Longtime Nevada resident John Swanson is ready to hang up his browns and sport some new colors.
For 31 years, Swanson, a 1976 graduate of Nevada High School and a resident of the community since the age of 4, has been driving for United Parcel Service (UPS). Today (Aug. 22) is his last day on the job, as Swanson, 55, will celebrate his retirement from the company.
"I’m just tickled pink about retiring," said Swanson last Friday, during the end of a two-week vacation he had taken this month. "I’ve been off on vacation for two weeks and I have to go back (on the job) for four days. It will be hard to go back … once you get that taste of freedom," he said. But this week of being on the job was a chance, Swanson said, for him to say good-bye to the many customers he’s gotten to know through frequent stops in his brown delivery truck.
Swanson started out after high school working for six years at the Massey Ferguson dealership that was located in the old Vetter Equipment location west of town. "I put machinery together and then became a diesel mechanic." When the Farm Crisis came, Swanson said, the local ownership ended for that dealership and it became a company store, so he began looking for other work.
"My dad always said UPS would be a good job. So, I applied. I went over in May and got hired as Carol Tjelmeland’s (a retired Nevada UPS employee) Christmas help in 1981," he recalls. Swanson was then laid off until June of 1982, when he was put to work regularly.
In between jobs, Swanson said he tried selling insurance for Larry Myer. "It didn’t go very well," he admits. "I learned a lot about insurance, and learned that I wasn’t meant to sell it."
For his first 20-some years with UPS, Swanson said he made deliveries all over the area. "I went everywhere from Huxley north to Jewell, sometimes to Boone, sometimes to Iowa Falls, but mainly (I served) Ames, Gilbert, parts of Roland and parts of Story City." And, he notes, he was always tied to Nevada because he would round out his day by doing the GFS pickups in Nevada. He also worked in Nevada when delivery volumes were high.
Following Tjelmeland’s retirement, Swanson became the regular Nevada route driver, which he has been doing for about four years now. But with a father who retired at age 52, Swanson said it was time for him to follow suit.
"UPS workers put in a lot of long hours," he said, especially in the evenings finishing up deliveries. Swanson said he was never home before 6:30 p.m. and often worked later, meaning he missed a lot of things his kids were involved in.
This year, he said, "I’m going to enjoy my first Christmas since 1980. Anybody that works for UPS understands that. It’s a huge volume time, and you just get worn out." Swanson said he always had to have his Christmas shopping done before November or otherwise, it didn’t happen.
Now he doesn’t have to worry about those stresses. He can kick back a little and relax. But don’t think he won’t be busy.
One thing Swanson said that everybody in his family did, except his father – a truck driver – and himself, was carpentry. Early on, Swanson didn’t feel that was the right career for him, but he did hook up with Bill VanSickle for awhile. VanSickle, he said, had the patience to teach him, and he fell in love with construction-type work.
Swanson built a barn north of town where he used to live, built another barn for Mary Fitzgerald and has built various types of furniture. In his retirement years, he hopes to take on more construction projects, and focus on furniture things in the winter. Presently, he’s helping someone build a house.
As he looks back on his long career with UPS, Swanson said the great thing has been the connections he was able to make with people. Those connections, he said, helped him get a lot of great things donated to the Nevada Schools when he was serving on the Nevada Booster Board. Swanson asked for donations to help put in rock and concrete at Billy Sunday Field, along with other things that the school needed.
"I learned that no one can tell you ‘No,’ unless you ask them."