If you’re like many people in Salmon Arm, you’ve undoubtedly seen him.
An impeccably tidy shirt and tie, white hair, a welcoming smile, efficient service. He is Fred Attfield, probably Salmon Arm’s most well-known gas jockey.
Attfield pumps gas at Super Save Gas and has done so for 18 years. He is outstanding not only for his friendly, long-term service, but also for his age.
This spry man with twinkling eyes that are framed with a bounty of laugh-lines will turn 81 in January.
Attfield co-owned a Super Save in Langley for 10 years before moving to Salmon Arm.
“I moved up here to retire and I went back to work,” he smiles. “I can’t sit around – that’s all there is to it.”
He credits the job with keeping him fit.
“You keep yourself busy, occupied, and you just stay fit. Otherwise you just sit around… This is a good place to get exercise. You get lots of walking, you get your break between cars, and somebody will go out for you. Like I say, it’s a neat place to work.”
Attfield is no stranger to work. He has never been without a job and has had a variety. For 34 years he managed a poultry plant in the Lower Mainland.
He also ran a dairy farm for 10 years until it came to an abrupt end – and he didn’t have the heart to start over. The government did some tests, he explains, said the cows were sick, “came and killed them, then came back and said ‘it was a mistake, it wasn’t your cows.’ It was an awful blow.”
Although he then decided to retire, Attfield ended up going back to the poultry plant for five years – and then retired for the second time.
“I retired again, went to the gas station (in Langley), and retired again. I’m not trying it now until I know for sure I’m going to do it. But I like working. Holidayin’ doesn’t appeal to me. Three weeks is the longest I was retired for.”
Attfield has five daughters and, since he’s been working in Salmon Arm, he has acquired another family member – a foster son in his twenties – further evidence of Attfield’s friendliness and warmth.
“He decided he wanted me as a dad and I wanted him as a son,” he smiles.
Attfield was raised on a farm in Vermillion, Alta. Since he was 14 he has raised chickens. Up until last fall, when he parted with most of them, his passion continued to be raising show chickens – purebred birds, all different breeds, all bantams.
“I had a lot of them – 200,” he says, in a conspiratorial whisper. “I’m ashamed to say it,” he adds with a laugh.
When he fell last winter while looking after them, his foster son told him it was time to stop. It was tough to do, but last month he sold the last few.
Although pumping gas might seem like a tough job, Attfield loves it and takes pride in his work – an attitude that was born in part from being a manager.
“You know you have to do good work, or how is the company going to make money? If you don’t, you may as well not even be there.”
And he likes the freedom.
“You know the people, you have people to talk to – I chat to just about everybody who comes in. People in Salmon Arm are nice. You hit the odd stubborn one, but nevertheless, it’s water under the bridge. You always look forward to the next one who’s going to be nice – and they usually are.”
Although he used to work much more, last year he cut back when Gail, his wife of 55 years, died. He now works three to four days a week.
Attfield appreciates his boss, Dave Pertelson, greatly.
“He’s a good boss. He’s reasonable, he’s easy to get along with. You just have to do your job, same as any other boss. He’s so nice, he understands you. You need a day off, you can get it – just let him know ahead of time, not the day of, which is normal.”
Pertelson, meanwhile, who’s owned the gas station for 23 years, can’t say enough about his most senior employee.
“He’s the most amazing man I’ve ever met in my life – and the most stubborn,” he smiles. “He’s a powerhouse. And he’s loved by everybody.”
Pertelson points out that Attfield is such a dedicated worker that every winter, by himself, he wears out one snow shovel and, every summer, one broom. He remains greatly appreciative that he hired Attfield all those years ago.
“It was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.”
As Attfield approaches 81, when will his fourth attempt at retirement occur?
“I have no idea,” he smiles. “When I get old I’m going to retire.”