Being just out of school and in the work force in 1975 is quite different than want it would have been today. The most a guy could hope for was a 6 pack of beer, going to see a "R" rated movie, and maybe having a nice Stereo to play cassettes and records. There was no designer drugs, video games, cell phones, DVR, IPODS, Internet porn or Match.com. We certainly had more than my parents did at my age, but not nearly the advantages of today's youth (or is that disadvantages). Relationships with friends and coworkers was the key. Those relationships would be what our memories would be made of during our late teens. I guess that is why I look back upon our friends at Builders Emporium in Reseda so fondly. Working together, going out to dinners, playing softball, going to company parties and just hanging out are the times I remember best.
In a previous blog I mentioned that the cast of characters in our store was on par with any great sitcom of the day. We had everything...the beautiful sexy housewares clerk (Sandy), the old Jewish fellow (Ben), the ex-marine (Chris), the smart beautiful accountant (Joan), the connected Italian Manager (Mr. S), his sidekick (Mr N.), the trumpet playing nerd (Steve), quiet instigator (Carey), on edge older pack a day smoker (Ed), and Mr Cool...Don.
We called him our Fonzie. Although he was more like a combination of Fonzie, Robin Williams and Charlie Manson. On the outside he was cool and unapproachable. But on his "good" days (most likely induced by something), personality bubbled up. He was quietly funny, and could be very mean. Whenever there was a confused older lady looking for help in the electrical dept., we would all hang out in the next aisle and wait for the poor lady to meet Mr. Sarcastic. He would be nice at first and if the lady couldn't quite understand, he would dig in and rip her apart. He was the rude we all wanted to be for those "hard to please" customers.
If it wasn't the customers, it was the old Jewish man in paint. Prank phone calls, throwing things on the floor and having him pick them up and just general yelling out his name from 5 aisle away to see how fast he could get there, Don had his fun and we all looked forward to what was next. There was his dark side as well. He and Sandy must have had some history before I got there, as they hated each other. It was dangerous to be in the vacinity when those two went at it. Sandy had no problem getting physical, but Don would just walk away muttering really good nasty nicknames.
Everyday at the early morning break, I would go next door to get something to eat from ThriftieMart and bring it back to the breakroom upstairs. And like your dog smelling food in the kitchen, Don would come walking in the breakroom. It would get to a point that i would try to sneek in as to not get noticed by Don...but he would always find a way to make an appearance. He would look at your food and ask.."Boy I love (whatever is on the table)...are you going to eat all that". He would ask in the cool Fonzie voice and 9 times out of 10 he would get at least a bite (just to get rid of him). Same thing would happen at lunch. I really don't think Don ever bought any food....he just knew when food was around, and wasn't shy about asking for his fare share. Considering he was tall and skinny (and considered himself a sex symbol) we couldn't figure out where all the food went.
Don was written up many times, had his job threatened dozens of times, took out and "dated" most of the women at the store (including customers), almost got in fistfights with other employees (and customers)...and all in all one of my early heroes of my life. I don't know why, he just was able to do the things I wanted to do but couldn't. One day he was gone...don't really remember what finally did it....but it happened and we never heard from him again. The store family would miss The Fonz, but their were many other characters to fill the void.