Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Documentary Alert: "Mr. Reliable" Retires at 100
Attention documentary filmmakers: This is a life worth documenting. After more than 75 of service for public transit agencies, Los Angeles bus maintenance worker Arthur Winston is retiring today -- on his 100th birthday. Winston's story is essentially the story of the 20th century itself. Consider the fact that he has lived through World Wars I & II, the flu epidemic of 1918, the civil rights movement of the 60s, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, the Atomic Age, the Space Age, the Nuclear Age, the Information Age, the rise of Terrorism, and the dawn of a new millennium. In his 75 years of service, Winston, nicknamed "Mr. Reliable," -- who started every work day at the crack of dawn -- reportedly missed just one day of work in his entire career (when his wife of 65 years died, in 1988). Beyond that, he's never been late, and has never left early. In 1997, the MTA of Los Angeles decided to name the bus yard where Winston worked after him --The Arthur Winston Bus Division. (It has the distinction of being the only yard or division in L.A. to not be identified by a number.) Winston was born in Oklahoma in 1906 (when Teddy Roosevelt was the president of the United States), and was working as a cotton picker by the age of 10. His family eventually headed west, and in 1924, he began working for Pacific Electric Railway Co. He left the company in 1928, but returned six years later, and stayed on until today. In an article, Winston credited his father for teaching him a strong work ethic. He said he could have retired in his 70s, but he wanted to continue working to support family members who were struggling financially or pursuing college degrees. If would seem to me that his life (with all of its ups and downs), is what it means to be an American in the 20th Century. Perhaps a production company such as Claredon Entertainment, a leader in "New Black Cinema," could take on the project. Maybe director Spike Lee should consider making this film. Or John Singleton. Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions could make the film. I suggest these filmmakers and companies only in part because they are also African American (and may share similar cultural experiences to Winston); but more importantly because they have the influence to have such a project produced. And the bottom line is: This man's life and stories deserve to be preserved on film.