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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Vickie Jacobs, December 11, 1993. Interview K-0100. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Concerns follow factory closing

Jacobs describes the aftermath of the furniture factory's closing in Hillsborough. She took a position at the company's Mebane location—those employees who refused to do so could not claim unemployment benefits. She remembers employees greeting the announcement of the closing with anger, fear, sadness, or even pleasure. Her main concern was her financial stability.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Vickie Jacobs, December 11, 1993. Interview K-0100. 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

JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
Some people have to wait for years. [laughter] When the factory closed in Hillsborough did they give everybody the opportunity to come to Mebane?
VICKIE JACOBS:
No.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
How did they go about deciding that?
VICKIE JACOBS:
They weigh, I guess, your record. To me the ones they call in the office, especially the ones that they let go to Mebane. If you didn't go to Mebane, you know, they would kind of like mess up your employment, but get unemployment. I would say out of that whole plant, I guess, maybe if they had a hundred fifty people, maybe fifty, maybe seventy-five went to Mebane.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
So if you didn't go then they would not--. They would make sure that you didn't get unemployment?
VICKIE JACOBS:
No, what I'm saying is like, let's say, if I came to your office asking if you want to go to Mebane, and you turn it down they could mess you up for your unemployment, but they didn't. That's what I was saying.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
Because I could see where that would happen because in some ways you are really turning down a job.
VICKIE JACOBS:
Right.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
It's not that I'm laying you off or terminating you because I don't have anything, I do have something for you. Well, what happened to the other people who didn't come to Mebane?
VICKIE JACOBS:
Some of them was mad. Some of them just said, "Well, I don't want to go back into furniture no way." So find another job. Here today I know a girl that never found a job. That's frightening! Some have been down there ever since they was eighteen years old. Some have been down there for years. That hurt them. Like we was talking to today, that people have been around most of their lives. They don't have no other type skill to go and look for another job. That hurts them. They hurt them even worst when they didn't get transferred.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
Now White Furniture just closed this year, the beginning of this year, were there any rumors prior to its closing that the plant could possibly close for good?
VICKIE JACOBS:
Yeah.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
Did you think there was anything to those rumors?
VICKIE JACOBS:
Yeah, because sometime I'd go ask the main man. [laughter]
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
What was his response?
VICKIE JACOBS:
Well, he didn't really come out and say it was going to close down. He'd just say, "Well, for right now things just don't look good." So when he said that then I said it was going to close.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
Who was considered the main man?
VICKIE JACOBS:
Well, I'm not going to say that. [laughter]
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
Okay. That's fine. When you heard that when you went and asked him—the main man—and you asked him about that and he said, "Well, things don't look too good," that was his response. Did you begin preparing yourself for what was to come?
VICKIE JACOBS:
No: [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
There was a letter that appeared in the local paper here from Steve White to the employees, and it more of a letter in many ways and an apology of the plant closing. Do you remember reading that letter?
VICKIE JACOBS:
I was trying to think if I read that letter or not. I think we had a meeting about that for the employees, and I think
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
When it was time for the--. When the final decision was made to go ahead and close the factory did they call all the people together and say, "Okay, we're going to be closing eventually?" Just how was that done.
VICKIE JACOBS:
Well, Yeah. They went in and said that it was going to close down. They called everybody together, you know, different departments because that place was not that big to hold all those people. So they just came in saying when it was going to close a certain date and I forget what date that was. Then the last day and you know people are going to mess around so we told them to . [laughter]
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
[laughter] O.K.
VICKIE JACOBS:
. Some cried.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
I was wondering about the mood.
VICKIE JACOBS:
Yeah, some cried. Some were happy that it was being closed because some didn't want to be there no ways.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
But some had been terminated before the last day?. I'm assuming you were one of the last people to leave?
VICKIE JACOBS:
Yeah, besides the shipping.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
So you remained there a couple of months after the announcement was made?
VICKIE JACOBS:
Yeah.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
Were there any workers who quit before the plant closed down?
VICKIE JACOBS:
If it was I didn't know about it.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
O.K. So on your last day you said that you all had a party, do you remember anything else particular about that day?
VICKIE JACOBS:
I know I didn't work none. I was all over. We just had this like a little moonlight sale where . We all sat around and said, "Well, we're all with each other. Said, enjoyed working with you and stuff like that. It was very emotional. I hated White's had to be closed down. We had all gotten used to working with each other. We all would just kid around, you know, just like a big family. Some get along and some didn't.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
That's normal.
VICKIE JACOBS:
Uh, huh.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
After you left--your last day there at White's--did the company provide in any way for what you were going to do? Did they prepare you in any way? Provide you with anything, any funds or anything, that would help you until, let's say, you got a new job?
VICKIE JACOBS:
Yeah. I think there were some people that if you wanted to go back to school they'd do that. They even had employment people to come down and talk. Talk to the ones that had openings if you wanted a job. They had something like--. I was trying to think did they give out the chits like they did in Hillsborough, if they did I don't remember them doing it. That's mostly, I think, what they done. They would pay your way through school, I think, for a whole quarter. Your morning cab fare . . Some of them even helped you find a job. The personnel manager named--. I can't think of him right now, but he helped a lot of people. I'll think of him in a little bit.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
Did you use their services or did you go out on your own?
VICKIE JACOBS:
No, I went on my own.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
How has the closing of White's affected your own life?
VICKIE JACOBS:
A whole lot because during that time, like I said, we would get paid every week. The money was good. Now, you have to go out and try to find a job. I hate finding a job. The job I did have before you'd get paid every two weeks. I have to get used to being paid every two weeks. That's the lesson I have to learn, and I would say I would have to start back over managing how to get my bills and stuff like that squared away.
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
Sometimes you get paid once a month.
VICKIE JACOBS:
Oh, girl, I'm going to be grabbing up a tree!
JOYCE BLACKWELL-JOHHSON:
[laughter] That sounds difficult.
VICKIE JACOBS:
I don't think I can handle that. The only way I could handle that, you have to be good at handling money if you get paid once a month for me to survive.