A frightening story about Ben Sayles was sent to me by former Andover fire Chief Harold Hays. Many years ago, Sayles was riding his motorcycle through Elm Square when an auto abruptly entered the intersection, and the motorcycle hit it, sending Sayles sailing. Harold said witnesses thought Sayles was dead; however, being strong from hard work and in the prime of his life, Sayles was saved from egregious harm. He had some bruises and was otherwise unhurt.
I received many responses to my previous Ben Sayles column, and I have more information about him below. (To find the prior column, please type ‘Sayles’ in the search bar of the “Townspeople” section of www.AndoverTownsman.com/.)
Robert Stefani mentioned something I’d forgotten. In Ben’s younger days, when he was still riding his Harley, he wore a black leather jacket with the words “Benny Who Cares” on it. The words are subject to three interpretations: take your pick.
Hayes chiefly remembers Mr. Sayles “... from the many nights he would visit the fire station and sit with us in the day room watching TV.” Hayes says, “He never came to the firehouse empty handed, usually he brought ice cream, enough for the entire shift and the other nightly visitors like George Pothier. If someone didn’t get a portion of ice cream, he would leave and come back with another quart or so to ensure everyone was served. It was a pleasure to have him in the firehouse. He would stay there while we responded to calls, and he would close the overhead doors and safeguard the station while we were gone.”
My brother, Bob, reminded me of the following story. Ben and his brother, Marvin, set up a special table at their house each Halloween night. Before trick-or-treat house, they would go to Barcelos Market and empty the shelves containing healthy canned goods that kids liked, such as pineapples and pears. There may have been fresh fruit and candy, as well. It was the first place kids wanted to visit, and, surprisingly enough, the kids would select the canned goods before anything else.
Bob also described Ben’s memorable pose in front of Dalton’s Pharmacy. It was there that Ben spent most every evening for many years. Ben had his foot on top of the fire hydrant, his elbow on his knee, and his chin in his hand. He greeted everyone who passed by and stood up if he recognized someone with whom he wished to speak.
Chief Hayes’ last comment to me sums up the emails I received: “Ben was a kindhearted, hardworking gentleman. When he spoke with his fast way of talking, one was captured by his enthusiasm for life and his pure joy of hard work to please not just those around him or those he worked for, but for himself. He made the world around him a more joyful place to be. God bless him.”
Bill Dalton writes a weekly column for the Andover Townsman. His email address in BillDalton@AndoverTownie.com, and he invites your emails.