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"14 Gray Manufacturing Strike"

Ken Burkamp took this photo on June 13, 1956, for an article in the Manchester Evening Herald. Excerpt from the article:
"Almost as many pickets were patrolling entrances to the Gray Manufacturing Co. plant on Hilliard St. this morning as there are workers who might be affected by the strike, which began Thursday at the firmís Hartford plant. Some pickets sang songs for a while.
There were about 20 pickets present when the local Gray plant began operations at 8 a.m. today.

Norman Comollo, in charge of production here for the company, has said about 20 Gray workers might be involved if the strike spread to Manchester.

He reported about 11:30 today that almost everyone showed up for work. Only the usual amount of absenteeism was noticed today, he added.

Police reported there were no incidents and pickets said yesterday it was to be a ďpeacefulĒ operation.

At a meeting last night in Hartford, striking Gray union employees received assurance of financial support for the strike from several union sources.

President Patrick J. Ward of the CIO Industrial Union Council told the strikers they would receive support from the entire labor movement in the region.

In addition, representatives of the Springfield Westinghouse local of the international union of electrical workers, the parent union...."

Following are comments received from those who responded.         If you would like to add more comments, please click here .

• Peter Bonzani, current owner of the Hilliard Mills complex where this event occurred, and Susan Barlow exchange back-and-forth communications:

Peter: What I do know is the Gray Electric Research Co. was a daughter company of Elisha Gray's telephone company in Hartford, Gray MFG. Elisha Gray was the second inventor of the telephone, and was the inventor of the pay telephone. I unfortunately have found no artifacts at the site related to them.

Ironically, I have a photo from the 30's on my desk of the Gray MFG Company outing in Hartford in front of that building. It belonged to my grandmother and I remember she got it from a garage sale when I was little. I was going to donate it to the CT Historical Soc, but I could scan you a copy if you want.

Susan: Have you read about Walter Ditmars (president of Gray Manufacturing)? Ed Richardson phoned me with info about the President of Grayís Manufacturing Company, Walter Ditmars.

Peter: It appears he got control of Gray Mfr through nefarious means.

Ed [Richardson] also said Ditmars was pro-Joe McCarthy and when Edís minister spoke out against him, Ditmars threatened to sue, and actually came to Edís church with his lawyer.

Susan: Quite a con man according to Ed. I was reading about him in this court case: http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/302/481/131978.

Peter: Interesting stuff!

I did some futher research. There are two companies, "Gray Electric Research" and "Gray Telepay Station Company". The former is Elisha Gray's company and the latter was William Gray's pay-phone maker. I actually think they may not be related after I looked into it, other than both work on telephone equipment. Hard to figure it out!

Susan: Which one was in the old Hilliard Mills? The pay-phone operation, I think.

Peter: I think it was the pay-phone one.

Here is the picture I have scanned, attached. It shows a company outing from the Gray Telepay Staion Co. in Hartford. I think the Building is still there. As far as I know, this is the only one in existence. I think maybe early 20's?

• Frank Grimason of Willington (formerly of Manchester) and Susan Barlow exchange communications:

Frank: I think around the time of that photo they were making pay phones for the telephone companies. I worked for SNET on New State Road right around the corner. In the 1970s, Bezzini Brothers moved in. They made mattresses, and we had one made for an old 3/4 bed we had. I'll check it out, I have a friend that worked there.

Susan: Thanks for the info. Would love to hear more.

Yes, they did make pay phones, invented the pay phone according to the owner of the buildings.

Susan: Hi, Frank. This photo [immediately above] is from Peter, who now owns Hilliard Mills. Itís in Hartford , CT. Just wondering if you could add any info on this? Thanks.

Frank: Hi, Susan. My friend that worked at Gray in 1960 said that they did not make pay phones at Hilliard St. and he thought Gray hadn't made them for years. What they did make was various electronic equipment, some for the government. Best I can do. F.

Susan: Very helpful. Thanks, Frank.