Spinning a Yarn-Textile Style


My Dad explaining his job as a warper tender-from 1940s or 50s

The majority of my working life was spent  in the textile industry, although not actually in the plant. However, during  a span of several years. I worked next to 2 of our plants and visited the plants from time to time.

As is the case with almost all the textile industry in the United States, my company ( Fieldcrest Mills to Fieldcrest Cannon to Pillowtex)  is no more, having bit the dust in 2003 via the bankruptcy courts. The plants were scattered all over the southeastern U. S. but primarily in North Carolina, are no more.

This is still a bit poignant for me since  several my family members were employed at the company at one time or another, including my parents who were production workers in the Fieldcrest Mills Blanket Mill for  many years.

What is quite interesting to me is  that  the company is gone but the brand names live on, having ben purchased by various entities. One in particular  that comes readily to mind is Royal Velvet. I suppose that it would be correct to say that it was the flagship brand of the Bed and Bath Division. The towels sold under the Royal Velvet name were made in  aslant located in the small Virginia town of Fieldale. To say that this was a quality product would be a bit of an understatement. We are still using Royal Velvet products that were  purchased a number of years ago. The irony to me is that to get a towel equal in quality today, one would be required to spend a significant amount of money. The same holds true for bedding products( sheets, comforters, etc) .

Now, about all the former textile giants have in common is bankruptcy and imploded plants. But, as do many others, I remember some of those days when cotton went from the Card Room  to the Spinning Room to Yarn Preparation ( where my parents worked)  and finally to the Weave Room where a recognizable product surfaced.

It is in truth an industry that is gone but that will always be with us.


March 7, 2011 Posted by | Business, Family, History | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dope Wagons and Bottles of Milk

One of the best perks of growing a bit older is reminiscing about days gone by and of course, emphasizing how much better it was then. This thought struck me today in a brief  conversation I had with an older customer on my mail route. And since last weekend when we traveled to my hometown and talked a  bit about days gone by, the past has been very present with me.

Let me hasten to add that there are no illegal substances referred to in the title of this post. Just wanted to clarify that.

Both of my parents were long time  employees of what was then Fieldcrest Mills, Inc, an Eden,Nc based textile manufacturer. Both were production employes in  what was  known simply as the Blanket Mill. She was  a spooler hand and he was a warper tender. Their careers began around  the 1930’s or 40’s and in those days there were no canteens  or break rooms as we know today to take a few moments for  a soft drink or cup of coffee. If my memory is at least partly accurate, the snacks/drinks etc were delivered by a pushcart that made its rounds through the  plant. Again, this next is my recollection of what I was told. The carts were known as dope wagons since they also distributed a variety of headache remedies, a virtual necessity.  Or they might have been called by that name since  a Coke was  at one time known as  a “dope.”Cant prove but I  bet that Goodys, a Richard Petty favorite,  was a popular choice. I actually  have a  hazy memory of touring the plant as a child and being overwhelmed by the pungent aromas coming from the bleachery department.

Part deux of the title  is from a delightful memory I have of home delivery of our  milk by the Pet Milk  man. The empty glass bottles were placed on the porch the night  before I think with  a note “ordering” the milk /juice to be delivered that morning. For many years I thought that Pet was the only milk available . To this day however, I believe that  milk  should  be available only in glass bottles simply because it is  a”proven” fact that it tastes better.

February 28, 2011 Posted by | Culture, History | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Company Store

Many years ago, a talented country western singer name Tennessee Ernie Ford did  a song named Sixteen Tons. If you must know it was 1955 and yes I was around then. In the song he says that”I owe my soul to the company store”. The company store in the  song was owned by a coal mine.  But the imagery always resonated with me since the textile industry (including Marshall Field nee Fieldcrest Mills for whom my parents worked) had the very same thing.

In those days , your house was owned by the mill, you shopped at a mill owned store and so on. Your rent payment grocery bill, etc were deducted from your paycheck. Now the name has been adopted and adapted by any number of businesses to denote a place where one can choose to buy that company’s products. There is even a business named The Company Store. You will search long and hard to find mention of the original company store that all but owned its employees.

Take heart, I believe we may be returning to those halcyon days and this time around we may all have a company store. Yes, folks, the new company store could very well be our beloved federal government, ole Uncle Sam, himself. We may look back in a number of years and wonder what in the world was a private sector.

Alarmist, perhaps but just consider a few things. Today’s USA Today headlined an article that said a majority of the revenue coming to states is from the federal government. More, OK. General Motors is well on its way to becoming Government Motors. Chrysler was basically told to merge with Fiat or else. Banks who have received TARP money are receiving specific dictates from the feds. That will no doubt accelerate.

And, what may be the most telling of all. There is great talk about health insurance reform. Everyone needs it, everyone doesn’t have it and says the President, we are going to do something about that. Like it so far? Hold on a bit.On April 18,, Democrat Representative from Illinois Janice Shakowsky had these things to say about health insurance reform. She is speaking to a group of government run health care supporters. By the way, theses comments met with loud applause.”I know many of you here today are single payer advocates and so am I… and those of us who are pushing for a public health insurance don’t disagree with this goal.This is not a principled fight.This is a fight about strategy for getting there and I believe we will,” so she said. I watched a short video from her speech and it was a bit scary. Wanna give up your private health insurance, you may very well get that choice. By the way, she will probably run for the  U S Senate next election.

Check out Sister Toldjah’s blog for a ling to the video.

May 5, 2009 Posted by | Health, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment