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Interview conducted as part of the Crafted with Pride project, which documented residents of Gaston County's mill village communities. In the second part of Virginia Cline’s interview, unions and strikes at the Gastonia mills feature prominently. She remembers the 1929 strike at Loray as frightening – “there was the awfullest crowd of people up there you ever seen, people carrying guns and everything.” In 1934 Cline was working at the Clara Mill, and says that strike organizers came through and shut down the machinery so the workers went home for a few days. Her attitude toward organized labor is fairly ambivalent, she had problems with both unions and mill management, though her sympathies are more with management; in general she seems to have waited passively for things to get back to normal. Her husband tried to go work a night shift at the Robinson Mill during a time of picketing and slow-downs but was told it would be too dangerous. Some of Cline's friends joined the picket line in 1934 and were not only fired but put on the blacklist and told they’d never get mill jobs again, including a woman who was caring for a bedridden mother and disabled daughter at home. Some who went to work when just reel yarn was being produced, “quill yarn coming off the quillers,” and who had cars to drive to work, had their tires punctured with nails. She says the strike at the Clara just lasted “a couple of days.” At times in the interview Cline does not seem to remember clearly if some problems and disruptive actions were the fault of strikers or management. She does feel the union organizers let the workers down. She and her husband worked at the Dunn Mill intermittently and said the owners occasionally took union member workers off their machines for bogus excuses just to reduce their pay hours. Cline herself was fired at one point “because my attitude was bad”; she had complained about being put off the first shift and made to work the second instead, and being denied a bonus for working over the Fourth of July holiday. She was not, though, one of the 65 workers on the local blacklist. During the Depression there was almost no work going; the mill went down to three days a week of operation, then none. A lot of men went to work WPA projects in the mountains, and the government arranged for free food distribution in the mill villages, though “some could get it and some not.” Sometimes one got a piece of ham and a grain product called Wheat-O, and sometimes some potatoes. She and her family lived in a mill house with water from a well and no indoor plumbing, though eventually the company ran pipes from the well into tanks in the backs of people’s houses. Cline remembers they would scrub their wooden floors regularly, and every day it was sunny drag all their mattress outdoors to air out. She had four children within four years, and would put them in a red wagon and pull them to her mother’s house. They had a doctor but relied mainly on home remedies, like red oak bark tea; and during the Depression there was a female county agent who would come a teach women how to can vegetables and fruit and do other family-oriented homecare tasks. There was a store where they could buy cloth to make their own clothes, and shoes, and Cline's father had a sideline in shoe repairs at his house. Among other details shared in this interview are: one son’s near-fatal accident with scalding water; Cline's childhood pride when her father bought her a pair of coveted overshoes; buying a fancy pair of shoes for her wedding for one dollar; being let out of school to watch FDR’s funeral train go through town (Warm Springs to Washington DC); Dallas’ intense patriotism during World War II; and how a suicide in a white family was hushed up, whereas an earlier one in a Black family had been the subject of insensitive gossip. Cline says that on balance she thinks “the good old days” were better than current life, largely because things were slower paced and less stressful.





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