A different kind of book review

mill2As planned, I picked up The Cat, The Mill and the Murder shortly after it was released in early May.  I’ve read Leanne Sweeney‘s mystery books before, and this one didn’t disappoint.  Not only was it a satisfying read with a great mystery and an unexpected last sentence, but the backdrop was a subject near and dear to me, textile mills and textile history. Normally, I would buy an e-book edition of what I’m reading, but seeing that this involved a textile mill, I bought a paperback version so I could add it to my textile library. So rather than review the book for its story, I’m going to review it in regards to the mill.  I don’t want to give anything away about the plot – just take it from me, it’s good!

The Cats in Trouble series takes place in the fictitious town of Mercy, South Carolina, located within an hour of the Greenville/Spartanburg area and in the center of what had once been a major hub of the textile industry.  The story opens in the Lorraine Stanley Textile Mill, a three story building that had fallen into hard times with the loss of the textile industry.  Our heroine, Jillian Hart, is involved because investors had been found that were interested in repurposing the mill, though it’s up in the air whether it’ll be condos or shops.  Jillian is here for two reasons – she has studied textile history and knows about the mills, and to help humanely trap and relocate a clowder of feral cats living in the building.  What else they find in the building sets off the mystery.

Since I started the hobby of photographing textile mills, I’ve been allowed inside several of them and  Leanne’s description of an abandoned mill is spot on.  Besides the overwhelming  darkness  from closed doors and sealed windows, there is the powerful smell of decay and rot, clouds of particles from asbestos and flakes of paint on the floor. I’ve been in some areas where it feels like a sensory deprivation chamber: dark and silent. It’s musty and damp from molds and mildew.  A lot of flooring is still intact, but areas where leaking pipes or animal droppings have rotted the boards so you have to be careful where you step as they can’t support weight anymore.  Having been in these types of mills, I felt the same thing with Jillian’s description of what she saw and felt.  I was also glad to see that Jillian and I share the thrill of being in these old abandoned giants and remembering the activity in it, and the history it had been a part of.  I can almost imagine the deafening hum of the looms, the floors covered in lint and thread, and the people hard at work.

Which brings me to another enjoyable part of the book:  the mill village!  Every mill I’ve come across has one,  provided to the workers by the mill owners.  It allowed them to have homes close to their employment, and also included schools, shops and churches provided by the mill owners so that the mill village was  a town unto itself.  Leanne notes in the story the bigotry between the classes as many folks considered the Lintheads (mill workers) as  poor white trash.  She also showed the fierce pride of the mill workers through one of the characters, Jeannie.

Overall, this was a very satisfying read.  The story was great and the backdrop was well researched and made it even more enjoyable for a mill enthusiast like myself.  For that matter, I’d love to pick the brain of some of Leanne’s friends who helped her with the research – I’m always on the lookout for new mills to photograph!  And one last thing… where can I go to take courses in textile history?

 

Greenville Textile Heritage Society

Greenville Textile Heritage Society emblem

As many of the people who worked in textile mills passes away, much of the history and culture goes with them.  Fortunately, there are organizations dedicated to help preserve this history such as the Greenville Textile Heritage Society in Greenville, South Carolina.  Thanks to the people who are a part of GTHS, those of us interested in textile history have a contact to obtain information.  They also sponsor the Textile Heritage Week and the Textile Heritage Festival in October, the God and Country Rally for the Fourth of July, and more.  They have quarterly meetings and seminars as well.

They preserve not just the textile history, but the activities that were a part of mill village life.  Sports was a major recreation, and mill villages had their own teams for baseball and basketball.  The Society also has a band that performs in the area (and are very very good) and a Choral Society.  The Company Store offers books, art prints and music.

The GTHS is an excellent source of information, with a listing of mills, videos, links and more, and they’re always happy to answer questions.  The membership is open to any interested persons who would like to join the Society for a $20 annual fee, which includes a quarterly newsletter.  The proceeds go to various fundraising efforts such as the Textile Heritage Park.  Which reminds me… my membership for 2013 is due.  I’d better take care of it!

Mills in Mysteries

I’ve been a fan of mysteries for quite some time. I love “Dead guy shows”, as Ted refers to them, and my Nook list has mostly cozy mysteries stored in it.  In Summer, 2009, I discovered an author I hadn’t read before, Leann Sweeney, who writes the “Cats in Trouble” series.  The story take place in the fictional town of Mercy, South Carolina, and the heroine of the series is Jillian Hart, a quilter  who makes quilts for cats.  Another reason I love the series is Jillian is also “owned” by three cats, Chablis, Syrah and Merlot. To keep up with new releases, I began following the blog she participates in, The Cozy Chicks, and on Facebook.

The Cat, The Mill and the Murder

Several days ago, the above cover to Ms. Sweeney’s upcoming book was posted and I immediately  was curious about ‘the Mill’ part of it.  I posted the question to her and she sent a reply back saying it was a textile mill.  I had intended to purchase the book on its release since I love her work, but rather than download it as an Ebook, I’ll be buying a copy of it to add to my textile library.

I contacted Ms. Sweeney for permission to  post the cover on my blog and she graciously granted it, as well as attaching a good copy of it for me to use.  She and her family moved to SC this past summer and while looking around, she spotted several of the old mills and the villages that surrounded them, which became the backdrop for the new story.  She also passed along the locations, so trust me, I’ll be heading out there with my camera in the future <G>.

The Cat, The Mill and the Murder has a release date of 05/07/2013 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores, either in ebook format or paperback.  In the meantime, you can read the previous books in the series as well as her Yellow Rose Mystery series.  I recommend all of them 🙂

Textile Heritage Festival 2012

About two years ago, I discovered and exhibited my textile mill photography in Greenville, South Carolina at the Textile Heritage Festival. Though I wanted to go back and exhibit again, various factors got in my way and it didn’t happen.  This year, Ted and I are making plans to attend the festival but this time as visitors.  When exhibiting, your time is limited to check out the other displays and visit with others who share the love of textile history.  Also, Ted didn’t see anything, as he stayed with our table while I did a quick look around.  This time, we’ll both get to see it.

The festival is held at the Upcountry History Museum, and includes music, song and information about life in the mill villages.  The folks of the Textile Heritage Society put a lot of time and effort to keep alive the mill village culture for future generations, and have been a source for me in locating the mills for my photography.  For additional information or any questions you might have, you can find them on Facebook.  Can’t wait to be there!!

The Why and How

My pursuit of photography never really took hold until I discovered that I had an interest in architecture.  Skyscrapers, houses, churches… buildings fascinate me, a combination of beauty and function.  Even while watching movie or TV shows, I’ll be checking out the scenery for buildings.

I photographed my first textile mill, the Firestone/Loray Mill, Gastonia, NC, in 2002 and my appreciation and attraction for these particular buildings grew from there.  I’ve been asked whether I have family connections to the textile industry and the answer would be no.  However when I walk inside a mill, re-purposed or not, I feel a connection to the past and the people who worked there.  By photographing these brick giants, I feel as if I’m preserving a part of their place in history.

Remains of the Rock Hill Bleachery

The camera I’ve been using is a Canon PowerShot S5 IS that we purchased approximately three years ago and I’ve enjoyed working with it.  It’s a sturdy camera with a comfortable weight and still takes great pictures for what I need from it.  The tripod we bought for it was an additional blessing.

At the present time, I’ve photographed thirty mills in the North and South Carolina areas with one in Georgia, and I’m always on the lookout for more. I’m learning how to expand myself as a photographer  and hope others discover the beauty I see when I look up at a mill tower or feel just how tall smokestacks are when you stand at their base and look up.

There is much history in these structures and I’m honored to photograph part of it.