One of the cheeriest, friendliest smiles that you can see around town belongs to Ben T. Nickerson. His fleet of green trucks picks up your rubbish very quietly.
"People often call my wife, Marilyn and say: Why haven't you been here? She will ask them to go outside and check, when they come back to the phone they will say: Well, the trash is gone so the truck must have been here, but we didn't hear anything." Ben said.
While my brother-in-law, Tom was ill I helped to keep his business going and I never enjoyed any work more. I was seeing people and I was out of doors and I felt so well, so when I had a chance to take the business over permanently I did. In the summer I wear Bermuda shorts and in the winter I wear an insulated shirt and we don't use any heat in the truck we just keep moving and we are plenty warm. But when I’m not working I feel uncomfortable in over-heated rooms.
"I met Marilyn in Alaska when I a was stationed there with the Coast Guard. She had an aunt and uncle who in Ketchikan, and her folks sent her to visit them as a school graduation present."
Q. "Did you like Ketchikan Marilyn?"
"Oh, I loved it," Marilyn said "It's island and so different from Aurora Minnesota where I grew up. And now I love it here. I wouldn't go back to Minnesota. But I was lonely here at first because I didn't know anybody"
"We lived in Aurora the first three years that we were married," Ben went on. "I worked at the Erie Mining Company and as a second job I ran for Constable, and I was elected by a big majority. I got to know more people than Marilyn did. The Police out there are not allowed to serve summonses so that was one of my jobs as Constable and I did regular police duty on holidays. We cane back during the big steel strike in 1959.
"We built this house in 1960 and we have four children, Linda, Pamela, Kim and Ben. I went to work for Roy Meservey. I have always been a mechanic and this helps me now as I can work on my own trucks. A mechanic spends a lot of time lying on a cement floor breathing exhaust fumes When he gets a car running real good the owner takes it away and two later he has a flat tire and he calls up and says “you it so and so, what did you do to my car?"
"As a second job I drove a tour bus. We went to Provincetown, Fenway Park, we went to Sturbridge Village and a lot of other places. I enjoyed this because I always like being with people. I joined the, Chatham Fire Department, and I have been on that for seventeen years now. And I was on the Recreation Commission for 9 years.
"I grew up in Chathamport and went to school here for all twelve grades. in the building that is now the Intermediate School. Oh, we had lots of fun. In the winter we went ice skating on the cranberry bogs. My father had bogs and so did the neighbors. There was a big bog behind the RCA and they used to flood that. When the Navy was here during the War, they would put the big sound truck out there at night, with spot lights and music, and everybody skated.
"The winters were harsher then I can remember the snow plow getting stuck in front of Kenny Robertson's and having to go through the field to get around a big drift. We used to play ball in the field by Willard Nickerson's -- that's all grown up to trees now, In the summer everybody had summer jobs and in the evenings we went square dancing, Twice a week at the South Chatham Village Hall, and then over to the parking lot by the Harwichport A&P, and sometimes to Orleans.
"And I was in Scouting We took long hikes around the Cape and went to the White Mountains Doe Keene, who was head of scouting In Chatham, did a lot to form the characters of kids in town. The scouts always marched in the Fourth of July Parade. At the ballpark afterwards there were all sorts of things for kids to do -- three legged races and wheelbarrow races, and a greased pole to climb. In those days the girls wore skirts or dresses to school and everybody changed-their clothes and their shoes before they went out to play. Families only had one car and you had to plan who would use it when.
"In my business I have five trucks about 600 year-round customers,it doubles in the summer, I have 70 containers, too. The containers took the skunks and dogs off of Main Street because there are no cans for them to get into. And using the containers lowers your bill. I empty them from once a week to twice a day, depending. Our motto is: "You call - we haul."
But we are filling up our dumps too fast and much of what people throw out is useable stuff. I had a perfectly good couch on the truck one day. I set it down carefully at the dump and before the truck was turned around someone had taken it. Another fellow told me to clean out his garage. Everything right then. He had a complete apartment there from the rugs on the floor to pictures on the wall, furniture, silverware, toasters, a good bicycle - he wanted it all gone right away.
"The chef at one of our hotels - he isn't there any more - used to throw out six turkeys at a time with just four slices off each side of the breast and all the rest untouched. When people arrive for a vacation, by the time they have unpacked the car they have filled a can with trash, We have to do something with our trash besides sprinkle a little sand over it.
"I get the magazine, Solid Waste, It tells what is happening all over the world with solid waste. Some towns are using it for fuel, and with that and recycling they are paying their operational costs, and some dumps are even showing a profit. In Japan they are compacting it and building roads and buildings with it. I think that you will see Cape towns getting together soon to do something constructive with our solid wastes the way we do it now is too 'wasteful.”
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