Remembering and moving on
Sitting in the front office of the old Corrigan Electric Company building, Don Corrigan looks comfortable. Seeing as he has spent most of his life in the building, it makes sense.
These days the office is dusty. Green and orange floral carpet harkens back to another time. An old bankers table sits unused in one room and a pump organ Corrigan traded for work sits in another. Pieces of Rosemount’s history are scattered all over an old desk.
Corrigan Electric dates back to the early years of Rosemount’s history. Don’s father, Thomas, started the business from his home on Cameo Avenue.
In 1957, Thomas Corrigan constructed the building that sits on the corner of 145th Street and Cameo Avenue. The building still proudly displays the Corrigan Electric name in fading red letters.
Don fondly recalls going on calls with his dad as a kid after supper. Those early experiences shaped what Don wanted to do with his life.
“It was the only thing I ever really wanted to do,” said Corrigan of taking over the family business.
Corrigan Electric also owned property across 145th Street that once housed the Stelter blacksmith and machine repair shop. The business used the building as storage. It was torn down in 1985 to make way for the Rosemount Post Office.
Don worked alongside his dad until Thomas died in 1968. Then he took over the business. At its busiest, Don ran crews of more than 20 men out of the building. The company had a hand in building many of the houses and businesses in the area.
For many years the business succeeded doing new construction jobs. Also, the business sold and serviced Westinghouse appliances.
Corrigan Electric was the first business in the county to have a mobile phone and one of the first to have a two-way radio system.
The company worked a lot with area farmers as well. Don smiled broadly as he recalled one particular service call. Heavy winds had knocked out a local farmer’s power.
Early one morning, Don took a young apprentice with him out to do the repairs. At 10 a.m. the farmer’s wife insisted Don and the apprentice come in for coffee and strawberry shortcake that she had made on a wood stove.
After the break the two went back to work and then at lunchtime she insisted they come in for a roast beef meal. He said her kindness left an impression on the young apprentice, as he brought it up many years later.
“That’s just the way it was back then. Now all the farmers are gone,” said Don.
A lifelong Rosemount resident, Don has collected a lot of stories such as the lunch. It’s what he enjoyed so much about being an electrician.
“No one wants to listen to an old man tell his stories,” said Don.
That is not true, though. Maureen Geraghty-Bouchard said Don’s knowledge of the area and its people were invaluable to her as she put together a book recently about Rosemount’s history.
Change is inevitable, though. When the economy tanked in 2008, so did business. By 2011, it was hard to keep one man busy. He decided it was time to close up shop.
Don was able to find his remaining employee another job opportunity and he retired.
While he’s done some travelling, Don admits that he misses working, meeting people and his shop.
The shop though will have a second season. In the garage space, Nickie Carrigan has opened The Warehouse, a group fitness training center. Don said he’s glad to see the space filled and he’s impressed with what Carrigan has done with the it.
At one point, Don thought maybe they should paint over the Corrigan Electric on the side of the building to reflect the changes but his wife, Rita Beyer-Corrigan wouldn’t hear of it.
“I told him he couldn’t do that. That building is a landmark. Don and his father have done so much for this community,” said Beyer-Corrigan.
Besides, going forward, Corrigans will continue to occupy part of the building. Rita and their daughter Kat plan to turn the front office space into an art studio and gallery. A hectic fall has slowed their plans, but Rita said they hope to open by Christmas.
The transition has Don tinkering around the shop. He’s ripping up the green and orange carpet to put down new flooring. He’s going through years of old paperwork, some of which dates back to World War II. And he’s doing a lot of remembering.
“I miss it. I do,” said Corrigan.