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Interview conducted as part of the Crafted with Pride project, which documented residents of Gaston County's mill village communities. Lottie Riley Quinn, born in 1907 near Morganton, was a lifelong mill worker starting at age 14. Her parents were also mill workers. Their family of ten lived in the Pinnacle mill village attached to Nelvin Mill and then went to Howell Mill. There were eight children in the family, and they attended the school close by (the “Old Academy”). She says the teachers were strict, with frequent smacking use of the ruler, and misbehaving boys were whipped with hickory switches by Dr. Rankin, the superintendent, in front of the other students. Her family used to be Baptist but switched to a “free saints” church that she describes as nondenominational. Lottie describes the work she did as a spinner in the mill and subsequently at New Way Mill, where she moved when she got married at age 20. (She explains the process of transforming cotton into yarn via various mechanical processes.) She enjoyed the work. She says at New Way the machinery was newer, but did not run as well. She worked an eleven-hour day like everyone else, breaking for one hour at midday to eat dinner and rest. Stores stayed open till 9:00 every night. She remarks that before Roosevelt children as young as eight or nine could get mill jobs, but that she would have been afraid for any of her own nine children to work that young because “they didn’t have enough sense” to do it safely – they did, though, go to work later. She remembers some talk about unions but had no direct experience with labor organizers – the mill had a sign warning workers that they would be fired if they participated in organized labor activities. Lottie met her husband, also a mill worker, at a tent meeting. The only diversions people had when she was a girl were going to tent meetings, or to church to hear preachers on Saturday nights, or going to a movie in town, though her parents thought movies were scandalous and she had to sneak out to go. She says going to town to the drug store was also a big treat. During the Depression the mill closed for 16 weeks and many people had to go to Gastonia for “charity food,” though her family refused to accept any. Her mother spent her free time gardening and baking, her father spent his reading. She says her in-laws had sold their farm and moved to Howell Mill, putting the proceeds of the farm sale in the bank, but lost two-thirds of their savings when the economy collapsed. One of the effects of deprivations then was that a lot of people developed pellagra. For those who could afford to buy goods, eggs were ten cents a dozen. In time wages rose to a dollar a day, and Lottie and other women could buy fabric to have the local seamstress make them new dresses for going out on Saturday nights. In the thirties the mill village’s club house put on various activities – parties and dances (a dance called the Edward Beal Strut was popular) and children’s entertainments.





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