Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Farewell to Dan River Mills

Almost unnoticed, the Dan River Inc. textile mill slipped quietly under the waters of the global economy. Dan River was best known for its bed-in-a-bag comforter, bed skirt, and sheet sets. It’s hardly news when a U.S. textile mill ceases production, but this time it feels personal. Virginia-based Dan River filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in 2004, and emerged from bankruptcy a year ago, only to be purchased by an Indian firm this year. The small paragraph in The Washington Post (Metro Section, January 15) read like an obituary: “Plant Closing to Cost 500 Jobs.”

Gujarat Heavy Chemicals, which bought Dan River last month, plans to idle the Virginia mill and move the remainder of production overseas where it is cheaper. Maybe U.S. labor and environmental standards will be applied, but how will we know?

As with Timex, Pfaltzgraff, Levi and others before it, the brand will survive but the American jobs will not. There will still be Dan River comforters and sheets, but they will be made in China, India, and Pakistan. I wonder if consumers will even notice? In March, nearly 500 former Dan River employees will line up at the unemployment office and I will keep reading labels and looking for products still made in USA.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I live in Danville, and I feel your pain. I recently attended the job summit in Danville. I went there in hopes of securing work. It was uplifting with the music and words of hope, up until the part where we were allowed to meet the employers. I was so dissapointed. It was more like a lure for the military, business colleges, and social programs. There were a few employers there actually offering work, such as Good Year Tire and Rubber company. They had 10 jobs that were highly skilled positions. I was allowed to give my resume to a couple, but for the most part I was directed to the temporary agencies. Just having graduated from National College of Business and Technology, 8 months ago, I was thinking I had an edge, and that I would get a job. Sadly, I am 10k in debt now, and still no closer to finding work than I was 2 years ago. It really upsets me to hear President Bush talk about all the jobs that are being created each month, when the fact is, we are losing well paying jobs, and they are being replaced with minimum wage jobs. Dan Rivers closing has destroyed so many families...in the past 24 years, I have lost 4 jobs, because the factories were closed and the work sent overseas. Danville is a dying town, and it seems none of the higher ups really even care. I realize I could probably get a job in Northern Virginia, but lets face it, it takes money to move a family there, and I mean alot of money. My prayers go out to the families of Southern Virginia.

Panorama said...

What a damm Shame. I have always liked Danville. There are alots of real good folks up there. I use to go up for the Harvest Jubillee festival, Listen to music a fish off Ferry road. I always tried to behave myself during the festival so Neal Morris wouldn't get me. I plan to keep coming to Danville.

Travis T Patterson, Jr said...

Your blog about Dan River is intersting. My wife and I grew up in Danville in the 40's & 50's. Danville was thriving with the tobacco industry and Dan River, but the end was in sight because the town "leaders" were not forward thinkers.
When I finished @ UVA I left Danville and never returned to live there, although my parents live out their lives in Danville.

Last year we drove through town on the way to visit our son who lives in Northern Va. and I was saddened by what I perceived to be a dying community, especially the south side. My grandparent's home at the corner of Main & Broad St is now some sort of oriental restaurant which I doubt will survive.

Travis T Patterson, Jr

Anonymous said...

I am a employed with West Point Home, and our plants are being shut down and our jobs lost to this fascist global takeover. Our jobs going to the outsource companies throuout the world. Talk to you State Reps and try to stop this globalist end to the blue coller worker!

Anonymous said...

I was just googling around today wondering what had happened to Dan River Mills, and I'm just heartbroken. I grew up in Danville in the 80's and 90's and it seemed like everyone knew someone who worked at the plant. I remember going downtown and buying linens, imperfects and fabric remnants with my mom. In fact, my entire room was decorated with things I bought from the mill. I remember growing up, if you weren't going to go to college you were going to work there, or at Owens & Brockway or Goodyear, because even though the jobs were drying up, there were still jobs to be had. Reading your entry was like reading an obituary for Danville itself.

Jack Riley said...

Danville was where I spent my childhood summers in the 1970s. My grandfather, Walter Vincent, worked as a manager at Dan River Mills virtually his entire career and retired with the gold watch. I'll never forget walking through the streets of Danville as a child, holding my grandfather's hand, and having what I viewed as old men wave and yell to my grandfather, "Hey Mr. Vincent!" And my grandfather would always say to me, "That boy used to work for me." I always wondered how these "old men" could be boys to my grandfather. His hearing was never that good, and he always attributed it to the din of the machines at the mill. He taught me how he used to give this "Whoop!" to be heard over the machines when he wanted to get one of his worker's attention. I still use that same "Whoop!" to get my children's attention in a noisy environment and it works like a charm. The Vincents lived on Country Club Drive, and Virginia Vincent was very involved in "The Wednesday Club."

Anonymous said...

At 39 years old I am now realizing the danger our country is in. All I can do today is search and pay whatever it takes for American made products. We are giving our power away when we continue to out source all of our products. I have already noticed the price increase of imported products and when we no longer have the resources to make things here we will have to pay whatever they ask.

henry said...

I used to visit a girlfriend up in Danville, so I am familiar with that area. She gave me more than a nickel tour of the town. I remember telling here that it wouldn't be too long before the plant likely closed. I liked it up there. Had many good times and memories. Its a crying shame that the city of Danville lost an important industry. Heartbreaking, really.

Anyone between the age of 35 and 45 is acutely feeling the effects of the great American sellout. We grew up at the peak of American prosperity and are now watching our country slide into the toilet. Thanks to the internet, and sites like these, the inevitable fall has been delayed.

email123four@wmconnect.com said...

I am wondering what happened to the retirement money that workers were vested in and shuld have received monthly pensions from after they reached 65? How would a worker, who departed Dan River prior to there 65th birthday, apply for the pension now that Dan River is gone?

Anonymous said...

I googled my way to your interesting dan river page.I am 61,my parents and grandparents worked at D/R.they threatened me if I mentioned going there,however at 18 I did and lasted 2 days,I knew I would get my education and never return.D/R like many textile and furniture plants controled,fed,educated,buried many in this area.Bricks,lumber,steel from D/R is being recycled into fine homes as we speak all over the country.Politicians of the 50-70s,who slept with D/R refused hwys into Danville therefore eliminating jobs now..FACT..

Brandon said...

My grandmother had 69 years senority with Dan River until her retirement in 2003. She went to work at age 13 for Dan River; back in the depression era; between her and her mother; they have worked for Dan River its entire life. Thats not counting her Mother in Law and her two daughters that worked there. To say Dan River is an important and major part of my family history is an understatement.

Mitch Hester said...

It's Christmas time again and thoughts of old friends,family, along with past work places come to mind. After a few drinks of Wild Turkey tonight,my thoughts of my 5 years with Dan River is bitter sweet. I transfered to Danville from South Carolina in the mid 80's and was there until 1990.My plant manager at the Greenville Woodside plant asked me if I wanted to transfer to Danville since we were closing the Greenville plant.Just a notation, at one time the Greenville plant was the largest weaving operation under one roof in the world and Greenville was known as "THE TEXTILE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD". I think we had 3500 shuttle looms at the time.My plant manager at the time,John Evans, said if I could make it at Dan River in Danville, I could make it anywhere.This was an understatement. I was a Department Manager in Greenville but they started me out on the second shift at Riverside, 5B & C Cardroom.We suppplied roving to the Riverside Spinning and weaving plant across the river.We transported our product by tractors across the largest covered bridge in the southeast,maybe the country.The people that worked at these plants were some of the hardest working people I have ever known.After I proved I could fit in as an outsider from S.C, I was promoted to Schoolfied as the manager of 3 Card. We worked 10 hour days Monday through Friday and 4 hours on Saturday.The highlight of the work day was meeting at the Busy Bee restaurant with Midred and George, the owners, for the coldest draft beer in town to talk about the days activities.The mill was the life of the town.I don't mean the commerce of the town,but the the very lives of the people.Dan River Mills was the topic of almost every conversation.The lack of action to protect our textile industry is unforgiveable.It has impacted so many lives of which many did not recover.I am one of the lucky ones to survive but not in textiles. I started out as a 3rd shift supervisor at Alice Manaufactyring in my hometown of Easley SC in 1979 fresh out of college. I was a 4th generation textile manager and the last generation to understand what an opener,card,roving frame,spinning frame,spooler,warper,slasher,or loom means.I am 50 years old and have worked at Dan River,Delta Mills, and Alice Mnfg. Two are gone and Alice mnfg. is down to two plants from five.I am not sorry I spent more than half my life in the textile industry because it taught me a great work ethic and exposed me to a great group of people. I want to especially thank the following people of Dan River for being my helpful coworkers but more importantly, my great friends for life: Walton Dale Hedrick,Ken Manuel,Bennie Bridges, Kenneth Collins,& Paul Mahaffey. Also, to Charles Clark who passed away I am sure from the stress of Dan River's circumstances, "I think we were too much alike which would explain some of our difficulties but I admired you and what you accomplished". If any old friends read this and want to reach me,please email me at...mitchhester@hotmail.com

screw um said...

I worked for dan river for 27 yrs in the sevierville plant. I am about to purchase my very first new car. I will get either a honda or a mazda, but I will not be buying an American made car. I fell one good turn deserves another. Every time I hear of another factory in America is going out of business I yell hooray!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't help but cry when I read your blog. Danville is my home town. I'm a grandmother now, my parents and their parents, all the way back to the early twentieth century, all supported their families with paychecks from Dan River Mills. How sad to know, even though it was hard work for low wages that it's disappeared now into history.

Ralph West said...

In response to Jack Riley's comment, I hope you have some hopeful information for me. My father, Robert West, was president of the Mills from 1930 to 1940. When he died in 1962 it was decided to give his "Mill" papers to the archives in the executive offices at Schoolfield. Now that the Mills are gone, I would like to retrieve the papers if possible.
Do you know the present office that remains and how I could get in touch? The West family lived at "Cherry Hill" in Pittsylvania County on Vandola Road. Thank you...

John Plott said...

I was raised in Danville during the 70's and into the late 80's. I worked for D/R for 2 months after attending George Washington High School. My Surpervisor gave me great advise "Get hell out of here while you can", he didn't want me to get "stuck there" for the next twenty to thirty years... For many many years the D/R Executives ran Danville too and didn't think about building major highways, especially going east and west. They controlled what was happening in DVA and didn't want competition to step in and run the cost of employment up. This action caused major economic down falls. Did you know, at one point in time Greensboro NC was smaller than Danville? It's true, during the 40's through the 60's people from Greensboro would come to DVA for shopping and entertainment. Now, people from Danville travel to Greensboro.

BUT, I think Danville is going to make it... When we go back to visit, more than likley we go to our old neighborhoods... What we don't realize it almost ALL neighborhoods across the country "Neighborhoods Go down". We need to visit the new areas to get a feel of what's going on. In the last couple of years Danville has received a SAMS CLUB, TARGET, DICKS SPORTING GOODS and a new Movie Theater. The jobs are coming back and I believe the community will survive. There are a lot of smart and wonderful people in that little city and it's coming back, maybe stronger than before. We need to realize that the Textile and Furniture jobs are gone (period) it's time to get over it and move on. America is changing and it will continue too, we either adapt or die. Danville is NOT dead and it will continue to grow.

Bill said...

I also grew up in "The Big D". I moved away in 95 and back to the Martinsville area in 2004. Many of my friends are still in Danville. My Dad worked for research division of DRM. It is really sad to see all the old buildings barely standing. I remember asking my Dad why all the windows in the buildings downtown were blue. He informed me that they did that because of blackouts during the war. I played in various bands during the 60's including the Soulmasters. I remember the dances at the Y. It was called the 1830 club. We also used to play for dances at the old Hotel Danville and 360 Drive in. I still play today in a Danville band called 58 West www.58west.com. Martinsville has not fared any better than Danville with an unemployment rate of 15%. We have given our jobs away in part to corporate greed. I don't know how I stumbled on this blog, but a big thank you to the person that started it. I plan to visit often.

Anonymous said...

The American Dream is dying, all the jobs for the average American are being moved outside of the US. And why, because of big Business and our very own Government. Read this article....

http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2009/02/why_china_needs_us_debt.html

Jack Riley said...

In response to Ralph West's comment (in response to mine), Mr. West, I spoke with my mother, Evelyn Vincent Riley, about your question. She said that although she did not know where the mill papers were, she wished me to express to you that her parents thought very highly of your folks, and that they used to socialize together.

Anonymous said...

This is just planned takeover. In 1969 we went to the moon, we couldn't even do it now, we had the best oil in the world, the best cars in the world '69 camaro 70 challenger, mustang, corvette.
We had the smartest kids in the world, best science in the world, and so the globalists wanted to destroy the american dream which they couldn't destroy with three wars and two planned economic crashes, because the American dream of religious and political freedom is unstoppabl3.
So the invented the poison that would eventually kill America. The globalistic unified product code and demon possesion of global markets to destroy america, jobs and country.
It worked, you cannot buy or sell without worshipping the global merchant beast that wanted to and succesfully destroyed American industry and turned us from PRODUCERS (supplied ALL the worlds oil in 30-40's) to nothing more than CONSUMERS and debt ridden slaves.
Boycott globalism.

Anonymous said...

I always bought the Dan River sheets and would like to know where we can buy anymore like the Watercolor collection. Lost in Michigan.

Anonymous said...

i still could not believe it after 30+ yrs. it feed me my grandma, mother & i . plus later on my son & husband. It hurt me very bad when the plants all close. I spend more time working there than i did at home. Shame overseas people had to take our jobs & lives away from us, after we open our doors to them. BUT THANK TO GOD I AM STILL HERE. Try to keep the faith GOD is always there. GOD BLESS.

Steve Smith said...

I started to work in DRM on Nov.17,1970 at age 14( I lied on my employment app. and stated I was 16 years old) in 1-b weave room in Schoolfield, when we were allowed by law to work 4 hours a night on 2nd shift after school.Most every week I would work 28 to 36 hours even though we were supposed to be limited to 20 hours a week by law.On payday I would receive two checks one for 20 hours and one for the remaining hours and at that time I was making $2.48 cents an hour.On and off I worked at DRM for the next 10 years in just about every department there.!-b weave,8-b dress,card room,dye house,finishing dept.,shipping,carpentry shop and supervision and I credit DRM with the work ethics that have helped me to excel at most every job I have attempted over the past 35 years.When I left DRM for the final time in 1981 at age 24 I swore I would never work in another factory again and I have kept that promise to this day.I realize that we need the factory work for employment in this country,but the realization is that factory work is demanding both mentally and physically and will suck the life right out of you, which is evident in most anyone you know that has made a career of factory life.I spent the first 38 years of my life in Danville and I still have family and many friends that live there but after moving to Florida in 1993 I found out there is life after Danville.