PROVINCETOWN – To be a municipal parking lot attendant in Provincetown, it helps to be a people person.
Kimball Stephens, who works the Macmillan Wharf parking lot, recalls with a smile the time a child did a limbo dance under the parking gate.
“You see all kinds of great things,” she said of the boy playing limbo. “I was clapping. I called him ‘the limbo king of the day’.”
Stephens, 70, has been on the job for six years. But having grown up in Truro and now living in Provincetown, she is an insider to the comings and goings in these parts.
When it comes to working the Provincetown parking lots and serving as an unofficial ambassador to the town, she offered a symbolic tip of the hat to two nonagerians who work the town’s other lot, Grace Hall, which is off Bradford Street in the shadow of the Pilgrim Monument.
One of those is Beata Cook, 93, a local celebrity of sorts, who a column in the town’s weekly paper, The Provincetown Banner, and, with her sister, Marion Gouveira, was declared Senior of the Year in 2017.
Stephens said the two sisters represent “the spirit of positive aging.”
But another exemplary senior working the parking lots in her ninth decade is Mary Bollas, 92, who is perhaps the longest serving parking lot attendant. This is her 22nd year on the job.
“That generation, they have a very powerful work ethic. This is their home. They take a lot of pride in it.” – Patricia Benatti, Provincetown Parking Clerk
Stephens called Bollas, “the grande dame of the parking lots” in Provincetown.
Mary Bollas, who can be found in the far corner of the Grace Hall lot, closest to Route 6, likes her job. “Everything about it is good,” she said on a recent sunny day in June.
Not surprisingly, July and August are very busy at the Provincetown municipal parking lots. “I like it busy,” Bollas said.
As the season progresses, the demographics change. July 4 you get a younger crowd,” she said.
Bollas has lived all her life in town. Over the years , she has held many jobs, working as a chambermaid and working at various restaurants, including Ciro and Sal’s and the Red Inn.
Per town policy, she applies every year for the parking lot job, sending in her resume and awaiting a decision from the town manager.
She works an eight-hour day, 40 hours a week, 6 months a year, May to November 1. By all accounts, it is a job that suits her.
“You’ve got to like people and have a good personality,” she said.
Provincetown has two manned parking lots and a staff of 15 full time seasonal employees, according to the town’s 2015 report, the most recent town report posted on the town’s website. The Grace Hall lot, which has about 330 spaces, sees an average of 6,000 cars per week in the summer and the Macmillan Wharf lot where Stephens works, which is in the center of town, averages about 8,000 cars daily.
Town lots are staffed 8am to midnight daily.
Parking in the lots costs $2.25 per hour at Grace Hall and $3.50 per hour at Macmillan. A full day costs $25. The town’s parking program grosses upwards of $700,000 annually, according to the 2015 town report.
“Don’t try to pull anything on them, or they’ll hit you with both barrels.” – Patricia Benatti, Provincetown Parking Clerk, talking about the town’s most senior parking lot employees.
Town of Provincetown Parking Clerk Patricia Benatti said the parking lot jobs were originally established for seniors to supplement their Social Security. She said the two attendants in their 90s are both excellent workers.
“Don’t try to pull anything on them, or they’ll hit you with both barrels,” she said.
She singled out Mary Bollas as being the longest serving attendant, “I wish I had a dozen attendants like her,” Benatti said.
She said hiring senior citizens has many advantages. “That generation, they have a very powerful work ethic. This is their home. They take a lot of pride in it,” Benatti said.
Another worker at the Grace Hall lot, Lawrence Riley, has lived in Provincetown for 50 years and worked at the parking lot for 10 years.
“My age? I’m on Social Security,” he said with a smile. Turns out, he is 79.
As a hobby, Riley collects antique Provincetown postcards. The Grace Hall parking lot, he said, is built on land owned by a woman named Grace Hall. He has a postcard from the years around World War II showing the land with cows grazing on it.
Like the other parking lot attendants, Riley spoke highly of his job. “I work for a very dependable employer, the Town of Provincetown.” he said.
Stephens said one down side of the job can be inclement weather.
On a rainy day last season, when asked if there is anything she doesn’t like about the job, she said, “The rain. I’m in [the rain] taking tickets.” She said she does the best she can drying the tickets off.
But striking a philosophical note, she said, “You can’t do anything about it, so you can’t get too upset.”
Riley summed up the role of the parking lot attendants in a few words. “I’m an information booth here,” he said.
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