Jerry Gargano and his friends sipped late morning cups of coffee — and waited for Rich Calder.
“We’re expecting one more,” Gargano told Linda Ormin, a waitress at the Glenville Queen.
“We’ll give him five more minutes,” Ormin said, walking to another table inside the Saratoga Road restaurant.
Gargano returned to conversations with Robert, Richard, Mike and Phil — the March meeting of the “KAPL Old Timers.” The party of five hoped Calder would add to their numbers.
The retired draftsmen and designers from the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory have been meeting at the Queen on the last Wednesday of each month for the past eight or nine years. Like members of other retiree groups that meet for breakfast, lunch or card games, they talk about their lives, current events and maybe a little gossip about the company.
“Sometimes it’s who’s got what aches and pains, who’s seeing which doctor,” said Gargano, 86, who lives in Mechanicville.
“Or changes in insurance coverage,” added Mike DiNallo, 78 — “I like to say 69” — who also lives in Mechanicville.
The KAPL guys had their first big meeting in 1991 — a summer barbecue in Bill Niles’ backyard. Then Bill and Tony Petta ran the group’s first Christmas party at the Latham Elks Club. After every gathering, the Pettas created a list of retired draftsmen, complete with telephone numbers, email addresses and home addresses.
“When the time came to go out to lunch, Bill would do the calling and choose the place to meet for lunch,” Gargano said. “Some of our favorite places were the Edison Club, Geppetto’s, Peter Pause, Morrette’s and Lucia’s.”
Gargano added that because some of the draftsmen kept forgetting which restaurant had been drafted for lunch, Lucia’s became the permanent selection. When Lucia’s closed, the guys took their business to the Glenville Queen.
Gargano said there are 18 active members in the lunch club. “We average from 8 to 10 at each luncheon,” Gargano said. “Although women retirees did attend some of our earlier luncheons, they kind of faded away.”
Sometimes, reservations for a small group will be made, and 10 will show up. “Once we made reservations for 12 and 4 showed up,” Gargano said. “We caught hell for that.”
This past Wednesday, over sandwiches or eggs, the guys talked a little about the KAPL days, a little bit about the retirement life.
“We stay away from politics and religion,” DiNallo said. “You’re always going to tick somebody off.”
DiNallo worked at KAPL for 30 years and spent part of his working career at the American Locomotive Co. in Schenectady. He loves the routine that comes with retirement.
“All of a sudden you get up in the morning and say, ‘What do I want to do today?’ ” he said.
Phil Anthony, 78, of Glenville, agrees with DiNallo’s philosophy. Especially on days when there’s bad weather. “You see snow first thing in the morning, you go back to bed,” he said.
Once in a while, there’s talk about deceased members, like Ed Pasko, Stan Roszak and Don Crawford. And Clarence Dart — who flew 95 combat missions in World War II with the elite African-American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
“Once in a while he’d tell stories,” DiNallo said of Dart, “but he never bragged about what he did.”
“We had to draw it out of him,” added Gargano.
Covering many topics
Robert Cichon, 82, who lives in Colonie, is happy to see friends at the end of each month. “It keeps you in touch,” said Cichon, who worked at KAPL for 45 years. “I spent more time working with these guys than I did with my family.”
When the guys were on the clock, they worked government jobs — designing nuclear reactors for Navy submarines. Because of their work’s classified nature, they can no longer just stop in and visit old duty stations. They used to talk about new supervisors on the job. “Now we don’t even know those people anymore,” Gargano said.
Lunch was served. Guys talked about estate planning, Obamacare and family members. Richard Putnam, 71, of Malta, had details on ordering great pizza and the new truck at the Malta Ridge Volunteer Fire Co.
Shortly before 12:30, Cichon was about halfway through his club sandwich.
“You going to eat all that?” asked Gargano. “Pretty generous.”
“You can have it tomorrow,” Anthony said.
“I’ll eat it,” Cichon said. But he and Gargano both ordered take-home boxes.
They’ll be back next month.
“Hopefully,” said Gargano, “this thing will go on after I’m gone.”
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.