Media Archive

Brownville Junction senior keeps on truckin'

Article from Bangor Daily News, Friday, November 28, 2003

By Diana Bowley
of the NEWS Staff

BROWNVILLE JUNCTION - Even on the nastiest day of the year when few would venture out, John Bishop Sr. can be found cruising the highways.Seated behind the wheel of a dump truck, the 74-year-old is as comfortable plowing local roads and hauling cement from Thomaston to Brownville Jct. as he is digging clams on the shorefront of his coastal summer cottage.

For Bishop, who along with his two sons, John Jr. and James, owns and operates Bishop's Concrete plant and trucking business, retirement is just a word in the dictionary.

"Why sit in a rocking chair and worry about your health? If you're healthy, get out and do something," he said, sitting perched on a small stool in his garage.

After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Bishop returned to his hometown of Lagrange, purchased an old truck and began hauling gravel. He never stopped hauling. He just added more trucks and equipment, bought more land containing gravel, and made himself into a successful businessman who employs six people.

Rising at 5 a.m. each morning, Bishop gets a bite to eat, jumps into a truck and heads for the concrete plant. Sometimes Jean, his wife of nearly 50 years and bookkeeper for the business, joins him when he makes a long-distance delivery. He jokes that he had a planned family - John was born on the couple's wedding anniversary - but after that the plan "went to hell" and the couple had Joni, Jackie and James.

Joking aside, Bishop views his job as a hobby. On rainy days, he can be found inside tinkering on the fleet of trucks or checking up on orders. In winter, he and his sons plow roads in Lagrange. 'There's always something to do," he explained.

"I probably put in 60 hours or more a week," he said jovially. "I jump right in and do anything, although I don't drive the mixer-trucks anymore. That's a young man's job because there is a lot of work involved."

Bishop marvels at the changes that have occurred over the years, especially in technology. He said the biggest advance in his line of work is hydraulics and diesel engines. He recalled using a cable machine that operated like a shovel and was labor intensive. That version, he said with a chuckle, is like a rowboat sitting beside the Titanic compared to today's backhoe.

Standing in front of two scales inside the garage, Bishop demonstrated how quickly trucks can be filled with either gravel or crushed rock at the flip of a switch. Crushed stone flowed from overhead bins blasting the truck bed as it landed inside.

"I wished my father could have lived to see it, he would have liked it," Bishop said with a sigh.

But Bishop said the leap in technology has not come without strings. He said just about every part of business today is subject to state and federal regulations. He just wishes that his small business didn't fall under the same rules as coal mining.

Bishop recognizes the importance of safety in the workplace because he was once nearly buried in sand. The near disaster occurred in his younger years before he started his own business. He and two others had been loading gravel for the town of Milo from a peaked and packed gravel bank when a poke at the pile loosened the material.

"All at once the whole bank fell down on me and it covered me to my neck," he recalled. "I couldn't even move an arm, the sand was packed around me so." He said he would have died had he been alone.

While he has avoided anything similar to that over the years, Bishop has gotten his truck stuck in mud on job sites and found himself in the ditch after trying to make the grade on an icy hill in winter. He said those are the not-so-fun times.

But Bishop says those mishaps are overshadowed by the beauty of his surroundings, his enjoyment of being in business, his love of his wife and family and of those occasional vacations and weekends he spends at his cottage in Eastport.

He does recognize his limitations, especially now that he has asthma. Never having smoked a day in his life, he figures that the condition came from the dust generated at his workplace. But that condition is just one bump on the highway.

"I think a lot of people retire and go into the easy chair and give up on things," Bishop said. He, on the other hand, plans to get as much enjoyment from life as he can.

The Bangor Daily News is profiling people age 70 and older who choose to remain in the work force. We welcome suggestions for people to profile. Contact us at 990-8138 or e-mail

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.