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Garment Factory coming down

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By PATRICK HALL, The Wilson Post
For the past several weeks, crews from Billy Price Excavating have been clearing out and tearing down the Lebanon Garment Factory, which opened almost 75 years ago and provided jobs to hundreds of local residents during its long stay as a major local employer.

According to information from the Wilson County Archives, the factory, which was located on the corner of East Market and North College Streets, opened officially on Nov. 10, 1936. Many local men and women worked every day at the factory making work clothes, blue jeans and even military uniforms during World Ward II.

After years of turning out fine clothing products, the factory closed in the mid-1980s and has been vacant ever since. Frank Vastola, owner of Franks Auto Repair next door, purchased the property almost 10 years ago and began tearing it down within the past few weeks.

I just plan on clearing it out and making it an empty lot for now, he said. The building itself has been in rough shape structurally, and Vastola felt there was nothing to do but tear it down.

Vastola recognized and respected the buildings history, pointing out many people he knows and has talked to through the years since buying the property revealed how important it was to the local community.

Hes had friends whose mothers and grandmothers worked at the factory and said many others have told him they also had family members who once worked there and made their living under its roof.

Everybody I talked to, they told me my mother or my grandmother worked there, Vastola said.

Charlie Tatum, founder of Charlie Tatum Campers in Lebanon, was a machinist who worked in the factory for 38 years. He began working at the factory in 1944 and said at that time there were mostly women working there during World War II.

Tatum said they made uniforms for the Army, Navy and Marines during the war, noting Lebanons efforts to supply troops around the world during the conflict. At the same time, the Lebanon Woolen Mills made blankets and other wool clothing items for soldiers as well.

During his 38 years at the factory, Tatum said he was machinist and added he was only one of many local residents who depended on the factory for a job. He said during World War II the factory employed between 150 and 400 people, working many shifts to keep up with the governments demand.

Its been good to Lebanon, Tatum said.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

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