Los Angeles Man Retires at 100


March 22, 2006 — -- When 100-year-old Arthur Winston started work in 1924, Los Angeles had no freeways, and the city was made up of mostly agricultural fields and single-lane roads, many of them dirt.

"It was a little country place," Winston said. "I used to go rabbit hunting over here."

Winston has worked for the Los Angeles' Metropolitan Transportation Authority for an astounding 76 years. But he started for the Pacific Electric Railway Company, which used to run the city's system of electric trains called redcars.

"I started doing janitorial work -- 41 cents an hour," he said. "At that time, I paid $17 rent on a six- or seven-room house. Gasoline was 10 gallons per dollar."

Winston, who was named employee of the century by President Clinton in 1996, retired today on his 100th birthday.

"Well, I don't know yet how I feel," he said. "I'm going to feel kind of lonesome from missing the people. This has been home away from home."

In recent years, Winston has led a team of 11 service attendants. Every day they fuel and wash dozens of buses as Winston gives out assignments and monitors their progress. But at one time, Winston wanted to do more than wash buses. He wanted to be a mechanic.

In the '30s and '40s he applied, he said, but "in their old contract that this company had then it says mechanic was only lily white and sober." Winston was sober, but as an African-American in a racially divided country, he never made the grade to become a mechanic.

"We've come a very, very long way, a long way to breaking down the barriers of racism," said Dana Coffey, who worked with Winston in 1976 when she started as a bus driver. Coffey, who is African- American and female, is now a general manager for the MTA and has responsibility for 1,500 employees.

She said it was Winston's "destiny" to be a service attendant. He was able to work for so many years because he wasn't covered under one of the union contracts that would have forced him to retire at an earlier age.

"Arthur is an individual that when you see him he inspires you, he energizes you," she said, adding that it was that inspiration that helped her along the way to becoming one of the highest-ranking employees at the city's MTA.

Winston, who moved to Los Angeles from an Oklahoma Indian reservation when he was 17, said he intends to stay busy, even in retirement. He has taken a job as honorary spokesman for the 99-cent store, and he may go back to his farming roots. His father was a farmer, and Winston has great reverence for those who work the land.

Farmers "are our heroes today," he said. "If it wasn't for the farmer, we wouldn't be sitting here today."

Winston, who lives with his great-great-granddaughter and her son (that would be his great-great-great- grandson), said he'd like to "get back out there, raise chicken and pigs and stuff like that."

Winston hasn't been to a doctor in 50 years, he has missed only a single day of work. That was in 1988 when his wife died. Winston said he simply "had some business to tend to."

He said he never took a sick day, and if he feels a cough he "takes castor oil." Part of his secret to longevity, he said, is obvious: he doesn't drink or smoke. Another part is less obvious: the 100-year-old man with clear bluish eyes stays young by staying passionate about life -- and the ladies.

He showed off his locker to ABC News -- a locker he's had for 50 years. It looked like it might belong to a high-school sophomore. A graffitied magazine photo of Beyonce adorned the front. Inside, the locker was a mess. Old uniforms, cups, glasses and silverware were piled about 3 feet high. On the inside of the door, the magazine photos were downright racy.

Winston, looking dapper in a dark suit and fedora, could only laugh.

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