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Charla Gummerson – The Untold Story
As I sat in the White Chapel Funeral Home on December 27th and looked around, they were all there – family, friends, relatives, co-workers, dart players, pool players and so many more. All there to say goodbye to Charla. She had touched the lives of many people in many different ways and Father Enright was there to share all of that with us. I thought when he was finished we would have a chance to tell our stories and reflect on how Charla impacted our lives. After all, other than the Gummerson family, who knew Charla any better than I. We spent 35 years working together. Well the service ended and no stories were told. They were supposed to be shared at the Hibernian Club over dinner and drinks. That didn’t happen and I realized I missed my opportunity.
The Untold Story
It was almost 40 years to the day that I came to Auburn in December 1975. My family purchased Stanton Automatics from Pearl Stanton. Our work force consisted of Rollie Stanton (Pearl’s son), Gene Hosier (Rollie’s father-in-law), Dick Howland (Rick’s dad) and John Matsen (Mr. fix it). My experience was in vending not games and music so it was definitely a rough start for me. After a few months I started to get the hang of it and settled in. One of our best accounts was The Grill in Union Springs. For those of you who don’t know The Grill, it is no longer there but was located next to the Indian Gas Station where the car wash now stands. I mention The Grill because that is where I first met Charla’s brother Lance. His blue Chevy convertible was usually traveling about 40 mph when it entered the stone parking lot at The Grill. It didn’t take long to get to know Lance and realize he was the driving force behind The Grill. It didn’t take me long to realize this is the kind of guy I need to hire. Within a few months he was working for Stanton Automatics and not only did he know everybody in Union Springs but also in Aurora, Port Byron, Weedsport and Auburn.
Things started getting busier at Stanton Automatics. We started a pool league, the video game boom came along (Pac Man, Asteroids etc.) and then this stupid looking dart machine (that you threw plastic darts at) showed up. ENTER CHARLA GUMMERSON.
Lance suggested we hire his sister to take care of the details that came with running leagues. At the time she was working the cafeteria at Red Star or GE during lunch and helping her mother cook at the Haufbrau evenings.
Charla started by working afternoons for a few hours each day taking care of whatever needed to be done. Counting money, doing bank deposits, writing checks, answering the phones, compiling pool scores, typing schedules, updating standings, making copies – you name it and it got done. One thing I learned early on was Charla’s ability to connect with whoever was on the other end of the phone. She had a way with people.
Pool and dart leagues were becoming the back bone of our company. Before we knew it we were running dart leagues in Auburn, Elbridge, Weedsport, Oswego, Sodus, Waterloo, Seneca Falls, Union Springs and Aurora. For every league that meant setting up meetings, collecting team rosters, doing schedules, score sheets, collecting dues, compiling results, party dates and locations, payouts and trophies. All that inside work fell directly on Charla’s shoulders.
I will never forget the day Charla came to me and said “Do you think we could buy a computer? I’ll figure out how to run it.” I’m glad I said yes. She worked long and hard figuring it all out. It didn’t matter how early I got to work or how late I stayed at night, she was there making sure everything was right. People would call saying their score was one point off and when Charla got off the phone I would suggest she tell them to “get a life” and she would tell me to please let her handle it. I’m glad I did.
Thirty plus years of organizing pool and dart leagues is a monumental task but for Charla it wasn’t a task at all, it was just a part of her daily routine. Then there is the New York State Dart Tournament. It started 28 years ago at The Winners Circle on a Saturday afternoon with 40 people. Now it is a 4 day event at the Holiday Inn Waterloo every April with over 1000 people and 3500 entries. And guess who has been at the registration desk every day every year…Charla.
There is a lot more to Stanton Automatics than just pool and dart leagues (although you may not think that by reading this). Charla Gummerson wore many hats for Stanton Automatics and the pool and dart hat was just one of them. We are a much different company today than we were 40 years ago due in a large part to the employees of Stanton Automatics, especially Charla Gummerson.