In August of 2007 I lost the best job I ever had. I worked for Dan River Incorporated as a graphic designer for nearly 8 years. I loved this job because I got to be creative, do what I loved to do, and learn new things every day from my coworkers. I started out working second shift. I did not think I would like the hours, but I ended up adapting very well to them. There were only six people who worked this shift from the different departments in the building, so we all took our breaks together and ate dinner together too. There was only one other graphic designer that I worked with during second shift and we got along very well. She is still one of my dearest friends. During our shift we had access to all the computers in our area, so we would put music on one of the computers and use the others to run print jobs and work on many jobs simultaneously. It was so much fun going from computer to computer working on job after job. Our boss probably wondered how we were able to get so much work done!
The other thing I liked about the job was the flexibility. When I became pregnant with my first child it was easy to work second shift; even when she was a baby it worked out well. However, when my daughter started preschool I needed to change my hours so that I could drop her off and pick her up. My boss allowed me to move to first shift and come in 60 minutes late and leave 60 minutes late. As long as I put in the right amount of hours each day it all worked out. It worked out for my boss as well because then I overlapped slightly with second shift. As my daughter got older I moved to first shift’s regular hours.
As many people know, the manufacturing industry–of which Dan River Inc. was a part–went downhill around this time. The owner’s of Dan River filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2004 and began to close many of the facilities. In 2006, Dan River Mills was bought by Gujarat Heavy Chemicals, an Indian chemical firm that decided to close the main mill and move the remaining 1100 jobs overseas.
It was terrible. Every day people were walking on eggshells. It was a very tense time because you knew that if you were called into the bosses office it meant that you were going home. In August of 2007 I got laid-off from my job along with 11 other people throughout the company. Dan River struggled on for another year or so, but bit by bit people were let go and divisions were closed, until finally, sometime in 2008 everything was closed. A company that had been the life-blood of our community for over 126 years was closed. When the mill opened there were dormitories, family housing, community centers. Dan River Incorporated was Danville, Virginia.
After it closed, people walked around in a daze. Many people had never worked anyplace else. Unemployment was at an all-time high. I was no exception. It took me almost two years to find a new job. I ended up going back to school and getting my master’s degree in education and have been teaching for the last five years, but even that has not been full-time. The population of our city is decreasing and they have closed several schools, therefore eliminating the need to hire new teachers. It has been a struggle and I have had to make several career changes to keep my family fed and my bills paid. I am now working as a Systems Administrator part-time because no one is hiring full-time right now.
The worst part about the closing of Dan River Inc. has been watching them tear down each of the local mill buildings one by one, dissecting each part, crushing or selling off the historic bricks and wood flooring. I will never forget my time at Dan River. It is where I met my husband, and where I made many life-long friends. I look back at my years there with a smile and wonder how I was ever so lucky to have had a job that I loved to go to each day. It has been nearly 7 years, and I still miss it.