By Steve Graf
With zero fishing going on due to the hot weather we have been experiencing, today we’ll look at my working career. After walking away from my athletic career in the late ‘80’s, it was time to get a real job. It was time to put my college degree (Industrial Engineering Technology) to good use. One reason I chose this as my major was due to the number of IET graduates the oil and gas companies were hiring out of Northwestern State in the mid ‘80’s. This was my original plan, but the oil and gas industry tanked, and they no longer were seeking graduates with this degree.
Now one thing I’ve learned over the years from the many different jobs I’ve held was that each job helped prepare me in some way for other positions I’ve held. These included car salesman, supervisory role at CONAGRA Poultry, and high school and college coaching. Nothing gave me more satisfaction than coaching did. Working with kids at the high school and collegiate level was truly rewarding and enjoyable. But the hours you put in on the college level are insane and was not a good fit for me personally or my family. I was not willing to make those family sacrifices that college coaches make.
Then in 1990, I decided to apply for an engineering job at a textile company, Holloway Sportswear, based out of Ohio but with factories in Louisiana. Best job I ever had! It was a company that made athletic outerwear and high school letter jackets. Holloway was the Mercedes of the athletic apparel world; they made the best. If you ever earned a letter jacket in high school, there’s a good chance it was made by Holloway who was the original letter jacket company.
After two years with the company, I was promoted to Louisiana Director of Manufacturing overseeing six factories across the state. The job was demanding, but the people were incredible.
Then around 1998, President Bill Clinton signed what was called the NAFTA agreement with Mexico. This was the beginning of the end for Holloway and all textile companies in Louisiana and across the country. It was at this point that my boss and I made several trips to Mexico to set up sewing factories. Then one by one we slowly pulled styles out of Louisiana and sent them to Mexico for production. This was the hardest thing I ever went though as an employee. It was my job at this point to tell all Louisiana employees they no longer had a job.
Many a day after making these announcements, I shed a few tears on the drive home knowing that I had just made life a lot tougher for so many women, many of whom were single moms. Many had no other skills than sewing. Some women were making as much as $14.00 an hour due to their ability to sew. This was good money back in the ‘90’s and there were no other jobs offered in these small communities that paid those kinds of wages.
All the employees were offered the opportunity to go back to school and learn a new trade. But many were in the age bracket of 40 and above and had no desire to go back to school. Many of these ladies had never done anything else their entire life but work in textiles.
It was sad to see the impact this had on the people I cared so much about. People with a strong work ethic and dedication to go to work every day. People who took great pride in making Holloway Sportswear the best company it could be were now being sent home… for good. Some locations that had been in operation since the mid 1970’s were now being shut down.
The old saying, “Nothing lasts forever,” comes to mind when I think about my Holloway days. Again, this was the best job I ever had that came to an end in 2004. Even during those stressful days when I questioned was it worth it, the people were the reason I stayed. One thing about Louisiana people, they take great pride in doing a good job and are very loyal and dedicated to whatever job they’re doing.
After walking away in 2004, Holloway was sold and is now under the umbrella of Augusta Sportswear in Georgia. The Holloway standard is still alive and well today as they have retained their name and reputation as the best.
Next week we’ll get back to more fishing topics as we prepare to head into the hottest month of the year…. August. Till next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to wear your sunscreen and protective clothing.