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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Andy Foley, May 18, 1994. Interview K-0095. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Somber mood in a closing factory

Foley describes the mood in the factory after the news of the closing. People were unhappy but managed to keep getting their work done. Foley spent his last day on the job saying goodbye to his friends, and as sad as he was, he pities the older employees who had built their lives around their jobs at the factory.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Andy Foley, May 18, 1994. Interview K-0095. 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

JEFF COWIE:
How long did you work before you lost your job?
ANDY FOLEY:
It was a couple of months. It was like, you know, they'd close down one department and then when that department would run out of their materials it would work the way up. I was on one of them. I was third from the last department to go so I stayed there a while longer than other people.
JEFF COWIE:
So seniority had nothing to do with it?
ANDY FOLEY:
Naw.
JEFF COWIE:
It was just what department you happened to be in?
ANDY FOLEY:
Yep. Yeah, when you worked in your department, like when I was done building drawers it was, "See ya." You was gone, you know. I believe some departments seniority if they needed somebody to stay behind and help clean up or something they left the older ones there. The ones that have been there a long time they stay behind a little longer, as long as they could. Where some of the younger people they gave you a choice, you know, if you want to leave you can go now. I believe if you worked there so long you got severance pay or something anyway. Some of them worked there like they tell you you're suppose to leave in two weeks, but you could go now and still get your severance pay. Some people done that.
JEFF COWIE:
You said for a few more months you worked?
ANDY FOLEY:
I believe so.
JEFF COWIE:
Did the spirit at the place continue to be…
ANDY FOLEY:
It's like, it got better. The first week after I came back when I laid out it was like everybody was still down and everything. After that, I mean, I believe everybody realized that their life ain't over, I mean, it felt like a part of you, you know, you're not going to be able to see a lot of people and you're going to miss that everything, but no matter what you've got to go on. I think eventually everybody finally realized that. Nobody still broke their neck to get nothing done, but they kept busy and kept everything going until it was closed.
JEFF COWIE:
What do you remember about your last day? Was it anything special? How did you feel?
ANDY FOLEY:
It was kind of sad because I knew that a lot of them people there that I had grown accustom to, I had grown to like and everything, I would never see again. I can't speak for anybody else, but I know on my last day I didn't do nothing but walk around and tell everybody good-bye and stuff. I mean, I didn't see no sense in me working the last day when I was gone whether I got production or not. Homer, he let up on us there toward the end. As long as we looked a little busy he wasn't going to come and push us because, you know, it ain't no use.
JEFF COWIE:
So that last day was just kind of a long series of good-byes. Did you wander around the plant?
ANDY FOLEY:
Yeah, I did, I mean, everybody didn't. I wandered around the plant all the time anyway. [laughter]
JEFF COWIE:
[laughter]
ANDY FOLEY:
Homer would always come looking for me. When I'd get ahead of my job, I was gone. Yeah, I basically went around and told everybody, "If don't see you no more, I hope you have a good life." I still keep in contact with some of them. It made you feel a little empty on the inside leaving. Like a lot of the old men they'd walk outside and they'd all have tears in their eyes and everything. That's because some men had been there thirty or forty years. I mean, I know it was hard on them because that was their life, where I'm still young and I've still got, hopefully, a long life to look forward to and still got a lot of opportunities, but them old men, I mean, that's the ones I basically felt sorry for because that's all they knew how to do.
JEFF COWIE:
Yeah. And have you seen many of those people since the closing?
ANDY FOLEY:
I haven't seen too many to tell you the truth. I've seen more up here that day when Bill [Bamberger] had this here [Interview took place in exhibit space.] than I'd seen. One lady lives in Roxboro. She works at GKN and I don't even see her no more. She lives in Roxboro. I see Linda Dodson down here down the road. I still play basketball with a few of my friends here and there and go fishing, but, naw, it ain't nothing like it was. It's kind of like, you know, when you are in high school and you graduate, you see a few here and there, but the rest is gone.
JEFF COWIE:
Right. What did you do your last day after work? Did you just go home or did you go out with friends?
ANDY FOLEY:
I believe I went fishing.
JEFF COWIE:
That seems to be your solution. [laughter]
ANDY FOLEY:
[laughter] About everything. That's me. If I get in a fight with my girlfriend I'm going fishing.
JEFF COWIE:
[laughter]
ANDY FOLEY:
Sometimes that's what we fight over, too.
JEFF COWIE:
[laughter]
ANDY FOLEY:
But, naw, I mean, I felt kind of sad, but I know, I mean, what good is it going to do to sit around and worry and think about things? I mean, I've never been one that dwells on something. I mean, I know that no matter what happens around you, if you are living, your life's got to go on and you've got to make the best of it. That's what I'm trying to do.