NORWAY — T.R. & H. Inc. machine shop recently marked 50 years in business, and its two owners and two employees have nearly two centuries of experience combined.

The business at 186 Ashton Road was started in 1965 by George Tibbetts Jr., Bob Richardson and Don Holden. They named it using the first initial of each of their last names.

Inside the shop, which looks like a big red barn, Richardson and Tibbetts recently talked about their five decades in the machining business. Holden passed away last year.

Employees Paul Benson and Bruce Skinner have been with them for 40 years and 42 years, respectively.

“That’s 190 years of experience with four people, which is quite a lot of experience,” Richardson said.

The workers make machines and parts for other businesses and specialize in repair work in industrial settings and for vehicles, fixing broken drive shafts, bolts and the like.

They’ve created titanium pieces for aircraft engines, crafted transatlantic cable connections and done work for General Electric, Richardson said. They also do fabrication and welding.

“We can make almost anything,” Richardson said. “We’ve done some fancy work.”

“[We] worked on anything you can possibly imagine,” Tibbetts said.

Richardson was trained at Southern Maine Vocational College in South Portland.

“I walked into a machine shop and it was a maze,” he said. “I said, I have to learn how to run this stuff.”

Tibbetts earned a degree in engineering and spent 49 years at the machine shop of C. B. Cummings & Sons Co. dowel mill in downtown Norway as a foreman and design engineer.

“You name it, I had the title,” he said.

It was at Cummings that Tibbetts and Richardson met. The pair thought there might be an opportunity for them to go into business together.

“Uncle Sam sent me a letter thinking he needed me more than Cummings did,” Richardson said. He spent 13 months in the Army in Taiwan and missed being shipped to Vietnam by one day, he said.

He told Tibbetts if he had a building ready to go when he got out of the service, they could go into business together. Holden was in trucking and logging and joined them when they opened their doors in 1965.

When they first launched T.R. & H. Inc., they had to go knocking on doors to get work. But soon things picked up.

“The little business got pretty good,” Richardson said.

Locally, Richardson and Tibbetts did work for a lot of companies, including C.B. Cummings dowel mill, B.E. Cole shoe shop, Snocraft snowshoe manufacturers, A.L. Stewart and Sons canning company, A.C. Lawrence Leather Co., Paris Manufacturing, A.W. Walker & Son, Maine Machine Co., Norway Laundry, big rig shops in Oxford, and Bethel Furniture. They also crafted brake drums for developer Bob Bahre of Paris for his antique cars.

“We had to make them look antique,” Richardson said.

At the height of the business, the owners employed eight people.

“I wish there was business around so we could hire five or six people like we used to. … It’s a little tight now, there’s just not that much (work) out there,” Richardson said. “It’s really a crying shame that a lot of these businesses have to go out of business.”

For the immediate future, the goal is to keep Benson and Skinner employed.

“It would be another year or so plus before Paul can retire,” Tibbetts said. “We’d like to keep the shop open for him.”

“Our plan is to keep plugging along,” Richardson said. “It is kind of a matter of pride to keep it going.”

For more information on T.R. & H. Inc., call 207-743-8981.

[email protected]


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