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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert Riley, February 1, 1994. Interview K-0106. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Close bonds are severed with White's closing

One of the last to leave, Riley helped break down the factory as it closed. He had become emotionally connected to White's, and its closing was to him "kind of like a part of you dying." His fond memories from his decades at the factory made its closing difficult. He has lost touch with his former coworkers.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert Riley, February 1, 1994. Interview K-0106. 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

CHRIS STEWART:
What was it like working there? You were there until April and my understanding is that most of the people were gone around February.
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
Right. In other words, I stayed there and saw the furniture move on out. I actually even helped put the machinery on skids and helped skid it out the back door.
CHRIS STEWART:
What was that like for you?
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
Well, it was kind of like a part of you dying, to be honest with you. You've been around so long you've become a part of it. It's kind of like a little story that a man and his son were having. He says to his son, "I'm going to put a nail at the barn for every good deed and I'm going to also put a nail on this side for every bad deed. At the end of thirty days I'm going to weigh your good deeds and your bad deeds." He carried the little fellow back to the barn after thirty days and he said, "You see, son, your good deeds way outweigh your bad deeds." So the son said, "Well, daddy, pull those nails out of the bad deed side." The daddy took his hammer and pulled all the nails out and he said, "Son, you see, the nails are now gone but the marks are still there." I think the marks will always be there for some of us simply because we stayed so long and the people that are struggling to try to find a job now the marks probably just register. The people that found a job that don't like the job that they are doing now the marks register. There are always certain things to make it register. Like I said, some of them were happy because they were at the age where they could retire, no problem. There were others that had to pick up and move on and find another job.
CHRIS STEWART:
When we talk about the memories or the good things are your memories changing? Are you remembering good things and bad things?
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
Oh, sure. I can remember, Lord have mercy, when I went to White's I didn't have anything and I ain't got nothing now, but I was able to pay for my home, and I was able to raise two beautiful children. What little we've got we got it through White's. Oh, yes, a lot of beautiful memories and I guess that's what makes it hurt so bad to see all those beautiful memories come to a screeching halt and they are no more. Some of the best people in the world that you worked with so, yeah, I guess, that's what make the memories. If they had all been bad sure you could have easily forgotten it, you know, but Lord, there were a lot of good times there. Oh, yeah.
CHRIS STEWART:
Did you have any special good, close friends at the Mebane plant, people that you really trusted?
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
Oh, sure. A lot of the twenty-five people that come from the Hillsborough up to the Mebane plant I had known down through the years. Some of the people that were working at the Mebane plant lives somewhere in the Efland area so I knew them too. There were a lot of friends there that I knew when I was there. Like I said, when these twenty-five came on up that was like part of your family coming on up.
CHRIS STEWART:
How are they doing?
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
Some of them are doing just fine. I don't talk to them as much as I used to because my job keeps me from eight to five. By the time you get home you feel like everybody else is doing the same thing you're doing trying to get supper and get squared away. From what I can understand some of them still haven't found jobs. But like I said, some of them are still in school so it will take awhile for them to get through school, come out, and then find a job. Once they come out of school for what they're going to school for if there's no job market…