Baker to retire from Coca-Cola after 53 years

Clifford Baker is about to retire from Coca-Cola in Williston after 53 years on the job. Bill Dickerson, the vice president and general manager of the distribution center, said Baker might be the last working employee in North Dakota to have spent time on the Coca-Cola bottling line.

Just last week Jim Ryen was given an open house for his 50 years of service to Williams County.

On the heels of that, we present yet another dedicated employee who eclipsed the half century mark and is retiring with 53 years under his belt.

We speak of Clifford Baker, who actually got his start with Coca-Cola Bottling of Williston at the age of 16.

Clifford will be going out with a bang, so to speak, as on the heels of the Fourth of July, he turns 70 on Sunday, July 5, and will officially retire on Monday, July 6.

Being one of nine children, Clifford was born in Glasgow, Montana.

He moved with his family to Williston at the age of 7, and he said, “this is home to me.”

For 48 of those 53 years Clifford has resided with the Dalton Lindquist family, and will continue to do so.

That relationship started back when Dalton worked as a city delivery employee for Coca-Cola Bottling.

While Clifford’s parents were both from a cooking background, he has made his livelihood from a bottling background.

WHS CLASS OF 68

Clifford, a 1968 graduate of Williston High School, began his duties with Coca-Cola on a part-time basis in 1966.

By the end of that summer, he had turned 17, and when asked to stay on, he did so and continues to this day.

Clifford, who is single, compares himself to being married to his job in a good way, as he arrives early in the morning and has put in some long days over the years.

He got his start on the bottling line, back when the local plant made syrup and did all the testing before the product was delivered.

At that time you need to be 18 years old to work the bottling line.

BOTTLING LINE

Back then, Clifford recalled, the plant could produce 28 bottles per minute with three workers on the line and one fork lift operator making up the crew.

The three on the line rotated their positions, keeping them fresh throughout the shifts.

His chores back then ranged from sorting bottles, cleaning floors and getting some pop machines cleaned up.

In looking back Clifford noted, “I miss the old days,” as he winds down from his current position as warehouse manager.

These days the local operation offers a huge distribution center, but remains family owned with the Cote/Dickerson names at the helm.

HELP PEOPLE

When not at work, Clifford just likes to remain busy, and he does that by helping people.

His hobbies include being a “little carpenter,” as he likes to help people.

He has spent time helping a family in Sidney “helping with green power.”

While his schedule finds him at work by around 6 a.m. and home by 5 p.m., Clifford likes to settle in and view the episodes on the Hallmark channel airing at around 8 p.m., just before his head hits the pillow.

STILL FEELS FIT

While most folks would be looking forward to some down time that goes along with retirement, Clifford is already looking forward to returning to a work schedule.

“I might come back to do cleaning a couple days in the morning,” said Clifford.

Along with his warehouse duties Clifford worked to “keep up the pallet jacks,” and company lawn mowers, in an effort to keep them going.

While he is turning 70, according to the calendar, Clifford has a different idea.

“I feel like I’m 39,” said Clifford, who still has a lot of help to give.

One thing, come Tuesday, it will be different as he gives up all his responsibilities.

TIME TO TRAVEL

Now that Clifford will have some time on his hands, he hinted he might go to see his sister in Minneapolis more.

He also has a standing invite to join his brother and wife on a three-month venture to the Philippines.

His brother is retired U.S. Navy and his bride is from the Philippines, thus the trip home.

While retiring, Clifford is also “looking forward to good health,” stating over 53 years, “I really never had a job.”

He considered it being a part of the family and simply did his part as needed.

FROM THE GM

Now working out of the new distribution center west of town, Coca-Cola Bottling of Williston has played a big role.

Over his 53 years Clifford worked at three different locations, with the present site coming into play in January of 2015.

The need for more space proved out according to Bill Dickerson, who holds the title of Vice-President/General Manager.

The first year in the new warehouse saw business quadruple, while the business had doubled in 2012 and again in 2014.

But like all good things, what goes up has a tendency to come down.

“It has been a roller coaster ever since,” added Dickerson, who took over the reins in 1989.

STEADY EMPLOYEE

Throughout all of this, one thing that has been a constant is the work of Clifford.

“He is probably the last working employee, at least in the state of North Dakota, that had actually worked on a bottling line,” said Dickerson.

“Clifford has probably been the most dependable employee and it is small enough here to be like family and he has been everything to the company.”

Dickerson went on to say, “it’s all about doing right for people and it’s hard to give him raises as he gives some of his money to people in need.”

Simply put, “Clifford has dedicated his life to taking care of his fellow man.”

OPEN HOUSE SET

An Open House retirement/birthday party is being planned from 3 to 5 p.m. on Monday in the truck area at the Coca-Cola Bottling Warehouse.

If unable to attend, you can still forward Clifford a card or best wishes to the warehouse staff.

With that we send out a Scope Salute to Clifford and the good folks at Coca-Cola for being the perfect fit.

SCOPE SALUTE

Earlier we mentioned the retirement of county servant Ryen, serving for 50 years.

You see, in his spare time he worked as a private butler, adding to his service chores.

An open house was held earlier for him, but with social distancing going on, a nice card or you can track him down to add best wishes.

We seize this opportunity to send out a Scope Salute, to someone we crossed paths with for close to 40 of those years.

We also wish him well in retirement.

HAPPY FOURTH

Saturday offers a celebration of our country with the Fourth of July on tap.

We have learned a fireworks display is slated for around 10:45 p.m., being shot from the grounds of the Upper Missouri Valley Fair.

Here is a safe way for your family to celebrate.

We know there will be a lot of folks with an itch to fire off fireworks, but we encourage you to be safe.

Number one we don’t want you hurt, while at the same time you can injure others.

The hot temperature and grass conditions also come into play.

While celebration takes place here, we can tell you the action is heating up in Medora as well, with the annual parade planned.

Whatever you do, have a blast, but be safe!

Thomas A. Kvamme is a former resident and long time sports editor and columnist for the Herald. He can be reached at scopend@yahoo.com.

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