It's been a long Laguna lumberyard career

This week was a little different for Chuck Robinson. For the first time in 45 years, he didn't have to wake up at the crack of dawn and head to his job at the lumberyard in Laguna Beach.

After nearly half a century on the job, at age 68, the Ganahl Lumber store manager retired last Friday.

On March 3, the night before his last day, Robinson expected to see a few of his buddies when he showed up to the Laguna Canyon Road shop to celebrate his retirement.

"I thought that there would be a few of us after the store closed, maybe 10 or 12 people, to sit around and reminisce, smoke a cigar and that would be it," he said.

When Robinson pulled up with his wife Mary Lee, there were more than 100 people gathered to honor him.

"I was totally taken aback. I couldn't believe it. It was a moment I won't forget," he said. "It's probably my best memory besides my son getting married."

Robinson was presented with a number of awards including a "Most Valuable Player" plaque from CEO Peter Ganahl, a certificate of recognition from the county and a certificate of recognition from the state Assembly.

Robinson grew up in Long Beach and met his wife while working at Dooley's Hardware Mart, where he got his first taste of working in a hardware store. After the army, Robinson came down to Laguna Beach. He interviewed at Laguna Beach Lumber Company, which was bought by Ganahl in 2001, and was hired on the spot. Now a resident of Mission Viejo, Robinson never dreaded the drive to the beach.

"People spend thousands and thousands of dollars to vacation in Laguna Beach," he said. "I got paid to work there."

A lot happened over the last 45 years, including a number of natural disasters. One of the company's mills was lost in the 1993 fires that ravaged Laguna Beach. However, Robinson reminisces about the good times.

"There were a lot of catastrophes in Laguna Beach. It seemed like we had a flood every 10 years," he said. "I remember the good times and the people. They become really close friends."

The people will remember him, too.

Only a few days off the job and hardware supervisor John Bates misses his boss.

"He made me promise to call him at least once a week," Bates said. "So I'm definitely going to keep to that."

Bates interviewed with Robinson 20 years ago. Robinson asked him a few questions about nuts, bolts and hammers. He started the next day.

One aspect was consistent in every story about Robinson: He livened up everyone's day.

"The best thing about Chuck is that he's always in a good mood, no matter what happens during the day," said Dave Miller, sales manager. "He cares about the customers. He's one of those people that really love their job and never dreaded coming to work."

Although his coworkers contend Robinson always kept busy, the retiree is looking forward to taking it easy.

"It's pretty nice. It's my second day. I'm not bored yet," he said Tuesday.

He does plan to travel, but doesn't want to veer too far from town.

"This fall I'd like to go to New England and see the leaves changing," he said. "I'll probably volunteer for some type of a nonprofit organization a couple a days a week. Those are my loosely knit, bullet point plans."

He also has some routine stuff to look forward to, like sleeping in and staying up late.

"I want to be able to stay up to watch the evening news instead of falling asleep at 9 p.m.," he said with a laugh.

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