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West Ashley Flashback — Welding The Community Together

If it was broke, Conlon Welding Company could fix it

The Cinderella Carriage designed and built by Conlon, Sr. for the ballet stage production of Cinderella. (Photograph courtesy of Philip J. Conlon, Jr.)The Cinderella Carriage designed and built by Conlon, Sr. for the ballet stage production of Cinderella. (Photograph courtesy of Philip J. Conlon, Jr.)

October 17, 2017
By Donna Jacobs | Contributing Writer

“Nothing carved in stone nor wrought in iron, can show the satisfaction the workman or the sufferings of his labor.”

This quote of Philip J. Conlon Jr. illustrated the philosophy of a welder’s life held by both him and his father.

Conlon Sr. attended Murray Vocational School and trained in the art of welding. His first job was with Southern Welding Works doing repair work on trucks and other small jobs. With a good job in hand, Philip J. Conlon Sr. married Eva Brown in June of 1936. He branched out to the Charleston Naval Shipyard, but quickly decided government work was not for him.

Conlon Welding Company grew out of the desire to follow his own work ethic. Conlon Sr. and his brother-in-law built the low-profile, dirt floor welding shop next to the Pringle Fertilizer Mill on land he leased on King Street Ext in 1939. The expansion of an adjacent business forced a move from the neck of the peninsula.

The Conlons purchased land on Highway 61 near 5th Avenue in Maryville, built a new building, and hung out a new shingle. There was no job too big — jet fuselages, or too small — bicycle pedals; too pretty – a Cinderella carriage built for a ballet production or too practical ­— repairing a truck frame.

 In addition it was a full-family move to St. Andrew’s Parish, west of the Ashley River, not just a business move. The Conlons moved into a home in Avondale on Rosedale Drive that Conlon Sr. had built. Blessed Sacrament became the church where they worshipped, the children attended local schools, and the family was all involved with the welding business located on St. Andrew’s Boulevard. Not only did Mrs. Conlon serve as the shop’s secretary, she had a dress shop in an addition that was built next to the Welding shop.

Philip J. Conlon Jr. hung around the shop while growing up and soon his father had him involved in “customer relations” i.e. meeting with the customers, measuring the jobs or returning with the item to be repaired, and bringing the necessary materials to the shop.

Often concept designs were quickly documented on an available napkin with the measurements penciled into the design. Conlon Jr. would bring the designs and measurements to the shop; Mrs. Conlon would price out the work; Conlon Sr. would build or repair; Conlon Jr. would assist in the installation if necessary. For some larger jobs, designs might be drawn on the floor of the shop and used as a template.

During the lifetime of Conlon Welding Company: on ever single street south of Calhoun there was “something” that had either been built or repaired by Conlon Sr. ; the bascule portion of the WWI memorial bridge was repaired by Conlon Sr.

 After it was damaged by the creosote tanker known as the “Fort Fetterman”; braces to support power poles were installed by the Conlons on the Grace Memorial Bridge; he welded a new insulator foundation for the WCSC radio transmission tower; Conlon Sr. even welded a chili serving spoon back together for Roy Hart, commenting that the chili must be pretty spicy to break down the spoon. Basically, if it was broke, Conlon, Sr. tried to fix it. His welding legacy remains wrought in iron throughout the Lowcountry.

 Stories about people and places in St. Andrew’s Parish? Contact Donna Jacobs at westashleybook@gmail.com.

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