Busman reaches his stop

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “Ain’t it something, all this attention? I’m no doctor or lawyer. I’m just an old bus maintenance man. Nothin’ special.” – Arthur Winston Wrong, Arthur. You’re someone special. Very special. On the 22nd of this month you’re turning 100, and how are you celebrating? You’re finally retiring from the job you’ve held for the last 73 years – first cleaning streetcars, then buses in this city. You blew by all the traditional retirement ages still working full time for the Metropolitan Transit Authority as a service attendant leader with a crew of 11 employees. Cleaning, maintaining and refueling MTA buses at Division 5 in the South Bay – a division they named the Arthur Winston Division in 1997 when you were only 91. You’ve been working solid for more than 90 years, starting as a boy picking cotton in Oklahoma where you were born in 1906. Yes, you’re something special. So why didn’t you retire at 65, 75, 85 or even 95? You told me you didn’t want to take the hefty pay cut retirement would bring, and your body and mind were still strong enough to do the job every day. But 100 seems like a nice, round number to hang your hat on and start collecting all that pension money the MTA owes you. “But I won’t be sitting down, no sir,” Arthur said Friday. “Man my age sits down, he might not get up. I’m too smart to sit down. Sit down too long you freeze up. “I won’t be going fishin’, either. Too much sitting down fishin’. I’ll go walking.” You’re a remarkable, funny man, Arthur. A living, breathing piece of L.A. history almost a century old and still sharp as a tack – living in a small home with your grown great-granddaughter only a few miles from the MTA maintenance division named after you. The Los Angeles Unified School District should hire you to make the rounds of schools in this city to give kids the best history lesson they could ever get. And you wouldn’t have to sit down to talk to them, Arthur. The records show you’ve actually been cleaning streetcars and buses in this city for more than 73 years. You had a previous four-year stint as a janitor with the Los Angeles Railway Corp. – 1924 to 1928 – before meeting Frances and getting married. It was tough quitting a job that paid 41 cents an hour in the mid-’20s, but you had promised Frances that you’d find another job because she didn’t like you working nights. So you parked cars in a lot downtown for a few years. You could see the handwriting on the wall anyway, you told me. The job – the career – you really wanted was driving a bus, not cleaning it. But African-Americans weren’t hired for those choice jobs in the ’20s. That would come more than a decade later, but by then you were already back in the transit industry working days cleaning and refueling buses, and spending your nights with Frances and your four kids. They’re all gone now, you told me. You outlived them all. It seems incredible, but MTA officials swear the only day you took off from work, besides vacation time, was one sick day back in 1988. “Frances died on a Saturday, and I took Monday off to take care of business,” Arthur says. You didn’t have to elaborate, Arthur. The look on your face and sound in your voice said it all. Burying your wife counts as sick time, doesn’t it? “Don’t get me wrong, I had my bad days, but there was no use just laying around the house, so I came in.” Your boss, Dana Coffey – MTA’s Metro South Bay Service Sector general manager – calls you her adopted father. An African-American herself, she says you showed her what hard work and dedication could accomplish. What class and dignity looks like up close. “Whenever someone complains the work is too hard, the hours too long, I tell ’em to go see Arthur,” she says. “No one has ever heard Arthur complain. He always tells other employees just do the job and keep it simple.” She’s not upset that you never had that opportunity to drive the buses you were cleaning. If you had, she knows she would have never had the chance to meet you. “It wasn’t his destiny to be a bus operator because he would have had to retire from driving a long time ago,” Coffey said. “His destiny was to work for 73 years, be a service attendant, and an inspiration to everyone who has ever met him.” Don’t anyone get the wrong idea that Arthur lasted this long on the job because people at the MTA were just being nice to him, Coffey adds. He’s still more than pulling his weight at 99. “Arthur’s there to work, not just show up. He’s part of the team. No, scratch that. Arthur is the team.” The MTA has a choir that sings at retirement parties. When Coffey asked Arthur what song he wanted sung at his retirement/100th birthday party, he just smiled. “A rap song,” said the old bus maintenance man who doesn’t think he’s anything special. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749 [email protected]last_img

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