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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Stamp Book Story - Almost Fired!
Another of life's lessons!
I’ve been fortunate to have worked for some great people in my life. They not only taught me how to work, but also to grow up and become a decent person!
One of those people, I am going to name and is Chuck Oleson, who was a Clark station dealer on Silver Spring Drive and Hopkins. 

In Milwaukee, during the summer before my senior year of high school, I was looking for a job. After working for a guy in the steel fabrication business, I found that I was not cut out for that type of employment. My boss also knew and basically found a reason to replace me (I got fired!). I learned through a friend of mine that there was an opening for a third shift attendant at a Clark gas station. I went down to see Chuck and asked if he would consider me. Being available to work third shift until school started, he gave me the job.

It turned out that Chuck was a great guy to work for and I enjoyed the job. He had a good group of guys working for him and we all became pretty close.  Back in those days, many gas stations would give out stamps for gas purchases and hand out books for the customers to fill up and redeem for cash. Some companies gave out S&H Green Stamps, but Clark had their own brand of stamps. If I remember right, you would receive $1.10 for each full book that you redeemed. Tuesdays were ‘double stamp’ days and we would sell a lot of gas on Tuesdays, which otherwise would be one of the slowest days of the week.

The stamps were furnished by the oil company and the dealer would submit the full books back to them for reimbursement. Of course the stamps themselves had serial numbers and needed to be accounted for when the employees checked out after their shift, so an inventory would be kept. However, quite a few customers didn’t care about filling books up with stamps and refused them when offered. It didn’t take long before the attendants, including myself, figured that we could take those refused stamps and start filling up our own books, turning them in on our shift for some extra cash!

I had been working for Chuck for well over a year and he trusted me enough that I was doing some of the daily reports and book work for him while working third shift. Unknown to me at the time, Chuck was becoming suspicious of the number of stamps being given out on many of the attendant’s shifts, including mine. We were young and not so bright, I’m sure that he could see the number of stamps he was giving out compared to what we were! We really didn’t think we were stealing from Chuck, as the stamps were provided by the oil company and he would be reimbursed for the redemption's.

One morning after my shift ended, and Chuck took over, I left my car there and went out to breakfast with a couple of the other guys who stopped by. Upon returning and retrieving my stuff to go home, Chuck turned to me, held up a bunch of full stamp books that had a rubber band wrapped around them and wanted to know what was going on. I instantly recognized that it was the stash of books that I was keeping under the seat of my car! I stumbled around with an inappropriate response that was stupid. I should have just manned up and apologized. Chuck was normally an even tempered guy and it wasn’t in his character to scream and yell. But I could tell he was dead serious when he said in a very stern voice, “I’ll let you keep the job this time, Dan!”. That was over 40 years ago. I have never forgotten those exact words and he didn’t have to tell me what would have happened if there was a ‘next time’. Never again did I paste a stamp into a book.

Because of the recommendation of my boss, Chuck Oleson, about a year later I was able to get my own gas station on Santa Monica and Hampton. I will always be grateful and because of him and the lessons he taught me, was able to have a pretty satisfying career. I sometimes wonder how my life would have changed, had he fired me that day! Chuck, if you read this, Thank You! I will always appreciate what you have done for me.

Update: Sadly, Chuck passed away way too early Aug 28, 2015 at the age of 74.
As I wrote in a condolence:    Our deepest condolences to Chuck's wife, children, extended family and many friends. Chuck was a great influence in my life starting in my teenage years back in the late 1960's. I worked for him at his Clark gas station and he was responsible for getting me started in my own Clark business a few years later. I learned many life lessons from Chuck, he was a great man to work for and became a close friend. May he now finally rest in peace. A good man that made me a better person. Dan & Mary Bridger, Salt Lake City, Utah

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