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Virginia Cline (born 1914 in Clover, SC), a white woman, details her life as a mill worker at the Monarch, Clara, and McAdenville mills. Her people came from the South Mountains near Morganton to Clover and then in 1914 to Dallas to work at the Monarch Mill. Her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins all made the move together. She has many memories of the mill village at Dallas, with its unpaved roads. She and her immediate family and grandmother lived in a five-room house with one light cord coming from the ceiling in each room, a fireplace the only source of heat, and a wood stove (later they got an oil stove) and small icebox. Ice, milk, and butter were delivered once a week, ice by the mill company and milk and butter by a nearby milkman who churned his own butter. She went to school through the 8th grade, and remembers her teachers Miss Yoder, Miss Ira Shelton, and especially her favorite, Miss Wilma Thornburg. Cline quit school after 8th grade, when she was 14, and went to work at the mill. Her mother made a big biscuit breakfast every morning and then Cline and both parents went to work, coming home for dinner at 1:00, and when they returned after 6:00 the grandmother would have supper prepared. Cline has vivid recollections of a number of aspects of everyday homelife, like laundry (boiling, scrubbing, and rinsing clothes in three pots, and starching and ironing); having groceries delivered via horse or mule and a wagon; healthcare (people, including children on their way to or from school, would stop by Dr. Wilkins’s house if they were feeling ill and he would walk with them down to the pharmacist who would mix up a powder in a paper packet “as pretty as you ever saw”); home-dosing once a year with the dreaded castor oil and Castoria, for which mothers had to catch and wrestle their children into twisting holds, then stop up their noses till they had to open their mouths to breathe; and dental care (no fillings, just yanking teeth out). There was no local hospital in Dallas, but one in Gastonia. All mothers gave birth at home. A railroad train called Old Bob ran once a day on a track from Edgemont down through to the various mills and their villages, then went back every evening. Cline has a vivid account of going to visit her grandmother on Old Bob, without her father’s permission, and also visiting an aunt on the rail line who would spoil her with treats, including cosmetics: Three Flower Powder and rouge. When Cline first went to the Monarch her mother taught her to reel, for which training period she was not paid. Cline then graduated to spooling yarn that came out of spinning. Spoolers could take a break until the yarn doffed. Otherwise they could take a break to go get a drink of water. Mill workers who were out sick were not paid. They all had life (burial) insurance, though, which they paid on weekly. No paid vacation or time off. Cline was married in 1931 or ’32 or ’33, and soon thereafter moved from Monarch to the Clara Mill. Conditions were very dusty at both places. Every Friday workers would take a break while accumulated cotton dust was blown out of the ceilings with big pipes and swept up. Workers were also issued brushes and required to brush dust out of their own machinery. The most dangerous work was in the combing room, where her father worked, since the machinery could easily take a hand off. Once Cline got her dress caught in a reel that tore the garment to pieces (they had to “dress” her in brown paper and get another dress for her to wear). Cline remembers that inside the mill it was an all-white work force, with a few Black laborers hired to sweep up and to do outdoor hauling and cleanup. There was a Black community in South Dallas, and some of its residents worked as domestics to white families who could afford help with laundry, cooking, and child care. She has an anecdote about one cook who went home from her employers’ house to fix lunch for her own family and found that a neighbor had committed suicide in her kitchen. She has detailed memories of a number of other Dallas non-mill workers and their shops and houses. After working at the Clara Mill she quit to have another child, and then went to work at the McAdenville Mill. All in all Cline worked in local mills for over 48 years.





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