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Tri-state residents show holiday spirit despite being on job

December 26, 1998|By DON AINES and SCOTT BUTKIs

Mixed among the holiday travelers Friday were more than a few Tri-State commuters for whom Christmas was just another day on the job.

There are about 132.5 million working people in America according to the U.S. Department of Labor and several million of them were on the job Friday. In bygone times few would have been working on Christmas, but the economy is increasingly one that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Ed Royer was fixing a pan of sweet potatoes, but the firefighter was doing it at the Chambersburg (Pa.) Fire Department station on North Second Street. Royer, Bill Dubbs, Bryan Shatzer and Patrick Martin would be at the station from 8 a.m. Christmas to 8 this morning.

"That's probably the biggest difference between us and the other people that work Christmas Day," Dubbs said of the round-the-clock shift.

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"Today's usually a good day for an oven fire or a sick person," Shatzer said. Four hours into their shift, however, no fire engines or ambulances had been called out.

Dubbs said their families were coming in that afternoon to share the turkey dinner they were making.

At the Falling Spring Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Chambersburg, therapeutic recreational aide Brenda Fickes got a kiss from a resident as she passed out coffee, tea and eggnog.

"I still miss being at home, but the folks here, I want to be with them, too. They're kind of my extended family," said Fickes, who has worked there 18 years.

Eve Sherman, a restorative aide, said one nurse came in on her day off Friday, because she knew the home would be short-staffed.

Any dairy farmer knows that cows don't know it's Christmas. Sherman said her teenage son had the day off, but decided to go to work at 4:30 a.m. to help his boss milk the herd.

Most of the people surveyed who were working in Washington County on Friday did not seem to object to working the holiday.

"It's fine. It is something that has to be done," said Dana Ness. She was working in the pharmacy of the CVS near Ames.

Working nearby in the store was Nicky Fisher, who not only didn't mind working on Christmas but was enthusiastic about it. "I love it!" she said. She does not have children and her mother is also working today, she said.

While most restaurants and convenience stores were closed, some liquor stores were open Friday.

John Grove was working at Potomac Wine & Spirits. "I don't mind working," he said. His wife was out of the country, he added.

Over at Central City Liquors Inc. on Washington Street employee Gregory Nuse also did not mind. "It's alright," he said. The only hard part is finding time to open presents with his parents, he said.

It's no longer just police, firefighters, hospital and nursing home employees that work the holidays. More and more movie theaters, hotels and motels, airports, cab companies, restaurants, convenience stores, gas stations and other businesses are open on Christmas.

One reason is an increasingly mobile society. Like the woman who took a cab to the nursing home in Chambersburg, or the motorists lined up at the gas pumps of the Sheetz store in Martinsburg, W.Va., people want or need those services.

"It's going fast now that we're busy," said Holly Simpson, who was working the counter at a 7-Eleven store on North Queen Street in Martinsburg. Within a matter of 15 minutes late Friday morning more than a dozen customers bought coffee, cigarettes or food.

All was quite Christmas morning at the West Virginia State Police Barracks in Martinsburg, where Trooper V.J. Gall did some paperwork before heading out to investigate a minor accident.

Gall said he expected most problems that day to involve domestic violence and drinking, but mostly after his shift ended at 3 p.m.

"It's a season of love and happiness, not strife and discord. I wish more people would remember that," the trooper said.

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