Corsicana Daily Sun -
November 03, 2001
11/4/2001 HAPPY HATTERS: Former Miller, Adams Factory workers hold reunion
By BARBARA FORMAN/Daily Sun Staff
Roars of laughter flowed through the air and sentiments of concern were expressed at a recent reunion of former employees of the old hat factory.
A sense of enthusiasm and a family who could handle tough situations and demands permeated the room as approximately 100 people reminisced of days gone by and caught up on current events in each other's lives.
It was obvious the former employees and executives considered the hat factory more than just a job in the early 1950s and '60s. Many said it was the family atmosphere that made the difference in the company.
A. J. Taylor, who was the vice-president in the fabric and cloth division, began working in 1946 for the factory and retired in Dec. of 2000. He had invested 54 years into the company.
"It was the largest industry in the area in the early fifties," Taylor said. "We did a lot of government contracts and at one time we employed over 600 people."
Through the years the hat factory was owned by different companies. Some of the first names included the Miller Brothers Hat Factory and the Adams Hat Factory.
Taylor said they worked three shifts to keep up with the production for the demand of hats and it continued through the Korean War.
"We designed and developed the jungle head wear for the jungle fighting in the Korean War," Taylor said.
He said one of the things he was very proud of was that the government had come to them to design a hat that would withstand mildew from the rain and other things encountered in the jungle.
"When I started, the sewing operators were making a minimum wage of 35 cents an hour," Taylor said. "They would take about $6 or $7 home weekly after World War II."
In its day it became the best paying job within the area. As the company continued to grow
Fred Grice worked for the hat factory for 11 years in maintenance and his mother Vestal worked there for 15 years.
Grice said when President Kennedy took office the production of hats began to go down because he was one of the first Presidents who did not wear a hat.
"People from all over Navarro County worked here," Grice said.
Vestal said they made navy hats for years and she still has one of the original sailor hats.
The old hat factory was a thriving business for many years and provided many women who had never worked outside of the home with good jobs.
Penny Dockery said she and her late husband Leonard both worked at the factory in 1955.
"In the fifties there was no air conditioning, but it was one of the highest paying jobs, especially for women," Dockery said.
She said one of the things that separated it from other companies was that the employees were treated really good.
"They built us a swimming pool that we could use and gave us big, fancy Christmas dinners," Dockery said.
Taylor who had the opportunity to get to know many of the employees said most of them were some of the hardest working people he had ever seen.
"They would work their toenails off for us," he said.
Taylor said the executives and management appreciated the workers and tried to show them in a variety of ways.
"They respected and looked up to the employees for their hard work." Taylor said.
As people shared stories and relived some of the best of times, the old hat factory continued to live and thrive in fond memories.