Fired, with great benefits
Vail CO, Colorado
Life was good for Frank and the Doll family.
Then in 1975 Vail Associates decided that Frank, who was making $12.50 an hour, was being paid too much and cut his job. Zap. Just like that. As Frank put it, “They brought in some other monkey who didn’t know anything about the job. But nobody cared.”
Later, Frank learned that this decision to cut some jobs ” especially Frank’s ” was not a popular decision and to mitigate the circumstances they gave Frank every benefit possible.
So his severance package came with good benefits and three months pay, which meant good ski and golf time. Frank also learned that the new man was being paid $8.50 an hour and didn’t know diddly-squat about purchasing goods for a ski resort, nor did he have the contacts that Frank had.
One of his more painful memories was the situation with the gondola cable. Every night, lift mechanics in charge of the gondola would come into the warehouse and get bars of solder and torches and maybe some tools, go back to the gondola and run the gondola until they found the bad spot in the cable where it continued to show frayed lines. Stopping the cable, they would clip off the frayed ends, put in solder with the propane torch and hammer it in. They did this every night. The Wednesday before the gondola accident, Frank rode the gondola and could see the huge bulge in the cable.
Frank spoke to lift operator. “What in the hell are you going to do about the bulge in the cable?”
The lift operator replied, “Frank, you are about the eighth guy today to tell me about it and I have reported it to my supervisor. I can’t do any more than that.”
It worried Frank, but he realized that ski season was two months from being over and management simply planned to keep the gondola running until the season finished. Frank just hoped the gondola cable would hold.
On March 16, 1976 two gondola cars fell, each carrying six passengers. Three women died at the scene. One man died two days later. Frank always wondered what might have been had someone listened to him and the others who reported the bulge in the gondola cable.
For awhile Frank was bitter about being let go from Vail Associates, but as time rolled along his feelings softened. In 1976, Frank went to work for Bill Nottingham at the gravel plant, and one particular day that stands out in Frank’s memory bank. In September of that year Frank took a look at his trusty pack of cigarettes and his every-friendly bottle of whiskey and tossed both in the trash can. He never smoked or drank again.
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