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(transcript) Oral History Interview with Eula and Vernon Durham, 1978 November 29. Interview H-64. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
(series) Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-4007)
Eula and Vernon Durham
Chapel Hill, N. C.
Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Interview conducted on November 29, 1978, by Jim Leloudis; recorded in Bynum, N. C.
Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Original transcript on deposit at The Southern Historical Collection Louis Round Wilson Library.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-CH
digitization project, Documenting the American South.
An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
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[Interview conducted] by
Original transcript on deposit at
The Southern Historical Collection
Louis Round Wilson Library
Jim Leloudis: How did you first come to Bynum?
Vernon Durham: I was born and raised here in Bynum.
JL: Who were your parents?
DURHAM: J. M. Durham and Flossie Moore.
JL: Had they been in Bynum most of their lives?
DURHAM: Well, my mother had, hadn't she? But my daddy was raised, well, not too far--back in the country about four or five miles.
JL: Did they work in the mill too?
DURHAM: Yeah, he was a--years ago he was a foreman or a spinner. But that was when all they'd get was cotton, a hundred percent cotton.
JL: How did you get your first job in the mill?
DURHAM: Well, I'd go just as a spare hand. My daddy was boss man, and I'd go, just around in the mills cleaning up. Didn't have no air hose then, had brushes and things to clean off, which I started off. Then I learned to doff, and I started doffing. In a few years when I learned the machinery and everything I got to be a fixer and then got to be a foreman of the spinning room.
JL: How old were you when you started?
DURHAM: I was sixteen.
JL: What was that first job like as a spare hand?
DURHAM: Well, you'd do odd things. They had a sprinkler system, but it was out of date; it just had fans that blowed humidity out. Then in the summertime we'd have a sprinkler blowing on the alleys and get it damp, you know, so the work would run better. And you would have to clean up the frames all under there on the rockers and idlers and all in there.
Didn't have no air and no blow pipes. Well, you learned to do things and when somebody was out you'd have to work in their place, till you got a regular job.
JL: How many spare hands were there?
DURHAM: Well, I imagine there was about three, three young boys, and we didn't make but, I think it was--what did we start them off at? About fifteen cents an hour?
Eula Durham: What?
DURHAM: What was it the young spare hands made? About fifteen cents an hour to start off, wasn't it?
E. DURHAM: Twelve and a half cents. That's what I made.
DURHAM: Twelve and a half cents. And then the top pay, other than management, was twenty-four cents an hour.
JL: When was this?
DURHAM: Well, it was in the forties, wasn't it? No-thirties.
JL: That's when you first went to work?
DURHAM: I went to work about . . .
E. DURHAM: 1929.
DURHAM: I worked some in the twenties and then I quit and went back to school and then went back to work again.
JL: You were talking about that sprinkler. What did you mean it made the work run better?
DURHAM: Well, it put more humidity in the spinning room. You had to have a certain amount of humidity. If the humidity got out, it wouldn't run good.
JL: What would happen then?
DURHAM: Well, it would just ball up and the ends come down and it would quit running. You have to have about seventy or eighty percent humidity.
JL: You said the ends would come down. That means the threads would break.
DURHAM: Yeah, and they would ball up, lap up. But now they got a new type. They got a air conditioner, and the air conditions itself. Year round condition. Humidity and heat and everything.
JL: And then your next job was as a doffer?
DURHAM: Yeah, a doffer.
JL: What did you do on that?
DURHAM: Well, I had a certain number of frames. I had eight frames, I believe, then. I was by myself, doffed eight frames by myself. Then I finally got ten, and I finally got twelve frames, doffing. Then it was twenty-four cents an hour, top pay, for doffing.
JL: What does that job involve?
DURHAM: Well, it's a full bobbin--when a frame gets full, just pull it right down, and have an empty bobbin that you put on there and take the full ones off. That's what you done. Then it went to the winding room and wound them on cones and spools, and tubes. That's all they had down here, was yarn. They didn't have no finished products, just yarn. Knitting yarn, hosiery yarn.
JL: How did you move from one job to the other?
DURHAM: Well, they seen I could doff, and I could make a little more doffing, so he put me on that job. [Laughter]
JL: Is that something you'd done and learned as a spare hand?
DURHAM: That's right.
JL: Then how did you become supervisor?
DURHAM: They put on just one shift then. Then they finally put on two shifts. Then finally they put on three shifts. And they put me on the second shift. I was on second shift. Foreman of spinning.
JL: How were you chosen to do that?
DURHAM: Well, my brother was superintendent. That helped some. [Laughter] Oh, then my uncle was superintendent . . .
E. DURHAM: It was a family place.
DURHAM: And then my brother he took his place.
JL: What was the structure of supervision within the mill? How many supervisors were there, and who was above whom?
DURHAM: Well, in the spinning room the only one who was ahead of me was Elvin, my brother. He was superintendent. And I had two fixers under me. They had so many frames to look after. And I had to look after two. And weigh in the yarn. We got too heavy they'd change the frames and we got too light they'd change the frames, get it just right. And that's what you have to do. Look after the help. Keep the time, the hours and the time, figured up. Had to do all that. Now they don't have to do that. They've got a secretary that does all that now.
JL: Now what do the fixers do again?
DURHAM: When frames break down they have to fix them. And change them, they have to change the frames. Change numbers. They get a order for a certain number, say, sixteen--they may be running thirties--well, they would finally go down to sixes, didn't they?
E. DURHAM: They didn't make many sixes.
DURHAM: No. You see, when they'd come and get ordered, they'd take so many frames off.
E. DURHAM: Tens. They made a lot of tens.
JL: What does that mean?
E. DURHAM: Ten, and twelve and six are real coarse.
JL: Oh, that's the number for the thread.
E. DURHAM: And then the twenty, eighteen, and twenty and twenty-two, twenty-fours and thirties, that's fine, fine thread.
JL: So the fixer's job then was to set the frames up to spin the different qualities of thread.
DURHAM: They'd have to have a certain number of gears to put on there to make that yarn.
E. DURHAM: And a certain kind of traverse. See, each time you change that frame from one number to another you had to change that traverse. It's a little bitty flag that goes on the spinning frame that carries the thread around. And you have to get that traverse right, or it'll cut those threads down.
JL: What was this about weighing the yarn?
DURHAM: Well, you weigh it. You got the guide to go by that, and it's got to hit close to that number. Say if it's twenties, it's got to be around 19.60 to around 20.0. They'd tell you some time, they'd specify how they wanted it, what twist and everything, how much twist and everything. And you had to try to get it that way.
JL: And that was the supervisor's job?
DURHAM: Yeah. And he'd bring the order in there to me and I'd tell them what it was. What gear to use.
JL: How many supervisors were there?
DURHAM: Just one. My brother was the only one.
JL: How many foremen?
DURHAM: Well, they had one in each department, the card room, the spinning room, and the winding room.
E. DURHAM: They didn't have nary one in the winding room then. The spinning room was in the winding room then. And now they've got one in every little corner. And don't none of them know nothing. That's the truth if ever I told it in my life.
DURHAM: No, they're doing all right, or else it wouldn't be running.
JL: What were your relations like with the workers?
DURHAM: Well, we was all raised up here and I knowed them all. Then, young boys staying around here, they'd learn to work in the mill, but a lot of them don't do it now, they're leaving so much. About half of the help down there now, I don't know them. They're all from other places.
E. DURHAM: Well, it was just like a big family down there when we was down there.
JL: How do you mean that?
E. DURHAM: Everybody was raised here, you know, and lived here all their life, and knowed everybody, and was just like a big family. When one of them would get in a hole or something, all the rest of them if they weren't in a hole they'd bunch in together and help them get out, catch up.
JL: You mean in terms of money?
E. DURHAM: No, in help. In the work. And they'd all catch up and all go outdoors and sing. Have a big time.
JL: How much free time did you have to socialize in the mill?
E. DURHAM: Just as much as we wanted. John London was one of the best men that anybody ever worked for in their life. He was a manager--plant manager down there--and he loved to see us outdoors. He knowed then the work was running good.
JL: You would go out whenever you got the work caught up?
E. DURHAM: Yeah. Just go out and sit down. I have gone out and sat down as much as an hour's time. Go back and catch up my work and go back again.
JL: And what did John London think about that?
E. DURHAM: Oh, he loved it. He said one time he loved to see them set out like that, he knowed the work was running good.
JL: Did you hear him say that?
E. DURHAM: Yeah! John was really good to work for.
JL: Did you know him very well?
E. DURHAM: Yeah, I knowed him. He was raised over here in Pittsboro. And I know one morning a bunch of us was sitting out there--he come in at eight o'clock, and we went to work at seven--we was sitting out there in the window one morning when he come in. He come in, and he stopped and said, "Has the mill stopped off?" And some of them said, "No," and he laughed, he said, "I'm glad to see it running good." Said, "All of y'all out here having a good time." [Laughter] But he was, John was a good man to work for.
DURHAM: He's still head up there.
E. DURHAM: But now, you can't even stick your head out the door. They don't even want you to talk to the one next to you.
DURHAM: They got it leased now to Tuscarora Cotton Mills. I don't know how that is. But John's still got a lot to do with it.
JL: How about Arthur London? Did he ever come in to the mill?
DURHAM: That was his daddy.
E. DURHAM: That was his daddy. Oh, do you mean little Arthur?
JL: No, I mean John's father.
E. DURHAM: Yeah, he come in. He was another good old guy.
DURHAM: Yeah, he was a good fellow.
E. DURHAM: One time me and this girl friend of mine went across the river over here. Had a spring over here in the edge of the woods and we caught up one morning and we walked over there and got us some water and sat down on the ground and was hunting four-leaf clovers. He drove along and stopped, said, "What y'all doing over here?" We told him we come after a drink of water and found some four-leaf clovers. And he brought us on back to the mill and we went on and caught up. And he started leaving we was back out doors again. He said, "Y'all back out again?" We said, "Yeah. Come on and carry us and get us a co-cola." He said, "You mean you want me to carry you to get a co-cola?" We said, "Yeah, carry us to get a co-cola." He brought us over here to Durham's, got us a co-cola and brought us back to the mill. [Laughter] He was good. But now he could get mad, I want you to know. Boy, he could get mad if he wanted to.
JL: Do you remember any times in particular that he did get mad?
E. DURHAM: When he didn't talk, you knowed he was mad. When he didn't have nothing to say you knowed he was mad. But most of the time he was a pretty good old guy.
JL: What would he get mad about?
E. DURHAM: Well, work or something or another. He didn't ever get mad at the hands much, it was always the niggers that worked in the yard most of the time or something like that. He would have a spell. But most of the time he was a pretty good old guy.
JL: What type of work rules were there in terms of how much time you had to be in the mill, freedom to leave?
E. DURHAM: Well, long about then, they didn't have any rules. At all. Not when I was working there.
DURHAM: They didn't have no lunch room then like they do now.
E. DURHAM: No, they didn't have no lunch room then.
DURHAM: Little joint up here, a piece of walking from the mill, was the only place you could get drinks or things. Didn't have no box or nothing in the mill.
E. DURHAM: And when I first was working there you didn't have water in there. We had a cooler, and we'd go up to the well and get a bucket of water and put in that cooler and get us a chunk of ice and put in.
JL: Where was the well located?
E. DURHAM: Right there above the mill. Had some good old times down there.
JL: How did people handle--you know, if they had complaints about the work?
DURHAM: Well, they'd usually go to the foreman, the one that's ahead of them, in the spinning room or carding--the department they was in. Sometimes if they didn't think they was doing like they should do, they'd go over them and go to the office out there. If he thought his boss man wasn't doing like he ought to, he'd go over him. Go to the head man, and see what he'd do about it.
JL: Did anybody ever do that to you?
DURHAM: They have done it, haven't they?
E. DURHAM: Yeah.
DURHAM: But that's changed now. I don't think they want you to do that much. They told them down there not to do that no more, didn't they? Wade Barton told them not to do that.
E. DURHAM: I never did go to my boss man or superintendent or nothing about nothing. Not till this company took over, and we didn't get along at all.
DURHAM: That wasn't his name, was it?
E. DURHAM: What?
DURHAM: Oh, Gardner. I said Barton.
JL: What was wrong that you didn't get along?
E. DURHAM: Cause they didn't know nothing. And you couldn't tell them nothing. They learned theirs by books, and I learned mine by
self-experience. Down there one time, I was working on second shift, and on the frame they got a traverse chain that pulls the traverse that runs the rack up and down on the frame and fills the frame up. And one of the chains was out. And when it hit that chain it'd just stand there and idle, just like that. Bobbin would get bigger and bigger. And I told them one day, I said, "That there traverse chain is broke is what's causing that." He said, "It ain't so." I said, "Well, I know good and well that it is." So after he went home, I stopped the frame off and went off in the basement and got me a chain and come back and put it on. Started the frame up and the frame run just as pretty as you ever seen. So the next morning the big man from Mount Pleasant came. I was standing up the hall a way from where the frame was, and he told this man--well, the man was down there that morning, telling them to do something--and he was standing there and told this man, "Well, I fixed that frame last night." He said, "Yeah," said, "Looks like it's running pretty good." And I turned around to him and said, "Who fixed it?" He said, "I did." I said, "You know good and well that's a lie." I said, "You said there wasn't nothing the matter with that frame." And, I said, "I fixed it myself." This man turned around me and said, "I knowed you did." I said, "Well, I know damn well I did too." [Laughter] They just didn't know nothing. And they didn't want you to tell them. That's the truth. And you can ask any of them down there, they'll tell you. Don't none of them know nothing. And it's the type of people that don't want you to tell them nothing. I told them I've been down there forty-five years; I know when anything was running right and when it weren't. Cause
weren't a frame in that mill I hadn't tore down and put back together. Tore down every one of them. I know exactly what's the matter with them.
JL: Have there been any other changes under this new management?
DURHAM: Yeah, they have rules to go by--I believe they still got them, I don't know.
E. DURHAM: You got a certain time to go eat, you got a certain time to take a break, you got a certain time to do anything--to smoke. They've got you timed.
DURHAM: In the winding room every two hours they have a break, a fifteen or twenty minute break. And they're supposed to clear out of the lunch room when they're. . . . There's so many of them when they all go in at one time. They're supposed to have a break of their own and they fill the lunch room most of the time when they go in. Every two hours they have a break.
E. DURHAM: But I'm telling you I took my break when I got ready. I told them I had been working in there and never had to call on nobody to help me. I kept my work up, and I had sense enough to know how long to stand, and how long to stay away from my work, and I'd go when I got ready. And me and him had a fuss about that one day. I said, "Well, when you catch my sides balled up and me a-setting in here then you can come after me. But if my sides ain't balled up, don't you come in here after me." I said, "Cause I've been here a whole lot longer than you have." He never did come after me no more.
JL: How does that compare to the way it used to be?
E. DURHAM: It just ain't no ways like it used to be. No ways. When you worked then it didn't run bad. That cotton was altogether
different from this here old polyester and nylon and mess.
DURHAM: Mostly now it's synthetic blends, polyester, acrilan.
E. DURHAM: When it balls up that filter can't take care of it as fast as it'll come out there.
JL: What do you mean by "balls up"?
E. DURHAM: The end will break and you see the end goes through some rolls, goes through the rolls and mashes that thread out just like foam or something. Sometimes it'll be a pile that big. And that old blower come along right down and sometime will tear down a whole side end, if you're not there to catch it. It's a mess.
DURHAM: They have pneumafils now that catch it before it falls, and sucks the waste out into the waste box. And sometimes it gets stopped up, it gets so much that it'll just cause a lot of ends to come down.
E. DURHAM: A cloud of dust.
DURHAM: But it used to, the old frames had revolving scavenger rolls--what they call a scavenger roll, most of them called it a lap stick then. They'd just catch the end and they'd go ground the lap stick. The spinner would have to come along, take that thing and strip it, and put it back. They've changed that new frame so they're not that way.
E. DURHAM: Yeah, but I like them lap sticks better than I do these old things.
DURHAM: And they're spring-weighted now, the drag system on the spring where you got so much weight on each roll. There's three top rolls and there's three bottom rolls, steel ones. And used to be a strip
to use as a weight level, dead weight to pull the springs. But it's spring weighted now, you don't have all that. The new frames don't have that all. Supposed to have so much weight on each roll.
E. DURHAM: Didn't none of them know how to weight it down, though.
JL: So you think that most of the problems of the work running bad is because of the synthetic material:
E. DURHAM: Yeah, and another thing I think . . .
DURHAM: If they get top grade of it . . .
E. DURHAM: If they get good grade of stuff, it runs pretty good. But they ain't.
DURHAM: If they fall off and get the lower grade of some kind, it'll make probably a little more profit out of it. But I believe what they say, they're trying to run a good grade of fiber in there.
E. DURHAM: Well, I ain't been down there since last February.
DURHAM: They have some yarns that have so much cotton in it, 85/15, 50/50, sometimes different blends. Whatever they specify they want.
E. DURHAM: If they put all cotton back down there again I'd take a job. I don't like that mess. It's something. Long back yonder when work was running, his brother whole lot of times he'd catch up, his brother would go to the house. And his daddy had an old Model A car. He'd go to the house and steal that car, run down there and we'd load up. And had a road that went down, you know, down by the river, come out over yonder on Mount Gilead Road. And we'd load up in that car and
take off. Go all down through there, ride. One time we went fishing, down there behind the mill. Fishing. We made us a fishing hook out of a pin, and got us a stick. And we kept putting threads together to make it strong enough, you know. There was about seven or eight of us setting back there behind the mill on the river bank fishing. His daddy was boss man then. We was setting there just a-fishing up a storm, and heard the weeds a-cracking, we looked up and there he was. He said, "I want every one of you"--we weren't nothing but younguns, none of us . . .
JL: How old were you?
E. DURHAM: Fourteen. He said, "I want every one of you back in that mill right now." He marched us back in the mill. Well then, they had an old elevator, that you pulled ropes and would carry you up. Well, we studied after we seen his feet go up in the spinning room. One of the boys got up on the platform--and the winding room was down in the bottom, we walked [unclear] up on the platform to go out there. He got up on there and whistled, motioned that he'd gone upstairs. And we took off again. Tom Hearne, poor soul, he was way out of winding and he was weighing up yarn. He said, "I tell you right now, you kids about to worry me to death." Said, "You can't keep you in here to save your life." Said, "The man's coming back there getting ready to kill every one of you."
JL: Was that soon after you went to work? How old were you when you first went in the mill?
E. DURHAM: Yeah. Well, I was thirteen, and I would be fourteen in August, when I went to work.
JL: What was your first job?
E. DURHAM: Winding. And I went from winding to spinning. And I spun for years and years and I went on third shift--they put a third shift on down there--and I went to doffing. Then I doffed a while, then they got another new man down there on third, he put me a section hand, running a section. And I run that, six months.
JL: What is that?
E. DURHAM: Keep all the frames, you know--bad rollers and things that the hands would take out--put in, and something the matter with the end or something they couldn't make run, they'd break it back and you had to fix it. All the dirty work. Then that new company took us over and they hired all them colored people, hadn't none of them been nowhere but in a cotton field. And you talk about a mess, honey, I had to learn all of them. Lord have mercy! Some of them would learn it; you didn't have a bit of trouble in the world with them. And some of them you could stand there and show them till judgment day and wouldn't know a bit more what you said than he did when you started. There was one old big fat colored woman down there. She'd been down there about four weeks and she never had got to where she could put up ends. She told me one night, said, "What's the matter with me?" I said, "I don't know--me or you one is dumb, I don't know which one it is." She left, she never did come back no more. But some of them made good hands, and they're still down there.
JL: When did blacks first start working at the mill?
E. DURHAM: When this company took over--when was that?
DURHAM: Yeah, on the inside. First time they worked on the inside. They had some on the yard, but that was the first time they went on the inside.
E. DURHAM: What year was that?
DURHAM: It was 1973. 1972 was when they took over. 1972.
E. DURHAM: Some of them was good and some of them--well, they still got some good ones down there that was learned, you know, when the mill started.
DURHAM: Frank worked with one or two up in the opening room before they come in, but in the spinning room--no, they never done spinning.
E. DURHAM: Oh yeah, Lois Wilson, you know, she was the first colored woman that come in there to work. And they put her to sweeping.
JL: When was that?
E. DURHAM: About '72, weren't it?
DURHAM: '72 was when Tuscarora signed the lease for it.
E. DURHAM: Well, this here was before Tuscarora took over, when this gal come to work.
DURHAM: Yeah, they started putting them in, because John started working some. Equal rights--equal opportunities--they was going to complain about it.
JL: How did the rest of the people in the mill react to that?
DURHAM: Well, they done pretty good, didn't they?
E. DURHAM: Yeah, they done pretty good. Never did have no trouble with them at all, as I know of. I don't know of any of them ever had and trouble with any of them. They was nice, and all the whites treated them nice. They got along good.
JL: Did any of the whites complain?
E. DURHAM: No, I never heard none of them complain at all. Got along mighty good, I think.
DURHAM: Yeah, and they do now, down there.
E. DURHAM: Well, I tell you, that's a pretty good bunch of black ones that works down there. All of them. A pretty good bunch.
JL: Where do most of them come from?
E. DURHAM: Around Pittsboro, around in the country.
DURHAM: Don't any of them live around here in Bynum, do they?
E. DURHAM: No, they all come from out on Siler City Road, and around Pittsboro, and back up here in the country toward Chapel Hill.
JL: So most of them are driving in, I guess?
E. DURHAM: Right. They're oh, pretty good, I think. Never had no trouble with none of them.
JL: Well, let's go back to your job as a supervisor . . .
DURHAM: A foreman.
JL: I mean, as a foreman. What were your relationships with the workers outside the mill like?
DURHAM: Well, outside the mill, they got along all right, I reckon. They all knew one another and was raised up together and we was just like home folks. We got along all right.
JL: Did the. . . . Let me cut this off for a few minutes.
JL: Where did you live at that time? Were there any special houses?
DURHAM: We lived on the hill a while, about two years I believe, wasn't it? The company they had owned these houses all the way down the hill. We didn't have nothing but the. . . . My brother built
the house we moved in. It was on the road then; it had been up there a good while. Finally come down here.
JL: Were there any houses that were reserved for the supervisors?
DURHAM: Yeah, they had one over here close to the mill, top of the hill close to the mill, for the superintendent.
JL: How about the foremen?
DURHAM: No, they didn't have any specialized for them.
JL: Did any of you live close together?
DURHAM: Well, I lived over there on top of the hill and my brother lived in the superintendent's house down here close to the mill. That was about as close as we ever did get.
JL: We were talking about people's complaints. Was there ever any talk of unionizing?
DURHAM: Yeah, they started once or twice, but never could go through with them. Never did.
Archie Durham: Weren't some people fired for that?
A. DURHAM: [unclear] They knew damn well she did everything else. [unclear] I remember that.
DURHAM: He's taping that. You were about to say something, only he's taping that.
A. DURHAM: Good.
JL: Who tried to organize the union?
DURHAM: Who was it? Somebody from . . .
E. DURHAM: Silk mill. Pittsboro.
DURHAM: First thing I heard of it was they had a meeting up here at the old schoolhouse one time.
E. DURHAM: It started from the silk mill right near Pittsboro. That's where they started the union over there. And they come down here trying to start one.
JL: Do you remember when that was?
DURHAM: We lived up the road didn't we?
E. DURHAM: Yeah . . .
A. DURHAM: It was down here in '51, wasn't it?
DURHAM: It was '36 or '37, weren't it?
E. DURHAM: They didn't get nowhere with it.
A. DURHAM: They tried to unionize one time during my lifetime, I know.
DURHAM: That was when we was up the road, about '36 or '37 one.
A. DURHAM: I wasn't born in '36 or '37.
DURHAM: Well, that was the second time, then.
A. DURHAM: They tried several times. It was up in the fifties when I was. . . .
JL: Was 1936 or 37 the time they had the meeting at the school?
DURHAM: About '37, weren't it?
JL: Were there any workers from the mill who were involved in the organizational effort?
DURHAM: Yeah, there was a few, but . . .
E. DURHAM: Not many.
JL: How was that meeting set up?
DURHAM: I don't know who started it.
E. DURHAM: I don't know either, `cause I didn't go. Didn't want to give up my freedom for a union then.
A. DURHAM: It was exactly the opposite.
DURHAM: They never did go through there, never did go. They still don't belong to no union down there.
JL: How did you feel about it?
DURHAM: I wasn't never boss man then; I was just a regular hand. I just went with the crowd. I just go along with the crowd up there. I don't know what all they--I don't even remember who they were--the leaders were, that started it.
JL: What did you think about it?
E. DURHAM: Why, I didn't. . . . They come in there and told me to come on and I said, "I'll not do it. I can go outdoors when I get ready and come in when I please and I ain't paying that union nothing." Several got mad about it. I didn't care.
JL: Did a lot of people feel that way?
E. DURHAM: Yeah. The biggest majority of them.
A. DURHAM: They didn't really understand it, did they, Mama? They didn't understand what the union was all about.
E. DURHAM: Well, they had a bunch of dumbheads trying to tell you. The union's a good thing if you had somebody, you know--but the ones that come over here messing with it from Pittsboro, they had just started in to that union and they didn't know what they was doing.
JL: What did they tell you when they tried to get you to come in?
E. DURHAM: Lord, I don't know. They had the biggest rigmarole, that you could do this, and that you couldn't get fired, that the union would stand by you, and they'd do this--you ain't never heard such a meeting.
JL: How did John London react to that?
E. DURHAM: He didn't like it at all.
JL: Did he ever say anything to you about it?
E. DURHAM: He didn't say nothing to me about it. I know he didn't like it. He run them away from there one time.
JL: Some of the organizers?
E. DURHAM: Yeah, They come down there and set out down there. He come in there one day at dinner--he run them away.
JL: Did he ever say anything to the employees about it?
E. DURHAM: Not that I know of.
JL: How did the superintendent and the foremen react?
DURHAM: My uncle, Edgar Moore was superintendent then. My brother he was a foreman, a supervisor on the second shift. My daddy he was a foreman in the spinning room. They didn't go along with it. They didn't go along with the union at all.
JL: Did John London ever say anything to them about it?
DURHAM: I don't know whether he did or not. I imagine he did, though. Course they weren't for it noway.
JL: Do you remember how they felt about it? Anything they ever said?
DURHAM: They just didn't like it. They didn't want it.
JL: Do you know why they felt that way?
DURHAM: I just don't know--whether they thought it might hurt them in the long run, or what. I don't know.
JL: That was the first attempt. When was the second?
E. DURHAM: That was just before Mr. Moore retired, weren't it? Well, I believe that was a bunch that second time. . . .
DURHAM: Well, I didn't know much about that . . .
E. DURHAM: I didn't either 'cause they kept that quiet.
DURHAM: I was foreman then, and they didn't let me know nothing then.
JL: Do you remember about what year that was?
DURHAM: I sure don't.
JL: Just roughly?
DURHAM: I don't. Do you?
E. DURHAM: No, I don't. They went around and told certain ones. It was kind of a secret. Just told certain ones, you know. They thought they could get, you know, so many of them and then the rest of them would have to join.
JL: We were talking about people getting fired a while ago. Did people lose their jobs if they got involved?
E. DURHAM: I don't know.
DURHAM: No, they might have threatened, sent something around that they might happen something if they got involved, but I don't think they ever fired anybody, do you?
E. DURHAM: No, I don't know if they ever fired anybody. I never heard tell of it.
JL: Were there ever any strikes?
DURHAM: Yeah, they struck down there, but it didn't hold up either. I don't think they ever went through with it, did they? They broke it.
E. DURHAM: The doffers struck.
DURHAM: Yeah, they'd just go out and sit down. And then the winders and spinners struck one time. It was when Uncle Edgar was there.
JL: Do you remember when any of those strikes were?
DURHAM: It was in the thirties, weren't it?
E. DURHAM: No, they's been one since then.
DURHAM: Well, have they had any trouble like that since this new bunch. . . .
E. DURHAM: No, I don't know.
DURHAM: No, I don't believe they have.
E. DURHAM: Not when I was working down there.
DURHAM: Oh, since this new group has come in they're making better than they ever have.
JL: Why did those people go out on strikes?
DURHAM: Probably wasn't making enough, or overworked, or something. Didn't make enough for what the work they did, or something.
JL: Were either one of you involved in either one of those?
E. DURHAM: No.
JL: Did they win?
DURHAM: I don't think so. I don't believe they did, did they?
E. DURHAM: Naw. No, I know one time, the spinning room went out there and wanted more money or something, and John told them he'd shut down before he'd give any more, and they went back to work.
DURHAM: They make good down there now. More than they ever have.
E. DURHAM: It ain't like it used to be.
JL: Were there any hard feelings among the workers after some went out and some refused?
E. DURHAM: Yeah, some of them got kind of ticked out about it, but didn't take them long to get over it. They come around and wouldn't speak or nothing, but it didn't amount to nothing, cause sooner or later they had to call on them. Didn't amount to nothing.
JL: What do you mean they had to call on them?
E. DURHAM: For help, or something.
JL: You mean the other workers in the mill?
E. DURHAM: Yeah. I know one woman she went out with that bunch that striked us down there one time. She come over to me, said, "Come over here and help me--I ain't never seen such a mess as I'm in. Please help me some." I said, "I'll not do it. If you'd been in here like you ought to have been instead of out yonder striking," I said, "You wouldn't have got in a mess." And she went for a long time didn't speak to me, Lizzie Nears.
JL: Do you remember any other instances like that?
E. DURHAM: No, I don't believe I do. But this one--all of them--she got so mad at me that day, she went up in [unclear] . Well, she didn't even want to join the union. Well, she had a lot of curiosity, and she wanted to find out what was going on. She was a big old fat woman and she couldn't run no sides noway. She nosed around out there till she ain't never seen such a mess as she was in. And I was helping around that day. "Come on over here and help me some. I won't never get out of my hole." I said, "I'll not do it." I said, "Cause if you'd have been on your sides like you ought to have been instead of out there nosing around, you wouldn't have been in that mess." I said, "I ain't going to do it."
JL: How long did the strikes last?
DURHAM: They didn't last long.
E. DURHAM: About an hour or two.
JL: Oh, is that all? I had the impression that they lasted much longer than that.
E. DURHAM: No! About an hour or two.
JL: Did John London usually come up and say something?
E. DURHAM: No. I don't know whether he did or not, cause I never was out there.
DURHAM: Uncle Eddie was superintendent down there, wasn't he?
E. DURHAM: Yeah, he was superintendent then.
JL: We were talking about the thirties. Do you remember the general strike in 1934.
JL: Yeah, when I think the mill workers all over North Carolina went out on strike.
DURHAM: Oh. Well, I don't remember anything about it.
E. DURHAM: I don't think they did down here.
DURHAM: No, Henderson Cotton Mill over here, they had some bad trouble over there with striking, but didn't have no trouble around here then.
JL: There were groups called flying squadrons that went from mill to mill to try to shut them down. Did any of them come to Bynum?
DURHAM: No, I don't think so.
E. DURHAM: Not that I know of.
DURHAM: This might not have been a large enough concern down here for them to visit. But they really played havoc over here at Henderson Cotton Mill.
JL: While we're in the thirties, earlier you said something about the NRA. How did the mill run in the depression?
E. DURHAM: Well, we'd go to work at six of a morning and work till six at night. Get a hour for dinner. And I was spinning then. And I was making twelve and a half cents an hour. And when NRA come in, they raised me to thirty-four cents.
DURHAM: When NRA come in, it was thirty cents. Forty hours, thirty cents an hour.
E. DURHAM: Yeah, I thought I was rich. I wound when I first went in there, and some of them would work six days. Now we worked till dinner on Saturday.
DURHAM: We worked sixty hours a week.
E. DURHAM: Yeah. Worked six hours on Saturday, and it was about five or six of us winding girls, we'd count up what we'd made on Friday night and if we'd made five dollars we didn't do nothing Saturday morning.
DURHAM: Before NRA come in, there was a depression. It was on short time down there.
E. DURHAM: Yeah, I know it.
DURHAM: And President Roosevelt come in and he changed it, put it over on forty hours a week, thirty cents an hour. And all over forty hours paid time and a half. So, that's what caught them napping. We was working eleven hours a day but the depression come on they didn't do it then, but they went to working eight hours a day--like you was on a vacation. Just being to eight. But during the depression, things was bad.
E. DURHAM: Lord, yes.
JL: How bad did it get?
DURHAM: They come down to about ten cent an hour, and on short time at that. You done good if you made seven or eight dollars a week. We weren't on unemployment insurance--no, we didn't have any. But now, if things get dull now--if they don't draw as much as twenty-four dollars a week, they can draw unemployment.
JL: How did that affect people working in the mill?
DURHAM: What--the unemployment?
JL: Yeah, when they cut wages and hours back so much.
E. DURHAM: Everybody like to starved. That's the truth.
JL: How did you make it through it?
E. DURHAM: I don't know. Just survived some way or another.
DURHAM: A company house on the hill, only was about fifty cents or a dollar a payday, rent.
E. DURHAM: Oh, the three-room houses was fifty cents, and the four-room houses was seventy-five, and the five-room houses was a dollar. That was every two weeks. That was what they paid for rent every two weeks. And they paid that till this company took over. They paid that until it was sold--no, I believe it went up to two dollars on the houses, didn't they?
DURHAM: Might have went up some then.
E. DURHAM: Yeah, and then after this company bought them and took over, then they sold the houses to the ones that wanted to buy them. The ones that lived in them and wanted to buy the house, they sold them to the ones that wanted to buy them. And the ones that didn't want to buy them, then they rented them. But the most of them that lives in them over there now, they own--bought. And there's some man had bought a lot of them houses over there. Yeah, Wolf. And he bought a lot--about three.
DURHAM: Four, counting that other one.
E. DURHAM: And there's two girls over there that works in Chapel Hill, and go to school or something, live in one of them. And the house where they live in was fifty cents a week, and now he charges one hundred and twenty-five dollars a month.
DURHAM: A hundred and fifty. Somebody told me a hundred and fifty dollars a month.
E. DURHAM: No, Carrie Lee said, that lived in front of them said she said that they paid a hundred and twenty-five a month. And the house used to rent for fifty cents.
JL: We were talking about the depression. What did you do to keep from starving, if wages were that low?
E. DURHAM: Well, you had to scrimp and save, just eat anything you could get a-hold of, that you could make a meal off of. Most of them though worked out in the field, you know, for people and farmed, worked in the fields, and most of them had gardens and things like that. They all got along pretty good. But NRA come in. I know one man--he's dead now--that lived over there. He said that weren't such a thing as milk gravy. He said he eat Hoover gravy. He said that finally somebody had a cow and he'd buy a quart of sweet milk a week from them. And he said that he'd eat so much milk gravy till every time he seen a cow he said, hello, lady, how are you? But he said he eat water gravy, and he hoped he'd live long enough to see Hoover eat water gravy.
JL: How did people around here feel about Hoover?
E. DURHAM: Well, I don't think they thought too much of him, cause you see, everybody had, you know, just a pretty good living. So he come in and starved everybody to death. I don't think too many people nowhere liked him.
JL: What was the reaction to Roosevelt?
E. DURHAM: Oh, they loved him. Boy, he pulled them out of the ditch. They loved him to death. Well, everybody everywhere I've ever heard say anything about him--well, it wasn't only in Bynum neither. It was everywhere. Everybody was in the same ditch everywhere. I know I heard a friend lived down here below Pittsboro down here in Asbury--old woman--and she said that if she hadn't had a good garden and if she hadn't had her own pig and cow that she didn't know what in the world she would have done. She sold milk at ten cents a gallon and butter fifteen cents a cake and she said she had some hens, she sold eggs. I've forgotten now how much she said she sold the eggs for. And said that's the way she dressed her younguns to send them to school, from what she sold.
JL: Did people pull together and help each other out?
E. DURHAM: Yeah.
JL: What type things would they do?
E. DURHAM: Well, if they had a lot to eat or anything, they'd divide with other people. And Bynum's always been good about that. If anybody here ever gets down or sick or disabled to work or anything, they've always been good to chip in and help them out in every way they could, give them money or give them food. Bynum has really been good about that. I've been here about all my life and I don't know of nobody here that ever would have sickness or anything like that but what somebody would chip in and help them out. There was a lot of old people here then, during that depression, that weren't able to work at all. And I've knowed the younguns around to go clean out their yards and help them clean the house, and do things like that, where they didn't have no money to hire
somebody to help them out.
JL: Were you ever involved in anything like that?
E. DURHAM: Well, no, I went to work at the mill all along then. All I had to do, I had to work. Cause there was twelve of us. I had to work, but I had a sister that did. She done a lot of helping out, you know, around, different people and all. She was younger than I was. But they all been mighty good around here about helping out each other. That depression got everybody. I know my mama, along then I said I didn't know what a new dress was, nor a pair of shoes till I got old enough to go to work. I wore hand-me-downs, cause there was twelve of us, and whenever one would outgrow anything mama would--she could sew, and she'd take that thing and cut it down and fix it so the younger ones could wear it. And when they got where they couldn't wear it and they hadn't wore it out, she'd patch that thing up and fix it up and the one down below you got it. I told everybody I didn't know what a new dress was, or a pair of shoes until I went to work.
JL: Did you get to keep some of your money when you went to work?
E. DURHAM: When I went to work, my daddy give me twenty-five cents payday out of my check. Well, they didn't pay off in checks then, they paid in money. And he'd give me twenty-five cents and I thought I was rich.
JL: What did you do with it?
E. DURHAM: Law, this old man live up above us and ran a little old store. When I'd get my quarter on Saturday morning I'd run up there and I'd get me. . . . Then they had, Oh Boy chewing gum, come in a long stick about that long and about as wide as your two fingers. And they was a penny. And Mary Janes, they come in a long thing then, weren't them little short things. Come long, about like that, you know. They
was a penny. Well, I'd get me some Oh Boy chewing gum and some Mary Janes, and then he had a three cent copper--a drink that tasted almost like a Dr. Pepper. They called it a three cent copper. And I'd get me one of them. And boy, I thought that was the best pay, and I'd eat it. One time, I never will forget, my sisters watched me, and would get my candy and stuff. Well, we lived in this old house and you could walk up under it, and it weren't underpinned or nothing. It had rafters up under there. Well, I took my candy and chewing gum, put it in a little sack, went under the house and hid it up under there in one of them rafters. [Laughter] I won't never forget that thing as long as I live. And next day I went out there to get a piece of my candy and chewing gum. And went out there and got my sack down and it was just loaded with ants. The ants had found it. I said, Lord-a-mercy, what am I going to do, they've got my candy and my chewing gum. Well, this here old friend of mine lived up there above us, she said, well, I tell you what we'll do. We'll take it down to the branch and wash it. Said, we'll wash it off, wash them ants off. We took it down to the branch and washed the candy and I said, "Well, you eat a piece first." She said, "No, you eat a piece." I said, "No, you eat one. If it's fresh then I'll eat one." Well, we finally throwed it away. We nary one could get nerve enough to eat that candy. And I never did put any more of my candy under the house. [Laughter]
JL: The ants knew your hiding place!
E. DURHAM: Yeah, they just eat my candy up, and my Oh Boy chewing gum! Boy, when you got a big piece of candy then, or chewing gum, you was really setting pretty. Got an old doll, one Christmas--the only thing I remember in my life getting as a kid. An old doll, about that
high. And along then they didn't make them out of rubber, made them out of some old stuff like pasteboard and painted them. Well, we had a big--it was a Saturday, after dinner, and we'd all go down to the branch. We had a big branch down there in front of the house. And so we was going to have a baptizing. We carried out dolls down there, you know, and banked up some water, baptized the dolls and laid them out. Well, come up a cloud and we run up to the house and forgot our dolls and left them down there. After the cloud was over and some sun come out bright, you know, I went down there and that doll, looked it was ninety years old, it was just cracked all to pieces. I said, "Lord I have ruint the doll!" And this girl had one, had some hair. Hers had hair on it. And every bit of her hair come off. We never did bring our dolls to no more baptizing. Oh, Lord.
JL: Did you have to buy any of your own clothes with the money that you got?
E. DURHAM: No, he bought my clothes--what I got. All I got was that twenty-five cents, and boy, I thought I was rich. And there was a girl that lived up the road here, she worked down there too. Well, her folks kind of thought they was kind of rich, you know. And she would get her whole five dollars on payday. She didn't pay no board or nothing. She got her whole five dollars. Lord, I thought that was the richest woman I ever seen in my life. Her getting five dollars, and me a quarter. But now they was me, and Ruth, and Lance, and Grassie--all of us. There was four of us that worked. And they were getting all we were making. There was about six or eight at home then.
DURHAM: Your brother wasn't working then, was he?
E. DURHAM: No. And Papa would give Lance--that was my oldest brother--two dollars out of his. And give me and Ruth and Grassie a quarter apiece. Lord, I thought I was rich when I got that quarter. Lord, I was the richest somebody in the world. Reckon what they'd do now if somebody was to take their youngun's paycheck and give them a quarter?
JL: The kid would have a fit.
E. DURHAM: No, you wouldn't ever live! But that's the truth. That's what I got out of a paycheck was twenty-five cents every two weeks. But then you could take that twenty-five cents and buy more than you can with five dollars now. Yes sir. Co-colas and things was a nickel, but them there little three cent coppers. . . . You remember when pepsi colas used to be a little old bottle that looked like it was squeezed in the middle? That's the kind of bottle them there little three cent coppers was in. In a thing like that. Law, I never will forget [unclear] . I just had gone to work down there. And preacher had a revival in Rock Springs. And preacher come down here Sunday. And the old kitchen that we had, there was a window--well, you could stand on the ground and the window come right along here on you. And Papa made all us younguns wait, you know, and all grown folks eat, and the preacher eat. And he was setting at the end of this window. And I was so hungry. And I was standing there watching, and he just kept on eating chicken and kept on eating chicken. I stuck my head in there, I said, "Don't eat it all; save me a piece." Papa heard me. He come out there and I thought he'd kill me! He said, "If you ever do such a stupid thing again. . . ." I said, "Papa, he's done eat two or three pieces!" I said, "He's going to eat every bit and I ain't going to get a bit." Well, I tell you one thing. I never did say it no more. Cause I thought he was going to kill me.
JL: How old were you, Mr. Durham, during the depression?
DURHAM: Let me figure it out. I was born in 1907 . . .
E. DURHAM: And this here was . . .
E. DURHAM: Right after Hoover got in.
DURHAM: I was about twenty-six, twenty-seven years old.
E. DURHAM: That's when Hoover got in--no, it was before Hoover got in, when I told that preacher that. Cause I hadn't ever gone to work at the mill. I was still a little one. I remember telling him not to eat all that chicken, but I'll never tell him no more, you bet your soul.
JL: Did you have any experiences like that?
DURHAM: No, I don't believe I did. I didn't get too much when I first went to work.
E. DURHAM: You know, along then younguns would--along when I was growing up--at Easter, kids would hide eggs. Go around to hen nests and get a egg or two every day and hide them so you'd have some for Easter. Well, Papa had about twelve or fourteen old Rhode Island Red hens.
JL: You were telling me a story about Easter.
E. DURHAM: And Papa said, "I know good and well them hens ain't laying." Well, I'd go around every evening late before Mama and them would come home from work. And I'd steal me two or three eggs. And we had an old barn with a big old loft to it, and he had it full of hay. Well, I'd steal two or three eggs every day and I'd carry them up to the loft and hide them up under that hay. Well, Easter come and Mama said, "Well, I don't know what I'm going to do." Said, "I ain't got too many eggs for
Easter." I said, "I got some, Mama." She said, "How'd you get any eggs?" I said, "I hid me some." Said, "Well, go get them." And I went down there and got to pulling in that hay, and she had a little old basket--it was about that big around and about that high with a handle on it. I took that little old basket and went down there. I said, "I've got a few eggs." When I got down there and got to pulling that hay back, I had that basket piled plumb full of eggs. You never seen so many eggs in your life as I had. And I carried them back home, and I thought I'd done something good, you know. He got that old razor strop down, he said, "If you ever do anything like that again, I'll beat you good." Said, "Me a-worrying about my hens and you hiding the eggs!" I said, "Well, I thought I was doing something good. I thought it would be good." And I was a-hiding--not no more you won't.
DURHAM: He didn't see the humor in it.
E. DURHAM: One time this old man lived up there above us in [unclear] . He had a big old cotton field. Well, we done picked all our cotton. Papa farmed--that was before I went to work. But he wanted us to go up there and help him pick cotton. Well, me and my two sisters went over there and we picked cotton all day long that day for that old man. Thought, well, I was going to have me some money. I got through picking that evening late, started home, and he said, "Well, I don't know. I reckon you're worth a dime." And he give me a dime for picking cotton all day. I went home and I cried, I was so mad. Papa said, "If you don't sit down and hush I'm going to tear you all to pieces. That's all that old man had." I said, "Well, he ought to have told me that before I picked that cotton. I wouldn't have picked it." Old man Long over yonder. He said, "Well, you're going
back tomorrow and you're going to pick cotton if he don't give you but a nickel." I went back, but I didn't pick much cotton. Yes, sir, give me a dime for picking cotton all day long. Couldn't buy nothing with that dime. I thought I was going to have some money.
JL: What were the other holidays like in your house?
E. DURHAM: Oh Lord, when Christmas come, Mama she'd start cooking about a week before Christmas. And Papa then raised his own hogs and things, and he'd raise them old big hogs. Mama'd cook a ham, she'd make every kind of cake in the world you could think of, and along then people didn't have freezers--they canned everything. Papa always had a big garden and she'd cook up a big Christmas dinner. You couldn't go to the store and buy beef like you can now. This old man brought it around that killed his own cows. He brought it around in a truck, and he'd cut you off a hunk and sell it to you. Mama'd get a big hunk of that, make a big pot of beef hash. Oh, we thought we was in heaven then. Never seen a apple or orange on Christmas. I didn't even know they had apples and oranges only what growed out of them trees around the house, for Christmas. And now younguns has them every day. Everything. Shoot.
JL: Did the way you celebrated Christmas and Thanksgiving change any once you moved into Bynum?
E. DURHAM: Well, not much, cause my daddy was the kind that he celebrated every holiday. Every holiday. We'd go to church up there at Rocky Springs Christmas night. They'd have a Christmas tree reached the top of the church, and everything in the world weren't put down under
the tree like it is now, it was hung on that tree. And you'd stay up there half the night. You thought you was something then. I tell you, you couldn't wait to get up there to them Christmas trees.
JL: You didn't have a Christmas tree at your house then?
E. DURHAM: Yeah. We'd make a Christmas tree, go out in the woods and cut us a tree, and string popcorn. You didn't have no decorations then on the tree, you'd string popcorn and take paper and cut it up in little pieces and glue them together to make rings and hook them together. And take old crayons and color all them rings a different color, you know. String them around on it. You didn't have no--what decoration you had was home-made decoration. You couldn't go buy decorations or nothing like that and put on a tree.
JL: You were talking about presents being hung on the tree at the church.
E. DURHAM: They'd tie them on the limbs, on the cedar tree, you know.
JL: But would your family have their presents on that tree?
E. DURHAM: Yeah, everybody would take their presents to church, you know. And have a big Christmas tree at the church. All that went to church. And then they'd have a program in there like they do now, only now they just have a little bitty tree and stick every little package down under the tree and all and don't have them hanging up in the tree. And this here woman that lived up over there above us, she was kind of the head of the church. [unclear] it would tickle her to death. She had a little boy he was about four years old. And she got him a double-barrel shotgun, put it on this tree. And somebody would
get up there and take the presents and hand them to somebody. And they'd read the name out and somebody'd carry it to them. They got this double-barrel shotgun off, and old man Jim Baker, an old man that used to go to church there, he was the one that read the names. He read that name out, he says, "E. Landon Tippett [unclear] ." She jumped up in the church said, "That's my boy! That's my boy! That's his shotgun! I got him that shotgun and I paid fifteen dollars for it!" Along then fifteen dollars was a hundred now, and I won't never forget that thing as long as I live. Every time I see that boy I think about it. And I was telling this girl friend of mine about that, and every time she sees him, that's what she'll say. She said, "Lord, I'd love to have come along about that time." I tell you, Lord, we had the best time at church on Sunday evenings. Crack hickory nuts or play games and things. Younguns now don't even have a good time like they used to. They got to get out, get into some kind of meanness. And, would go up there and play. The Sunday School teacher, she would have a picnic about every Saturday for them all. She worked down there in the mill. She'd have a big picnic for us, we'd go up there and she'd have home-made cookies, peanut butter and crackers, and Lord, us younguns thought we was in heaven. Get up there at that picnic with her.
JL: What types of games did you play?
E. DURHAM: We played jack rock, hopscotch, things like that. That was the only kind of games we knowed anything about.
JL: What was jack rock?
E. DURHAM: See, you got five rocks--you got six rocks. Well, you throw up one rock and grab one and catch that rock when it comes back down. One. Then you'll throw it up again and catch two. And throw it
up again and catch three. And then you bob the jack to catch all four.
DURHAM: I thought you had to catch them on the back of your hand.
E. DURHAM: You do when you throw them up. They're little bitty ones. You throw them up and catch them on the back of your hand and you do it three times and then you throw them out. Then you catch the big rock up. Throw it up and get one, and get two, then get three. Then you have four down there. You throw the rock up and grab the four and catch that rock. They call that bob-jacking. That's what we'd play.
JL: What other type things did kids do to entertain themselves?
E. DURHAM: Well, they played gulley march. Over there where we lived there was a field on each side and then a big old gully went down. Well, if you could run and jump that gully while the rest of them would march under you--if you could run and jump over and not hit nary one of them, you'd gully marched.
JL: We used to play something like that in the swimming pool. Not far from it.
E. DURHAM: Yeah, that's what they used to call gully march. Lord, had the best time. And they'd start getting up a Christmas program up there long about the first of December. And you'd go up there about two nights a week and practice, and on Sunday evening and practice. Oh, we thought we was having the best time--well, we was. We was having the best time of our life right there.
JL: You'd do Christmas plays?
E. DURHAM: Yeah, things like that.
JL: How about older people--in their teens? What did they do?
E. DURHAM: Well, they'd have home parties and played games and things like that. Make home-made cookies or home-made candy and serve it.
DURHAM: House parties was where they had girls and all. They'd have post office and spin the bottle. You ever played post office?
JL: Yeah, I think I played that one time.
DURHAM: A girl or a boy would go out in the hall and so-and-so, whoever she wanted to come out there, she'd say, "Got a letter down at the post office." He'd go out--and that's the way they worked that. And spin the bottle.
JL: How did people do their courting?
E. DURHAM: Well, most of the time they had little front room. They called it a parlor. And they'd go in there and court. And if they stayed longer than their papa thought they ought to, he'd say, "All right--bed time in there. If you ain't going home come on in here and I'll fix you a bed and you can go to bed." [Laughter] He went down and he told one of my sisters--it was Weesie Eubanks up here and my sister. There was a bunch of us in there one night, and he said, "All right. It's bed time in there. If it ain't come in here and I'll fix you a bed and you can go to bed if you're going to stay all night." Whenever he told us that, Weesie said, "All right, Mr. Cooper." Said, "Fix my bed. Now where am I going to sleep?" Weesie was so bad.
JL: You said there were a bunch of you. Did you usually see your boy friend or girl friend alone or in groups?
E. DURHAM: No, you didn't leave the house with them.
JL: But when they were over visiting, would some of your sisters also have their boyfriends there?
E. DURHAM: Yeah.
DURHAM: Let's see--there was about four of y'all that was courting age at one time. Four--about five of you, counting Ruth. Five of them girls. When they had a party they had a house full.
E. DURHAM: And on Sunday evenings everybody would meet down at the bridge over yonder at the spring, cross there where I was telling you about. They'd go over there and set over there on Sunday evenings and talk and play games and have a good time. And on Sunday night over there at Rock Springs Church they'd have a prayer meeting every Sunday night. And they'd be a string from that store down here right slam to the bridge going to the prayer meeting. And didn't half of them go in the church!
JL: Where did the half that didn't go to church go?
E. DURHAM: They'd sit outside and court and all.
JL: How did you two meet?
DURHAM: Me and her brother associated a lot along then, and we'd go up there. And I reckon that's how we got together.
E. DURHAM: I know one time a bunch of us were going to church and me and this girl we decided we was going to do something smart. Well, went down here on this old bridge. And I got up on one railing of the bridge and she got up on the other. And we walked all the way across that bridge on the railing. And her sister was screaming and a-hollering and all.
And I said, "Don't look down, Lois, don't look down. If you look down you'll fall, just look straight ahead." And you know I wouldn't get on that thing now for nothing in the world. And I've walked that thing a many a time. Crazy. Crazy. We lived over yonder. We was all younguns, and my oldest sister, sister older than I am, she stayed and kept house and tended us. And my oldest brother living now was a baby. And we made a playhouse up on top of the house. On top of the porch. We'd get up there on top of that porch, and on top of the house, and play. Well, we'd take bricks on the porch--the porch weren't but about like that. It wasn't too high ceilinged. And we'd take bricks up on top of that porch and put them around like that, and lay him in that pile of bricks so he wouldn't slide off, and stay up there and play on top of that house till we thought it was about time for Mama and Papa to come, and then we'd go back down.
JL: Did the young men around here and the girls have activities that they did together? Did a bunch of girls ever get together and do things?
E. DURHAM: Yeah, they used to have quilting parties, candy parties and things like that. We had a quilting party a bunch. We would go around and help the old women quilt. And we used to help this old woman, Miss Bella Andrews up there. She had a lot of quiltings. And we'd go up there and help her quilt, and she'd make us a whole lot of candy or cookies or something, you know, and give to them. Well, the boys and girls would all go up there and quilt.
JL: Oh the guys would go quilt?
E. DURHAM: Yeah, they would go quilt too. And one night we was up there quilting quilts and we got done with it. She made every one of us draw our name on a square. And a girl that lives right up the road here now has got that quilt. I sure would love to have that. They was about fifteen or twenty young boys and girls up there quilting.
JL: How old were you then?
E. DURHAM: Fourteen, fifteen.
JL: How about the guys in the area--what did they do?
DURHAM: I never was in that thing, the quilting parties. I don't know how they did.
E. DURHAM: Well, they did. Used to have quilting parties and things. We were out at Miss Daisy Abernathy's one time and helped her quilt, sew a quilt. She said, "Lord, I would have never thought I would have got a bunch of guys to quilt in a quilt for me." But them boys could. . . . Now Weesie Eubanks, Roy Lee up here, and Garland Andrews, Steadman Andrews, and [unclear] Abernathy, and Mule Suitts, and Braidman and McGee Montgomery, and Doc Snipes, they was the boys that mostly went to the quilting parties.
JL: That surprised me. I wasn't expecting that.
E. DURHAM: Well, two or three of them boys crocheted, embroidery. Now Doc Snipes could crochet good. He was a little bit older than us others, but Doc Snipes and Steadman Andrews--Steadman Andrews could crochet just as good as anyone you ever seen.
JL: What did you and your friends do?
DURHAM: We rode around in cars, in a lot of places, go to the show . . .
E. DURHAM: Ball games.
DURHAM: Go to Durham on the weekend, on Saturday. Go over there and
spend the whole day on Saturday, and take in three or four shows. [unclear] . That's about all they had then, didn't have any television. That was about the only enjoyment you got, going to Durham or Chapel Hill to the shows.
E. DURHAM: We had a group one time, a candy party group. We'd go around to different houses every week and make candy. And so, there was a lot of married couples would go with us. A lot of them. Now Gurley Williams and Ruth would go, and Freddie Campbell and his wife, Mrs. McDuffie, and Mama--a lot of old married people, you know, would go along with us too. They'd have just as good a time as we would. And we went to this house one night and made pull candy, and me and this girl was out in the yard pulling our candy. You know how to pull it--like that taffy they have at the fair--you have to pull it till it got hard and then put it out and cut it in little pieces. Well, we pulled that candy and pulled and we couldn't pull it. So we tried again--we put it on our knee and pulled it, you know, like that. And Gurney Williams caught us. Said he [unclear] . We done that for a whole winter, I reckon. Then in the summertime they'd all gang up together and go down on the river or go somewhere and cook a chicken stew. Have a big chicken stew. Went down to that river one time to cook a chicken stew. No, we went up to Sheep Mann's. This boy said, "Come on up there, I've got the chicken and everything. We'll have a stew. I've got plenty of milk. Y'all just bring your crackers. They had a cow. We went up there and got ready to cook a chicken stew and he said, "Well, the chicken ain't been cleaned." Well, me and Trennie Johnson had to clean the chicken and we got the thing picked. It had a
great big piece of wood right here in its hip. I said, "Sheep, how come that wood's in that hen's hip?" He said, "Well, I run her as far as I could and I couldn't catch her, and I hit her with a piece of slab." Said, "I reckon it broke off in there." Paul Buck Allen [unclear] and them used to steal chickens and we'd have stews. Well, we didn't know they was stealing them till after it was all over with. They'd tell about going to different places and stealing the chickens. Said they went up to Frank Farrell's one time and got a chicken and said he got in there and said Ed Anderson was going to get the chicken and got to squalling so it scared Ed. And Paul said, "Let me get it. You ain't talking to it. If you talk to him right you can get him." Said Paul got that old chicken out, said, "Come on chickie, chickie, come on." About the time he got hold of the chicken said Frank. [unclear] "Mr. Frank, Mr. Frank, I wasn't going to steal your chicken. I was just sitting here talking to him." [Laughter]
JL: Talking to him?
E. DURHAM: Yeah, poor old Paul Buck Allen told that one night up at Pete Tripp's. I said, "Paul, don't tell that no more [unclear] you're telling that." And Ruth Williams, two or three of them would steal a chicken, you know. Her and Gurney run a store over there where Harris runs now. And they would steal one of her chickens and carry it down there and sell it to her and get crackers and milk to go in the stews. Bunch of boys was going off then and cooking stews. Well, he said, they'd stole the old chicken two or three times, take it back down there. And they'd sold her the same old hen they didn't know
how many times. Said the last time they come in there Ruth said, "I seen this hen somewhere before." Said, "Look like I recognize this hen." Paul said he told her, "Naw, Miss Ruth, no, you didn't recognize that hen." Said, "My uncle just give it to me."
JL: They were stealing it from her and selling it back to her?
E. DURHAM: Selling it back to her. Said they done it three or four times, stole the same old hen three or four times and sell it back to her. And she said, "I believe I recognize this hen. I seen it before." And Paul said, "Naw, Miss Ruth, naw, you ain't never seen this hen before. My uncle just give it to me." He was something. Lord, back then--I wish them times would come back. Had the best old time. Go out in the wintertime and when the hickory nuts and things, you know, would get ripe in the woods there'd be a whole drove of them go out in the woods hunting hickory nuts, scalybarks, and things. And in the fall of the year go possum hunting. You ever been--What do they call that thing? Where they leave two holding the sack?
DURHAM: That was snipe hunting.
JL: Snipe hunting!
E. DURHAM: Right!
JL: I've carried people snipe hunting.
E. DURHAM: One time we carried these two old gals, Gaynell and Florence. They'd never been snipe hunting, and they thought, you know, it was real. We carried them way, ways over yonder. Well, way back down in yonder. Well, we went way back down in the woods, everywhere, you know, and left them holding the sack. I reckon we stayed down there in the woods--oh,
there was about fifteen or twenty of us--about two hours, and left them standing there up there holding the sack. And finally I said, "We'd better go back up there cause they don't know nothing about snipe hunting and ain't no telling what they. . . ." Well, find a way and went back up there and poor old Gaynell she kind of grinned anyway. She said, "Well, I been a-holding this sack," said, "I don't know whether this sack will hold all the snipes y'all caught." She really thought we was going to bring back some kind of bird or something, I don't know what.
Lord, we used to have a time. We went down to the river one time, a whole bunch of us. And every time it'd end up me and Trennie Johnson having to cook the stew. So this time Trennie wasn't along, was me and Iola White. I said, "Well, I'll fix them." One time we had one over here at the spring, we put two pound of pepper in it. And it was so hot--it was dark, too--they'd bite down on that stew and it'd just burn them up. So, we had the chicken cleaned but still had the feet on it. So we just took the guts out of the thing and cut him up, feet and all, and put him in there, with the feet in there with the toenails on it. And when we got done we took the feet out and hid them. They was going on down there, that was the best stew they ever eat in their life. And Garland Andrews and Virgil Snider said, "Well, I don't see you and Iola eating none." I said, "I don't like chicken stew." Said, "That ain't so, cause you always eat chicken stew." I said, "No, I don't want no chicken stew today." And Iola got to snickering. [unclear] was down there that day, about the whole mill, you know.
JL: Was this when you were young?
E. DURHAM: Yeah. Said, "Y'all done something to that stew or y'all would eat some." Iola said, "I swear to God, we hadn't done a thing to it." And they all come in, they kept on then, they got up and said
"Well, y'all going to tell us what you done." And they was going to throw us in the river. Iola said, "If you don't throw me in the river, I'll show you what we done." So we got them feet and showed them to them where we'd cooked it with the toenails on, and they run us, I bet you two miles up that river. But they never did ask us to cook no more chicken stews.
JL: Got out of that, anyway.
E. DURHAM: But these two boys could play guitar and sing--Archie Ross and Virgil Snider. They could really sing, but they both played guitar. And they would carry their guitars down there and we'd just have a sing-out down there on the river. But them boys could really sing.
JL: What were their names again?
E. DURHAM: Virgil Snider and Archie Ross. They played guitar. McKinley McDaniel--he moved from Gibsonville, didn't he?--well, he could play any kind of music, and he give lessons to a bunch of boys here and all. And any time we'd go anywhere they'd carry their guitars and things and have a singing and all. And Miss Mamie Moore, his aunt, she was our Sunday school teacher, so she carried us all down there one time on a wienie roast and marshmallow toast. And they carried the guitars and they got to singing, you know, religious songs and all. And she got to shouting. And it scared us to death down there. We hadn't never seen nobody shout before. Well, she got happy and got to shouting. And it scared us to death. We thought she was having some kind of spell or something. Scared every one of us younguns to death.
JL: What was she shouting?
E. DURHAM: She got happy over there at the singing, you know. Just kind of shout. Scared us younguns to death. We thought she was having some kind of spell or something. And Essie Carter, she was a lot older than the rest of us. She said, "There ain't nothing the matter with Miss Mamie, but she's happy. She's just happy, that's all the matter with her." Well, we thought she was having a spell. It scared the daylights out of us.
JL: You mentioned baseball games earlier. Did a lot of people play ball?
E. DURHAM: Oh, they used to have a. . . .
DURHAM: That was the main sport.
E. DURHAM: The main sport here. They had a ball ground up here and Lord, on Saturdays they'd have ball games.
DURHAM: They'd draw from all around.
E. DURHAM: Everything in the whole country would be there.
DURHAM: Fill the place up. Them boys now, they don't go out for it now like they used to.
JL: Did you ever play?
DURHAM: No, I never did do any playing much.
E. DURHAM: There was a whole lot of times after baseball games the church would have a box party. All the girls at church would bring a box of chicken or something. And the boys would bid off to buy it, and he'd eat with you. Well, I never did carry nary one. But this old gal she thought she was really tops, the preacher's daughter. And, Lord, they decorated the box, covered it in crepe paper, you know, make it pretty
and all. She thought her box was so pretty, and Silas Hatley, she kind of went wild over him, liked him. Well, Silas bought her box. And, Lord, it just tickled her to death, cause she thought--after everybody had sold them all, you know, and set down, the boy would eat with the girl. And she thought she'd get to eat with Silas, and she bragged about that, "Well, Silas, I'll get to eat with Silas." And I thinked to myself, "No, you won't neither." And me and this gal I run around with, she's dead now, I said, "I'm going to get that box." She says, "Well, get it. We'll go somewhere and eat the thing." Well, I got the box, and she was going with John Council. And me and her and John Council and Jim Strowd slipped off. And they had a big old place to set, then at the ball games, bleachers. Well, we slipped on down behind them bleachers and eat that gal's box.
DURHAM: They used to have the box parties at the old schoolhouse. It was penny a vote, wasn't it? You go over and say, ten or fifteen votes, or a hundred votes would be a dollar. And they'd buy--they'd bid and if so-and-so wanted the box, you'd just have to out-bid them to get it. There's some of them would bring four and five dollars, and that's a lot of money.
E. DURHAM: Uh-huh. But she didn't get to eat that box. She said somebody had got her box. Somebody had got her box. Nobody didn't know where it was at nor nothing about it. Cause I seen her when she put it in the old Model A car, in the back seat. Well, I didn't get the box, but I was in on it. [unclear] got the box. She said, "I got the box, now what do you want to do with it?" That was the best fried chicken I ever eat in my life. And little chocolate cupcakes. Oh, Law, used to have some good old times.
And when Bynum went off to play ball, the company had a great big old truck, big long bed on it. And Ernest Wicker, a man that used to work around down at the mill, Mr. London would let him have that truck on Saturday to carry anyone to the ball game that wanted to go. He'd pull it up down there at the store. Lord, every gal and boy in Bynum would be in that truck. Go off to the ball games. Have the best time. You didn't have to worry about how you was going to the ball games, [unclear] go down to the store.
JL: Just be there.
E. DURHAM: Just be there. Get on that truck, go to the ball game.
JL: Did the company ever plan any activities for its employees?
E. DURHAM: No, not that I know of. Nothing but they just, you know, kept the ball field up. And a lot of times them little old carnivals would come up there at the ball ground and pitch and stay maybe a weekend.
JL: What kind of carnival?
E. DURHAM: Carnival, you know, like they have now.
DURHAM: Yeah, you know, used to have some good shows come here. Stay about all week.
E. DURHAM: About like a county fair. They'd have sometimes a elephant or a monkey or two.
DURHAM: Yeah, used to come some animals through here.
E. DURHAM: Uh-huh. And they'd have different rides, you know, and things like that. A lot of little old games. Boy, we thought that was something, little old carnival would come, pitch up there. Have the best time. Cost you a quarter to get in.
E. DURHAM: Well, now, the company one time run that ice cream supper up there at the ball ground. You know, home-made, everybody'd
just bring their freezer, then he'd furnish the ice and milk. And if you had milk you wanted to bring, you'd bring it.
DURHAM: Several different occasions they'd have barbecue.
E. DURHAM: Yeah, and then you'd have barbecue suppers down at the mill for them and all. Different times, in the summertime and all. They had a Christmas supper down here at the Ruritan building last Christmas, and I had to do all the cooking.
JL: All of it?
E. DURHAM: All of it. I cooked--how many was it?--six turkeys.
DURHAM: I don't know how many now. That was last Christmas, wasn't it?
E. DURHAM: Yeah, six turkeys, ten gallon of string beans, twenty-five pounds of potatoes in potato salad, and a ham about that big--I think it weighed forty pounds. I had to boil that and then bake it. And, well, each one brought the desserts, you know. And then the company bought the rolls. But I cooked three days for that thing.
JL: Who provided the food?
E. DURHAM: The mill. He called me up there in the office one evening. This little old boss man come out there and said, "Mr. Gardner and them want you to come out in the office." I said, "What do they want?" He said, "I don't know." Said, "They want to talk to you." I went out there and I went in. I said, "What do y'all want?" And he said--who was that? Was that old fat man down there then?
DURHAM: Mr. Hall?
E. DURHAM: Yeah, Mr. Hall. He said, "We want to ask a favor of you." I said, "Well, what is it?" I cooked a ham one time before for them when
they had a supper. He said, "How much would you charge us to cook our Christmas dinner?" I said, "Man, you've got to be fooling." Said, "No, I'm not. I really mean it." I said, "Lord have mercy!" He said, "I want you to figure up about how many, how much it would take." Well, I come home and figured it up, about how much it would take for all of them. I forgot how many he told me it was that worked there. I figured it up, and Wade come over here, and me and him went to Pittsboro and bought it all. Well, he bought four or five canned hams. They was about that big, them old canned ones. I told him, "Them things won't go nowhere. I don't like canned hams." He said, "Well, I couldn't find a whole fresh ham." Well, I said, "I can find one." So, the man at Lo-Mark over there at Pittsboro called me. I went over there and they didn't have any, but he said he was looking for some in. Well, he called me that morning and told me that he had got some in and he'd save me the biggest one he had. I went over there and got it. Come home, I washed the thing and put it in a pot and boiled it until I thought it was--just boiled it till I thought it was done through. And I baked that thing, and me and my little grandson stayed down there at that Ruritan building. Well, I had part of my turkeys in my oven, part of them down there in that oven. I'd have to run from one place to the other. It took me three days to cook that meal. I had a time of that stuff.
DURHAM: We're not going to take that no more.
E. DURHAM: Lord, no. They paid me for four days work, though. No, sir, I wouldn't never do that no more. I declare, that like to killed me. But you know, I think they was one pie, and about a spoonful of string beans left.
JL: They ate everything?
E. DURHAM: Everything. Everybody come around telling me, "That sure was good, that sure was good." But I sure did put some work in that dinner, I'm telling you.
JL: A lot of cooking.
E. DURHAM: Yes, it was. I declare it was. I think it was six turkeys, and I had to cook them, to bake them. Next morning I had to go down there, slice all that up, that turkey, and all that stuff. Then I made four, or five, pans about that square and about that deep full of dressing to go with the turkeys. I ain't never. I said "I'll never undertake to do that thing no more." And they said, "Well, I'll come help you." And I said, "No." When I'm cooking I don't want nobody in the kitchen a-hindering me. I want to do it by myself. I can get along better. I said, "No, I don't want nobody to help me. I'd just rather for everybody to stay away." Well, when I'd go in there, I'd lock the door so nobody could come in. I won't never do that no more. A lot of work, I tell you. I done a lot of hard work for that meal that day. It was hard. I told him, I've never undertake to do nothing like that before. I've cooked for a big family and all, but I've never undertaked to cook for a big group like that before. He said, "You can do it, I know you can do it. You can do it." I said, "Yeah, I can do anything if I wanted to." And Grassie, she was down there working then, she said, "Yeah, she can do it." I said, "Well, why don't you do it?" She said, "You know I can't cook all that stuff." I got it done. Somehow or another I got it fixed and ready on the table when all come in. I
don't know how I done it, but I got it done. It was about three hundred, won't it?
DURHAM: I don't believe it was that many.
E. DURHAM: Yes, they was, with all three shifts. Yes, they was. It was all three shifts. And then all the yard hands and the outsiders that come in.
DURHAM: It wasn't hardly that many.
E. DURHAM: I bet you they was. Every bit of it. Lord have mercy.
JL: That's pretty much all the questions I had for you. I don't want to take up too much of your time today. You've been awfully kind to spend so much time with me.
E. DURHAM: I don't know what they're going to do down here this Christmas[.], whether they're going to have the dinner catered out or what they're going to do. They might not carry them nowhere. I know one thing--I ain't going to cook it. No, I'm not. Polly Gurner, the girl who lives over here, she asked me the other day, she said, "Are you going to cook our dinner for us Christmas?" I said, "No, I'm not." I said, "It ain't worth it. Now he paid me four days work, but I deserved every penny of it." That's a job, getting everything ready, and cooking all them turkeys, and you had to sew them up. And I always scrape my turkeys. They say they're ready to cook, but I always scrape mine and clean them out good before I cook them. I ain't cooking no turkey I don't know how it was cleaned. I want to know he's clean before I cook him.
JL: There's one other thing I did want to ask you. Were both of you working in the mill when it was still on water power?
E. DURHAM: Yeah.
DURHAM: Yeah. They still run on water up there now.
JL: They're generating their own electricity now?
DURHAM: Yeah. Way back yonder they had two wheels. Had two wheels. One of them was geared up--it had a crown of gears and had a long shaft, and had ropes and they pulled part of the mill with that. Then they had another wheel over here that generated about half the mill. But they done away with all that and now they got one turbine and one wheel.
JL: Was it at one time part electric and part water power?
DURHAM: They alternate.
E. DURHAM: One time they didn't have nothing but water.
DURHAM: Didn't have no electricity at all.
E. DURHAM: Because we'd watch it, and the steam would get below, when the water would get low the steam would get low. And we'd one would go out at a time and go up to the race and see how much water there was in it. When it got down where you could see them rocks, we'd take off.
DURHAM: They'd go out there. "The water falling?" "Yeah, it's falling some now." They'd want it to run out so it'd stop off. It got so low they just couldn't run much at all, and Carolina brought the power in.
JL: When would it get low like that?
DURHAM: In the summertime when they didn't have much rain, the river would get low.
JL: How did your work change when they changed to electricity?
DURHAM: No, the work load wasn't no different. They just got to where they'd run more.
JL: Did it run any faster? Did the electric machine run any faster?
DURHAM: No, they'd run about the same.
JL: You mentioned one turbine that was generating electricity?
DURHAM: One was, and the other one just did it by shafts and pulley ropes that run through there. Had a big crown up from the turbine, and there was another gear turned the shaft. But the other one, the other wheel over there generated power.
JL: What was it generating electricity for?
DURHAM: A part of the mill. The other wheel wouldn't pull it all, and this other wheel pulled the rest of it. They did away with all that and built a new one.
JL: So at one time then, some of the machines were electric while you still had some of it run off of . . .
DURHAM: Off of a motor. Yeah.
JL: When did they shift to electricity?
DURHAM: It was about 1940, wasn't it? Oh, it was way back before then when they took the power in.
E. DURHAM: I don't remember. . . .
DURHAM: Yeah, it was way back when they got power. Got to where they didn't have enough water to run it. They'd get behind with the orders. Had power put in.
E. DURHAM: All I know is I'd be so glad to hear that old thing go--"Hmmmmmmmm." Oh boy, get to go home now. When that thing got to humming. See it had a little guide thing there on the winder, that roller. Big old round steel roller, about that big around and that long. Well, it would turn to run that comb over, you know, to get that
thread on it, and it had a little old guide thing there with a hole in it. And the thread would get in it, and it'd go like that and fill up that cone. When that thing would get to going like that, you knowed it wasn't long before you'd get to go home, or go somewhere and have a good time. Tickle you to death to hear that old guide go like that.
JL: How often would that happen?
E. DURHAM: Well, right smart in the summertime. You know, along in June, July and August.
DURHAM: Few years ago there was more water in the river than there is now. The water level has gone down.
E. DURHAM: Along then, tickled you to death to see that cause we knowed then we was going down the river fishing, or cook a chicken stew, and have a good time. One time it stopped off, and he said, "When you hear the bell"--didn't have a whistle, had a old bell he'd ring. He said, "When you hear this bell ring, y'all come back here to work. We was way down the river yonder, heard that bell ringing. And his brother said, "Well, we didn't hear the bell." I said, "All right, it's your daddy. If he gets us, we'll tell him that we didn't hear the bell. That you told us that we didn't hear it." We stayed down there and then we all marched back up there. Well, I reckon we worked about an hour, and that thing, the water went back down again. We had to stop off. He said, "Well, go on back down." And we was cooking a chicken stew then. I don't know whether you was down there with us or not.
E. DURHAM: Well, anyway, he told his daddy, said, "We're going back down the river and we're going to cook this damn stew and don't you ring that bell till we all come back." He was the only one of them that ever
talked back to him.
JL: So you didn't get to go home then.
E. DURHAM: No, we just went back down there and finished that chicken stew.
JL: But when the water would get low they'd shut the mill down for a while and wait till the water level built back up in the race?
E. DURHAM: Oh, they'd shut down for three or four hours till that water builds back up again.
DURHAM: Sometimes you'd set down and wait the rest of the day. Had to wait till the next day, till the dam fills up, the pond would fill up.
JL: Did you get any pay for that?
E. DURHAM: No, you didn't get nothing.
JL: But you were still happy?
E. DURHAM: Yeah, still happy to see that old thing going down. One would go up there and say, "Well, it's fell about that much." Maybe about fifteen to twenty minutes, a hour later somebody else go, say, "Well, it's come down a little bit." Well, you could tell by them guides. When they started going like that, you knowed then it was time to get.
JL: You were young then. How did the older employees feel? Were they as happy to get off?
E. DURHAM: They was just as happy as we was?
JL: Even though they weren't going to get paid?
E. DURHAM: Yeah. Well, most of them would go home and do their washing, and ironing, or cooked, or something like that. They were just as happy. Well, a lot of times a whole lot of them old ones would go with us, down the river to cook them stews and things. Miss Ruby Farrell and Miss Lessie Snipes and Miss McDuffie used to go with us a lot when
we'd go down there cooking stews and things. Cause they were expecting you to go back to work in an hour or two, they'd go with us down there.
DURHAM: That fixed it when they got power over there, though.
E. DURHAM: Yeah, that ruined our playhouse when they got power. That tore up our playhouse.
JL: How reliable was that system of pulleys and belts?
DURHAM: Well, the turbine shaft, about that large, come up from the wheel, up in the water house. It had a crown with teeth on it on top of that shaft. It run to another gear with teeth on it. The shaft went from that wheel in the alley. They had ropes on the big wheel in there, great large wheel and this smaller pulley that made it run faster, get more power. That's the way that one run. That other wheel generated power.
E. DURHAM: Sometimes a stick or something would go through there and get in the wheel and knock the teeth out.
DURHAM: Tear the teeth all to pieces.
E. DURHAM: Tear enough of them out and then they'd have to stop off, you know.
DURHAM: One time down there they thought somebody cut that rope. One of the ropes down there. They never did find out exactly who done it, but they know somebody cut it.
JL: Were there a lot of breakdowns?
DURHAM: Not too many.
E. DURHAM: Not too many.
DURHAM: That was man-made that day that was cut. They never did find out who cut that rope, and had to take them the rest of the day to fix that thing. Splice it.
E. DURHAM: Splice it. Mr. Allen Johnson's the one done that.
DURHAM: There's few of them down there know how to do it.
E. DURHAM: I know he used to have to do that.
DURHAM: Rope about that big around. There was lines of them, that wide of ropes.
JL: Coming off those pulleys?
DURHAM: They run to two more pulleys--one to carding and one to spinning. But the wheel they got down there now, it's up to date. When the water gets low it gets alternating current--power. And when it gets low the power takes over. What the wheel don't pull, the power pulls.
JL: Did people ever get hurt with all those belts running around?
DURHAM: Yeah, there was some of them.
E. DURHAM: Yeah, some of them did.
DURHAM: The belt break, and the end of that buckle hit you on the head it'd knock you out sometimes.
E. DURHAM: Who was it--didn't Joe Johnson get hit with that belt one time?
DURHAM: Frank did too.
E. DURHAM: Yeah, I thought he did. Joe Johnson did too, I know he did.
DURHAM: Switch box blowed up one day in Frank's place and knocked him out.
E. DURHAM: He was lucky about it.
DURHAM: And [unclear] Jones down here, hurt him. And Stanley Combs like to got killed.
JL: What happened to him?
DURHAM: He was wiring up a motor and leaning over the motor or something or other. He got in a live wire there and just fell over. And Frank finally grabbed him and got him loose from it, said he'd have been dead
in a few minutes if he hadn't got him loose from it. They carried him to the hospital.
E. DURHAM: Well, he stayed in the hospital a long time. Well, Ed Moses did too. Don't you remember when Ed got burnt down there too? Knocked out or something?
JL: What type of injuries would those belts cause people? Did people get caught in them?
DURHAM: Sometimes there'd be a break in the buckle end where the buckle was on it, hit you, it'd hurt you. But the electricity done most of them, I imagine. Switch boxes blowing open. [unclear] Stanley got hurt the worst of anybody down there, I reckon.
E. DURHAM: One time, when I was working in the post alley down there, framed, I worked where the motors was all up in--well, there was a line of posts down there in the alley and the motors--switch boxes--was on them posts. And come up cloudy that evening, just the worst cloud. And Joe Johnson was section hand down there then. Now he was pushing the switch box. The lightning would knock the power out, and you would have to push the switch boxes back in. And he hit that switch box. I was standing about like I am in this chair to him when he pushed that end. And I just had had my hands up like that reaching to take hold of him to go around him. About that time it blowed out, and I just throwed my hands down like that. And the man that come down there, the electrician, to fix that box, he said if--it like to killed him, burnt his face and arms and all--he said if I had of touched him, said it would have killed me plumb dead. Said when I touched him it would have throwed it off him and on me. And said it would have killed me slam dead. I said, well I'll get out of this alley right now. I ain't going to run this side no more. Well, that scared me to death. He said that was the way it would work.
Said maybe it would burn you, but if I touched you it would kill me. Said a double voltage would come out from it, the motor and him, to me. I said, "Lord have mercy, supposing . . ." And I had done had my hands up fixing to go like that and go around him. He said, "Well, you're lucky you didn't. It would have killed you stone dead."
JL: Did the mill pay any compensation for people who got hurt.
DURHAM: They had this insurance on the help. And they pay them so much percentage of what they made a week.
JL: How about when you two first went to work?
E. DURHAM: I don't know whether they did then.
DURHAM: I don't know how it used to be.
E. DURHAM: No, I don't believe they did way back then. I believe that started when Herbert come in, didn't it?
DURHAM: No, that was before then. Used to be about forty or sixty percent of your wages.
E. DURHAM: Well, I never did get none.
JL: I guess that's something to be thankful for.
E. DURHAM: I never did get hold of none of that.
DURHAM: They have insurance on them now.
E. DURHAM: But I never did get none. You know, I've got so many boys here I don't know whose clothes belong to who.
JL: My mother has exactly the same problem.
E. DURHAM: That's the truth. Sometimes I put Archie's in with Frankie's, Frankie's in with Archie's. Say, "Hey, you got my shirt." "You've got my pants." "You've got this." So I pile them all on the bed and when they come they can pick them out. That's the best way I know. I don't know whose is whose and what's what.
[End of Interview]