I thought I had my entire week planned out, thanks to a letter from the court system inviting me to sit for a week of jury duty. But as it turned out, I was graciously thanked for showing up, but told my services would not be needed after all.
So what to do? I settled on a trip to a flea market in South Carolina that I’ve heard so much about, but have never had the chance to visit. It is held every Wednesday through the year, and it is too cold in winter and much too hot in summer, but as it turned out, yesterday was just right. I’ll tell more about the market later in the week.
I’m fairly familiar with the northwestern corner of South Carolina, so after the flea market I drove to a few antique and junk shops in the area. While driving down the road I did a double-take. High on a hill was a Jantzen sign.
Over the years, there have been many garment and textile companies in the South, but Jantzen was founded in Portland, Oregon. Founded in 1910, the company originally made knit woolens, and by 1918, they were making wool knit bathing suits. The famous diving girl logo was added in 1920.
So how was it that I encountered a Jantzen facility in South Carolina? As it turns out, this is a distribution center. The Jantzen name and logo are now owned by Perry Ellis, International, and they still make bathing suits (but not in Portland, unfortunately).
The sign has neon lights, and I’d really love to see it at night. Is there anyone in the Clemson, SC area who can tell us if they light it?
18 responses to “Roadtrip Double-take”
When I started dealing in vintage fashion some years ago, I was amazed to find that Jantzen was an American brand. I knew of it in the UK in the 1960s as the supplier of our more or less regulation navy coloured school swimsuits. Never realised until much later that the diver motif was so iconic. Of course I’m thrilled nowadays when I find a a vintage Jantzen suit to resell at my fairs.
I wish I could see that large logo lit up at night near me!
Wow, how randomly cool! And to think we were just discussing vintage swimwear a few hours ago!
Maybe that is what inspired me to make this post!
Wow! How cool!!!
Re the jury call up. I wonder how it works in the USA? I have been called up to jury service twice in the UK. It is usually for two weeks. You stay sort of on-call in the jury common room until randomly called for cases each day. Sometimes you get dismissed from a jury before the swearing in. Then have to go back to waiting for another case. Generally you would serve serve on two separate juries in that time. Unless it’s an important/major case like fraud or murder. For those you will be warned that they make take some weeks and be asked if you can be available. I learned a lot on my jury service and have never regretted it. You learn basic truths about living in a democracy when you try your fellow citizens. I am proud of the system which allows us to be tried by our peers, not judges. It is an eye opener. I trained for the law after experiencing it.
In the US most of the courts are run by the individual states, so I imagine it varies quite a bit. In my state, North Carolina, the term is usually one week, unless you get picked for a trial that takes longer. For each week or court session they call up 100 or more for the jury pool, and like in the UK, the jurors are pretty much on call in the jury room.
When a jury is needed 12 people are randomly selected and questioned to see if they are suitable for that particular trial. Once you serve on a jury, you are released for the rest of the week.
I’ve been called 4 times, and have never served on a jury. This is a very small place where everyone knows everyone, and so it is hard to find 12 people who don’t know or who are not related to someone involved. In my case, I had taught one of the chief witnesses.
I served on a North Carolina jury only one time….and I thoroughly appreciated the experience. I was not called again….I took it all very seriously amidst eleven other jurors who were mostly complaining about being there. Hope I have the pleasure of serving again one day.
P.S. I also enjoyed your jantzen swim suit blog.
From my understanding the sign does not light up at night anymore! I remember in the late 80’s going to this Jantzen to their outlet store! I believe at the time they were still manufacturing them here at this facility in Seneca, SC!
Just down the road in Clemson, SC there was another mill, JP Stevens! They were reorganized as WestPoint Home, currently owned by Karl Icahn! They ceased production at the Clemson Plant about 6-8 years ago! They still have an office in downtown Clemson! Most of the manufacturing takes place in Bahrain! Up until 1-2 years ago, they did alot of bedding for Ralph Lauren! He has since taken control of his manufacturing and distribution!
That might be ‘to much info’ but I can get a bit carried away on the textile industry, especially ’round here (Upstate, SC)!
Now please don’t keep us waiting to long on the flea market post! I can’t wait!,,,,
April, I was really hoping you could shed a bit more light on this, so thanks so much for posting. That’s really too bad about the sign. Maybe they will see the value of it and relight it.
I had no idea that Jantzen had a manufacturing plant in Seneca, but I’m not surprised considering just how many sewing plants there were in the region.
My mom and her friends used to drive down to SC to the many factory outlets during the 1960s and 70s. They mainly went to ones around Greenville and Spartanburg.
Lucky you didn’t have an accident, I probably would have driven off the road if I’d seen that sign. I’ve been a big Jantzen fan for decades, maybe it’s because of the logo and font, I don’t know, but I do love looking at pics of their suits through the ages. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, the issue of “the other” is very dear to my heart. xo
I did a U-turn so I could go back and take a photo, but I did manage to keep it in the road!
All the talk about Jantzen in the UK and in Australia reminded me that I have a 1940s Jantzen sweater that was made in Canada, that was sent to me from a friend in Canada. I took a look at the VFG Label Resource entry for Jantzen, and sure enough they were also manufacturing in the UK and in Australia, and probably other markets as well. So you can see why someone might not realize that the company was American.
Knowing that the South Carolina facility was once a manufacturing plant makes sense. We associate Jantzen with Portland, just like we associate Levi’s with San Francisco. But there were Levi’s factories scattered around the South. From the 1920s or so through the 60s, the South was like the precursor to foreign manufacturing. People in the South were willing to work for less money and the area was largely non-unionized, so many companies moved at least part of their production here.
It would be interesting to know when the Seneca plant opened. The building of of a type that it could be anywhere from the 1950s through the 70s.
The Seneca plant opened in the 1950’s;
There is also I reference I came across in a letter to the St Petersburg Times in 2004 which might narrow the date down to c1953.
That second article about John Edwards is a real time capsule!
It really is. The letter said so much didn’t it? Can someone enlighten me on this comment from the writer? “My mother cried when she saw the red clay.”
The neon diving girl is fabulous. There’s going to be a fight for her if ever she has to come down! The Jantzen diving girl in Daytona Beach is wonderful too. The modelling is superb.
The red clay refers to the type of soil in the region. You can get a look at it in the bottom photo. Red clay is high in iron content, and they are not very fertile. The mom was probably upset that she’d never be able to keep her kids’ clothes clean due to all the red mud!
Until a couple of weeks ago I hadnt seen that sign in 50 years. As a child I lived nearby Westminster South Carolina, and I can remember riding through that area at night and looking up on the hill and seeing the Jansen sign all lit up with the diving lady in the red swimsuit.
It was quite an impressive sight to a young guy. I still have relatives in that area and they tell me the sign hasn’t lit up in years. It’s a shame. Back in the day there was no real development around the area where that factory is now and it really stood out in the night when it was lit up. Now it’s just non wotking part of an old builfing. It’s such an iconic logo that its a wonder the company hasn’t restored it. I’m guessing the current company owners have no appreciation for the former glory of that old sign.
The do NOT light it anymore, well I think the girl still lights. If they do and I see it I’ll photo it for you