Kathy McKay finally shut the alarm clock all the way off with no plans for setting it on a regular basis again.After 30-plus years of working at Casey’s General Store in Platte City, Kathy worked her final shift on Halloween morning, now ready to enjoy a full retirement. She stayed in her position behind the counter through two buildings and multiple renovations.
The store opened in 1982. Kathy arrived in August of 1984.
She started on nights and weekends — like anybody would, she’ll tell you — but quickly moved to mornings. The alarm clock often called her to duty at about 4 a.m., so she could be in place to greet the morning crowd.
Even if you didn’t know Kathy, she probably knew you by name, always quick to offer a hello and how are you doing. She learned the names through repetition — and the names printed on checks used to buy your doughnuts, coffee, fountain drinks, candy bars and pizzas when checks were still frequently used.
The only thing Kathy didn’t do? Work in the kitchen making the food. And that was her deserved choice.
When I returned to Platte City this summer, Casey’s became my coffee stop of choice. Kathy was one of the first citizens to welcome me back to the new region and ask me about the job.
She’s been quick to engage in conversation with me each time, and now, I know that I’m going to miss those colloquial exchanges.
I’m sure I can’t be alone in those sentiments.
I grew up with Kathy thanks to her job at Casey’s. As kids, my older sister, younger brother and I frequented the store — the one no longer there after a new building was erected in the same spot earlier this decade.
We would walk down an adjacent driveway and through Cox Park and in the parking lot of Kossen’s Auto Body Shop and across Highway 92 to spend whatever extra money we had collected. Probably a few dollars from a recent visit with our great grandma Louise.
The route from my childhood home on Mill Street to Casey’s remains fresh in my mind as I sit here today. I probably can’t count how many times Kathy McKay took the quarters and nickels from my hand.
She might be able to because her memory seems impeccable on these matters. I certainly wouldn’t bet against her recall.
Now, Kathy has started her much-deserved retirement.
I stopped in to say hello on her final day and asked her simply what her plans were. She didn’t seem to have an idea, only that she wanted to relax a little, but you could tell she would miss the interactions a little bit.
Not often do convenience store employees make a 30-year commitment — 30 years plus two months in Kathy’s case. She’s worked alongside too many others to count. She tried and couldn’t come up with a figure that seemed accurate.
Many of those were probably teenagers looking for a little money on the way to a chosen career.
For Kathy, Casey’s became her career, and that’s going to become increasingly uncommon in Platte County communities. The service industry isn’t for everyone, and most tire of it after a short spell — transient workers quickly off to the next, “better” job available.
I worked for years at Leo’s Country Mart and occasionally think about the positives associated with that job. Maybe I could go back at some point and pick up bagging groceries again.
Then again, maybe not. People are hard to deal with.
So whatever Kathy chooses to do now that the alarm sits off, I hope she enjoys it. I’ll still stop in at Casey’s, but I can’t help but think the experience won’t quite be the same.
You can’t replace people like Kathy McKay because there’s no replacement for familiarity, warmth and kindness.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.