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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 >>

Inclusion of women and racial minorities in the workplace

Bush comments on the role of women and minority workers at Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company. According to Bush, Hickory Springs had always had policies of inclusion and there was no discrimination in hiring practices, though he concedes there were no women supervisors early on in the company. Interestingly, he argues that the only form of active discrimination existed in the use of separate bathroom facilities for whites and blacks, which was mandated by state law. Bush explains how Hickory Springs got around this by having individual bathroom facilities.

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

Now that's not the reason we hired more women [because of a labor shortage during the Vietnam War.]
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Not because there was a shortage? Tell me about that.
BOB BUSH:
We just always have. Parks and Jack and everybody else who had been at the company had always had the attitude it doesn't matter whether you're black, white, man, woman, everything's going to be equal. And it was always done that way except we had to maintain separate bathrooms, colored and white.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Why?
BOB BUSH:
State law.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Till when?
BOB BUSH:
Oh, in the '50s, and anyway, we solved that also by putting in individual bathrooms with no sex, no nothing.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
No label whatsoever?
BOB BUSH:
No label whatever.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
And everyone used them?
BOB BUSH:
Everybody can use them, that's right. But no, as far as the hiring of women was concerned, the first summer I worked there, which was '47, a fair proportion of the employees were women. When I say fair, I don't know how big a percentage, but a damned good percentage.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Of line workers in the plant? Of all roles in the company?
BOB BUSH:
Well, now, I can't remember any supervisors that were women at that time, but there were only a couple of supervisors, period. But there were a lot of ladies, because we worked with them. They did one job and passed it down to us. We'd do the next job and so forth. So that was not a thing caused by Korea that we hired women, at least not in my opinion.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
This was a comment someone made in an interview. Was labor hard to get during the Vietnam War-male or female, period?
BOB BUSH:
Labor has always been hard to get in Hickory. Hickory has always been over-employed. Very fortunate community. It's over-employed now. We can't get people now. The reason we went to Micaville and put the spring plant in is because we couldn't get people. And we kept branching out. A lot of the reason we branched, a lot of it, was because we couldn't get folks. You accomplished two things. You satisfied the geographical problem, but at the same time you could get labor.