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Interview with Bill Birchfield

Birchfield, Bill
General Electric; General Motors; Recession; Golf; Southern Pines; World War II; Farming; Family; Elks Club
: Bill Birchfield talks about moving from New York to Southern Pines, North Carolina mainly for a change in atmosphere and the weather. Bill worked as a tool and die maker for General Electric and at one point in his career also worked for General Motors fixing and making tools. Bill talks about the various things he has done in his lifetime such as farming, serving in the US Army and working as a tool and die maker. Moving to Southern Pines has brought Bill and his family great pleasure as it has allowed them to enjoy the weather and socialize in organizations such as the Elks Club.
Southern Pines, NC; 1960-1980
Interview Setting: 
Southern Pines, North Carolina
Interview Audio: 
IN (Unidentified speaker): Interviewing Mr. Bill Birchfied--. What's your address?
BB (Bill Birchfield): 905 North Sailwich.
IN: We're in the town of Southern Pines and Mr. Birchfield how long have you lived in Southern Pines?
BB: Lived here since 1968.
IN: What did you do before that? Where did you live?
BB: Lived in New York. Rochester, New York.
IN: Right in Rochester or did you just--,
BB: No, out in the lake, small town, Morton.
IN: Morton. Is that about twenty miles--?
BB: About thirty miles from Rochester.
IN: What kind of employment did you have?
BB: I was a tool and die maker for General Electric.
IN: What is, what is tool and die maker?
BB: Well, when they build dies, die repair, mold repair--.
IN: They just fix anything--.
BB: Fix tools, make any kind machines--.
IN: Fix anything with metal.
BB: Right.
IN: Say you came to Southern Pines in '68?
BB: Yes.
IN: Who are you employed by now?
BB: Proctor-Silex.
IN: Do the same thing? Tool and die?
BB: Yes. Tool and die. More repair than I was, here than up there, I did more tool work.
IN: Do you enjoy your job?
BB: Very much.
IN: Like working for people--.
BB: When I'm working.
IN: When you working. I guess the recession's got you, got you in a rut.
BB: I got about ten weeks off.
IN: Ten weeks. When did you start back working?
BB: A week ago.
IN: Out ten weeks of work, that's pretty bad. You say the recession hurt you pretty bad?
BB: Right.
IN: You, when you came to Southern Pines did you join any clubs or anything, get involved in any civic activities?
BB: Belonged to the Elks Club.
IN: Well, what kind of club is that?
BB: Oh, it's an organization that does--, we have Christmas parties, we just had a walk-a-thon. It's for cerebral palsy.
IN: A lot of liquor and beer involved in your party?
BB: A little bit. [laughter]
IN: A little bit? What do you mean? [laughter] They say they serve liquor by the drink, I heard over there, I heard a little rumor. Is that true?
BB: I [laughter] refuse to commit myself.
IN: You know don't know huh? You just refuse to commit yourself. Do you partake in any alcoholic beverages?
BB: Oh yeah, I take my own bottle with me.
IN: What kind?
BB: Scotch.
IN: Scotch. Scotch and water huh?
BB: Yeah. Strictly.
IN: Strictly.
IN: Let's move on here. How many children do you have?
BB: Four. I had four, I got three now.
IN: What happened to the other one?
BB: I lost a son in an automobile accident.
IN: Do you have, you, you, were you from a large family?
BB: My mother, no I have four brothers--, three brothers and three sisters-two sisters.
IN: And where were they from? That part of New York?
BB: They were, we all lived there, but now my sister lives in Texas. My brother lives in Texas. I lost another brother to an automobile accident. And my other brother just retired from Eastman-Kodak, and he's down in Florida now.
IN: What, what prompted you to move to Southern Pines anyway?
BB: The weather.
IN: Didn't like it--.
BB: Get the hell out of the cold. [laughter]
IN: Yeah, that's pretty good. [laughter] I can imagine. How cold did it get up there anyway?
BB: Oh, zero below.
IN: Pretty cold. Yeah, you really like it down here a lot?
BB: Very much. I like to golf twelve months a year.
IN: Twelve months. What's your handicap?
BB: [laughter] I refuse to say. Nineteen.
IN: Do you play everyday?
BB: No, that's my problem.
IN: How many days a week do you play?
BB: Maybe once or twice a month.
IN: Play in any tournaments?
BB: I play one--, oh yeah, I play all the tournaments for Sandpipers, a club that I belong to.
IN: What's a Sandpiper?
BB: Just a club that's made up of a bunch of guys that belong to the Elks Club.
IN: I know you don't go out and get drunk, huh?
BB: No we don't go out and get drunk. We play golf.
IN: I thought you said that your handicap was bad.
BB: That's why it's bad. [laughter]
IN: Do you think your children like it here?
BB: Very much. My oldest son, my son plays golf, and so he likes it. My daughter, she don't want to move. I looked into other jobs but it looks like I'll stay here.
IN: That's pretty good. Let's get back to your li--, lifetime. What did you do when you were in high school anyway?
BB: Behaved myself.
IN: What do you mean you behaved? [laughter] Now that goes into a lot of detail.
BB: No, I raised a little hell. [laughter]
IN: A little huh?
BB: I took an agriculture course, by doing nothing what I do.
IN: You mean you were planning on being a farmer at one time?
BB: I was a farmer at one time.
IN: You were?
BB: When I first got out of service, yeah.
IN: How long did that last?
BB: About three years.
IN: What happened?
BB: I got sick of it.
IN: Didn't like the soil huh? Well, did things really changed much since you were in high school?
BB: I don't think so. I think, their methods of teaching are different. That's about the same, they teach about the same subjects and everything.
IN: That's, well you know, like, how did you meet Ms. Birchfield?
BB: The service. When I was in the service.
IN: Where were you stationed?
BB: In Maxwell Field, Alabama.
IN: Where's exactly, where's that near?
BB: That's in Montgomery.
IN: What did you do, did you say, in the service? What did you do when you were in the service?
BB: I was a radio operator-mechanic on a B-24.
IN: Fool around a lot. Were you in the war?
BB: Yes.
IN: Which, which one. [laughter]
BB: World War II.
IN: How many years?
BB: Three and a half years.
IN: Where were you stationed?
BB: Every state in the United States about. I never got overseas. The furthest overseas I got was Cuba.
IN: You mean you didn't even get anything, any of the fighting?
BB: No fighting.
IN: That's pretty bad. I mean pretty good. [laughter] Have things changed since you started dating Ms. Birchfield, when you started dating Ms. Birchfield? I mean, and do you know, do you think they're the same; did you do the same thing as you think kids do today?
BB: Oh, I think so.
IN: [laughter] Well, like what, what did you do? I mean, who was your sources of entertainment?
BB: Well, all's we had was go to the movies. I didn't get much time off. I was in the air--, in the army.
IN: And all you did was go to the movies?
BB: That was about all you could do.
IN: Yeah. That's pretty rough. You enjoy living here?
BB: Very much. Told you that. [laughter] Really enjoy it.
IN: So, is that your little daughter in there I see?
BB: Yeah, she's just been out spending my money.
IN: It's kind of hard supporting yourself and two sons isn't it? One son and a daughter and a wife?
BB: Yeah, the way they go through money.
IN: Do you make pretty good money being the tool and die?
BB: I make, probably the highest in the area around here. I make six dollars an hour.
IN: That's pretty good. Are you a foreman or just, you just-?
BB: Lead-man, for the department. That means I have to give out the jobs, see that they're done right. [pause] Fairly, fairly easy to do right now. We only got one other man in there so besides me.
IN: You say the--, you say the recessions hit the company pretty bad?
BB: Oh it, all the company's still out, they say that we're going back April 7th.
IN: How many people employed in the company?
BB: About 600.
IN: That's pretty good.
BB: Foremans have been doing all the work, they just get their pay and been doing the piddling around. But, we hope to go back to work by the, April 7th, that'll be December 16th to April 7th off.
IN: You say you applied for other jobs. Where, where did you apply, when you--
BB: Hopefully your mother and dad live up to Salisbury.
IN: Yeah, that's rather bad town. I wouldn't live in it. Who did you apply for, with?
BB: General Electric. To get back with General Electric. It was a good company to work for.
IN: Oh. How long did you work with General Electric when you were up North?
BB: Ten years.
IN: Ten years, that's a pretty good fun. Did you enjoy that work?
BB: Very much. I did the same work as I do here but, it was extra conditions as far as work goes, not as far as the area goes, as far as the weather goes.
IN: Yeah. Speaking of weather up North, how, how bad, just how bad were the winters? [cough] Did you have trouble getting out, you know?
BB: Oh yeah, many mornings we shoveled our way out, got stuck in a snow banks and didn't get home, couldn't get home. It was kind of nasty.
IN: Kind of? How many inches of snow did they usually have?
BB: About 140.
IN: A year?
BB: A year.
IN: A lot of snow. Broke your back out there digging?
BB: Right.
IN: didn't you?
BB: Not me, if I didn't have to. [laughter] Let the guy put it there take away that put it there. [laughter]
IN: [pause] When you said, you know, you said you were going to be a farmer, whatever happened to that big idea, you said you didn't like it, you actually a farmer for three years?
BB: There wasn't any money in it.
IN: Tell me.
BB: There was no money in farming at that time. That was right after the war. Farming just didn't pay up. Equipment costs a lot. You had to borrow it, by the time you paid it back one year, why, you're in debt next year.
IN: How many acres did you work?
BB: I had about eighty-five acre of farm.
IN: When, when was this, was this in New York?
BB: Right. I had some fruit on it. Mostly cash crops.
IN: What did you do right after you quite farming?
BB: Went to work for General Motors, Rochester, New York.
IN: What, what did you do for General Motors?
BB: I did two-fixture building. Machine work.
IN: What is that?
BB: It build tubes for your gas lines to your automobiles, all the gas lines, made fixtures ( ) to fit them, automatic fixtures.
IN: What did you do after that? You started working.
BB: And I started, went back, went to General Electric.
IN: About ten years. Then you came here.
BB: Been here, many years. Seven years.
IN: Seven. How many now? [laughter]
BB: It will be eight years this November.
IN: What are you, what are your plans for the future? Have any plans?
BB: Retire.
IN: How many, how many years will it be before you retire?
BB: Fifteen. [laughter]
IN: That's quite a lot, you planning on doing a lot of work in between now--,
BB: I'm fifty-one now, so I got fourteen years, unless they reduce this Social Security, bring that down to sixty. I'd be happy.
IN: What do you think of the, President Ford's policy for the recession?
BB: Stinks.
IN: Stinks. What, what would you do to fix it?
BB: Oh there's many things I think the first thing he should have done is lowered the prime interest rate. Rolled that back and then the economy would have picked up a lot sooner than it has now.
IN: What else would you--, do a little more than that?
BB: Well, that would have been one of the major things. I don't think this tax rebate, and all this is, is no good. What's two hundred dollars to me? I probably will be two hundred dollars in debt, so I'll just pay two hundred dollars out to somebody I owe.
IN: It's true.
BB: So it isn't going to actually get back into the economy that much.
IN: What, what do you think they aught to do for the unemployment, the way the unemployment is right now?
BB: They'd a roll back the prime interest rates and got business started again. Why they wouldn't have had unemployment, like this. They waited too long, like they do with everything else.
IN: Do you like the idea of not being able to vote for President Ford?
BB: Well yeah.
IN: You know--, now that he's in office.
BB: I think it should have been another election set up.
IN: Well, speaking than that, how he got in office--. What do you think of Nixon? Nixon hurt, scandal hurt you any?
BB: I don't think Nixon did a bad job. He didn't do anything but what everybody else has done.
IN: Well, they can't prove--.
IN: They haven't got caught that's all.
IN: That's true. ( ).
BB: They've all had their dirty ways of politics; it's been that way for years. Just that he got caught at it.
IN: Yeah. Well, he was a really big scandal. Did you--?
BB: It he, if he'd a burned his tapes the day that they accused him of it, then nobody'd ever been able to do a damn thing about it.
IN: That's true. Well, I'm speechless right now. [laughter] Would you like a beer? I got a beer in the refrigerator, I have to pick up my beer. [laughter]
BB: Go get me a beer too while you're at it. We'll both have a beer. [laughter] But, I don't drink otherwise.
IN: You don't?
BB: I'm a ( ).
IN: How many beers--.
BB: Or did I say that?
IN: Huh?
BB: What?
IN: What. What did you say? I didn't understand that.
BB: Didn't I say earlier that I didn't drink that much? Oh, you asked me about the club thing, you said it was--.
IN: Do you drink a lot of beer? [laughter]
BB: Too much.
IN: Too much.
BB: I need to really cut down.
IN: I take it you enjoy the party?
BB: No, I enjoy drinking three or four beers. Sitting around, drinking three, four, five beers.
IN: Do you mind if I smoke?
BB: No, I have that habit too.
IN: When did you start smoking?
BB: When I was eighteen, seventeen.
IN: What was your reason for starting?
BB: Do you need a reason?
IN: I don't know. Were you nervous?
BB: No, I just smoked, enjoyed it, so I kept smoking.
IN: Did you try to quit anytime?
BB: I tried it once, twice. I quit for about a month and a half, two months once, I guess a month.
IN: Did, did you put on any weight?
BB: Not noticed. I never weighed much more anyhow, anytime. I weigh about 148 since I was in high school.
IN: You still--,
BB: The highest I got was 162 in the service.
IN: [laughter] Why did the service fatten you up?
BB: I didn't do nothing.
IN: Just sat around?
BB: No early to bed, early to rise. That was when I was in Cadets.
IN: Cadets?
BB: I was air, I was going to be a pilot.
IN: You were? What happened to that?
BB: Washed out. Along with about 30,000 other guys.
IN: How did, how did you manage to wash out? What did you do?
BB: Well, it was just, war was near, in Europe was getting--, they had enough pilots so they just wanted to cut them out, that's it.
IN: Said we don't need you anymore?
BB: Don't need anymore.
IN: Pretty rough.