- Associated Press - Sunday, January 8, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - New Year’s Day ushers in new beginnings, and that was especially the case for Worldwide Equipment accountant Lynda Harper, who held her position for 60 years and nine months.

When Worldwide Equipment’s South Charleston staff moved to Cross Lanes on Jan. 1 in response to the company’s acquisition of four Heritage International locations, the truck sales company went without its longtime bookkeeper.

“Part of it is age, and part of it is the move, which just added another 8 or 10 miles to my trip,” said Harper, who is 78. “It was time. Everything just kind of fell into place.”

Numerous employees have come and gone since Harper joined General Truck Sales in 1956, which Worldwide Equipment purchased in 2010 and kept her in the same position. Harper kept tabs on invoices for sales of trucks and their parts, seeing countless transactions and more minutiae on truck prices than most could fathom.

Harper started working for General Truck Sales Corp. shortly before she graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School. She took business classes throughout her senior year, developing a knack for accounting and number crunching.

“My family had four daughters, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go to college. So I went in for an interview and I really liked the people I worked for, so I’ve been here ever since,” she said.

General Truck Sales’ office was located on Watts Street in Charleston when Harper started. The company had been in business since 1937 at that location. Harper walked to work every day back then, with her home on Bigley Avenue just 1 mile away.

At the time, General Truck Sales sold school buses and smaller trucks. But once it added a Volvo truck dealership, the business quickly changed. The new influx of sales was not conducive to its Charleston location, however.

“It was a very small building,” Harper said. “You took a truck into the shop, and if you wanted to look at another one, you had to back the first one out. It was not an ideal situation for that.”

In 1971, the company decided it was time to get more room, relocating to the South Charleston Industrial Park on MacCorkle Avenue.

“We thought we had gone to heaven when we came down here,” she said.

Harper punched the same time card in the same office until the end of 2016, even as the ownership has changed. For years, General Truck Sales was the go-to Volvo truck dealership in Charleston, while Worldwide Equipment had dealerships in surrounding areas, including Huntington and Princeton.

When the owner of General Truck Sales was looking to sell, it was a natural fit for Worldwide Equipment, according to Scott Blevins, the company’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Blevins said Harper’s story is “remarkable” in an era that lends itself to people bouncing to new jobs more and more often.

“It’s unheard of today,” he said. “She started in 1956, and she watched technology change over the years. Computers were coming online, and she changed and evolved with that.”

Blevins said the end of the South Charleston location and the staff’s move to the Heritage International facility in Cross Lanes will be an adjustment, but the location is better suited to house a truck dealership in the long term.

That’s why Harper’s career stability stands out.

“There’s always daily people and changes,” Harper said. “You go through everything of the families of your friends here, and we’ve got people who’ve worked for General Truck way back when who still come to say, ‘Hello.’ From what I hear from friends, this has really been an ideal job.”

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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