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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jessie Lee Carter, May 5, 1980. Interview H-0237. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Daily routine for a textile mill worker

Carter left school at twelve years old to begin working at the Brandon textile mill, she recalls. She briefly describes the rhythm of mill worker life: rising to the sound of a whistle at 4:00 am, working from 6:00 am to 12:00 pm when another whistle sent her home for the midday meal, and returning to work at 6:00 pm. She made twenty-five cents per day.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jessie Lee Carter, May 5, 1980. Interview H-0237. 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

ALLEN TULLOS:
You had three brothers and three sisters?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
That worked. They was ten of us, five girls and five boys.
ALLEN TULLOS:
That sure was a lot of people for your mother to look after.
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
Most of us was small, you know. The biggest ones, there was six of them that went to work in the mill. And then I went to work when I was twelve years old. I quit school. They didn't have any help hardly. They had to just work who they could get then. Colored people wasn't allowed to work in the mill. So, when I got twelve years old, my uncle come to my daddy, and daddy'd let me quit school and go to work. And he did.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Why did your uncle come and do that?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
Well, he was the bossman in the mill.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Your uncle was? He was in charge of…
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
Yes. In charge of the spinning room.
ALLEN TULLOS:
That's Jim?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
No, that was my uncle Bob.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What's his last name?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
He was a Mace. Bob Mace. He was a section hand in the spinning room.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And so did you go in the spinning room?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
I went to work and I was left to run one side. Twenty-five cents a day. That's what I made. I worked ten hours a day. That's what they worked then. My father made eleven dollars-and-a-half a week. You worked all the week. But on Saturday you worked just half-a-day. You worked 'til eleven o'clock on Saturday.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What time would you get out and go to work?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
We went to work at six o'clock.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would they blow a whistle?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
They blowed a whistle a dinner time. At twelve o'clock you'd come home and eat dinner.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How long would you have?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
Thirty minutes. You went back at twelve-thirty, and went to work until six o'clock that night.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would they blow a whistle to wake you up in the morning?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
Oh, yeah, they blowed a whistle at four o'clock. They called that the wake-up whistle.
ALLEN TULLOS:
But you didn't have to get there 'til six?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
No, but my daddy got up every morning at four o'clock. Back then they had woodstoves, he'd build a fire in the stove. Then my mother'd get up and cook breakfast. Then he'd get all of us up and we'd all clean up and eat our breakfast and go to work.