Humans of Reed: Jerry Gammon

CW: Drugs

Last week, Reed College said its solemn goodbyes to one of the Physical Plant’s brightest stars, Jerry Gammon. Gammon started his Reed career working the graveyard shift in Building Services, and later moved into the groundskeeping department, where he tended to Anna Mann, Old Dorm Block, and the front lawn for two and a half years. During this time he could often be spotted mowing or raking in his patent-worthy green or red insulated jackets, fearlessly brandishing his school spirit with a “REED” baseball cap, or stopping for a smoke break in the shelter between Commons and Kaul. Unfortunately, towards the end of the summer, a shoulder injury left Gammon incapacitated and unable to lift heavy objects, limiting the amount of duties he could carry out on the crew. At the start of this semester, he submitted his two-week resignation notice, and at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, September 14, put up his tools one last time before starting an early retirement. I caught up with Gammon after work on Wednesday, September 12 in order to get a greatly valuable and dearly missed perspective on his life and work at Reed. Below is the a transcript of the dialogue that followed:

MJ: So, what are your thoughts about leaving Reed?

JG: They’re a little mixed. I really, really loved working here, but my shoulder’s messed up, and I don’t want it to get any more messed up, so it’s time for me to retire. But Reed, as far as working environment, it’s the best environment I’ve ever worked in. People are just so much more accepting of each other and who they are, and to me that[‘s] 90 percent of the job, being in a good environment. I used to work at Lewis and Clark, and Lewis and Clark, as far as the students, the staff, does not hold a candle to Reed.

MJ: Interesting!

JG: Yeah, the people are just much more open and accepting here. I’m sad to be leaving, but at the same time, I’m 63, and I’m tired and sore, so I want to relax.

MJ: That’s fair. So the phrase “Olde Reed” gets thrown around a lot, and I’ve definitely heard some interesting things about it from the groundskeepers who’ve been here longer, but do you have any crazy “Olde Reed” stories?  

JG: You know, I haven’t been here that long so I don’t know any really wild ones. People’ve mellowed out over the years. I guess I would just say that Renn Fayre was an experience to behold, and that was about the biggest eye-opener for me.

MJ: So what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever found on trash walk?

JG: Oh I find all kinds of pipes, I’ve found a few syringes, found a baggie of cocaine yesterday.

MJ: Really?

JG: Yeah. Found a baggie and turned it in to the CSOs; they told me later that they tested it and it was coke. So somebody’s missing their stash.

MJ: Wow. See, I’ve found Juuls and blunts, but I’ve never found coke.

JG: Oh well yeah I find all kinds of weed stuff on my trash walk. Every day you find roaches out on the picnic tables and lots of lighters. I’ve found lots of lighters where people are out on the front lawn and doing whatever and just leave it.

MJ: So what’s your favorite weird Reed thing?

JG: I don’t know if it’s weird; I always enjoy the letters out on the ODB lawn during Renn Fayre. I mean, I guess it’s not weird, but I like that creative thing where people go out and … some of the stuff they come up with! I wonder what the Eastmoreland neighbors think about it, but I don’t know. I don’t find, to me, that many weird things around campus. Clothes. People who’ve lost those. I’ve found pairs of pants out of the lawn which makes you wonder “how did that happen?” but that’s probably the weirdest.

MJ: So you said you’ve worked at Lewis and Clark. Is there any differences between Lewis and Clark and Reed besides the working environment?

JG: Well, it’s just, the whole atmosphere as far as people and everything is much more, kind of an elitist attitude. And they have organized sports, Division III sports, and things like that, and I don’t want to speak bad of athletes, but I think some of them get in the mentality of “football” or whatever they have. I guess for lack of a better word, “jock” attitude, and that kind of rubs me the wrong way.

MJ: Understandable. So what was your favorite part of the job?

JG: Probably trash walk. It’s the first thing I do in the morning and it’s usually quiet, and I get to take a walk around my area. In fact I plan on Friday morning, just taking a real long trash walk. Kind of sit different places and look at the trees.

MJ: I can’t blame you, like, trash walk for me is very relaxing, I feel. And it’s like yeah, you have to pick up trash but you also get to take a walk you know. And you get paid for it.

JG: Exactly. And it’s not something that, you know, you don’t have to do speed-walking or anything like that. It’s just like — I don’t know, I like walking around on the lawn and in the Grove. It’s the closest you can get to nature in the city.

MJ: True. Have you ever had the Doyle Owl? Cause I’ve heard that Grounds Crew apparently used to steal it. Were you ever a part of that?

JG: No, I was never a part of that. Yeah the people who’ve been here a while, like Bruce and Dave … the guy who, I took his place and he’d been here forever. You know Bruce has been here for 34 years. The first thing I heard about the Doyle Owl [was that] there was a huge mess out on the Quad lawn and I didn’t know what it was about. They explained it to me, and that’s, you know, that’s the kind of thing that, to me, that students do. You know I didn’t go to college, but that just seems like, the kind of traditional college stuff that goes on and I think that’s neat. I wish more places had more traditions like that.

MJ: That’s fair. So, last question. If you were chosen as Reed College’s new president, what rule would you make?

JG: What rule would I make?

MJ: Yeah, if you could make one rule instantly and it didn’t have to go through any legislation, they’d just accept it, what rule would you make?

JG: Oh I guess the socialist in me would make tuition free. But I’m sure there no president that going to go for that. I know New York City now is offering free NYU tuition for medical students. Yeah, education should be free. But, here we are at a private college, it’s a whole different story.

MJ: Yeah, 75,000 dollars a year for some of these people, that’s crazy.

JG: Believe me! I sold off my house to pay off my daughter's.

MJ: Well, have a good [day] Sir, I hope you enjoy your retirement.

JG: Thank you. See you on Friday!