Episcopalians, of which I am one, set great store by the community of saints. It may startle you that I reference them when writing about the Mill history sweep on February 25th at the Braswell Library. This image came to me while I watched a digitalized black and white movie where Mill families and friends, toddler children, pals with an arm slung around a shoulder, all stood for the camera, with a wave, a grin. The mill women on the film were wearing their better afternoon dresses and clunky shoes. One of them could have been my mother, or yours, dressed as they were. I wiped a tear away while no one was paying any attention because I was moved by this gathering of saints that were being remembered.
I looked over the shoulder of a woman who brought a cardboard box filled with photographs, clippings, even love letters. Wandering around, I felt surrounded by this particular Community of Saints that are the Rocky Mount Mills family: mill parents and grandparents, childhood friends, co-workers, gathered together, remembered by name, and through their stories. If that wasn’t enough, this amazing thing happened to convince me that this special opportunity, hosted by The UNC Community Histories Workshop and Braswell Library, was something special.
I can hear you asking, “Stepheny, aren’t you making too much of things?” I suppose I am, BUT… did you see the movie, Field of Dreams? Do you remember the scene when out of the cornfield, Shoeless Joe Jackson and the seven players banned, as a result of the 1919 White Sox baseball scandal, return to the field to play ball? I want you to imagine those attending the history sweep scattered around the room, heads down, busy looking at film, digitized photographs and talking with each other, when out of the blue, Milton Bullock from The Platters, is introduced. Everyone stops what they’re doing as Milton sings acapella not one, but two love songs that surely the Mill Grandparents were singing when they were young and fell in love. At the last line of Only You, Mr.Bullock invited everyone to sing along. For a few minutes from offstage somewhere, out of the cornfield, if you will, the community of saints showed up. I could hear them singing too.