Interviews - Lease, Nolan
Interviewed by Christopher Jewell
Mrs. Lease graduated from Central High School on June 6, 1944. On the following morning she began working at the silk mill on the 7 - 3 shift. At the time she did not have any intention of continuing her education. All that she wanted was to work an eight hour day and a forty hour week. Mrs. Lease worked in the mill's coning department. Her job entailed transferring silk from a bobbin to a cone. Bobbins were given to workers and put on the machine. A cone was also placed on the machine, and the machine was filled to a distinct depth. If the thread broke, then Mrs. Lease had to tie it and put it at the right place at the top of the cone. While Mrs. Lease held her finger at the top of the cone, the machine was started up again. If the knot was at the top of the cone it would not show up in the fabric, because the fabric manufacturers had a way of treating the top of the cone. The job in the coning department was extremely dangerous. Mrs. Lease almost put her finger in the center of the cone, which was the most dangerous spot. Luckily the girl working next to her stopped Mrs. Lease before she lost her finger. Mrs. Lease was in charge of twenty-eight coning machines. She did not receive a break, but she was given one- half of an hour for lunch. The effect of the silk mill on the community of Lonaconing was evident throughout Mrs. Lease's memory. According to Mrs. Lease, when a shift change happened at the mill, "You could see people coming like a wave up the street." Lonaconing was also a thriving community when the mill was operating.
Mrs. Lease found the work conditions at the mill to be extremely difficult. After every workday she was exhausted from standing. Even though Mrs. Lease enjoyed working with the people at the mill, she only worked there for six days.
Interviewed by Amber Sallerson
Mr. Nolan was born and raised in Lonaconing. Since he was one of nine children, Mr. Nolan tried to earn every nickel and dime possible. For one month in 1939, Mr. Nolan worked as a bobbin grinder at the silk mill. As a bobbin grinder, he had to sand or grind the nicks out of the bobbins. When Mr. Nolan was working at the mill the management ran three shifts a day (7 a.m. - 3 p.m.; 3-11; and 11-7). Mr. Nolan worked on the day shift (7-3) and was paid $2.00 a day, or $14.00 a week, for his services. For the month that he was employed at the mill, Mr. Nolan did not recall any work stoppages or strikes. However, he did remember a wildcat strike when he was in the ninth or tenth grade. Even though he was not employed at the mill when it closed he did remember the impact the closing had on the community.
Mr. Nolan also offered a reason for the mill's closure. He said that "They couldn't keep up with other plants and they didn't have the money that was needed to update because they were becoming obsolete." Mr. Nolan did not find anything appealing about his job as a bobbin grinder. The least appealing thing was the amount of pay he received for his services. That was why Mr. Nolan quit his job after only a short while.
Photograph of Chris Jewell and Flora Lease, and Leo Nolan and Amber Sallerson
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