Working at MGA during the late 70's

Share your memories of working at Marriott's GREAT AMERICA in Santa Clara
Post Reply
Mark Carbonaro
Buzzy Bee
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2012 8:29 pm

Working at MGA during the late 70's

Post by Mark Carbonaro »

I worked at the park for the most of four seasons (1977 - 1980) - I really enjoyed the experience and most of all I enjoyed the people I worked with and for. I started out in food ops, working as cook in the "Burgers on the Run" restaurant in County Fair (is that restaurant still there?). I worked half a season in the restaurant and then switched to a facilities crew that worked early am hours (4am - 1pm) each day cleaning up the restaurants for that days crowds. Our job was to take apart and clean the Nieco hamburger broilers in the restaurants, clean the fryers and dissemble and clean the shake machines. For that we got the following: A guarenteed 40 hours per week and 25 cents per hour more in pay than in-park restaurant workers. It seemed like a good deal at the time.

Working in a restaurant, I didn't like having my hours dictated by the sizes of the crowds coming to the park. I wanted to count on a certain amount of hours and pay every week and working in a "back-stage" job did that for me. I liked the uniforms better, too. We wore blue slacks, a blue work shirt with an MGA logo sewn above the left breast pocket, and black work shoes.

I enjoyed taking apart the broilers and cleaning the fryers - I did not like working on the shake machines and fortunately, one of our crew members really liked that job, so he volunteered to clean the shake machines while the rest of the crew (I think we had 4 or 5 on our crew) took care of the other equipment.

One benefit of the job was that we would fire up the broilers and heat up the fryers and "test" the equipment to make sure it was working properly - that meant burgers, fries and a coke or a shake for breakfast. (No, we didn't do that in every restaurant every day). But we did take in alot of calories during those shifts, but we worked it off. I ate like a horse at MGA and never gained a pound (I was 6 foot tall and 145 pounds!)

Seasons 2-4 found me switching to work in the Food Warehouse, picking orders and delivering food to the restaurants. The hours were longer at that job. During the busy times we would end up working OT and be on the job into the wee hours of the AM. Our shifts started at 4pm and ended at 1am. However, I once remember working all the way until 7am the next day and meeting the AM crew came (Hello Joe Stedman!) when they came in.

My "red coat" boss was a man named Frank Salvador. Man could he yell at you - he seemed like a Marine Drill Instructor - always - off and looking to the chew the first ass that crossed his path. Once I got to know Frank I came to fear him less. He stood up for his warehouse guys and went to bat for us against some of poseurs that worked in management at MGA (esp. security).

One time we got nailed for eating ice cream in the creamery in Hometown Square. One of the security geeks had gone in there and taken "Before" and "After" pictures of tubs of ice cream that we had eaten out of (quick confession: We used to go into that restaurant on Sunday nights late in our shift and make ourselves very opulant and gigantic sundaes). The security guy had use a Poloroid camera and taken pictures of the tubs of ice cream after the restaurant closedd and then had come in early in the am (after we'd gone) and taken his "after" pictures. This was all cataloged in a loose-leaf bindered report, typed double-spaced report and signed with a notary's affidavit no less!!!!

Frank saw the report, read it, took back to his superior (Bill Conway) who agreed with Frank that it was "Bullsh*t" produced by a bunch of "wannabe" cops and that was the end of it. Except for this admonition - Frank told us not to eat the restaurants food in the park. "I've got a warehouse full of food here, if you guys want something to eat, see me and I'll take care of it...." From that point on we thought Frank was the coolest boss and a 'real' guy who was not a corporate glad-hander or backstabber.

I worked with a lot of people on that food warehouse crew - I can still remember some of their names: Bob Nichols, Ken Mc Cain, Dennis Higgins, Ken Green, Frank Modoc, Steve Geraci (his sister Nancy worked in food ops), and John Potts. We had two supervisors, one was a guy named Bob (last name I don't recall) but his girlfriend Karen worked as a restaurant manager in the park - I think she was at Farmer's Market. There were two or three girls who worked in the food ops office, the only one I can remember is Judy Pincus (her dad, Gene, worked for KBAY radio and I was friends with the family that owned KEEN and KBAY, so anyone with an association with the radio business stuck in my brain).

I stopped working at MGA after the 1980 season. I was fully involved in college at that time and wanted to get out of working at the park and move towards what I really wanted to do with my life (radio broadcasting).

Overall, working at MGA was a great experience and I enjoyed the years working there and the people I worked with. When you were young and of high school age or just out of high school, it was a great way to meet kids from all across the Santa Clara Valley. It really expanded your social circle. The working staff came from as far south as Gilroy and as far north as San Mateo or San Bruno. Lots of kids who were from Fremont, Newark, Union City and Hayward worked at the park, too.

Thanks for this website and message board. When I was going thru the photo galleries I actually recognized a couple of people from my era - it's been over 30 years since I've seen any of these folks and some of the faces stand out. IE: There's a picture of a young lady who worked in the Yukon Territory, she's a brunette and had the very popular hairstyle of the day. I never knew her name, but I recognized her instantly (one of those "Oh I remember her - she was really cute" moments).

I'm bookmarking this site and will visit it often. If there are every any MGA employee reunions planned, please let us former employees know. It would be great to see people again and share memories.

Mark Carbonaro
Food Ops - MGA
1977 - 1980
Post Reply