Originally created 09/06/98

Mill closes to overseas competition, leader says



SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The last of the looms is silent now at Startex Mill, which began operating in Spartanburg County more than a century ago.

Workers walked out of the plant for the last time on Friday.

Intense overseas competition forced the closing, Spartan Mills President Walter Montgomery Jr. told workers recently.

There are 75 positions at other Spartan Mills operations in Spartanburg, Cherokee and Union counties. But 400 people lost their jobs.

Spartan Mills has reduced its work force by half in the last 10 years.

Startex Mill opened on the Middle Tyger River in 1895. Montgomery's father bought it in 1936.

Startex got visits from singer Tex Ritter in the 1940s. President Carter visited the mill village in 1980 to seek votes and to eat barbecue.

Jesse E. West Jr., 78, worked in the mill for 55 years. He remembers when the village was a thriving place, with parks, a theater, ball fields, stores and a 40-room hotel.

"My father came here in 1901 from the Spanish-American War," Mr. West said Thursday. "I was born and raised here."

He fondly remembered the mill's company store.

"They sold everything from toothpicks to caskets," he said. "The clinic was upstairs above the store. I had my tonsils taken out up there."