HOPEDALE - "Are you still collecting every other Wednesday?" the woman asked.

       "I just started," the white-haird man replied.

       "Then I'll be seeing you every other Wednesday."

      The two people are among the many area residents who have been out of work since
    Rockwell International consolidated its factories and phased out Draper Corporation in
    Hopedale.  Yesterday, the last two Draper employees finished their work in the factory,
    locked the doors and ended an era which began over 130 years ago.

      Carol Ferrelli of the personnel department and Ray Grant were the only Draper
    employees left working in the vacant, sprawling factory yesterday.  A steady stream of
    men, most of them in their fifties, wandered into the personnel office to ask questions on
    insurance and to check on their benefits.  Their footsteps echoed in the empty hall as
    they left.

      On August 25, 1978, Rockwell announced that Draper would "cease operations" over
    the next 10 to 15 months. It had been rumored that a closing was imminent since 1975,
    when Rockwell started the first of a series of lay-offs.

       "Everyone in Hopedale feels badly that this place is closing," Ferrelli said. "It's been
    open for generations."  Ferrelli was sitting in the near-empty personnel office,
    answering the constantly ringing phone. She greeted all the men coming into her office
    by their first names and with a friendly word.

      All the files are gone. They had been sent to Greensboro, South Carolina.  "Some of
    the men could cry when they come in here," Ferrelli said. "They remember the place
    when it was hustling and bustling. Now it's a barren wasteland."

      The Hopedale loom business was started by Ira Draper in the early 1800s. More than
    130 years ago, the first Hopedale built loom was made. [Actually, Draper didn't produce
    complete looms until the 1890s, selling their first in 1894. Until that time, they made
    loom parts and other textile items, including temples and spindles.] The company was
    incorporated in 1916 and, by mid-century the green machinery with the "Diamond D"
    emblem was seen all around the world.  During its heyday, Rockwell-Draper employed
    over 4200 workers and had orders to build 2000 looms a month.

       But in the 1960s, something went sour. In 1967, on the verge of bankruptcy, Draper
    was sold to Rockwell International.  In 1975, Rockwell closed the Draper foundry and
    the first wave of layoffs, 500 men, swept through the factory. In 1978, Rockwell officials
    announced that they "could no longer support the facility here," and made plans to
    close Draper permanently.

      Officials claimed that the energy crunch and strict OSHA and noise pollution
    standards made the Draper looms impractical.  The heavy international competition
    made them impossible, they said.  At the time of the announced closing, officials said
    Draper was going to try to relocate and retrain many of the workers and move them to
    other Rockwell plants. According to Ferrelli, some workers have relocated to the
    Spartanburg or the Greensboro plants, and others are being trained for different types
    of work with federal funds provided by the Trade Readjustment Act (T.R.A.)  The T.R.A.
    is a godsend to many of them," Ferrelli said.  But, she noted, the average age of the
    people laid off by Draper is 52 or 53. It's difficult to get training and find a new job at
    that age, she said.

      As Ferrelli was speaking, a man walked into the office with a load of telephones under
    his arm. "You're not taking mine," she joked, reaching protectively toward her phone.  
    "This is really the end. They're pulling out the phones," she said.  Ferrelli's office was
    empty except for her desk and the papers on it.  The huge factory, now owned by
    Hopedale Reality Trust, has taken on a deserted look.  All that is left are the signs on
    the empty walls: "Join Now And Watch Your Money Grow" from a credit union. "Safety Is
    Your Duty" and "Whatever Needs Doing - Do It With Pride."  A framed, yellowed map of
    Draper's is posted alone on another wall.

      Ferrelli's phone started to ring again.  "Greensboro," she said. "If you have any
    questions, that's where you'll call." Milford Daily News, August 30, 1980.

     "A Shell," a song and slide show about Drapers before and after it closed."All that
    remains is a shell."

      
Proposal for 1200 condo units in former Draper plant    The Draper Plant in the 1960s       

                                            
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Remains of Draper plant, west side, c. 2001
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It's All Over;
Last Worker Leaves Draper
                     

By Katherine Robertson
Daily News Staff

2007
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