Having grown up working part time in my dad’s drug store, Loi-Mac Pharmacy, then located at 200 West Main, I remember in the early 1950s how ladies’ stockings were almost a thing of the past. But occasionally, daddy was able to order a few pairs for special days like Mother’s Days.
They disappeared during World War II when all the available nylon was used in the war effort. But when daddy put an ad in the newspaper that he had nylon stockings with the seams up the back, they disappeared the first day. In desperation, during the war some women who could not locate nylons, learned to paint the seam up the back of their legs to look like they had hose on. We later learned to prefer the seamless nylons.
When America entered World War II, first silk and then nylon were commandeered by the federal government to supply defense needs. Overnight, stockings made of any material were almost impossible to find. Nylon was used in making parachutes and tires.
I don’t know where the nylons were manufactured but I do know that it wasn’t in Denison, despite the fact that at one time men’s, women’s and children hose — or maybe stockings might be the better name for them — were made here. Wool and cotton were used in manufacturing the stockings.
Gate City Hosiery Mill was the first knitting mill built in Texas and opened here in the 1890s because so much cotton was available that was used in producing the stockings. In the beginning, Gate City, located at the northwest corner of West Owings Street and South Chandler Avenue, could manufacture 100 dozen men’s hose, 100 dozen ladies’ host and 100 dozen children’s hose every day.
This area had been the best anywhere in North Texas for cotton grown at that time, according to the Denison and Sherman City Directories. The facility had a cotton compress and freight lines competed in allowing merchants to pay from $3 to $5 a bale for the cotton, which was more than any other market. At one time, shipments from Denison amounted to 37,000 bales.
It was the operation of a brick factory making supplies readily available that started the Gate City Hosiery Mill. An article dated July 4, 1900, was published in the Dallas Morning News and told of the efforts to the Commercial Club to bring the knitting mill to Denison to open in 90 days.
Frank Robinson wrote in his book, “Industrial Denison,” that in 1900 “the Gate City Hosiery Company, the first knitting mill built in the state, has been in operation a few months and its present day output of 300 dozen hose is already sold for a year in advance.”
While business was good in the beginning, a few short years later, the mill was destroyed by fire early one Sunday morning, according to a story on Jan. 1, 1904, by Dulce Murray in a local newspaper. First discovered at 2:15 a.m., flames had made a rapid headway when the fire department arrived. In fact, it was so far gone that it was beyond being saved.
At that time only one fire plug was available and it was some time before a stream of water could be put on the flames. The fire department had to send back for a nozzle that delayed matters even more. Apparently there was no pressure whatever and the water went in jerks out of the nozzle once it was attached. The small amount of water that was sprayed on the fire did no good.
At the time, a fierce wind was blowing and for a while it looked like a row of houses nearby might catch fire too when the flames went up into the neighboring yards.
The night watchman, a Mr. Hogan, was asleep at the mill and said there was no fire in the premises at the time and he had no idea what caused the fire.
Machinery at the time was valued by the owners at $16,000 and there was about $300 worth of dye and material and hose boxes and a small quantity of yarn. The building was valued at $3,000 and only $7,500 in insurance was carried on the plant and its contents. Fifty people were said to have been employed there.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.