Interview with Theresa Greene

Theresa Sigmond Greene was interviewed by Katy Morse on April 11, 2012.

Theresa Greene was born in Catawba County, North Carolina. Her father sold Chevrolets and her mother stayed at home to raise her and her younger brother, Eugene. As a girl, she spent much of her free time working on her grandmother’s farm. While in school, she enjoyed acting in school plays. She graduated from high school as the salutatorian at the age of sixteen. She spent two years working in a nearby glove mill until she reached the age of eighteen, when she was old enough to go to nursing school. After returning home from training and working as a nurse for several years, she went back to school at the School of Public Health in Chapel Hill on a scholarship. The scholarship sent her to work in Burlington, where she has lived ever since. She worked as a nursing director until the age of sixty-five, when she retired. At the time of the interview, she was eighty-eight years old and enjoyed spending her days working in her garden.

On Growing Up During the Great Depression

We did not know that it was a depression. I was born in it so I didn’t know it was a depression. And see, all the children at school my age, we were the same way. And it was out in the country so apparently people didn’t pay as much attention to it because they didn’t starve. They had their own food, and they did their own laundry. I know they had food. They had to buy their meat and sugar and they had wheat. They could take it up to the mill and get it ground. They had corn, take it to the same mill to get their corn meal. So things were a lot different than they are today.

Listen to the audio of Theresa’s response about growing up during the Depression.

On Learning to Sew

Theresa learned to sew after her mother’s prompting:

I took a sewing lesson because I couldn’t sew. I went to the home demonstration people who taught sewing. I went to the class. And so we had to learn to sew. And the first thing she made us make was, guess what? Stretch knits came in and so we had to cut our own patterns. She showed us how to measure ourselves, cut our own pattern, and make those stretch knits. And you know, they were so comfortable. You can’t find the fabric anymore to sew that anymore.

Listen to the audio of Theresa’s response about learning to sew.

On Working in a Glove Mill

I had to wait two years to go into nursing to train because you had to be eighteen. So I got a job in the glove mill in Conover to make some money. I clipped palms. You know gloves have five fingers, well when the lady sewed them up, after they were cut, well they would sew and then I would take a little special pair of scissors and clip the palms – that’s what they’re called – and just lay them over there. And they had to be steamed after that. But I sat there like you and I are sitting and clipped palms. And you made so much an hour. It wasn’t about how many palms you clipped. Some of them are paid by how many a dozen they sewed but see I wasn’t going to be a permanent employee. I was going to leave and so I got a child’s job here. I got an easy job for a person.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Theresa’s experience working in the mill.

Later Work

After the glove factory, Theresa pursued a career in nursing:

After I graduated from training I went back home and I worked in the hospital there in surgery with the surgeons in the morning. In the afternoon I worked in the office. And then I decided I wanted something more than that so I went back to school. I went to the School of Public Health in Chapel Hill and I got a scholarship to go that year and study. I had to work wherever they sent me when I graduated.

Listen to the audio about Theresa’s nursing career.

On Being a North Carolinian:

Oh naturally I’m a North Carolinian. I prefer North Carolina because we have the mountains and the coast. And see we grew up sixteen miles from Asheville, so it was nothing after a Sunday for Dad to drive us up to the mountains and to drive up to Asheville, and coast back down the hills to home. That was fun. So we had a lot of fun. We had good times.

Listen to the audio of Theresa’s thoughts on being a North Carolinian.

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