'Working' Then And Now: Terkel Talks To Car Parker Known As 'One Swing Al' Our partner Radio Diaries, along with Project&, combed through Studs Terkel's tapes, and we're bringing you the best of what they found. Today, Lovin' Al Pommier, a Chicago parking lot attendant.
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'Working' Then And Now: Terkel Talks To Car Parker Known As 'One Swing Al'

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'Working' Then And Now: Terkel Talks To Car Parker Known As 'One Swing Al'

'Working' Then And Now: Terkel Talks To Car Parker Known As 'One Swing Al'

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Decades ago, the great Chicago radio host and author, Studs Terkel, traveled the country with a tape recorder, interviewing regular people about what they did for a living. The interviews became a book called "Working."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STUDS TERKEL: How would you describe your work?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: I'm a processing clerk.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I'm a carpenter from South Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I'm running an elevator.

TERKEL: What do you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: I am the last live entertainment of the Sherman Hotel.

GREENE: The book struck a nerve. "Working" became a best-seller, inspired a Broadway musical. After Studs Terkel had passed away in 2008, those recordings resurfaced, reel-to-reel tapes carefully packed away in Terkel's home office. Our partner Radio Diaries, along with Project And, combed through them. And all this week, we're bringing you the best of what they found. Today, Lovin' Al Pommier, a parking lot attendant or car hiker in Chicago - Studs Terkel sets it up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TERKEL: I'm sitting in a car with a car hiker. Lovin' Al Pommier's been hiking cars for 25, 30 years. It's on Wabash and Van Buren. It's called a flat lot. And we're sitting in the car, puffin' some 15-cent cigars, and he's talking.

LOVIN' AL POMMIER: I had a customer come in here last week. He must have been a good 7 feet or 6-something. And I'm only 5 feet 3. And the guy asked me, he said - he said, you too short to reach the gas pedal. You better pull the seat up. And it looked like I was sitting in the back seat, and I was barely touching the break. I said, no. I said, don't have to push the seat back. This is the way the man leave the seat. I never push a seat back in no costumer's car. Now, I may pull myself up and brace from the wheel, but I never missed that hole.

TERKEL: Well, what do you mean by the hole?

POMMIER: I mean I'm backing in the stall like this.

TERKEL: In the stall.

POMMIER: In the stall. One-swing-Al they used to call me.

TERKEL: (Laughter).

POMMIER: One-swing-Lovin' Al because I got the car judged a certain distance to make that one swing.

TERKEL: One you can do just driving the handle without having to...

POMMIER: Just one hand - no two hands. I always have my head inside the car looking from the back-view mirror.

TERKEL: Look backwards.

POMMIER: Look backwards - I never put my head this way. That's right.

TERKEL: When you're in reverse.

POMMIER: When I'm reversed.

TERKEL: So you would do that with one swing.

POMMIER: One swing.

TERKEL: And that was kind of an art (laughter).

POMMIER: Never missed - one-swing-Lovin' Al from 401 South Wabash.

TERKEL: (Laughter).

POMMIER: I'm known from the Peking to the Hong Kong, to the West Coast to the Pecos (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: Lovin' Al Pommier - interviewed by Studs Terkel in Chicago in the early 1970s. "Working Then And Now" comes to us from the Radio Diaries podcast. And thanks to Project And, along with the Studs Terkel archive at WFMT. You can hear another of these interviews later today on All Things Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Your mouth gets tired. It's the strangest - you get tired of talking.

GREENE: Reflections of a teenage telephone operator.

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