Hired in 1968 at the age of 17, Sandra Watkins is the longest tenured employee at Woolrich. With 48 years of experience, Sandra has collected countless stories over the five decades she’s been working at our woolen mill. For our third installment of the People of Woolrich series, we sat down with Sandra to discuss her enduring career, her goal to celebrate 50 years of employment, and some of the interesting experiences she’s had at the company over the years.
Would you give us a brief description of what you do in the mending department?
The mending department is responsible for checking every inch of fabric that comes off the loom. Whenever there are small imperfections in the fabric, we work to get them out. This is especially important for the fabrics that don’t get a heavy nap or finish, as those imperfections will show when the fabric is processed. We try to correct what we can to make a first quality product out of everything that comes through here.
Have you always worked in the mending department?
No. I started in the sewing room when I was 17, and was there for 23 years. After that, I worked in the distribution center before I transferred over here.
You live right here in Woolrich. Have you always lived in town?
I used to live up by the pond as you’re going towards the reservoir, which is about a 20 minute drive. I moved down here in ’82 when I got a company home. I then bought my own home 10 years later right by the park. I’ve been moving closer and closer to the mill over the years (laughs).
Do you walk to work?
If it’s not real cold and icy, I’ll walk. I don’t like to walk when it’s icy.
What’s your favorite Woolrich item that we make?
I have a lot of the chamois shirts, and I love my heavy wool plaid coat. I also have a couple of the blankets because every time you get married or have a kid the company gifts you one. They are good and heavy and keep me very warm…really nice blankets.
What’s one of your most memorable moments at Woolrich, good or bad?
I think when we were here when 9/11 happened in New York City. It was really disturbing. People were going through town trying to figure out what happened. It was kind of scary. People were crying. I can remember when they came through the mill telling everybody.
What about a good memorable moment?
Every Friday at 3 o’clock (laughs).
How much longer do you plan on working here?
I have a lot of health issues, but the doctor says I can live a couple more days (laughs). My goal is 50 years.