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For the week of December 20 through 26, 2000

A salute to those who work on Christmas

"Weíre in the service industry like most people in the valley, and we just adjust out attitude."

- Melidee Wright, customer service manager, Sun Valley Aviation

Express Staff Writer

On Christmas Day, if you are having trouble counting your blessings, here are two to get you started.

Most of you will not have to work that day, and all of you benefit from the work of those who do.

The Mountain Express would like to salute all of you who will be working. Merry Christmas and thank you.

Among those who will be working on the holiday this year are:

Monte Mills, lead groomer for the Sun Valley Co.

Monte Mills is one of the guys who makes sure skiers on Baldy have groomed runs over the Christmas holidays.

At 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, he and his fellow groomers will meet as usual at the base of River Run, talk over what the nightís work will be, and then climb into their snowcats and go to work.

On Christmas, they do it all over again. "Itís a job that has to be done, and done every night."

Mills says he knows his family would love to have him home in Pocatello with them on Christmas, but they all deal with his work schedule with good cheer.

He has Dec. 22 and 23 off, so he heads for Pocatello, picks up his grandmother en route in Gooding, and celebrates the holiday early.

He said he and his parents and girlfriend open presents theyíve given each other, and have Christmas dinner. After he returns to work, his family continues Christmas with the rest of the family according to the calendar.

As a matter of fact, Mills continues his Christmas, too, during work and during his time off. Mills described the people he works with as his "extended family," saying they have "good camaraderie among each other."

At around midnight on Christmas Eve, he said, someone will get on the radio and say Merry Christmas. Over their "lunch" at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. on Christmas, theyíll wish each other Merry Christmas again.

Asked if he were recognized by the people he serves on Christmas, Mills said that happens whenever people discover what he does for a living.

"It is not a thankless job," he said.

For four years out of the past five, Mills has made sure Baldy is ready for those of us who don't have to work on Christmas.

Melidee Wright, customer service manager, Sun Valley Aviation

Melidee Wright has worked for Sun Valley Aviation for 15 years. In eight of those years, sheís worked Christmas Day.

"The airport never closes," she said. "You would be surprised how many people fly in for the holiday. Some may come in just for the day, or just a couple of hours."

And they all have needs that Wright takes care of. The aircraft need to be parked and refueled. Often, passengers have eaten on the way to the valley and so their dinnerware needs to be cleaned. And just as often, passengers need something to eat on their flight out, so catering is provided.

Wright will work from noon to 5 p.m. on Christmas Day, and then be on call when she leaves for home. She said she has hardly ever had to go back into work after leaving, but then again, she may not get to leave right at 5.

"We stay according to whatever needs doing. Our line crew, who ready the aircraft, have to stay even later."

Wright said she and her family open gifts on Christmas morning and have Christmas dinner when she gets home.

Working on Christmas does not seem to be a problem for her.

"Itís an attitude thing," she said. "If you take it as an acceptable thing, you can still enjoy the day."

She made sure to mention the people she works with on that day: the pilots, the flight attendants, the line crew.

"Weíre in the service industry like most people in the valley, and we just adjust out attitude."

Thank you, Melidee Wright.

Bob Schulz, city of Hailey, water department foreman

Residents of Hailey, take a moment on Christmas morning in the shower or when you draw water for coffee or tea and thank Bob Schulz for being on the job.

By 8 a.m. he will be making his rounds making sure the cityís water and sewer systems are running smoothly. It will take him until 11 a.m. to check all pressure-flow readings and lab work. In addition, he will check heating systems, motors, and security at the four water systems and the two sewer treatment plants.

And when that is done, he is on call for the rest of the day, and will have to go back into work if an alarm trips or a water main breaks.

"On Christmas, itís just me," Schulz said. "Iím there to check things, and if need be, call in help."

This will be the fourth Christmas heís worked since becoming the cityís water foreman in 1992.

"Over the years my family and I have just gotten used to it. Iíve always had a job where I had to be on call and work weekends. My family has just scheduled around it."

Besides, he said, "work is quiet on Christmas Day. Thereís no Monday stuff, and Iíve never had a Christmas eaten up totally with work."

He said family and friends will make up a company of 12 for Christmas dinner.

"If weíre having turkey, I will be responsible for about half the cooking. But if itís gumbo, our traditional Christmas dinner, my wife, Ellen, is the only chef."

Leave a glass of water out for Santa along with the cookies and milk, and remember to thank Bob and the rest of the Hailey water department.


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