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Interview conducted as part of the Crafted with Pride project, which documented residents of Gaston County's mill village communities. Everett (Eb) Alexander of Belmont worked all his life at the McAdenville mills. His grandparents, both his parents, and all his siblings were also mill workers, as all his children are now, representing four unbroken generations in the mills. Alexander worked at various area mills including Pharr’s Unit Number Nine, Crescent Spinning, Spencers Mountain, and his duties were varied (mostly fixing and changing, making different sizes of yarn). Alexander’s father (stepfather) went to work at the mill when he was nine years old, and worked as a fixer till he retired. Alexander’s mother was a spinner; his grandmother was a winder. The house Alexander grew up in had six rooms, for which they paid $1.50 per week, but no plumbing; there were wells throughout the village for use of the different sections of houses. Everyone had a garden and some livestock, and an icebox, and coal for heating. As a boy Alexander helped with their cow and pigs. Eventually Mr. Pharr put water tanks on the back porch of each house. Alexander describes the process of filling washtubs on the porch and bringing the water inside to be heated, and pouring the water into a bathtub for a bath. His mother was a Baptist but his family attended the Church of God church. He says that they got candy at Christmas and sometimes a toy; his favorite was an air rifle when he was eight or nine. Sundays were the big days for relaxing and socializing with family. For entertainment there was fishing and hunting and swimming and playing baseball. In the fall his family would take a day outing to Asheville to buy great quantities of apples, which his mother would can and make pies with. Fourth of July was nothing special. (Alexander’s son enters the conversation and there’s a great deal of talk then about the layout of the village, where things used to be and where they are now are in both village and town, how many changes have occurred over the years, and so on.) In the early days some of the streets and neighborhoods had colorful names: Scuffletown, Gamehill, Pigtown, Box Town. Alexander attended the Caldwell Elementary School in McAdenville, which he says they used to call Box Town University, and stayed through the sixth grade. When he left school he began working at the mill as an unpaid apprentice, learning how to do the various jobs, and became a paid employee when he was 14. He says children would often go to work for free for a year or more just to be sure to get the next job that might fall vacant, there was so much competition for jobs when he was young. He says the McAdenville mill was a good place to work, only it was very hot. In summer they would open all the windows and have one of the workers run a hose of water constantly over the roof, to cool the building’s interior. Alexander talks about Old Man Ray [M. J. Ray, mill supervisor] as the man in charge. During mill closings during the Depression people got whatever work they could to tide them over, digging ditches in Alexander’s case, and the mill management let people slide on their rent. He says Mr. Ray had regular shipments of coal brought to a central place and pretended not to notice that mill families were helping themselves to it for free. With federal government assistance funding the County opened a cannery in the village, supplying jars and sugar and all the equipment and fuel, and women could bring their fruits and vegetables there to can (his mother won a prize once for canning the most jars). All in all Alexander looks back on his life in the mill village and as a mill worker with great satisfaction. It was very convenient having everything – stores and barber shop and school and one’s job – so close at hand. He says it was a happy life, and he enjoyed being part of the developments in the textile industry. He says that both his parents were union members when the big strike occurred (he himself was 14 and had only started work). He is very bitter about organized labor, and feels that the union betrayed the workers by taking their money and giving them practically nothing in return, absconding “back north” with the funds.





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