July 9 – 15, 2021Vol. 23, No. 5

Old Phil and the Old Dump

by Rod Johnson

Yup, no matter how you slice it and dice it, we Homo sapiens do, and always have created waste — more now than ever. Our piles of cast offs are ever present at what we now call "landfills", sometimes "sanitary landfills", or in some cases our junk is waiting at the "transfer station" for a truck ride to a bigger pile somewhere else.

The word DUMP is still used by some folks, and rightly so. In the 1950s, '60s, and '70s the Belgrade town dump was on the Chandler Road, as some of you may recall. The property was owned by the Damren family until the '70s when the Day family bought it. The town paid a fee to the landowners to have the dump there.

The dump was open 24/7 in the earlier years, but as time went on, hours were established and the dump was "tended". Our dump guy, no offense intended, was Old Phil as we called him. Phil was a gentle bear of sorts, once the road commissioner of Belgrade in the 1950s, but his age and health precluded him from doing any heavy labor now.

Old Phil would appear at the door of his shed at the DUMP (actually an old rickety ice-fishing shack) when you drove up into the yard. He would slowly make his way over to your truck and greet you, all the while perusing what you had to drop off. The unspoken rule was that Phil had first "pickin' rights" to any and all items at the dump, though he had a few friends from other towns that might come to visit and perhaps take a look at the goodies available. It was above our pay grade to know what deal Phil had made with them.

On really hot summer days when hauling lobster innards from the Colby College clambakes on the shore of Great Pond, or perhaps a load of brush from someone's camp, we would stop at Day's store en route to the DUMP and pick up two, 16 oz. bottles of ice cold Narragansett beer for Old Phil. When he approached our beat-up old Ford pickup, his bright red cheeks and five days of gray whiskers were glistening with sweat, and the Red Top snuff was ever present around the corners of his mouth.

We proudly presented Old Phil with the two Narragansetts — he called them "Nasty Gansetts" — and he would crack a smile as genuine as they come. He would then stuff one of the bottles in the back pocket of his old coveralls, then pop the top off the other with his jack knife. Two long, long swallows with his head back and bottle tipped to the sky would lead to a grand belch, and then he'd say, "Jesus, boys, that was some tasty, go ahead and put your stuff right over there." We would, and as we were driving out with a hand wave to Old Phil, he would be popping the top of number two brew!

Author's Note: You might wonder why teenage boys were quite so generous to an old man. In fairness, Phil was good to us in several ways. About every month or two, depending on need, the town hired Reggy Hammond or Bill Pray to bring their dozer up and push back the dump, which cascaded into the old gravel pit out back of it. During this process Phil let us boys bring our 22's down and shoot rats as they scurried about during the push back. In those days, no separation of items took place. Everything from unbagged household garbage to an old junk car all went down over the bank.

Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and '60s.