Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 26, 2012

Christmas shift: Workers paid in smiles, OT


TRAVERSE CITY — Kevin Holmgren kept solitary guard over the Walmart parking lot while armed with magazines, a portable DVD player and a stack of movies.

Holmgren, an Advance Security employee, was one of the few Traverse City residents who toiled on Christmas day. Even the store Holmgren guarded was dark and empty, closed until today.

But Holmgren said he didn't mind working on Christmas as he waved off prospective shoppers from the driver's seat of his Pontiac Vibe. The Air Force veteran grew accustomed to working on holidays during his military service. And overtime pay doesn't hurt, either.

"For this, I'll get paid for time and a half," Holmgren said.

Holmgren celebrated with his mother, two sisters and brother on Christmas Eve. He's unmarried and has no children, so he wasn't worried about missing anything Christmas morning. He was concerned about one thing, though: where to buy lunch on Christmas.

The 7-Eleven on 14th Street was among the limited possibilities.

Harry Gough, who owns the franchise store, helped his employees tend to several shoppers on Christmas morning. Gough said Christmas is one of the busiest days of the year for his 7-Eleven because no other stores are open.

Customers stop in all day for products like milk, eggs, orange juice, and of course, beer and wine.

"People appreciate us being open," Gough said.

Gough said he hates making his employees work on Christmas, so he joins them for a shift as an act of solidarity. His employees, like Holmgren, earned overtime wages for their holiday efforts.

Some who worked on Christmas didn't make a dime, though.

Volunteers opened the State Theatre for a day of movies that started with a matinee showing of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln."

Cris Lake, of Traverse City, collected tickets while wearing a replica Civil War Union soldier cap. Lake said she enjoyed working at the theater on Christmas Eve and Christmas because of the energized atmosphere and the chance to meet eager moviegoers.

"People were very cheerful today and happy yesterday," she said. "They are even more cheerful today because this is free popcorn day."

Concession stand volunteers, including Lake's husband Mike Lake, hurriedly filled bags of free popcorn and passed them out as ticket holders filed into the theater.

Nancy Rader worked concessions with her husband Richard Rader and daughter Crystal Sharp. Nancy Rader said her family volunteered for Christmas duty at the State for the last five years.

"It's just been something we do," she said. "Years ago we used to go downstate. Since our mother died, now we do this for our family tradition."

Another holiday tradition unfolded across the street at Phil's On Front. Community members gathered in the restaurant for free meals that were served from noon to 6 p.m.

Aurora Murray, wife of owner Phil Murray, said volunteers run the meal and serve food donated by local businesses.

Volunteer Elizabeth Sexton Rivers, who also sings at Phil's throughout the year, said the meal provides a family atmosphere for those who seek company or a hot plate of food on Christmas.

"We seat everybody together and it becomes this big, huge party," she said. "That's really what it's all about. Meeting people and being kind."