Editor’s note: The following is the third, and final, part in a three-part series. Part one appeared in the Oct. 13-19 issue, and part two appeared in the Nov. 10-16 issue.
John Dalton is related to the famous Dalton Gang. His branch of the family moved to Illinois for promised farmland, but his family started a moving and storage businesses, which John continues today—even with economic struggles.
By Marjorie Stradinger
Il Divo music continued to swell at Silvia’s in Enfield, Conn., making it hard to hear soft-spoken John Dalton.
A third-generation mover, his father and grandfather built in him an appreciation for the people he moves and for this country’s beauty.
“You handle personal stuff,” he told me. “If you’re any good, you become a best friend. Relocating is supposed to be the fourth-hardest (most stressful) thing you can do. My job isn’t just moving your stuff; it’s making it as easy on you as I possibly can. That starts from my first phone call. I don’t just show up…little short guy who looks like he killed and ate his mother.”
“I didn’t think that,” I assured, smiling at his mountaineer looks—gray mustache, long white beard. He has kind eyes.
“My dad taught me to love two-lane roads…good trucking routes,” he said. “The backside of Phoenix…Salt River Canyon, unbelievable, great little canyon most people never heard of.”
“You’re not afraid in that monstrous semi?” I asked.
“Not at all,” he said. “At the top, you see a sign: Entering Fort Apache (as in) the John Wayne film, but it’s a mountain. (They’re) riding across the Rio Grande. You don’t cross the Rio Grande in this place.”
He draws a map on the table.
“From what you’ve seen, where would you want to retire?” I asked.
“I want to win the lottery and have about seven houses: Las Cruces, New Mexico or El Paso. San Diego. Puget Sound. Something in New England, Connecticut,” he said.
“Mystic is nice,” I said.
“The hills of North Carolina. And then Salem, Ill.,” he said.
“I’m going to get offensive now,” I smiled. “It brings you out. Are you a redneck? Jeff Foxworthy kind of made it fashionable.”
“The connotation brings up…prejudices I don’t possess,” he said.
“Shotgun in the car…?” I asked.
“Doesn’t everybody?” A mischievous smile.
“Cars on your front lawn,” I commented.
“I love shooting. Yeah, I have a shotgun in the car. That’s just natural,” he said. “I have a pickup that doesn’t run, a Corvette that doesn’t run. Yeah, I might be a redneck,” he grins.
“A moving horror story,” I said.
John gets more animated.
“I was told this poor woman lost her husband about a month before,” he said. “I made a comment that his car hadn’t been driven since he died, that it would be nice to own. She said, ‘Well, you don’t get it.’ Not what I meant…didn’t set the tone well. I started the garage inventory, she comes in, starts berating: ‘You packed the garbage can—the stinking smelling garbage can!’ Yes, ma’am, you said pack everything on that side of the garage. ‘That got garbage in it! Nobody can move that.’ Ma’am, sometimes they do, but I’ll be happy to take the tag off. She returns. ‘You didn’t tag the washer and dryer.’ Yes ma’am, I tagged ’em…on the backs. I…show her. She starts in again about the garbage can. ‘Ma’am, it’s off the inventory.’”
She says they missed things in the garage.
“‘I’m sorry, ma’am. Ma’am, you said everything on that side goes, nothing else,’” he recalled.
She denies it. He tells her no problem; she continues raging. Accuses him of stealing, demands to check his truck.
“Out there, she starts yelling about the garbage can,” he said.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry your husband died,” I said. “But I’m (not) going to put your furniture on my truck. I give her the inventory and leave. It’s about 5 p.m.”
He reports this to the van lines offices.
“That move was especially planned for me,” he said. “But I get to go back to Illinois empty at Christmas.”
Months later, in Chicago, a driver talks about this woman from Los Angeles and of the delivery end guys who refused to put it in her house. They said he should hear about the California driver.
“That was me,” John related.
He told John the wife of the driver who replaced him got into a fight with the woman.
“She got violent?” I asked.
“Yeah. She made them stack everything in the garage, wouldn’t let them in the house, then told the van lines they refused to put it in the house,” he said. “That’s my worst move ever. But, there’re a lot more good jobs than bad ones.”
Four years ago, John re-started his company.
“Then, our lovely government presented us with a depression,” he said. “Life’s not a (level) set of tracks. If you don’t learn to roll with the punches, you go crazy.”
“What will you do after the moving business?” I asked.
He paused, the impish look again: “King of the World is probably already taken.”
Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Nov. 17-23, 2010 issue