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Golden Arches and the Golden Years : Retired Oldsters Take Their Jobs --and Love It

August 28, 1987|DAVID LARSEN | Times Staff Writer

Only one concession is made because of the age of John Bogosian, according to Bob Talbot, operations manager of the Ralphs Supermarket at Woodman Avenue and Sherman Way in Van Nuys.

"Every wrapper is assigned an hour to get the carts from the parking lot," the operations manager said. "During these hot summer months, we allow John to be exempt from this."

Other than that, the 82-year-old Bogosian takes his place at the end of a counter from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, black bow tie neatly in place, filling bags as carefully as he would his own, as he has done in the store for nearly 10 years now.

Although he may not be the fastest wrapper in history, more than a few customers consider it worth the extra wait to get the chitchat and cheerfulness he provides.

"Until 1952, I had been in the rug-cleaning business with my father," he said. "After he died, I worked awhile as the night manager at Tommy's hamburger stand downtown, and then I was a car salesman.

"By 1977, I was 71 years old, but I couldn't stand the thought of retiring. You retire and you die quicker."

He walked into the Ralphs store and told them he wanted to apply to be a bagger. "I said to try me for a week. If I couldn't do it, let me go."

And today, for his $5 an hour, he is still at it, listening through hearing aids in both ears as the customers request paper or plastic bags, hoisting the filled ones into shopping carts.

"In my 10 years," he said, "I have missed only one day."

Bogosian is part of what would appear to be a trend. At an age when many seniors would otherwise be idle in retirement, he and other oldsters have returned to the work force--much to the appreciation of a growing number of businesses.

And although wages may be minimal in some cases, many of the older workers find it necessary or advantageous to supplement their Social Security checks by holding down outside jobs. Others just like the idea of being out in the world and seeing other people.

Collecting Social Security doesn't mean you can't work any longer, said Joseph Giglio, public affairs specialist in the Los Angeles area office of the Social Security Administration. However, until age 70, if specified amounts of outside income are exceeded, $1 of every $2 in excess must be paid back to Social Security. People as old as 65 may earn $6,000 a year above their Social Security income without that penalty. Ages 65 through 69 may earn as much as $8,160.

Humans weren't the only ones who missed Cecile Murray when she retired from what was then Crocker National Bank four years ago. For many of her 13 years at the South Gate branch, she had worked the drive-up window--and if a dog happened to be in the car, she would include a biscuit with the cash she returned in the basket.

Since then, there have been changes. Crocker became Wells Fargo. The drive-up was replaced by automatic teller machines. But for the old customers, a familiar sight--Murray--has returned.

"I had worked for the branch from 1970 to 1983, until I retired," petite, silver-haired Murray said.

But the planned golden years with her husband, Paul, weren't to be. In October, 1984, they celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary; five months later he was dead of a heart ailment.

"For a while I was caught up in the buzz of getting all the paper work in order," she said. "But I was becoming extremely lonesome.

"One day last year I was in the bank to do a transaction. One of the employees who knew me said they were looking for hourly tellers. I filled out an application right on the spot and was hired again."

Her hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (with an hour off for lunch) on Fridays.

The branch manager said Murray and another senior hourly employee give a nice balance to his work force--and that neither has missed a shift.

"I have no plans at all now to stop work," Murray said. "It is good for me physically, good financially, and good emotionally. At home there were too many memories."

"After a while in retirement, you go crazy," Charles Belt said, preparing to wipe a table with the rag in his hand.

Belt is 68, and since the beginning of the year has been a host in the table area of the Carl's Jr. restaurant at 4358 Lincoln Blvd. in Marina del Rey.

For 35 years, he had taught in the elementary and secondary grades of the Los Angeles Unified School District. He entered retirement and prepared to enjoy a life of leisure.

Instead, finding life boring, he applied at the fast-food outlet and was hired.

"Another reason was that I wasn't covered by Social Security as a teacher, and I want to get full protection under that," Belt said.

The white-haired waiter, whose uniform includes a gray-red cap and gray apron, works for the minimum wage of $3.35 an hour, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

One customer, overhearing the conversation, commented: "I drive here from Westchester just to have Charles around while I eat. I feel like I'm with family."

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