Saturday, September 3, 2016

THE CABOT MILL...

It started out in the 1700s as a small trading post, but by 1809 it was known as the Brunswick Cotton Manufacturing Company. The mill, powered by the Androscoggin River and the falls at Pejepscot, made yarn for textile manufacturing.
It changed its name a few times as it expanded—Maine Cotton and Woolen Factory, Warumbo Company, and, finally, Cabot Manufacturing Company.  In the 1930s, more than 1,000 people worked in this mill, running the machinery that produced textiles.
In the mid-1950s, when I was a child living in the area, it was the Verney Mill, and both textiles and shoes were manufactured there, pulling power from the river, dumping waste back in; I remember to this day the smell of the river, the sight of yellow-brown riverfoam on the front lawn of our house on days the wind was right.
And I remember the rumble and thump of the machinery and shake of the sidewalks whenever you walked by; the feeling went through your shoes and into your feet, right up to your knees.
          It was dreadful.
         
I had friends whose parents worked in the mill, first- and second-shift parents (sometimes one on each shift just to make sure one parent could be home most of the time: I didn’t appreciate that sacrifice until I was much older). Somebody’s mother told me once that, during WWI and WWII, there were three shifts of workers: That mill ran all day and all night; children were awakened in the morning by one parent, put to bed by the other parent, and watched over by grandparents or neighbors while their parents slept.



Everything’s different now.
The river is clean (we even have fish again!) and the building itself has been renovated; floors have been refinished, walls painted, windows replaced. There are shops and artists’ studios and restaurants—even a farmers’ market in the winter, a high-end antique business and a gigantic flea market all year round!
         

But sometimes, when the light is just right and I find myself in one of the lower level hallways, I can still hear the rumble, feel the shake and rattle of that machinery.

12 comments:

  1. In olden times "the old mill" meant some rustic water powered grain mill. Today the "old mill" is a gigantic derelict building with ghostly echos of industry. Many of those mills in the northeast moved to the Carolinas where they've become abandoned yet again when businesses moved to China. With enough tourists, the lucky communities convert the mills into brew pubs and gluten-free cafes, which are generally less noisy.

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    1. I find it fascinating that we manage to find ways to utilize these old manufacturing sites...and I'm glad to frequent them!

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  2. I enjoyed your evocative memories of the sights and sights of the mill - and it complements my post so well.

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    1. Maybe we should collaborate more often, Sue!

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  3. What Mike said reminds me that I live next to Swannanoa, NC; that's the site of the former Beacon Blanket Factory, and a friend of mine is making a film about the factory and has interviewed many of the former workers. The worker's old houses still abound in the community but the mill itself burned down around 10 years ago.

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    1. We've lost workers' housing too, Barbara. There's a highway that runs beneath our Maine Street (the "e" is intentional); I remember when they demolished the row housing along there.

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  4. Great memories. I was thinking the same as Mike, before reading his comment. We don't have the factories and mills now, but the goods we enjoy have to be made somewhere, and the conditions for workers in places like India and China are still deplorable.

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    1. And it's shameful that we exploit those workers -- the USA is right up there...

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  5. How nice the building has been renovated & is once again in use - albeit a happier sort of use these days. I remember the awful smell of San Francisco Bay - especially on the eastern side where many factories operated - before it was cleaned up. We'd come down University Ave. in Berkeley on our way to cross the bay on the bridge. We'd top a bit of a rise & just before we could actually see the bay, we could smell it & quickly pinched our noses shut & breathed through our mouths till we got to the bridge where the bad smell slowly dissipated. Ugh!

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    1. I think everybody who grew up in a factory town knows that smell, Gail! It's pretty nasty, for sure! Thank goodness for Clean Air & Water Acts, eh?

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  6. Oh I felt a shudder at your last sentence. We do so often think of old mills in a romantic way, but you have reminded us that they are just another industrial blot on the landscape, usually with rich mill owners exploiting the wretched workers.

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    1. Well, this old mill is, no longer, an "industrial blot." Love that phrase -- absolutely right on target! This old Cabot Mill is thriving on a whole new level...

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