Still working every day aged 84
Gloria Thomas started working at Elbow Beach Cycles never thinking it would become a full-time job.
Her husband, Dudley, had run the store since 1945 and she jumped in to help after his death in 1984.
Mrs Thomas expected it would take her about two weeks to make sure everything was in order, and then she would hand the job over to someone else.
Thirty-three years later, she's still there.
“After my husband died, I thought I would just stay home and take care of my youngest son, Dudley Jr,” the 84-year-old said.
She rides a motorcycle to the Warwick scooter rental every day, her Yorkshire terrier, Millie, behind her in a basket. “But now, coming to work is my motivation. I'm not the type that likes to sit around and moan. I like to stay busy.”
Her great joy is seeing old customers return; she's not afraid to refuse people if she thinks they shouldn't ride a bike at all.
“Some of them started coming to us when they were 16, and now they come in with their children and families,” she said. “A lot of our clients have become my intimate friends over the years.
“Some of them can't stay on the bike at all when they first start. Then they come in and they've got it and they have this big smile on their face.
“If they have trouble making the turn in the yard, then we take them on a ride around the hotel property. Safety is first and foremost.”
Mrs Thomas knows how difficult it can be from experience. She totalled the first bike she ever rode.
“I was 16,” she said. “I decided to borrow my cousin's bike. My friend drove and we got so far down the road, then my friend stopped and said it was my turn.
“I wasn't hurt, but the bike was.”
She grew up on Angle Street in Hamilton.
“I grew up enjoying the peaceful relationship that the neighbours had,” she said. “We enjoyed playing marbles. I always cheated the boys. They never wanted me to play.”
At Central School, and later the Berkeley Institute, she loved sport, particularly running and basketball.
She met her husband, whose nickname was Buddy, in the early 1960s. At the time, she was working as a short-order cook at Paraquet restaurant.
“He used to frequent the restaurant in the evenings after leaving work,” said Mrs Thomas, whose husband also ran cycle shops at Mermaid Beach Club and Sonesta Beach Hotel.
“He loved my lobster sandwiches. During our conversations he observed my work performance and ethics. He felt my work habits merited employment where my skills could be better used.”
He told her he needed a book-keeper at Sonesta. She had never done bookkeeping and maths was not her strength, but she was tired of working the 5pm to 1am shift.
At her husband's encouragement, she took a course and got to work, eventually becoming the store manager.
The Thomases wed on August 25, 1967.
“We had a very happy marriage,” she said. “He was a very kind man and always loved to quietly help people.”
The couple had three sons: Dudley Jr, Darion and Kevin, who is the assistant manager at Elbow Beach Cycles.
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