MCLEAN, Texas — Most travelers will likely drive through McLean, Texas, without stopping. After all, the town of 800 about an hour east of Amarillo boasts little to see besides a museum documenting the history and many varieties of barbed wire.
“When you are driving 70 miles per hour and you see a sign for barbed wire museum, you don’t exactly hit the brakes,” said Delbert Trew, a curator for the Devil’s Rope Museum.
But the building itself is a piece of McLean’s uplifting past. In fact, it is the very reason why it once boasted the name “The Uplift Town.”
For two decades, it housed a factory that gave women a lift.
In more ways than one.
About 100 women worked factory jobs to produce nearly 5,000 brassieres a day. A 1975 WFAA story shows them working away behind sewing machines. Stitching straps, lace and, as the reporter added, the occasional padding. According to the report, the factory employed approximately 10 percent of McLean’s population at the time.
Anita Day is an employee at the Devil’s Rope Museum today in the same building where she first went to work as a 16-year-old in 1957.
“They let schoolgirls come down and work for two hours after school,” said Day. “Unless a woman was a teacher or a nurse, there was not a lot to do in this area. So they took advantage of it.”
But thought it might seem the perfect moniker, “The Uplift Town” name did not stick. Trew said churches took issue with it.
“They thought your mind might not be on church if you are thinking about the uplift part,” he said with a smirk.
So, the nickname was changed to “The Friendly Town” but the factory shut down in the late 70s, and when Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, McLean’s fortunes, population and business faded.
Within the Devil’s Rope Museum, there is also a Route 66 Museum featuring gas pumps, signage and other memorabilia from the road that once sustained McLean. Among the items is the only remaining sign Trew is aware of referring to “The Uplift Town.”
And for drivers who take the time to stop and stretch their legs, Trew said they still just might leave McLean uplifted.
“We are free, we have nice restrooms, and we are the best group of friendly people you ever did see," Trew said, "so it is a heck of a stop.”
Watch WFAA's original story from 1975: