By Jack Gurner Jr.
The name Rice-Stix brings back a lot of memories for Water Valley folks – some good, some bad. During the late 40s and early 50s, labor strife and poor working conditions caused problems here and at other plants around the country.
On the good side, the wages paid by the company fed, clothed and paid the bills for many Water Valley families.
The firm began in Memphis in 1861 when Henry Rice, William Stix, and Benjamin Eiseman started a small retail and jobbing business. In 1879, following an outbreak of yellow fever, they moved to the Merchandise Mart Building in downtown St. Louis.
Over the years, the company grew and opened additional clothing factories. On February 28, 1946, Rice-Stix began operations with 25 employees in Water Valley’s City Auditorium, located at the corner of Railroad Street and Blackmur Drive. In 1948 the operation moved to the new building east of the intersection of North Main and Central Streets.
In August of 1955 the workers posed for two group photos in front of the plant. One was the pants department and the other the shirt department.
Recently a copy of the photo of the shirt department was auctioned on eBay and Water Valley resident Stephany Cox purchased it for her father-in-law Ray Cox.
The yard-long photograph, which shows 114 employees, was taken during lunch break. A full-size copy will be on display at the Water Valley Casey Jones Museum in time for Watermelon Carnival thanks to the generosity of the Cox family. The photograph is sponsored by the Water Valley Lions Club.