"Local Personalities"

Barbara Elmore
Pine Mountain Club Transfer Site

by Maggie Van Ostrand

In 1987, the Iran-Contra scandal hit the nation, Dirty Dancing, and Moonstruck were box office hits and an Emmy went to The Golden Girls. That was the same year Pine Mountain Club got a golden girl of its own, Barbara Elmore.

If you've never been told a joke by Barbara Elmore or heard her raucous laughter, you probably haven't visited the Pine Mountain Club Transfer Site where she has worked for over a decade.

"Some people call me Queen Bee of the Dump," Barbara notes, cackling, "but I prefer the title, Sanitation Engineer."

Barbara had been a machine operator at Keebler Cookies when she learned that a co-worker was selling her cabin in PMC, so she packed everything including Howard, her husband of 32 years, and moved.

Growing up in San Luis Obispo with four sisters was early training as a good judge of children's behavior, and her first job at PMC was in the rec room watching over children. She sees the same kids today, now teenagers, and notes, "They're still very nice."

At home, Howard does the cooking, and enjoys making Barbara's favorite dish, anchovy spaghetti. They have a daughter, Stacey, who lives in Warrenton, Oregon, with her three children.

Barbara's hobbies are collecting movies (her favorite film is Dr. Zhivago, which she views as often as every six months), football ("It's better today than ever before because of instant replay. Do you realize how many balls have been won or lost because of a bad call?") and jigsaw puzzles of over 1,000 pieces. Barbara takes her time putting the puzzles together, unlike Howard who tries to punch pieces in to make them fit.

She's also a fan of forensic science shows like Cold Case Files. She's certainly in the right business to uncover evidence.

One thing Barbara enjoys about her work is the well-behaved children who recycle. "They keep looking back at me to see if I'm watching them separate the plastic, glass, and newspapers," she says proudly, "because I give a sucker as a reward for being a good little recycler. They always say 'thank you,' and little Montana even says 'thank you' in sign language and gives me a kiss." The kids are the fun part, but there's also a downside to that job.

Her major complaint isn't about the equipment she operates or all the clean-up she does, it's the people who don't wash out jars and containers. "Do you have any idea how bad clabbered (sour) milk smells?" she asks, "It's enough to gag a maggot."

"Most people take a minute to wash out containers before recycling," she adds, "but a few don't. That means that when the bailer starts, the contents spray back and get the stink all over your clothes. Now I just trash the unwashed containers."

Remnants of peanut butter, mayonnaise and like substances left in jars is another complaint; they attract yellow jackets, flies and rodents. No wonder Barbara has to find her serenity at home.

The Elmores enjoy over 30 Hummingbirds at their place, which require about a gallon of water every other day in the feeders, plus about 20 pounds of sugar a month.

"We have no pets," Barbara grins, "Howard's my pet."

Reprinted by permisson of Maggie Van Ostrand

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