Interviews - Gephardt, Gowans
Interviewed by Erin Degyansky
Mrs. Gephardt began working at the silk mill when she was sixteen. She continued working there until the mill closed. Mrs. Gephardt worked in the wrapping department. She usually wrapped bobbins; however, she would help wrap cones if an extra hand was needed. She had to make sure that the bobbins were in good shape. The bobbins were then wrapped and packed in either wooden crates or paste- board boxes. Mrs. Gephardt recalled that the pay was about equal, except every once in awhile some people would be paid a little more because they were on piece work. Mrs. Gephardt was a paying member of the union at the mill. In fact, she collected the union dues from the other workers for three years. Several labor disputes were started at the mill when someone started "nit-picking". This action by one person would avalanche and occasionally turn into a full blown strike. Mrs. Gephardt usually left the mill when a strike occurred, because tension and violence created a dangerous situation. In fact, Mrs. Gephardt recalled that it was the union activity that brought about the end of the mill. The union members wanted the same wages as those at Celanese. In June of 1957 the workers at the mill voted to strike for better pay. Mrs. Gephardt recalled a meeting on the third floor of the mill, when "Charlie called and we all went upstairs and stood at the winders...." At this meeting Mr. Duckworth, the superintendent, told the workers that if they decided to strike, they would do so for themselves. The workers went on strike the next day and the mill closed.
Even though the money was not that much, Mrs. Gephardt genuinely loved her job at the mill. "It was a pretty good job and it wasn't too hard."
Interviewed by Amber Sallerson
"When I graduated from high school I did not know what I wanted to do so of course my Pop wanted me to get a job; he found out about the opening at the silk mill for a secretary. So I applied for the job." Mrs. Gowans was hired in July 1944, as was another young girl. So, on the day that they started working at the mill two older ladies who had worked there all their lives showed the two young girls the ropes. The secretaries were in charge of preparing the payroll. "So my job was to go out into the factory and collect the hours that the men had worked and then we had about a day or two before payday. We had to make out the payroll in the office. Sometimes we had to stay until six o'clock. We stayed longer to get those checks written out and ready for the next day. We didn't take a day off when it was time to make out the payroll." Mrs. Gowans also recalled that the mill really had two offices. The first office was for the secretaries, and the inner office was for the superintendent. On different occasions, the superintendent visited New York City. He went to New York because the headquarters for the silk mill was located in New York. Mrs. Gowans only worked at the silk mill for one year, but she enjoyed her job.
She really enjoyed talking with the workers. For this reason, she enjoyed going out into the mill to check the work hours. She became acquainted with everyone. She also enjoyed working with her office coworkers. In fact, one of her coworkers taught her how to play the piano. The only thing that Mrs. Gowans disliked about her job was writing letters from dictation. "It seemed that when somebody dictated you a letter they lean over your shoulder and bug you all the time until you get that letter finished." Mrs. Gowans quit her job at the silk mill to attend college.
Picture of Elizabeth Gephardt, Erin Degyansky, and Leona Gowans.
Allegany High School, Oral history project
Allegany High School, Cumberland
28 cms x 22 cms
Anne Failing, Erin Degyansky, Chris Jewell, Amber Sallerson, Dan Whetzel and Mike Lewis
Allegany County (Md.), History; Lonaconing, Allegany County (Md.), History; Lonaconing Silk Mill; Silk mills, History.
Allegany County (Md.), 1907-1957