EVERETT — When Tim Dry was a new mechanic at Dwayne Layne’s Auto Family, all of his tools fit into a fishing tackle box.
When he retired last month after 47 years at the dealership, he had to hire a flatbed truck to haul them home.
“Cost me $320,” he groused.
By the time he left, his tool case was bigger than a commercial freezer, said Tom Lane, Dwayne Lane’s CEO.
“He had tools in there to work on tools,” Lane said.
A half-century with the same company is almost unheard of. Fewer than one-third of workers age 16 and over have spent 10 years or more with the same employer, according to a U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau survey.
The median tenure is about four years, according to the January 2018 labor report.
Dry, a Marysville resident, started work at Dwayne Lane’s in 1972 after studying at Everett Community College.
He was 18 years old.
“It was a four-year program, but I finished it in three,” Dry said.
The first car he repaired was a spanking-new 1973 Dodge Dart.
The automotive industry has done wheelies and flip-flops since then.
By 1990, fuel injection had replaced the temperamental carburetor on most models. “I was glad to see them go,” Dry said.
“The nicest change was the electronic ignition — it made it easier to do tune-ups, ” he said.
Cars and trucks were less complicated when Dry first turned a wrench. There were fewer moving parts.
“All cars were basically the same,” Lane said. “The repairs were universal.”
Automobiles are now stuffed with electronics and computers.
Diagnosing a problem can be as simple as plugging into a computer and reading the error codes.
Despite technological improvements, the work is still physically demanding, Lane said.
“The parts are still heavy and you have to install them at funny angles,” he said. “You’re always bent down. You’re always contorted when you’re working on a car.”
“A 30-year career is amazing,” Lane said. “Forty-seven years, that’s special. I don’t think it will ever be repeated.”
Lane was two years old when Dry began working at his father’s auto dealership.
“I’ve known Timmy most of my life and I can’t imagine not seeing him in his coveralls at the dealership,” Lane said.
Lane’s father, Dwayne Lane, began washing cars in 1954 while still a teenager and bought the Everett dealership in 1966.
“We had just one store in Everett. It sold Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep. Now we have five locations and nine brands,” Lane said. Dwayne Lane died in 2016 at age 80.
Dry had a talent for solving intermittent problems — the ones that kick in when you’re driving and disappear the moment you pull into the dealership, Lane said.
“Tim solved all of our difficult problems for years,” Lane said. “He always knew what questions to ask … that takes deductive reasoning. He hated not understanding something.”
Dry, who is married with two grown children, plans to fix a few things here and there — his red, 1973 Chevrolet Corvette and his mother’s 2001 Buick. “I keep it in good shape,” he said.
He’ll continue to mow the lawn at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Marysville and visit his 94-year-old mother every morning to read the paper and fill her pellet stove.
Now that his tools are at home, there are a couple bicycles in the garage that could use a tune-up.
“I used to ride for the Tour de Cure for the American Diabetes Association,” Dry said. “I’d like to do that again, and go riding on the nice trails here.”
At Dry’s retirement party, Lane half-jokingly asked him to keep his phone on: “If we run into something really difficult, we’ll call,” he promised.
Janice Podsada; email@example.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods