I worked for the State of Alaska – Department of Motor Vehicles – for a short period of time. This was in their Anchorage office at 2150 E. Dowling Road. Before this building was ever constructed, my brother and I rode our Rupp snowmachine across the frozen property after school. It was basically a wetlands. Moose frequented the area during winter months, including giant, blood-sucking mosquitoes in summer.
Sometime in the late 1970’s, dump trucks started hauling out loads of damp peat from the bog, bringing in load after load of gravel. This was to ensure stability for a new building and parking lot. During my short tenure as a warehouseman there (1982 – 1983), I was educated by my own personal observation, and via discussion with other DMV employees, on the undue stress placed upon workers by the general public. It wasn’t unusual for a downtrodden clerk to enter our warehouse in tears. The room was a place of sanctity for some workers.
Because of such, I came away with a high degree of respect for DMV employees working behind the counter, and those in hidden offices. To this day whenever I have business dealings with either, I make sure to wear a smile. Most likely the person just leaving them wore a frown.
I recall one incident where a customer was screaming so loud at employees, that Jack Bradford and I were summoned to assist. Eventually A.P.D. showed up and hauled the angry man away. Inebriates walking in the front door and being led out the back in handcuffs wasn’t unusual.
A motorcycle test area was set up out back of our little warehouse, directly on the south edge of the asphalt. I watched one day as a guy on a big Harley, attempted to maneuver around several orange cones. He suddenly fell over with the bike landing on him. Jack and I ran over and helped lift the motorcycle off the man. Before long an ambulance arrived and hauled him to the hospital.
On another occasion, a girl taking her test drove right off the parking lot into some scraggly spruce trees. She was okay, but her large Honda bike was mired deep in the bog. Jack and I assisted in dragging it out of there. I learned from watching all this, that it was best to take your cycle test on the smallest bike possible.
Don was a driving test employee. I remember him well, because he rode along with me when I got my driver’s license on July 22, 1970. That date being so special to me because July 22 is my best friend’s birthday, including my daughter.
This particular test took place when the office was downtown, I believe on 5th Avenue. There were no parking spaces available close by, and a new driver was expected to parallel park while traffic was present. I passed with flying colors, but a couple of hours later ran a stop sign in Mt. View almost hitting a patrol car. That was no fault of Don’s.
Don, along with others doing the same job, told outrageous stories about being in vehicles with people incapable of ever driving. I suppose I fit that bill. These brave workers were basically placing their lives in stranger’s hands. Accidents during test sessions did happen.
One bizarre incident I recall involved a very popular employee. Everyone liked the guy. One day I came to work and was told he’d been arrested for embezzlement. The fellow’s wife worked in the Kenai DMV office and she was taken away as well. This story made all the Alaska newspapers. I was never privy to particulars on what actually happened, but I assume money was pilfered.
Some of the names I recall are Phyllis the office manager, Jack Bradford my boss, Don, Betty, Tom, Susan, Jo, Bob, Joanne, Margaret, Linda, and Brownie to name a few. I assume Brownie was a nick name? He was retiring just as I came onboard.
My job was quite simple. I delivered license plates, blank titles and registrations to our front counter, the Palmer office, and DMV headquarters on Tudor Road. I don’t recall a day where stress ever entered my work truck. It worked well for me because I was taking evening classes at U.A.A at this time.
The jaunts to Palmer were one of my favorite tasks. I looked forward to being called out on a 100-mile roundtrip delivery. A lady named Di was the Palmer DMV office manager. On occasion I got to mail sample license plates to people throughout the world. The plates were provided free of charge back then to anyone asking for one.
I took it upon myself one afternoon to wax our delivery truck. The forest green paint came alive after that. I doubt any other State of Alaska vehicle has ever been waxed since.
I was told the former DMV building at 2150 E. Dowling Road was built over a creek. I believe that because we often had water problems. There was a unique musty smell to the place. Water would bubble up through areas of asphalt after a hard rain. There was a corner of the warehouse where it trickled up through cracks in concrete. I left my warehouse job before Anchorage DMV moved to a new location off Spenard Road and Benson. A fellow named Barry took my slot.
If I have any legacy at all from working there, and I doubt I do, it’d be my destroying the DMV Director’s office sign by accident. One day I came in with a large box and knocked it off the wall. A loud snap echoed down the hall. I think for the most part I did a good job for this agency.
With a background in automotive technology and parts procurement, I transferred to the Department of Transportation – State Equipment Fleet in August of 1983. . I still saw Jack Bradford on occasion, when he brought the delivery truck by our shop for fuel and maintenance. By then the Ford pickup was needing another coat of Simonize.
These days in Arizona, I hear and read of folks complaining about horrific visits to a DMV office in all states. Generally speaking, the complaints deal with wait time. DMV in Alaska works with far less budgetary money than ever before. I’d venture to say that if many of these complainers walked in a motor vehicle employee’s shoes for a day, they’d have a bit more sympathy and compassion along with less gripe. It can be a brutal job at times.
I’ll always be indebted to them. Nothing but good memories while I worked there!