A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Purchase collections of Elizabeth Hudson’s columns at ourstatestore.com. That winter, two months after I was born, my dad bought my mom a Singer Stylist sewing machine, putty beige, and set

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Purchase collections of Elizabeth Hudson’s columns at ourstatestore.com. That winter, two months after I was born, my dad bought my mom a Singer Stylist sewing machine, putty beige, and set

Purchase collections of Elizabeth Hudson’s columns at ourstatestore.com.


That winter, two months after I was born, my dad bought my mom a Singer Stylist sewing machine, putty beige, and set it up in the spare bedroom. While he was at work and I rocked, happily ensconced in the mechanical baby swing next to her, my mom spent those cold months sewing my clothes: soft jersey layettes printed with butterflies and ladybugs; tiny cotton bubble suits with elastic that scrunched around my legs; flannel gowns; velveteen dresses.

We lived in High Point then, a furniture city with a strong textile industry. My mom shopped at Fabric World every weekend, wheeling me along in my stroller, a satin-trimmed blanket — she made that, too — snugged to my chin. She was ever conscious of keeping the cold out, of making sure that I was wrapped tightly, toasty and warm.

When we moved to Asheboro, another textile town, two years later, she relegated her sewing machine to the laundry room and began teaching herself other fiber arts — knitting and crochet; rug hooking and embroidery — in preparation for opening a crafts shop. She knew that to be able to sell supplies to her customers, many of whom worked in the textile mills, she needed to be comfortable with a needle and thread.

The largest mill, Acme-McCrary Hosiery, was a big deal in Asheboro, with a manufacturing plant that sprawled across several blocks. Nearly everyone had some kind of connection to the place; about a quarter of the town’s population was employed there when I was a kid. On summer nights, my dad listened to baseball games that were broadcast from McCrary Park, which the mill had built for its own semipro team in the ’50s. I learned to swim at the indoor pool of the Acme-McCrary Gym, which was open to all Asheboro residents, regardless of their employment at the mill.

My Randolph County town — like so many others in Guilford, Alamance, Catawba, Cabarrus, Rowan — reveled in its textile heyday in the mid-20th century, and I’m grateful to have witnessed a portion of it. It’s no secret that our textile towns have been dealt a hard blow, the old sewing machines relegated to museums and memory, the drafty buildings emptied of equipment, the polished pine floors swept bare. For a while, there wasn’t much left to keep the cold out.

These towns may have moved beyond their textile peaks, but the spirit of craftsmanship in North Carolina endures. Towns like Asheboro and Belmont and Saxapahaw have embraced the change, and the connection to many of our former mills still runs deep. I’ve seen transformation in so many places, this link to the past not discarded but repurposed, refitted, remade.

In Asheboro, the 100-year-old office building for Cranford Hosiery became an airy and bright bakery called The Table; plans are underway for a boutique hotel next door. The city renovated Acme-McCrary’s gym into a state-of-the-art recreation center, accessible to everyone once again. And last year, I was excited to see the conversion of one of the factory buildings, a local historic landmark, into senior apartments, the original steel-frame windows kept intact, pulling in so much light. Toasty and warm.

Here in this town — as in Mebane, in Kannapolis, in Edenton — a vision is taking shape, a new pattern for progress, one that radiates with so much energy, one that unfolds with so much hope.

 

Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Hudson
Editor in Chief

 

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This story was published on Jan 01, 2024

Elizabeth Hudson

Hudson is a native of North Carolina who grew up in the small community of Farmer, near Asheboro. She holds a B.A. degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and began her publishing career in 1997 at Our State magazine. She held various editorial titles for 10 years before becoming Editor in Chief of the 88-year-old publication in 2009. For her work with the magazine, Hudson is also the 2014 recipient of the Ethel Fortner Writer and Community Award, an award that celebrates contributions to the literary arts of North Carolina.