Former Quality Garment Factory Building Gives Way to Make Room for Long Reach Federal Credit Union
Anyone coming to West Union during the past few weeks may have noticed that the old garment factory building was torn down and some new groundwork has been done on the site. Long Reach Federal Credit Union is the name of the new establishment coming to our fair town and being built at this site.
Rumors with quiet undertones are circulating that some life is soon being brought back to West Union and Doddridge County. We can only hope that this is true and that our citizens and local businessmen and women will do everything possible to accommodate every need to ensure the success of the badly needed influx of businesses and job opportunities that it would mean.
I wrote a brief article on the old factory a few years ago but felt it might interest those who did not read it then or do not recall its history. Its history might interest some of our younger readers as some of their family members might have been employed there. The structure was, until last week, still standing near the 7-Eleven Convenience Store and Gas Station on East Main Street.
The name of the former business was Quality Garment Factory. Owned by Adolph Kraemer, the factory was initially located on West Main Street in West Union.
But before I get ahead of myself, let me explain what prompted the location change. A local businessman known to most of the residents of West Union, Nelson Smith, of the former Smith Lumber Company, was the gentleman who built the large structure described as being a new and novel type structure for the time. The material was pressure treated in a manner most of us are now familiar with but was unheard of at the time. The treated lumber was claimed to last for a hundred years. No concrete was used except for the floor. The floors of the building contained 20,000 square feet.
Construction of the structure began on February 1, 1968, and was greatly anticipated. Excitement was felt in the town and throughout the county.
The garment factory originally opened on September 10, 1945. It was called the Myles Manufacturing Company and was initially located on the north side of Main Street in the building that now houses the Back When Bar & Grill. Mrs. L.V. Myles of New York City owned the business. She died in 1955. The factory has had several names throughout history as different individuals gained company ownership. Names like West Garment Company, Dainty Maid, Warner’s Inc., and on May 9, 1990, the name was changed again to Quality Garment Company. It was chartered from Delaware. Murray Merl of Fairfield, CT, was the company’s president, and Eric T. Weitz was vice president. Mark D. Greenberg was the treasurer.
The garment factory has made various clothing items through the years, including bras and bathing suits, and in more recent years, before closing, it made sportswear for women.
In the West Union Herald on May 24, 1945, an article was printed about the coming of a new factory. It was estimated that it would open around July 1, 1945. It stated, “This factory had been secured by the untiring efforts of the businessmen of West Union and vicinity. — With the war over in Europe and the government easing up on materials, it is hoped to have other factories here.”
The new factory was very modern, with 45 electric sewing machines. It began with only four workers. The owner kept calling in more workers until the workers totaled 80.
Douglass Mossbury was the original manager, and Neva Sutton was the floor manager. The company had a steady growth, and by March 1969, the local newspaper reported that 115 of the county’s citizens were employed there. The garment factory was a great asset to the county.
In an article by Alton Childers, Ruth Cottrill told her story. She said that she was one of the first four employees. The other three first employed were Clarice Duckworth, Olive Davis, and Pearl Pierce.
She gave this account of what happened in 1945. “When my husband, Oris Pierce died,” she said. “I returned to my parent’s home on Israel’s Fork with our three boys, Alfred, George, and Malcolm. I heard about the sewing factory going to open, and I applied for a job.”
“The morning the mail came and said I had a job; I was so tickled I just jumped up and down. My jumping broke the gas mantle in the front room. ‘Mom,’ I said, ‘I go to work Monday morning.’ I did, and I’m still here after 31 years. I got 40 cents an hour then. I was a machine operator until my right eye caused me trouble. I thought I would have to leave, but they let me be the custodian. That’s what I do now, sweep and clean up. The workers lose articles on the floor, and I often look in the sweepings for money, earrings, buttons, fountain pens, etc.”
The girls inside the factory worked hard every day.
Many Doddridge County residents, as well as outside the county, were employed at this factory throughout the years, including:
Lillian Bartee (manager), Joyce Ahouse Blake, Kim Bland, Sarah Bland, Bertie Bonnell, Debbie Bonnell, Romaine Bonnell, Wilmadean Bonnell, Robert Calhoun (Cutter), Heidi Cavins, Ida Mae Childers, Janet Collins, Linda Cottrill, Ruth Cottrill, Nancy Cumberledge, Minnie Davis, Madeline Fox, Amy Friend, Gwen Friend, Dee Greathouse (Mechanic), Eva Greathouse, Jackie Hartman, Lilly Hartman, Mabel Hill, Virginia Jackson, Sally Jacobs, Josephine Jett, Winifred Jozwick, Carol Kelley, Linda Kelley, Lorraine Kesterson, Irene Kraft, Betty Marsden Leggett, Jennifer McClain, Faye Lipscomb, Cynthiana “Sue” Marsden, Sue Maxwell, Deana McAfee, Betty Macomb, ? Macomb (Mechanic), Pete Mosser, Rosie Mosser, Wendy Morris, Xenia Myer, Beulah Neely, Judy Neely, Naomi Neely, Becky Nelson, Mary Nicholson, Norma Owens, Malcolm Pierce, Marlene Powell, Nellie Powell (Secretary), Ruby Pritt, Sherry Pritt, Beatrice Shepherd, Daisy Shepherd, Nettie Shepherd, Neva Shepherd, Geneva Shepherd, Wilford Shields, Nancy Smarr, Judy Smith, Ormi Smith. Sally Swisher (Floor Supervisor), Carol Neely Tingler, Deloris Thompson, Stacey Underwood, Judy Valentine.
Notably, Lillian Bartee on the left was the Plant Manager, and Nellie Powell on the right was the Secretary after the move from Main Street to the large structure across from the 7-Eleven Gas Station. Like all good things, there is a time and a season, and so it was for the Quality Garment Factory. WV Secretary of State records show that the Quality Garment Factory officially closed on June 15, 2000.
Let me end by saying that we wish Long Reach Federal Credit Union a long successful experience here in Doddridge County. I hope everyone will make them feel welcome.
Patricia Richards Harris
Doddridge County Historical Society