It was 43 years ago that the ship I have been traveling on set sail for destinations unknown and along the way I have met some very memorable people. You see, I have spent the last 43 years in the oil business and have held just about every position there is, short of owning my own company.
My journey started soon after returning from Army training when I was looking for work in the local newspaper want ads. I called this company, Leon’s Fuel Oil, and got hired as an oil delivery driver. I thought this would get me through the winter until I could find a “real job” next summer. Well, I guess Leon saw something in me that he liked because during the next seven years, I delivered oil for him.
During this time he asked me to go to night school and learn to fix oil burners, and so I did. During the slow months, he sent me out as an apprentice with “Augie,” the best mechanic that worked for the company. Now this was a very small company so Augie was not only the best mechanic at the company, he was also the ONLY mechanic at the company. Leon gave me the opportunity to not only learn to deliver oil and fix oil burners, but he also taught me how to properly install boilers, both steam and hot water, during those seven years. I will never forget him for steering my ship in the right direction.
As time went on, I got married and moved to a different area of Long Island. After a year or two I decided it was time to get a job closer to home. So again, I followed a lead in the local newspaper. I got a job with Lisi Bros. Fuel. I was hired as an installation helper and to assist with oil deliveries when needed. This was just the opposite of my last job, so again my ship steered in a different direction.
Here I honed my skills at the very capable hands of a co-worker Mike, the owner’s son. Mike and I developed a friendship that lasted for many years. That friendship lasted beyond the passing of Joe Lisi, the owner of the company. As sometimes happens, the business was sold after his death. I later found out that I was part of the agreement of sale. The sale was only going through if I was given the opportunity to work for the new company. I felt honored that I was being given this much consideration in the sale of the business after only seven years with them.
I worked for this new company for another seven years where I learned an awful lot from my mentors, Faust and Fred. That was many years ago and I know Fred has since passed away, I have lost touch with Faust, but if you are still around, I want to thank you for all you taught me. Looking at this as I write it, it seems I have a thing for seven years, ya think? Like the seven year itch! Well, that was about to change.
As things would have it, I was speaking to a friend in the business who told me that the company he was working for was looking for a good technician. This was the first time I heard the term “technician” in reference to someone who fixed oil burners. I met with the owners of General Utilities and got the job. Here my ship veered course again as I was now called a technician and much more was expected of me than when I was a mechanic.
Years later, at a NAOHSM convention, I met a technician who explained to me the difference between the two. He explained that a “mechanic” will fix or replace the problem part, but a “technician” will first find out why the part failed, and find and fix the cause of the problem before replacing the part. I now understood why we must be technicians and no longer be satisfied being a mechanic.
My seven year itch to change companies was broken at “General Utilities.” Here I worked for a family that truly treated me as family. While with them, my ship changed course a few times. I was a technician, lead technician, supervisor, and finally service manager. I held that last position for about ten years, and boy, what a learning curve that is. It was in this position that I discovered that there was a service managers group in my area! In all my years in the business, I had never heard of them, so I had to find out.
I attended my first meeting of the Long Island chapter of the National Association of Service Managers (NAOHSM) and was very impressed meeting all of the other service managers in my area. Right off I knew I had to belong to this group. This was where I met a very special person who befriended me right off, Dave Nelsen. Dave and I got to be good friends; in fact it was Dave who convinced me to attend the National Association of Service Managers Convention and Trade Show for the first time. Dave was writing a column for Fuel Oil News at the time and he asked my why don’t you write something and send it to them, to see what they think. I did not; it was not until Dave’s passing that I thought I would honor his memory and do what he asked, so I sent in my very first column ever, out of respect for him. I never thought this would last for eleven years.
All this time, I worked for General Utilities. The principals, Ed Minicozzi, Sr. and his son Ed, Jr., were very supportive of my “outside the office” industry commitments. I did finally retire from General Utilities, but that was not an easy decision! Retiring from General Utilities was both a happy day in my career, but also a sad one. Here I was leaving friends and family I had been with for eighteen years. We went through good times and some bad times, and I was always treated like family.
The time has come for me to “dock the boat” after traveling on this career for the past 43 years. My time has come…and gone. I have seen so many advancements in our industry that I can’t even imagine what the next generation of technicians will be working on.
I have met some outstanding people while a member of NAOHSM. The association has updated its title and scope and is now called The National Association of Oil and Energy Service Professionals (OSEP). If I forget to mention someone, please forgive me as there are so many people who helped me steer this ship over time.
Thanks to Leon Binfiglio, Augie Leto, Joe Lisi, Mike Lisi, Faust Manacotta, Fred Swhar, Ed Minicozzi, Sr., Ed Minicozzi, Jr., Dave Nelsen, Bob Boltz, Dan Holohan, Dave Campbell, Kevin Beckett, John Beckett, Charlie Bursey, Judy Garber, Ed Kitchen, Lindy Lindvieght, Roger McDonald, Dr. Tom Butcher, Rich Bruno, Michael Szentesy, Greg Talbot, Bob Tatnall, Gordon Barkell, and all my friends who I have failed to mention. I need to send a special thanks to my lovely wife Joan, my first mate, who put up with me during this entire journey.
Well, the boat has been docked and the lines secured, so it’s time for me to go and get a beer. I am retiring, but that does not mean that you won’t see me around. I have a habit of just popping up at a meeting, a trade show, or just maybe your office. Be well, be safe and keep your customers warm and comfortable. John Griffin, signing off.
PS, I can still be reached at email@example.com and as always, I would love to hear from you and compare war stories. Bye.