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Interview conducted as part of the Crafted with Pride project, which documented residents of Gaston County's mill village communities. The interview cuts off at around 56 minutes. Pearl Hartgrove of Belmont was born in 1912 in Union County near Monroe. She had a sister and a disabled brother, and after her father died (when Pearl was two years old) their mother put them in an orphanage for a year and a half. The mother remarried and got the children back, but Pearl indicates that her home life was not a happy one with their strict stepfather, a farmer. (She has one happy memory of everyone’s banging pots and pans to celebrate the news that World War I had ended.) She spent most of her life working in yarn mills, and mentions Loray (where she started, at age 11), the Stowe Mill, the Chronicle, the Climax, the National, and the Hatch as among the mills in Gaston County, but does not always distinguish which mill she worked for at a given time. She attended school for five years, going to two two-room schoolhouses, where she endured some discrimination from less impoverished children who wore better clothing. She describes a teacher making vegetable soup for lunch on the school’s pot-bellied stove one particularly harsh winter. When she was 11 her stepfather falsified papers so she could get full-time work at the Loray Mill, where she worked for $3.40 a week her first week (while learning) and about $6.00 a week thereafter. She says she resented being put out to work so young, but that in those days children did what their parents told them to do. Between the difficulty of her first years in the mill and the unpleasantness at home, she confesses she might have been better off left in the orphanage. Her first job was picking rollers (she describes what this entails) in the spinning room, which was painful for the fingers, and she often did things wrong and made her supervisor angry. The family moved from Monroe to the Belmont area and her stepfather sent her to work in another mill as a spinner, though she didn’t know how to do that job, which evidently was quite difficult. She received no training, but eventually learned the hard way. She describes her supervisors as difficult, prone to abuse workers with impunity. The mills where she worked were uniformly hot and dirty. She describes “doffing,” a job done by boys, the toilet facilities (the “ladies’ water house” and “men’s water house”), and the talks about things she felt she shouldn’t have had to hear at her young age. Pearl married young and continued working in the mill, part time after she started having children, then full time again during the Depression because her husband, a construction worker, was out of work for three years. Things got better for everyone under Roosevelt with the 40-hour week, and eventually better wages and some fringe benefits like insurance and paid vacation (though the last two weren’t instituted in the mills where she worked till the late 1940s). The only recreations she mentions were going to the movies on Saturday nights, going to church on Sundays, and going to revival meetings. Though she is a Baptist she says they attended the Methodist church because it was closest to the mill village and everyone had to walk. She says that when the organized labor movement started in the mills the organizers “went about it the wrong way.” She herself was vehemently against unions, largely out of a sense of gratitude and loyalty to the company. She even participated in collecting information in her mill village as a “survey” taker to determine which employees were pro-union and which were against. In terms of politics, she says that if you were an avowed Democrat you could get paid time off from the mill to go vote, and a car was even sent around to give people a ride. A list of candidates was also given to the mill workers, clearly the people that management wanted you to vote for. She says she told the driver once that she was not necessarily going to vote for all the people on the list, but she got a ride to the polling place anyway.

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