CRYSTAL LAKE – On a yellow legal-sized notepad, Larry Kain tracked a purchase order in a large, slanting script.
He’s been working in the service department at Ormsby Motors for 45 years, the last 19 years as the service manager, and for the most part, he’s kept his system the same.
“This works just fine,” Kain said. “It always has. I mean, the computer I’ve got here for diagnostics and all that stuff.”
The cars that come into the shop at 50 N. Main St. are increasingly computerized.
“Back then [when I started], anybody could work on cars,” Kain said. “Today, the field has changed, so many computers and so many things that have changed. ... Now you can’t put a window switch in the car without programming.”
Kain goes to four- or five-hour-long training sessions a year to keep up with the changes, and some of it he learns on his own.
While some service managers assume more of a managerial role and leave the cars to the mechanics, Kain said he prefers to “get right in there.”
“We work together,” he said. “I don’t want to act like a boss. I mean, I give them assignments to do or whatever, but if he comes up and says, ‘I got a problem with this,’ I get over there with him and see if I can help him out.
“My attitude is I need to know more than they know,” he continued, then paused. “It’s getting a little harder.” He laughed. “The memory bank is getting full.”
Kain, 63, is probably two or three years from retirement, he said.
Kain’s father, Harold Kain, worked at Reichert Autos as a service manager. Kain got his start washing cars there before he even had a driver’s license.
The summer between his sophomore and junior year of high school, he took a training program through General Motors even though the program was for high school graduates.
He got his start at Ormsby Motors as an apprentice mechanic in June 1968 through a work study program at Crystal Lake Central High School.
While most new mechanics were building up their tool boxes, Kain had to roll his in. He had been building it up since his time at Reicherts.
After graduation, Ormsby hired him as a full-time mechanic.
“They started me at $175 a week,” he said. “I thought I was a millionaire.”
Over the years, he moved up, first to assistant service manager and then, in 1994, to service manager.
Besides being “just not a mover,” Kain liked that it is a family-owned business with a lot of long-term employees.
A group of them served as volunteer firefighters, he said. Kain joined when he was 18 and stayed on for about 10 years until the department professionalized.
“I enjoyed helping other people,” Kain said, echoing what he enjoys about his job at Ormsby where he can recognize customers by the sound of their voice on the phone and knows their names.
“You have to be good with customers,” he said. “You have to be honest with customers. You have to build relations with customers.”