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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Geddes Elam Dodson, May 26, 1980. Interview H-0240. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Learning new aspects of a textile mill job

In this portion of the interview, Dodson explains that in addition to learning about various mill jobs through his observations of other workers, he attended classes at night to learn loom repair. When he invented a new component for the loom to make it feed more evenly, he never patented it but allowed the company to use it in exchange for his job.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Geddes Elam Dodson, May 26, 1980. Interview H-0240. 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

I done just like my daddy told me. I learned a whole lot just by watching people. And then there was some old loom fixers down there. We had a night school down there, and we didn't get paid to learn to fix looms then like they do now, these young folks. They give these young folks now time off, a couple hours to go to school down there in the mill to learn how to fix looms. Then we was a-working ten hours a day, and we'd go back down there at night and work. We'd tie on warps and start them up and have them ready to. . . . They were just running one ten-hour shift a day then.
That was at Woodside?
Down here.
At Dunean.
They didn't none of them run but one shift back then. We'd go to school down there, and then they had a night school at Parker High. I went to loom fixing school at Parker High a long time at night, and they had a teacher over there. Down here at Dunean, after working ten hours a day I'd go back up there at night nearly every night and put in rocker shaftsand pick shafts and cam shaftsand crankshafts and rebuild dobby heads and tie on warps and rebuild frictions-like a clutch in the car, you know-and all that stuff. And after working ten hours, go back to work till ten and eleven o'clock at night, and never got a dime for it, see. And I picked it up from them old loom fixers. I'd ask them questions and help them do things and run their job. And there was one old man down there, old man Moore; he didn't want you to touch his job. But old man O.B. Braswell and old man Bogan and Roy Mills would let you help them, and show you. But after I got learned, why, them old men would come to me and ask me questions. I remember that. [Laughter] Old man. . . . I called his name and done forgot it. Anyway, he come after me one day. He says, "Dodson, I've got a loom up there. I've rebuilt the box motion, put new lifting arms and everything on it, new studs, and it's a-binding. It won't work." That was old man O.B. Braswell. He says, "That long stud in there. As the long arm worked up and down, then the short one'd work. That thing's a-binding, and I can't get it to free up to where it'll run to save my life. Come down here and see if you can show me what's wrong with it and help me with it." I went down there and looked at it, and that big old long stud they worked on, and then the shorter one where the shorter one fastened on that long arm. And he had a brand-new stud, that old big long one. I looked at it. And that stud had a flat place on it where it stuck in the loom side where it wouldn't turn. And a nut and then a washer was on the other side on the inside. I said, "Mr. Braswell, take that stud out and turn it half over and tighten it back up." And he did and tightened it up, and that thing worked just like a charm. And then them little feeler tips, I got up a patent on them. And they run them things for years. I didn't ever get it patented. I just made it. And I talked to my kidney doctor about getting it patented, and he said, "Well, it'll cost you a thousand dollars or more, maybe, to get it patented. And then it'll do like other things, it'll get obsolete and play out and then something take the place of it." And I made them a long time. I'd take fifty cents and made eleven dollars out of it.