Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Another Mill Hill Story

I've reminisced on several occasions about life on a "Mill Hill" and, for the most part, with favorable remarks. In the beginning the company owned the houses and to live in one of their houses you had to work at the mill. My recollections of life on the mill hill was after the company had sold the houses to the employees. Therefore, I didn't have to worry about our family being kicked out of our house (not that I was old enough to have ANY worries) nor do I remember any of my friends being kicked out of theirs. I'm not sure how it was decided who bought each house but I think that the family that lived in the house had first choice to purchase it. If they declined then I would assume it went out to the bid process and seniority within the company probably played a role in who was awarded the house. I do know that my brother and sisters were born before the houses were sold and lived in at least one other house besides the one we lived in when I came along.

Now, to be fair, let me relate a not so favorable story about mill hill living that happened in another mill village to a member of my family. My mother's family lived in Lyman which was newer than Tucapau (Startex) by 25 or 30 years. It was set up the same in that the mill owned the houses, and everything else in the community. The houses were rented to employees and the rent was taken out of their pay as was the case in Tucapau (Startex). So, my mama and her siblings grew up in the mill hill way of life as did my daddy, only a different mill hill. I'm not sure what year the houses were sold in Lyman but I know it was after 1949, which brings me to my story.

Pacific Mills in Lyman was opened somewhere around 1923 or 1924 and my Grandaddy Gresham was hired to help start up production at the mill. Up until then, I've been told, he worked in a textile mill in the Piedmont area between Greenville and Anderson. My Uncle Larry was the baby of five children and, since I'm not sure of his birth year, was either a very small baby or born right after their move to Lyman. So, when they moved to Lyman they had five kids or did soon after the move. Since the mill village was brand new I'm sure the move was made for better living conditions and better wages. I don't know if they lived in more than one house during their time in Lyman but I do know that the last house they lived in was on Ridge Road, which is the street where the department supervisors lived.

Grandaddy worked in the mill for some twenty five years. All of his children had grown, married and moved out of the home place on Ridge Road by the begining of WWII. My grandmother, we called her Bama, like most women of that era, was a housewife that had never worked outside of the home. With five small children and no day care centers in those days what else could women do? In 1949, both of my grandfathers died within two weeks of each other. Since Bama didn't work for Pacific Mills the company evicted her from the house she had lived in, and reared her family in, for twenty five +/- years. She had no where to go or no means of income to provide a roof over her head or to put food on the table. She lived with her children who supported her. I don't know which ones she stayed with or how long she stayed with each. I do know that she lived with us for a while and my brother and sister have vivid memories of her during this time period. She died in 1957 when I was might near (that's mill hill for "close to") two years old. I have no recollection of her, which is sad, because from the stories that I've heard, she was a pistol and very fun to be around. All of the Greshams must have taken after her because that's how I remember my mother, her sister and all of her brothers. Fun people. This is one case where the company took care of their employees but didn't have much compassion for the families of the people who gave many years of service to it or, in some cases, died for it.

On a good note, Uncle TB, Mama's oldest brother, was able to purchase the home place on Ridge Road in the mid sixties when it came on the market from the original owner who purchased it from the company. It was nice to have the family Christmas get togethers every year in the house where my Mama and her brothers and sister grew up. My Aunt Plennie still lives there today.

As I mentioned above, both of my grandfathers died in 1949. Since my other grandmother, Mama West, was the Post Mistress at the Startex Post Office and it was, at that time, owned by the company, she was considered an employee and was allowed to stay in her house. At least that's the way I figure it worked out. I don't know for sure since I was still six years away from breathing at the time.

This is just a little bit more trivia from the WestHouse. Thanks for listening to me ramble.


Sheila said...

I love this post. I have a copy of the paperwork where my grandparents rented their mill house from Jackson. It was a 4-room house and the rent was 25 cents per room per month.

Steve said...

Like your post. I also lived in a Mill House for some years, I think I paid 8 bucks a month. I still work at the same Mill, but the houses are long gone. They tore them down and gave the land to the city.

colbymarshall said...

I love that you call her "Mama West"...cute :-)