LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — For Charley Allen of East Bernstadt, being a garbage man has always meant more than simply collecting trash.
“I like being out... The people out here in Laurel County, most of them are like family to me. I’ve watched their kids grow up. I’ve watched their kids have kids have kids. I have two generations of kids I’ve watched grow up since I’ve been on these trucks,” Allen said. “A lot of people don’t realize how personal [this job] is.”
In 1978, Allen, 19 at the time, began collecting trash for Sherman Hanney, founder of Laurel County’s first garbage collection business, Laurel Garbage. Laurel Garbage later became known as Waste Connection. After 30 years working in the sanitation industry, Allen retired from Waste Connection as a site manager where he supervised routes, trucks, and drivers.
To Allen’s surprise, the love of his job and the community had Allen reentering the workforce after only four hours of retirement.
He took a nap and woke to a knocking at his door.
It was Gerald Poff of Poff Carting, offering him a job. Allen, remembering the customers he had met over the years, agreed to reenter the workforce on one condition: He would run a residential route instead of taking a managerial position.
He didn’t want to sit behind a desk anymore; he wanted to be out with the people again.
“People of Laurel County have always been good to me,” explained Allen. “If it’s a hot day, they bring me a bottle of cold water or a bottle of cold pop. A lot of the customers never forget their garbage man on Christmas - they always leave you a Christmas present. That’s how personal it is on a residential route. It’s totally different from supervising.”