A Summer Vacation to Remember

In the summer of 2014 my wife and I took a vacation to the Pacific Northwest. We were attending a wedding outside of Portland and we looked forward to enjoying the beautiful summer weather away from the oven-like weather in our Arizona home. I had recently retired, but for years I had traveled the West and was familiar with many of the attractions in Oregon and Washington.

Our plan was to fly into Seattle, spend a few days there, then rent a car and head down to Oregon for more vacationing before the wedding. However, when I tried to make reservations in Seattle, there were few rooms available, and their prices were unbelievably high. I was expecting high prices, but these prices were much higher than what I knew that they should be. Then it occurred to me:

This was Seafair week! Of course, Seattle hotels would sell out for the fair events and the hydroplane races. We easily fixed this, by flipping our plans so that we went to Seattle after vacationing in Portland and the wedding. 

We flew from Phoenix to Portland where we stayed at a classic old hotel, The Benson, in the heart of Portland at the edge of the historic Pearl District with its many attractions. It was only a short walk to the famous and gigantic Powell Bookstore. The area was filled with terrific restaurants, shopping, and parks. All within walking distance.

The Benson Hotel

After a couple of days in Portland on foot, our itinerary had us renting a car and heading for the famous Oregon coast. We stayed in Canon Beach, and soaked up some sun and ocean air. From there, we headed inland to Oregon’s wine country where the wedding was being held. We stayed at the luxurious Allison Inn & Spa in the Willamette Valley. The weather was beautiful, perfect for an outdoor wedding. But our vacation was only half over.

Canon Beach

Seattle was our final destination. We checked in at the historic Paramount Hotel on 8th and Pine in downtown Seattle before dropping off our rental car. Having a car in a busy city is a waste of time and money. The Paramount, another historic hotel, was across the street from the Paramount Theater, and only a few blocks downhill to the Pike Place Market. There was plenty to see and do on the way, including Macy’s, Nordstrom, Pacific Place, and Westlake Center for my wife’s shopping fix.

Paramount Hotel, Seattle, WA

It was truly a vacation to remember. Today, in the pandemic, it’s fun to reminisce of great times like this, and look forward to their return.

*I saw a youtube video recently, Is SEATTLE Safe to Travel to Right Now? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUghxhavje4&t=10s Most of these places are boarded up, including big retailers such as Nordstrom’s. 

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The Surgeon and the Chauffeur

As some of you know, I have a long history in the appliance business, starting in Phoenix working for a small appliance distributor, and eventually moving on to a builder distributor, specializing in selling appliances to home builders. Finally, I worked regionally and nationally for some of the nation’s largest appliance brands. Maytag, Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, and Whirlpool.

For several years, I was the Western Regional Marketing Manager first for Maytag and Jenn-Air, and continuing after we were acquired by Whirlpool. I also was responsible for training of the distributor sales forces that we had throughout the Western States. We had a training center in Atlanta, that was fully equipped with live appliance kitchen displays, as well as meeting rooms and a classroom. I’d arrange for sales associates from our customers throughout the West to Atlanta for a first class experience that included hands on training in our live kitchens as well as some classroom training, and of course some R&R in Atlanta.

My good friend, and boss, Gary Stoner was usually there, overseeing everything. When it came time to do the classroom training I would do most of the training, while Gary would sit in the back of the room with his laptop open, doing paperwork, and answering emails, and keeping an eye and ear on my performance in the front of the room. It usually went well, and it was good to have him there as a backup. Nevertheless, I felt that our customers found it a little odd with me up front doing the heavy lifting, while the “REAL” expert was in the back of the room.

So, I would begin the meeting this way:

You may be wondering why the boss, Gary Stoner, is sitting in the back of the room, I’m going to explain his presence with this story:

There was a heart surgeon who was famous for developing a very advanced surgical procedure that saved many lives.It was so successful that there was a great demand for him to teach this procedure to other doctors. So, he went on the circuit, flying from city to city, visiting the nation’s biggest hospitals and medical universities, and delivering lectures on his methods and procedures. However, he didn’t drive. Therefore, the surgeon would take his chauffeur with him wherever he went. And while the surgeon lectured, the chauffeur would stand dutifully in the back of the room wearing his chauffeur jacket and cap.

One day, the chauffeur said to the Dr. “You know, I’ve heard this lecture so many times, I think I could deliver it as well as you do.” The Dr. was taken aback. “It’s quite a complicated operation. Do you really think you could teach these other doctors, as well as I do?” “Without a doubt!” replied the chauffeur. “OK, we’ll try it!” said the surgeon.

When the next lecture took place, the surgeon stood in the back of the room wearing the chauffeur’s jacket and cap. And the chauffeur stood at the lectern and delivered the speech flawlessly. When the speech was over, one of the Doctors in the audience stood up and said, “I have a question.” And he asked this very difficult and complicated question, that only a highly trained professional would be able to answer. The chauffeur hadn’t a clue. He thought for a minute and then he said:

“That has to be the dumbest question I have ever heard. I have a notion not to bother with it, but just to prove to you how ridiculous it is, I’m going to have my chauffeur answer it for me!”

Now, if you have any questions that I can’t quite handle, I’m going to ask my chauffeur in the back of the room, Gary Stoner, to answer them for me.

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More Trouble for Trump

Pulling a rabbit out of a hat

Back in July, I wrote a blog predicting that Trump would lose the 2020 Presidential election-


I based my prediction solely on data taken from public sources. Today, I am even more confident than I was before. The same arrows are still pointing in the same direction, and for all the reasons I gave back then, and more.

As before, I’m not relying on my opinions or feelings, I’ve been looking at the polls and research. In particular, I looked for evidence that would show a repeat of 2016. At this time four years ago, Clinton had a 4 point lead. Today, Biden has a lead that is twice that. I wanted to find out if there was a possibility that Trump could once again pull a rabbit out of a hat. It sure doesn’t seem so. Five-Thirty-Eight, Nate Silver’s organization, ran a computer simulation 100 times, predicting different outcomes based on available surveys. Here are the results:

FiveThirtyEight 2020

Post convention boost

As the election approaches, Trump should have gotten at least a 4 point lift from the convention. No such luck. His lift in the polls was less than 2 points and has fallen from that. The “lift” was in effect a negative because it did not meet expectations. In the battleground states, the latest polling has Biden leading in 10 of 14 states. It’s worth noting that Trump won 10 of those states in 2016. The consensus poll of polls, has Biden leading Trump 50% to 42%. This is, of course, after Trump’s post convention bump. 

Losers and Suckers

I continued looking for more evidence that Trump would turn the tide. If anything, his most recent debacles, insulting those in the military “losers and suckers”, and the Woodward interview, are sure to make the election even harder for Trump. Reminds me of the saying: “Whenever you are in a hole, the first rule is to stop digging.” Of course, the argument is that Trump only needs to win the electoral election not the popular election, just as in 2016. Correct. So let’s look how that plays out.

Predicting the outcome

Wait for the Debates

Exclusive: More Americans predict Trump will win the presidential debates than Biden, – USA TODAY

But only 10% of those who voted in 2016 said they had definitely made up their minds “during or just after” the debates. Almost two-thirds said they had decided around the time of the conventions or even before. Conclusion: The election results will not be affected by the debates.

Rely on the Polls and Statistical Models

  1. The Rasmussen poll, not the best, but one of Trump’s favorites, has Biden by +8. 
  2. THE ECONOMIST, an international newspaper based in London that has their own research division, reports, “Right now, our model thinks Joe Biden is very likely to beat Donald Trump in the electoral college.”

There’s less than two months before the election.

I don’t see that things are going to change dramatically in the next two months. but here are a couple of scenarios.

Scenario One

Trump will continue to run for office like a wild boar, saying and doing the wrong things while he loses more and more voters. All the while, the live events will work against him as he looks like a fool talking to crowds of crazed followers in the midst of a Pandemic. Wounded by his own self-destructive comments from the Woodward interview, and his handling of the pandemic, Trump will suffer an embarrassing defeat.

Scenario Two

The in-person voting results will favor Trump, and he will look like the winner on election day. As the mail-in votes are counted, it will become apparent the Biden is the winner. Trump will cry fraud. A mess ensues, but our election process will be upheld, and Biden will become the 48th President of the United States.

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Now It Begins

During the month of August, I posted 8 blogs on insights2ignite.com as part of a Toastmaster assignment. I blogged about football, the weather, a small town in Iowa, my first job, and one of my blogs was even for the birds, Arizona Lovebirds to be precise.

Now, I’ve made the decision to continue blogging. Why? My thinking is that though I am getting up in years, I’ve still got something to say. You may be interested in reading what I write,  and I’d like that. Join in if you wish. But there’s no need for you to chime in. Either way is perfectly OK.

What is a blog?

I’ve done some research and here is a good working definition:

A regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.

Below, in my own words is what I hope my blog to be:

My intention is to use my blog to deliver content on the web that provides information of interest to me and to my readers. Some blogs will be opinion pieces, representing my thoughts and views. Some blogs will be informational.

We’ll reminisce a bit – I like to tell stories. Some posts might even take on the form of a diary, although this is not my overall intention.

Right now my interests include photography and video and audio. I’m interested in the technology used to deliver content.

I expect my blog will take on a life of its own, as it evolves. 

By design, this site is not specifically a political blog. However, I do expect to use my blog as a venue to express myself. I’m finding that social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. is fine if you want to post a rant, but it’s really poor for thoughtful opinion or dialogue.

To start with I’ll be posting at least one blog a week. I’ll cross post links on Facebook and maybe Twitter.

I’d love to have you join me.


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Me and Ol’ Lonely

During the decade of the ’90’s I was sales manager for a large builder distributor of major appliances. Each year I attended the IBS (International Builders Show). Not only were our top customers there, but all the major appliance manufacturers had booths at the show displaying their latest appliances.

In 1999, IBS was held in Dallas. I was staying in a hotel on the outskirts of Dallas, and partnered up with a couple of guys from another appliance distributor from Ohio. We both were distributors for Maytag and GE appliance brands. The night before the show opened we shared a ride into town to attend a cocktail hour hosted by Maytag. Later that evening, we also were attending a dinner hosted by GE.

The Maytag cocktail party was quite crowded and noisy. In one corner there was a lineup to get your picture taken with the Maytag Repairman, Ol’ Lonely. Gordon Jump, aka Mr. Carlson from WKRP in Cincinnati, was Ol’ Lonely, wearing his signature blue work jacket, Maytag cap, and red bowtie. I choose to hang out at the bar, rather than wait in line for a photo op. 

Eventually, I and my new buddies left the party, and got in line waiting for a cab to go to our GE dinner. It just so happened that Gordon Jump was standing in line right in front of us. Under his arm he had his Maytag blue cap and jacket.

Well, my friends from Cincinnati were elated to have this chance to chat with Ol’ Lonely. At one point they asked him if it was common for him to get noticed in public. His reply was that he lived in LA where there were a lot of other actors so he didn’t really stand out that much.

Then he said, “However, that reminds me of something. Let me tell you boys a story:

I have a daughter attending college back east at one of those pricey New England private schools. When she got there and was settling in to her dorm room, she went into the town to get a vacuum cleaner. So, she was walking around this little appliance store, and she bumped into one of those cardboard stand up replicas of me next to the Maytag display. She started laughing, and the owner of the store said. “What’s the matter. Haven’t you ever seen Ol’ Lonely before?” “Mister” she said. “I just traveled 5,000 miles to get away from that guy!”

A year later, I went to work for Maytag. Gordon Jump retired as Ol’ Lonely in 2003, and a few months later he died from cancer. At his funeral his pall bearers wore blue jackets and red bowties.

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My Past Life in Toastmasters

Way back in the 1990’s, I joined Daybreakers, a Toastmasters club in Glendale. Toastmasters is an organization dedicated to helping its members improve their public speaking skills. To me, Daybreakers became much more than that. 

You cannot mention Daybreakers Toastmasters without mentioning Margie Stites. It’s just not possible. Daybreakers had some great speakers and some very noteworthy characters. Margie was neither. Instead, she was quite simply, the heart and the soul of Daybreakers Toastmasters.  When membership flagged, as it did from time to time, she’d gather us together and come up with a plan to recruit new members. There was never a challenge too big for Margie to tackle. 

Margie was a librarian. Her sidekick was another librarian,  Susan Sanders. But we had a very diverse membership. At the time I joined, we had a member who had won the District Humorous speech contest, Peter Spaw. Peter was an attorney, a great speaker, very bright, and quick-witted, and a natural comedian. Truly, a toastmaster worth learning from.

Jim Guess was the regional manager for Keebler., the cookie company. Jim was an easy going guy, very outgoing, huge sports fan, and with his positive attitude he became a very good Toastmaster.  This is a little bit off topic, but one Saturday Jim and I went to watch ASU play #1 ranked Nebraska, a football team that was looking to 3peat as National Champion. But led by Jake Plummer at quarterback, and a linebacker named Pat Tillman, the unranked Sun Devils humiliated Nebraska 19-0. Jim remarked, one day we’d look back on this day, and say we were there when history was made.

For a while, Jean McGrath was a Daybreakers member. Jean entered politics and was elected to the state legislature. While in the legislature, Jean introduced a bill to legalize Freon. Freon is a chemical that was used in refrigerators and air conditioners as a coolant until it was banned because of its harm to the environment. 

I had mentioned to Jean that Freon was not just banned by federal law, but by the Montreal Protocol, an International Treaty. Nevertheless, Jean was adamant that Arizona take on the federal government and keep them from meddling in our business.  While Jean’s bill did make it out of committee it never made it into law. Jean is no longer a legislator, but is now serving a second term on the Maricopa County Community College Board where I’m sure she continues to stir things up.

There were many others. Bev Wright was another speech contest winner. There was farmer Bruce Baskett, and his sister. I also recall Dennis Razkowski, Bob Klinginpeal, and Frank Trower. These are just a few of the names that come to mind. 

Eventually, Daybreakers lost the room where we met free of charge at a small convelescent hospital. We tried a few other locations, but nothing seemed to work out and the club faded away. I spoke to Margie a few months ago, and I know she follows me online. 

Today, I belong to WE-Markable Toastmasters in Peoria where we now meet online during this COVID-19 period. But I often think of all my friends from Daybreakers.

-Art Johnson

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Snow at Major Golf Tournament in Scottsdale

In early April of 1999, The Tradition Golf Tournament, one of the majors in the Seniors Tour, was held at the Cochise Golf Course at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale. 

At the time, I was Sales Manager for a major appliance builder distributor in Phoenix. GE was our biggest supplier, and they were one the sponsors of the tournament, which meant that they had a large tent on the 17th fairway where they entertained customers. As one of their largest distributors, we participated in the event.

Our biggest customer was Del Webb, and I was able to offer one of their executives a chance to play in the Pro-Am held on Wednesday, the day before the tournament began. When he got to the venue at Desert Mountain there was five inches of snow on the ground. He joked that he forgot his snowshoes or he would have played. Needless to say, the ProAm was cancelled. 

Thursday, the snow had melted enough for the tournament to begin. The GE tent was reserved for our distributor’s customers on Thursday. Even with the low temperatures, our key customers turned out for the event. On Friday morning, the golf course was covered with three inches of snow, making the course unplayable. But the snow had melted by Saturday morning and the second round was played in cold and windy conditions. On Sunday a second storm brought more snow, and the course was again unplayable. The leader, Graham Marsh won the tournament at 8 under for the two rounds that were played.

As far as I know, I attended the only PGA tournament that was suspended and shortened for 2 days due to snow.

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Remembering Al Berryman

It seems that this Covid 19 thing has me reminiscing quite a bit. I have all these memories of people and events over the years that have stuck with me. Now that I have started writing these blogs, I have the opportunity to share them. Here’s a story surrounding a friend of mine, Al Berryman

I was born in Michigan and lived there as a kid, and even though I’ve spent most of my life in Arizona, if you asked me where I’m from I would say Washington. I lived there for less than 10 years from the time I was 12 until I was 21. A good friend of mine in those years was Al Berryman. Even though our lives went in very different directions when we left high school, we connected several times over the ensuing decades. Al was a big sports fan, and he was also very smart. He was one of those guys who knew the name of the guy who played shortstop for the Boston Red Sox in 1958, and what his batting average was. Al was a devout Catholic. When we went out on Friday nights, if we wanted a burger we had to wait until midnight because he couldn’t eat meat on Friday.

When we graduated from high school, I went to the University of Washington, about 20 minutes away from the house I grew up in. Nevertheless, I was out on my own from the time I graduated high school throughout my college years. I paid my own tuition, books, plus food and lodging, by working part time during the school year, and usually two jobs during the summers to catch up. 

My friend Al went to Notre Dame. He was from a more affluent family, and Al’s Dad took care of all his college expenses. There was something called the Draft back then, more formally called involuntary conscription. While I was able to stay out of the military with a student deferment, I eventually had to end my career as a professional student and get my college degree. I graduated from the University of Washington on Dec 19th, and got my draft notice from the U.S. Army on December 21st.  

While I was waiting to report for my induction I took some vacation time and flew to San Francisco where my friend Al was between semesters at the University of San Francisco law school. We had a week of great fun, hanging out together in San Francisco. Al was sharing one of those old Victorian San Francisco walkups. His roommates were all on Christmas break so we had the house to ourselves. San Francisco was in its heyday. We visited Sausalito, Filmore West, Haight-Ashbury, and more. It was a great week.  

Soon after, I reported to my draft board for induction into the Army. 
I was one of the lucky ones, never went anywhere near Vietnam. Eventually, I wound up stationed here in Phoenix, where I met my future wife, married, and finished my 2 year commitment to the U.S. Army. We stayed right here in Phoenix. My friend Al Berryman and I touched base rather infrequently. He wound up working for a law firm in Fresno, California and I had a career here in Phoenix in the Major Appliance Industry.

Fast forward a couple of decades. I had season tickets to ASU football. They were really good seats. They were on the upper deck, but they were on about the forty yard line. I never knew who owned the two seats next to me because each game there was somebody different sitting there. Until one day, when ASU played Notre Dame. My brother-in-law was visiting from California. He was an ASU graduate and a big fan, so I took him to the game.

The seats next to me were occupied by this scrawny long haired fellow, and a guy who was a giant. He must have been 6’7” and 260 lbs. not an ounce of fat, and atop his head was this baseball cap with the initials ND. The scrawny guy introduced himself and said that he’d had these seats for several years, but this was only the second time he’d been here. He explained that he owned some McDonald’s restaurants and gave the seats out to employees. Then he introduced us to his guest. “Say hello to George Kunz. Drafted #2 in the NFL behind OJ Simpson. Since OJ is now in Jail, I figure that makes George here the #1 pick.” George had played professional football as an offensive lineman for a decade, and was visiting from his home in Las Vegas, where he also owned some MacDonald’s restaurants.

We were having a great time visiting with these guys and watching the game. Notre Dame was beating ASU, and George was cheering them on quite vociferally. I was starting to get annoyed, so I said something like, “Tell me George…did you go to school at Notre Dame, or did you just play football there?” It was a very bad move on my part. Very Bad. Of course, I wound up apologizing and all was forgiven, but the damage was done.

Some years later, Notre Dame was back in Arizona to play in the Fiesta Bowl. A few days before the game I got a phone call from my friend Al Berryman. “Let me guess” I said. “You’re in Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl“.  Sure enough, he was. We made arrangements to meet for lunch and get re-acaquainted. Over lunch I told him the story about George Kunz. He told me what a bad mistake, I’d made, and I told him that I knew. He said, “I don’t think you do. George was not only an All-American football player, he was also an ACADEMIC ALL AMERICAN.”

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Two Stories

Fulton’s Folly

I had a long career in the appliance industry. For 10 years I was sales manager for one of Arizona’s largest builder distributors. At one point, we had made arrangements to sell a professional range that was in our showroom to Ira Fulton, the owner of Fulton Homes. He was building a summer home in the White Mountains, and he wanted a restaurant style range. He also wanted a heavy discount for his personal use since he was buying appliances for all the homes he was building. We were always rotating items off our showroom, and we were able to accommodate him with a very discounted price for this large professional range.

Fulton’s summer home was in a mountain resort location, and there was no gas utility. That meant his gas source was LP, i.e. propane gas. In most cases that would be no big deal. Residential gas ranges have orifices that can be adjusted from natural gas to liquid propane. However, true professional restaurant ranges do not have adjustable orifices. “No problem”, I simply ordered some LP gas orifices, and shipped them to a service company in the area so that they could be installed. Perfect! 

Not so quick. It turns out that this range had a special infrared broiler that was a mesh surface that literally had dozens of tiny flames. There was no “adjustment” from natural gas to LP, and replacing the entire broiler assembly was just not feasible. Unfortunately, the service agent didn’t find this out until he had the stove almost entirely disassembled. The next thing I knew, we had returned to us the entire range in pieces.

Part 2 – Better than Nothing

This was a costly lesson, but it was indeed a lesson. As my career advanced, and I moved into the corporate world at Maytag and Jenn-Air, and later as part of Whirlpool, I did a lot of training. As a trainer, I would weave stories like the one above into my training. One day, I was at the Whirlpool training center in Atlanta leading a training session of sales associates from the West. I had just finished the Fulton’s Folly story above, when one of the attendees commented, “This is the third story you’ve told about something that went wrong. You really weren’t very good, were you?”

Well, I was caught off guard, but I replied. “I do in fact talk a lot more about my mistakes than my successes. I believe you all know a lot about the things you need to do to be successful, but not as much about the things you need not to do to avoid failure. But I will answer you question about my sales ability.”

“When I went to work for Maytag as a District Manager, I was in my forties, and already had a long career in appliance sales, and a recent MBA. We had regional meetings each quarter when all the District Managers like myself would gather together for a review. The meeting would start with a scorecard revealing the standing of each of the 9 District Managers in the West. The top achiever was always the Southern California District Manager and that was no surprise. Then they would go down the rest of the list in sales by territory, Northern California, Pacific Norhwest, etc. until they got down to the 7th and 8th Districts which were Utah and Colorado. They were “open” territories. There was NO district manager in Utah or Colorado. My District, Arizona, was 9th. Not only was I at the bottom of the list, in the case of two districts before me, I was not even as good as nobody.

But I got to work, and by the next quarterly meeting I was 6th, meaning that I was better than nobody. By the end of the year, I was 2nd behind Southern California. Nobody was going to beat him. At that point, I was offered a National Account position calling on the headquarters for the Top Builders in the West. Eventually, I wound up heading up National Accounts for the U.S. before returning to handling marketing for the Western U.S. So, I was pleased with my career progress, and especially proud of achieving the honor of being better than nothing.

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My First Job

The Milk Barn

My first real job when I graduated high school was at The Milk Barn in Bellevue, Washington. I had enrolled at the University of Washington for the fall, and I desperately needed a part time job for minor things like food and lodging, not to mention gas, tuition, and books. I had to wait until October to get this job because I was not yet 18. It was the perfect job. My co-workers were full-time, and had families. That meant they didn’t like working nights and weekends. I went to school only on weekdays, so I could only work nights and weekends. I got all the hours I wanted.

The Milk Barn was a drive through dairy store. The owner had a dairy farm in Snohomish, Wa. We bragged that all the milk we sold was in a cow only a few days prior.





There were about 10 Milk Barn’s scattered around the Seattle area, but the Bellevue store was the largest. It was located across the street from the Puget Power Building, which at four stories was the largest building in Bellevue.

Customers would drive up and we’d take their “empties”, (our milk came in glass returnable bottles) and replace them with full bottles of fresh milk. They never had to get out of their car. In fact, there was no inside store, just a big walk in refrigerator and a small office.

That job got me through 4 1/2 years of college. It was hard work. We staffed with one to three employees working at a time depending on traffic. We had to work the line waiting on the customers as they drove up, and also stock the back during the slack times. The milk bottles were in metal racks on rollers so that as you removed an emptied rack, another rack of milk would roll forward. When the line of cars went down, we’d go inside to the huge walk in refrigerated room, and fill the roller with more racks of milk from the pallets of milk in the cooler. Each morning when we opened, and each night when we closed we counted all the inventory. In the morning, the manager would balance the books. 

The pay was decent (it was a union job), and I got paid extra for working Sundays and Holidays. Without that job, I never would have made it through college. What about you? Have a story to tell of how you started out? Tell us in the comments.

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