A friend/customer of mine has an odd job. It is odd in many ways.
His duties began on the floor of the old Goodall Woolen Mills when he graduated from high school thirty plus years ago. He came on after the beginning of the end that started When Burlington Mills shut down the recently purchased Goodall facility and moved the operation to warmer climes in the South. The mill was broken up as different owners from away exploited the space and the machinery to continue to produce textiles for the clothing industry. Just another piece of meat on the factory floor, my friend became the dedicated mill rat and worked his way to foreman or supervisor of one of the many departments that process raw wool into the fine fabrics America loved to wear, sleep under, and show off at church on Sunday.
The typically sad American scenario played out as the mill passed from foreign outfit to foreign outfit. With each sale, the levels of production dropped and the work force shrank. Through all these changes, my friend managed to hang on. His abilities and dedication always obvious to any new owner coming in.
Finally about ten years ago, the Mill was closed for good. Foreign competition had won. Employees were let go. Some machinery was moved out or consolidated into storage, and Mother Nature began her insistent assault on buildings left empty. Yet my friend is still there. The last soul still stirring daily in the empty shell of a once proud factory. He keeps the doors closed, the lights on, and a close eye on the place as it slowly decays and falls apart. Every day for over ten years, my friend has monitored this place. Not even taking a day off, he has been there when the Mill needed him. Cleaning up after vandals. Meeting mucky mucks who might just maybe take this fine space and turn it to production instead of gathering dust. Occasionally sweeping or cleaning up as a token effort against the insistent decomposition.
My friend took me on a walking tour of the mill a few weeks ago. It is so massive and spread out, we spent 4 hours and I am sure what I got was the quick tour. We walked past huge looms lined up and silent. We strolled through empty spaces once filled with machines that hummed 24/7. In the dye room, I saw the big vats that once handled tons of wool before it was woven into tweeds, mohair, and blankets for horses and human alike. The huge steam turbines that once powered everything are quiet now. The looms have stopped humming. I was impressed with the silence of this fact. Huge machines seem out of place unless they are running, making noise, vibrating the floors as they produce that which they were designed for. And here is 400,000 square feet of silence. Nothing but the echoes of us closing doors and stirring up dust. It was a sad walk. My friend walks it everyday. He is the last person who cares.