Friday, March 22, 2013

G & L Apparel

Granddaddy in the early years of G&L Apparel301 
Brenda clocking in, or was it out? Who knows.305 
Granddaddy & Grandmother (her face is a little blurry/should have scanned)310 
My son Lance (now 26) running free through the factory.311 
Part of the parking lot on a snowy day. 313 
Bobby doing his version of the moonwalk on the back sidewalk.315 
Virgie of Robert and Virgie (stay tuned for more about them in another post)
And last but not least…this big haired girl.Yes that is me. 

George Holton was a sought after apparel industry genius and he was also my Granddaddy. I spent as much time in his presence as I did my own parents and as far as my father goes, more time. It was nothing to be sitting in his livingroom at night and hear the phone ring with some in NYC calling asking him to come to work for them. He did when he was younger but he had to be away from my grandmother and he didn’t like that. He moved from pillar to post during his life when a better offer would come along but he was never away long. He always found his way back to us. He was the anchor/rock of our family. We all looked up to him with a gleam in our eyes.

In 1983 he went into business with a partner. It was George & Lucille in partnership with Glen & Lorene and they called the business G&L Apparel. Our whole entire family worked there at one time.

Things started out slow there wasn’t enough money to sustain both couples so George bought out Glen.
Time went on and things started looking up and George had said all along when he started making money he would do more for his workers. He started paying holiday & vacation pay. The vacation pay was based on how long you’d been there. Soon he had enough money to provide a portion of the workers insurance and no matter what happened he never took any of it away.

In 1994 NAFTA happened. I read all the information that was sent out on it and I warned him that we would not be able to stay in business but he would not give up until there was not a contract to be found. He had to get bank loans to pay the payroll sometimes. He’d find a way to pay it back but then there came a time when he couldn’t so he took a 2nd mortgage on his house. He died without being able to pay it back. He filed bankruptcy on the company but it was the kind you pay back. He could not stand leaving people hanging for debt he incurred so he used a portion of his monthly Social Security check to pay back his debtors. When he passed away my Uncle Jerry continued to pay for his house so my grandmother wouldn’t have to strain herself to make it month to month. When she passed away they used part of the profit from the house to pay Uncle Jerry back what he had to put in.

I remember the day the auction house came in to sell off the company property. I remember how no one hardly showed up so most of the stuff went for almost nothing. My grandmother was so distraught, worrying about how granddaddy was taking it. It was such a hard day for our family. When it came time to sell the almost new mop bucket and the bid was a few dollars my grandmother picked it up and said it wasn’t for sell. She came back over to me and said we paid almost $50 for that mop bucket and I’m not going to let them give it away. Everything went except for that mop bucket. It was still in the out building at their house when she passed away. I think that was her way of making a stand against the feeling of losing everything.

George was a wizard at making money for other folks but when it came down to his own business his heart was too big to make it work. He paid people’s light bills when they couldn’t. He paid for a worker to go home to see her mother up North before she died because she would not have been able to afford it herself. He paid peoples doctor bills. He bought the windows in his old family church back home in Georgia. He gave money to anyone who asked. He told me he was building the business so that he’d have something to leave us so we’d be taken care of when he died. He tried so hard to do that.
My Granddaddy did so much good with his life, things no one would ever know because he never told that sort of stuff about himself. There were a few people who think he lived high on the hog off the backs of his workers but they do not know the truth. He lived in a 3 bedroom 1200 sqft home and he drove a 1977 Oldsmobile that he still had when he died in 2002. Grandmother had a newer car, a 1996 and she drove it until she passed away in 2007.

I have to say that it wasn’t just working with my blood kin that made this place a home and a family. We just all cared about one another. We laughed, cried, lived and died. We celebrated birthdays together, holidays together, births of our children together. Everyone remembers the day that Jo and Iva Lee finally “took it outside.” It turned out that Jo only tweaked Iva Lee’s nose but that story has been told over and over. We remember when my brother Joey snuck a gold fish in Viola’s steam bottle at her ironing table and she thought it came through a line. We remember the time that Jo sung happy birthday to Bobby in the office and over the intercom. We remember Bobby’s version of happy birthday and I’ll share that now:

“Hope you get some to-night. Hope you get some to-night. Hope you get some, cake and ice cream, hope you get some to-night.”

People still tell me that working there was the most fun job they ever had and how they miss it.
Those days are over for now but maybe one day they’ll find their way back for another generation. It makes me hopeful when I see a thing like this. My grandfather would have loved to have seen that. If he was here today I’d set him down with my computer and show him that video and we’d probably be scheming right now about how we could make something like that work for us. If he had been linked in like folks are today he might have found a way. It’s kind of like NAFTA paved a way for the electronic world and now folks are using the internet as a tool to bring back the world NAFTA took away. That makes me happy and I know George Holton is somewhere smiling knowing someone made the thing happen for themselves that he never could.

Stay tuned for the post about what brought this all back to me.
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