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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Cynthia Sykes Cook, February 19, 1994. Interview K-0091. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Furniture factory as an essential part of town

Cook adds some detail to her description of the reaction to the Mebane plant's closing. The factory was an important part of the town, she recalls, and its convenience to her home was a key part of her work life. When the plant closed, the town lost an essential element and she lost a rewarding work life.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Cynthia Sykes Cook, February 19, 1994. Interview K-0091. 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

VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Go back to the closing. You mentioned when you all were assembled and you got a letter and Mr. Austin started to speak, you got upset and left. Did other people leave?
CYNTHIA SYKES COOK:
Yes, they came after me to check on me. We went to the bathroom and cried and all that kind of fun stuff. It was very emotional for everybody.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
What did you do that day? Did you continue working or did you kind of…
CYNTHIA SYKES COOK:
Everybody was pretty much in a daze. We about and did whatever if something had to be done. There was just a lot of, "I can't believe it."
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
What did the letter actually say? Was it just an announcement of it being sold? Did it say, "We'll be closed on this date"? Did it say "We'll be closed in the future"? What did they tell you?
CYNTHIA SYKES COOK:
I think maybe it might have said through the end of January or something like that because we knew. I think it was pretty descriptive as to the reasonings and things like that. They moved our product line to Hickory. We knew times had been a little slow because they had had some down weeks--four day weeks. Like I said, we always said we wouldn't be surprised, but in actuality it did surprise us. I think mainly because it had been an institution in Mebane forever, definitely all of my lifetime and daddy's too. I hated to see it happen for Mebane.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
What has happened to Mebane since White's has closed?
CYNTHIA SYKES COOK:
I know that a lot of the employees would walk up to the area businesses for lunch or during break-time to like Byrds or the drug stores. I'm sure they miss that. Not being in Mebane during the day now I'm not as aware of it. I'm sure they miss it, they would have too. There were two hundred people there and I know a majority of them would go pick up something during lunch time, pay bills, etc. It was really convienent working in Mebane. I liked working in Mebane.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
[laughter] You could always go home for lunch I guess. You lived pretty close.
CYNTHIA SYKES COOK:
Yes. Like I said, where I grew up was just a couple of blocks from White's. A lot of times I would just go to mama's house because we did live two more miles down this road. I was excited when we were buying this house, "Well, that will be really close and I will back and forth in no time." I did get to work until the end of May, first of June. I did get to enjoy that a little bit. It was nice and very convenient.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
So you were kept on as you mentioned until the end of May or June. You were kept on really until the very end.
CYNTHIA SYKES COOK:
Yes. My job description kept changing. By the time they announced the closing, being in production control, we're usually like two or three months ahead of the cutting process. Our job starts before it ever gets out the plant, so we basically were almost through, I guess, as afar as new work. There was some files and stuff that had to be sent on up to corporate and things like that. As people were leaving I would start learning what they were doing. Of course, it was on a smaller scale as things dwindled. I went back to invoicing that I had done during my middle part there and bills of lading, and I became a "Girl Friday" I guess towards the end.