When I was 17- The Kitten- Glenayr Knitting Mills Reunion

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When I was 17- The Kitten- Glenayr Knitting Mills Reunion

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I’ve never gone to a reunion before; not even high school, because honestly I’m always afraid that there’s going to be some ‘Carrie’-like incident that I won’t be able to deal with.

My life began in Cowansville, Quebec, a mill town similar to most places in rural Lanark County. The last time I personally saw or spoke with any of my old friends was years ago, although I retain a relationship with some of them in my Cowansville High School group on Facebook.

I was honoured to be part of the former Glenayr Knitting mill employees reunion on Monday. There were a few who had not seen each other since the plant closed down in 2000 I’m sure. Most of the employees were women as it was pretty well the only job available in the area in those days. Some at the reunion on August 7th at the Lanark & District Museum still had their original tools of the trade (scissors etc) from their former jobs whether it was knitting, dyeing fabric or sewing.

 

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Photo by Linda Seccaspina at the Lanark & District Museum

 

Was the reunion a sense of nostalgia or just reminders of what had transpired years ago? No matter how wonderful and interesting the lives of the former employees from Tatlock, Watson’s Corners, McDonald’s Corners and even Carleton Place have been, there was just something endearing about this work reunion of the staff that most went home with a pay cheque of 45 cents an hour.

In 1953 the mill was the backbone of Lanark, and some still called it the Clyde Woolen Mill. David Markle made lots of improvements in the old grist mill, with new machinery initially making men’s woolen socks, blankets, and motor rugs. In 1945 the Markle brothers bought the large two storey stone building on the main street by the Clyde River and used it as a store. The Kitten Factory  at one time had a payroll of over $200,000 that turned over three times in local businesses before it left the village in the year 2000.

 

 

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Photo by Linda Seccaspina at the Lanark & District Museum

 

I am sure some of them talked late into the day on Monday where they  laughed, cried, and reveled in nostalgia. I was surprised at the intensity of their bonding; perhaps it was the acute awareness of how much everything had changed. At the soul level they were still the same people they always were, and seeing them all together reminded me of how important it is to stay connected.

 

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Lanark Era Photo–Gena Gibson

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Photo by Linda Seccaspina at the Lanark & District Museum

 

Feryn Donaldson was still Miss Kitten of Glenayr Knitting on Monday with her original 60s sash. She was voted in by her fellow employees and got an outfit to wear for special events as long as it was back by 5. When asked if she became the “belle of the ball” of Lanark Village after she won her crown she laughed and said she was already married with two children at that point.

I doubt if there’s anyone among us that can’t remember that first day of work, and sometimes we reflect on the people we were crazy about, and some we weren’t so crazy about. These women still remembered the muffins brought by some to work, perms that were given in the washrooms, and the fact that a few actually met their future spouses at that plant.  As one woman said:

” I moved to Lanark in 1947 and most of the people that worked in the mill became my friends. I lived here, my family lived here, and when the time comes I will die here.”

Catching up with the past and seeing your  former friends and co-workers reminds us that your life story is not over. The final chapter has not been written and we are still writing new endings to our lives. That very thing happened at the Glenayr Knitting Mill Reunion on George Street in the Village of Lanark– as a forever friend is really someone who knows all your best stories and lived them with you. In the end you always go back to the people that were there in the beginning.

 

When I was seventeen, it was a very good year
It was a very good year for small town girls
And soft summer nights
We’d hide from the lights
On the village green
When I was seventeen

 

 

historicalnotes

 

Jo Camelon— Of the 11 siblings of the Camelon family. I believe 9 worked at some time in the different departments of kitten mill. Thank you for sharing

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Photos by Linda Seccaspina at the Lanark & District Museum

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relatedreading.jpg

 

How Much is that Kitten Sweater in the Window?

Stories from the Old Kitten Mill

Down by the Old Kitten Mill

Linda’s Mail Bag– Do You Have any Info on my Blanket?

You’re from the Village of Lanark You Say?

 

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CLIPPED FROM
The Weekly British Whig
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
29 Mar 1920, Mon  •  Page 6

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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