Posts Tagged mill

Christmas on the Mill Village.

When mother and dad still worked at Abney Cotton Mill and we lived on Woodruff Street, Christmas was very special.

Every year my sister and I were in the Christmas pageant at Northside Baptist Church just a few doors away from our house. There was always a huge Christmas tree in the sanctuary. I was always a shepherd or wise man which required wearing my bathrobe.  One year while waiting to go to the church, I got too close to our heater and burned a hole in my shepherd’s bathrobe. It didn’t matter to anyone but my sister who was in charge of me. I knew that she wouldn’t tell our parents.

After the pageant and the congregation singing of a lot of Christmas carols, Santa Claus came and everyone from the oldest to the youngest received a present. It was great fun. As we walked home everyone was laughing and talking. Children were told to hurry to bed because Santa would not come to their houses until they were fast asleep.

Christmas was hard for mother and dad because dad was sick most every winter, a combination of asthma and allergies to cotton dust. Money was tight and the Second World War was still raged. There was no metal for toys, but Christmas mornings were exciting. The boxes we put out for santa were filled with fruit and nuts and one or two toys. We were soon outside playing with the other kids. Some years there was a smattering of snow.

By early afternoon the entire family, except for those away in service, were gathered at grandmother Carnell’s for Christmas dinner. It was a grand feast. Everybody brought something. Aunt Alice always made homemade rolls and ambrosia. Mother brought a fruitcake which she had soaked in grape juice for weeks. Dan Stone, a friend of my grandmothers, came early and made real eggnog. I never understood this, but it was a tradition. Tee totaling Baptists could drink spiked eggnog once a year at Christmas.

Of course grandmother was the focus of attention. My grandfather Carnell had died years before I was born. There was usually some kind of drama with Uncle Wells, dad’s brother. One Christmas I was fascinated that he had driven a rental car from Gastonia, North Carolina. I didn’t know there was such a thing.

Everyone gathered in the living room for the handing out of gifts: chocolate covered cherries, candies of all sorts, jewelry, cheap perfume, pen and pencil sets, toy cars and books. One year I got a book about the Lone Ranger with print too small for me to read. Another year it was a cardboard horse racing set. These were grand events. We were a very close family.

Our family left the gathering early enough for us to go to my other grandparents who lived in the country about five miles away. The same exchanges would take place but on a much smaller scale because there was less family. Mama and Pop Gossett, mother’s parents, had very little money, but the food was always wonderful. I loved their big two story house with its log burning fireplace in the combination living dining room. There was a huge ice box on the side porch. Uncle Jim, mother’s brother, and his family were usually there. Uncle Jim and Aunt Norma had four children. They were a fun loving group.

One of the best parts of the season happened before Christmas when the mill gave generous baskets or bags of fruit and nuts to each employee. Since both mother and dad worked in the mill, they each received a basket. It really was a wonderful gift. Looking back I am sure that is the only Christmas extras that some families had but I was not aware of the more human conditions at that time. Life in our small town was good. Our family was happy and together. It was a wonderful time and place to grow up. Our lives revolved around family, church and school.

President Roosevelt died while at Warm Springs in Georgia on April 12, 1945. The reaction to his death was so strong that one would have thought that he was a member of our family. The war also ended that year. Uncle Jack and other family members came home. Dad left the mill for a job in town. In 1946 mom and dad bought a house and we moved away from the mill village. I changed elementary schools and my sister, Jean, was in high school. Nothing would ever be the same.

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Influence of the Mill Village Church Cited in Our Father: Discovering Family

Northside Baptist ChurchThe mill village church that played such a vital role in the lives of its members across the piedmont Carolinas has all but disappeared. One of those churches, Northside Baptist Church, and its pastor are singled out for special praise by Mitch Carnell in his new book, Our Father: Discovering Family. Carnell credits the people of Northside and Rev. Roy R. Gowan for laying the foundation and then giving him permission to explore the meaning of his Christian faith. “Mitchell,” Gowan said one day, “God created all of you. That includes your brain. God did not expect you to turn it off when you come to church. God is not put off by your questions.”

Carnell’s book begins at St. Paul’s cathedral in London and then weaves back and forth in the stages of his life. He began writing the book with two simple questions. How did I get to where I am spiritually from where I started? What am I to do with the rest of my life? According to the author, God had a much bigger idea. He wanted me to discover the vastness of his family. I had to stretch the boundaries of my small town background and open my mind and heart to a larger way of thinking.

Dr. Carnell also gives a great deal of credit to his lifelong friend, the Rev. Ansel McGill who retired as pastor of Parisview Baptist Church in Greenville. He also singles out professors at Mars Hill College and Furman University. His late wife, the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, questioned all of his assumptions in a loving but forceful manner.

He has now been an active member of First Baptist Church of Charleston for fifty years. He stresses the contributions of its long time pastor, the late John A. Hamrick, to his life. He credits Hamrick and the church’s legendary organist and Minister of Music and Worship, David Redd, for teaching him how to worship.

Our Father; Discovering Family, is available at most book stores, as an ebook from Amazon or Barnes and Noble or the publisher wipfandstock.com. Dr. Carnell is a speaker/consultant in the fields of interpersonal and organizational communication. His website is www.mitchcarnell.com.

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