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What were you doing in November 1979?
On the road again . . . Dale Hanson blades the road in and out of the Kenmare Country Club Friday during his final full week of work before retiring. Hanson has been with the city of Kenmare more than 36 years and, although he’s done a lot of different things, has taken pride in blading and snow removal.
By Marvin Baker
What were you doing in November 1979?
It was an important month in the news. Five-hundred Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 90 hostages; a train carrying 106 cars of anhydrous ammonia derailed in Mississauga, Ontario, evacuating 200,000 people and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” album was released.
It was also the month that Dale Hanson began his tenure with the city of Kenmare. Hanson recently announced his retirement and will complete his illustrious career on Friday.
The city threw a retirement party for him last Friday in Memorial Hall with everyone wishing him well.
“It’s a long time,” Hanson said of his career. “I’ve seen a lot of changes.”
He was hired to be a jack-of-all trades, blading, sweeping, cutting grass, shutting water off; to do whatever needed to be done for the residents of Kenmare. That includes handling people’s complaints.
However, he had some experience, or rather training on blade operation when he got the job.
“My dad worked for the state highway department and when I was 15, he would take me out and operate the blade,” Hanson said. “But my first day on the job was a water main break.”
A short time after he got the job, the city needed a road grader, the state put one up on bids and it just happened to be the one his father Ray operated. Thus Hanson actually got to operate the same grader his father used.
“People say I’m good on the blade,” Hanson said. “There’s nine levers and after awhile, it just comes natural.”
Snow removal is another animal, according to Hanson. He called it a “bearcat,” and isn’t going to miss being on the streets at 4 a.m. following a snow storm.
“The first thing we do is make sure the square is done, then it’s Division Street and Central Avenue, the school and Sixth Street,” Hanson said. “I’ve got a pattern down so there isn’t a street you can’t drive on in a day and a half. I’ve done it in a day, but 15 to 16 hours is a long day.”
Hanson said early on he didn’t mind getting out of bed in the middle of the night, but as he has gotten older, he’s not so sure.
He said it used to be that police officers had to come and find him if there was a city issue after hours. Now, everyone has a mobile phone, which he called a big change in his line of work.
“That’s one thing I won’t miss is carrying my telephone,” Hanson said. “You get calls all hours, they’re mostly legitimate, but it’s hard to say until you get called out.”
He’s always been on call on alternating weekends so essentially, there are only two weekends off a month.
“You still take your phone on vacation because others are asking questions,” Hanson said. “I’ve marked everything now for Rob (Shelton).”
He doesn’t really have a favorite part of his job. He is so used to doing everything for the city that he can’t pin it down.
One thing he isn’t terribly fond of is water main breaks.
His first day on the job was a trying time and in his early days, water main breaks were numerous. He said cast iron pipes were used with a bed of rock around them. The pipes would often vibrate, sometimes break, usually in the middle of the night, so Hanson was out there working on them.
“Sometimes I wanted to quit and I said that after a water main break but I was back the next day,” he said. “Good jobs were scarce at that time and if I quit, where would I go.”
The city also had water meters in every home and business and they had to be read every month, but were frequently breaking down having to be fixed or replaced.
“It’s a lot easier than it used to be 15 years ago,” Hanson said.
He’s seen a lot of mayors and city council members come and go and over the years he’s been treated very well and has always felt like part of the team.
“They’ve been good and try their best to get the best benefits for us,” he said. “I found that out when I was off for 30 days after a heart attack.”
Hanson has lived in Kenmare most of his life as his father was transferred here in 1960 when he was a little kid. He has no intention of moving to a southern state.
“I really like Kenmare,” Hanson said. “A lot of people appreciate what I’m doing.”
And to give back, Hanson has been on the fire department for 35 years and was fire chief from 2008-11.
“Some nights I’d get home from work, have supper and sit down to relax and the pager would go off,” Hanson said. “But I like the department and want to stay on. Because of health reasons though, I may have to go on a non-fire status.”
Hanson’s wife Judie is also retired from MTI and being a cook at the hospital so the couple plan to do some traveling, perhaps to Denver to spend some time with their son’s family.
In retirement, Hanson may restore vehicles. He said he has always enjoyed that and had gone to body school in Montana.
“It’s just a hobby,” he said. “I tried it in a body shop, but I enjoy it a lot more on my own.”
But, Hanson admitted the city will keep him on a retainer, just in case something happens like a major snow event or an obscure problem nobody but himself would know how to remedy.
For official reasons however, his last day on the job will be Friday.
A number of people came out this past Friday on Hanson’s behalf during a retirement celebration. He said he had asked if he really had to be at the party?
He’s glad he did. There was cake and ice cream and a lot of memories that spanned Hanson’s nearly four decades in service with the city of Kenmare.
“It takes a lot to put in 36 years, but you’re never bored day to day. You just don’t know what you’re going to be doing from one day to the next, Hanson said. “I don’t know why I stuck it out so long and if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t. There’s too much stress on a guy. But those years, they go fast.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!