SKOWHEGAN — Scott and Mike Adams are doing the same work on electric motors these days in the same shop on the same benches and with some of the same tools that their grandfather worked on 70 years ago, and they’ve got business ledgers to prove it.

Tucked into a small corner on Alder Street in a residential neighborhood sits Skowhegan Electric Motors, just as it has since their grandfather, Harold Adams, opened the shop in 1946.

Walking off the street under the company’s original sign is like stepping back in time to post-war Skowhegan when woolen mills and shoe shops hummed to the strains of electric motors — little ones and big ones.

“He started back in January 1946,” said Scott Adams, 54, pointing to notes in his grandfather’s business diary. “These are the old companies he used to do work for — there’s Westinghouse — some of the companies that were around here, Kennebec Mills, Walter Goodrich, the reformatory.”

On Thursday Feb. 28, 1946 — 70 years ago Sunday — Harold Adams did a job on a Fairbanks motor for American Leathers and a pump motor for a customer in Athens.

Their grandfather worked for American Woolen Mills in Skowhegan, traveling up and down the East Coast troubleshooting their electric motors. Eventually, the woolen mill bosses came to him and gave him 10 motors to fix, and the Skowhegan Electric Motor Co. was born, said Mike Adams, 50.

“My grandfather got seven of the 10 of them running and that’s how he got started,” Adams said. “From there he started taking in motors.”

Their father, Lawrence, took over the business in 1974, the year their grandfather died.

“It’s the same idea, but we just do it on a different type of paper,” Scott Adams said, comparing today’s work order with those his grandfather used. “This is an old shop, but the concept of electric motors hasn’t changed.”

Scott Adams said he and his brother stay busy, but businesses like theirs are fast dwindling because big companies are gradually “getting sucked out of the country”.

“This state used to have woolen mills, used to have shoe shops, it was full of everything. It’s all gone. There’s nothing left here. They got sucked overseas.”

The brothers said they have had to find new customers over the years as the mills moved out. Now they make a living fixing electric motors in the old 40-by-40-foot shop for area hospitals, sanitary districts, dairy farms, transfer stations and school systems. Many of the machines used in the shop, including an I-beam tram that carries heavy motors to the work areas, were designed and built by their grandfather.

The brothers dip electric motors up to 300 hp in a baking varnish after they get the inside wires cut and removed.

“We strip all the wire out of it and we put new wire back in,” said Scott, who also owns Moon Shadow beef farm in Starks. “Everything has been here a long time. The concept is still the same as it was back then. We’re old school.”

The brothers said they and their father, who worked the shop for 47 years, even survived the big flood of 1987, when downtown Skowhegan was under water and people lined up to get their electric motors dried out and running again. First, they said, their father had to get the water out of his own shop and out of their equipment, they said.

“Everything got wet,” Scott Adams said. “We dried everything out. We were wet and everybody else was wet. We had motors lined up out to the road. They were coming in in tractor-trailer truckloads. We just kept working around the clock.”

The Adams brothers said they are a third generation business located near Skowhegan’s historic Swinging Bridge and hope to keep at it for as long as they can.

“We’re old school. It’s all done by hand here. We pick up and deliver for free,” Scott said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to get your business. That’s why we’re still here.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

 

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