Providing Rigging Products & Services to North Texas
Union Sling Company was founded by Charles W. Dennis Sr. His story is one of pulling himself up by the bootstraps. Born Sept. 9th 1916 in Collin County, Texas. His grandfather had been a teamster, operating a dray wagon in the McKinney, Anna, Celina area of north Texas in the late 1800’s. His father had been a turn of the century sharecropper in that same area. Charles grew up picking cotton. He attended school in McKinney, Texas, and graduated from McKinney High School in 1937. He played offensive and defensive tackle in football at McKinney they went to the State Play-offs that year. He was offered athletic scholarships to Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, and Baylor University, but chose to go to work rather than go to college. People with college degrees were without jobs, and having lived The Great Depression, the lure of a job and a little spending money sounded a lot better than more years of school.
In late 1937, he visited a sister living in Lubbock and headed west from there “riding his thumb”, looking for a job. He spent his first night away from home enduring a norther, covered by newspapers, in a grain silo in Texline, Texas. With a lot of stories hitchhiking first to California, then back; to jobs at Fort Supply in the Oklahoma panhandle, foreman on the Nimrod Dam in Arkansas to being drafted in the Army off another Dam construction job at Albany, Clinton County, Kentucky (the hometown of his grandfather). He served the military in the Pacific Theater acquiring the rank of Sargent Major.
After the war, he returned to Guam to help with reconstruction, working for Brown & Root. Returning to the states, he continued as an ironworker, driving rivets and walking steel beams in the days before nets and safety harnesses were used. On the Adolphus Hotel Annex job he was foreman, and his employer said he was the only man he’d trust with ‘plumbing’ a building. Plumbing in this case meant making sure it was straight, true, and square. He would use only a plumb bob in a bucket of oil (to resist wind drift), but was really good at it.
In early 1951, approaching 35 years of age, in mind of the friends he had seen walk off buildings, now married with a daughter and a son on the way, and conscious of the Law of Averages, that one day he might make that fatal miss-step; he decided he needed to find work on the ground. He and an iron working buddy decided to start a partnership hand splicing wire rope slings after hours.
They would get an order for some slings, initially mostly form their employer, and splice them after a full day of ironworking, in his backyard. His first splicing vice or “riggers screw” was set under a clothesline pole, on a concrete pad of cement scooped from dropped or spilled cement from rail cars in the Dallas railyard. Both men had been riveters and when they would finish a sling, they would tap twice on the vice… the riveters signal they were ready for another red-hot rivet, or in this case another sling. When the partner was ready to quit, he’d tap twice on the vice (and vocally say “ding ding”), then say, “Big D, lets go get a beer!”. C.W. knew they had to make delivery, and quitting just because you were tired would not build the business. Often after a little break for a beer, and the partner went home, C.W. would finish the order. As an aside, in all my years around him, no matter how hard we worked… or played, I never heard him utter the words “I’m tired!”.
The splice they used was unlike anything anybody else was using. The common splice in those days was a “Liverpool” splice. This splice was known for unwinding and failing if a load was lifted without a tag line. “C.W.” or just “Dennis” as he was now known, had developed a locking splice that would not unwind and fail if the load was allowed to spin… still an unsafe practice because the body of the sling would still unwind, and the sling was likely to fail… but the splice would hold.
As word of mouth spread, they were getting more orders than they could splice and still hold down their regular jobs. One day about 6 months in, the partner decided he wanted out, and C.W. bought him out for half of what was on the checkbook… about fifty bucks. Soon, C.W. had to quit his ironworkers job and splice full time. After about a year under the clothesline pole, and splicing in all weathers, he rented a small space from the only wire rope warehouse in Dallas, Union Wire Rope Co. at 147 Howell St. in the Harwood Industrial area near downtown. There was a coincidence here, because Union Sling Company had been named because Dennis and the partner had been members of the local Iron workers Union, but a lot of people assumed that he was the sling manufacturing branch of Union Wire Rope, which didn’t hurt business any.
Following that deal was almost decade and a half of long hours, often splicing 36 hour days, and a dedication of delivering a quality product, on-time service and a fair price. He always kept a close eye on inventory, because he would say, “You can’t peddle from an empty wagon!”. Leroy McCarley, one of his earliest customers, in later years remembered him delivering slings in a “Chachi top Pontiac”; which was Leroy’s description of our first unofficial delivery vehicle, a 1947 Pontiac convertible. He always answered the phone, “Union Sling, Dennis speaking!”, and a lot of his customers thought his first name was Dennis; using his last name probably was a left-over of how the military would have identified him.
Union Sling Company Today
In 1963, Union Wire Rope pulled out of Dallas, closing their warehouse, and Union Sling moved to its current location. From there to today, it has been a story of keeping your “eye on the ball” and “shoulder to the wheel”. Union Sling Company has been building Dallas for over 70 years. With a focus on those same set of principals… Quality, Service, and Value we will continue to build Dallas, and the North Texas area for many years to come.
Charles W. Dennis II
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Wire ropes, chain and nylon slings, fittings, pendants, chokers, safety harnesses, and tie-down straps.Contact Us Today