&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Port Director Ron Arrigoni (left) presents Mel Lindauer with several gifts in honor of his 33 years of service at the U.S. Port of Entry. Lindauer retired from th” title=”319a” width=”” height=”” class=”size-FULL”>
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Port Director Ron Arrigoni (left) presents Mel Lindauer with several gifts in honor of his 33 years of service at the U.S. Port of Entry. Lindauer retired from th
OROVILLE – He’s seen many changes in his 33 years working at the U.S. Port of Entry at Oroville, but Mel Lindauer says he’s looking forward to retirement — his second.
Lindauer also taught mathematics at Oroville High School for 30 years, retiring in 1989. It was while he was teaching that former Port Director Bud Brownlee asked if he’d like to work part time at the border.
“That was in 1975 and teachers were often hired because summer traffic was heavier. It was a good job. Since then they’ve virtually phased out part time employees,” Lindauer said.
About five years after retiring from teaching, Lindauer went full time working at the border. In over three decades on the job he has seen many changes he says.
“I’ve worked with everything from teletypes to computers. There have been lots of changes over the years,” said Lindauer.
The changes in technology didn’t faze him though, having gotten into Apple and Radio Shack computers in the early days of personal computing.
A major change since 9-11 is that the once separate U.S. Customs and U.S. Immigration branches were combined as the Customs and Border Protection Service under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security. Another major change during Lindauer’s watch was the opening of the new shared U.S.-Canadian Port of Entry facility that replaced the much smaller 1930’s-era building that served as the Port of Entry for nearly seven decades.
Lindauer was joined by co-workers, friends and family at that new facility for a retirement party. Port Director Ron Arrigoni sent him off with fond words and several different items in honor of his service, including a plaque, watch, flask and special challenge coin. He also received a plaque from his fellow co-workers.
“I know we are not supposed to have favorite employees, but I had one favorite and that was Mel,” said Arrigoni, who lauded Lindauer for his ability to keep track of employee overtime within “pennies.”
“He did that without computers, of course we have computers to do it for us now, but when the computers break down Mel was always there to fix them. He was a heck of a good inspector that I could always count on. I am glad everyone is here for Mel,” said Arrigoni.
“He has been a great ally of the Border Patrol…he has helped us a lot,” added Richard Graham, Agent in Charge of the Oroville Border Patrol Station.
Bill Egerton, a retired Custom’s Inspector, praised Lindauer’s professionalism.
And Lindauer admits he’s probably not missed a week’s worth of days in all his years with working at the Port of Entry.
“At one time he was Oroville’s Municipal Court Judge and Justice of the Peace,” said his wife Ethel. “I’ll tell you a story. Mel admitted someone through the port and that same person ended up in Mel’s court on the same day… she couldn’t believe it and said a bunch of cuss words.”
Lindauer grew up near Salem, Oregon and in the middle of his junior year moved with his family to Mabton, Wash. He attended college at Central Washington University in Ellensburg and was hired as a teacher at Oroville back when “the superintendent could just make that decision.”
Lindauer has had a lot to keep him busy. If being a teacher for 30 years and working at the border for 33 wasn’t enough, Lindauer and his wife also had seven children.
“I’ve always worked more than one job. When I first began teaching I worked summers on the Gordon Jackson and John Shaw farms. I also did carpentry work and painting,” he said.
Over the years he’s put his carpentry skills to work on both the Old Depot Museum and at the old Custom’s Cabin, both owned by the Okanogan Borderland’s Historical Society in Oroville.
Now that he is retired he doesn’t plan on slowing down. First he says he is going to take some time to fix up the house and figure out what he’s going to do next.
The Lindauers do have travel plans. “The first place I think we are going is to see my wife’s sister in Norway,” he said.