Cabins from NW

Hewn-Timber Cabins:
African-American life in rural South Carolina
1840s to 1950s

Mr. Archie Waiters tells of cotton picking....
Recorded September 17, 1980

Archie Waiters
Click the "Podcast" button to hear Mr. Waiters talk about picking cotton back when his family lived in these houses.

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(Will launch a separate MP3 playback box.) Or access the MP3 file directly at AWaitersCotton.

On this recording, Archie Waiters tells about cotton picking time at Mars Bluff when he was a young man.  Most of the year, workers on a cotton farm earned a set amount of money for a day's work, but when they were picking cotton, they were paid by the pound.  If they worked very hard and picked many pounds, they could make more money than at any other time of the year.  So everybody wanted to be in the field picking cotton as fast as they could.

On this recording, Archie Waiters does most of the talking but occasionally you hear the voice of the interviewer Amelia Vernon asking him a question.  The conversation began when Waiters replied to the question "Would almost everybody be in the field picking cotton?"

WAITERS:  Everybody be out there picking it.  It ain't nobody sitting round home.  Everybody picked.

Men, women and children.  The babies be out in the field.  You don't leave no babies home.  Take your baby out and put them off in the shade.  Water.

Nobody home.  Nobody home.

The little children watch over the babies.  And you better watch him cause if he drink up all his milk. The big one will drink up all and the baby be hollering and you don't know what he hollering about.

VERNON:  Oh.  You got to watch the children who are watching the babies?

WAITERS:  Watching the babies.  They drink up the milk and you be in trouble.  The baby be hollering and you ain't know what ailing him.  Think the baby sick.

VERNONWell how old would the children be usually that you would leave watching the babies?

WAITERSSome of them would be sometimes four years old, five years old.  Sometime would be some six year old would be helping you pick cotton.

VERNON:  A six year old would pick?

WAITERS:  Pick cotton.  And five year old.  Sometimes five years would be picking. Them four years old would stay with the little one.

VERNON:  Who would cook when everybody is out picking cotton?

WAITERS:  One would go home, leave out the field about eleven o'clock and put on a pot. Then the other ones would pick right on up 'til twelve.  They usually pick right on to twelve. Then they go home and eat dinner and be back in the field by twelve-thirty picking cotton, in all that hot heat.  That's right.

VERNON:  When you were picking, you would have a whole lot of rows close to your sheet?

WAITERS:  Yes ma'am.  You could get as many rows as you want close to sheet.  You can get enough rows to last you two days if you want.

VERNON:  It seems to me that it would lonesome, that people would be spread out so far across the field.

WAITERS:  It would.

VERNON:  Wouldn't have anybody to talk to.

WAITERS:  You'd find--You wouldn't need to be talking.  You want to be grabbing that cotton.  People would keep you--and beat you everyday.

VERNON:  You get twenty cents a hundred?

WAITERS:  Twenty cents a hundred.

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© Amelia Wallace Vernon. All rights reserved. Revised, 2011.