homepage logo

Weldon Left Muncy Fifty Years Ago

By Staff | Jan 7, 2011

During award ceremonies at its 11th annual banquet in 1975 were (l-r): supervisor Oral Brown Hall; Arlene Vandine Barto with 25 years of service; retiree Irene Mitchley; Jack K. Smith, general manager; retiree Raymond Wertz, Jane Tilburg and Lois George Swisher with 25 years of service. Plaques to those unable to attend went to Reba Robbins, Harriet Shief and Della Gelnett. Weldon officials, (l-r): Jack Smith, general manager and plant manager Elmer Fruet.

Since 1945, the final curtain dropped for the Weldon Company in Muncy at the end of December in 1960 when operations were transferred and consolidated with a sister site in Williamsport. Of four Weldon factories, Muncy was the third to close having survived longer than those at the Dushore and Lopez locations.

In his statement to the media at the time, Weldon’s general manager Jack Smith said, “Economic conditions do not warrant continued operations at the Muncy plant.”

It was also announced Muncy resident and plant manager, Elmer Fruet would be given a supervisory position at the city location and workers could opt to transfer.

Muncy Business and Industry leaders met with the Greater Williamsport Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to find tenants for the vacated building.

By the end of March, Sprout Waldron & Co, lauded as Muncy’s industrial giant, purchased the site on Market Street for use as storage space. Plans for the future were to convert it for the manufacture of new product lines. Weldon’s offices had been in a separate building currently a store operated by NAPA.

The building and business was owned by Joseph Smith of Williamsport and New York, but the site has a long history. Built in 1881 by Coulter, Rogers & Company, their manufacture of wool blankets were marketed worldwide and recognized as the highest grade quality in the country. Later it became Glenbrook Mills until 1945 when the name was changed to Weldon.

According to Elmer Fruet’s wife Teresa, “Thanks to the people who worked there, Weldon’s made quality sleepwear for men and women unlike what’s available now.” It’s widely claimed the name Weldon is a combination of the words “Well done.” As many as 350 employees staffed the three floors of workable space in the brick building fronting Market Street.

Notoriety came to the Weldon name in 1957 when the company provided sleepwear for “The Pajama Game,” a movie starring Doris Day and John Raitt.

Based on the comic novel “Seven and a Half Cents,” the film portrayed a breakdown in labor relations when workers in a pajama factory wanted raises.

According to Mrs. Fruet, “One of the perks Francis Smith arranged were annual factory picnics. Held on the 4th of July, it started off the company’s annual vacation week. First held on factory grounds, space was soon overgrown so the event moved to Trout Pond Park.”

The Fruets found it a bit difficult to get a footing in Muncy. The factory girls were among the first to show kindness and generosity by giving Elmer a baby shower when the couple expected Cindy. “It was an honor and privilege to have known each and everyone who shared our lives,” Mrs. Fruet said.

Last fall the Fruets relocated to Annadale, Virginia to be near family. Teresa indicated that at this time, husband Elmer and Jack and Rose Smith are unable to recall many facts.

The spokeswoman did her best to list names of some former workers saying office staff consisted of Dova Reese, Rose Smith and Peggy Winters. Floor ladies named were Oral Brown Hall, Irene Kocher, Martha Koons and Glenna Montague.

Others cited were Alma Beiber, Evelyn Shaffer, Mable Hawley, Beulah Day, Mary Baysore, Evelyn Wolf and Margaret Hart.

Male employees were few in number with Fruet listing Herb Fritz, Steve Zandori, Dan Weary and Harvey Green.

Weldon’s at Muncy employed hundreds of local residents, sometimes numbering as many as 350.

Following the move to the city it was reported about half of the former employees drove or were bussed to the city.

In 1975, the claim was further validated when two Hughesville area women were added to Weldon’s “Roll of Honor.” During its 11th annual testimonial dinner, employees referenced as “devoted and dependable over the years” were Arlene Vandine Barto and Lois George Swisher. The twosome was recognized for 25 years of service with each receiving an engraved watch.

While some spent decades with local sewing manufacturers, these jobs also provided women temporary employment while advancing to other careers.

This was the first generation of women employed outside the home. There would be no turning back the tide of females in the work place that began during those post war years.