Boss employees #8216;remember when#039;
Once upon a time, the world's largest manufacturer of gloves was located in the Camellia City.
Though the sprawling red brick buildings on E. Commerce St. in Greenville stand empty and abandoned now, the place once hummed with activity. Hundreds of workers filed through its gate each day, as many as 1,200 at peak times. High school and college students worked at the factory to earn extra money during their vacation times.
Reigel Textiles took over the former hat factory building in 1951 during the post-war manufacturing boom. Ten years later, Boss Manufacturing moved in, its workforce making gloves that were shipped around the world for nearly 50 years.
After relocating to the local industrial park in 1982, the plant finally closed its doors in 2000.
Half a century and thousands of employees leave behind a lot of memories.
Approximately 125 former Reigel-Boss employees and their family members gathered to share those memories and some good southern cooking last weekend at the Boys and Girls Club at Beeland Park in Greenville.
It was the group's annual reunion, held the first Saturday after Labor Day each September.
An amazing array of dishes, from fried chicken and ham to mac n' cheese, country vegetables and casseroles, along with mouth-watering cakes, pies and cobblers were prepared and brought for everyone to enjoy.
Cameras flashed, hand fans were passed around for keepsake signatures and smiles and laughter abounded as the reunion attendees “remembered when.”
“It was a blessing for Butler County. I was able to provide for all my girls. In those days, we had to buy their schoolbooks, their lunches - nothing was free. Boss got a lot of kids through school around here,” Freddie Kennedy Perdue said as she shared hugs and hellos with fellow former workers from her wheelchair.
“Besides, it's where we gained all our fame and fortune,” the senior citizen added with a twinkle in her eyes.
Maxine Farnham, who traveled from the Montgomery area to be at the reunion, said it wasn't easy “getting up, getting the food cooked, packed and ready for the trip south to be there by 9:30 a.m.”
However, it was worth the effort.
“It's just nice to see folks again. I'm glad to be here,” Farnham, who began working at Boss more than 53 years ago, said.
Farnham didn't come the greatest distance, however.
Willie Stringfellow came all the way from Pace, Florida, event organizer O'Neil Kennedy pointed out.
“Now, if Miss Willie came come from Florida, surely more of our folks from around here came make the effort to be here,” Kennedy said.
Vera Reeves, proud to be recognized as the oldest former employee there, said she is happy she is still able to get out and about at age 91.
“I remember milking the cows and doing the chores at homeŠmy daughter would bring home a bunch of her girlfriends from school and I would cook for them all,” Reeves recalled.
“I taught Sunday School at the Spring Creek Church, all the work at home and I still was at work at 7:30 in the morning at the factory. Those were busy days.”
Dorothy Mahan, who worked at the glove plant for approximately 17 years between 1972 and 2000, is glad for the opportunity to see familiar faces each year at the reunion.
“It's so nice to see everyone. Of course, many have already gone on. It's just a blessing to see the ones who are still here - and they are looking good,” Mahan said with a nod of approval.
Kennedy, who likened the event to a “good ol' Baptist eatin' meetin' with all that ham and chicken,” was pleased with the turnout. He hopes even more will make an effort to attend the event in 2007.
“We are losing folks, but there are still a lot of folks out there and we'd like to have them here with us.”
While everyone did not sign up as they arrived at the reunion, here are some of those attending last weekend's event:
Barbara Middleton, Betty Morrison, Dorothy Hughes, Betty Brook, Ruth Duncan, Betty Adams, Agnes Stuart, Lois Martin, J.W. McCullough, Barbara McCullough, Mavis Sawyer, Edna Snow, Charles Wright, Laura Miller, Mary Frances Quates, Martha Skipper, Mavis Newton, Annie Merle Hall, Letha Sipper, Beulah Thompson, Sarah J. Powell, Cathy Adams, Opal Williams, Mary B. Register, Gladys Gregory, Gloria Hartley, Zula Andress, Mildred Register, Willie Stringfellow, her daughter, Shirley Campbell and granddaughter Claudia Jandran, Tina Hayes, Will Hayes, Mary Jones, Ruby McCormick, Bettye Gafford, Vera Reeves, Merlene Folds, Clois Paige, Voncile Gandy, Dorothy Myrick, Sybil Vaughn, Freddie Perdue, Maxine Farnham, Erin Landson, Winford Landson, Bill Manning, Mary Hudson, Charlotte Spann, Lillie Black, A.C. Long, Marilyn Malisham, Lakneaw Williams, Glenda Cook, Mary Grace, Lula Pearl Hall, Celestine Owens, Ada Lee Williams, Bolling Phelps, Earl Phelps, Pauline Smith, Cora Carter, Patricia Mosley, Nadine Bell, Emmett Bell, Daisy Bell, Dorothy Mahan, Eula Mack, Kenneth Cherry, O'Neil Kennedy, Dennis Lowery, Virginia Lowery and Annie Crenshaw.