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Restitching Craddock Terry memories

Though the former Craddock-Terry shoe factories shuttered many years ago, laying off hundreds of people in Farmville, Dillwyn and other locations across Southside Virginia, the memories made inside the industrial buildings by its employees remain alive in the hearts and minds of many.

For at least 15 years now, an annual reunion has brought together former employees of the factories to share and relive those memories over hot coffee, bacon, eggs and renewed friendships.

To view more photos of the event, click here.

The decades-old closures separated droves of departmentalized co-workers who had became friends and adopted members of each other’s family.

On Saturday at Teresa’s Place at Sprouse’s Corner, more than 20 former employees reunited during the annual event, organized by Annie Mae Miles, who worked for 35 years in the Farmville plant lining shoes.

Shirley Waycaster, who formerly organized the reunions, vividly remembers her last day at the Farmville factory after working there 42 years.

“I made me a pair of shoes — and still got ‘em,” Waycaster said, noting she worked right up until the day the plant closed.

Waycaster sat beside Paul Lockner, of Farmville, who worked at the factories in Farmville and Victoria. Working for about 35 years for the company, he served as supervisor in the stitching room and assistant plant manager in Farmville.

Marie Self was an inspector for 12 years in the Farmville facility’s finishing and packing room. “I was glad to have a job back in those days,” Self said. “It was like family there, it really was. We all laughed at each other and with each other.”

She was in her early 20s when she began working at the facility.

“If I never laugh anymore in my life I had more laughs at the place than I have ever had in my life,” Self said.

Shirley Horne began work for Craddock Terry in 1976. She worked in the sock-fitting room “where we made insoles and soles for the shoes … I cut insoles. I stood at a machine all day,” Horne said.

“I was one of the first employees that started out here in Dillwyn,” she recalled. “It’s been a long time ago … I worked there for 18 years until they closed.”

She said working with the people was her favorite memory of being at the facility. “We always had a good time,” she said. “We all hated to see that place close.”

Horne’s husband, Vance, worked as a mechanic at the Dillwyn facility.

Della Horne — Shirley’s sister in law — worked for 10 years at the Dillwyn facility. “Let’s see, I started out first … doing roughing on shoes,” she said, noting she ended working as a sockliner. “I had to put glue on it and stick it in the shoe,” Della said of the insoles.

“I worked there until they locked the door …,” she said, noting two or three employees from each department worked though the time the factory closed.

“I had a ball. I used to work beside a lady named Grace Bradley, and she was the other sockliner … We had a ball. We cut up so bad.”

Like many other employees, Della worked alongside several members of her family —  three sisters and two brothers, along with two sisters-in-law and a brother-in-law, in addition to some cousins.