The Index received several responses from people who recalled the old hosiery mill.

McGaugh Hosiery Mills No. 3 was located east of Lake Mineral Wells on U.S. Highway 180. Many might remember the building – which was demolished recently – as the old Repo Depot building.

“I worked there from 1948-1952, took a little hiatus 1953-1956,” said Mineral Wells resident Louise Blackerby. “At the time, it was probably one of better paying jobs in Mineral Wells.”

She said it was also one of the town’s biggest employers at one time. Blackerby said men ran the knitting machines – long machines that ran crosswise.

“I cannot remember what year they shut down, possibly around 1957-1958,” said Blackerby. “After that another business made plastic flowers (fake plants-heavy plastic for outdoors) for places like Disneyland.”

She said the building was originally built in World War II and was a church for the soldiers stationed at Camp Wolters.

She said pay at the hosiery mill was $25-$30 a week. She said the work was, “piece work, if you were able to get out the production. It was good for the city. They were going to try to raise silkworms to make silk to make silk stockings. They planted a bunch of mulberry trees north of Mineral Wells; that kind of fizzled out. Maybe still a few mulberry trees north, close to Perrin.”

Marvin Austin, who lives near Perrin, said he worked as a machine operator at the mill soon after it opened in 1946. He said the older machines made 42-gauge hose. Austin said McGaugh had two shops and the brand name was Airmaid sold at first only in drug stores. He said McGaugh sold the mill (perhaps from Pennsylvania) and it became the Texas Knitting Mill. It was enlarged and the new owners brought in new equipment. He said they made pull-fashion hose with seams down the back – upped to 51 gauge, then 60 gauge (very sheer hose) before closed.

Austin said, “the old machines cost a lot of money and were delicate. If the temperature changed quickly, the machines would go haywire – metal expands when hot, contract when cold, (and it) would change timing.” He said they had to have air-conditioning at the same relative temperature constantly.

He said the plant closed in 1959 when fashion changed and ladies started buying seamless hose.

Austin recalled a Baptist preacher out of Fort Worth built the building as a church house, but said it never did anything as a church.

Willy Berry was one of six people hired in September 1946 to work at the hosiery mill. He worked there until it closed in May 1959. According to Berry, the mill ran for a year in Mineral Wells, then McGaugh moved it to New Braunfels and then reopened the local mill in the late 1940s.

He said the building was originally built as a church, but not used as one and McGaugh purchased it for the mill.

He sold it to a man by the name of Gordon from Pennsylvania and it became the Texas Knitting Mills (perhaps including McGaugh’s two mills in New Braunfels). A man named Kaplan was the production manager. They purchased 12 new machines, which Berry said were the latest thing in machines.

“We were excited when we thought we would make $100 per week,” Berry said.

Berry was picked to help install the machines and train people on them. He worked the third shift for seven years, running and fixing the machines. He said there could only be a 2 percent variation in temperature – between 60 degrees and 70 degrees – for the machines to operate properly.

His last paycheck was in May 1959 when the mill closed and moved back to Pennsylvania. He said that the owner moved the mill to Mineral Wells to get away from union problems. During the time the mill was operating in Texas, the state had two elections for unions. Unions were defeated in both elections, but Berry attributes the concern over unions coming to Texas as the reason the owner shut down the Mineral Wells mill.

Berry, who was in management, was offered a job with the company in Pennsylvania, South Carolina or Puerto Rico.

He said that Marvin Austin was a “knitter” who operated two machines with a helper. Men operated the machines (there were manual aspects to running the machines and required a lot of strength). Most of the helpers were women.

Berry said that he worked six days a week. Since he was in charge of the machines, he came in Sunday nights at 10:30 to check seams.

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