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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Paul Edward Cline, November 8, 1979. Interview H-0239. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Class tensions in a mill town erupt into violence

In this selection Cline remembers that some people looked down on mill workers, calling them "lint heads." Tensions sometimes boiled over into fights, especially if Cline's father was involved. Cline's father fought frequently, once cutting a man's throat. (The man lived.)

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Paul Edward Cline, November 8, 1979. Interview H-0239. 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:
What about attitudes of people who were living in town had toward people who were living in the mill village?
PAUL CLINE:
In some instances, they looked down their nose at other people. They used to call them lint heads. One reason, people didn't have the clothes to dress up like they do now. People wore overalls to town. They didn't make enough money to buy nothing. Course, they'd go clean. Some of them didn't, some of them did. They can wash. Water's free, and get some soap. Some people didn't have much hygiene lessons back them days, but, when we moved in a house and these people moving in, we'd scrub that house when we left, and me and my brother would fuss. My mother make us scrub it when we left. Says, "We not going to have the name of coming in here leaving a dirty house." We'd scrub it and have that thing spic and span. Old boy told us, says, "We moved in one of y'all's houses, we didn't have to scrub. It's already clean." I said, "Yeah, we done it." That was how clean my mother was. Daddy would make lye soap-used to make that in Tennessee-put them on them floors and get them just as white as they can be-we didn't have rugs-but they'd be so white and clean, smell good. There's a lot of chinches back in them days. That killed them.
ALLEN TULLOS:
I heard of people taking their beds. . . .
PAUL CLINE:
Take your beds outside. You don't hear that no more.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Were there ever any cases that you remember where the relations between the town folk and mill folk would get into fights, things like that?
PAUL CLINE:
These baseball teams they had, one village'd have it in for another one. People back them days, they'd fight a circular saw. My daddy would. He had more fights in the mill than Jack Dempsey had in the ring.
ALLEN TULLOS:
In the mill?
PAUL CLINE:
Yeah, he'd fight at the mill. A lot of awful down there Spartanburg, I mean Greer. He had a fight with a guy over there at Woodside, he busted seven shuttles over a guy's head. It's a wonder he hadn't killed him.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What was that about?
PAUL CLINE:
I don't know. I had a aunt and she's a good looking woman when she's young. Had a lot of fights over her. She come, somebody insult her or something, she'd tell him, and those boys there, they kind of look out after her, you know. I've heard my daddy say, "I've had more fights over my sister than I have over anybody." She caused a lot of them. She'd fight you too.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What about in the mill while people were working?
PAUL CLINE:
They'd fight in there. My daddy run a guy all over that place one time trying to catch him.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you know what it was about?
PAUL CLINE:
Yeah, he made a break out on his job or something. Something or other about cloth that-it's been so long-made a bad place on it where it looked bad on him. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDEB] [TAPE 2, SIDE A] [START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
PAUL CLINE:
He skipped it and went to his girlfriend's. He went over there and told him. This guy knocked my daddy down. My daddy was short, but he had him some shoulders and arms like a blacksmith. He come up, he always used a knife to cut the thread. When he cut that fellow on the jugular vein with that knife, scared him. Said every time his heart beat his blood would squirt out. They took him across the street over there at the drug store and sewed him up. Went on back to work.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What would happen? Would your father lose his job?
PAUL CLINE:
No, they didn't fire him. He knowed the man that was over there at Woodside. He knowed Mr. Alexander. Mr. Alexander said, "Now you fellows behave yourselves. We need you." Both of them good workers. They done that. Back then, jobs was easy to get. My daddy moved from Greer, him and my uncle, in a wagon-that was way before I was born-to Moneghan Mill. It was raining, they'd plenty empty houses back in them days, they just moved in, stayed all night. Put his furniture out of the rain and hitched his mules, things up. That's the way they done back in them days. They went over there and got a job the next day at the mill. They asked if he wanted a house, he said, "No, I done got one. I don't like where it's at." Said, "Well, pick you out one." They's just building these mills back then, see.