The early days of the mill in Sutton

The Sutton Silk Mills produced thread and silk fabric that was used to make parachutes. It was wartime, and the 42 looms at 5 rue Pine worked non-stop. After the war the machinery was converted to manufacture synthetic fabrics. Elizabeth Royea-Goyette, the dean (the oldest) of the former employees, Gisèle Boivin-Roy and André Lagimonière tell us about this period.

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Montrealers George Deckelbaum and W.B. Sears bought the Sutton Silk Mills in 1951. It was the start of a close partnership and an enduring presence in Sutton that lasted more than 50 years.

1939 - 1954 • The Sutton Silk Mills

1951: Deckelbaum and Sears assume ownership. Employees sign a collective agreement negotiated by a union affiliated with the United Textile Workers of America  (UTWA).

1954: Months-long closing.

1955: Reopening under the name Yarntex.

1955 - 1978 • Yarntex

• Mainly produces carpet thread.
• Association with Robison Canada (to manufacture embroidery thread) and Dufresne Yarns (to produce fine wool and textured yarn) in space they occupy in the factory. 
1962 et 1973: Aborted attempts at unionization.
1978: Yarntex closes. Robison continues to operate.
• Plant reopens with the addition of a dye shop.

1978 - 2004 • Filtex

1982: After taking the name Brodfil, the Sutton spinning mill is re-named Filtex (a francization of the name Yarntex).
16 July 2004: Definitive closure.

With the opening of Yarntex in 1955, the local management was entrusted to a 32-year-old woman, Arlene Royea, who had been forelady for 12 years at the Sutton Silk Mills. This was unusual for the time, as noted by the Sherbrooke Daily Record.

« Sutton is one of the few Quebec communities to boast a woman plant manager. There's no reason why women shouldn't make good plant managers, although the idea seems to bother some people" said W.B. Sears, part owner ofthe new Yarntex Corporation Ltd. which was establised in Sutton last year. »

Photo credit: Alex McCallum

From left to right are: Yarntex salesman Carl Rockball; co-owner George Deckelbaum; plant manager Arlene Royea; co-owner Bill Sears Sr. and Dufresne Yarns manager Jack Ratcliffe. Rockball subsequently replaced Royea when she went to work at La Filature, the Yarntex wool store at 12 rue Principale Nord. She was most likely employed there from the store’s opening in 1971 until her retirement in 1988.

Arlene Royea died in Sutton on Friday, November 7, 2008; she was 85.