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My Mom Helped Build Sewing Plants Which Are Now Empty Memories

Kenneth is a rural citizen of Hamilton, Ala., and has begun to observe life and certain things and people helping him to write about them.

Where thousands of textile workers once worked.

Where thousands of textile workers once worked.

There Were Those Times

that women in the early south in the late to early 1940's and 50's, were called whores, bought women and other degrading names. No. These were not the prostitutes of that day, but the tough women who saw an opportunity to earn money, although a little amount, to help feed their families. No. This time in America was far from happy.

I attest to the cruel text because my very own mother had to forsake the share-cropping life to take advantage of a job from seven a.m. until 4 p.m. and suffer cuts, bloodshed, sweat, and cursing from male supervisors and spoiled employees who knew how to "work" the bosses to get what they wanted. I would ask if "these" employees cared about my mom and others? But I won't. The answer is NO. I did not say that I couldn't answer.

I will always remember the scene as if it were playing on TV. Daddy loved to share crop and did well as long as the prices which were governed by the Dept. of Agriculture held out, but one cold Sept. morning, my mom, fighting-off tears both for my dad and me got into a Chevy station wagon owned by (a) Hamilton resident, Mr. Austin Nixon. He took employees to a sewing plant in Detroit, Ala., and the riders paid him gas money each week. My mom always said that no matter how bad the day might have been, Nixon knew just what joke to tell to cheer her and the others into good spirits.

Cheap labor, poor working conditions were part of the textile workers' lives.

Cheap labor, poor working conditions were part of the textile workers' lives.

The First Step Was

was the most-dangerous for these women sewing plant employees to take because it meant that their husbands would talk harshly to them for "insulting" them for not providing enough for the family. But it was the women who knew that if someone didn't do something, a lot of acreage and farms would be taken-over by the banks.

Now I can see why the husbands were so angry. I did hear (during this research) that some women suffered beatings by their angered, drunken husbands who waited for them to come home after not turning a hand to help her and the kids. Please help me not to use the term, "sorry," for this type of human, not man.

Women in the late 50's to early 60's made $1.40 an hour and considered it great money. But with these checks the women worked for, came 55-hour weeks with no over time and working conditions that would make Al Capone break-down and cry like a baby. This is not an exaggeration.

Many sewing factories did not have fans to allow the women who worked "on the sewing floor" so the women were to put up with sweat that rolled down their necks and arms and if they stopped to wipe it off, a male boss yelled and cursed them for not making their quotas. Yes, Mr. Male Boss, I hope that when you died that you made your affairs clean and straight with The Master and I do not mean Donald Trump, Joe Biden or the Pope, but The Maker. He keeps perfect records.

The Sewing Plant Employees

were given a 10-minute break at 10 a.m., to use the facilities and smoke their cigarettes to ease their shattered nerves. This is just a few of the horror stories that my mom told my dad and me after she came home and begin to tell of how awful her plant really was.

She also got 30-minutes for lunch and if the employee were late one-minute back to the sewing machine, they were severely-docked for being so slack in their duties. But one good thing did happen. When my dad had witnessed the things that mom had to work in, he cleaned the house. I helped him do other household chores including watching him cook the evening meal and wash dishes giving my mom a few hours rest. Bedtime was 8 p.m. promptly. Think of that gauged by today's certain times that we honor.

I witnessed my mom arrive home with bloody fingertips from installing needles to her sewing machine due to the lack of mechanics on duty in Detroit Slacks, Detroit, Ala,, the place of her employment. Today, even the empty sewing plant is not there. The city dismantled the building and sold the bricks that once took the place of the walls. I doubt that were little or no tears shed on the behalf of the womenfolk in Detroit.

An early drawing of the poor working conditions  seen in earlysewing plants.

An early drawing of the poor working conditions seen in earlysewing plants.

Parting Thoughts About This Subject

should have been written in an essay form, but the painful memories that Ihave of this horrible place would not allow me to do so. My mom told me when I went into junior high school in the fall of 1967, where I attended Hamilton (Ala.) High School, that when I finished the six years, she would let me quit and go home. She knew that even with my dad working at a machine shop in a nearby town, Winfeld, Ala., there was no way to buy groceries, pay rent, clothes for my schooling and other needs.

Momma taking on one of the most-brutal of jobs in the early 1960's showed my dad and me just how tough that momma really was. She never let us complain anytime she was working in the house. I am sincere in all of my thiinking about her and the job at Detroit Slacks.

Do I ever worry about my momma getting a wonderful reward when she reached Heaven, all I can say is . . .are you serious?

November 22, 2020_______________________________________________

Hard work, low pay, sweat just parts of the horrible conditions of early sewing plants.

Hard work, low pay, sweat just parts of the horrible conditions of early sewing plants.

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© 2020 Kenneth Avery

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