Love, Blood, And The Shirt Factory…

August 13, 2015

This was what we always called it. The formal name of Byrd Manufacturing very seldom crossed our lips. Twenty-six miles one way from our house, my mother made her way to the plant in “Twinkle Town” for around two or three years. She didn’t drive, so she carpooled and in that fifty-two mile round trip she made our living.

Although a manufacturer of men’s shirts, I remember her also talking about ladies blouses, pajamas, and short sets. The beehive of mostly women workers earned their paychecks to live their daily lives in whatever custom their lot in life afforded them. Mama had worked there before and when she and her younger sister went to apply, the people already knew them. My mother was over the age they were looking for, but she looked years younger. The hiring manager was a man and he actually told her this. He put her back to work.

She didn’t sew, but inspected garments for package readiness. She learned to break a collar, and look for sewing flaws like extra buttonholes, or if the garment didn’t hang correctly. This was knowledge she stored away and brought out with every future clothing purchase. Once, she was tying blouse bows and her supervisor brought over one of the big bosses from up North. Mama thought she was in trouble, but they wanted to see how she made her bows. They gave her a blouse and she flipped it around opposite from how she received it, thereby solving the mystery of how she was able to tie such a pretty bow. Afterwards, it was standard procedure. Such a simple concept and Mama had managed to grasp what no one else had.

She would talk about how at lunch she would take her Dr. Pepper and pour  a package of peanuts into the bottle. How the supervisors would make a lot of the women cry and that some of their nerves were shot. Her own words were something in the neighborhood of, “They’ll never make me/ see me shed a tear.” and to my knowledge, she never did.

Her hands began to take offense at the fabric dyes. They would crack and bleed and she would put ointment on them prescribed by the doctor. I remember sitting in her lap scratching the parched skin in her palms with my tiny fingers and she would say how good it felt. Years later when I was grown, we talked about her days there. She said my Nanny (her mother) told her, “You said you would work for them until your hands bled and now you have.” She did exactly that. She loved us and bled for us at the Shirt Factory.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: