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More than a blanket for Japanese prisoner of war

At The Springfield Woolen Mills, we are passionate about uncovering the rich history behind this iconic property. One individual who truly captured the essence of the Mills' past is Charlotte Reedy. Through her remarkable storytelling skills, she has brought to life countless stories and anecdotes that have shaped the history of this unique place.

One of Charlotte Reedy's articles, sponsored by the Robertson County History Museum, offers a glimpse into the Mills' past that we simply had to share. Her writing captures the essence of the times and the people who worked tirelessly to create a legacy that still resonates today.

Charlotte Reedy

For the USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee

An economic boost.

Employment for 350 people.

Two-time winner of the Army Navy Production Award for “high achievement in producing materials needed in the war effort” with about 40,000 blankets per month during World War II.

Springfield’s Woolen Mills were often a part of daily life. They were found on passenger trains for those who traveled overnight. They were used in Kentucky stables for the racehorses. And “Army blankets” could be found in many, if not most, of the homes in Springfield after World War II.

To one person, however, the Woolen Mills blanket was more than a part of daily life. Writing to the Springfield Woolen Mills, Mrs. Evelyn L. Whittaker expressed her appreciation in an unsolicited letter that was published in the May, 1946, edition of the “Woolen Yarns.”

She remembered being in a Japanese prison camp, and she shared her memories of the beatings, the shortage of medicine and the disgusting food. She wrote about “makeshift beds” in rooms that were either suffocatingly hot or icily cold, and she described thin, filthy blankets.

Mrs. Whittaker was the wife of a textile consultant and imprisoned for two years. When she was finally released and returned to the United States, she had to purchase clothing and furnishings. She went shopping on Fifth Avenue in New York.

She added, “That’s why they stock Springfield blankets– because they’re the best obtainable.”

She wrote about the “pleasure and comfort” she found in the Woolen Mills blankets that she purchased. She said that during her recuperation, she found there could be “nothing superior to the workmanship and beauty.” Mrs. Whittaker concluded that “my blankets are really a work of art. I’ll always treasure them as I do a lovely painting, a precious book, a garden of flowers or soft blues of the sky.”

The editor of the “Woolen Yarns” responded that “all of us who are making these treasured blankets can feel a glow of pride over such strong and vivid appreciation of a quality product.” …

The closing of Springfield’s Woolen Mills was announced in letter to the employees, dated Dec. 17, 1963. The reason for the closure was the “impact of increasing imports from low wage countries,” the letter said.

For many, however, Springfield’s Woolen Mills was more than a mill.

*Please note: The photo depicted above has no connection to this article, but is meant as a representation of female POWs during WWII. This photo is of American Army and Navy nurses captured by the Japanese in 1942 that were stationed in the Philippines.

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