Tiller, Grissett: Alatex affected almost all

Published 11:55 pm Friday, January 17, 2014

Rosalyn Tiller and Gail Grissett recounted years working at Alatex.

Tiller said she started there in 1947, “on the low end of the ladder.”


“I would stitch the cuff down, and that was the last operation before the examiners.”

She explained that shirts were made in an assembly line.

“The first one, she would join backs and two fronts. At the next operator, the collar would be added. Then an inserter would do the sleeves. Then it went to the side fellas and a cuff runner. And I stitched it down.”

When she was promoted, it was her job to make sure the work flowed. She worked there for four years before moving to quality control when that division was started.

“My fourth round was the personnel office,” she said. “If you don’t have any idea of dealing with people, we had about 1,200 employees, and we kept a personal record on every one of them.”

She worked there for 20 years, and she memorized the numbers associated with most of the 1,200 employees. There were no computers, and all records were kept by hand.

“After that, I went on to the switchboard, and I was on that for 14 years,” she said.

She answered 13 incoming lines.

“I answered ‘Alatex’ for many years,” she said. “Then, we went on to Cluett Peabody. A guy called in, and I said ‘Cluett Peabody.’ He said, ‘What you gone do my body?’

“I told him, ‘Sir, I don’t have a clue. But who would you like to speak to?”

Tiller said she took advantage of an early retirement offer, and retired from the plant in her early 60s. But she needed something to do, and later worked with Roger Powell in youth services.

Gail Grissett began working at Alatex in 1958, and was the plant manager when it closed in 1992.

She said when she was hired, she requested a job “by myself.”

“I didn’t want to be in an operation with two or three before me,” she said. “”He put me on examining. My job was not doing very well and my operators were not making quota.

“I wanted to work very bad, so I had work that out,” she said. “I worked real hard. Paul Enzor was the engineer at that time, and I was out there to make money. He would reward us with little gifts. He started off with silver dollars.

“I was so happy to earn silver dollars,” she said. “Miss Jessie worked behind me and she needed help. I work real hard, and I had extra tickets she needed.

“She always wanted to pay me for her tickets,” she said, adding that it was strictly against company policy to do that.

“The first time I did that (gave her tickets), she brought me a salmon and biscuit,” Grissett recalled. “She Must really have liked salmon and biscuit, because she brought me one every day.”

Later, Grissett became an instructor, and then a supervisor before eventually being promoted to plant manger.

Eighty to 90 percent of the company’s employees were women.

Grissett said the final plant closing in 1992, “was just heartbreaking for all of us.” “The employees were just so sad,” she said. “It was a bad thing for town, and the county as well. Alatex helped me raise my family. Most everybody in town was touched by it some way.”

Ab Powell recalled that there were men who considered it their jobs to pick up women who worked at Alatex when the shift ended at 4:30, especially on pay day.

“They called themselves the go-getters,” he said. “Their job was to go get their wives … and their paychecks.”