Baldwin EMC retiree Frankie Kucera sits down with employee Chase Waddle

frankie-and-chaseMr. Frankie Kucera of Robertsdale retired from Baldwin EMC in 1993 as Manager of Operations and Maintenance. We asked him to sit down with Chase Waddle, who has been with Baldwin EMC for seven years and works as a line technician.

Chase Waddle: What made you apply for a job at Baldwin EMC?
Frankie Kucera: Well, at that time, it was REA (Rural Electric Administration). I was a young man working in Loxley, but I’d heard that REA was a good place to work, so I put my application in. When they found out I typed 85 words a minute, they offered me a job as a cashier. I started on Jan. 1, 1958, and sat at a desk collecting bills across the counter and sending out past due notices. I enjoyed it, but my goal was to get outside.

C.W.: How long did it take you?
F.K.: Well, I actually quit in 1959 to take a job in Fairhope and then I was called to active duty in August of 1960. I served until Sept. 22, 1961, and then took a job in Miami, but something kept calling me back here. I applied for an outside job in 1962 and once I was outside, I was happy. I loved that every day there was a challenge, that no two days were the same.

C.W.: That’s true, no two jobs are ever the same.
F.K.: We were constantly moving. In those years, we had to climb the poles; we didn’t have a bucket truck.

C.W.: I like to call it the best tool for the job.
F.K.: I can remember when we got our first digger truck, and then our first bucket truck, and when we handled the first hot line out of a bucket. I was the one who got to do that, and I was bare-handed.

C.W.: We can’t do that now.
F.K.: No, now you’re protected. We would climb between primary and neutral with no hard hats. I actually was instrumental in the co-op’s first safety accreditation program and was there to make sure all the guys were adhering to the safety rules.

C.W.: How many guys were on the crew with you?
F.K.: Well, to start it was just me and [the late] Curtis Hobbs. Then we worked our way up to maybe six. Everyone was either a groundman or on the lines. We all looked out for each other. We were like brothers.

C.W.: It’s still like that, but now we have 16 crews.
F.K.: You’ve grown so much. I remember when we got our 10,000th consumer; it was a house out in Fairhope. We had a big open house to celebrate. Everything has continued to grow.

C.W.: When you applied in 1958, did you think it would turn into a lifelong career?
F.K.: I had no idea. I went from clerk to right-of-way to groundman to foreman, all the way up to manager of operations and maintenance. When I retired, they made me write down everything I did because I didn’t have a secretary. It was a good place to work over 34 years because I enjoyed working with people, and I still do. I stay busy and I like to race cars, but I also like to come back here and sit with someone like you to talk shop.

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