[Many people in the Sylacauga area around the time of WWII can probably relate to this story.]
As told to Donna R. Causey by Pearl Mims February, 2014
The first job I every had was at the cotton mill in Sylacauga, Talladega County, Alabama when I was only seventeen. My sister Evelyn and I got jobs there through a neighbor. We were living in the small town of Weogufka, Alabama on a farm.
One day a man came by to visit Papa and told him that he could get jobs for us at the Mill (Avondale Mills in Sylacauga) where he worked if he’d allow it. Evelyn and I were excited about the opportunity and of course jumped at the offer. Papa thought about it awhile since we were only teenagers, but he finally agreed.
Short film on Avondale Mills in the 50’s
Older employees left for better paying jobs during WWII
It was during war time (WWII) and many people who had been working at the cotton mill, left for the better paying jobs at the new powder plant down the road in Childersburg. This left Sylacauga Cotton Mill short-handed so they started hiring teenagers to replace the workers, who’d left.
We found out later that the man only needed us to ride with him to share the gas expense of driving to the Mill. It worked out pretty well for all of us, though.
Buses sent to pick up young workers
Soon there were so many teenagers working at the mill and many did not have transportation so the Mill had a bus service pick us up. Buses went all the way to Chilton County, Alabama to pick up people. That is where my future husband, Norman Mims lived.
I met Norman at the Mill and we were soon dating. He told me that I’d never have to work another day if I’d marry him. “Course, I had no intention of stopping work. In fact, when I married him, I was planning to go work at another job.”
Shortage of housing
We looked for a place to live. There was a shortage of housing due to the powder plant employees moving in. We found a nice new duplex, with a big room that served as bedroom and living room. It had a two eye heater to cook on and the bathroom was off the screen porch in back. The rent was only $4.00 but Norman didn’t want it. He said he wanted to buy us a house.
Finally, we found a newly built house. The man said we could have it and would only have to take up the payments in exchange for Norman’s car. Norman was happy to find a house he could afford so he bought it. There was only one problem. There was no running water to the house so it didn’t work out well for me. I had to carry water for over a year. This was especially hard since we were now also expecting our first child.