What in the he** is fluff pulp?

Published 10:21 am Saturday, June 11, 2011

FRANKLIN—When Chris Gregory heard International Paper in Franklin was reopening as a fluff pulp mill, he had one question.

Darla Howell displays the latest T-shirts printed by Fred’s restaurant. -- DALE LIESCH | TIDEWATER NEWS

“What in the hell is fluff pulp?”

David Rabil put it on a T-shirt.

Gregory, who is married to former Franklin resident M.K. Rainey and is familiar with the locally made-famous “WhereinthehellisFranklinVa?” T-shirts, was honored.

“I thought it was great,” said Gregory, who has since learned that Rabil printed the question on his latest series of T-shirts, all of which include a caricature of Fred Rabil. He is David Rabil’s 93-year-old father and owner of Fred’s restaurant in downtown Franklin.

When IP in May announced plans to spend $83 million to repurpose the closed paper mill for making fluff pulp, Gregory’s father-in-law, Franklin attorney Jim Rainey, shared the news via e-mail.

Gregory, an engineer for the satellite communications industry in Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County, didn’t know what fluff pulp was and responded to his father-in-law with his “question.”

The 37-year-old also did a little research.

“I’m an engineer who works in satellite communications,” he said. “I don’t know much about paper products. When I see a term (I don’t know), I tend to look it up; 80 percent is used for making diapers.”

Rainey planted the idea for the new T-shirt and Rabil jumped on it.

“That’s a great idea,” David Rabil said. “People may not know what it is.”

The “WhereinthehellisFranklinVa.?” T-shirts got their start in the 1970s.

“People would come to Franklin when they visited the mill and would ask that question,” he said. “We caught wind of it.”

Since then, there’s been other variations, including one from the 1999 hurricane that flooded downtown Franklin.

“On the front it said “Hurricane Floyd blows” and on the back was Fred in a scuba gear,” Rabil said.