Pdale hosts reunion

PORTERDALE — If you have memories of days gone by in Porterdale, here’s your opportunity to share them.

The 11th Annual Porterdale Reunion takes place Aug. 24. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Heritage.” Registration begins at 10 a.m. and the event runs until 2 p.m. This year will be extra special, as the reunion is taking place at the historic Porter Memorial Gymnasium. Renovations are underway at the gym, which burned in 2005. When completed it will be an amphitheater available for concerts and other special events. “The first phase is not completed and probably won’t be completed by Aug. 24, but there will be a smooth, walkable space in there,” said Kay Coggin, president of Friends of Porterdale Inc. “Unless it rains, we’re going to have it at the gym and that in itself will draw a lot of people.”

The event used to include vendors and entertainment, but has been pared down since organizers realized most folks just want to come and talk, walk around town and reminisce. The reunion typically draws between 300 and 400 people, Coggin said. One man comes all the way from Kansas each year to attend, she said.

The gym was built in honor of Oliver S. Porter, the town’s namesake, by one of his sons, and given to the town in 1938, Coggin said. Porterdale was founded in 1830 as a mill town beginning with a grist mill, saw mill and foundry. Later, Bibb Manufacturing Company operated a twine mill that was the main employer and operated the area’s only fully staffed hospital, provided recreation programs for the mill workers and their children, and built schools and churches.

“When I was growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, people from all over Newton County worked in the mills because that was about the only place to make a decent living,” Coggin said.

Folks who worked in the mill or family members of mill workers love to come back and remember the old days “because nothing really has changed much,” she said.

“It’s just all these people — young and old — coming together and having a good time together,” she said.

Bricks can be purchased in honor or memory of loved ones to go in the memorial alleyway downtown. Also on sale will be 2013 Christmas ornaments featuring the Porterdale water tank and star, copies of “Diary of a Cotton Mill Girl” authored by Coggin’s mother, Lucille Ivey Shaw, and baked goods made by the Porterdale Woman’s Club.

The Woman’s Club is jointly hosting the event along with Friends of Porterdale Inc., a nonprofit chartered in 2007 to raise funds to rebuild the gym and benefit the city of Porterdale.