William Drennan was doing garbage pickup at Hideaway Lake when he noticed a number on a resident’s arm.
It turned out that the resident, who had come outside to get his trash can, was a Holocaust survivor.
Drennan said he talked with the man and saw him a few times but then didn’t see him anymore.
He had “very interesting stories, gruesome stories, too,” he said.
Drennan, 42, has been a garbage man in Tyler for two years and in the trash business for 18 years.
He is one of Tyler’s 60 residential and commercial solid waste collectors, who have an opportunity to interact with people on the job.
But they also deal with smelly trash and must work in all weather conditions.
The city of Tyler this past week recognized them as part of National Garbage Man Day.
It is estimated 2,000 tons of solid waste is collected each week in the city, as well as 30 tons of recycling.
Robert Hanna, 53, has been a garbage man with the city of Tyler about 17 years.
He said his father had a business, so he’s been around trash all his life.
For years, he’s been doing commercial roll-off collection, which takes him back and forth from the landfill.
“It’s a good job, and the city takes care of me. They got good benefits, and the pay’s decent, so why not?” Hanna said.
But he also cited challenges, such as smelly conditions, mud, heat and ants.
“There’s a lot to it, but it still beats no job at all,” Hanna said.
When asked about discarded items, Hanna said, “You see everything.”
And Drennan said he’s seen people throw away money-change and dollar bills.
“A lot of times people throw it away because they think a dollar’s not worth anything,” he said.
Even so, Galen Billington, residential superintendent with Tyler’s Solid Waste Department, said garbage men are not allowed to take items from the trash.
Drennan said he enjoys working by himself, because he seems to work better that way and can listen to his style of music.
However, he said, the job is not as easy as some think.
“Some people think it’s easy to throw a trash can upon the back of a truck and dump it,” he said. “There’s a lot more to it than just that. You’ve got to have stamina. You’re working in the weather whether it’s hot, cold (or) raining.”
Kenneth Wooten, 47, has been a garbage collector in Tyler for 17 years.
He said he slipped into the job and ended up liking it.
When asked what he enjoys about it, he said, “Being in a truck by yourself, you’re pretty much your own boss.”
Wooten, who collects from big dumpsters at businesses, said the job can be dangerous when lifting a dumpster at least 13 or 14 feet over the truck.
He could hit a power line, he said, and recalled a time when a person raised their head up from a dumpster he was moving. He then put the dumpster back down.
Daron Choice, 50, has been with Tyler Solid Waste about 28 years.
He said he was getting out of high school and looking for a job when he ran across a job with Solid Waste. He started in residential and now works with commercial dumpsters.
Hubert Vance, 52, has been doing garbage collection for more than 20 years, seven in Tyler.
He said the first thing got him into doing Solid Waste was the response from residents and the sincerity they had in thanking him for picking up trash.
It “touched me, and have been doing it for quite some time,” Vance said.
Today, he said he still enjoys the sincerity from people when they show appreciation of thank him for a job well done.
“I love it,” he said.