K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


LEARN NC is no longer supported by the UNC School of Education and has been permanently archived. On February 1st, 2018, you will only be able to access these resources through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. We recommend that you print or download resources you may need before February 1st, 2018, after which, you will have to follow these instructions in order to access those resources.

About this recording

Carl and Mary Thompson interviewed by James Leloudis, Charlotte, NC, July 9, 1979. Interview #H-182 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Southern Oral History Program
Date created
This recording copyright ©2004. All Rights Reserved
Original audio housed by UNC Libraries / Documenting the American South

See this recording in context

  • North Carolina in the New South: Primary sources and readings explore North Carolina in the decades after the Civil War (1870–1900). Topics include changes in agriculture, the growth of cities and industry, the experiences of farmers and mill workers, education, cultural changes, politics and political activism, and the Wilmington Race Riot. (Page 3.5)
  • North Carolina History: A Sampler: A sample of the more than 800 pages of our digital textbook for North Carolina history, including background readings, various kinds of primary sources, and multimedia. Also includes an overview of the textbook and how to use it. (Page 5.2)

In the classroom

Please upgrade your Flash Player and/or enable JavaScript in your browser to listen to this audio file.

Download audio file (Right-click or option-click)

Mary Thompson talks about the lack of competition among coworkers.


Jim Leloudis
Did the other people in the mill look up to you or treat you any better?
Mary Thompson
No. We was all cotton mill people, so it didn’t make any difference. I don’t guess they did. I never did think of myself as any better than anybody else.
Carl Thomspon
We was all just about alike.
Mary Thompson
Loom fixers made about the same as we did. Everybody was just about the same. There wasn’t no one no better than the others because they had a different job. We was all workers, and cotton mill workers. One time when they laid me off at Poe Mill, me and another girl, a friend of mine, went down there at Kress’s. Never had worked in a store. We got us a job at Kress’s right at Christmastime. I never will forget it; it was the hardest work I ever done in my life. You didn’t make nothing, though. Now them girls acted a little snooty. They said, “Well, I certainly wouldn’t work in a cotton mill for nothing.” I said, “I’d rather work in a cotton mill for what money I make than slave like y’all working for what y’all are making.” And they didn’t make no money, hardly, in the stores then, but it was the prestige, I guess, that they liked. But that’s the only time that I ever heard anybody say anything about …
Jim Leloudis
Were you ever called a “linthead” as a child or when you got older?
Mary Thompson
No, because we lived on the mill village, and everybody else was the same thing we was. [Laughter] And we went to the church right there on the village, so everybody was the same as we was, so nobody couldn’t call the other one names. That’s the only time, the time I went to Kress’s, and they said they certainly wouldn’t work in an old cotton mill. That’s the first time I’d ever heard anybody say anything about a cotton mill.
Jim Leloudis
Did it make you mad?
Mary Thompson
Yes, it made me mad.
Jim Leloudis
Did it hurt your feelings?
Mary Thompson
No, it didn’t hurt my feelings. It made me mad. I always had a little temper, and I got about it. I said, “I sure wouldn’t want to slave here all the time for what little y’all are making. I’d rather work in a cotton mill anytime.” I went back to the cotton mill, too, after Christmas, when they laid us off. They just had us hired till Christmas. After Christmas there was some drawing in picked up. I didn’t even try to go to another store. I thought, “Lord, don’t give me no store work.” But, of course, store work got better after that. That was back during the Depression.