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.
Draper Menu HOME
Remains of Draper plant, west side, c. 2001
It's All Over;
Last Worker Leaves Draper
By Katherine Robertson
Daily News Staff