Watch above: He’s worked for the same company for 52 years. Tomorrow, Les Szalacsi will say goodbye. Laurel Gregory has more on the fond farewell.
EDMONTON – When Les Szalacsi started working at McCoy Bros, he was making a dollar an hour while pushing a broom. Today, he holds a high-level sales position in the same company. But not for much longer. Szalacsi, 70, will retire Friday after nearly 52 years with McCoy.
He remembers meeting his first supervisor: the janitor.
“He said, ‘this is your best friend’ and handed me a broom,” Szalacsi recalled with a laugh.
“So that’s how it started.”
His philosophy back then was the same as it was throughout his career.
“I never did say no. Somebody once told me that it doesn’t matter if your boss asks you to do something that may be unpleasant. It might not be in your comfort zone, but if you say no, they’ll never ask you again,” he explained.
“That was basically my philosophy. All the way. If you’re going to do it then do it.”
That philosophy brought him up through the ranks at McCoy, which is now called McCoy Global. He soon began helping with small machinist’s tasks in the afternoons after cleaning up in the morning. After a four-year SAIT apprenticeship program, he was a journeyman, fixing anything that came in the door. Later, Szalacsi found himself supervising more and more people.
When McCoy started producing trailer axles and other machine products, he was placed in charge of production while someone else handled repairs.
While the company’s owners would occasionally bring in a plant manager to oversee Szalacsi’s work, they usually didn’t last more than a few years.
Szalacsi’s perseverance earned him the highest respect from his colleagues.
“He is the classiest guy I’ve ever met,” said Jim Rakievich, McCoy’s CEO. “That guy is top notch.”
Spending a career at the same company is almost unheard of today, but Szalacsi says it just made sense for him.
“It’s not like I didn’t have opportunities to move. Everyone has opportunities and choices to make,” he said.
In addition to fair management, he credits the proximity of the business to his Onoway-area farm as a reason he didn’t take any of those opportunities.
“This was the right fit for me. To go for a nickel or a dime an hour more… it really didn’t make any sense for me to spend another hour of my day on the road.”
Eight years ago, Szalacsi started selling oil rig products, which make up most of McCoy’s products today. He has sold to customers across six continents.
“I couldn’t sell vacuum cleaners, there’s no way. But if you know the product and the people you’re dealing with know what they want, it’s not that hard,” he said, explaining why he was able to move to sales.
“They’re asking you to tell them what would be best in their situation, and you’ve garnered enough knowledge along the way that you can actually help them out.”
That move to sales was consistent with the “never say no” philosophy he has lived and worked by.
But Les Szalacsi isn’t the only one retiring. His wife, Arlyce, is hanging up her apron after making her husband’s lunches through 44 years of marriage. She’s looking forward to the change.
“Now he can make lunch for me at home!” she laughed.
Rakievich wishes them all the best in this next chapter.
“You’ve worked 52 years and you’ve never had the best two months of the summer off. Just enjoy it.”
With files from Laurel Gregory, Global News.
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