Durham and went to workin' for old man J. T. Holman, sawmillin' with him. I stayed with him for four or five years till he died. The boys give up the sawmill—he had two boys—they run the mill a while after the old man died, and they just finally sold out quit. Finally, I come back home again and took over the farm. My daddy, he went out and worked about two years on the sawmill. I done the farmin' there at home. After he come back in and took over the farmin', I sold out to the railroad, got me a job on the railroad. I worked railroad work seven years straight. The first year I worked over at Gorman with that man. I left him and come on over here at Wilton and worked six years up there on that section. I quit that and went to Richmond. Got a job at the bridge on the railroad; I worked on the bridge eighteen months, probably longer than that. I put that down and got tired of that. That was too hard a work and dangerous too, workin' on the trestle, puttin' new seals under it. I got kind of scared of that job; it's kind of dangerous work. You're liable to slip and fall or somethin' and hurt yourself. My mother kept on beggin' me, say, "I'd quit that. That's dangerous." I thought about it and it was right dangerous, so I give up that job. From that, I got married then, settled down and commenced farmin'. I farmed for about fourteen years. My first wife, she died, then I worked on the farm for wages for six years. Finally, me and Pauline married, and I kept on farmin'. I farmed on up till I retired and quit. That's the way I started all that workin'.