Clemco Founder Al Cleary Reminisces About the Origins of Clemco—Part 2
Clemco was founded in 1941. Happy 80th Birthday!
We’re republishing some of our most popular stories about Clemco’s history.
Believe it or not, this month’s story is based off a typewritten interview with Clemco’s founder, Al Cleary. It is the second of two stories based off the interview. (Read the first story.) Clemco employees discovered the interview in an old filing cabinet during a company spring cleaning in 2018.
The story is a compilation of Al’s recollections about the beginnings of Clemco, which originally was named Clementina and started out as a company that rented equipment to contractors. But Al explains that, and many other bits of industry and Clemco history, in his own words.
Mid-1950s: The Name “Clemco” Is Created Because of a Tax Break
We had a contractor who did sandblasting* and metal spraying. He was a fairly successful contractor as far as getting business was concerned, but he wasn’t too successful in making money. He owned Clementina a heck of a lot of money.
In those days, the tax laws in this country were such that a successful company could acquire a company that was losing money and merge their business into the other company, change the name, and get a big tax advantage by using all the losses on the profits you were making in your own business. We did just that.
We took him over because he was broke. The name of the company was the C. E. Freeman Company. We changed the name of the C. E. Freeman Company to Clemco, Inc. Again, not a lot of imagination, just a shortening of the name Clementina. So that is where the word Clemco came from.
An Irishman and an Englishman Make a Deal . . .
About 1956 or ’57, we had a call from Sheffield, England, from a fellow who had seen our equipment on a waterfront job somewhere in his country. He liked our equipment and was interested if he could purchase it from us or represent us in the United Kingdom.
For us to get a call from England about our sandblast equipment, believe me, was a big deal and still is. So we told him, “Sure, why don’t you come over here and talk about it.”
He didn’t know if he could come over, so we told him that we could come over there if he would pay our way and the tickets are first-class tickets. . . . They sent us the tickets and met us at the airport. They met us in a Rolls Royce with a driver, took us to a hotel. We went down to Falmouth for a couple days. They not only owned the shipyard, but the housing in Falmouth, the hotel in Falmouth, etc.
This conglomerate formed a separate subsidiary to handle our equipment in the United Kingdom, which they called Hodge Clemco, and the conglomerate owned it. We made them licensees. We later became their partners. . . . And here I am, an Irishman, and I am not supposed to be getting along with the English.
*Today the abrasive blasting industry recognizes that sand should NEVER be used in abrasive blasting operations because of the respiratory hazards associated with the use of abrasive containing free silica. Breathing abrasive containing crystalline (free) silica can lead to serious or fatal lung disease.
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