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Always Coca-Cola for Murphys

Press Photo by Lisa Anne Call Bill Murphy Jr., also known as "Bumps," reminisces about his 40 years with Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Dickinson while sitting at his home Wednesday evening.

Sticking with one employer an entire career is not common practice these days, but for one Dickinson family, it has spanned two generations and is continuing into a third.

A Coca-Cola logo emblazoned vehicle rests in the Murphy family's driveway as a towering Christmas tree constructed of glass Coke bottles shimmers with a warm, inviting glow on the front stoop.

Coca-Cola has become a way of life for Bill Murphy Jr. of Dickinson after 40 years with Coca-Cola Bottling Co., now located in north Dickinson -- a move following in his father's footsteps.

Gleefully tagging along with his father, Bill Murphy Sr., on routes when he was young, Bill Jr. knew one day he would take the same path. Beginning his career with Coke at the tender age of 15, he vividly recalls every moment of it since.

"I remember that day, it was July 1, 1970," Bill Jr. said. "I was sleeping, he (Bill Sr.) woke me up and he said, 'I need you,' and you know what, I've been there ever since."

His humbleness and work ethic shines through while conversing about his tenure.

"I think nothing of it," Bill Jr. said. "You know 40 years, it went by so fast. I enjoy it. Why should I retire?"

Bill Sr., known to many as "Murph," worked at Coke for nearly 58 years and the two worked side by side for 27 years.

In 2003, Bill Sr. passed away, but in no way has he been forgotten.

Bill Sr. always had to be the first one at the office, worked anytime he was needed and had coffee brewing ready for everyone to start the day, Bill Jr. said.

T.J. Herauf, who has worked at Coke since 1982, is a majority owner and also Murphy's boss, said hundreds of employees have worked at the Coke plant and put themselves through college, but it was the Murphy's influence that polished many individuals.

"It was guys like Bill Murphy, senior and junior, that kind of mentored those guys and had confidence in them and they were able to use some of those life lessons and skill-building and mentoring to go on into other avenues in life and be very successful," Herauf said.

Bill Sr., a sort of jack-of-all-trades, was seemingly a mechanical prodigy.

"He literally could go out to the Dickinson dump and could build you a Coke machine," Herauf said. He was extraordinarily fluid in dealing with vendors. It was amazing how mechanically inclined he was, whether it was vendors or trucks or what have you. He was an absolute genius when it came to working on machines."

And it appears some of that fluidity and work ethic has flowed into Bill "Bumps" Jr., who has worked as a route salesman since April 15, 1976.

"He's just an absolute salesman up and down to his core," Herauf said. "He does a tremendous job of building relationships and working with customers. He's fair and honest."

His calm demeanor covers up his reputation as the plant's practical jokester.

"Not a whole lot bothers me," Bill Jr. said. "I can pretty much take everything in stride and my dad was a lot like that."

When asked about his practical joke shenanigans, Bill Jr.'s face lights up, and he erupts with a deep-seeded belly laugh.

"Bumps is just an absolute comic -- constantly coming up with practical jokes," Herauf said. "It's basically instantaneous everybody knows if something goofy is going on at the Coke plant, somehow Bumps is involved."

Keeping the business family-owned has contributed to the tenure of so many employees, including Bill Jr. and Sr.

"My goal has always been to try and create a good working environment that people want to work with us -- nobody works for us, they work with us," Herauf said. "We recognize that they're not put on this earth to work for Coca-Cola, they're put on this earth to live -- Coca-Cola allows them to live well. We're very, very fortunate to have the people that we have and that's why we do so well."

Three of the Murphy's children have also worked at Coke and one continues to do so.

"It's just been a way of life and we've just known nothing else," said Bill Jr.'s wife Joan Murphy. "That has put our kids through school. Our kids respect him for what he does. It may have not always been the best-paying job, but Bill loves what he does and that's important to love what you do, money is not everything."