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Tin Men: An American Building Tale



   Author: Douglas Loft
Location: Winter Park, Florida


While at the SBA conference last month, I met a self-described 'old geezer' during a break. His name is D.V. 'Red' McConnohie. That's his picture up there next to mine. During our conversation, Red claimed to have been around for the start of American Buildings. Well, I guess he looked like he could have been around back then, so I asked him if he'd be interested in giving me his story. The following are excerpts from his tale of the genesis of a metal building manufacturer.

Back in 1959, Ed was recruited by Chuck Byram [I'll drop some names here for the rest of you old fossils maybe you'll see some you recognize] and hired as district manager in Florida. A meeting in Columbus, Georgia that included Pete Waldron, Don Hudnall, Lew Beverly and Jimmy Grey produced the name American Buildings. A fabricating plant (owned by Willard Joy) then producing small Dixie Buildings for Atlantic Steel took care of production.

Time to sell. How? Direct to owners from Dodge Report leads, of course! These early buildings had no color, no roll formers wall and roof sheets were max. 12' long formed on a break press. Trying to peddle these buildings using Dodge Reports proved an impossible task. By the time the leads came out, it was already too late the building had been designed and sold on whatever conventional plans an architect or engineer put out. [Has this changed any today? Do any of you manufacturers have any luck getting work from Dodge Reports? How about contractors? I would think erectors could put them to use back when I was a subcontractor I found them plenty useful, but after I moved up to general contractor, I had little success getting work with them].

Red decided to appoint a couple of G.C.'s as 'dealers', sold 4 buildings in 2 months and the rest is history. Others within the company began to recruit contractor dealers along with Red in a fashion very similar to the way many metal building companies still operate. Before long, they set up dealers and sold buildings all over the Caribbean, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey and elsewhere. They became a little too good at it, swamping the factory with orders which then experienced horrendous errors in production as they pressed to meet demand. It nearly ruined the company; it was sold twice as they strove mightily to resurrect it. Red gave up and went to work as a design/build contractor using Varco buildings, but that's a story for another day. American Buildings? They're still around. I'm looking for someone else to pick up where our story left off. I'd like to hear your comments. Oh yeah. Don't misunderstand me. I hope to be around long enough for some punk to call me an old geezer.


Comments: Tin Men: An American Building Tale

DOUG : 99% PURE . YOU COULD ALSO HOPE THAT NEARING 80 YRS. YOU COULD STILL WHUP UP ON THOSE YEARLINGS ON THE GOLF COURSE AS i DO. YOU LEFT OUT THAT "CHUCK" BYRAM OF COLUMBUS, GA. (MY "CHIEF") AND I ARE THE ONLY SURVIVORS FROM THOSE DAYS AND WHILE I'M MUCH MORE DOCILE NOW, I AM STILL VERY ACTIVE IN OUR INDUSTRY IN RETRO-FITTING ALL THOSE OLD ROOFS WE PUT ON BACK THEN. EVEN MY OLD "MIGHTY 8TH" AIR FORCE B-17 HEAVY BOMBER GROUP MEMBERS HAVE DWINDLED TO A FEW AND I INTEND TO BE THE "LAST MAN STANDING" TO POP THE LAST BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE!
By D. V. "RED MC-1" MCCONNOHIE
I love hearing these old war stories about the metal industry. Along with the humor there are lessons to be learned and relearned. The industry is getting more compeditive everyday and I'll listen to all the advice I can get. Respectfully, RG Moore
By RG Moore
Great to read these old stories. I am based in UK and have a 1936 Rolls Royce that once belonged to Willard B Joy, I'd love to get in touch with RED McConnohie to see what he remebers of Willard Joy and maybe he even remembers my car!! If you could pass this message on that would be great. Thanks David Rochford
By David Rochford
I worked for Steel Builders in the late 1950's, ubtil 1963. Willard Joy, Bill and Richard Mullins ran the business. Chuck Byram was in charge of sales. About 1962, Fulton Industries of Atlanta, Ga. bought the business and wanted anew name for it. A contest was held among the employees and Chuck Byram came up with the winner,"American Buildings". In the meantime Willard Joy had passed away. Fulton talked to the Muscogee County Commissioners about putting up a building in Columbus, but the commissioners dragged their feet so long that Fulton accepted on offer from the city of Eufaula, AL to relocate there. Richard Mullin suprervised the plant setup which had new roll forming machinery, replacing the old brake-presses, which allowed for forming any lenth sheets, purlins, etc. Also, new spray painting booths were installed for continuous painting and drying. Later, Jim Murphy of Dxie Steel, in Tallapoosa, Ga. took over the plant. I left American Bldgs in June, 1963. American Bld...
By Charlie Maupin
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