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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lawrence Ridgle, June 3, 1999. Interview K-0143. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Father's work at the American Tobacco Company

Ridgle describes the work his father did in the storage warehouse for the American Tobacco Company during the first half of the twentieth century. Ridgle recalls that the work was strenuous and emphasizes his father's strong work ethic and goal to provide for his family.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lawrence Ridgle, June 3, 1999. Interview K-0143. 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

What kind of work did your dad do?
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
He worked at that tobacco company forty-seven years.
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
Was he at American Tobacco?
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
Umm-hmm.
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
Wow. No kidding.
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
And missed no day in forty-seven years. And never made a hundred dollars a week in his life. Of course he retired in 1950.
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
What kind of jobs was he doing over there?
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
Storage houses where they had those big from eight to twelve hundred pound [unclear] . And see those [unclear] have to be stored. You can't have any heat in those buildings. And they didn't have no [unclear] . And the ceiling up there I think is about sixteen feet. And they used to have to load those [unclear] up and then roll them on top of each other and then one on top of that. I think they went four high. And they didn't have motor lifts. They used to skid them up. The building they worked in was always cold. It couldn't happen on fire. The only time they would get warm they wore a lot of clothes and stuff like that. But they had one little place where they ate their lunch and that was the only heat in the whole area. Those sheds are still down there in east Durham. And I used to go down there sometime and carry him lunch and it'd be so cold down there. And sometimes he used to whip me for not doing my chores or something like that or being smart in school. He said, "Boy I go out and work in the cold every day for you so that you don't have to do this." And I used to think he was crazy because I didn't know. But those men used bulls. A twelve hundred pound barrel rolling to you and you got a little stick. They called it a cut stick. And they'd throw it off the truck and they'd be rolling down the aisle I guess pretty fast. And here's a man standing there with a stick and you put the stick up under and it rolls up on the stick and was crooked like this. And you'd roll up on it and he'd turn it and it'd go another direction. But if he missed, it's going to run over him. It was kind of dangerous work, I thought.
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
Hard work, yeah.
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
And strong—they used to have to open those [unclear] sometime for men to come and get samples, prospective buyers or—they wanted to see the tobacco. There's a certain moisture content that they have to have. And they can take a thing like a little laboratory and tell how much moisture is in it. So they used to have to take tests and they used to have to set the barrel up on—they'd be down where it's rolled down to set it up on its head and open it up. And it wasn't nothing for one of those men to get it and set it up like that.
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
Gee, he must have been really strong.
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
Oh yeah. And I think about it now because back then we really didn't know, you know, how hard they worked. My father, he was one of those staunch [unclear] Christians. He believed in hard work and the church. My father wasn't ambitious. He didn't want—. He wanted a roof over his head. He wanted his house clean and some food and a few clothes on your back. That was his success.