Today is the first day of school for Floyd County students, but Pepperell Primary teachers and staff took a little field trip of their own Monday — to the old Lindale Mill.
Every year, Principal Carmen Jones arranges a group photo shoot with her entire staff for the Pepperell High School football team’s football program.
“Those were once our kids, at the high school,” she said. “We want to show our support.”
Jones designs T-shirts for everyone to wear and much discussion is had over the location.
“Usually, we try to shoot the picture at the school, but this year we decided to do something a little different,” she said.
As teachers prepared for the start of the school year Monday, Jones’ voice came over the loudspeaker, encouraging her staff to “put on their lipstick and fix their hair,” because they were about to take a short trip to their photo location.
The now-closed mill is just a few blocks away from the school. While some buildings have been torn down, plenty is left and it has become a popular place for photo shoots and filming.
“It’s a tradition in our town, that mill,” said Jones. “So many of my staff had family that worked in that mill for generations. I decided that it was a perfect place for our group photo and for some photos for our school website.”
Photographer Elizabeth Harris, a parent of a Pepperell Primary student, met the staff there.
“I grew up here and attended Pepperell,” she said. “I love taking photos at the mill and seeing it through my clients’ eyes. Every time I post that I’m planning on taking pictures at the mill, I have people lining up to have their photos taken there.”
Joe Silva, owner of the mill, was on site to unlock the gates, direct parking and set fans to cool off the buildings.
“I hear a lot of people tell me how amazing it is to shoot photos here,” he said. “Some tell me it’s an eyesore, but photography clubs and classes love it because it has everything. There is light, shade, color, texture.”
The mill is also a draw for people wanting to shoot their engagement, wedding, homecoming, prom and senior portraits.
“I’ve even had families take pictures there,” he said. “One family had their grandparents who worked at the mill when it was open and they brought their aprons they used to wear on the job.”
After the Pepperell Primary staff completed their group photo and waited for Harris to take their grade-level photos for the website, they explored the hallways, stairwells and the long room that was once the mill’s cloth room.
“It was very emotional for me,” admitted Lori Pitts, a parapro in Pepperell Primary’s media center. “So many of my family members worked there. My grandparents, my mom and dad, my husband. My father-in-law worked there for 49 years in the boiler room under the smokestacks.”
Pitts said being in the building brought back a lot of memories.
“As I walked those floors, it made me remember the time when the mill was the center of Lindale,” she said. “The mill is the reason the school is there. Everything was built around that mill.”
First-grade teacher Bonnie Rampley said she remembers the mill whistle.
“I remember when I was in school, the mill whistle would blow for the shift change and my mom would tell me if I didn’t get up, I’d be late for school,” she said. “Taking our photos there feels like we are sharing a part of Lindale, like we are not just the school staff, but like we are showing the whole community a part of our town.”