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Welcome To Pepperell Sign
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Entering The Village From Auburn

PEPPERELL VILLAGE

Many of us grew up in Pepperell Village. Some of us were born there.

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PEPPERELL VILLAGE

By Skip Lanier

The village was built about 1925.  The area covered in the first part of the village was east of 26th Street.  The houses were either 3 room, 4 room or a 2 or 3 room duplex.  There were no paved streets or sidewalks; these were added later.  The houses were heated by fireplaces in each room, fired mostly by coal, which was purchased from the company and stored in “coal houses”, a small house built behind each house.  The houses had electricity, but in the early days, no refrigerators; ice was delivered on a truck from the ice plant in Opelika.  Natural gas was added in the 1940’s.  The houses were rented for about $2.00 per room per month.  Rent could be paid by payroll deduction.  Periodically, the houses were painted by company painters.  The company provided maintenance for the houses.  In the area which is now the Baptist Church, there were various trees and shrubs; these were used as replacements for village houses and for new houses.  A group of employees and a Supervisor worked full time in this area.


The village consisted of the houses and:

SCHOOL:  The school was under the county school system and included through the 6th grade.  After the pupils finished the 6th grade, they went to the schools in Opelika.  Several years later, and addition was made to be able to serve up through the 9th, and then Clift High School (OHS) was attended by the 9th grade graduates.  The school was the center of community social activities.  The auditorium was used for men’s and women’s basketball games, and for traveling musical groups, as well as for school functions.


BOARDING HOUSE
:  This was used by employees who had just been hired and were waiting for their families to join them and by unmarried employees.  They served three meals a day and the rent was very affordable.  The meals were prepared by full-time cooks. The boarding house was operated by Mrs. Lonnie Harper, Sr.


CLINIC
:  The Clinic was located near the Mill, and included a Doctor, who had a private practice as well as being on-call for Plant emergencies.  The clinic started with one RN, but later another RN was added.  One nurse stayed in the clinic, but the other visited in the houses of ill employees and families; this nurse was especially helpful to mothers of new-born babies.  Employees had no reason to seek medical services except those which required special treatments.  Cuts and scratches, bad colds, flu and other ailments were taken care of in the clinic, free of charge.


KINDERGARTEN
: A place where working mothers could leave their children and get some pre-school education as well.  The forerunner of Day Care.  Most of Pepperell’s children attend the Kindergarten.


STORES AND POST OFFICE
:  What is now the Red Cross Building was originally a movie house.  Most textile towns had a movie house.  This one didn’t last very long and a grocery store, drug store, post office and barber shop were put in this building.  The stores were operated by brothers Charlie, Jule and Jim Varner.  Customers could go in the store and place an order for groceries or drugs, and their order would be delivered to their homes, mostly by a mule and wagon; later the delivery was upgraded to bicycles.  In the beginning the Post Office was in the same room as the Drug Store, then later closed off to be separate and was operated as a Branch Office of the Opelika Post Office; the Varner’s sister Mary Elisabeth, called “Baby” took care of the post office.  Countless young sons of Pepperell employees got their first jobs as order-fillers or delivery boys under the Varners.


CHURCHES
:  What is now the Pepperell United Methodist Church was built by the company in 1926.  It served as both Methodist and Baptist Churches, on alternating Sundays.  A lot of the people attend both Sundays. In 1942, the Baptist withdrew and started having their services, church and Sunday school, in the school house.  Later the company gave them the land and they built their own church.  The company later gave the land and the Methodist building to the Methodist Church.  The company contributed to each of the two churches on a regular basis.  As the employee base moved more and more from the village, the company stopped the contributions since so many of the employees were members of churches outside the village.


SERVICE STATION
:  The service station included gas and oil and other maintenance services and also had a small café located next to the service station.  After the local movie closed, the operator of the service station, located on the highway, operated a “show bus”.  The bus made regular trips from the village to S. Railroad Ave. in Opelika; for the price of a theater ticket, you could see a movie and ride the bus for free, round-trip.  The bus was also used by residents to go shopping, since many of them did not have automobiles.  This same bus was also used to transport school children to High School in Opelika.  In 1943, the bus was used to transport the Opelika football team to Eufaula for a game.


SPORTS
:  The company sponsored baseball and both men’s and women’s basketball.  A baseball field, complete with bleachers, was located at the back of the school building and across the street from what is now Pepperell Baptist Church.


More houses were added about 1938, and the “new village” was extended to 29th Street.  And later on to 30th Street.  Many of these newer houses were occupied by Management people of the Bleachery, built in 1947.

In 1958, the company got out of the real estate business; for one reason, due to the expansion of the company, many of the employees did not live in the village, and for another, the cost of maintenance was much greater.  Some of the houses were relocated away for the Mill, and the balance were sold to the current renters.  Houses sold for about $700.00 per room, except those on corner lots which sold for $750.00 per room.  During the great depression, Pepperell never had a shutdown; there were some weeks when the employees did not work a full week, but the mill kept running. The company donated land for the East Alabama Medical Center and other property as well.  The company also donated the Red Cross Building.

PEPPERELL VILLAGE HOUSING

The village houses were built when the mill was built.  There were at least 5 styles of homes in the original village.

 Houses for Department Heads usually were 5 rooms plus a bath. These houses are located at 2500 to 2504 2nd Ave.

A two room apartment/duplex, the other apartment/duplex under the same roof also had two rooms; each had a bath.  The two rooms were usually used as a bedroom and a kitchen.     Example is located at 2802 3rd Avenue.

A three room apartment, built like the two room house, but had three rooms.  Each had a bath.  Usually used as a living room/sitting room, bedroom and kitchen.  Many were used as two bedrooms and kitchen, depending on the size of the family.     Example is located at 2202 3rd Avenue.

A three room (stand-alone) house consisted of a living room, bedroom and kitchen w/bath.  The living room was also used as an extra bedroom sometimes.    Example is located at 206 2nd Avenue.

A four room house was used as a living room/bedroom/sitting room, two bedrooms and kitchen w/bath.  Some four room houses had children of both sexes and had to have three bedrooms, but one was usually the "front room".  Example is at 2400 2nd Avenue.

Most of the houses have had one or more rooms added to them now.  The early village stopped at approximately 26th Street.  As the mill grew, houses west of 26th Street were added; these houses had a different style than the earlier ones; there were some apartments but most were four or five room houses.  The houses were heated by coal fireplaces in each room except the kitchen and bath.  A shed or "coal house" was built behind each house and the company sold coal to employees.  The newer houses had a small coal heater in the kithen which had a coil inside the sides of the firebox.  Cold water was fed into this and it became a hot water heater.  Gas was added to each house in the 1940's and gas hot water heaters were installed.  An asbetos shingle roof was installed on each house in the 1940's and some of these roofs are still visible today.  Houses on 19th and 30th streets were the last to be built and many were used for bleachery employees.  The bleachery was started in 1947.

Village Homes
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2 Room Home
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3 Room House
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4 Room House
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Pictures on this page were donated by Henry Stern