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Burlington Industries employees reunited for reunion

Burlington Industries employees reunited on Oct. 20 to reminisce.


In Johnson City, many large employers have come and gone, as Johnson City has typically been the commercial center for Washington County, Tennessee. Burlington Industries is no different.

Burlington, who purchased Gloria Rayon in the 1930s, filled the void and pockets of many workers through its history. Closing the early 21st Century, after approximately 75 years in business, the Burlington Plant on McKinley Road in Johnson City served the purpose of making fabric used throughout the world on large looms that could transform simple thread into beautiful works of art.

Approximately 15 years after the plants closing, employees of the plant recently reunited for their second reunion in many years on Saturday, Oct. 20.

This reunion was special for the 60 plus employees who attended. After its closing, Marvin Carter purchased “the mill,” as employees affectionally call it. Since that time, Carter has transformed it into the Burlington Business Park. This park has many loft style apartments as well as storage rental units and restaurant and store space.

Employees of the old mill got to see the renovations and reflect on their memories of their time spent at work.

Martha Swift affectionately told of times when “young girls” went to work in the 1940s and 1950s, and did not understand how to take care of their feet. She said, “We went to work and wore our bobby socks and tennis shoes and walked all over this plant. I guess that’s the reason some of us have trouble walking today.”

Sylvia Bowser remembered working 2nd shift for 6 years cleaning offices before moving on to other duties at the plant, while her niece, Margaret Rhudy, also worked at the plant.

Pictures were also brought to help derive memories of the past. Looking at a photo that depicted several office staff,

Bob Sams asked Elaine Cantrell, if she remembered a photo which she was in. She said, “yes, that’s the day I retired.”

Cantrell along with seven other employees were honored before the plant’s closing for working 50 plus years at the plant. Cantrell who began her career reading pick clocks and reporting production among other duties in 1945 at the age of 17, retired in 1996 at the age of 68, for a total of 51 years.

Cantrell told those in attendance how many people don’t ever make it that long in one job.

Fifty years in one job is almost unheard of today. Yet, many at Burlington worked hard, developed bonds, and friendships that have lasted well past the typical work life.