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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Barbara Hanks, August 10, 1994. Interview K-0098. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The rubbing process

This passage may be useful for researchers interested in the procedures on the factory floor. In it, Hanks describes the rubbing process, including sanding and oiling. Her experiences polishing furniture made her more critical when she shopped for pieces for her home. She and her coworkers could not afford White Furniture pieces, but she bought one damaged piece at a steep discount when the company closed.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Barbara Hanks, August 10, 1994. Interview K-0098. 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

PATRICK HUBER:
What did you do primarily before you got your inspecting job?
BARBARA HANKS:
Well, I did a little bit of everything.
PATRICK HUBER:
Did you?
BARBARA HANKS:
Yeah, but mainly I rubbed it, like sand up under it, and make sure it's not rough around the legs and clean it up. Like when they machine the top they used oil, and it would run all down on your furniture, so we'd have to get all that off with a cleaner because that oil if it stayed on it it would turn white. It would get all in your designs where it's cut in, we'd have to make sure it was all out. Make sure the drawers were smooth, because sometimes in the cabinet room when they fixed the drawers there might be putty on the side. You had to make sure to get that off. And then it would move on down to the hardware, and they'd put that on.
PATRICK HUBER:
What sort of--? How fast did you have to work in the rub and pack? Was it on a line?
BARBARA HANKS:
Yeah.
PATRICK HUBER:
It was?
BARBARA HANKS:
It moved, yeah. Well, it depends on the size of the furniture, too, really, and what all the guys had to do to make the top. Like some of it, you didn't have to use machines on the top, and then some of it you did. So it just really depend. Some of it, boy, we'd roll. [Laughter] Then some of it you had to really take your time and get all that oil--. That oil was a pain. Getting all them nooks and crannies and stuff.
PATRICK HUBER:
What sort of machine would you use on the top?
BARBARA HANKS:
Like a big, you know, hooked up with the aire It looked like two sanders on it, and it would move like that. [Barbara demonstrates]
PATRICK HUBER:
And it would polish the top?
BARBARA HANKS:
Yeah, it would, see, well, you had three, had three different guys up there running three machines and three different kinds of sand paper on it. Then it would go down and some of the tops it depend on how high the sheen's suppose to be on different suites, and if it needed a higher sheen then you'd go on down to another guy and he would buff it up after they cut it down. I mean, so there were steps you had to go, and then you could see the difference in them. It was really something. And then like when I go in some of these little discount stores I got a habit, I just got a habit of looking, and all of a sudden I'll just start rubbing and feeling up under there and taking the drawers out. And I can tell the difference because it looks so cheap, which it is, I guess, compared to White's furniture. It's just made so much different. I'm trying to think of some of the things that helped me around the house. Like with your drawers and stuff, how they drop and sag. They use a thumb tack. I never knew that. That's all you got to do is put back there, and it will hold it up. [Laughter] A thumb tack, that's what they use.
PATRICK HUBER:
How did--? What did the workers think of the furniture?
BARBARA HANKS:
We all wanted it [Laughter] . We would all love to have some. Well, you know, how people are. Some of them would say, well, they ask too much for it. Of course, we were regular old workers, and we couldn't afford it no way. Oh, all of us would have loved to have it, which some of them did get some.
PATRICK HUBER:
How did you get this piece?
BARBARA HANKS:
Oh, this was messed up, and they was gonna a--they called it the bone yard--.
PATRICK HUBER:
The bone yard?
BARBARA HANKS:
Uh, huh, that's because--. And that was the like the furniture that you couldn't really repair it. It was just too much work. It would have cost you more to fix it than really--. It was out there, and when they decided to shut down and stuff the guy, William--they sold it to me for like thirty dollars--and he fixed it. Oh, it looked better than this, but we done used it and glasses and stuff, like, we should never do that, but--. So he fixed it for me, and that's how I got it.