Title: Oral History Interview with Icy Norman, April 6 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0036.
Interviewer: Murphy, Mary
Interviewee: Norman, Icy
Abstract: Like many families in North Carolina in the early twentieth century, the Norman family left a farm for town life, finding jobs in factories and textile mills in and around Burlington, North Carolina. Icy Norman began her working life at age thirteen, when she was offered a job by her aunt's boss at a shoe factory. She loved to work, and she loved to earn money, and she brought her work ethic from job to job, eventually settling into a job at a textile mill in Burlington at the age of twenty-nine. She would stay at that job for the rest of her career. In this interview, Norman remembers the rhythms of farm life, from corn shuckings to ice cream socials, and from milling wheat to gristing corn. She then remembers her working life after her father died and her mother sold the farm: learning her trade on the mill floor by practicing for weeks before earning a paycheck; winning the respect of her employers for her honesty, hard work, skill, and ingenuity; resisting unionization; and retiring without a pension in 1976. This interview is about one woman's devotion to her job, and the emotional rewards she earned from her work, often in lieu of financial rewards. Norman looks back on her working life with great fondness, but also with regret that she did not profit more from an industry she feels she helped to build.