Why do we always seem to put off doing things “until the right time”?
I learned a valuable lesson (I hope) this weekend by finally taking photos of the abandoned Dover Yarn Mill in Pineville, NC. My parents worked most of their lives in this mill so my sisters and I could have a good life.
This mill was built in 1894 and was finally closed in the late 1980’s. In it’s heyday, it was the heartbeat of the community and main source of income for many of the families in Pineville and one of the largest manufacturers of corduroy in the country. It now stands as an ugly eyesore that is not only sad to look at, but is a stark reminder of how a once thriving cotton industry in the south is but a faint memory.
My dad used to take me to the mill on occasion to let me experience an operating cotton mill and show me the process from raw cotton bails to the finished product. My dad started his career fresh from the Navy in WWII working at the Receiving Department and when he retired he was the Director of Training & Orientation and was sought out for consulting work. My mom worked in the office for many years but opted for a change and became a Supervisor over Inspection. Yes, I grew up in a mill village where almost everyone was kin, and if they weren’t you still called your elders Aunt or Uncle.
So that gives you a little background and lets you know that that mill is part of who I am. I wish I had been able to photograph and document the entire life of the mill. My regret is that I waited this long to photograph it since the current owner has stripped everything of historical value from it and caused quite a bit of anger and controversy.
Saturday my friend and photography buddy, Curt Hathaway, called me and said he needed some creative inspiration. We were trying to figure out where to go and I couldn’t think of anything around here until on the way to the supermarket I passed the mill. Ok that’s it! I stopped and talked to the guy there and got permission for us to visit, called Curt and the results are below.
As Curt and I wandered through the mill, I was lamenting the changes, and in my mind I was seeing a room filled with machines that were turning cotton into corduroy. All we physically saw were empty buildings. I could close my eyes and see all those people, including my mom and dad, who had spent their entire lives working in this now heartless mill. I can still hear those whistles that blew at 7:00 a.m, 12 noon and 3:00 p.m. letting everyone in the village know it was time to go to work, eat lunch and go home.
Why had I waited until it was basically destroyed to photograph it? Well to put it mildly, I saw it everyday and I kept thinking I’ll stop by and get permission to go in and photograph it, but I never did. Now the owner is tearing down parts of it and I realized that my time is running out.
It was bittersweet because I kept thinking to myself, why, why did I wait so long? and yet I’m glad that Curt called and gave me the opportunity to finally get inside and take some photos.
Lesson learned…quit putting off that photography trip or that abandoned piece of history that meant something to you or someone you’re close to because tomorrow it may be gone.
As a little bonus, when Curt and I were walking up the receiving ramp I had a moment of seeing my dad. I pointed out a spot where a photo of him and a guy that worked for him was taken in the 50’s which I decided to include in my photos.If you are interested in seeing a cottonmill in production click here