"I went to Seattle to see a girl, a flight attendant for United. I met three guys, and we became roommates. We all got jobs at Boeing.
"Guess where I ended up? The photo lab. The interviewer kept saying, 'Have you done anything else?' I said I had worked in the photo lab. They had an opening there.
"I decided to get back to college and was accepted at the University of Washington. Tuition was like $125 a quarter. When I graduated, I had a paid-up college degree. The chemistry and the math saved me. Morris Harvey set me up.
"At one point, Boeing laid off thousands. I worked only when they needed me. Any free time I had, I would fly anywhere in the world with my first wife.
"I was working for Alaska Airlines in Seattle the night D.B. Cooper jumped out of the airplane. I saw the money go out.
"We lost an airplane in Juno. It ran into a mountain with 105 people on board. I had to do the next-of-kin room. That was terrible.
"My wife wanted to go back east, so we moved to Washington, D.C., and lived in Virginia. I worked for the American Trucking Association for a year.
"I was working for Piedmont Airlines part time at night. Then I went to United. That didn't last six months. Airlines have 10-year cycles. They're great, and then they're dying.
"I went to the Air Transport Assn., working for the industry. We scheduled charter flights for GIs. We'd have maybe 200 guys going to the same point about same time. We would consolidate them into a charter. It saved taxpayers a ton of money.
"I could get a ticket on any airline except United and Northwest. I'd travel to Europe, Southeast Asia, Hawaii a million times.
"For a month, I worked for Eastern in the morning and Braniff [International Airways] in the afternoon. Deregulation was coming. I got laid off. I came back to West Virginia in 1980. I was getting a divorce, and I had my two boys. I raised Todd and Jason, with my mom's help. I have a third son, Christopher, from my third marriage.
"I was running the photo lab at the store. You always end up in the photo lab. I automated the lab. Boy, the film that would come through!
"But things were changing. Town Center opened. We couldn't open a business there the way we wanted it. They wanted you to be specialized, like only photography.
"Then they closed Capitol Street at Christmas. United Bank across the street closed. It was one nail after another, but that Christmas was the killer.
"We closed in March 1987. It was sad. Here comes my dad at 8 in the morning. He never got up before noon. He told me to lock the door, that he was closing the business. I was mad. In hindsight, it was the right thing to do. There was no way we could have made it.
"My brother showed me eight or nine stores on Capitol Street that were over 100 years old. He said they would all be gone in two or three years. He was right.
"I went back up and worked for United as a part-time ticket agent. Six months later, they pulled out, and Air Wisconsin came in. They were union. I told the lady I would probably go to Chicago. They asked if I would think about being a station manager, the boss.
"I was station manager for about 10 years. When Air Wisconsin pulled out, I went to Atlanta to work for First Data Corp. That was collections. That was a nightmare. We had five minutes max to talk to someone. They wanted you to finish in two.
"I went up to Newport News to stay with a friend and got a job with Ball Canning in production. They make Budweiser beer cans.
"I came back to West Virginia to visit. The manager for Comair needed an agent. He asked me what I was doing. I said I wasn't doing anything. I've been there ever since.
"I've worked for 13 airlines. When Comair left, it was Regional Elite Services, another Delta subsidiary. They left and it became Delta Global Services.
"I retired for one year and couldn't stand it. They had cargo issues, so I went back. I've been working a few hours a day, taking care of the freight and fuel and stuff. There's always another opportunity.
"The rest of the time, I screw around with videos on the computer. I bought Merrill's device to transfer film to disks. I've got films all over the place."Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.