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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Paul and Pauline Griffith, May 30, 1980. Interview H-0247. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A workplace injury and the aftermath

Paul Griffith describes the accident he had at the Judson Mill that left him blind in one eye. According to Griffith, the mill did not have any sort of worker's compensation program, nor did he have insurance through his job. Nevertheless, Judson Mill did pay for his medical bills and he was eventually awarded one thousand dollars in compensation.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Paul and Pauline Griffith, May 30, 1980. Interview H-0247. 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:
Did you go right to work after you stopped school?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
Yes, uh huh.
ALLEN TULLOS:
So you didn't ever have any other kind of paying jobs before this, did you?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
No. I've been in mill work like that ever since. Then I got my left eye hurt. I learned this job for building them pattern chains before I got my eye hurt and they just kept me on there.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How did you hurt your eye?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
A nail flew up and hit me in the eye.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When you were working here at home?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
At the mill.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Could you tell me about that?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
I was helping a fella take down a harness, draw it in. When she got through with it we just put it on the truck. We had an extra piece. One side of it was stationary, and another place was loose. And we put that harness over there where it was stationary. And we put this other piece on there to hold them harnesses up. You had to drive a nail in each end to keep themfrom falling off. I was driving a nail just about waist-high, and the nail slipped and hit me in the eye. I learned that job. I was just helping. I learned that job building them chains working for the designers office, so they just kept me on that job.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What year did you have the accident?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
1926. Last day of November, 1926.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What happened? Did you go to a doctor? Did the mill help?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
Yeah. They seen what happened, and they rushed me to a doctor, Dr. Carpenter. We called him the old man. He had a boy, retired here a couple of years ago, Carpenter. We called him the old man.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was he the mill doctor?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
No, just an eye doctor.
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
He was a specialist.
PAUL GRIFFITH:
A specialist. And he worked on it, and he didn't give me nothing for pain. He just got me up there about six o'clock. He got me in that chair, put me back where you put your head back there. The way he had his knee and everything, he worked on that thing. I grit my teeth hard while he was doing all that, so my jaw stayed sore for four or five months. It tore my nerves up some.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was there any kind of accident coverage, insurance, for the mill?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
No. Buddy, he won't give me nothing. But I finally got a thousand dollars out of it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you lose part of the sight of it?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
No, I can't see a wink out of that at all.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was there any kind of accident insurance in the mill?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
No.
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
If there was. . . .
PAUL GRIFFITH:
They did pay the doctor bill and I had to stay in the hospital about three days.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did they pay for that?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
Yeah, they paid for that.
ALLEN TULLOS:
But they didn't really want to pay any kind of compensation?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
No. We let it rock on about a year. Then they finally compromised a thousand dollars.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you get a lawyer to help you with that, or did you just handle that yourselves?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
We just handled it ourselves.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What sort of person would you have talked with in the mill about it? What level of administration?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
The big boss up there. They had two men talk to me and my daddy several times. But we did never come across any until they wanted to get it settled, then they come across with a thousand dollars. We settled for that.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What would happen today if an accident like that happened?
PAUL GRIFFITH:
I guess they got insurance and things like that. I could have gotten ten or twenty thousand dollars for that now.
PAULINE GRIFFITH:
And a thousand back in that day was real money. You could buy much more for it than you can today.