EIGHTEEN MONTHS AGO, WHEN GARBAGEMAN Albert Knights was sure—absolutely sure—that he had just hit the $5.9 million jackpot in the Maine lottery, he did what every working stiff in the world dreams of doing. He picked up the telephone and told his boss just what he could do with his $160-a-week job.
In a word, nothing. In fact, Knights, 64, invited his employer, Richard Pierce of Pierce Waste Disposal, to lunch to make sure there would be no misunderstanding. Pierce had been the one to give him steady work—after Knights had spent years scraping by, some years making only $55 a week at odd jobs—and Al had no intention of leaving him. Besides, says Al, the garbage route—about 100 houses a day—”is something I like to do.”
So, after a brief splurge over the weekend (lunch at the Pine Acres Restaurant, a new pickup truck, a snowblower and a tractor), Knights was back on the job. That was November 1992, and Al Knights, the only millionaire trashman in Oakland, Maine (pop. 5,600), is still picking up garbage—though he has bought new tires, running boards and a radio for Pierce’s truck—and doing a very good job of not letting all that money go to his head.
“I wasn’t ready to retire,” says Knights, who nets $198,000 a year from the lottery. “I promised myself I’d work another two years. Besides, it keeps me out of mischief and from fightin’ with the old lady.”
Knights and his wife, Margaret, 52, have been married for 33 years. They have four grown children and five grandchildren, and have made a few changes in their lifestyle. Last June, they moved into a $300,000, seven-room house on 20 acres just over the town line in Sidney, not far from the 70-foot trailer where they had lived. “It’s a southern plantation-style home,” says Margaret.
Now, with Pierce Waste Disposal up for sale because Pierce is about to retire, Knights is looking for a new line of work. “I’m thinking of starting a taxi service,” he says. “Buy myself a Lincoln Town Car, bright red or black.”
“Why should we change?” says Margaret. “We are what we are.”