He has begun writing his story for his children and grandchildren, because he, like the rest of us, wants them to know who he is and all about his life. He, like many other ATCO Kids, is talented. He has been gifted with a beautiful writing ability. With permission we are so happy to highlight his writings from time to time on our blog.
"When one asks for a job in the cotton mill, a job is what they get. These are undoubtly the hardest working people on the earth. We were admonished to get the job done, if not, we were warned that there was a bare footed man at the gate who wanted our job. There were no easy jobs. Some were just harder than others. I had one of the "harders". I was a doffer in the spinning room. My job was to remove the bobbins of thread from the spinning frames and replace them with empty bobbins. I manually trasported the thread to a central location for the next step in the process of creating fabric for Goodyear Tires.
If the atmospheric conditions were good and I worked in a run, I earned a 10/15 minute break every two hours. I had to eat my lunch during these breaks. The spinning process depended upon complete control of the humidity. If it was raining, it was usually impossible to control. This meant that I would have to have someone to assist me, and consequently I had no break. If I felt bad and could not work at top speed, I had no break. No matter what time of the year, after 30 minutes on the job, all my clothing would be completely wet with sweat. They were usually damp when I put them on the next day. I earned $1.16 per hour.
The spinning room is a very noisy place. Huge electric motors were attached to the 12 foot ceiling. Each motor served two spinning frames. Large leather belts connected the motor to each of the spinning frames near the floor. The belts were noisy but the spinning frame it’s self was real noisy. It has about 200 bobbins spinning at break neck speed. Multiply this by 200 spinning frames and you have you have a roar. To talk to someone you place your hands around your mouth forming a megaphone and shout Whoo as loud as you can. This says “attention”. The two parties then walk toward each other until they are within 2 feet of each other. By talking as loud as you can you can now carry on a conversation. I now have serious hearing problems. I’m sure this was a contributor.
I was working an extra shift when I got the call that Jean was about to be born. I held mama's hand while she was being delivered. I cried more than both of them. Jean cries the first 6 weeks of her life. Both grandmothers tell me she has the 6 week colic. I don't believe they know what they are talking about. I say it just an "old wive's tales". She quit crying the day she was 42 days old.
The doctor puts Jean on a special formula. Her milk costs about 15 dollars per week. We are having hard times. We can only afford meat one time a week, we have a chicken on Sunday. I work the second shift. My lunch is always ice tea, dried beans and cornbread left over from dinner. This is what most of the men have in their lunch pails. I work with Howard Garland, one of our neighbors. We usually eat lunch together. I notice that Howard has been having sweet pickles with his beans. I asked him where he got them. He says he bought a gallon at Atco store for $1.50. It's about three weeks before we can afford to get our pickles.
During my first review by my supervisor at Lockheed, he remarked that I really didn't have to work so hard. I told him that I thought I had been goofing off when compared to my former job. He, being a native Californian, could not believe what was required of cotton mill employees. There is a special place in my heart for cotton mill folks."
© Copyright Yvonne Mashburn Schmidt and ATCO Kids, Individually