By Ralphine Major

It was 1947 when an 18-year-old student graduated from Halls High School in Halls Crossroads, Tennessee.  He found his first job in downtown Knoxville at the Standard Knitting Mills.  Eugene (Gene) Harrington would spend the next 42 years at “The Standard.”  It was the only place he ever worked.

“He loved the place,” Betty, his widow, told me.  Older son, Hal, said at one time his father was the Department Manager of one sewing department with 400 ladies under his supervision.  After 36 years, Gene was promoted to Superintendent.  When the Standard closed in the late 1980s, Gene was the Director of Manufacturing.

“It was a bustling place at one time,” Hal added.  I remembered those days.  People would try to schedule their travel before the thousands of Standard employees got off from work.  Sometimes, I would see the ladies wearing green dresses with white trim riding the town bus home.

The building by the railroad tracks on Washington Avenue sits empty now.  But, the bonds of friendship are still strong.  In early August, the former Standard employees held a reunion at the John T. O’Connor Senior Center.  No doubt, Harrington’s name was mentioned.  One retiree told me that Gene was known as a legend!

Gene was married to the former Betty Crippen, also a Halls graduate.  They made their home in Halls and raised two sons, Hal and Kelly, who are Halls graduates.  I knew the Harringtons from many years ago when both of our families attended Fairview Baptist Church in Corryton.  Hal shared another memory that speaks volumes about his father.  He remembers as a young boy going nearly every week to Rutledge, Maynardville, or Sevierville to the funeral home.  When he asked why they had to go, he said his dad answered:  “someday you’ll understand.”  Aside from production, performance, and payscales, Harrington knew what was really important in life.  Gene was a great role model for their two sons.

Gene Harrington went from an 18-year-old entry-level employee to the Director of Marketing at Standard Knitting Mills; he was a family man; he was a church leader; and he was a supervisor who cared.  It seems “the Standard” employees got it right.  The man from Halls truly was a legend!