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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Vesta and Sam Finley, July 22, 1975. Interview H-0267. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Going to labor schools for workers

As was common among children in mill towns, Vesta quit school at an early age and began working in the mills. Despite that, though, she continued trying to learn, and she even attended the summer school for laborers.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Vesta and Sam Finley, July 22, 1975. Interview H-0267. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

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.
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.