Porterdale Mill on the Yellow River
NAMED for: Oliver S. Porter, Mill Owner



Porterdale helped to shape my life

I grew up in Porterdale, a cotton mill village. Let me paint you a picture of life in that village and how I learned the importance of striving for excellence. The mill, the houses and the entire town were owned by the mill. In order to live in that village, at least one person in the household had to be employed by the mill.

Most of the. couples worked in the mill. My parents, Bob and Lois Millwood, worked side by side until the mill closed. They had a strong work ethic, as did most of my friends' parents. The entire community took responsibility to make sure that all of the children growing up around them developed physically, emotionally and spiritually. They not only encouraged excellence; they expected it.

There was one grammar school and most of the teachers lived in a "teachers' cottage." There were four churches, and we went to one of the churches every Sunday, and in the summer everyone attended Vacation Bible School at all of the churches. Revivals were attended at each church by the whole town. Any adult who saw us misbehave corrected us (wherever we were) with full support of our parents.

A whistle blew every morning to let us know that it was time to get up and go to work and school.  The whistle blew every afternoon to let us know it was time to go home and for the mill shift to change.  One time I asked one of my teachers why we all lived our lives responding to a whistle. With much wisdom she said, "You know we all live by whistles -- some of them are just silent."


Growing up was fun. We enjoyed the fact that everyone knew us. I have many happy memories. On Saturday we went to the only movie  theater and stayed to watch the movie twice. It was only a dime, and Hugh Price knew we stayed but let us. On your birthday, Hardeman's  Pharmacy gave you a free ice cream soda. You could go to White's Clothing Store and tell Bobby Smith to "charge it" and no ID was needed.

I remember going to the Woman's Club Talent Show and seeing Lucille Shaw do Minnie Pearl and my brother, Tommy, impersonate Elvis. He won first place on "Stars of Tomorrow" later, and my sister Brenda, won first in her age group. We learned to socialize at the Saturday Night Square Dance sponsored by the men's club. Adults and children all danced together.

I went to Florida every year as a member of the Girl Reserves, a service club sponsored by the mill.  We worked hard all year to earn the money.  In the eighth grade, we got out of school to pack Christmas boxes filled with fruit and nuts to give out, and every child in school gathered in the gym to sign Christmas carols and get their first look at the ceiling high Christmas tree that the mill provided.

I developed a love for nursing and medicine by observing the only medical people that 1 knew, Mrs. Annie Day and Dr. James Mitchel1. They had a primary care office in Porterdale before we learned the term, "primary care." If any of us in the village had medical problems, we would go to the office to be treated.  We were treated with love, concern and respect.  I learned about medical excellence through them and also about caring for others and acceptance.

Other people in the town taught me the importance of striving for excellence. My junior high basketball coach, Billy Crowell, taught me about self discipline and goal setting. He stressed team work and importance of good health to increase performance.  He taught us so much more as we grew up.  His compassion for those kids who were "different" taught us to be compassionate and to respect and even welcome differences.

Ms. Pauline Hardeman taught us to be creative and thoughtfully sent in a limerick that I wrote to The Covington News. This resulted in a county-wide limerick contest.  Two of my teachers, Jordy and Ruth Tanner, taught me dedication to a worthwhile profession.  They both taught school during the week and Sunday school on Sunday.

Officers Bailey and Digby taught me to respect the law and to be fair. They were at the school crossing and would joke with us, but we respected their authority. Mrs. Effie Boyd taught me the importance of proper nutrition.  Her meals were delicious and healthy.  We all knew and loved her.  She truly practiced excellence.

Mrs. Mae Hardeman was the first social worker that I knew. She helped so many people in Porterdale and was untiring in her work. And there arc so many more.

I am appreciative of growing up in Porterdale and of the people around me who taught me the importance of striving for excellence by being my best, not the best.

Anita Millwood Fuqua gave the above speech as the winner of the Nursing Service Excellence Award at the Augusta VA Medical Center in Augusta.