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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Bobby Wesley Bush, Sr., June 19, 2000. Interview I-0086. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Family dynamics and dangerous working conditions in the 1930s

Bush reflects briefly on his parents' childrearing tactics and then describes his mother's job in the mid-1930s. Arguing that his mother was the true disciplinarian in the family, Bush explains that she worked outside of the home when he was a small child, although he does not mention whether this was out of economic necessity or personal desire. His comments here reveal family dynamics and illuminate the kinds of dangerous working conditions that were typical of factories in the 1930s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Bobby Wesley Bush, Sr., June 19, 2000. Interview I-0086. 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

But it was good growing up. It was good open space and not a lot of problems. Of course parents didn't put up with problems in those days. They just didn't do it. And I'm the same way. Dad was a character. Dad never spanked me, never whipped me. My mother did, before she went to work even, because by the time I got home she'd know I needed it.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
So she'd do it in advance?
BOB BUSH:
That's true. True story.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Now where did she work?
BOB BUSH:
She worked at Lenoir Pad and Paper for Mr. Underdown, Mr. Charles Underdown.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Really. That company started when? In the `20s sometime?
BOB BUSH:
It started in the early `20s. '23 I think, something like that.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
And how long did your mom work there?
BOB BUSH:
Oh, several years. I'm not sure how long. I don't remember that.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
What did she do?
BOB BUSH:
She was the supervisor of the bag department. They made bags, like casket bags. They just took paper and folded it and glued it together and made bags. And the only one I can remember was a casket bag, but I'm sure there were other varieties of them at that time. And they didn't have all the modern production methods. Mother was probably there from '35 to '38, when she got ill. Something like that, '34 to '38.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Did you go visit her there? Do you remember what that plant looked like?
BOB BUSH:
No, no. I don't ever remember being in the factory when Mother was working there. I'm sure Mother just didn't want me there for one thing.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
It was probably dangerous.
BOB BUSH:
Oh, it was dangerous. Lenoir Pad was a dangerous company at one time. Of course, all factories were.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Because of the cutting machines?
BOB BUSH:
The cutting machines. It really was built to make excelsior. You know what excelsior is?
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Yes, I do.
BOB BUSH:
And that means you took a pine log and put it in these choppers and just chopped it and pulled the strings and everything, pulled it apart so that you could make pads out of it. And of course they used that to pack furniture with. And then the paper business, you got huge rolls. You had to run it around and cut it down and get it to the shape you needed to fold. So, yes, it was a pretty dangerous operation compared to what we look at today, heavy lifting and so forth.