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by David James


            Foreman said these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back.

                                    "My hometown" -- Bruce Springsteen


Working in that tired, old, textile town we were called lint-heads for good reason. It aptly fit those of us who made socks in the main plant that was closing. After work we'd come out in the parking lot covered in lint like that southern film of springtime, yellow pine pollen. Layoffs occurred for just several of us at a time, but the writing was on the wall and we knew we would all lose our jobs. It was inexorably creeping up on all of us. Just a matter of time.

Was there any hope of saving the plant by having some other company buying us out? Nope. Forget it. Commercial textiles like clothes, including socks, and sheets, towels and yes, pillow cases were heading overseas where labor was so cheap that workers over there lived off of dry crackers and water —or so we heard. It didn't take a genius to figure out that, if we were going to carry on with any kind of a decent life, we were going to have to move to Charlotte or Raleigh or fuck, maybe even as far away as Texas, to get decent paying jobs again.

Barney, the loom fixer, was a big joker. I remember that day he came to work, speaking in faux Chinese, swearing that his job was saved because he was ready to work for $1.17 an hour, eat dry crackers and drink nothing but ditch water. We didn't laugh.

On balance, the trick was to shush the kids when they started talking and crying about losing their friends because, with the plant's closing, we all will be moving away. 

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