What it comes down to is that they offered a great place to work for kids who were in high school, and they even had seasonal jobs for college students who would come home to work over their breaks. Ginger did her best to look out for all of her kids and made sure that they always put school first and brought home good grades.
Ginger and Dana expected their employees to be of exceptional character as well as respectful of them as owners, the public as customers, and mostly of themselves. They made certain to account for schools students and their extra-curricular activities when setting the schedule, and they did their absolute best to be accommodating for things that popped up at the spur of the moment.
Do you want to know what else? It was just a fun place to work.
I remember working with several of my school mates and friends from neighboring towns over the years. Some of the people included; Jody Cornish, Shay and Tobi Wiedler, Robin and Bill Durst, Aaron Ayers, David Durst, Mike Snyder, Mandy and Joey Drusso, as well as many others I have forgotten over the years.
Besides working in produce, Dana used to like to take us down to the farm when it was time to put in hay or do some painting. My job with the hay was to unload the trailer, carry the bales back, and stack them as high as could reach. It was hard and sweaty work, but it was a nice break from the store. Also, I felt strong enough to bench press a Buick by the end of the hay season.
Some days, when it was particularly hot outside, Ginger would walk over to the barn and order us to go over to the house and jump in the pool. I remember one time saying that I was covered in dirt and sweat so I should probably shower first. Her reply was, “that’s why I have a skimmer, just get in the pool!”
They had a nice, big round pool with several inflatable toys and animals. Ginger and Dana also invited workers to come to their house after the store closed to cool off in the pool if needed. I remember several times heading down there for a 10 p.m. swim.
I would be remiss if I didn’t credit Ginger for taking me to get my driver’s license. She came to my house one Saturday morning when I was off and told me to get in the car because she was going to take me for my driving test. At the time, I had barely practiced but I figured what the hell, I will give it a shot.
Back then, the driver’s test was given at the State Police Station. Depending on which trooper took you out, you may have an easy test or a dreadfully hard one. When it was my turn, the trooper got in the car and instructed me to pull out of the station and turn left down Route 6 on top of Denton Hill. I dove about a ¼ mile down the road and he instructed me to pull off to the right side of the road and back into a driveway. Once I completed the maneuver, he told me to drive back to the station. That was it; I passed in less than 3 minutes with no parallel parking.
Now with my license in hand, I was able to do deliveries for the store. I remember calling the van we used the “grey ghost”, as it was usually not to be seen and getting repaired. But to tell you the truth, I loved that old van. When I was starting to go to IUP, they even let me borrow it to drive myself down for orientation. Dana and Ginger were always nice to me like that.
I guess the best thing about Dana and Ginger was they didn’t want to let their employees waste their talents. They always encouraged and supported us to work towards our goals and dreams.
Sure there was the occasional trying time or two, but we always had a healthy respect for each other and the business. Working there also gave me the opportunity to interact with many people in our community.
I can remember Ferd Gunzenberger and his brother David coming down every night and walking around produce and the green house when it was open. They would walk around and chat with me as they checked out the produce and the plants. They would usually grab a bunch of bananas before heading into the bakery for an ice cream cone. They were like clockwork every night and I really missed them after they passed away.
Toward the end of my time at Erway’s, I started working third shift in the bakery. There were three of us in the bakery back then. Myself, Tom Gordinier, and Pat Matteson would work throughout the night making sure that there was plenty of fresh donuts and baked goods for the next day.
I especially enjoyed working with Tom as we both had very eclectic tastes in music, and we each were huge Harry Chapin fans. I know more than once, the State Troopers stopped in while we were baking and singing at the top of our lungs in the empty bakery. It didn’t matter to us as we both thought we sounded pretty darn good.
We also used to enjoy giving Dana nightmares when he would go on vacation. We would make fake signs for donut sales that we pretended to have while he was gone. Things like; buy one donut at the regular price and get all the rest that you want for just a penny. Or how about, buy a donut and get free coffee! We would just place the fake signs in with the real ones and wait for him to stumble upon them. Hey, sometimes when you work nights, you just have to entertain yourself.
With all of that in mind, I am dedicating my progress today to my former bosses, Dana and Ginger Erway. I would not be the man I am today without their help and influence.