HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Most of us know Lowe Mill as an arts center in Huntsville, but before it was one of the biggest private arts facilities in the country, it was a textile mill. Former mill workers got together on Saturday for the “Second Annual Workers Reunion.” It was a time for the workers to tell stories, look at old photos, and reminisce about the years they spent making boots for soldiers during the Vietnam War.
“Here we have a cotton field fading into gingham fabric,” Logan Tanner pointed at the 320 square foot mural in front of him. “They grew some cotton here and they spun it into fiber and made it into fabric.” Tanner is proud of his his latest masterpiece at Lowe Mill. The mural took him three weeks to complete and shows the history of the building. However, it shows more than just that. It shows the life the workers used to live.
“It was hard work,” said Stanley Keith, the last manager at the mill before it closed down. “But it was during a time that jobs weren’t all that available back in the early 50’s and 60’s, so it served its purpose during that time.”
“We had a good time,” said Geraldine Walker. “We worked hard, we didn’t make any money but we had a good time.”
Sisters sat together at a table in the middle of the room. “This is Shirley,” one of them pointed at a old photograph. “And this is Annette Moon, she worked in the office also, she worked the switchboard.”
The photographs filled up the tables. It had been years since some of them have seen each other. “Who is this? ” one of the sisters asked the other. “Margaret Sexton,” she replied. “Oh! Margaret Sexton. Everybody knew Margaret.”
“Several people were able to recognize each other,” said Sharon Singletary, the Lowe Mill historian. “We even had a woman who was a child when her father worked here and she was able to pick him out of one of the photographs of a fishing trip.”
“It was like a family out here,” said Houston Wilburn. “I really enjoyed it.”
When the mill closed the doors in the late 1970’s, Stanley Keith was the plant manager. “When we closed, we had between 800 and 900 people working here and most of them ended up finding better jobs,” said Keith. “I did and most other people did,” he laughed.
While the workers moved on with their lives, the mill remained behind. It changed hands, and eventually became the arts center it is today. “I was afraid of what happened to other cotton mills, they catch on fire and they can’t put them out, they burn and then they collapse,” said Keith. “I’m proud Hudson has taken over it and is making good use of it, that tickles me really.”
“It’s just really neat to see that it’s being utilized and not torn down,” agreed Shirley Thompson. “Because this has got a lot of memories, a lot. This is part of the Old Town.”