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John Black Interview

Black, John
White, Jane
Date of Interview: 
Camp Greene, early Charlotte, wages
Mr. Black provides a description of his work history from his first job hauling wood to working for the clerk of court and then ending his working career as a machine operator for Southern Asbestos Company.
Charlotte, 1920-1970
Interview Setting: 
Interviews conducted at either the downtown public library or the Midtown Shopping Mall.
WSOC-TV Oral History Project
Collection Description: 
The Oral History Project of 1979, headed by Dr. Edward Perzel, was an effort to gather and preserve spoken recollections. Interviews were conducted with older citizens, primarily over the age of 65, who were encouraged to share their memories and stories.
JB: John Black
JW: Jane White
JW: All right, Mr. Black now what would you like to talk to us about?
JB: Well, you mean, my first job or something?
JW: Yes, sir. Um-hum.
JB: Well, the first job I had--
JW: Your first job.
JB: Was hauling wood at a wood yard.
JW: Yes, sir.
JB: A dollar and a half a week.
JW: Uh-huh.
JB: I worked for there that man and two others for four dollars a day.
JW: Oh you worked your way up didn't you?
JB: I worked my way up. WWI, it broke out and there were, he had a lot of mules, and he sent all of us out there to Camp Greene.
JW: Yes sir.
JB: You see, and they were paying good wages out there.
JW: Uh huh
JB: And he raised our wages. Mr. Ford, Tom Ford.
JW: Yes sir.
JB: And from then on, to, to-- war ceased, and I worked about a year more, and then I came to another man Mr. C.C Moore, clerk of court. I worked with him. I don't know, but I worked with him about 10 or 11 years.
JW: Oh I see, for the clerk of court?
JB: Yes Ma'am.
JW: Uh hum, where was the courthouse then?
JB: The courthouse was down on Third Street.
JW: Uh huh.
JB: And city hall was right here on Fifth.
JW: Oh.
JB: The fire department was right there. There were horse troughs. You didn't see no cars sitting there. Very seldom did you see a car. It was trucks. Very few trucks. Wago-- Jay wagons. They had Jay Wagons. Horses to jay wagons.
JW: Yes.
JB: And they were, people would come down there like they wanted something moved. Why they'd come down and get a jay wagon. You, you haul it. So-
JW: What did you do for him there?
JB: Well, I was still working for Mr. Moore, C.C Moore, the clerk of court.
JW: Yup.
JB: I was working for him, and I was out near, we had called it Oaklawn now.
JW: Oh.
JB: That was a hard service street. That was just a little old small road, you know, that went from States Avenue to Beatty Ford.
JW: Oh that's a walk.
JB: And so I worked with him, I don't know a long time. Until his, Wallace sold the place. He sold the place. Then they started building over there, building that, that project over there.
JW: Oh.
JB: Fairview homes.
JW: Yes.
JB: And then after that well, Van, white fella, he told me he says, "John," he said, "I'll get you a job where I work." Southern asbestos. I worked, worked there. I went there and then they don't put me on the payroll for about a year. They don't think I could do the job. Every, every time every evening they'd say, "John come back tomorrow in the morning." An I'd say, "Ok." Mr. Andy Bell was the foreman, and so I worked there. I worked there 37 years, 2 weeks and four days.
JW: Really.
JB: It was real dusty. It was dusty.
JW: I see.
JB: Oh mercy, it was so dusty. From where you were standing in a room, you couldn't tell a white man from a black man.
JW: Really.
JB: Sure. I worked on--
JW: That, that didn't effect your health in any way?
JB: Yeah, it affected my health.
JW: It did affect your health?
JB: So, they retired me, that's why I retired at. At Charlotte --
JW: After 37 years?
JB: Yes, ma'am. 37 years. And I went to Black Mountain. We had to go to Black Mountain, and we stayed four days each year. And for the three times, we went the next year and you stayed four, next year. Then we come back and put in for a month.
JW: Why, why did you have to go up to Black Mountain?
JB: They had, they had their big .
JW: Oh I see, reasons. You went up there four days.
JB: Uh hum, for, for three years. We just had to stay four days out of each year. And then come on back, and so they says, John, we gonna, we're gonna retire you."
JW: What ?
JB: I worked on the I had a lot of children you see.
JW: I see, how many children did you have?
JB: I had twelve.
JW: You do?
JB: Yes, ma'am.
JW: Well good for you.
JB: Yes, well eleven because one died at childbirth. I said, "What was I doing?" He said, "Oh we going, we going get you took care of all right." So, I had to wait so long before I got any money going. A long time. At that time what I'd do was taking bonds and taking bonds, and I piddled around and around, and I saved all my bonds.
JW: Were those government bonds that they were giving you?
JB: Yes, and so all we did have a horse all the time, I'd make a little extra money.
JW: With your horse?
JB: With my horse. See, I stayed just about 3 about 4 blocks from the company I worked at.
JW: I see.
JB: I could just get out, you know, my children when they got large enough they'd have the horse ready for me.
JW: Sure.
JB: And I'd go out and make a little money, you know. Didn't make much but made enough to live off of. [Laughs]
JW: Oh yes, yes.
JB: And so everbody was taking a liking to me and all and everything. And Mr. Heath --
JW: I'm sure you were a good worker too.
JB: Yes ma'am, and I sort of went, at the mill there when they told me. Said, "John we go," he went and took me out to his office and said, "Mrs , put him on payroll." Said, "It's the best man I got out of the whole group."
JW: That's nice to know.
JB: You see I was crippled you know [coughing], and so I worked there on and so they retired me in '60. I came out of there in '60.
JW: Oh.
JB: That's when I went to hospital. Until I come back and they started giving me money, and I'd work my horse and all until my big money come. [Laughs]
JW: Oh uh hum. [Laughter]
JW: Well tell me how did they, how did they haul this asbestos? How did they, they pack it?
JB: It, it be easy like a rock. You dig it out just like you do coal, at a coal, at a mine.
JW: Uh hum.
JB: And, and there dry it. They have a machine drying it up, you know, in lumps, and I ran a great big machine, I mean a wheel solid wheel. It'd go around and around in a bowl.
JW: I see.
JB: I run, I run that, I run that over 15 years just straight.
JW: With the motor, I mean it had a motor on it to be run.
JB: It'd run with belts and things .
JW: I see.
JB: And I ran that, and well, I've done work over there. I packed bins, what you call it. Now, when you grind the, you put a 100 pounds in there, a hundred pound sack. It wouldn't be no higher than that, just like a cement sack.
JW: Yes, sir.
JB: And when it get ground up, it'd be fluffy like cotton.
JW: I see.
JB: And we'd fill mattresses on the floor. When we were there to that place, when we were to put a layer of cotton down, you put your cotton down first then a layer of asbestos and then those strings would come off of the cuttings off of the string, what they call rope stuff like that. And the flour, it was the thing you called flour, that was the dust, see. And you put that in, put a layer of cotton, layer of asbestos then you put you, we used to call it, sand that was what, what, you suck out down there. And then we start with a 12 lbs. . We cut that and throw it in the hopper.
JW: Yes, sir.
JB: We'd run all those pieces. We'd go upstairs and come down. Then it would fall in the bin, and I'd done that for about 5 years, packed bins.
JW: Oh I see, and how many men worked there with you?
JB: Oh there was a lot of them.
JW: Were they?
JB: Yeah, there was hundreds of them.
JW: Oh.
JB: Yeah I had, I had this Mr. Andy Bell. I worked under him or I work under Mr. Baker, the next man I worked under was Mr., Mr. Mack. I worked under Mr. Mack a long time, when Mr. Baker, he got sick. All of them, I a whole lot of them. Everybody died.
JW: Really, well good luck to you.
JB: First time, I see first time in five years .
JW: Really.
JB: See we wore a mask.
JW: Yes.
JB: Well, I bought one. I mean to have it around my neck. Used to get flour up my get flour . And when I would come to work, I'd take my oil can put oil on the outside and put across here.
JW: Oh to protect yourself from those .
JB: Yes, sir. From the They told me now, said, "John when the if you see an insurance man come out, be sure and put on your mask." I said, "All right." I said, "Mr. Baker," I said, "You don't know better to know how hard it is these masks here to breath into them." I said "It's hard on your lungs." And they sent some men down, and we went up in that dust machine and that's when we get . The great big house great big chimneys and that dust was just follow and then they could peel it falling on your hands. See, they didn't have no suction.
JW: Oh.
JB: Didn't have no suction in there. But now you can work in there, you know, with all the suction every single one. Every one.
JW: But you wore your mask?
JB: I wore [Inaudible]
JW: Well, that was smart thinking Mr. Black. And do you have anything else you would like to tell us about your work or your children, any of your 12 children living, or 11 of them. Are they still living?
JB: All of them, all of them.
JW: They are still living.
JB: Now I have 49 grand's.
JW: 49 grandchildren.
JB: Yes ma'am.
JW: My, that's a nice family.
JB: I've got 49 grands I got 19 great grand's.
JW: Well good.
JB: I've got three grandsons in the Army. I've got a granddaughter in there, I mean, a granddaughter in there. I've got a son still in there that had 5 sons in the Army. And he in a couple of years he'd be out. He's done made 20 years.
JW: It's a nice family.
JB: He'll be 42. I say you you're retiring as a young man. [
JW Laughs] See, didn't have no retirement.
JW: No.
JB: retirement.
JW: Well thank you very much Mr. Black, for doing this for us. We hope you stay well.
JB: right here in Charlotte.
JW: How many years?
JB: let's see. When we moved here I was around about 7 about 8 years old when we moved here. This town here I say from, from Myers Park all the way around. I have hauled sand, dirt. See, we used to get sand in the creek. People used to didn't use no creek sand, now they use that that yellow sand. And we hauled brick and lumber and stuff like that. all out through Myers Park, Dilworth all them places. Elizabeth Avenue, Elizabeth, out there. Yeah. All, all them places.
JW: You've seen Charlotte change haven't you?
JB: Yes ma'am.
JW: Yeah.
JB: In a very, that was way out in the country then.
JW: Was it?
JB: Oh yeah, Park Summit. I lived, when we move--first moved to Charlotte. We lived on this side of Park Summit.
JW: Oh I see.
JB: It wasn't no park. It wasn't nothing but
JW: Really.
JB: That's all. I after Seventh Street spring. They had a place out there they call Seventh Street Spring, you know. Nurses and things would go take the children out there. Eat out there you know. young men, you know. We'd go out there and we'd no about what time they'd be out there and we'd ride and . [Laughter]
JW: Good.
JB: And I got a grand, a great, I got great grand born in Germany, you know. It's about 4, 5 months old.
JW: Oh
JB: My grand daughter had her since she got over there.
JW: Uh huh. Well good luck to you Mr. Black.
JB: Yes, ma'am.
JW: And we do appreciate this very much.
JB: Yeah