Acme-McCrary steam whistle is silent – for now

The Acme-McCrary steam whistle is silent for now. According to Brenda Johnson, Director of Human Resources for Acme, the steam whistle stopped blowing on May 8, 2014. One of the few departments that were left at the downtown location was moved to another location. The steam whistle operated from steam that was generated by a boiler. That boiler has not been used since the move on May 8.

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Brenda Johnson beside an photo in the offices. Photo ©Bill Ballentine

Do you miss the whistle or do you have any memories about it. Share them in the comments below. 

Although an exact date is not available, she believes it started bowing in the 30’s or 40’s.

The whistle has been a part of the Asheboro community for 75 years or more. Many people remember it blowing and they would look at their watch to see if the watch was accurate. What a lot of people don’t know is that the whistle was manually blown at 7 am, 12 noon, 12:30 pm and then at 3:30 pm, which was later changed to 3pm. The whistle would remind employees it was time to start work, go to lunch, and come back to lunch and then when you could go home. So the whistle was only as accurate as the person that was supplying the steam.

The last person that was responsible for that process was Don Hill. Don worked in the maintenance department and he was the man that controlled so many memories of that sound. He started to work for Acme-McCrary in May of 1999 and he still works there today.

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Don Hill standing beside the steam whistle that no longer blows in downtown Asheboro. Photo ©Bill Ballentine

I asked him if he was ever late blowing the whistle, he grinned and said “Maybe just a couple of times.”

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A photo of the now silent steam whistle on the roof of the Acme-McCrary building in downtown Asheboro. Photo ©Bill Ballentine

John Ogburn, the Asheboro City Manager remembers the whistle. He remembers as a boy growing up in the Greystone area of Asheboro hearing it blowing at 7 am. He knew it was time to get out of the bed. When asked if he would like to hear it blowing again, he responded with “Even though it is part of the past and nostalgic, it may need to stay in the past. If it was to start up again I hope it would be a signal that manufacturing at the Acme McCrary downtown facility has restarted.”

I can remember growing up many blocks from downtown and hearing the whistle blowing. It always reminded me of the time when I heard it.

Mrs. Johnson supplied a copy of a “Letter to the Editor” that was written by Nancy Stevens (date unknown) which was published in the Courier Tribune. The beginning of the letter started with “After listening to the Acme-McCrary whistle for almost 90 years, I didn’t realize I loved it until someone complained about it. It would be interesting to know how many people have listened to that whistle and fed, clothed and educated their families by listening. If it stopped blowing, I would miss it. Hope it blows loud and clear as long as I live”

Mrs. Johnson at its peak the downtown location had as many as 300 employees. Now it has around 75 employees and most of that number is office people since the downtown location is the corporate headquarters for Acme-McCrary. Neal Anderson is the current CEO of Acme-McCray.

In case anyone is wondering, the longest active employee that is still working there is Irene Cox. Congratulations on working there for the past 66 years. She started in 1948.

The Southern Shout Out has spoken, now it is your turn.

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