Interview with Tom McConnell
Thomas Jason “Tom” “Junior” “June” McConnell, Jr. was born May 7, 1926 in Shelton, South Carolina, about a half mile from where this interview took place in 2011. He grew up there, one of eight children—four boys and four girls. He recalls having no electricity until the late 1930s, starting work at age 14, and being paid “under the desk.” The interview covers his life and work in rural South Carolina from the 1930s through 2011, including his time working at Shivar Spring Company ca. 1940–1954, playing baseball as a child, community recollections, and race relations. At the time of the interview, Mr. McConnell was 85.
Tom McConnell passed away March 28, 2013.
Oral Historian’s Note
The interview with Tom McConnell occurred thanks to South Carolina state geologist Pete Stone, who contacted me and arranged a trip to Shelton to view the two sites used by Shivar Spring Company. Pete also coordinated with Tom’s nephew Freddie and grandnephew to set an interview date and show us around. The collaboration served two purposeful areas of inquiry: Pete supplied me with technical questions to ask about the spring itself, and I endeavored to begin recording Mr. McConnell’s life experiences.Andrea L’Hommedieu
Office of Oral History
South Caroliniana Library
Excerpts from the Interview
Daddy’s work (p. 2)
Andrea L’Hommedieu: And what did your parents do for work?
Tom McConnell: My daddy worked at the same plant I did, and farmed. We was on the farm, on the farm back in here. I plowed that mule a many a day, picked cotton and spent many days back in here. Then I started to work at the plant when I was fourteen years old. They paid me, see back then you had to be sixteen years old to get a Social Security card, and they paid me under the desk until I got sixteen. And when I got sixteen years old I went straight out to working for them, for the plant, and I worked there fourteen years.
Tom working at the plant, age 14 (p. 6)
TM: They made about the best ginger ale, everybody said, around here.
And so when I started I didn’t want nobody to know how I started. I started at fourteen years old unloading a car of coal with a shovel, that’s right, unloading a car of coal. And Uncle Milt Meadow, he had the job of unloading the coal, and Mr. Grady Wright, he was the manager of the plant, he put me in with Uncle Milt.
AL: Your uncle?
TM: No, he was an old man, we just called him Uncle.
Changes in Shivar Spring Company ownership (p. 6)
TM: You see that plant went through a heap of hands that a lot of people didn’t know about. You take old man Shivar, that’s how you get to be Shivar’s. Old man Shivar was the first hand. The plant was right above, the plant you see all that junk down there in a hole out from the plant that way, a hole on the left hand side.
Freddie McConnell: Which plant, the one by the railroad track?
TM: No, the one on the railroad track.
FM: We just left from down there.
TM: Yeah, and that’s where old man Shivar was at. Okay, he sold the plant. He sold that plant to Mr. Zimmerman Moore from Rock Hill. He sold that plant to Mr. Zimmerman Moore and then it went in that hand. Okay, Mr. Mac come in there from Saluda, Mr. McDowell, man that got it out of his hand come in there as a little old bookkeeper. And then when old man Zimmerman Moore went out of business he left Mr. Roy Hudson. You might’ve known Mr. Roy Hudson, he left and Mr. Roy Hudson married his daughter, and he left Mr. Roy Hudson stock in the plant.
Story of a disappearance in Shelton (p. 18)
TM: There’s a man come in Shelton, man come in Shelton one time lived right above them, that was before I married. He come in Shelton there, he disappeared one night. He disappeared one night and ain’t never been seen since but there was some sort of rope where he was hung. You see what I’m talking about? Yeah, that was back over there where you go to Mr. Lim ( ). John Thompson and them was rabbit hunting, they was rabbit hunting and run across, what’s all them ropes doing up in that trees there? Well, that’s where the man was hung at.
FM: For what? What did he do?
TM: He didn’t do nothing. This here’s where I’m supposed to hold the tongue. That’s right, he didn’t do anything. He didn’t do anything. Okay, he come in here. He come in here. He was working for a white couple. See they moved in here. Didn’t nobody know them. Okay, they moved in here and rented a house across the road from where Eula stay at now, used to be a house over there. So they moved in there and when they moved in there, he had done help raise the children. Had done helped raise them childrens all up that time. But you see, another crowd come in here, come into the area, and that’s when he got missing. Yeah, that’s when he got missing. And so a lot of times John Thompson and all of them they find the rope.
They went to Mr. Will Wright and asked him, he was a pretty fair man, you know. They told him about all the rope. He run the little store in Shelton and asked him, told him. And Mr. Will said they had to find out, said, “Just hush your mouth.” Said, “You ain’t saw nothing; just hush your mouth.” That’s right. And they tried to find out, you know, but they had the hanging knot and everything in it. That boy disappeared, that man disappeared ain’t nobody ever heard from him or nothing and he used to visit people around in Shelton. Yeah, didn’t hear nothing of him.Continue to Photographs