Paul Bridges To Step Down At Cliffside Mill Tuesday
By STOVER DUNAGAN JR.
From the Forest City Courier, May 30, 1966
Wednesday morning, Cliffside Mills will operate for the first time since the industrial plant was established in 1902, without a member of the Haynes family in a top executive post. General Manager Paul Bridges will step down Tuesday and turn the reins of the Cone Mills division over to Joe Miller. Miller has served as assistant to the general manager for the past two years.
The plant was established just after the turn of the century by the late Raleigh R. Haynes, one of the textile pioneers of the county. Either the elder Haynes or a Haynes heir has held a top administrative post at the plant for 64 years.
Although stepping down at the relatively young age of 54, Bridges started work at the plant in January, 1926, at the age of 14. He came to Cliffside full time in 1938, as a designer. Later, he served as assistant superintendent and superintendent before becoming general manager in 1960.
Much of the final few days has been spent in saying goodbye to men and women he has worked with for the past 40 years. One was James Goode. He and Bridges went through school together, graduating from Cliffside high school in 1929. Goode went to work part time in 1924, and has been with either Cliffside, or its sister plant, Haynes, continuously since ’29, serving as master mechanic, as did his father for more than 53 years.
Another old friend is James R. Scruggs, now in his 50th year at Cliffside. He’s the oldest man on the payroll from a service standpoint.
Cliffside Mill was Cliffside when Paul Bridges was growing up. It was a mill community from the old standard, with the mill owning most of the homes and business houses in the area. When the son of a mill hand reached high school age, there was usually little difficulty in finding part-time work at the plant, and most of them intended to make their living there when their schooling was completed.
Paul’s father, Boyce Bridges, was overseer of the weaving plant. Thus Paul’s first job, on a part-time basis, was in the weaving department. He worked in the afternoon, after school, and on Saturdays. A working week for this part-time employee ranged from 10 to 30 hours. He also managed to get full-time work fairly regularly during the summer months while attending high school and college.
Thus, when Paul Bridges finished Clemson in 1935, he was no stranger in a textile plant. Taking the advice of his dad and other Cliffside officials, he worked for three years in other plants to gain additional experience. He served as assistant designer at Cleveland Cloth Mill in Shelby, and as assistant superintendent in a plant at Leaksville before returning to Cliffside for good in 1938.
The experience he needed, but it sure played havoc with his courting. Paul had attended grammar school with the boss’ granddaughter, Hazel Haynes. They began to date while he was at Clemson and she was attending Limestone. The courtship continued while he worked at Shelby and Leaksville, but after virtually wearing out two Fords, they decided to cut out the commuting and were married while he was at Leaksville. It was shortly after the marriage that an opening developed at Cliffside and they returned for good.
“I was driving a 1932 Ford A-model coupe,” Bridges laughed, “complete with a rumble seat. I guess I put a lot of miles between Clemson and Gaffney and Shelby and Gaffney. We traded for a ’36 Ford coach shortly before the marriage.”
Although there is plenty of silver in his hair, Bridges is far from the so-called metallis age. There is little gold in his teeth and certainly no lead in his pants. In fact, the ever-smiling veteran of the textile wars is in remarkably good shape and has enjoyed good health over the years. He proved this by bending over and touching his toes with no effort at all.
What of the future?
“We have no real plans,” Bridges said. “I just wanted to retire while Hazel and I are young enough to enjoy retirement. We may travel some, but at the moment, we have no particular plans.”
Bridges says he has seldom had time for golf, but does enjoy working around the yard and garden at his home. He has a small tractor and most Saturday afternoons can be found mowing the grass, or puttering around the yard. They expect to spend some time at a summer home at Chestnut Hill near Asheville.
Paul Bridges is proud of Cliffside Mills, and would make a top press agent for Cone Mills Corp.
“When a lady places a Cone towel in her bathroom,” he says with pride, “she has no idea how many good people have been involved in the making of that towel. Cliffside Mills does the complete job, too. As we like to say, ‘from the bale to the bathroom’.”
Will he miss it?
“Of course I’ll miss it. In fact, as the time to step down grew closer, I hated to walk through the plant, knowing that I would be seeing so many old friends for the last time as a real member of the Cliffside family.”
Paul and Hazel plan to continue living in Cliffside, and he expects to keep in close touch with the plant.
Ole Raleigh Haynes probably won’t turn over in his grave, or anything so drastic as that, because Cone is leaving the plant in good hands. But somehow, it just won’t be the same without a member of the Haynes family at the helm.
Reprinted with permission from The Daily Courier. Copyright The Daily Courier.
Paul and Hazel enjoyed his retirement for 16 years at their home in Cliffside Estates. He died on June 6, 1982 at age 70. He’s buried in Cliffside Cemetery, and was joined there by Hazel when she died in 2008.
An abbreviated version of this article appeared in the Fall 2009 edition of the Cliffside Chimes, the quarterly newsletter of the Cliffside Historical Society.