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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 >>

Power held by the mill even over non-mill workers

The Finleys summarize where different people in Marion stood in relation to the mill. Even among the middle-class townspeople, they assert, the mill owners had great influence.

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 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:
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 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 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 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.