Standard Knitting Mill reunion planned

(WBIR-Downtown Knoxville) Now it's a building with broken windows and an overgrown lot at the corner of Mitchell Street and Washington Avenue downtown. At one time it was a thriving business in Knoxville. It was a place where thousands of people worked to make thread, fabric, and clothes.

Twenty five years after it closed, former workers are planning a reunion.

"I was the youngest in the department when I went in there and they sort of petted me. But I enjoyed every year I put in," Sue T. Walker remembered.

She started at Standard Knitting Mill when she was 16.

"At the beginning you couldn't talk while you were working. We didn't get a break. That was in '46," she said.

The factory was a part of a thriving textile industry in Knoxville. Workers transformed raw cotton into thread, fabric and clothing.

"I started there in the summers of 1952 working in the warehouse to make enough money to buy a car, basically," Harold Finley said.

He and Sue both remember the uniforms. The green uniforms.

"The first one we had had to be starched to look good. You had to wear a belt. It had to be so long. Miss Gleason the nurse made sure it was long. And we went to that in the 60s I think. It's supposed to be wash and wear but you can see it doesn't look good. It needs to be ironed," Sue said.

A friend of Harold's father owned a furniture store.

"(He) told me one time that he loved to see the ladies come in to his furniture store in the green uniforms. He said he knew immediately they were good credit," he said. "A green uniform meant they were a good credit risk."

Back then the Guiding Plan called for church attendance.

Sue said, "At 10:00 we had a prayer. One minute prayer. And that was good."

"As employees and as a company we supported the community," Harold said. "It was like a family. And if anybody had a problems we all got together and helped them. That's what it was about."

The company closed its doors in 1989.

"It put a lot of people out of work because we had 3,300 at one time and I thought it as around 300 when it shut down but it might have been a little more," Sue said.

Harold said, "Working for Standard was a great experience and the people were so great. It was just... the friendships were good."

They renew those friendships every year at a reunion. Attendance has declined over the years.

"We have so many deaths and people are sick and not able to come but it's always a joy to see everybody," Sue said.

Their 25th reunion is August 2nd. No reservation needed. Just show up from 11:00 to 2:00 at the O'Connor Senior Center.

"It was a the place to work, it really was. So we miss it," Harold said.


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