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The best job I ever had … almost

Don’t judge a book by its cover, or a nondescript building by its, well, nondescription.


“That’s where I worked after we got married,” I told Cody, my grandson. We were driving through downtown Greensboro when I pointed out the undistinguished cinder block building within a stone’s throw of the bus station.


“That was my favorite job ever, except for newspapers,” I told him.


Granted, some 47 years after I left, my memories may be overly florid. Then again, my times at other jobs haven’t left me with the same warm feelings.


Banner-Trulove Institutional Foods was a wholesale outlet for restaurants, schools, hospitals and other institutions. The delivery routes covered the Piedmont Triad and even into Virginia.


Ginny and I had been married for three months when a friend named Ray told me of an opening in the warehouse he managed. My job was to rotate stock in the bins on half the aisles using a forklift to raise and lower pallets. Working the other half was Randy, a hard-working local guy who was also a recent hire.


It was a job that took advantage of my proclivities for filing and sorting. In other words, I could dig it.


The forklifts we used steered opposite from the way we wanted to go. That took some training of my mind as well as muscle memory. Some nights Ginny would wake me up complaining that I had bumped her with my elbow. It was part of learning, in my sleep, to steer the wrong way.


Ray, who received freight at the back of the building, had a forklift that steered properly. After a few weeks, I could jump from my lift to his and automatically switch gears in my brain.


The company was owned by the three Banner brothers — Ray, Bill and Jack — who had inherited it from their father and his partner, Mr. Trulove, both long gone. Jack’s son, Lynn, and Ray’s son, Doug, both held management positions with the company.


Deliveries came in during the daytime hours, with Ray unloading trucks at the back doors and Randy and I putting up the stock. The night shift filled orders taken during the day by office staff. They loaded the delivery trucks, which were ready for the drivers the next morning.


When Ray took another job, Frank, the night foreman, took over the warehouse. One day Frank asked me if I would like to switch to receiving freight. I accepted and began driving the proper-steering forklift to unload the trucks that came to the two back doors.


As receiving clerk, I was also responsible for unloading boxcars parked on the side of the building. Those rail cars would be loaded with frozen french fries or canned vegetables and fruit.


The railroad door was up a steep ramp that could be slippery during rainy weather. We would have to spread an absorbing dust on the floor to keep me from hitting the wall.


Receiving freight took me to all parts of the United States, vicariously. I might get canned foods from Georgia, frozen onion rings from Wisconsin or other foodstuffs from Maine or Arkansas or California. I kept a map of the United States on the wall with punch pins at locations where I had received merchandise.


Lynn was responsible for ordering what we needed to keep the bins full. I would see him taking inventory most every morning.


Some days he would call me on the phone at the receiving dock to ask if a certain product had come in. I began keeping a list of freight I received each day to hand it to him before going home.


There were two large freezers in the back, large enough for forklifts to drive into. One cold winter day I was unloading frozen foods from a big truck and offloading the pallets in one of the freezers. I got so cold I became dizzy-headed.


Up front was a large refrigerated room where we kept lots of chilled items such as cheese and other dairy items. The Kraft salesman, Gene, would sometimes have extras to give me and Randy.


I left the company once to do construction work, which paid a little more. Then, after a few months, Jack showed up at our house and offered me more to come back, and I gladly did. 


But after another year or so, now with two daughters to support, I chose to find work elsewhere. 


Meanwhile, Banner-Trulove was sold in 1982. I’m not sure who owns the building now or even if it’s being used. But I’m glad it’s still there.


Looking at the venerable old structure reminds me of the best job I ever had. Well, except for newspapers.


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.