Christmas holiday not a day off for everyone
BY JAMES D. WOLF JR. Post-Tribune correspondent December 25, 2013 1:34PM
Updated: January 27, 2014 12:39PM
VALPARAISO — While many hoped to wake up to a white Christmas on Wednesday monring, the snowplow and salt truck operators were waiting to see if the snow would bring them a flurry of work.
In Valparaiso, the four main salt truck drivers got the call about 7:15 a.m., as did day supervisor Tony Reid, who loaded the trucks with a payloader.
They were part of the Christmas workforce, providing essential services and conveniences while many have a day off.
The plow crews are on-call all winter, but whether they work on the holiday is a gamble.
“(It’s) the first one that I remember in 17 years. I was called out one Christmas Eve, but this is the first Christmas Day,” Reid said. “It’s gratifying because we’re keeping the residents safe and giving them a safe Christmas.”
He wasn’t worried about missing the holiday during his 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. shift; he celebrates at night.
“I don’t have little kids waiting for Santa,” he said
Driver Chester Zell’s children are also grown and gone. So working on holidays, including July 4, gives him something to do, he said.
Both he and Adam Saberniak, whose girlfriend was visiting her family, estimated that their shift would take about three hours out of their morning.
For many, Christmas started with midnight Mass, where others also were working.
Besides the priests at Saint Paul Catholic Church in Valparaiso, there was music director Stephen Schnurr, whose Christmas Day duties with the choir and instrumentalists began with 4 p.m. Mass on Christmas Eve.
“We’re here to deliver something for the people,” Schnurr said. “A lot of time, it’s the music that touches somebody, that moves the faithful.”
Although he works Christmas, Easter and New Year’s Day, after 23 years with St. Paul, it gives him job satisfaction, but he has also saw a woman from Kouts sing in the midnight Mass choir and drive back in the morning.
About 1,400 people attended the 4 p.m. Christmas Eve Mass, and the Mass attracts many people from elsewhere.
The Leuck family of Wanatah — Angel, Jon and daughters Brianna and Liz — have made midnight Mass a tradition since dad was young.
“It’s always kind of nice to go and know that Midnight Mass is Christmas and our savior is born,” Jon said.
Angel said, “There wasn’t one (a midnight Mass) around us, so we came out here.”
Movie theaters also opened for the day, Cinemark in Valparaiso started a run of shows about 10 a.m.
Most people who showed up said they had celebrated or planned to celebrate Christmas at another time, either the previous weekend or the coming weekend.
“I didn’t know the movies would be open,” said Mary Ann Sheller of Valparaiso, whose friends suggested they meet there.
Mary Bruyst of Union Mills said her kids went to warmer places for the holidays, so they decided to see a movie on Christmas for the first time.
Teri Perkins of Chesterton had family out for Thanksgiving and celebrated on quietly Christmas Eve and Jacob, 10, chose “The Hobbit.”
“It’s a nice, quiet day with the family,” her father, Sig Niepokoj said.
Husband Jim said, “It’s either that or stay home cleaning up the house.”
The Goodrich Quality Theaters in Portage didn’t open until 3 p.m. and had closed Christmas Eve after the 5 p.m. showing so employees could spend time with family, a preference of the chain’s owner.
“We’re a bit smaller chain, so it’s something we can do,” Manager Kevin Morgan said.
Morgan expected 40 of the 85 employees to work, and they have a $2 an hour bonus.
Although “Wolf of Wall Street,” “Believer,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Grudge Match” and “Mandela” all opened on Christmas, he expected family-oriented films like “Frozen” and “The Hobbit” to do well.
For travelers, gas stations and conveniences stores like the Family Express at Ind. 249 and Ameriplex Drive were open, and clerk Samantha Vereb said all employees were expected to work a few hours.
She, however, wouldn’t start most family gatherings until after 4 p.m. and worked some hours to shorten another employee’s shift.
Most customers came from Illinois and Michigan and just got off the highway, but some people bought scratch off lottery tickets and roses — “Easy gifts, fast,” she said.
Cigarette sales seemed down, she said, but bathroom usage was up.
Mac Mosley of Portage stopped for a dozen eggs on the way to visit grandma because she called and said she ran out and needed them for sweet potato pie.