John Congdon was first elected as a councillor in Ivybridge in 1949.
For years he ran a successful Newsagents at 14 Fore Street, selling a range of stationery and confectionery. He was President of The National Federation of Retail Newsagents Booksellers and Stationers. By 1966, he had decided to diversify his business, introducing a barber’s shop next door at 15 Fore Street. Initially there were 3 chairs but only one barber. The hope was to slowly expand the business. Mr Congdon commented at the time that “the only people thought about as far as hairdressing is concerned is ‘women, women, women.’ Men are never catered for.” He hoped the younger generation, who took care and pride over their hair, would welcome this new barber’s shop and might even require a stylist! He clearly had the right idea!
John was also Chairman of Ivybridge and District Twinning Association. It had been formed in May 1972 to assist with the development of links and exchanges between Ivybridge and St. Pierre-sur-Dives in France. The official Twinning Charter (la charte de jumelage) was signed in St. Pierre-sur-Dives at the Town Hall on 26 June 1972 with a second Charter signing ceremony at Plympton on 23 September. Under the Charter, the two districts were to undertake exchanges promoting economic links, culture, tourism as well as social and sporting interaction. It was also to develop exchanges between schools and families to foster feelings of friendship and understanding.
In 1973, Ivybridge was a community distinctly in the minority in responding to the government’s invitation to hold ‘Fanfare for Europe’ celebratory events. The pro-European John Congdon, now Chairman of the Parish Council, commented “let’s become friends; better friends than enemies and that’s why I’m pleased to lead Ivybridge into the Common Market.” The celebrations included the lighting of a beacon on Cleeve Hill, an Edwardian evening at The Imperial, entertainment and cabaret at The King’s Arms and a fancy-dress competition at the London Hotel car park. The Mayor of St. Pierre -sur-Dives was invited, accompanied by a 25-piece band, to take part in a tree planting ceremony at Victoria Park and unveiling of a commemorative plaque at the new sports pavilion located at Erme Playing Fields. Other sports events included an international football match between Ivybridge and Torigny-sur-Vire, a ladies six-a-side football match and a tennis tournament. A flag of a different European country was flown each day from the parish flagpole during the week-long celebrations and the streets and shops were decorated with bunting. The week-long celebrations culminated in a dance at the London Hotel on the Saturday evening.
In 1977, when Ivybridge became a town, John was the first mayor.
For the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion which was held in 1994, John, along with a small group from Ivybridge made the trip across the channel to participate in a parade. He was presented with a special commemorative medal in recognition of the part he played in the invasion in 1944 which led to the liberation of Europe.
John Congdon died on 19 November 2003 aged 92 years of age.