Larry Dahl thought his first day on the job at Litchfield Public Utilities might be his last.
He and another employee spent the entire day “taking frozen coal out of the boxcar” for use as fuel in the power plant. The two unloaded about half the coal on the first day.
“I remember coming home that night and telling my dad, ‘Dad, this doesn’t sound like a long career.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Son, here you are.’ I have some advice for you: stay in that job for a year, and if you still don’t like it after a year, you’re still young and you can find another job.'”
Nineteen-year-old Dahl listened to his father’s advice. And when he finally quit his job on November 15, 1966, and finally called it a career, Dahl has been in the city since his first day on November 6, 1966, raking coal. He spent more than 56 years as an employee of the
It’s been a career he’s proud of, he says, and one that’s been rewarding.
Within six months of working for Utilities, Dahl had his boiler license. That is, he “was able to go inside[the factory]so he didn’t have to go pick up coal.” His longevity chances increased significantly at that point, he says. .
But most importantly, Dahl credits a handful of people with helping his career grow for more than half a century. Among them are his three bosses, Louis Nelson, Dallas Nelson and Mark Petsche, whom he has dealt with while working at Utilities.
There is one person who he takes care of in particular.
Bill Steinberg was the head of water and electricity for Litchfield Public Utilities and was one of six power plant employees who lost their jobs in 1979 when Utilities retired the steam heat system in downtown Litchfield. That’s when Dahl found out. Steinberg asked Dahl’s then-boss, his Utilities. Dallas Nelson Superintendent, if Dahl could be transferred to water and electricity.
“Obviously, I didn’t know what else to do, so I jumped at the opportunity,” recalls Dahl.
After working in the water sector for three years, he moved to the electrical sector, where he worked in the mid-to-late 1980s. During his time in the electrical industry, Dahl was part of the crew that helped install underground wiring to the Evergreen Park and Crescent Park developments.
In the late 80’s Steinberg established an inventory management system and put Dahl in charge. It was Dahl’s job to check out equipment when electrical department linemen needed it, and to check and number transformers when they were brought in. He has also taken on the job of qualifying his forklift operator and training other utility his staff to be forklift licensed.
Another of his duties was reading meters. This was a more labor intensive job than today reading the meter from a comfortable vehicle and receiving radio signals from the meter as you drive around your neighborhood. Back then, reading a water meter meant walking from house to house and stopping to check the individual meters. The first is to enter the house and reach the meter in the basement, “as technology advances,” he says. outside of home.
Dahl said taking a monthly walk around the Litchfield neighborhood wasn’t a difficult task, barring bad weather. However, it sometimes led to unpleasant encounters.
During a one-meter reading excursion, he turned a corner behind his house and was greeted by a woman sunbathing in her backyard. Not knowing what to do, he stopped in his tracks, trying to avoid making the situation more embarrassing for himself and the woman.
His anxiety lasted a little longer.
“The woman looked up at me and said, ‘Your 10 seconds expired about three minutes ago,'” Dahl said. “I didn’t know what to do. It kind of caught me off guard. She said, ‘Read the meter. Have a nice day.’
Dahl overcame friendly teasing from his colleagues and other meter-reading abuses to keep the job going for 25 years.
During the 2004 economic downturn and a restructuring of the sector that included the dissolution of the Public Utilities Commission, Dahl was one of seven utility employees who were offered early retirement. Not knowing what to do next, he accepted the offer.
“Seven of us left the utility, and I don’t think anyone was replaced,” he said. “It was also tough at the time because the city council dissolved the committee. In the long run, I think it worked out.”
And it turns out that wasn’t the end of Dahl’s career in the city either.
Two weeks after what he thought was his last job for the city, Dahl received a call from then-city administrator Bruce Miller asking if he would consider returning to work in a different capacity.
“He said, ‘We need someone to mow the cemetery,'” Dahl said. “I said let’s try it for a summer and see how it goes. And it’s been 18 years.”
Finally, this year, at 75, he really decided it was time to retire. He stayed long enough to help prepare the garland for the city’s Christmas decorations in his November, but his usual job was to test every light bulb he had one. could not.
“My boss was Mario Proventure,” Dahl said of the latest iteration with the city. told me if I needed anything here let me know and they bought me a new John Deere tractor every 3 or 4 years (for mowing). , there was something new this year, and I hope someone else enjoys it, but I said I wasn’t there.
Dahl says he remembers advice he received from a cardiologist after he had a heart attack about 30 years ago.
“Listen to your body,” said Dahl. “If nothing else, listen to your body. It will tell you when something can and cannot be done. And it’s gotten to the point where I can no longer do it. “
Dahl is grateful he was able to do it as best he could. , including two more adult daughters and their families, and a couple of grandchildren who live there.
“I love Litchfield,” said Dahl. “I’ve lived here all my life. My kids graduated here, my grandchildren graduated here. I don’t want to go anywhere else.”