Peg Damon recalls company history on Damon Mechanical’s 60th Anniversary

After more than 60 years, Damon Refrigeration Sales and Service now known as Damon Mechanical is owned and operated as a family business.

This narration was written in 2012 by Clarissa Damon, wife of the founder Clifford Damon.

First we need to give you some background. Cliff had served in the US Navy from 1943 to 1946. While there he became interested in refrigeration and as he is by nature a Mr. Fix-it he decided that he would like to learn the basics of refrigeration. He enrolled in a one year course at a small trade school, The Central Trade School which was on Maine Street in Auburn. At that time I was working as a secretary at E. Shepley Paul Insurance Co. on Turner Street. We were living in a tiny one room apartment at 243 Main Street. Before he was through with his course he was hired at Northeastern Refrigeration for Ralph Wagg. At that time there were lots of small neighborhood grocery stores and also farms in the surrounding towns. After about three years he decided to go off on his own, so he bought a few parts and went around to some of the people that he had worked for and let them know that if they had trouble he would be available. Before that time we had moved to North Auburn , where we live to this day. We ran the business from our home for almost 30 years. When we first moved here we could only get what was known as a party line. At that time the same phone line would carry about 5 0r 6 customers and if your neighbor was talking you just had to wait your turn. When we started our business sometime in 1952, to use Cliff’s words, he had to fight with the phone company to get a private line, Of course, at that time the phone was attached to the wall in the kitchen. When Cliff needed to call home to pick up the calls he had to find a pay phone. A call could be made for $.10.

My job was to take phone calls and to keep the books. I set up my bookkeeping system on small index cards in a little green tin box which I still have in my possession.

While going through the cards, it surely brought back memories of those early years. When we first began Cliff’s hourly wage was $.2.00 per hour and if he charged mileage it was at the rate of $.08 per mile. The cost to mail a letter was $.03. By 1953 I found that he had raised his minimum charge to $2.50

None of the customers that were in that box, as far as I could tell are, still in business to-day. The only ones from the early years that I could think of that are still around are Bourque’s Market on Sabbatus Street, Roy’s Foodland In New Auburn and Gowell’s Market on Hampshire Street .

In that first year Cliff repaired a large number of house refrigerators for Gerard Desjardins who ran the Lisbon Trading Post. Gerard would take in used ones and he would bring them up and Cliff would repair them in the basement. I found a group of 13 bills that I had sent to on 12/29/52. Sales tax on the parts was carefully recorded at the rate of .02%.

One of the first big jobs that Cliff did in 1954 was to build the Maine Food Plan building. The building was built by Charles Bellegarde Construction Co. Cliff sold them all the cooling systems or several large walk-in freezers. The freezers were insulated with corkboard as fiberglass insulation was not on the market at that time. As time went on Cliff did a great deal of work with the apple growers in the area. They had begun to build big storages units. They had just started to use methods to keep apples from ripening by sealing the units with CO2. They needed to be started up every fall and shut down in the spring.

Another good source of income came about with the sale of the bulk milk coolers. The area farmers had always cooled their milk in metal cans in the big old refrigerated milk tanks that held water. The milk was transported to Portland to be bottled. They were told that in the future their milk was going to be transported by bulk tanker trucks, so they had no course but to buy bulk coolers. Of course they came in different sizes but they sold for somewhere near $1,000 to $2,000.

Our son Bruce joined the company and it was time to move out of our home. We needed room to grow. Our first move was to 100 Washington Street (Northbound). This was about 1978 or 79.After a few years it was time to move again as we needed more space. This time the move took us to the corner of Stetson Road and Turner Street. We were forced to move again when the property was sold in order to build the Auburn Plaza Mall. This time we moved to temporary quarters in a building near Ness Oil Company on Washington Street (Southbound).

During that time we bought the property at 840 Washington Street (Northbound) and made plans to build the building where we remain to.-day. One of our greatest assets has been loyal employees. The first to join our ranks was Bob Lee. Soon after that, Don Pomerleau and Ron Bell came on board. They are still with us today.

Bob’s son Jeff also works with us. Our oldest son Douglas joined the company.