We’re not talking here of a script for a TV show or a play, but of a method used by mill owners to compensate its employees. In the 1920s and ’30s, some mills were so short of cash they had to pay workers with such tickets or tokens, which could be exchanged for goods (only) at the mill’s store.
Don Bailey, being a serious collector, is an expert on such things, so we asked him, “How did the scrip system work at Cliffside? Were employees given the tickets in lieu of wages, or what?”
I’m not sure about the situation in Cliffside, but I can make a good guess. Some places—Champion Paper in Canton, for example—actually paid employees in scrip good only at the company store. That was a practice that was hated by employees and I don’t think that ever happened at Cliffside. The more common process was for employees to receive advances against future salary in scrip (thus the Tennessee Ernie Ford song about owing one’s soul to the company store). I suspect that scrip was used this way at Cliffside.
Some mill owners boasted that they used no scrip and always paid in U.S. currency. In some areas scrip was looked down on by everyone, not just the employees.
In South Carolina individual pieces of scrip were called “Loonies,” maybe because if one got advances against future pay they were said to have “loonied out.” It’s pretty clear that everyone understood the dangers of this practice.
When I first moved here I went to Canton to the union hall to try and find some Champion scrip. When I went in I tried to explain that I was looking for tokens. They all seemed confused until someone said, “Oh, he wants ‘doogaloo.’” I didn’t know I wanted it, but that, too, is a common term for scrip.
Don sent us another form of mill scrip for comparison. These coin-shaped tokens were more common, he says. Paper scrip, called “checks,” were not widely used.