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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Roy Lee and Mary Ruth Auton, February 28, 1980. Interview H-0108. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Taking revenge on mill boss after being fired

Auton touches on a number of elements of the life of a southern laborer. When his boss at a hosiery mill saw him accept a leaflet from a union representative, he lost his job. Once he found a new job at a different mill, he took revenge by poaching workers from his previous employer.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Roy Lee and Mary Ruth Auton, February 28, 1980. Interview H-0108. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

So I was out of a job at that time. Things was pretty hard to find a job. And they said they was going to need some toppers at the Ridgeview [Hosiery at Newton], but they wouldn't pay you to learn. So I went and learned on my own. It took close to three months to learn it before I got a penny out of it. Then whenever they needed one I was ready, and I got the job. At that time I was making a total of $17.50 a week, and that sounds like peanuts now. But I traded cars and got married and bought what furniture I could get by for two rooms and was paying cash for my groceries and rent. Of course, my rent wasn't but about four dollars a month. And you could eat pretty good on three to four dollars a week, because the price of coffee was fifteen cents a pound; a twenty-five-pound bag of flour was thirty-five cents; and gas was running around nineteen or twenty cents. And I did buy it one time for nine cents a gallon. But I worked up there it must have been six or seven years. And I come out one evening, and there was a union man standing at the gate handing out papers. Well, I stopped and lit a cigarette, and he give me one of his papers, and the superintendent was in the office looking out the window to see who talked to him. And I never stood there two minutes, I know, but the next day they had my time made out. And that was a pretty good thing, I guess, but I couldn't get him to give me a reason why. Because I knowed I could get back pay if I could get him to give me a reason why. So I just took off east and went to Burlington—that was the hosiery center of the South—and found me a place where they was just opening up a mill and putting in new machinery. And I got a job there, and they'd pay me a day's wages if I was coming home for the weekend to see if I could bring any more back with me. So I'd stop up at the mill, and I got one or two to go, and then the superintendent told the watchman not to let me in. So I just stopped at the gate, and he'd say, "I can't let you in." I'd say, "Well, I don't need but two or three this time. I'll catch them when they come out." And every weekend they paid me a day's wages, let me come home on Friday and paid me for that day plus give me ten dollars to buy gas. So I took right close to forty hands away from him by him treating me like he did. Then I went on over there and worked till Uncle Sam called for me.