Oral Histories
from the Banning Mill Documentation Collection


-Minnie Brown

"Well back when I was a little girl, the only thing I can say about Banning, it was a nice place to live and be from. It sure was. But now it has gone down, you know. And I’d be glad to see Banning built back like it used to be but I don’t guess it ever will be. They use to have a big company store up there at Banning and it sold all kind of things. In fact my brother Tom, he helped to run that place, the store. And he done all that, they had a pick-up truck and he done all the delivering out in the country for everybody, like cow feed, hog feed, what ever they wanted. He delivered all that for them and he worked behind the meat counter and they had, they sold ice cream, big ole, they sold everything at that place. And they had a barber shop up there. A weave shop on top of the hill. And that is where the office was, up there by the weave shop. Now there use to be, a long time ago, they use to be moving picture shows . . . that’s a long time ago. They used to show pictures everything in black and white. They showed moving shows put up in this big old tent. I bet you they had shows at night and everything. Ya, they was all the time caring on at Banning."

 

“They were farmers and later they moved to the mill. The bowl weevils come across this country and eat up the cotton crops in the early twenties, you know and that forced us to kind of get out of it. My sisters, I had four sisters. I had two older sisters that got old enough to work in the mill and we moved to Banning in 1925.

. . . We had to make our own entertainment really. Well, you see, we didn’t have no TV and radio or nothing, you know, back then. They were a few people had an old graph-o-phone, you know, that played records; you know, those who were well to do, then.”

 
- Tom
Thompson,
Minnie's brother
 

 

When you got paid you got so much beaucoup money and the only place you could spend it was the company store. Everyone in the village went shopping there. Back during the 20s, that was where you bought your groceries. . . . It used to be every Friday night, every Friday when they [the men] got paid they’d go out in the woods and build them a fire and start gambling and drinking, they’d start getting in a fight they’d go cutting and shooting one another. I used to when I was a kid dread to see the weekend come…”

- Bobby Argo


“Well, they had a little ole school there at Banning that you could go part of the way in school. But you couldn’t go to, something like, probably 3rd or 4th grade. But they thought that you could make more, you know, they was old enough to, before they could go to work in the mill, to tote lunches to the hands that worked in the mill and pay them, you know, where it would be hot. …. They weren’t looking at things in the long run. They weren’t thinking about getting an education.”

- Pearl Driver

 

We’d stand out in the yard and talk, holler from one end to the other, didn’t’ have no phones, didn’t’ know what a phone was. You’d have to talk. Lots and lots of evenings everybody would meet and get on the porch and laugh and talk till bedtime. People enjoyed life, they’d all get together and laugh and talk, just enjoy it so much.”

- Ruth Smith

 

"When we were young, we just rambled the crew down there. That was before I was married. That’s all there was to do, ramble the creek and hunt hickory nuts and squirrels and things. Didn’t have no car. Some people had T-Models that was the only type of car they had back then T-Models. Not many of them had cars. Them that didn’t have cars, the rest of them that did have would haul them if they wanted to go to town, they would carry them to town."

- T. W. Tolbert

     
   

 

Ruth Smith pumping up a car tire

     

Wilson's cousins, John and Ruth Holder
 
Wilson’s father, Henry Allen Holder, ran the general store outside of Banning beginning in the mid 1920s. The family lived on a farm on the outskirts of the mill village. As a young boy, Wilson worked for his father and would “get up every morning at 6 o’clock and I would go to that mill village and take all those people what they bought for the day, you might say. I’d have a pad and take their name down and how much they wanted, what they wanted. Salt, soda, flour, meal, and can goods. All kinds they’d tell me, what kind they wanted. And I would go back home. My daddy would fill the order while I ate breakfast. Got up and put a tag on each one what it was and I would carry them back and deliver them, then I went to school.” - Wilson Holder
 

 

“Well, my dad, he didn’t want me to spin, because he said it was too hard. And spinning was hard, but I loved it. So, he was boss, I told you down in the twister room that had the winder room down there. So, he wanted me to go down there and learn to run winders. Well, I went down there and I learned to run winder. And about the time I learned, I said, ‘Daddy, I don’t like down here. I’m going back to spinning room.’ So, he said, ‘Go ahead.’ I went back to the spinning room. So, I stayed there until I married.” - Mary E. Smith-Duke


Typical spinning room in a nearby mill

 

“At the horseshoe pond, my dad would go swimming over there. Well, they didn’t want him to go swimming – his mother- because they thought it was dangerous and that big pond, it was matter-of-fact that pond is really deep. Andthey stitched his clothes, his overalls together. And course he’d tear them apart and his sister or his aunt or someone would stitch his clothes back so his mother wouldn’t know he took his clothes off and went swimming in the horseshoe dam.” - Floyd Smith

“My grandmother and all the other children used to get out and play around on the creek banks. They would get out and play on the creek banks and they didn’t have to work all the time. And when they started that eight hour you had to stay in there and work.” - Barbara Gentry

 

“I can hear my mother talking back then, everything was real slow and easy, then kids was working there and they’d play half the time and I don’t see how in the world they ever got the machines to run. Tell ‘bout all the things they used to do, play tricks on each other and everything like that. Yep. I’ve heard her say ‘bout how they would play tricks on each other and all this kinda stuff. And she was very young, she went to work there, she came from the farm. She said she hated farm work. It was better working in a cotton mill like that then it was haven to farm all the time.” - Billy Driver


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