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From the Feb. 4, 1950, Eagle

Eagle Archives, Feb. 4, 1950: Mason's art is Conroy tradition

79 year old John Conroy, golden card holder of the Bricklayers', Masons' and Plasterers' Union, was hard at work at the new Lanesboro consolidated school when interviewed this week.

Along with his two sons, John F. Conroy Jr., 47, and Thomas J. Conroy, 42, he was setting tile in one of the lavatories of the school.

For more than 60 years, the senior Conroy has been plying his trade, for the most part in and around his native Pittsfield. He received his golden card from the union for 50 years of annual paid membership entitling him to free membership.

Mr. Conroy has come a long way since the days when he was learning his trade. The rate of pay then was 10 cents an hour for a 10-hour day. Today the current rate for bricklayers, masons and plasterers in Berkshire County is $2.25 per hour and an eight-hour day, and negotiations are pending to raise the hourly rate to $2.50 an hour.

In the old days Mr. Conroy says neither weather nor seasons kept his trade idle. As long as there were jobs to be done, plasterers, masons and bricklayers were eager to get at them. It took a mighty blast of winter weather to make the trade shut down a job even for as much as a day.

There are few public buildings in Pittsfield which Mr. Conroy has not had a hand in building. He says that he worked on most of the Pittsfield public schools and numerous other public and civic structures. He has particularly pleasant memories of his work on the former Salisbury estate on West Street where he became acquainted with Warren M. Salisbury whom he describes as "a wonderful man."

John Conroy and his sons have been a team, according to John Sr., from the time the boys were able to handle a trowel. John Jr., a six foot four giant, who handles the business details, says it was 1923. 

In the trade the Conroys are something of a legend. John's brother Tom, who is about 84, only recently retired. Tom has five sons who hold cards in the union. Moreover, when skill is required on particularly difficult jobs, a Conroy is sure to be among those mentioned and most often selected by knowing Berkshire contractors.

This Story in History is selected from the archives by Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.

Community News Editor / Librarian

Jeannie Maschino is community news editor and librarian for The Berkshire Eagle. She has worked for the newspaper in various capacities since 1982 and joined the newsroom in 1989.

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