Yarn from the Mill Hill

Stories from the past that reminds all us of an era in which most of us grew up in….those days when life was less complicated and ‘Like a Family” so aptly described the environment of life on the mill hill. We encourage you to submit your stories for posting on this site and inclusion in an upcoming compilation of Mill Village Stories. Send your stories to dhark1@charter.net


Jack Briggs, Camperdown

(Jack is not a native Camperdowner. He strayed from another local mill hill in pursuit of one of our good-looking girls. When he married her, well, we just adopted him.)

The first place that I visited at Camperdown was Falls Street. Only a few short blocks long, it contained those things that were necessary to keep the community going. At one time, there were two grocery stores, two cafes, a barber shop, two garages, a boarding house, the Pepsi Cola plant, a news distribution, a used car lot, a liquor store and, of course, Camperdown Mill. Just around the corner, was the city jail, Red Shield Club and the newspaper. Each of these had a direct tie to the community. Most of the people who worked there lived at Camperdown. Several of the buildings had rooms upstairs where people lived. Over all, it was a very tight-knit area.

Two of the businesses were the hub on which everything seemed to rotate: “The Cat Dive” and Blythe Jones’ Barber Shop. The Falls Street Lunch building contained two popular destinations: “The Cat Dive” and Falls Street Soda Shop, also called “The Kitty Dive”. The soda shop was a favorite place for families and the youth. In addition to treats from the fountain, you could order food from next door. It was passed through a small window in the wall.

There was very little that happened in the community that was not known and shared in those two locations or the barber shop; a visit to either would bring you up to date. The Lowes, Eston Thompson and Skinny Hunter were always ready to provide good service. Jack and Hazel Tucker (Noah Lowes’ daughter) operated the soda shop. At Blythe Jones’ Barber Shop, you could get a shave, haircut and shower, along with all the news. Haircuts were 35 cents, shaves a quarter. Showers were available in the back: a luxury unknown in the mill village houses. Eventually, every male would visit the shop. In addition to Blythe, William Marchbanks and John Brumley were available to keep you looking sharp. Walking in, you were greeted by name. It smelled of Lucky Tiger and other hair tonics…some you could smell a block away. In addition, William repaired and sold watches. There was usually a group around the shop. The older men talked of the way it used to be; the youngsters often boasted of the way it was going to be. Things were never as good or as bad as they made them out to be, but they enjoyed their time together.

In the summer, it was not unusual to find families enjoying goodies from the soda shop. Next door, a different atmosphere included people having a cool one. In the back, some very intense pool games were being played. At times (Saturday nights), the outside activities resulted in a visit from and a trip to the Police Station located just a few blocks away. All-in-all, I found Falls Street a very fascinating place.


Angie Williams Stacks – Camperdown

(For many years, Angie’s Mother ran the Camperdown Mills Company boarding house)

I remember when bells and whistles ruled our days. Bells on Sundays and whistles on weekdays.

On Saturday nights (when Jack and I were little), we got our baths in a wash tub in front of the coal fire, and most of the time, our regular dose of castor oil (ugh). Mama polished our shoes, laid out our clothes and prepared our offering envelopes. Sunday morning, the first bell at Second Baptist Church (Riverside then) rang at 9:30. We had 20 minutes to dress because we had to be ready to hit the sidewalk at 9:50 bell and we had better be in our seats when the 10 o’clock bell signaled the beginning of Sunday School. Another bell rang at 11:00 for “church” as we called the worship service. Mr. Henry Goodwin is the only one I can remember pulling the rope on that treasured Gtone bell.

Monday morning, the Camperdown whistle blew a 6:30 warning. The 7 o’clock whistle brought all the machinery to life. We hurried home to lunch between the 12 noon and 12:30 whistles. Not much time, but we made it. At least, it was a fresh-air break from the hard work.

It never occurred to us to complain about the noise; we depended on those bells and whistles for many years.


Louise Strange Smith – Monaghan

A Happy Time in my Life

A happy time in my life was growing up in a five-room bungalow on 19 Speed Street, Monaghan. My father and mother were hardworking, good Christians. Daddy always had a big, beautiful garden. He planted corn, peas, squash, green beans, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, peanuts, strawberries, grapes, figs and an apple tree. Of my favorite memories are daddy and I graveling Irish potatoes in the soft, rich soil. Finding the potatoes to me was like finding a treasure. Pulling up the peanuts and laying them to dry was fun, too. Mother had lots of pretty flowers and a big, mean rooster and man fat hens. Daddy raised hogs. I liked watching the men at hog-killing time. We always had plenty to eat. We had a big wood-burning stove to cook on. We had an icebox with a drip pan to catch water. The iceman brought a block of ice to the house. We had an outhouse at the back alley: no commode inside. We boiled water and took baths in a big tin tub. On Mondays mother washed clothes, always boiling white and bedclothes in a big, black wash pot with fire underneath it. Not to waste water, the whole house was scrubbed. When mother was working in the mill, a black woman stayed with me and did the cooking. Her name was Mattie Hellar. We listened to the radio and danced a lot. She loved music. I loved Mattie and dancing and playing. Mattie and I would walk up the back alley to Mr. Shelton’s at the golf course and buy a RC Cola and a Moon Pie. Mattie was a wonderful cook. Her chocolate meringue pie was to die for. My cousin. Katherine would play the piano in the afternoon. She always played “Red Sails in the Sunset”. I would sit on the front porch and cry for my mother. To this day, I still don’t like “Red Sails in the Sunset”.

Louise Strange Smith…2007