Relished customer rapport

Ken Mitchell is retiring after working at Mosgiel's Lean McLeod  Auto Services for 50 years. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Ken Mitchell is retiring after working at Mosgiel's Lean McLeod Auto Services for 50 years. Photo by Craig Baxter.

When Ken Mitchell started work as a Mosgiel mechanic the Beatles were at the top of the charts and the pound was New Zealand's official currency.

Mr Mitchell (65) retired last Friday after working at Lean McLeod Auto Services - which has gone through two name changes and a change in location - for just over 50 years.

Speaking to the Taieri Times the day before he retired, Mr Mitchell said getting to know customers and having a bit of ''banter'' would be one of the things he missed most about the job.

''I always used to joke about things and they used to bring morning tea in and afternoon tea in.''

Over the years he had built up relationships with many customers and felt privileged to be invited to some of their funerals.

''It's a really good thing to be there and to know the story about the person [whose vehicle] you have serviced ... all those years.

''Knowing some of the older people that have passed away has been life-changing, really. It's just been really good to know them,'' he said.

The job had changed a lot since he started when he was only 15 years old.

Back then you ''had to listen to where the noise was'', whereas today, computers were used to find problems.

''It's basically electronic stuff now.''

In the past there was also more work adding ''extras'' - such as heaters, mud flaps, tow bars and radios - to new cars.

He felt now was the right time to retire, as he had plenty of work to do around the house, before ''something happens to me, meaning I can't move around''.

Between 1972 and 1982, Mr Mitchell juggled his job and family life with playing wing for the Otago rugby side.

He enjoyed his time playing rugby, but it did mean missing out on time with his children.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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