Interview with Chester Dutille
August 20, 2012.
Chester Dutille was employed at H.W. Carter and Sons for 38 years and held many positions within the factory including Stringer, Cutter, and Plant Manager. Historic New England staff members interviewed Chester for the making of 'From Overalls to Art'. The following is an excerpt from this interview.
Q: Where are you from, Chester?
CHESTER DUTILLE: I was born in Lebanon, August 9, 1929. My father was a barber. My mother was a homemaker. And they lived through the Depression, which really was tough, but they made a go. Back then the haircuts were twenty-five cents a cut, and he did all right.
Q: When did you come to work at the factory?
CD: In 1947 after I got out of high school, and I was here ever since. Thirty-eight years. I first started down in the shipping room. And I worked there, and I worked up in the cutting room. And then they saw what I could do up in the cutting room so they kept me up there, and I started stringing. And then someone else left, or got along in years and retired, and they made me plant manager. Well, that was a chore, because I didn’t have much of an education either. I was out of high school, and that was it.
Q: You've held nearly every job at the factory. What were some of the different jobs there?
CD: Okay, to be a stringer you had to know how to walk. We had big rolls of cloth; some of them weighed five, six hundred pounds. Then we had a hoist that would lift them up, and put them on the track at the stringing machine. And they'd have to go back and forth, usually a hundred and twenty times. Then they put the pattern on that, and then it was ready for the cutter to cut it.
Then there was the marking. We called them "lays." When the designer made the pattern, he’d lay out four or five sizes and he’d come up with a yardage figure—how much it would take to do it. Let’s say they allowed 19.2 yards for a dozen. Once in a while you’d lay it on and it’d all fit good, so you come up with seventeen yards. You’d save them two yards, at a hundred and twenty thick. You’re probably saving them a hundred and fifty to two hundred dollars on one pattern, just by consolidating the fabric and the patterns within the given amount!
Being a cutter, all you had to do was follow a line. But the cloth is probably at least five inches thick, and all you had was a knife, a six inch cutter, and you had to push it. Your arm had to be in pretty good shape. After it was cut, they start picking up all the pieces and assemble them, send them to different parts of the factory to be sewed. And then, they start on the next one. So, it was just repetition—one right after the other. First you get an overall, then a dungaree, and in the fall of the year or late summer, we started making ski wear.
We made a lot of parkas and stuff—some of them pretty good. I know my kids all had them! And we made little kids clothes—a lot of little dungarees. Once in a while we’d make fancy ones with different colors. I remember one year, one of the guys that buys the cloth bought a lot of odd stuff: rolls about maybe a hundred yards long, all different colors, all different designs. We decided to make overalls out of them, mix and match. One might have a front out of this plaid, and another one out of that plaid, and a back out of a different one. Those things went like hotcakes!