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The Automotive Chronicles

Monthly newsletter published by McLellan's Automotive History. Dedicated to literature collectors, restorers, museums, publishers, manufacturers and investors who collect and preserve automotive literature
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April 2008 Issue
 
ARTICLE
 
How I Met John Conlon
By Monica Maus
 

On a cold rainy day in December of 2007 I was helping a realtor friend organize her end of the year paperwork. As we were working she noticed a new property listing on the computer. The address showed it to be just around the corner. We decided to take a break and go look at it.

We turned down a small lane, drove past an abandoned house with boarded up windows and pulled into the driveway. We stepped up onto the porch and opened the door with an old skeleton key. Upon entering the long abandoned house we found room after room full of bags and boxes filled with years of days gone by. There was also a basement and garage filled to the ceilings with intriguing crates and I was most definitely intrigued. I raced home to tell my husband of this fascinating find.

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Due to illness my husband and I had lost our jobs three years prior. With extreme medical expenses we also lost our home of 20 years and depleted our entire savings. We had been living in poverty after a lifetime of working in the auto sales business. Three weeks prior to entering the old house my husband had received a small settlement from a lawsuit that he had been fighting for three years. We had been agonizing over how to invest this money to our greatest advantage in order to secure our future. I felt this old house might just be our ticket out of our situation. After a little genealogy research we found that the house had been built and occupied by the Conlon family since 1872.

My husband and I went back to the old house the following day with our contractor friend. While he deemed the house structural sound, he looked at me as if I was crazy. Knowing me and my husband's disabilities he couldn't believe we would be able to empty "the trash" that filled this five bedroom house. Secure in the knowledge that the house was sound I made an offer of half the asking price with the stipulation that everything in the house stayed. Also deeming me crazy, the attorney handling the sale jumped at my offer. We closed in three weeks.

Keys in hand we began our adventure back in time. My first task was to clear a space and set up a small table and chairs and a single bed for what would be our much needed breaks. My husband and I spent every waking hour rummaging and sorting through 128 years of a family's lives. In a short time we began to know each and every member of the household. John and Mary Conlon came to our little town from Ireland in 1872 and built a solid home to begin their lives in America. The house was next to a small train depot and watering tower. John took a job with the Erie Railroad and eventually became an engineer. Mary set up a laundry service for the railroad in their basement. They had five children in this house . The house was not ornate but it was built with solid family values and filled with love, learning, music, and laughter.

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John was a well read man and was fascinated with machines of all types, telegraphs, typewriters, tools, bicycles, and household gadgets. When the time came to purchase the family's first automobile, John really did his research. He wrote to every company that even thought about manufacturing an automobile before he chose his new Hudson. There are many letters from cousins and other family members to the Conlons about their joyful long rides. The car was a pleasure vehicle initially. The two older Conlon boys were about to enter college, one at Colgate University, the other at Cornell. The car brought them home on weekends to savor mom's cooking, get their laundry done, and check on their younger sister's suitors.

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Over the years the auto held a special place with the Conlons. After 53 years with the railroad John Conlon bought a small service station in town and continued his love of the automobile to the end of his days.

To each of you who chooses to purchase this literature, know that these were the treasures lovingly preserved for 100 years by a man who came to this country with a dream and was proud to be an American and to be a part of its growth.

This is the story of just one of the crates we found in this old house. The rest of what we have uncovered is an entire book. The old house is empty now and we are beginning the process of updating it and plan to move in by June of this year. John Conlon did not just build a house, he built a home, one that we want to be a part of. Thanks to John Conlon's hard work and family values my husband and I will once again have a home of our own that we are proud to share with the Conlon legacy.

The next time you drive by an old boarded up house and utter to yourself " That old eyesore should be torn down", try to envision the house when it was a home. It will warm your heart. You never know what treasures a family's love can leave behind for you to find and carry on.

When Monica and her husband Frank Maus contacted us we weren't quite sure what we were going to find in the collection. But the Conlons had carefully preserved the literature with Borax powder, which Robert recognized as a popular means for the period of preserving papers and protecting them against damage. It did a great job other than rusty staples. And when Monica told us that she intended to write a book we also wondered what we were getting into. With the above as an example of her writing skills, I cannot wait until the book comes out. I suspect that I will not be able to put it down. If she will keep us posted we will let our readers know when it is available for sale. — Sharon McLellan

Are early automobiles increasing in value? A look at the October 2007 Hershey's auction results tells the story — very old cars are desirable, valuable, expensive and great investments...

1911 Oldsmobile sold for $1,650,000

1912 Locomobile sold for $660,000

As the cars go up in price, so does the value of literature.

 
We would like to hear the story behind your literature
collection — and so would our readers!
 
 
 
The Automotive Chronicles, April 2008
 
 
 
 
 
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