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Interview with Lois Moore Yandle

Yandle, Lois Moore
Bilger, Betty
Date of Interview: 
North Charlotte; Textile workers-North Carolina; Cotton trade-Southern States-Employees-History
Lois Moore Yandle grew up in North Charlotte in the mill village surrounding the Highland Park #3 Mill. She provides vivid descriptions of life in this close-knit community including details of the housing, working conditions in the textile mills, and the North Davidson Street business district. Mrs. Yandle also describes recreational activities in the community such as music, storytelling and baseball.
North Charlotte, 1900s-1940s
Interview Setting: 
The interview took place at the Museum of the New South with a live audience.
Levine Museum of the New South, Professional Women Series
Interview Audio: 
BB (Betty Bilger): So that`s the joy of it for me. And the other joy was just getting to spend three hours with Lois. [Laughter]. And I`m not sure if we are going to be able to tell you half of what we want to say, in thirty minutes. But basically one of the things that I wanted to do is to begin by asking Lois just a comment, a little bit about this idea of community. Because one of the things that seems to attract so many people to this north, the historic North Charlotte district is that idea of community. And it`s one of the things that has kept so many people there. And so I want to begin by saying Lois has lived, grew up in this area. She doesn`t live there now. But she goes back and visits friends. And she certainly has been most important historian probably from that area. But there are many people who still live there. I now want to ask Lois what do you think is the reason why people feel so compelled to remain there or why do they still have these strong ties to the area. What is it about that community?
LY (Lois Moore Yandle): Well, it was a very special community. It was of course begun so early in the century with the mills being built in 1904. And then, so many of these families-some of them are, are there today-so many came into the early years of the mill. And they remained there. Many did leave of course. And they went through a period of time that was devastation almost in to the great depression of course. And they were tied together by their day-to-day jobs in the mill and of course, in the three churches. And, we just, our lives were just sort of intertwined. And they were just so many of us. There were 300 houses built there for Highland Park number three and the Johnston Mill. So you see how many people we had. And its, it was community where everyone seemed to know everyone or at least knew who they were. But it was just really like being in one large family.
BB: One of the things that Lois had mentioned to me before was that it wasn`t just that you had 300 houses. And that perhaps one person from each house would work in the community. Generally, many members of the family would all work in the mill together. And so in Lois`s case during the summer. A couple of summers she worked in the mills, her father worked in the mills, her aunt her mother worked in the mills. She had many relatives who worked there. So, this strong, strong sense of community had to do with the sense of place, it had to with this common sense of purpose. And it also had to with-they were really connected-I mean many of them were either married into the each other`s families or they were from the same family or you just lived there so long that you were really connect, connected. And you had a sense of responsibility to each other.
LY: That is absolutely the truth. My grandparents came to the community in the early years of North Charlotte, when the mill. They came between 1906 and 1907 so you see why I feel that my roots are very deep in that community. And at that time he brought eight of his ten children. And then one daughter came later. And all of them worked there in the mill except one son. And then of course they lost two sons, very early before they moved off of North Davidson Street. But it was in about 1908 and 1910 that my father and my uncle bought lots on Charles Avenue, which was where I was born and grew up. And of course all of us went to school together. Someone said do, did the officials have anything to do with the people? Yes, of course they did. They attended the same churches. They`re children attended the same schools. And there was great senses of, of I think-I keep going back to that word family, but that`s really what it seemed like.
BB: What is the book that you were telling me about that described the mill community as a 200-head family?
LY: Oh that was "Like a Family", which was a marvelous book. If you are interested in history of the southern cotton mills world. And one of the guys in our community Hall McCorkle was quoted a number of times in that book. As where many others from the North Charlotte community. But, Hall described it very aptly I thought when he said; it`s like a 200-head family. And because you know we shared the good times and we shared the bad times. We shared the, the happy times and the, and the grief times.
BB: And there are a number of things that made that possible not only with the families living together. But more, one of the things Lois I`d like for you to maybe describe is what the street looked like. What the houses looked like. How people had, they all had deep back yards generally. What were, what, what did they have in their back yards? Where did people buy their groceries?
LY: Well, when Mr. Cramer designed the mill he also designed the neighborhood. And he, the officials of Highland Park wanted this to be a self-sustaining. They, they wanted this people to be independent and responsible for their own lives. They did not want a company store. So they had Mr. Stuart Cramer who was well known in, in that period in Charlotte. He designed the business area about two blocks and then each street. But we have discovered that two or three of the streets that he designed where not actually made just where he had them. So we were sort of glad to find that [Laughter] on the maps you know. But anyway he gave, we had grocery stores, we had the cafe`s we had the dry cleaners and we had barbershops we had a, a millinery shop and a, a post office and doctor`s office, pharmacies and all this. And so we, we were able to live as a family group without depending on the mill.
BB: And that was a unique, for people who know something about mill communities oftentimes some of those, the things that you needed were controlled by the people who owned the mills. And so therefore you were really dependent on your job in a way that might not hoist be the most beneficial to your, to the rest of your life. And what about the porches, what kind of things happened on the front porches?
LY: Well you know that was before the day of air conditioning. And in the summer of course that`s where you did all of your visiting and, and then--. Our house seemed to be a gathering place; on our front porch and some wonderful stories were told. And I, I really was torn many times between playing with the, the children in the streets, my friends and listening to what was going on the porch. I have always loved to hear family stories and to learn what was going on in the lives of those people on a day-to-day basis. And this is what I remember. Now of course wintertime we of course stayed inside but we still got together and visited that way.
BB: Well, one of the other things that you had mentioned to me before was the role of music.
LY: Oh yes. Not only and in the early days we had what they called an organization called the Woodmen of the World it was a fraternal organization which did a lot for young men. And, and to help them with recreation and things that would be of building character so to speak. But they also had, it was an insurance company. So they had a, a band there in North Charlotte. And we were fortunate enough in the early years to have two bandstands. One which was in an open area beside our church, which was Spencer Memorial Methodist, and another one up on 36th Street. And at that time it was called the Electric Park. And that`s why I was hoping Betsy would have heard Mr. Furr because he talked about some of the trolley cars and some of the parks. And of course the mill had-after the old county home was moved out in 1904 out to the location where University Hospital is, many of you might remember that-the mill built this recreational center for the employees. And they just had all kinds of things, the Wind Little World, a band played there. And many men, well I suppose maybe some of women, I just don`t know if the women. They could play any instrument. And they would get together and, in one another`s homes and play and have dances and Hall McCorkle the one I quoted a minute ago. He played, a minute ago. He played the guitar and so he remembers several people that he played with. And he has given me their names, which I have recorded. I don`t know how many of you know, but I have been working on the history of the North Charlotte community for about three years now. And it`s been absolutely wonderful. The results in pictures, in history and tapes and, you name it I have been working on it. So the music played a very vital part in the North Charlotte community.
BB: Because this was entertainment for people.
LY: That`s right.
BB: They created their own entertainment. Well will you tell them what was the electric park? How did it get its name and where was it?
LY: Yes, well if you know anything about 36th Street. As 36 comes up about a block from Plaza Road there`s now Spencer Memorial Methodist Church. Not only was that now the church but in, in the early years that was the first county home for Mecklenburg County. And after that they built a recre--, they moved they built a recreational center and they called that area Electric Park. Because they had the park there they had a lake out back. And they put up boats; put well put two or three boats on there. They, for the enjoyment and they had course dances and they had other kinds of recreation like croquet and oh heavens Betsy I have forgotten some of the other things they`ve done. But they had the lake beautified. They put--.
BB: Well you said that they had gardens and stuff there.
LY: Oh yes.
BB: And bathhouses right?
LY: Yes, yes.
BB: People could come and swim in.
LY: We had bathhouses. Granny Smith had the one nearest to us, which was on a little hillside. And she took care of that for a number of years. We had a bathhouse down in the back of the dry cleaners we had three bathhouses in the mill. And these bathhouses were mainly used by men. I, I don`t know of any woman that ever went there except Granny Smith. Now I did go there a couple of times but in the mill it was dirty work. And so these men would go in and take their showers before--. Because those houses when they were built did not have bathrooms as such. They had well they just had toilets on the back porch and that was it. So they needed bathhouses.
BB: So where would you go if you didn`t like you were telling me that you might go to bathhouse once a week. Well, what else did you do in the middle of the week? Would you have big washtub?
LY: Yes, a number two washtub [Laughter].
BB: So all those stories you hear were true?
LY: That`s right they were.
BB: Well so did the trolley take you down to the Electric Park?
LY: Yes, it would come--. Oh and you wanted to know about Greasy Corner
BB: Yes, right Greasy Corner. Tell us about Greasy Corner.
LY: Greasy Corner and Mr. Furr ought to hear this. Some of the older one`s told us about this. The trolley car would come down trying and then somehow it would make a turn on Brevard Street. And come on out Caldwell. And some of the guys like some of the stories he was telling would go over and takes the things ands grease the tracks. And some times the trolley cars would jump the tracks and this was great enjoyment for the boys.
BB: And so that is why they called it Greasy Corner.
LY: That`s right.
BB: Well tell us about the Highland, the Highland Park newsletter. What--?
LY: Oh yes.
BB: What was it called?
LY: That`s, that`s one of the--.
BB: What was that called?
LY: It was called the "High Park" H-Y-P-A-R-K. It was a newsletter only it really looked like a little magazine put out during 1944 through 1946 for the service people, servicemen. And we had a, a Johnston and Highland Park had about four hundred people in service. And--.
BB: People that had worked at the mill had gone into the service.
LY: Right, and they wanted these people to have some touch with home. So they put out this newsletter and Pat Ryckman and, and Rosemary says they`re absolute jewels of information, about the service people. Where they were. Where they were stationed. Who was wounded all these good stuff; births, deaths, marriages. What a, what went on in the community and the churches. What went on in the mill. And those people they loved to play tricks on one another. And they love to have a good time. And I think the summers I was there, one of the thing I really, things that I really liked to do was when-and that was before they put stalls in the, in the ladies room. It was just a big open and they`d go in there and they`d tell jokes and tell stories and talk and I thought that was great stuff. [Laughter]
BB: So that the "Hypark" newsletter though was one way that it helped continue that sense of community. And I am sure for many people even today that is part of the, the strength of that community that has been able to help bond the people together. How was baseball in the community?
LY: Oh my, baseball was the real time for the community with other communities. And they had baseball teams as early as 1918. And that`s another thing that I have as, as many as the players that I can find. Their names or information about them I have collected those. And they had teams all during the `20s and `30s and into the `40s. And in, when the war began, it sort of slacked down and finally before the war was over, I think they ended the games. But in 1941 Highland Park went to I think it was Battle Creek. And I, I sometimes catch myself in errors. But anyway I think it was Battle Creek and they came in second in the national World Series, amateur World Series. So I have a picture of that and I am just really proud of it.
BB: So these would have been baseball teams sponsored by the mills. And it, was it true Lois that the mills would find people that were good baseball players. And they would seek them out, hire them and try to hire their families just so they`d get good players
LY: That`s right.
BB: On their team. So it was a really important experience that pulled the community together that was sponsored by the mills.
LY: That`s right. Several of the men said they would hire these people and give then rag tag jobs just so that they could make use of their baseball talents. We had some great ones. And I found a goodly number of them. And I have been able to interview them and get pictures and this is another part of the North Charlotte history that I am trying to save.
BB: Lois what was a dope wagon?
LY: A dope wagon. Well, in the mill they did not have a lunch hour so to speak. But they had a wagon that was pushed by one of the men. And they of course would have coca-colas, all kinds of drinks. RC [Royal Crown cola] I think was good back there in those days. I don`t remember. That`s three centers and several of the old drinks. And they would have hotdogs and they would have crackers and sandwiches and that, they`d push it around the mill and it, that name just became the name for the wagon. We called it dope wagon. Because they had all these drinks on there.
BB: What did the mill house look like? And can you just tell me describe what most of these houses looked. And what was the layout of the land behind it. And what, and how were those rooms used? And you know just so that some of the people have never been down there can have an idea what it looked like.
LY: Well, I don`t know that I can actually describe how it, it was just a plain little white house. Most of them you go into a little hall. And then it would have rooms on either side. Sometimes they would be a porch that they might close in and make a kitchen out of it. Most of these rooms would have one for sitting room, of course a bed room and a kitchen. But back then sleeping they, many children in families. And I know my grandfather had a good little number. So there are a lot of sharing of bedrooms. So they, the main, the main room of the house I think was the kitchen because this is where you gathered at night. Children would do their homework. And they`d listen when radios finally got in and we could afford to get one, you`d listened to the radio. But it was a--. Oh and the back yards, most of the people had gardens. And, but my father after he moved we also, and my, and our house really looked a little bit like--.
BB: Uh-hum.
LY: Some of the mill houses in construction and the inside. But most people grew all kinds of vegetables; corn, green beans, butter beans, onions, tomatoes, squash. You know all this good stuff. And they would can it for the, the wintertime. And it`s a good thing because in the Depression these people really had a hard time. Because the mills at two times I know of that they closed for three weeks and then of course during the Depression they also had some of the strikes. In 1934, at that time Highland Park did not strike because of any grievances but because they were doing it in sympathy with other mills. But in 1936 there was a strike and we were, they were out, excuse me not me I was not working then. They were out for about six weeks and times really got hard. At that time the union did come in. And if you were, had joined the union then they gave you little clips, coupons that you could take to a grocery store. But most people had to rely on their own family members or even the neighbors would help other neighbors when things were really bad.
BB: Well and that`s another evidence, that strong sense of community. I think that we began talking about was that way that people were able to bind together during those rough periods particularly the Depression and then also with the strikes. And you had told me, I think that y`all had chickens?
LY: Oh yes, yes we had chickens. That was one of my jobs and I didn`t like it because of the spiders. [Laughter] And all the other little vermins that go in the chicken house. And we had cows even until-and I, I left the community in 1945 when Mark and I were married. And by the way we just had our fiftieth anniversary. So daddy had, I was wanting to tell you, but I don`t think I told you this. The day that Mark came over to ask my dad for my hand in marriage. Daddy was at, outside at the cattle lot. And Mark went out and said, "Mr. Moore". He said, "Lois and I want to get married". And, and I said, "What did he say?" He said, "Oh, take her home". [Laughter] So anyway which lasts fifty years [Laughter]. But yes, we had, and that was one of the things I had to do was mix the feed for the cow and I, I didn`t particularly like the barn either. But we had animals, we had one goat but it didn`t last long.
BB: Oh, my god. [Laughter]. But see so many of the people who came to work in these mills had come from the country too.
LY: Right.
BB: So this was very familiar to a lot of people to bring that way of life in to your mill community. So and if you drive down the streets of North Charlotte today you can see that lots of people have real big back yards. Almost everybody has those porches in their front yards. And so you can really, I think one of the things that keeps that sense of community is because the architecture has stayed the same. People haven`t gone down and torn it down. You know that intersection of 35th and North Davidson. They haven`t put up big buildings. And so you really can see evidence of how people have lived as a real community.
BB: OK I wanted to ask you what about the role of funerals? Like you told me you probably went to, I`ve forgotten how many funerals.
LY: Oh heavens. I, I think my mother must have gone to every funeral. It reminds me a little bit of our community of Steele Creek. Because Steele Creek is another community that was bonded together by the people. But you just went to funerals that was just the thing to do. Because you worked with these people, you lived with these people and, and its just was just letting them know that you cared. So I, I went with my mother. They, they didn`t back then, they didn`t keep the children at home ever. They took them to funerals. So I was exposed early.
BB: Right. I wanted also to get you to talk a little bit about your memory of living in the North Charlotte community. And what was your memory of your sense of security. And any kind of crime. And Lois had told me that there was, there used to be cells, like holding cells I guess in the fire station. And the fire station is still there on North Davidson Street. So who were, who were the people who usually ended up in those cells?
LY: Those who liked to find a bottle on a Saturday night or Friday nights. [Laughter]. Those who, they really were not mean people. But some you know a lot of them liked their drink. And some of them couldn`t hold it.
BB: Yeah.
LY: And the police that, they had out there they just-when they built a fire, this station in the early `30s they did put out and I meant to go back and see if I could, see if I was correct. I think it was two cells. And that`s where they would hold them until the next day. I don`t know of any, of that really you know got to be regulars there. But I may not know I told Betsy that what I`m remembering may not be what other people are remembering. And I have learned as I listen to my own children or to my brother and sisters you don`t remember things they remember or vice versa. So what I am telling you is things that I remember and things that impressed me. And but I, I have talked to I guess to at least a couple hundred or more people since I have been working in this little historical project I call it. And they all seem to feel basically the same way. That it was a wonderful place to live. I wouldn`t, I wouldn`t give it up for anything. And if I can just preserve the memories of these people, and the things that happened, and the things that you know they had, that`s what I am hoping to do.
BB: Are there any questions or any comments I recognize some faces of some people so if, if there`s anyone who had lived in this neighborhood and wants to comment about what their, they remembered or any questions to particularly for Lois, since she`s the expert.
LY: Oh I`m not an expert [Laughter] by any means.
Audience question: Wasn`t North Charlotte a separate community or town?
LY: I`m sorry.
Audience question: Wasn`t North Charlotte a separate town?
LY: No, it was not a town. It was just a community about two miles from downtown. And it was just what you know, the mill village.
Audience question: It wasn`t part of the police department of ( ).
LY: We had policemen we didn`t have an office for them.
Audience question: Was he called a sheriff?
LY: Well, I don`t think we would call him a sheriff.
Audience question: Somebody I knew--.
Audience question: ( ) told me there was a sheriff out there.
LY: [Laughter]. Well, we, we had a lot of fine people out there who were very you know the education of most of those mill people was not what it is today. You asked me something about, did my father and mother want me to continue in the mill. No. They did not. They wanted us to have an education. And to find something else that would be of more value, not value because they--
BB: But rewarding to you personally?
LY: Yes. But they, they did not want me to continue. And you asked me what I was trained for. Well, I was trained to be a secretary. But, I chose marriage and I have decided that now I have, I have traded one possible career for about I was counting this morning of all the things I feel like I became. And you know what mothers do.
BB: Right.
LY: So that`s what I chose. [Laughter]
BB: You took what you changed, traded one possible career for another career that did not pay you anymore. Right [laugher]
LY: Absolutely. I know--.
BB: An unsalaried worker. Are there any other questions?
Audience question: (Inaudible)
LY: They were making gingham cloth. And it went everywhere. They were, that mill when it was built. They, it was the first all electric. Well, electric driven mill in Charlotte, Mecklenburg. And it had its own power plant. And then they, they hired about 800 employees. And I was trying to think of some of the other things about it. You know your mind goes blank when you are trying to remember.
BB: But there were two main mills right?
LY: Oh yeah, actually there were three mills.
LY: We had, in that same little area we had the Highland Park number three mill, the Johnston Mill and what was at that time the Mecklenburg became the Mercury Mill. And those were all operating and in very, well, two of them were owned by the Johnston families. Let me see you asked me about the lakes. There were two lakes out there and you all, in one other in addition to the one behind them the electric park or the recreational area. We had some sad times; we lost three children in one of those lakes. We had an accident at the racetrack and two, two little boys were killed. And--.
BB: Where was the racetrack? Tell them that.
LY: Oh, the racetrack. I, I`ve learned another fact this morning. The racetrack, if you know where Sugar Creek Presbyterian Church, diagonally across from there, where there is a shopping center now that`s where the fair ground was. And they had a dirt track and motorcycles and car races. This particular race was motorcycles. And one motorcycles hit something on the track and became airborne and jumped the fence. And hit in the group of four children and two of them were killed. And one of them was my cousin. We had, oh we had several even before the mill opened there was a tragic accident, involving guns. So you know guns had its bad times even that far back. But I was trying to think what else did you--?
BB: What about the spittoons. You were telling me about--.
LY: Oh yes--.
BB: The tour of the mill.
LY: Well, I learned early, when I started working in the mill that that was not going to be something I really enjoyed. Because most of the men chewed tobacco, which I don`t, that`s fine. I`m not holding that against them [Laugher]. Because and, and the ladies did snuff. And they had these little brass spittoons and they, you were supposed to use that. But a lot of them didn`t. And then I noticed when I went. Oh I was given a opportunity to go back for a tour through the mill back in March. Had not been in that mill for fifty years. Well, I took pictures. And one of my pictures was in the corner there where these white areas painted up on the wall. And I said, "What are those things " and Luther said, "Oh that`s where they were not supposed to spit". [Laughter] So I, I`ve really got into departments on this tour and was able, we made a video and I did an audiotape that turned out very well. And I learned things about that mill I never knew before after living there those years.
BB: Lois we`re going to have to end up. And one thing that I wanted to see if you would be willing to let every one know about the exhibit of your photographs.
LY: Oh, I am so excited. I would be delighted to share it with you [Laughter]. As I have said I began this three years ago. And thanks to the articles that came out in the paper about Dannye Romine Powell and Pat Gubbins. People have responded with open hearts and they have just loaned me all kinds of treasures and pictures that I have had copied. So the Carolina Room will be opening an exhibit of these things in February, in the middle of February. And they will be on exhibit for three months so--.
BB: And will there be photographs just of North Charlotte or mill history in general?
LY: No this is just of North Charlotte. These are people who worked there in the mill. Who lived in the community you know. And its many things you know about the ball teams. Oh just a lots of things, you are going to see just all kinds of pictures having to do with living in the community.
BB: OK and so I guess we`re running, we`ve run out of time. OK thank you very much. [Applause].