A souvenir edition woven labelPublished 10:15am Thursday, February 9, 2012
When I moved the bookmark in my Bible a few days ago, I thought, “This is a good subject for a column.”
Pictured nearby is the 2 x 6-inch woven label commemorating mankind’s first walk on the moon. Aunt Mildred gave it to me shortly after that event, and I have used it in my Bible ever since.
The colorful silk label was made here in Columbus by people at the Southern Woven Label mill (now Searcy’s). Lonnie Hall Jr., came here with the mill as its superintendent and he hired Gordon Hedrick as general manager and my Aunt Mildred as office manager. Aunt Mildred had Lonnie give me a grand tour of the facility on one of my visits, and I was much impressed by the punched cards that controlled the looms to make programmed images and lettering.
The card system was invented by one Joseph-Marie Jacquard in 1801 and was the precursor of the punched cards used by IBM computers a century and a half later. Lonnie says they called the machine that punched the rectangular holes in the cards a “piano machine” because of its keyboard for the operator. The cards were laced together by heavy twine and fed to the loom as a continuous belt.
The woven silk labels went into fine garments, as opposed to much cheaper printed labels for lesser garments. In time, the woven labels were made for less in the Far East and the demand for the American-made labels fell off. The mill went from three shifts and more than a hundred employees to only one shift, and finally there was not enough demand for their labels to keep the plant open. They had added printed labels to their product line, but too late to stem the tide.
Aunt Mildred found employment after Adams-Millis and Southern Woven Label as a freelance private accountant for individuals living in Our Area. Lonnie also became largely self-employed as well and has survived his loving wife of many years.
I met Lonnie again soon after I retired and moved back here to live. I saw him in his driveway, tuning up an MG for his son in college. Since I was driving my MG, I pulled in to visit and we renewed our acquaintance. Lonnie had a big garden behind his house at that time, so I asked him to plow up a garden spot on my lot in Holly Hill. That did not work out because it was “new ground” and also did not get full sun all day. As with my present lot in “The Woods,” there were too many trees. As the ol’ timers say, “The only thing that will grow under an oak tree is another oak tree.”
While visiting with Lonnie to flesh out this column and get it right, I discovered that he had served in the Army Air Corps as a mechanic in WWII. He helped to keep both B-17s and B-29s flying off Guam. We discussed at some length our favorite, the sturdy B-17 Flying Fortress, that seemed always to bring its crews safely home to roost after being shot full of holes and even rammed by fighters! The B-29 was another story, unfortunately… its engines caught fire too often, and more planes were lost in training and in accidents than were lost to enemy action.
Both Adams-Millis and Southern Woven Label brought a measure of prosperity to Polk County, enabling many people to buy a house and even their first new car. The big buildings are quiet now, and young people do as I did and seek their fortunes elsewhere. I am happy that my Fran agreed to retire here in God’s country, nestled in the foothills of my beloved mountains, right between the apples and the peaches.