Approximately 80 people gathered at the Depot in downtown Thomson Friday evening for the 29th annual Thomson Company reunion. Fifty-seven of those were former employees of the company.
"It was my first job when I got out of school," said Deloris Hatcher, who signed people in as they arrived.
The clothing-manufacturing plant opened in 1936 when a group of local citizens pooled their resources to start the company. At its peak, there were more than 800 employees working at six sites. Even though their numbers were large, the workers at the company were like a tight-knit family. And they loved their jobs.
"I couldn't keep another job very long after the Thomson Company," Ms. Hatcher said. "I worked everywhere. But, they lay you off or only worked you part time."
After going through many changes with the times -- the introduction of shift work, minimum wage and benefits, the transition from a line system to a bundle system and the implementation of contractors -- the plant closed its doors in 1996.
"It broke my heart," Ms. Hatcher said of the closing.
The reunion continues each year in August with a potluck dinner, entertainment and door prizes. Kenneth Kyzer has served as chairman and organizer of the reunion for several years.
When the nominating floor opened this year during the business meeting, silence filled the room.
"We like you," a man in the audience said to Mr. Kyzer.
When the chairman accepted his nomination, the buzz of conversation and activity resumed. Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry updated the long-time residents on the progress of the new city-county governmental complex, renovation plans for the Depot and other projects in the works for city officials.
Entertainment was provided by Bennie Evans and friends.
A moment of silence was held to honor those who had passed away during the year.
Next year's reunion will beAug. 19. If the Depot is under renovation, Mr. Kyzer said, retirees will be notified of the location via telephone, mail or through newspaper and radio announcements.