Bert  Degelow

The  Shelbyville  News
Saturday January 31, 1948
Page 2 column 4
By Ave Lewis
          "If they need a good machinist in heaven my dad will have the job cinched."
          He doesn’t know it but that’s the tribute paid by Albert J. (Bert) Degelow by one of his sons to a friend not long ago.  And it seems to sum up the appreciation of his ability and esteem in which Mr. Degelow held.  Not only by his son but a great many other people, especially those who know that welders, planers and lathes are something more than "hunks of iron"—and by the innumerable kids and adults too, to whom he never is too busy to stop and give advice or aid in helping with repair or some machine or other.
          The machinist’s trade in Mr. Degelow’s family dates far back to the "old country."  His father,  Ernest Degelow, who after his marriage lived near Dresden, Germany, was a master locksmith and his grandfather,  August W. Hultsch, was both a blacksmith and a veterinarian who forged his own surgical instruments for the latter profession.  He lived near Erfurt, Germany, and forged the spikes for the first railroad through central Germany.  Ironically enough, the home communities of both these families were bombed by Mr. Degelow’s son, Capt. A. J. (Jimmy) Degelow, Jr. on his 29 bombing missions with the Air Corps in World War II.
          The Degelow and Hultsch families migrated to this country in 1858 to escape the internal strife which was rampant in Germany even in that day.  They first settled in the Moravian community near Pennsylvania but later followed the movement west into Indiana.  However, instead of locating at Hope, which was a center of the religious faith, they settled in Shelbyville because it was larger town.
          Bert Degelow was born at 818 East Broadway and he starts his "story" at the age of 14 when he went to work for the Eagle Range Company which was located where the Hilligoss Coal yard now stands—at the magnificent salary of 25 cents per day.  In 1908 he began work at The Vandergrift Manufacturing Company as a riveter and from that he branched into the machinist line.  During this time he was studying to be a telegrapher but an accident which injured his arm left him feeling that he probably would never attain the speed necessary to telegraphy.  And he says "I guess the machinist business was in my blood anyway."
          At any rate, after several jobs while the arm was healing he began his actual machinist work in 1911 for the Shelby Gas Engine Company which was located on the site of the present county highway garage.  He was foreman at the plant for some time but in 1913 went in business for himself and the first "Degelow Machine Shop" was established on East Broadway.  In 1922 he erected his own building, still on East Broadway, and it was one of the first shops in town to be equipped for welding.  After selling the shop to Chambers Corporation in 1941 he moved his equipment into the rear of the Vandergrift and Soller garage on West Hendricks Street.  After the disastrous fire at the garage in 1944—in which he lost all his equipment—he rented machinery and moved it into the old house far out on east Broadway which was built in 1821 by  John A. Hendricks.
          Plans for a new building were in his mind however and in September 1944, he moved into the compact cement block building at 817 East Jackson Street.  To the uninitiated the inside of the building is almost frightening!  It’s filled with massive tools of various sizes and shapes but Mr. Degelow handles them all as deftly as a grocery clerk does a lead pencil.  Asked specifically what all he does, Mr. Degelow replied, "Oh, all kinds of repair work."  And one of the sons who was making a lot of noise with one of the huge gadgets in a corner chimed in,  "You might say that he kept the wheels going in a lot of factories in town while we were in the war."  The "we" is the before mentioned Jimmy, and  John  and  Fred E., three of the four sons of Mr. and Mrs. Degelow.  Jimmy and Fred and a younger brother  Bob, are in the shop with their dad.  And there are two more children in the Degelow family,  Mrs. Fern James and  Mrs. Mary Ann Dodds, both of whom reside here.  The mother of the children, who was married to Mr. Degelow on June 27, 1915 was  Miss Mary A. Miley and her father was a Shelby county blacksmith.  She must know all there is to know about the machinist business.
Contributed by Barb Huff

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