A doffer, then a sailor
Cliffside Mills’ cloth production was a totally- contained in-house process in that the mill purchased cotton, processed it into thread, and wove it into the gingham cloth that Cliffside Mills then produced. After the spindle had twisted (spun) the cotton strands into yarn (thread), it was necessary that the thread be wound onto a wooden bobbin (spool) that the shuttle of a loom could take back and forth over and under the warp threads to weave the cloth. Earnest went to work in Cliffside Mills when he was a young boy, working as a doffer. His job was to remove the filled wooden bobbins of thread from the spinning frame and replace them with empty bobbins.
At that time, possibly since many of the mill workers were still children, expectations of the amount of work they should do was much lower than for mill workers today. Earnest told of how he and the other young boys with whom he worked would go outside to play ball while they waited for the thread to wind and refill the bobbins. I understand a doffer’s job in later years was vastly different, in that faster winding spindles and the number of frames a worker doffed made it difficult to even complete a round of his section before it was time to start around again.
In 1917, as the United States was drawn into WWI, 21 year old Earnest quit his job in Cliffside Mills and joined the Navy. He was originally sent to Richmond, Virginia, then to Great Lakes, Michigan, and then was stationed aboard a ship that sailed the South China Seas. A little less than a year after his discharge in October of 1919, he married Eddith Martin, and they raised their two children, Frances and Durward, on Bonner Road in the Cherokee Creek Community.