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Title: Oral History Interview with Vesta and Sam Finley, July 22, 1975. Interview H-0267. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Finley, Vesta
Author: Finley, Sam
Interview conducted by Frederickson, Mary
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 288 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2008-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-07-24, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Vesta Finley, July 22, 1975. Interview H-0267. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, 1974-1980. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0267)
Author: Vesta Finley
Description: 71 p.
Note: Interview conducted on July 22, 1975, by Mary Frederickson; recorded in Marion, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Patricia Crowley.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, 1974-1980, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Vesta and Sam Finley, July 22, 1975.
Interview H-0267. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Finley, Vesta
Finley, Sam


NOTE: Audio for this interview is not available.

Interview Participants

    VESTA FINLEY, interviewee
    SAM FINLEY, interviewer
    MARY FREDERICKSON, interviewer
    MARION ROYDHOUSE, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wanted to ask you how long your family had been in the South?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, all my life. [Laughter] I've always been here.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you know when they first settled in the South?
VESTA FINLEY:
It was in the 1800's. My grandfather and my father. . . . My father was born in 1872.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Where was he born?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yanceytown; Byrdville on my mother's side.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Both of them were born there? Do you know anything about where their families had come from to settle in the South?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, I don't know that part of it. My great-grandmother was Dutch, full-blooded Dutch, and my great-grandfather was German. And my father was a German-Dutch. But my mother's people, they were Proffitts; I don't really know where they were from. Their name was Proffitt [Laughter] : P-r-o-double f-i-double t, not p-r-o-p-h-e-t, Proffitt. I really don't know. Now my great-grandfather, they said, came over on the Mayflower, but I don't know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said your father was German-Dutch. What was his family like? Do you remember him talking about his family?
VESTA FINLEY:
No. Only thing I ever heard him talk about was his grandmother. She had a Dutch Bible that she used to read to him, and try to explain to him, you know, when he was growing up. But I never did see her; she died.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did he live on a farm? Were they farmers?
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh yes. We were farmers, yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did he have a large family? Did he have brothers and sisters?
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh yes. All folks back in those days had large families [Laughter] .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember lots of them? They would be your aunts and uncles, then.

Page 2
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh yes. Well, all of my uncles on my father's side is dead, and all his sisters except one.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did any of them stay on the farm?
VESTA FINLEY:
No, they scattered throughout the country, to different parts. Some of his sisters went to Idaho, and Iowa, out in those countries. And most of his brothers, though, lived in Madison County, in Yancey. And one of his brothers lives here.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did he ever talk about what it was like to try to earn a living on the farm?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, it was just a hard way of living. You just raised the food you ate; and they had cattle and sheep. And back in those days, you know, we had our own meats. We raised sheep to have our own wool, and my mother and grandmother made blankets and socks, and our toboggans and our gloves and all that, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did they own their own land? Did they own the farm?
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What happened to the farm?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, my brother has the old home place now. And my younger sister, they own a lot of the property and houses. My younger sister, she lives in Asheville. She owns quite a bit of property, and several houses.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So it did stay in the family? It wasn't sold or anything?
VESTA FINLEY:
No.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about your mother's family? What were they like? Were they also farmers?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, most of them were farmers.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did she ever talk about what her life was like as a child?

Page 3
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, I suppose she did, but that would be so long ago. . . . She was just growing up on a farm. And her father owned some slaves; you know, way back then.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So they were pretty well off, then?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, they weren't the poorest of people, but they weren't rich either [Laughter] . But they made a good living. But he did have a few slaves, and they helped him there on the farm, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did your father's family ever own any slaves, that you know of?
VESTA FINLEY:
No, not that I know of. I never heard of any.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember visiting your mother's parents when you were little?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did they stay on the farm too?
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh yes. They lived and died on the farm.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Is their farm still in the family?
VESTA FINLEY:
Part of it is, yes. Their grandson owns the old home place.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What was your life like as a little girl? Where were you born?
VESTA FINLEY:
Madison County.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Madison County. Did you grow up there?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes I did. I was there until I was seventeen years old, and I came down here to be with one of my aunts and went to work down here.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Well, did you live on a farm also, in Madison County?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, I did. I was brought up on a farm.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you have brothers and sisters?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, I had four brothers and five sisters [Laughter] . And they're all living. Well, I had one brother died when he was just small; and then my sister died. She's been dead about ten years. All the rest of them are living,

Page 4
and scattered around [Laughter] .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did any of them stay on the farm, or did they tend to all leave?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, one of my brothers is still on the farm. And then I have a brother in [unknown] , Virginia. He runs a construction job with the government; he's a superintendent of a construction business up there. And then I have a brother up there that has a large farm. He lives in Farmville, Virginia. And then one of my sisters, she lives in Johnson City, and her husband is employed there with the Johnson City Sentinel Paper; they work there. And my older sister, she's still living. She's seventy-nine; she lives in Lester, North Carolina. And that's about it . . . and I'm here! [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did you spend your time when you were little? Who did you play with, all those brothers and sisters?
VESTA FINLEY:
That's right. You didn't visit around with people in the country too much. And then you lived, you know, several miles apart, most people did; or a few miles apart. No, I was just brought up on a farm: worked in the fields, hoed corn, and bundled up hay [Laughter] and stacked hay. And we raised tobacco, you know, for sale.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was your father able to use all of you as hands of the farm? Did he not have to hire anyone else?
VESTA FINLEY:
Sure. No, we begin to work the time we was big enough to tell weeds from the beans. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What kinds of things did your mother do on the farm?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, she was mostly tied up with tending the babies, having babies and taking care of the home, you know. She worked in the fields when she had occasion to. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But she didn't ordinarily work. There were enough of you that she

Page 5
didn't usually have to work outside?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, as I say, she usually had to do the hoeing, and keep the little ones at the house, you know, while the rest of us were working in the fields.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did she do most of that by herself? Or did the older girls help her?
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh, we all had to help. When we went in from the fields, we had to help do the work in the house too. Before we went to school in the morning we had to carry in stove wood, and feed the chickens, and carry in enough water from the springs to do Mother during the day. And then we had to walk about a mile and a half to school.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What was the school like that you went to?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, it was just an elementary school, you know. We had teachers from Mars Hill, a little town near us. You know, the closest town. I guess you've heard that they're going to have a college there, you know. But it was just a country school [Laughter] .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How many grades? It was one where all the grades were together, or. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
No. Well, some teachers had two grades; most of them, I guess, did, because we had a four room school and we had seven grades. Well, my last years I was in school there it went to the ninth grade; we had a teacher through the ninth grade.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was that in the same place? In the same building?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How far did you go?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, I was in the ninth grade when I quit school and went to work. But since then I went to tech school, and I got an equivalent certificate for high school education.

Page 6
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did it happen that you quit school? I mean, how did that decision come about? Where did you fit in the family?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, I had an aunt and uncle that lived here. We came to visit them one time, and she said that I might get a job here in the mill. So I wrote her a letter after I got back home, and she found a job for me. And so I came down here and went to work [Laughter] ; and I've been here ever since!
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did your parents feel about your coming to work? Were they sad to see you leave the farm?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, I don't think they particularly. . . . Of course, they didn't know what the outcome might be, you know. But I think most people back in those days was glad for the girls to get married and get them off their hands. Of course, I wasn't married at that time. But then I came to my uncle's house and they wasn't too worried about it, you know. I went right to work, in what they call the cloth department, cloth room. And so I've been there ever since.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Had any children left before you? Had any children left the farm?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, my uncle; he had left and got a job in Erwin, Tennessee, and worked there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about your own brothers and sisters? Had any of them gone before you?
VESTA FINLEY:
No, except this older brother. As I said, he had gone to Erwin, Tennessee and gotten a job. No, my two older sisters were married. Then my younger sister, of course, she finished high school. And another one of my sisters, younger than her, she finished high school, in Weaverville, North Carolina. She stayed with a family and worked, you know. And then my younger sister, she finished college; hers was just a two year college in Mars Hill.

Page 7
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were your parents particularly. . . . I mean, did they want and try to encourage you go to on to school? It sounds like with the younger children they were sort of more able to send them.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, they didn't send them. They just worked their way through. Found a place to go, you know. And that's why we all, we've got that to know that they better face, you know. . . . We put forth the effort to get into the things. And that's why I came and went to work when I had an opportunity, you know, to work. Of course, all these years I've tried to educate myself, more or less at home, with buying books. I've spent a lot of money on books. And then going to school helped me on this; this Southern School we went to. That helped me a lot in getting out and making acquaintances with other people from different parts of, you know, the country. You learn a lot of things. And then I learned a lot of new things in that Southern School too, and that gave me a great boost. And I've always liked people; you know, to be with people. It was a great experience for me.
And too, I went to New York and stayed . . . well, all around over there. This one girl that they had; her husband was shot down. And so I went to New York. We sold buttons and books and made speeches all over New York and in Philadelphia. First place I went in Philadelphia, we got off the train and they took us to Union Hall. There were fifteen hundred people gathered there to hear us talk. What country ignorant girls know. . . . Though they stood and clapped and made you feel so good, you know [Laughter] .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When would this have been? What year was this?
VESTA FINLEY:
That was 1930.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So that was right after the strike in Marion?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well yes. That was when I was in school, after I finished and

Page 8
went through the Southern School.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Oh, I see.
VESTA FINLEY:
Women Working In Industry. So I went to New York; we was up there six weeks. And I went up to New Jersey. And they wanted us to go on to Massachusetts, but this lady I went with, her husband got killed and she was under a real nervous strain. She wanted to come back, so we came back.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What was her name?
VESTA FINLEY:
Cora Hall.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Let me back up just a little bit and ask you about when you started working here in the mill. Did you think you were going to be here for a long time, or just until you got married?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, the marriage wasn't in my mind at that time, because I was having too good a time making money. And I was getting some things that I had never been used to having; you know, having made my own clothes. And being with people. . . . No, I hadn't thought about marrying Rudy, but that thing come along and messed me up [Laughter] . He was from a nice family, though, and they were real nice to me. He has a sister that lives up town, and she. . . . They were all real nice to me.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When did you first meet? How did you meet him?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, he and a quartet was going around the whole country putting on shows: dancing and singing and monkeying-about. They came up here to Eastmere School, and they put on a show up there. I went out and bought a ticket and went with my aunt and my cousins that, you know, I was making my home with. We went up there, and that's the first time I ever seen him.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Oh the stage?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, dancing with a woman. [Laughter] And then they had a quartet;

Page 9
they put on a little show, you know. Then my aunt had a party, a little get-together for the visiting quartet for out-of-towners that was putting on a show, too, up here at the school. And I met him there; that's the first time I ever met him, was at her house.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Well, did you decide to marry him right away, or was it. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
No, it was about a year, I think
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How old were you then when you got married?
VESTA FINLEY:
Nineteen.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So you had been working here about two years?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you stop working after you got married?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, we were married in June, and the following May was when the union was here. They fired him, and then I quit work.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Because of the strike?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, yes. No, let's see; was it May they fired you? It was May, wasn't it? Yes, I think it was May.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And then you quit work right after that because he'd been fired, or because. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes. And then too, I was going to have a baby.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So how did you live? How did you support yourselves?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, we were living with his parents at that time. When we first got married we were staying where I was boarding at that time, making my home.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
With your aunt and uncle?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes. And then he got fired and, of course, I quit work. Then our first baby died, of course. Then he was out of work for two years, and in that time I went to Southern School; one six weeks' session in Burnsville, and then,

Page 10
as I say, the next year we went to class school in Nordon. I worked that year; and I went to New York and stayed two months, I believe. They paid our hotel bills and our meals, and paid us a little salary while we were there, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I hadn't heard anything about some of you going up to New York. Would you. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Well Miss [unknown], she went to Chicago. They sent her to Chicago. And I believe. . . . This Miss Price: did she go with her up there or not? Some other girl went with Miss Huntington.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
Who was it that took you up there? Who was it that organized the trip? Do you remember? Do you remember who it was that organized the trip that you took to New York?
VESTA FINLEY:
The organizer? It was Mr. Hoffman, Jimmy Hoffman.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
No, I mean, who arranged the trip to New York, when you went up to New York?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Pieler.
SAM FINLEY:
John Pieler was the organizer.
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, he was the one [unknown] with the local. And he was the one.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I see. So they were sort of working in cooperation with the Southern Summer School women, like with Lois McDonald. Was she involved in that at all?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, no. She was just a teacher. They sent us up there to raise funds to help feed the people that were out of work, had been thrown out of work here because of the union. And so we visited different local unions and sold buttons and little booklets we had concerning the mill village and the work here. You know, how people had to live under very dire circumstances. So we raised

Page 11
funds. And we had a lady from New Jersey that traveled with us, that took us around, you know, to these places. And we just made speeches and told circumstances here, sold our things we had to sell.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember the name of that woman who took you around?
VESTA FINLEY:
I ought to, but I don't remember [Laughter] . I know she's dead, 'cause she had heart trouble. I was going to travel with her, and she had a heart condition. And her husband had something to do with the local union, some union there in. . . . I know he was busy all the time. He never did travel with us. And then too, a lawyer Cook from South Carolina lived up there. He and his wife were both lawyers. We were out at their home a time or two, and he carried us around and showed us different things: took us to the museum, and places there in New York.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Had you ever been away from home before?
VESTA FINLEY:
Not that far [Laughter] , no.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Weren't you sort of scared to go out there and make speeches in front of eight hundred people [Laughter] ?
VESTA FINLEY:
No. I thought about it a lot of times: we were out some mornings 'til two o'clock in the morning. Come in. . . . Maybe we went to New Jersey, or Brooklyn, or different places we had to go to make speeches. And sometimes it'd be two o'clock in the morning before we'd get back to where we were. . . . And this lady that lived in New Jersey, well, she'd get off and leave us two girls on our own to where we were living, on Lexington Avenue in more or less a women's hotel. We stayed there most of the time. We had another place we stayed a while. But no, I wasn't scared. But after I got back home and since I've grown older I thought, really, how much danger we were in, you know. And we'd come out on the streets at maybe eleven, twelve o'clock at night from

Page 12
those meetings, and people staggering all over the streets drunk. Of course, you know, I was ignorant of. . . . I was brought up in the country and the little place here where there wasn't too much of things going on. And really I was in danger, but the Lord had mercy on me; he knew I was ignorant and didn't know any better. But [Laughter] there was so many things that now I think about would scare me to death. We'd have to get on the bus, maybe, and walk two or three blocks to get to. . . . And it would all depend on the time that we'd get in or the bus that we were on or. . . . You know, we'd have to walk. It was a dangerous thing!
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How do you remember feeling about it at the time? Were you excited, or were you. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh, I was excited by what all was going on. But mercy me, we were on the streets in the early morning, twelve, one o'clock. And people coming out from those movies and dance halls, and drinking and staggering; the streets would be full of people. But I wasn't afraid; I didn't have sense enough to be afraid [Laughter] . I didn't realize the dangers of a big city, don't you know. That's right, the Lord had mercy on my ignorance, because. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did you feel about her going off to New York to do all of this?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I didn't. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Why, he didn't care. He was so busy. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
I didn't think too much about it.
VESTA FINLEY:
. . . working in these places handing out food and clothing. You know, they sent clothing in here from everyplace, and of course the food. I don't know, some of the food was shipped in here, and others were bought locally.
SAM FINLEY:
People with farms out in the country, they'd donate a lot of

Page 13
vegetables. And we even tried to have a beef once every two weeks, a whole beef. They were routing money and clothing sent in from, oh, all over.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How many people were you feeding, usually?
SAM FINLEY:
I don't recall. There were way up close to a hundred. And some was pretty large families. We didn't live too high on the hog [Laughter] , but we had food.
VESTA FINLEY:
Had plenty of vegetables, not too much beef—I mean meat-except, well I had plenty of what you call fatback, pork you know. But I guess the people had as much or more than they was used to eating anyway.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you successful in raising money? Did people respond very. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh yes. Yes; I did have a list here of the locals that we visited. But we always had money, got money. They were very generous to help. Then we told the story, you know, of what was happening down here and how people'd been thrown out of work because they joined the union. And of course people in the North was already organized and knew the benefits of having the right of collective bargaining between management and labor, you know. So, we really [unknown] . I mean, we made money; they was very generous in helping.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Let me ask you a few things about why you were working in the mill; actually, what kind of work you did within the mill. You said you started in the cloth room?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes. I was inspector in the cloth room.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did you get trained to do the work that you did?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, they train you on the job. They take you in and have an experienced helper to train you.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How long did it take you to learn how to do what you were supposed to do?
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh, well, about three to six weeks, usually. Now I went to

Page 14
weaving; I left the cloth department and went into the weaving shop department, because you could make more money being there. And Irene Hogan taught me; she taught me to weave, and I worked with her. She taught me to weave; she was a weaver. We always shifted around to where we could make more money, and the weaving shop paid more money than any other department at that time, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I see. Do you remember how many of the employees were women?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, the majority in the cloth room were women at that time, because it was grading and inspecting cloth. You had to ask the boys to do the heavy lifting work at that time. Of course, in the weaving shop it was about equally, I guess, women and men.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was it hard for women to get a job in the weaving shop?
VESTA FINLEY:
No.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I mean, they weren't eager to give jobs to men more than women because it paid more.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well now, I guess they probably employed more men, I don't know, in the weave shop, because they had to have mechanics and people who did heavy lifting that the women weren't. . . . I guess there were more men, but they weren't discriminated against because of their sex, you know. They hired women as much as. . . . And they do so now.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How old were most of the women who worked in the mills?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, some of them went to work at fourteen years of age. I know one lady that's working down there now. She started work at fourteen years of age. Her father was my boss-man; and she's still working. But the average was in the teens, you know, and on up to. . . . Well, they let you work as long as you were able to work. They didn't fire you because you got sixty-five. You worked on until the seventies if you was able to work.

Page 15
SAM FINLEY:
So long as you could cope with the job, you were all right.
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, keep up production on the job.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How long were people usually able to keep up production [Laughter] ? Did people usually have to quit at a certain age because of their health or something?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, that would be the only thing.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was that common, for people to have to quit because they couldn't work any longer?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well at a certain age, you get up to sixty-five or seventy years old, you know, you're not capable of maybe keeping up with one that was speeded up. The machine wasn't speeded up in those days as they are now. A person sixty-five now can hardly keep up a job in these kind of mills, because it's speeded up so. And you are working piece-work; you've got to make so much "picks", as they call it, on the machines and so forth to keep up production. And if you can't keep up with that production they just get rid of you, now.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
They're still working on piece-work now?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you work on piece-work when you were. . . ?
VESTA FINLEY:
No, we just worked ten hours a day [Laughter] five days a week.
SAM FINLEY:
Eleven hours.
VESTA FINLEY:
Was it eleven hours?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
That's interesting that the pace is so much faster now. What was the pace like? What did you do when you came to work in the morning, and how. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Well we went to work at the regular hour, seven o'clock in the morning. But we wasn't rushed like they are today. You'd have rest periods, and they had what they called the company store, where they sold drinks and

Page 16
knick-knacks and candy, and all that stuff. We were allowed fifteen minutes.
SAM FINLEY:
I know you've heard Ernie Ford sing "I owe my soul to the company store." Well, that's where it comes from. [Laughter]
VESTA FINLEY:
But then we had an hour for dinner; you see, we came. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
In the middle of the day, you mean?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes. From twelve to one we had an hour off for lunch. Most everybody lived here on mill village; most of them did. They'd come home; if they didn't, they carried their sandwiches with them. See, now they've got it set up with cafeterias and all this stuff. But we didn't rush; we'd just stand around and talk. We just sort of kept our work going; you know, the machinery running. But now, you go in there now and you work eight hours; I think it's twenty minutes they allow you for lunch now? Most of them eat on the run, they call it. They carry sandwiches and. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
When they [unknown] they set up this here stop watch, man with a stop watch to see what you can do in a certain length of time. They wanted everybody to have nine minutes rest out of every hour. When he got through saying that the rest period was over. [Laughter]
VESTA FINLEY:
They allow them to smoke. They go smoke, the people that smoke. But they're just allowed so many, and so long at that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you were working there and you had an hour off in the middle of the day for lunch, was this in around 1929 when you started working? What were the conditions like in the mill that made people want to go on strike, and made people want to have a union?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, just oppression, wanting more work out of us. Now you see, they brought up this stretch out system, they called it. They'd put more work on you for the same pay. More work; they didn't know when to quit. And

Page 17
they got to where the people couldn't stand it no longer. That's when they got to hunting somebody to organize them as a union.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well too, there was unrest because there wasn't any. . . . You came out of that mill every thread on your body wet; you know, perspiration. They didn't have the. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Air conditioning.
VESTA FINLEY:
Air conditioner or anything, we didn't have. It was just hot in there. You'd just burn to a frizzle, the saying is. But it was starvation wages. I know, I started working in the cloth room; I worked fifty-five hours a week for nine dollars and a big five cents. In the weave shop they paid anywhere from $13-$16-$18-$20, depending on how many looms, you know, you had to run. But on the mill village, these houses were just thrown together: no underpinning at all. They had two pumps on each street here for eight families. One pump used to be in our yard; that's before I moved over here. But we had to carry water; all the families on these streets had to carry water from two pumps to do all their washing. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Had to do your own pumping to get your water. The johnny-house was out in the field.
VESTA FINLEY:
[Laughter] Outside, you know. People found out that there were better things for them. And then people from these places like Michigan and New York and Baltimore, they found out about the conditions. And the union organizers come here to let people know there were better pay and better things in store for them. And so then when they did come, they got to writing up, giving write-ups in the Baltimore papers, the New York papers, and putting pictures in there of the mill village, and telling what the wages were and how people were living. Well, that got the people here, the managers, the president

Page 18
of the mill and all, got busy. They underpinned the houses and cleaned the houses. They put bathrooms in the houses, and tried to do that to keep the union out. Which it did; I mean, people went in for that, you know. So we still picked up every once in a while and tried to organize down here, but they never. . . . Some of the places, some of the new industries have been set up here; they have unions. But so far we don't have one down here.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Which are the industries that do have the unions?
VESTA FINLEY:
Apree Heater, out at. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Apree Heater.
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, Apree Heater, they have one. And what about that down at. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Henderson?
VESTA FINLEY:
Old Fort Finishing Company? I believe they have one.
SAM FINLEY:
There's one or two places have one.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said that the organizers came in and told people that there were better conditions, and how they shouldn't be living like that. But you said the people went out and sought organizers, tried to get an organizer to come in here and form a union.
SAM FINLEY:
They just kept tightening down on people. And Roy Price, and Lee and another fellow, Ashton, talked to a man over there at the labor camper. And he couldn't help us much, but he told us where to go to find this union organizer, Alfred Hoffman. There was a strike at that time in Elizabethtown, Tenn. [unknown] We went over there to find out what to do, and he come back with us, and started to organize. Well, they took in anybody that wanted to join—that was always done. But he did it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What was Alfred Hoffman like? What kind of guy was he?

Page 19
SAM FINLEY:
Well, whatever he thought, that's what he said. He didn't care who it is. He was all fire in making speeches; he weighed about three hundred pounds.
VESTA FINLEY:
[Laughter] They called him Papa Hoffman.
SAM FINLEY:
[unknown] faster than anybody I ever saw.
VESTA FINLEY:
[Laughter] But he was a good speaker.
SAM FINLEY:
He was good at making speeches.
When they first come down here we got the courtroom to have a speech in; they filled it up. But then it got to where we couldn't get it no more. They got to have an open-air service or meeting. Every time they could find out anybody attending a union meeting they fired him. That was the last of their job. They
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you were meeting in the courthouse, how did they find out who was going to the meetings? Did they have people there?
SAM FINLEY:
No. They stopped letting them have the courthouse.
VESTA FINLEY:
She wants to know why; how they found out who was going there. They had their scouters around, you know.
SAM FINLEY:
It was open. They had [unknown] to see, you see, who was there. So they got to having, they had to have sneaky [unknown] meetings. They had them in there too. When they found out where we was going to meet, they'd have somebody posted [unknown] there to find out who was there. Then when they found out they was going to these meetings, they fired them.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When they fired you, did they come in and tell you that they'd seen you at a meeting? Or how did they fire you?
SAM FINLEY:
No. When I come in to work that evening, the supervisor met me at the door and had my pay. And he handed it to me. And I said: "What's

Page 20
this for?" "Oh," he says, "you know what it's for." "No," I said, "but I'd like to know." I says, "Is my work satisfactory?" "Absolutely perfect; there's nothing wrong with it." "Well," I says, "What did I do?" He says, "It's for joining that union and trying to get uppity too." I said: "Well, I admit to joining the union." I said: "But I've not been trying to get uppity." "Well," I says, "I've got nothing else to do now but. . . ." "Oh, don't do that." I said, "Well, you've left me nothing else to do."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Who was the guy who fired? Had he been your boss for a long time?
SAM FINLEY:
He had a good while. Well then, they kept on firing every time they could find out anybody that joined or attended the meeting. Then we got a little better organized and got a committee to go in and talk to the management. And this Bawden, he told the committee. . . . He laughed at them. He said, "I'll give you ten dollars apiece if you'll strike my mill." Wasn't ten minutes and he just stopped, like that. They tried on the outside laying in the grass and waiting to see what the committee done. And when he come out and shook his head they made a break for the mill, and the people in there looking out the windows they went and stopped off the machinery coming out. And they stopped it off right there. He didn't pay them.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
He didn't pay the ten dollars? [Laughter]
SAM FINLEY:
That was July the eleventh. Then along in a month or so they called for a meeting with the management. The union organizers met up here at the school building and talked it over, and they signed a contract. The company signed a contract, only for the two or three leaders that we was going to hire back. Well, they agreed to that; we thought we'd get them a job somewhere else. But when it come to a showdown, it was about seventy-five didn't have no jobs. So that called for the second strike.

Page 21
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did the second strike come about?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, they just talked to one another, and wouldn't put up with not taking the hands back that has been working there. These deputy sheriffs, the sheriff, they'd put up him to block that thing, and stop it. When he couldn't get no real good men for deputies—just cutthroats, mean, were all he could get. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were they from East Marion?
SAM FINLEY:
Oh yes [unknown] Well, they laid down here in the boiler room all night; they knew when it was going to come off—they found out that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did they know?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, somebody ratted and told.
VESTA FINLEY:
[Laughter] You know what he means by ratted?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Yes. I mean, did you find out who told? That was a horrible thing to do. [Laughter]
SAM FINLEY:
We had our suspicions, but we didn't know. But anyhow, they were there and waiting all night; and they had five gallon of whiskey and drank it, these deputy sheriffs did. One of the crowd told it; it must have been so. Well, next morning they ganged up at the gate at the time they changed shifts, when the strike was supposed to come off. Well, all on the outside ganged up in front of the gate there. And this sheriff and his deputy and deputies were standing right at the gate. Well, he pulled a stick of tear gas [unknown] and put it in their faces. When they turned for masks [unknown] these deputies shot them in the back [unknown] Three to five hundred yards, running down the road, shot down and killed right in the road. There was one man sixty-five years old. It took three of them, they said, to put him in the car, and in place of

Page 22
taking him to the jail they took him to the undertaker, dead with handcuffs on. He was killed on the way from here to town.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you close to any of the people who were killed?
SAM FINLEY:
No. The morning that it happened I was at home. She was sick and I couldn't get out; or I could, but I didn't. My name was on the list. One of these deputies told it: every man that got killed was marked. They had told them who to kill, the leaders.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So did they, in fact, kill the leaders? Were the people who were killed. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Yes, they were, most of them. They tried to kill the ones that was leaders, you see.
VESTA FINLEY:
That took an active part in organizing, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But it seems like when they let go with the tear gas that there were a lot of people out there; the shifts were changing. And it sounds like these deputies were sort of drunk too.
SAM FINLEY:
Well, they were.
VESTA FINLEY:
They drank to get up the nerve to do [Laughter] what they were supposed to do, I suppose. You know.
SAM FINLEY:
When they put this tear gas in their face, naturally they turned from it. So when they did they were shot. That's how come they were shot in the back, the ones that was killed. They turned away from the tear gas.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But would you agree that the people, the six people who were killed were the actual leaders of the strike?
SAM FINLEY:
No; not altogether, no. You see, they just cut loose broadcast [unknown] right in the crowd.

Page 23
VESTA FINLEY:
But they tried to get the. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
They was supposed to pick out the leaders and kill them. And this deputy said I was on his list, though I happened not to be there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You wouldn't have been working in the mill, so you wouldn't have been changing shifts. Were people there who weren't. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Yes, there were people there that wasn't even going. Just going for curiosity; wanted to see what was going on. Oh, there was a crowd of people there. And these six were killed, and there were two or three others: one got a bullet in the hip. And there were several of them just glanced, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
During the whole thing, in the July strike. . . . And the second strike then was in October, is that right?
SAM FINLEY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you run a picket line in front of the mill at all?
SAM FINLEY:
All around the mill they had picket lines; well, they'd stake it all around out back. And the management tried to go in there one time and unload some coal. They had some coal carts; the [unknown] on the carts wouldn't have to pay if they couldn't let them get the carts. Well, they go off over here to what they call Morehead Steel, over there, and got a bunch of fellows and was going to go in there and unload this coal. And this manager, Bawden, he was leading the way. Well they stopped him; one of the fellows took a walking stick and tapped him up on the side of the head. They wouldn't let them go in there, so he stopped right then.
VESTA FINLEY:
Then they called out the National Guards and had them surrounded too.
SAM FINLEY:
They first brought the National Guard up here to town. The

Page 24
state didn't want to carry it out too long. They wouldn't let them come down here. Well, they wasn't no better off then, 'cause that's what they wanted, so they could start the machinery. So Clinchfield Mills took out insurance against explosives one day. That night or the next night one of the big machines in the opening room was dyanamited. And when that happened here come the National Guard and stood right around the others and let them start the wheels, and what not. This was an inside job.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Yes, that's what I was going to ask you.
SAM FINLEY:
To get the National Guard down there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Is that when the National Guard first came to Clinchfield? They didn't come up here to this mill?
SAM FINLEY:
They come to Clinchfield first, and then around both of them. And anybody that doesn't belong there, that wasn't a loyal worker, they'd search them every time they'd get out. [unknown] this home guard.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Home Guard?
SAM FINLEY:
National Guard.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you around, or did you. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Oh, they searched me time after time.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What were they like, the guys that came in with the National Guard?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, they was just a bunch of tin soldiers, that's all.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Before the strike went on here, had you heard of strikes going on in Elizabethtown or in Gastonia?
SAM FINLEY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did you hear about them?

Page 25
SAM FINLEY:
Well, in the newspapers. We didn't hear the real fact of the matter; just what they wanted to put in the papers is all we knew about it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But did you think of those people in Elizabethtown being in the same situation that you were in, or. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Yes, we thought of it that way. We knew they were.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was there any communication, except for the organizers? Did any people, come, local leaders from. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
No.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
In Gastonia the National Textile Workers were doing some organizing. Had you heard about them, or. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
We heard about them, but we didn't have much to do with them. We didn't like the tone of their voice. They were communists. They were too much communist, and we were warned not to have nothing to do with them.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Who warned you not to?
SAM FINLEY:
The leaders.
VESTA FINLEY:
The leaders didn't want to have anything to do with communists, but we had them there in the union. Because I was supposed to make a talk at one of the union meetings one night, and I had picked up a book that they had brought in for us to read in. And I was getting my headlines from the story in there from some man. And so when the man that was the head of the meeting that night saw what I was going to talk about, he said, "Don't do that." And I didn't have sense enough to know that the man was communist, you know. So he didn't want me to bring that out in the meeting.
SAM FINLEY:
Now [unknown] tough part to organize; the communists would come in, then, and try to take over. Because there were some few of them here, but they didn't make any headway.

Page 26
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about Hoffman or Tippitt, Tom Tippitt in Argentin? Were those the people you were very familiar with and felt comfortable with as organizers, or were you. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Yes, we felt pretty good with Mr. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, they had a winning personality and a lot of talk. They were educated in the thing. They knew how to handle a situation and when the people, you know. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did you feel about their coming from the North to the South?
SAM FINLEY:
Well we didn't think much about it. [Laughter] We was looking for help; we didn't care where it came from.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about the leaders here who you thought were communist, or who were communist? How did you find out about them, or how did you know. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Well, we didn't find out too much 'til later. But when they'd try to squeeze in and take over, we kind of shied away from that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember who any of them were?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I won't call names.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did they live here, or did they come from outside?
SAM FINLEY:
No, they come here from other places. Nobody that lived here was mixed up in it.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, I believe that Mr. Ross was, and he was from Holland or somewhere. Didn't he come here from Holland?
SAM FINLEY:
I don't know where he come from. But there were several of them that. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
I believe he was an ex-immigrant.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
There were some people from Brookwood Labor College; did you hear about Brookwood?

Page 27
SAM FINLEY:
A.J. Mursky, for one?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Right. Did you meet him? Did you talk to him?
SAM FINLEY:
Yes. I liked him all right.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
He was Dutch, I believe.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well anyway, we had a man that went to that Brookwood School up there; Mr. Ayet and his wife went there. Gracie—she's dead now—she went to summer school. And then she went to Bryn Mawr. They had a school there. But Mr. Ayet went to Brookwood.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember him talking about it? What did he think of it?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, he never did make any. . . . Well, he enjoyed being up there, and he thought it was a great experience going. But as far as him a doing any talking much about it, he didn't have an occasion to; except just from person to person you don't hear much. I think maybe he learned something up there about the communists. It was up there they had some too. But he didn't ever talk too very much about it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did he try to do any organizing or anything when he came back?
VESTA FINLEY:
He didn't, no.
SAM FINLEY:
No.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was it all over by then, or. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
More or less.
SAM FINLEY:
There wasn't much organizing done after these people got killed. It just kind of passed away.
VESTA FINLEY:
But Mrs. Ayet and me made rugs together. We got burlap, and we went to these hosiery mills and bought these second tops—I mean, they didn't use them as throw-aways; rather they sold them to people. And we dyed them. We made rugs and shipped them all over the country: New York and places.

Page 28
MARY FREDERICKSON:
To raise money for the. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
No, for making money for ourselves [Laughter] .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I see. I wonder if you could tell me why you think so many people joined into the union. There was an incredible response, wasn't there?
SAM FINLEY:
You mean, when they first started it?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Yes.
SAM FINLEY:
Oh yes. After a few weeks they'd have an open-air meeting. They had a meeting place up there. And this man Harper, he was a good speaker, and he knew all the "hang of it." The crowds would come out there; we'd have some picking and singing and grinning and [Laughter] . . . . The crowd would gather around from. . . . Then there'd be different ones to make speeches: Tom Pickett, and Hoffman, John Piele, different ones.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Where was John Piele from?
SAM FINLEY:
He was from Durham.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And was he with the United Textile Workers, or had he been here before?
SAM FINLEY:
He was a North Carolinian; most of the others came from up North.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well what she don't know was he was a United Textile Workers.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Had he been here longer than Hoffman, though?
SAM FINLEY:
No, he came here after Hoffman, and he stayed longer than Hoffman did. Hoffman done thirty days in jail while he was here.
VESTA FINLEY:
He was the main organizer, and Piele, I think, came in under him. He left Piele here to fill his place when he went on, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I see.
SAM FINLEY:
Now Hoffman was a hosiery organizer. He really didn't know too much about textile as we know it; he was a hosiery worker.

Page 29
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did you feel about the support you got from United Textile Workers? Did you feel like they were behind you?
SAM FINLEY:
We thought they were. And they did help. But they didn't have as much to help with then as they'd have now.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you feel sort of like, when things ended in October, that if they had been able to give more it might have worked?
SAM FINLEY:
Now they tried to get people jobs other places, we kept on feeding the people who couldn't get work as best they could. The United Textile Workers stuck by us.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you receive more support from United Textile Workers than you did from the people, like the farmers, you said, in the area who would give. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
I wouldn't say that, because the farmers were able to supply us with beef, potatoes, corn. We used to send a truck out there and get a load and bring it in. And then some of the unions up North, they'd collect second-hand clothes, just box after box of it. Some of it could be used, and some of it couldn't.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, that was the Friends. But what was that man's name that came from the Friends' church, that took care of the clothing part of it?
SAM FINLEY:
Francis Gorman, he had a hand in it too. He was a United Textile Worker man.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, this fellow from a Friends' church—what was his name? He was the one that was here that came here to take charge of the clothing department. I mean, he was the one they had brought in here. But I can't think of his name.
SAM FINLEY:
Well I don't know who you're talking about.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was he a minister?

Page 30
VESTA FINLEY:
No, he wasn't a minister, although he did conduct the funeral of those six people that were. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Now this here fellow Mursky conducted the funeral of these that was shot, A.J. Mursky.
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, but that man from the Friends' church had part in that.
SAM FINLEY:
Well, they had caskets lined up. . . . They had an open-air funeral; couldn't get nowhere else. And this fellow Mursky was the main speaker.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about the ministers from Marion?
VESTA FINLEY:
The ministers around here? Nobody thought of it at the time. Wasn't any local ministers participated in it, did they? But this man from the Friends' church in New York—but I can't think of his name—and that Mr. Mursky. No, this poor girl that I went to New York with, her husband belonged to a church here. And there wasn't even any of the church people except his sisters. He and I went to the funeral. They were afraid; people were just afraid to be seen with anybody that belonged to the union. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
They were afraid to go to the funeral then. So only the people who belonged to the union would go?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes. Well, friends that had been thrown out of work, you know.
SAM FINLEY:
That's about right.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
The mill kept running during a lot of this period. Who was running it?
SAM FINLEY:
They had more noise than they did. When they first started up they had more noise than anything else. They started up the machinery all along the outer edge where they make a noise, and there wasn't very many went to work.
VESTA FINLEY:
A lot of the machinery had to stand, you know. But what wasn't afraid to go to work, you know. But the union yapped down there and hollered; called them yellow dogs, wasn't it?

Page 31
SAM FINLEY:
Yes; they called them yellow dogs and made songs about them. Them rascals made songs about these scabs and [Laughter]
VESTA FINLEY:
The scabs were the union. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
The scabs were the people that left the union and went back to work.
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How many of those were there?
SAM FINLEY:
I couldn't tell you the number, but there were several of them.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I mean, like half a dozen or a dozen?
SAM FINLEY:
Oh, more than that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you talk to those people?
SAM FINLEY:
Oh yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were they your friends? Had they been your friends before?
SAM FINLEY:
Some of them was. For a long time some didn't get over it that easy. But we still stayed friends.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What did you see as their reasons for going to work?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, we just thought that they didn't have good sense, you know.
VESTA FINLEY:
No, but I'll tell you. A lot of them had large families, and they didn't make enough money to live on. Well, they just didn't make enough money to give their children balanced meals, or to dress them in a way that they would like to. And they just preferred not to belong to the union, and that was their privilege and their right. But the union wanted to make them, you know. [Laughter] Everybody didn't join.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I remember reading a letter that Minnie Fisher wrote to Louise McClaren

Page 32
about having. . . . I think she went back to work. Do you remember anything about that?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, no; I don't remember right now about it. But of course she went back to work. But her husband wasn't working. Well, she had one daughter (she lived up here in back of me); I assume she went back to work because she felt like she had to.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wanted to ask about the local leaders, the people who would, like, tip off and begin a strike, the two strikes that happened inside the mills. How many people were there like that who were local leaders; not from outside, not organizers, but. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Well, at that time the president and the vice-president of the local union, there wasn't no outsiders in it. No outsiders at all.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And Roy Price was president, right?
SAM FINLEY:
That's right.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Who was vice-president?
SAM FINLEY:
Dan Elliott, I believe.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember any of the other officers?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I had a little part in it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What officer were you?
SAM FINLEY:
I was secretary.
VESTA FINLEY:
He kept the record of names of people that joined.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What happened to those records? I read that there was no record at all of who belonged or how many people joined.
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I've got a copy of that old injunction that's got the people's name on it, if that's what you mean.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well you didn't keep a record, though; the secretaries didn't. . . .

Page 33
SAM FINLEY:
No; we didn't have but very few meetings, you know. Mostly it was sneaky meetings; we had to meet in private. Anybody that had $1.50, that's what it cost to join. If they didn't have it, they'd join anyway.
VESTA FINLEY:
But you didn't keep all their names on the record?
SAM FINLEY:
Yes, but I don't know where it is.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you think it was trash?
SAM FINLEY:
And some of them wouldn't want to be knowed anyhow, because it might cause them to lose their job—what few did get back in the mill.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Sure. How did you and Roy Price and Dan Elliott get along with the organizers? Was there ever any feeling that they were trying to take over what you, as leaders of the union, should do?
SAM FINLEY:
No. We got along fine.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And they just helped you out whenever you needed it?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, they just explained the union, what it stood for and what it was all about; that's the thing we didn't know anything about. And they helped us.
VESTA FINLEY:
Any information that they didn't know about, they consulted with them, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But when you had a meeting, you were actually running the meeting?
SAM FINLEY:
They'd have people from the mill; whenever they'd find out (just like I said), somebody in the crowd'd tell. They found out where we were going to have a meeting, they'd send somebody so as they could get you to spy on us and see who was there and what went on. So we got onto that. And we spread the news one day we were going down about fifteen miles down in the country there to have a meeting. We saw a master mechanic get in his car and take off down the road. We went another way and held our meeting.

Page 34
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, what was Lawrence Hogan? Wasn't he one of the main leaders someway or another. I know he's the one that helped decide when we'd have a meeting and who the speakers were supposed to be, and so forth.
SAM FINLEY:
Well Lawrence, they make an organizer out of him. And he got killed in a car wreck at High Point.
VESTA FINLEY:
That's Irene's brother we're talking about; Irene Hogan.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Well, then did he ever go out of Marion and organize?
SAM FINLEY:
Yes, he went to Hickory and down to. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
High Point.
SAM FINLEY:
High Point and Greensboro, down in that section.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How long did he work as an organizer?
SAM FINLEY:
Oh, a year or two.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And then did he come back here?
SAM FINLEY:
No, he got killed down there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Oh, he got killed very soon after that, I see. I thought you meant recently.
What about the role of women in the union?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, they didn't have anything much to do except just holler and scream around when they was on picket lines [Laughter] . We girls that went to summer school, when they had their meetings they wanted us all to come back and make a speech, and tell what was happening in summer school, and somewhat what we'd learned and all. Of course as I said, Miss McNutt over there taught economics, I guess you'd call it; and we had drama and English, and math and gym . . . and that's about it, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You mentioned before some of the people who came to speak while you were at the Summer School; you mentioned Frank Graham and. . . .

Page 35
VESTA FINLEY:
Frank Graham and Paul Green. He's a drama . . . he writes plays, doesn't he? He was up there one time; he was just a young fellow. He came up there with Frank. But boy, Frank Graham carried me away. That man used words to express what he was saying and oh, it was wonderful to hear him talk [Laughter] . Well, you didn't hear him. But oh, that was an educated man though. He was a speaker.
SAM FINLEY:
And Sinclair Lewis was right on the picket line with us.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you meet and talk to him?
SAM FINLEY:
Yes, he was right in the crowd. That was when he was writing. . . He wrote one or two books about this strike. You can't get a hold of them no more; I don't know what happened to them.
VESTA FINLEY:
Don't they have one in the library?
SAM FINLEY:
I don't know.
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, somebody told me they had one; who was it was here said they had a book that they got at the library? They're bound to have one up there.
SAM FINLEY:
I went to the bookstore and asked the man about it. Oh, he said there was some book written about it. He wouldn't talk to me about it; he wasn't interested.
VESTA FINLEY:
Somebody around here told me they got one at the library to read.
SAM FINLEY:
There was a boy, a young man that came by here about two years ago. Going to school, and he was going to write about this Marion strike. I talked to him out there a good little while. And he wanted to find out who lived here [unknown] And I told him I was here. He asked me some questions, like you're doing. He said: "I went down here to the office, to talk to the personnel man. I went down there and wanted to see some of the records that happened that year when there was the strike. And the

Page 36
personnel man told me that they had a boiler explosion and water damaged all the records and they were ruined." [Laughter] I told him [unknown] I said: "Now he didn't want you to see the records." "Oh," he said, "I'm going to find out what I want to know if I have to go to Raleigh." And when I came in, "Tell me what Sparkey said," she said. "How did he think so quick?" I said: "He didn't have to think; all he done is open his mouth." [Laughter]
VESTA FINLEY:
And then even at that [unknown] told Sparkey. [Laughter]
SAM FINLEY:
I told you that; I don't care. And he told me the ending: "Well, that man come here wanting to know [unknown] Sam Copeland and Adam Hunt, and some of the mill men that's been dead for years, wanting to see some that were here." I said, "And you sent him to my house." He said, "No I didn't." I said: "You did; and I loaded him up." [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you think they do have the records?
SAM FINLEY:
Yes, they've got records, but nobody can see it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I just wondered if you thought they really did.
SAM FINLEY:
Yes. But there's never been no boiler explosion and no records destroyed. He was just quick on the trigger.
VESTA FINLEY:
He just told him that because he didn't want to. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said the women were on the picket lines. Describe how the picket lines worked. Did they go all day and all night, or did they only go. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
They changed shifts. At every gate, every place you could get into the mill they put anywhere from two to six to eight men. And they had these oil drums, and burnt coal to keep warm at night. They didn't let nobody get near; owners nor nobody else.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did some people cross the picket line? The loyal workers, the people

Page 37
who were scabbing?
SAM FINLEY:
Not 'til they killed some of them and shot them down. Now they had some coal that needed to be unloaded. Well, Mr. Baldwin went over here and got a bunch of men to come down there to unload the coal, but the picket line wouldn't let him through. One of them took a walking stick and tapped him up on the side of the head with it. He said: "That'll do; some-one struck me."
VESTA FINLEY:
[Laughter] Now there were people in there working before they shot them people down there.
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I'm talking about until they shot them. They signed a contract: everything they asked for (and it wasn't much). They worked eleven hours a day. They asked for a ten hour day, and this company agreed to everything they asked for. Except, now, they say: "There's two or three leaders that we don't want to hire back." Well, the union men says: "Maybe we can get them jobs somewhere else; just two or three." They signed this contract up in the school building. And the next morning when they went in to work about seventy-five people didn't have any jobs; they wouldn't take them back. So that's why they struck the second time.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you one of the seventy-five?
SAM FINLEY:
I was one of the seventy-five. Wouldn't even let me get my tool box; they brought it out to me.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
I wanted to ask: were there children on the picket lines?
SAM FINLEY:
No.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
Did the women go on the picket line more often than the men?
SAM FINLEY:
It was mostly men on the picket line.
VESTA FINLEY:
They think a lot of the girls.

Page 38
SAM FINLEY:
We'd have parades sometimes from here (a hundred or two) parade over to the other mill, you know, and back. They would go run through the parade with a car. They'd give a man fifty dollars to go through the parade with a car. We went over to Clinchfield, and there was a woman got right in front of a car, stretched her arms out that way and dared him to hit her. Well, they got him stopped, and he got a shotgun and a rifle in his car. Some of the boys pulled him out and roughed him up a little bit. They took the guns to town and swore out a warrant for him. And there never was a thing done about it. But later one of Mr. [unknown] told me that he got fifty dollars put in his hand to run through the parade with his car. But they didn't get through it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was there much communication between you here and the Marion Baldwin mill and the Clinchfield mill?
SAM FINLEY:
Oh yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Who were some of the leaders over there?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, Herman Wilder [unknown] was one. I tell you, they done wrong by taking both mills in the same local.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, she was wanting to know who was the leaders.
SAM FINLEY:
Right now I can't recall their names. But they took both mills in. And this mill down here was, I'd say, about eighty percent organized, and Clinchfield wasn't. That hurt, because they was ready and wanting to go back to work, and down here they didn't want to. It caused confusion.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So you think they should have formed two locals?
SAM FINLEY:
Yes.
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes; that's where they made their mistake.
SAM FINLEY:
But they didn't. They had it all in one local. And they

Page 39
should have had only people that worked in the local, but they had anybody that wanted to join—come one, come all.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When the whole thing was over, did you think that it had achieved anything? Did you think it was worth what had happened?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I don't know whether anything that's any good is a cause of bloodshed always. And if you consider these old houses here on stilts, go out there in the street and pump your water by hand (maybe have to wait 'til the well filled up again before you could get some water), and go on back here out in the fields in back of the house to the toilet, and running water; if you consider water in the house, toilets built-in, anything, it done us good.
VESTA FINLEY:
It done a lot of good. And too, these streets. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
When they first had the strike, then newspaper reporters—Sinclair Lewis and the bunch of them—they flocked here from everywhere to get stories. And they was taking pictures of these old houses and everything, and plastering the headlines on the front pages of their northern papers. Well, they got busy before anything ever got settled and went to putting water in these houses.
VESTA FINLEY:
And the streets were just cinders that they took out from there; they just got rid of them by just putting them in the streets. So we got streets now. It did a lot of good. And in the inside it was messy; they didn't keep the mill cleaned up, the toilets and things in there like they should have.
SAM FINLEY:
One or two times lately they've got to talking union talk around, and when they get to talking that pretty strongly they get better to the help—just for a week or two. Want to be good to them. But after it blows over then they just get back like they were.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So the permanent changes were mainly in the form of material things,

Page 40
like toilets inside and water. But what about. . . . Did things ever reach a point again where you tried to organize again?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well yes, they've had a real good
SAM FINLEY:
Well, three or four years ago they got to talking it pretty strong and things looked good. And the manager of this plant here stopped everybody's jobs in the whole mill, stopped their jobs off and called them out to the conference room and had a little talk with them. Everybody. And he told them: "Now," he said, "they're trying to organize a union here, and we don't want that. If they organize it," he said, "we'll shut down right then. We're losing four thousand dollars every day we're on." Well, anybody knowed he was lying.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, he made believers out of them.
SAM FINLEY:
Didn't out of me [Laughter] . He said: "We're losing four thousand dollars every day, just running to accommodate the help. Good to them."
VESTA FINLEY:
And you know that was just a. . . . [Laughter]
SAM FINLEY:
And he said, "If you get that union, we'll close it down, because we wouldn't care a bit to close it down."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said a lot of people were believers. How did they believe that? Why did they believe that?
VESTA FINLEY:
Sure. Well, because the big fellow had called them, you know. The big fellow said so [Laughter] . Had speakers to come here, or. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
And then when it went for us to have an election, they hired people (several of them) to come in. They give them jobs in order for them to vote in this election; and when the election was over they let them go.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Oh, you mean to vote against the union?
SAM FINLEY:
To vote against the union. It was pretty close, I think, at

Page 41
that.
VESTA FINLEY:
But anybody that had a cent of reason in them knowed that any company couldn't run a loss like that. That's just absolutely out of the world to think they'd do that. But a lot of people: "Well, they said it, and they're losing that money to give us a job. We ought to appreciate it."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were these people mainly your age, or were they younger than you, who believed this?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, in this last go-around they was the younger generation; I mean, you know, younger than now.
SAM FINLEY:
A lot of them don't know about what happened back in 1929.
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh all these young people, they don't know anything about it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
They don't hear from their parents?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, if they do they don't take it in.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
That's interesting. What about your own children? I'm sure they've heard you talk about it.
SAM FINLEY:
Well, they believe what I say [Laughter] .
VESTA FINLEY:
It was all over though before they came along.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were they proud of what you had done?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I couldn't say for that. I believe they'd fight for me [Laughter] .
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, I think they were proud to the extent that they knew that living conditions were improved greatly on the mill village. And then they did raise wages gradually along, and the people got to living better. Of course now, these people working down here makes over a hundred dollars, and some of them close to two hundred dollars every week now. Where it used to you didn't.
SAM FINLEY:
I've worked many a week for five dollars.

Page 42
VESTA FINLEY:
You used to work fifty cents a day when you first started. That was before my time. But it was just a sweat-shop slave place. And they were making money.
SAM FINLEY:
They'd blow a whistle at five thirty in the morning to wake everybody up, to be sure to get them up and get their breakfast and get to work by six o'clock. Well, they worked 'til six that evening, and another shift comes and works 'til six the next morning. They'd stop, maybe, fifteen-twenty minutes to eat a little bite. But now this night shift, it was just all night. Then when they had that strike, they cut it down from twelve hours (never stop), they got it cut it down to where they worked 'til five o'clock in the morning. And they'd go home and the other shift would come in and start right up.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you went to work for the Clinchfield Mill, that would have been in the later part of the thirties, right? What were conditions like then?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, it wasn't too late in the thirties.
VESTA FINLEY:
About the mid-thirties, I guess.
SAM FINLEY:
There was a couple of years I couldn't get a job anywhere. Because they'd check the books, found out who I was, and they found out where I was in that strike in Marion. And they'd have all kinds of beautiful talks, you know, and tales, but they wouldn't say, "We can't hire you because you're a striker."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you went to work for Clinchfield, were conditions better there as well?
SAM FINLEY:
Not much. I went to work; the job was run down, and it was just a break-neck job. And I went in there and worked my eyeballs out trying to straighten it out. And I got credit for trying.
VESTA FINLEY:
But the union didn't affect the Clinchfield people like it did here.

Page 43
They went on for years before the people had to report to Raleigh to the Health Department to get those outside toilets. . . . It was terrible.
SAM FINLEY:
People would go in these outside houses when they. . . . Naturally the mill company wanted to order them out of these houses. They'd give them orders to move out of the house. Well, if they didn't move the sheriff would get a bunch of deputies and tear every piece of furniture out, just cart it out in the street.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Now this was in '29, right?
SAM FINLEY:
'29 and '30. A lot of times when they'd carry this furniture out, that night the house would catch fire and burn down. That done that several times.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you ever. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
I never was in there burning [Laughter] .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you ever made to leave your house? Did you rent a house from them at the time?
VESTA FINLEY:
No, we weren't living on the mill village at all.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So you were sort of protected from that. You were living. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
With my parents.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Had they worked in the mill?
SAM FINLEY:
No.
VESTA FINLEY:
His sister did. No, his father run a grocery business and a taxi business.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
In Marion?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes.
SAM FINLEY:
Well now, one time when they carried all the furniture out of the house, the boy just stood around and watched them; and quick as these

Page 44
deputies left and went back to town, they carried every piece back and set it up just right where it was.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What did they do to them?
SAM FINLEY:
They never come back. If they'd have done that, later on they'd have carried it out again.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What did people do when they were evicted?
SAM FINLEY:
They'd just hunt someplace to move to.
VESTA FINLEY:
That was terrible; terrible what people had to suffer. The company felt like that if people wanted to work for them, if they wanted to work for what they was paying, it was their right to do it. And if they didn't, they wasn't supposed to hire them. And when the union sent me here to organize a union here, they felt like they were infringing on their rights. And the people were living in such dire circumstances, until they were fighting for a better livelihood. And so it was just a cross; well, it's always been that.
SAM FINLEY:
They moved the trial, the trial of these deputies. There was fifteen of them, I believe it was. And the judge held preliminary hearings. And he'd get one of these deputies on the stand and he'd say, "Did you fire a shot?" "No." "Stand aside." Called another one up there. "Did you fire?" "I shot at so-and-so." And they'd hold him for trial. The only word what went. . . . Now if he said no they turned him loose. Now it got down to about six, I believe it was. And they were afraid they couldn't get a fair trial here and they moved it over to Yancey, Burnsville. And one of the lawyers had been there all his life and he knew everybody in the county. The jury was picked. And when it come to trial they just turned them loose.
VESTA FINLEY:
They had that while were in summer school over there at Burnsville. And we came down to the courthouse to hear us some of the trial. And

Page 45
that lawyer Morgan was the fellow that had. . . . Tate Morgan, was that his name? What was that lawyer's name now?
SAM FINLEY:
It wasn't Tate. Now this man I'm talking about was [unknown] over there at Burnsville. [unknown] It wasn't the head man. They got the sheriff on the stand there, see, [unknown] The union had a man by the name of Edward Johnson for us. And he said: "What did these boys ever do to you, these people that got killed? What did any of them ever do to you?" "Oh," he said, "they hollered 'wolf, wolf' at me. [Laughter] They even called me a son of a bitch." He said, "You knew that went with this job when you took it." [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you go over to the trial?
SAM FINLEY:
No, but I did try a lot of times when it was held right here. They moved it, then, over there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Right. So you went to the ones here?
SAM FINLEY:
Yes. They turned them loose, and then they brought out a suit against them. They threw that out.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What do you remember about sitting in the courtroom? How did you feel while this whole thing was going on?
VESTA FINLEY:
[unknown] Well, we knew it was a one-sided thing, because the lawyers here in Marion, some of them were stockholders in the mill, you know. And they were, of course, on the mill's side. As I said, the jury was more or less picked by the people that were on the side of the industry, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said a few minutes ago that there was a cross between the mill people who wanted better conditions for their families and themselves and the owners who wanted to make a profit in their industry. What about Marion as a

Page 46
town? Is it sort of divided into groups of people like that? You didn't live in the mill village, but the mill village was very apart from the rest of the town.
SAM FINLEY:
The uptown people, they sided with the company.
VESTA FINLEY:
Because there's so many that are stockholders.
SAM FINLEY:
And after these workers had worked out what money they could get and come up there to spend it with them in their stores, they'd go agin them. Cut their own throat, not knowing what they were doing. They would line up with the company agin us.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did other people in Marion earn their money? You said some of them were stockholders in the company?
SAM FINLEY:
They owned the stores uptown, see, and had a little stock in the mill. They didn't want anything to bother working people, as long as you could work and get what work they could get out of you. That's what they was
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Where did the people who controlled the mill live?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, they had their houses, still have.
SAM FINLEY:
Most of them lived up in Baltimore, up in that section. And then they'd just send word down here to the underdogs. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, back then it was Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Copeland from New York; they lived up there. And what was that lady from England, Mr. Baldwin's sister?
SAM FINLEY:
[unknown] I don't know; maybe there's something in this magazine in there about it.
VESTA FINLEY:
But they were people from up North, more or less, the president, vice-president, the big stock holders. But local people had stock in it too, you know; small amounts—some of them had more. They were looking after the

Page 47
interest of the company and not the people. This is kind of a slave thing, you know. Well, working people's always been treated more or less like. . . . The people that owns any place is making money; they don't care how the workers live, most of them. Some of them is concerned, interested; but just what they can get out of their help, that's the main thing.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were there any people who you ever met who were controlling this mill who seemed concerned or interested in working people?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, on the surface they would pretend to be; but I don't know if at heart they really were.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about the sort of underdog superintendents, the people who were agents; the section bosses or the administrative people like this guy you were talking about, Sparkey who was in the personnel department?
SAM FINLEY:
Harper? [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about those people?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, they get their orders, and they jump for the man whistling.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, they might at heart, but they couldn't afford to speak up, because they had their jobs and they knew they'd lose their jobs. And, of course they made more money that just the regular help: the overseers, the superintendent and all that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were most of them from around here?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, they were mostly local people.
SAM FINLEY:
Back then they carried out the orders pretty good. But now, for the last few years the management has fired some of these [unknown] bosses you was talking about just like that [snaps fingers].
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Why?
SAM FINLEY:
Whenever there's something going wrong somebody's got to be

Page 48
fired; that's all there is to it.
VESTA FINLEY:
If a man is an overseer, we call them, or boss, employer; if they don't come up with production or if they come up with what they call committee seconds (bad cloth), if they can't get that straightened out with the employees and get to running they fire them. They put somebody else on the job.
And then too, this new bunch that came in down here for the last few years, when they first came in down here they wanted to fire everybody over thirty-five years old, wasn't it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Workers?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes. They laid off people down here, this young bunch that came in. All of them were young people; I don't know many of them at all that's down here now. But when the older people got out these young fellows came in right out of college, and they wanted everything run in an efficient way. All these people over thirty-five that couldn't come up to production, they were laid off or fired. They laid off and fired so many, 'til they got where they didn't have enough to run the machinery. And then they tried to get people back. Some of them did come back, and others went elsewhere. Lot of people from here were working in Morganton and different places.
SAM FINLEY:
I retired down there in 1956; I've been back seventeen times since then to work, anywhere from a day to six weeks. They'd get on the phone and want me to come back and help them; somebody had quit and they didn't have another fellow on the job.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you working at that time? When these young people came in?
VESTA FINLEY:
No.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How long have you been out?
VESTA FINLEY:
I've been out about fifteen-twenty years. No, I wasn't working

Page 49
then. But then I have friends that was laid off, and they had to hunt jobs elsewhere. But they laid off so many. . . . And then too, the young people of today, they've been brought up in homes that didn't require any responsibility of them, and they want a job. They want the money. They go down there, and they give them about six weeks. They pay them learners' wages. Well, when they get to where they can run a job, then they quit; and then they draw, you know, so many weeks' unemployment. And they've had that trouble with them, because this younger bunch don't want to work and slave like the older people did. Unless they're tied up with a family or something they just don't do it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do most of them take a quit, or has that resulted in some better conditions, because they refuse to. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I'll tell you. The majority of the young ones today don't want to work, period.
VESTA FINLEY:
That's what I say; they've been brought up in homes that they. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
They never have had to work.
VESTA FINLEY:
Never have had any responsibility; their parents just. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
And they'll get the job; and as long as training is going on, all right. But when it comes to being responsible, they don't. Go somewhere else and learn something there.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
When did the colored people come into the town? Had they been here for very long, or were they working in the mills when you started working?
SAM FINLEY:
No. The colored people didn't come to the mills. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Last two years.
SAM FINLEY:
Only scrubbers; scrubbed the floors.

Page 50
VESTA FINLEY:
Shoveled coal and such matters.
SAM FINLEY:
They didn't come to the mills up until right recent years. They won't work now; they're worse than the white people now about working. Once in a while you get one that works. There's a colored girl that comes down here to the employment office and told this man Parker, she says: "I want the secretary's job; I'm abdicating." [Laughter] They don't mind telling what they want to start with.
VESTA FINLEY:
But now, some of them work. They've got girls that's secretaries to the various employers, overseers. But a lot of them lay out; I think they get drunk on weekends (you know how hangovers. . . .) and they lay out. But they don't get the work out of a lot of them.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How many Negroes were living in Marion while you were working in the mills, would you say?
SAM FINLEY:
Oh, there were several. They worked on the railroad. They didn't work in the mill, they worked on outside jobs.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Where did they live?
SAM FINLEY:
They had a place over here they call Moreheads.
VESTA FINLEY:
Black Bottom. [Laughter]
SAM FINLEY:
Black Bottom, and Shake a Leg, Mexico. There's a street out over the way there that they just lived in shacks. Now they can get by better and look like better than the white people, of course.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well now, there are a lot of them got good jobs: they paint, they work on highways.
SAM FINLEY:
Recently. But back then they didn't have.
VESTA FINLEY:
But just since this integration thing's been up, since we've had them, you know . . . they have to work them, and it's been a good thing. It's

Page 51
good for our country. You take any person; I say there's no person in the world knows how to sympathize with the black people except women. You know, women's always been considered a second-grade citizen. Now that the colored people have better living conditions, it's just made a wonderful improvement in that race, you know it? They feel like they're kind of a human being. Not I don't believe in mixing, marrying and intermingling with them.
SAM FINLEY:
Now one thing that helps them hold off, we've got a welfare system that all they've got to do is go up there and get the stamp books. Pay just a little bit and get enough stuff to last them a month. But they don't have to work; you can't hire one of them to work; no sir. "That's cutting my relief off."
VESTA FINLEY:
You've got some white people up there too, you know.
SAM FINLEY:
I know; we're talking about the colored people now.
VESTA FINLEY:
But it's amazing the freedom and the hoard of changes brought in.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What kind of specific changes were there in Marion with integration. You said the mill had to hire them in jobs.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, there was rejection, of course. They opposed it, but it was the law and so they couldn't turn them down on account of their race, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about in the schools?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, we've gotten along very well. Now, they've had one or two little flare-ups, not to amount to anything.
VESTA FINLEY:
We had a few fights in the high school. We had a little trouble last year, I think. At the beginning they had some trouble because the colored boys. . . . I think the colored people, when they first got their freedom

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they didn't know how to handle the situation. They wanted to go overboard imposing theirself on the white people, you know. They just didn't know how to act. And they had some trouble in the schools because they'd call white people things, and the white people called them names. They had a few fights. But we've not had too much trouble, really. And up here in our elementary school, as far as I know they've not had any trouble. The worst trouble is some of them comes in with B.O. so bad that you can't hardly stand it. You can smell them before they ever. . . . I work for the food service. But other than that. . . . They've had a little collision in the high schools and junior high. But considering all, I think they did pretty well.
SAM FINLEY:
The chairman of the school board's a colored man.
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes. We've got some colored teachers, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Back to the 1929 strike, for a minute, how did the colored people react to the strike?
SAM FINLEY:
Well they didn't take no part in it and had nothing to do with it.
VESTA FINLEY:
There wasn't enough of them working.
SAM FINLEY:
They wasn't concerned with it, because they didn't work in the mill, see.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I see. There was no communication or relationship?
SAM FINLEY:
No, there wasn't.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did any of them quit working? I mean, even the scrubbing jobs, loading coal and all?
SAM FINLEY:
Oh, they didn't pay any attention. They just went on hauling.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When the mill closed down?
SAM FINLEY:
There wasn't too many of them, you know.

Page 53
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You mentioned the women being able to understand colored people as far as, because those had been discriminated against. I wondered if many of the black women in Marion worked in homes of white people?
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh yes. That's what their main jobs were. They were taught to be good cooks; you know, that's what they knew the girls were mostly going to do, housekeep for people. But that's what they did mostly.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did any of the mill people have cooks?
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh yes, the superintendent, the presidents and the vice-presidents, they had women that came in and cooked, and took care of the children and did the housework. Most of them did.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about workers? Like men and women who worked in the mill? Were they ever able to afford cooks?
VESTA FINLEY:
No.
SAM FINLEY:
No, they couldn't afford it. They had to get up and get their breakfasts, go on to work, and leave the children to take care. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Some of the main employers might have had a woman come in, maybe once a week and do the laundry and ironing. A lot of them would come in and do that, you know. And then a lot of them had babysitters, come take care of the babies while the mothers worked.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Would this be workers, or would this be higher employers?
VESTA FINLEY:
The higher employers.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wanted to ask about laundry; did people send their laundry out, like to a washer-woman?
VESTA FINLEY:
A lot of them back in those days, the colored women would come to the house and do their washing, more so than—well, some of them, I guess, may have carried them to the colored people's home, but I think most of them came

Page 54
to the homes where they did the laundry.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about women who were working in the mill? What did they do for child care?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, usually the younger women, their mothers or grandmothers took care of them, you know. Or they had a colored girl that would come in and stay in the home, some of them. Not many of the workers could afford it. And some of them made arrangements; maybe one would work one shift, the father one shift the mother one shift, and managed that way, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember them ever passing something where women couldn't work at night? A law where women couldn't work at night? Were women always able to work on the night shift if they wanted to?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes.
SAM FINLEY:
There used to be one you couldn't work more than so many hours a day. Nine hours, I believe, in one day. There used to be a law to that effect.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
What about after nine o'clock at night; you never heard of a law that women couldn't work after nine o'clock at night?
SAM FINLEY:
No, that's not never been. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Not been here, that I ever knowed. If it was, it was before my day.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did men and women tend to work the same shifts?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes.
SAM FINLEY:
Forty-eight hours a week; there was a law that a woman couldn't work but forty-eight hours in any one week. A man could work just as long as he could stand up.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was that enforced?

Page 55
SAM FINLEY:
Yes!
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I mean the forty-eight hour week law. Was that enforced?
VESTA FINLEY:
For the women.
SAM FINLEY:
Yes. That was before they got down to eight hours.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you ever work while your children were small?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, I did. I went to work when my youngest girl was nine months old; my mother-in-law took care of her. But I worked on the third shift ten years; he worked on first shift. That way I could put the children to bed; they weren't really little, some of them went to school. But I could put them to bed before I went to work at night; and then when I came home in the morning those that went to school, I stayed up and put them to school. And my sister stayed with me, and she worked on second shift. Managed that way, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wanted to ask you about the health of the people who worked in the mills. Were people generally in pretty good health; or what did it do to your health to work in the mill?
VESTA FINLEY:
I don't know. We used to have some real pale looking people that worked in that mill [Laughter] . It was hard on them, but I guess it was just the mercy of the Lord that they was able to work. They had to work! But there was a lot of sick people. You know, we used to have a lot of people that had—what is it, this sore mouth. You get sore, that you don't have a balanced meal.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
Scurvy?
VESTA FINLEY:
No, you don't call it scurvy.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Pellagra?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes. A lot of people used to have that. And then we had people that used to have TB; and it might not have been TB, it could have been what

Page 56
they call lung trouble now, from inhaling that cotton and stuff, you know. They called it TB or tuberculosis. But I've often thought now that they found this other disease that's caused from inhaling, I think that's probably what it was, but doctors didn't know at that time.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
If you were ill, was it easy to get to a doctor? Did the company have doctors?
VESTA FINLEY:
No, the company didn't have doctors back then.
SAM FINLEY:
The doctors, you could call them and they'd come to the house. But now they don't do that no more; you've got to go see them.
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh, back in those days most doctors were dope
SAM FINLEY:
Alcoholics.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
People in the mill village didn't have trouble getting physicians to come out to their houses?
SAM FINLEY:
No, no more than anybody else.
VESTA FINLEY:
No, they'd come.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wanted to ask you about the churches in Marion. You mentioned that you belonged to the church; was it important in your own life? Was the church important in your own life?
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh yes, it's a very important part of your life. Because, after all, we live and move and have our being in God, you know. And that's where you get your spiritual food. I don't know how people. . . . Well, most people exist without going into church, but to me that's one of the most wonderful parts of your life. Because once you have the Lord in your heart you have an inner peace that people that's not in church or doesn't belong to church, they don't have that inner peace. It's just not there.
SAM FINLEY:
When they organized the union, one of the churches expelled a

Page 57
bunch of their members for belonging to the union.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What did you think about that at the time?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, we just thought they wasn't what they claimed they were [Laughter] , because a Christian's supposed to work on a different basis from a sinner, you know. But oh, it tore the churches up around here, a lot of them. It caused a lot of things to happen among the church people, between the ones that joined the union and those that didn't believe in it. And a lot of them thought you was taking a mark of the beast joining [Laughter] . I don't know if you girls know what that is or not, but it's a thing that's supposed to happen when the anti-Christ sets up his kingdom on earth. You have to take a certain mark to buy ourselves. And we can't buy ourselves if you don't take this mark, which will be 666 according to Revelation. But people thought that . . . the end of the time was just about to come, you know. [Laughter] But there was a lot of trouble, broken fellowship in the churches among the people who belonged to the union and those who didn't. So it brought discord in the churches, and that was a sad thing. But it brought better living conditions, so. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was this true in almost all of the churches in Marion?
VESTA FINLEY:
As far as I know they were. The people around our mill village. . . . Now, of course, uptown churches, those people, not too many of them worked in the mill. You see, they worked in the stores and things of that nature; it didn't affect them too much. It was just the working class people that made their livelihood in the mills, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Which church did you go to?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, I used to go, I was brought up in the Baptist church, but now I belong to Pentecostal Holiness church. But I was brought up in the

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Baptist church; my people are all Baptist. But his people belong to Pentecostal.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you bring up all your children in the Pentecostal church here?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes. But some of them don't go to church. My daughter, she's Methodist; she's pianist and organist too at the Methodist. And I have one daughter in St. Augustine that goes to the Pentecostal church there. The other three, they don't go to church, except when they want to [Laughter] .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You spoke about the discord in the churches in 1929 over the union. I wonder if you could explain how it was divided? Were people divided within families? Did men sometimes want to join the union and their wives didn't want them to? Or did people tend to be divided according to the work they did in the mill? Or why were the workers split on that issue within the church?
SAM FINLEY:
They wasn't divided too much in the families. They stuck together pretty well. But there were some few that just thought that they were better than the others. They didn't join, and they thought the ones that did was a disgracement to the earth.
VESTA FINLEY:
Now, I think some of the church people thought it was a wrong thing to do, and they fell out with the people in the church that felt that it was their privilege and a better way to a better livelihood. And there was discord there on those bases.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How was it divided? About evenly as far as numbers were concerned?
VESTA FINLEY:
No.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
So what about the stewards and the deacons, maybe, that were there. What side would they be on? Would they be evenly divided?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, yes, there were some of them that was deacons. Mr. Elliott, they turned him out of church, or treated him so badly (he was a Baptist) he and his

Page 59
wife, they just pulled out and went to another church.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
Was he a deacon?
VESTA FINLEY:
He was a deacon, yes. They were both workers in the church. But now in his family, some of the deacople wanted his mother to run him off from home because he belonged to the union. Her own child!
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did she support him?
SAM FINLEY:
Sure she did! [Laughter]
VESTA FINLEY:
She was a good Christian woman too.
SAM FINLEY:
But when she wouldn't do what they wanted her to do. . . . She went to church, and after church they'd have a little handshaking and. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Fellowshipping! [Laughter]
SAM FINLEY:
And she walked up to one of these main deacons and reached her hand out to shake with him, and he turned his back on her.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about the ministers? What about your own minister at the time? Did he ever talk to you?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, he kind of tried to stand on neutral ground.
SAM FINLEY:
They tried to calm both sides.
VESTA FINLEY:
He was a good person, and he didn't want to . . . where he'd decide. Of course, he wasn't involved; he didn't have to be involved. He tried to stay on neutral ground, because he didn't favor either one. Really, that was the position he should take, you know. He was a man of God preaching the gospel, and he wasn't supposed to be on either side. I don't know, some of the preachers may have sided. Anyway, our pastor didn't, because he had judgment about him; had wisdom enough not to, you know. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did any of the ministers side with the workers?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, what I say, I think they tried to walk in the middle path,

Page 60
you know what I'm talking about. They didn't want to waver either way, which they shouldn't have. And I'm glad they didn't. Because if it had been something that would have been detrimental to the church as a whole, he would have had to have taken a stand, you know. But no, I don't think any of the preachers really got involved, as far as I know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How long did the union stay around after 1929?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, they were here in the early thirties, because it was in '30, in January, when I was in New York. It was in the early thirties when it was all disbanded.
SAM FINLEY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What happened? What was the final decision that made it disband?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, they decided we don't have any union any longer, but we'll try to figure so we can get you a job. They did that. And they just kind of phased it out, so people went other places and got jobs.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Like Roy Price, who left?
SAM FINLEY:
Like Roy Price, and different ones.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you really in the minority because you stayed?
SAM FINLEY:
One of them; there were several stayed here. But I was about to work somewhere else, but at that time you couldn't hardly get a job.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
After the union was disbanded, were there ever any other organizations that you belonged to that tried to do the same sort of thing as the union?
SAM FINLEY:
No, I never did join up no more [Laughter] .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about any other groups or organizations other than the church that you were involved with, like the Masons or the. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I didn't ever get involved with the Masons. I've been [unknown] . You name it and

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I've been there [Laughter] .
VESTA FINLEY:
I don't know about the Masons and that. Were they opposed to the union?
SAM FINLEY:
I don't think so. They didn't take no part in it, the Masons.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Who belongs to the Masons?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, it's a think that you've got to get worked up into. You can't just go and say, "I want to join." Somebody's got to take you on in it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What people in town belong?
SAM FINLEY:
Some of the store keepers and owners?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Is it mostly uptown people?
VESTA FINLEY:
Businessmen. Uptown people.
SAM FINLEY:
Uptown people.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
You mentioned another group, the Redmen? What's that?
SAM FINLEY:
Oh, that's just an organization. Mostly male people go for that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Men, I take it; not women?
VESTA FINLEY:
No, women didn't used to belong. They do now but. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
They have their meetings and fish fries and picnics and things like that. And they've got headdresses they wear. They have a lot of fun when they get a paleface to join.
VESTA FINLEY:
But the Ku Klux. . . . Now people didn't like that people; they still don't down here.
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I'll tell you about the Ku Klux; they never did know what it was all about.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Who didn't know what it was all about?
SAM FINLEY:
People around here. You can read about where they done this

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and burned people and everything way back. When Al Smith ran for president, the Ku Klux was reorganized to defeat him. And they did; that's what defeated him, Ku Klux Klan. Because they was organized all around, and they took an oath not to vote for him. And they paraded around all over the country.
VESTA FINLEY:
She still don't know what Ku Klux Klan was [Laughter] .
SAM FINLEY:
Gosh, I know she's read about Ku Klux.
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, I guess you have studied about it, haven't you?
SAM FINLEY:
I know she's read about it in the papers.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Yes. That's the one that's national, right?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Well, when did you belong to them?
SAM FINLEY:
1928.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Why did you join?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I wanted to see what it was all about, for one thing.
VESTA FINLEY:
Just to get into something. He had to wear a ring.
SAM FINLEY:
Anything that was done that was bad, it was laid on the Ku Klux.
VESTA FINLEY:
What did the Ku Klux do good?
SAM FINLEY:
Listen, she don't know.
VESTA FINLEY:
No, I don't. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
She never got to belong; I don't think they accept women, do they?
VESTA FINLEY:
No.
SAM FINLEY:
They'd find out somebody that was doing the wrong thing, and they'd have a talk with them, somebody would.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Like, what was the wrong thing?
VESTA FINLEY:
Some man beating up his wife, and cruelty to animals.

Page 63
SAM FINLEY:
Beating up his wife, and wouldn't feed his children, and anything like that. They'd have a little talk with him. And sometimes they have got the man to working.
VESTA FINLEY:
And if he didn't straighten up and do, they'd go in and flog him.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you ever do that?
SAM FINLEY:
No! I never done that. That's just talk.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What do they do?
SAM FINLEY:
They wear these-here white robes, and just a place to look out the eyes. You can't see . . . you don't know who they are. [Laughter] And they get out and have these parades. And a wizard in a parade one time in Gastonia (they were in cars, you know; the parade was about a mile long). . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When was this?
SAM FINLEY:
Oh, that's along in the early thirties.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Why did you go to Gastonia? What was the parade for?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, they'd have meetings and elect officers and different things, you know. And they paraded around this Catholic school, and you couldn't see nobody. They were against Catholics, because the Catholic was running for president and they wanted to beat him. And they done it to the churches.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Well, when you belonged here in Marion, did you get to know the other people? I mean, when you met with the Ku Klux Klan, did they take off the. . . ?
SAM FINLEY:
Yes, when you got in the hall, the meeting place.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Who belonged to the klan? Who belonged to it then?
SAM FINLEY:
Oh, there were lots and lots of my friends here in it. We had a lot of fun when they had to go over to Ashville or somewhere they were having a meeting, or Johnson City, Tennessee.

Page 64
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did any of the people from uptown belong to it?
SAM FINLEY:
Yes, but none of the people from the mill right here did. At the Clinchfield mill, some of the boys up there did.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Some of the. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Workers.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But none of the workers from this plant?
SAM FINLEY:
None but overseers.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And none of the workers from Baldwin?
SAM FINLEY:
I don't remember right now of any from down here. But at that time I was working at Clinchfield.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was it mainly sort of a way to keep up with people who were beating their wives, or Catholics? Was there any racial involvement? That's what the klan is usually associated with.
SAM FINLEY:
Now there was a little of that. They didn't care about Jews or Niggers. They wouldn't go into a Jewish store. They didn't want nothing to do with the Niggers; that was the Ku Klux.
VESTA FINLEY:
Don't say Nigger; that's colored or black people.
SAM FINLEY:
Well, colored men. Now they kept up the work against that. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did they ever do anything against. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Nothing more than talk.
VESTA FINLEY:
Human beings is just the same today as they were a million years ago.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
That's what we're finding out.
VESTA FINLEY:
You know, you think, "I'm right, you're wrong. And you can't convince me that I'm wrong, and I can't convince you that I'm right." So it's just a cross; it's always been.

Page 65
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did you feel about belonging to an organization that was against Catholics and Jews and. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I didn't think anything about it.
VESTA FINLEY:
He was just in the gang.
SAM FINLEY:
I was just a boy, that's all I was.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What did you think about it at the time?
VESTA FINLEY:
That's before I knew anything about him.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
That was in your singing quartet days.
SAM FINLEY:
I'll tell you. The whole thing was really organized to beat Al Smith; he was running for president. Well, after he was beat, it just died down.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So by the time the strike came in '29 the klan was non-existent, right?
VESTA FINLEY:
Not here.
SAM FINLEY:
It flares up a little bit in different places. And they have a lot of dirty work. Anybody can get one of their robes, see, and hood and put it on. They finally made a law that you couldn't wear that thing over your face.
VESTA FINLEY:
Masks.
SAM FINLEY:
But anybody could get a hold of one of these robes and put it on; and two of them get out here and beat somebody up. And the minute they leave, well the klan got credit for it when they didn't do it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
As far as any kind of political work around here, have you supported candidates in town, or supported school board people that you thought would be good? Have you been active in any political party?
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh, he was the register here for this precinct here for how many years? Fourteen?

Page 66
SAM FINLEY:
I don't know. And then, ever since I was old enough to vote I picked out the one I wanted to vote for and done what I could for him.
VESTA FINLEY:
Worked for him.
SAM FINLEY:
Regardless: Democrats, mostly.
VESTA FINLEY:
Now he's a radical Democrat. And I vote for the man.
SAM FINLEY:
I do too, but I always find him on the Democratic side.
VESTA FINLEY:
I didn't like Nixon much. Of course, you have to belong to the Democratic party to vote in the primary.
SAM FINLEY:
Not any more you don't, nowadays.
VESTA FINLEY:
No you don't, but you used to have to when I first joined. But I try to keep up with the candidates, and the one in my own mind that I make up to think would be the best representative of the people, I vote for him whether it's Democrat or Republican. I don't go in for this. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You haven't been able to win her over to a party line?
SAM FINLEY:
No. We don't have no trouble; she goes her way and I go mine. I don't tell her what to do, and she needn't try to tell me!
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
When did you first vote?
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh, I guess I was about nineteen years old, twenty, somewhere.
SAM FINLEY:
No you wasn't. You had to be twenty-one years old to register.
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh yes, that's right, at first. But it got to eighteen now.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
Do you remember the suffrage fight? You would have been pretty young. Do you remember the fuss over women getting the vote.
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh yes, that's back in 1921. I could fight! When you think about back in those days, if women committed a crime they got the same sentence as a man. And yet they didn't have the privilege of voting to say who can do this and who can do that. That's why I say women can sympathize with colored people.

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You know, you're living in a different age, girl. You have freedom that women back then. . . . Why, it was a disgrace for a woman who thought about going and voting, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you ever remember your mother voting?
VESTA FINLEY:
She never participated in anything like that. But my father was very active in things of that nature. No, women back in those days didn't.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
Do you remember the North Carolina Suffrage League? Did you ever have have anything to do with people who were fighting for the vote?
VESTA FINLEY:
No, I wasn't old enough at that time, you know.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
You didn't sign any petitions, or anything like that?
VESTA FINLEY:
No. Let me see, that was back when I was just a little girl.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But ever since you were old enough, twenty-one, you've been. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
I vote every time.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Have either of you ever run for office around here, other than for registrar?
VESTA FINLEY:
No.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you became involved with the Southern Summer School, I know they were trying to get workers' education classes set up in different towns. Did any one ever try to do that in Marion? Did you or the Elliotts?
VESTA FINLEY:
No, we didn't. We had talked about it, but at that time there was no opportunity and we couldn't do anything.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wanted to ask you just a few more questions about the Southern Summer School. How did you first come to the idea of going to the school?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, the men that were here that were taking part in organizing the union here just picked out certain ones and asked us if we'd like to go, and got us in those classes because it was something new.

Page 68
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You were gone during a good part of the July activity.
VESTA FINLEY:
Six weeks.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did you keep in touch with what was going on in Marion?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, we came down occasionally when they'd have their meetings. It wasn't more than about a thirty-five minutes' drive, somewhere about that. We'd come down for that. And then maybe people'd come visit the school and bring reports, people that was involved.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did any of the women from the school like Lois McDonald or Louise McFadden come in to Marion during the strike?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, they'd come down here when they had their meetings. But other than that they didn't participate. Because they were just here for six weeks' period. But as I say, they would come down for meetings and that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wondered, when you first went over there, what did you expect from the school?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, I didn't know what to expect, because we didn't know. They just told you it was a school for women workers in industry. And of course we didn't know what it was all about until we got over there, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What did you think, or what do you think looking back on it now, about it's having been just for women workers? Was that the first thing you'd ever been involved in that was particularly for women?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, it was.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
It sounds like the union mainly was run by men, and although women were on the picket line women weren't officers in the union or anything like that. But women were really running the Southern Summer School. How did you feel about that? Did you think about that at the time? Did it mean a lot to you to have something particularly for you?

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VESTA FINLEY:
Yes it did. It was a great inspiration to feel like that women was considered capable of participating in things of that nature. Before that they hadn't been, you know. It was something new and very interesting to me, and I guess to most of the girls. They had an outlet to speak up, to get up before the student body and talk and express themselves about what they felt should be done and shouldn't be done in our government and in our industry. They never had had an opportunity to express themselves before, and it was a great outlet, mentally and spiritually too.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said that in all of your life the church meant a great deal to you. I wondered if they had any church services there at the school?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well now, at Burnsville we didn't attend any service. On Sunday morning we just went outside, sang songs and just things like that. But as far as any religious program, we didn't have it. Now when we were at there was an Episcopalian church there on the campus, and they had their service there. It was a school for boys during the nine months in the winter. And all that wanted to attended church there; and we were welcome there in that church. The majority of them did attend the church there. However, I was working that year—at that particular school I was working in the dining room—and I went to services there when I could. But that was the only religious thing they had.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I see. Did they talk specifically about different kinds of unions? Did they tell you, like, about the organization of the United Textile Workers; or did they talk about the National Textile Workers and the differences between the two?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, I don't know that they told us anything about the difference. They could have, but it's been so long. They did tell us what the unions stood for, and what they were trying to do for the working people. They explained

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that to us. We didn't know all the inside information about it. But we were enlightened about what their activities were, that what they were out to do was to raise a better standard of living for people and help them, and to give us an idea of how to go about accomplishing this, you know. And they enlightened us to the fact that the company didn't run on a losing ground just to do us a favor. Because they had the figures there to show us how much these companies were making every year. And that put a fighting spirit in you. You wanted to reach out there and get something better, and you knew that you'd been kept in the dark about it. Well, you just went to work, and you just worked and wanted to do your job. We've made a lot of progress [Laughter] intelligence-wise since those days, I'll tell you. All throughout all the countries poor people, and people who work in these industries—it's all out in the open now, more or less.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wondered if you could remember, either of you, the first time you ever heard about a union?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, the first time I ever heard of it was when they first came here. I may have read about it, you know. But we didn't have television or radio either back in those days to hear anything. It was just in our newspapers, and people didn't do a lot of reading back in those days like they do now, and keep up with current events. But I think the union opened people's eyes, and they got to reading. And then, of course, since we've got television you know how everybody is. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
More aware of what's going on.
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes. And it brung a happiness to people that they never had experienced before. Even though we know that there's just going to be a certain amount of people that's going to be rich, and there's going to be a bunch of people that's going to have to work for their living, and they're just going

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to hit certain levels. Now you girls in college, of course you've got a goal there that you're working for. And you may hit a high level there where you can maybe go beyond making a better livelihood than you're thinking, and you might not reach out there and grab what you're reaching for. You just don't know, you know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you think at the time (in 1929) perhaps that the union was a way of changing that: of making it so people didn't just reach certain levels and not be able to go beyond them? Did you sort of see that as a way to. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Reaching a little higher [Laughter] .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
To make it more even.
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, that was an eye-opener. I think that's been an eye-opener for all people. But however, the union, I can see now. . . . You take up in Michigan and these places: they keep up everything that a man that's saved his money and invested in industry and places to make a good livelihood for himself. They're imposing; I think they're really gaining too much power.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You mean the union itself or the people who belong to the union?
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes; well, the organization of it.
MARION ROYDHOUSE:
Have you ever read anything about the unions in England at the moment? Do you think they're getting too powerful?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, I'm afraid they are all over the country.
END OF INTERVIEW