2015-12-19 / The Bullhorn

Dedicated employee, until it came to Sundays

By Carly Long
Bullhorn Report er

In 1949, a 17-year-old Garland Carver began work as a doffer in the Roxboro Cotton Mill. He worked alongside numerous other men and women, removing and replacing spindles. They were just one key in the overall production of thread.

Carver recalls “long hours of working and sweating” every day for five days a week. Until the 1960s, there was no air conditioning in the mill and Carver claims it would be up to 110 degrees on a good day in the summer. He worked the third shift, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., for many years, until his daughter was born. Then his work schedule was adjusted to first shift, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., to allow him to be home at night with his wife and child.

Carver’s family lived in the mill houses provided by his employer. He remembers when the rent for his and his wife’s apartment was only $46 a year. The payment would be taken out of his salary, along with the cost of coal sold by the mill to heat the houses. When their family expanded, Carver purchased a house from the mill for only $4,000. His and his family’s whole life revolved around the mill.

All of their social life was based in the mill. Carver’s parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and brothers worked there. His neighbors and friends were also co-workers. The events and baseball games he went to were thrown by the mill. Almost all ties led back to work.

“The Lord was with me in the mill,” said Carver, as he shared his story about a memory from work. One day, while working the doff, Carver said he was watching the spindles be picked up by a large claw-like machine and then carried to a grinder to be broken apart.

“I was talking to my cousin,” who also worked in the mill alongside Carver, “and next thing I knew, the claw was around my head,” he said.

He was being carried toward the grinder machine with the cotton.

“The arms of the claw should have gone right through my head, I should have been ground up; I just knew I was going to die,” Carver explained. “I couldn’t do anything but ask the Lord for my life, and for some reason, he answered.”

All of a sudden, the machine miraculously turned off and Carver was able to free himself from its grip. He said the event only strengthened his connection with the Lord.

In 1999, when the mill began scheduling Carver to work on Sundays, he chose to retire.

“I couldn’t choose to go to work over church; Sundays are the Lord’s day,” he said.

Though his work ended, Carver and his family continued to live in the mill houses and witnessed the mill closing, the neighborhood’s expansion, and the transformation to Roxboro Community School.

Since he was unable to get an education in his youth, Garland Carver said he was happy to see the conversion of the mill to a school, and wished something like it was around when he was growing up.

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