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Interview conducted as part of the Crafted with Pride project, which documented residents of Gaston County's mill village communities. Sue Payseur of Dallas (born 1915) remembers her life growing up in mill-owned housing. Her father and older sisters worked at the Monarch Mill in Dallas when Payseur was a young child, and her family lived in the mill village, a community of approximately 38 houses. Payseur was the youngest of seven girls. Her mother stayed home and looked after the children and the house, and her father worked “pouring up yarn” in the mill (she describes the process, which involves fitting bobbins into the spooler machinery). Everyone in the mill village (except a few of the mothers) worked at the mill, including older children. She went to work there at age 14, which is when she dropped out of school (end of seventh grade). To leave school and go to work, she says, you had to have a medical certificate from your doctor and a “work card” signed by your “professor.” She says they lived in a five-room house next door to the mill superintendent’s, which proximity was an advantage because they had access to electricity for lights (for which they paid 55 cents a week) and got to make money picking up the superintendent’s wife’s apples from her trees, apples that Payseur says the lady gave away to mill families. She describes the Gribbles (superintendent and his wife) as generous and kind. Mrs. Gribble, a local journalist for the Dallas Gazette, organized activities for the mill children, and led a Camp Fire Girls and Bluebirds troop. Payseur says her family was comfortable and happy living in the mill village, and felt they had it better off than mill workers who lived outside the village. They raised one hog a year and chickens, and had eggs, biscuits, home-made molasses, and butter, fresh vegetables from their garden, and a fresh fruit pie which her mother made every day. She says they didn’t eat meat every day. The mill village houses had no running water but access to a central covered well, and outhouses she describes as very nice. Payseur’s father went to work at a broom factory for a short time when the mill closed down, but when it reopened he got his old job back and they moved back into the same house. The mill routine: a whistle blew to start the work day at 6:00 am, and again for workers to go home for lunch (dinner) from noon to 1:00 pm, then back to work from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm (an 11-hour work day, five and a half days a week). When Payseur and other children first went to work at the mill they served an unpaid training period lasting three to four weeks. When they were able to “run eight sides” they were paid $6.00 to $7.00 a week. For fun, she says they had a piano and a Victrola, which neighbors also enjoyed, and they played “Jack Rock” (jacks?) on the wood floor, and “rush,” which she describes as a kind of hide-and-seek. Payseur’s six older sisters and their suitors monopolized the parlor (she calls their flirtatious socializing “sporting”). On Sundays they attended the Presbyterian Church with their father, while her mother and Mrs. Gribble went to the Lutheran Church (Payseur is now Baptist). She describes, anecdotally, her father’s helping a friend make a casket for a poor local child; going for rides in a car owned by one of the mill bosses, for fun; going to the Gastonia Fair; attending the annual church fair at a park; attending the Dallas school with all the mill children as well as children of local, non-mill-affiliated families (the Fridays, family of future UNC President William Friday, among them); and wearing a foul-smelling sachet (a “fidity”) around her neck to ward off illness since they refused to go to doctors. She says her father and four of her sisters got smallpox; her mother said the family was being punished because the father wouldn’t let them get vaccinated. Payseur worked at the mill as a spinner till it closed again when she was 17, whereupon her father and others got jobs at the Smyre Mill. Payseur married at age 21. She too worked at the Smyre Mill, now making $12.20 - $12.40 a week thanks to Roosevelt’s NRA program. She talks a bit about life during the Depression. Payseur and her husband had two sons, both of whom went to college; one became a career Air Force officer and the other a salesperson for a textile chemicals firm.

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