Mill Song

In 2005 Boogaloo produced their best summer play to that date: Mill Song. Again, with a script by Betsy Vanderford and direction and songs by Ralph Lawson. For the local community this is a long-awaited production, dealing directly as it does with events in and around the long-time hub of Union life.

Storylines in Mill Song include:

I play Harvey, a domineering, abusive husband and moonshiner in a dry county. It's a heavy part and I've only got two scenes to establish exactly how evil, mean, wicked, bad and nasty this fellow is before he's offed in a mutual struggle to the death with the village constable. (So I'm probably meaner on-stage than the fellow was in real life. But maybe not... keep reading!)

By the way, if you've ever wondered why our group is named "Boogaloo", this production removes the confusion. Long ago, but still in living memory, mill workers were not paid in cash. They were paid in "boogaloos"... company coinage. The workers could spend these boogaloos at the company store, or they could use them to buy regular currency. Since converting to cash involved currency exchange fees there obviously was a huge incentive to spend at the company store. Mill Song is replete with the terminology of the textile mills that dominated this area. People held jobs as "spinners" and "weavers" and "doffers" and "carders".  Spinning and weaving are fairly self-explanatory terms. A "carder" tends the carding machine that combs the cotton to remove foreign matter and prepare it as "sliver" (which rhymes with "MacGuiver", not "liver"). A "sliver" is a large, loose rope of  cotton.  This gets spun into yarn and then thread. A "doffer" is someone who replaces full bobbins with empty ones.

If you didn't work at a mill, most of your neighbors and relatives did. Boys and girls grew up to replace their parents working in the very same jobs. It wasn't unusual at all for children as young as twelve to be employedas doffers and sweepers. It seemed at one time that the mills would always dominate the culture of this area. 

Everything changes. Today very few people in Union are employed by textile companies. The mills owned by Milliken have largely been shut down. Conso has moved away, most of their operations now residing in India and China. A couple of weeks ago I watched as the historic Buffalo Mill was torn down. (It now only exists in effigy in the mill town diorama in the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia). Mill Song is a lament for this rapidly disappearing culture.

Life Meets Fiction

Just after our final performance on on Sunday, June 19th, 2005, I was approached by a fellow as I was pumping gas. As it turns out, he was the grandson of the man I portray in the performance. With him he had "Harvey's" daughter-in-law, a charming silver-haired lady. He also had a newspaper clipping from February 16th, 1933, which I was privileged to read. Whereas in the play "Mr. Ellis" and "Harvey" meet in a mutual duel to the death over Harvey's illegal moonshine trade, the reality was slightly different, and in some ways even more exciting.

It seems Harry Willard and his father-in-law, constable C.Y. Allison, had had some 'words' earlier that night, and Allison told Willard to go home. Well, Harry went home all right, but he didn't stay there. Telling his wife Lois that he was going out to the store to buy some Coca-Cola for their cholicky baby, he left... with his gun. He met C.Y. behind the store and they engaged in what was described as a "toe-to-toe shootout". When the smoke cleared, Harry was dead, and Mr. Allison survived, though he carried five bullet wounds to tell the tale.

Harry Willard Jr. was just two years old when his father died, and the above story was told to me by his wife and son. They had driven down from North Carolina to see the play because they'd heard that their own family history was in it. As they had moved away years ago, it touched them that their memory was preserved and even performed years after they thought they had been forgotten.

One of the best things about performing these plays is meeting the people involved and learning the history upon which our plays are based. Boogaloo's mission is truly to preserve Union County's history through performance.


Mill Song
Music & Lyrics by:
Ralph Lawson
Arrangement by: Buddy Wilkes & Dell Morgan
Soloists: Daniel Prince
Janie Gist
Josh winters
Kathy Stepp / Janet Lawson
Katie Holden
Maggie All
Brittany Pridemore
Caitlin White
I Can Dream
Music & Lyrics by:
Ralph Lawson
Arrangement by: Buddy Wilkes & Dell Morgan
Soloists: Brittany Pridemore
Katie Holden
Caitlin White
A-Goin' to the Ol' Mill Pond
Music & Lyrics by: Ralph Lawson
Arrangement by: Buddy Wilkes & Dell Morgan
Soloists: Daniel Prince
Jim Stepp
Nancy Browning
George Bruce
The Boogaloo Song
Music & Lyrics by: Ralph Lawson
Arrangement by: Buddy Wilkes & Dell Morgan
Soloists: Alan Cromer
Maggie All
Dave Leigh
Third Shift Date
Music & Lyrics by: Ralph Lawson
Arrangement by: Buddy Wilkes & Dell Morgan
Soloist: Janie Gist
Backup Singers: Mary Blackwell
Harriet Cohen
Sarah Garnett
Crystal Robinson
Ann White
Sad Song
Music & Lyrics by: Ralph Lawson
Arrangement by: Buddy Wilkes & Dell Morgan
Soloists Josh Winters
Kathy Stepp
Caitlin White
Brittany Pridemore
Old Mill Baseball Game /
When They Crown Miss Textile Queen
Music & Lyrics by: Ralph Lawson
Arrangement by: Buddy Wilkes & Dell Morgan
Miss Textile Queen
Leah Lawson
Courney Sanders
Diana Bardis
Kirsten Robbins
Connor Medford
Kelsey Wright
Donielle Babb
Reid Bailey
Mallory McGee
Taylor Baker
Jordan Sizemore
Ol' Mill Baseball
Game Singers:
Taylor Wade
Trey Smith
Chase Baldwin
Jacob Winters
Josh Winters
Matt Vanderford
Morgan Hathcock
Erin Connolly
Bess Lawson
Michael Leigh
Mill Song / Time to Rebuild / We Can Dream
Music & Lyrics by: Ralph Lawson
Arrangement by: Buddy Wilkes & Dell Morgan
Medley Singers: Bess Lawson
Reid Bailey
Crystal Robinson
Brittany Pridemore
Kristi Sommer


arranged alphabetically by last name
(if I have any of these wrong just let me know so I can correct it)

Maggie All Clara
Reid Bailey Evelyn
Taylor Baker Thelma
Chase Baldwin Eddie
Diana Bardis Child
Mary V. Blackwell Wilma
Nancy Braxton Browning Granny Belle
George Bruce Mr. Baxter
Harriet Cohen Lois
Erin Connolly Billie Jane
Alan Cromer Mr. Ellis
Sarah Garnett Pansy
Janie Gist Sophie
Morgan Hathcock Elsie
Katie Holden Daisy
George Holloway Dooley
Norma Johnson Lillie
Sue Keith Agnes
Tori Labian Hilda
Bess Lawson Norma
Ralph Lawson Cousin Arthur
Dave Leigh Harvey
Michael Leigh Child
Rob Lindler Smitty
Mallory McGee Rosie
Pam McMillian Missouri
Connor Medford Child
Katie Poole Juanita
Brittany Pridemore Iris
Daniel Prince Ben
Bailey Queen Ernestine
Crystal Robinson Ida Mae
Bobby Rogers Dooley (alternate)
Thomas Paul Sloan Boogaloo Man / Pitcher
Trey Smith Earl
Kristi Sommer Verlie
Jim Stepp Mr. Foster
Kathy Stepp Aunt Doody Belle
Matt Vanderford Pete
Taylor Wade Fletcher
Davey West Jimmy
Ann White Olive
Caitlin White Charlotte
Buddy Wilkes Furman
Jacob Winters Child
Josh Winters Gilbert