We often interview vendors that hail from different cities around the country, but this month we are talking to a Denver native, Mike Martin. Born in August 1950 at Rose Medical, Mike’s father worked for Burlington Northern railroad and his mother worked in a bar. Her mother worked for Jonas Brothers Furs. He was an only child. His mom passed away from uterine cancer in her 30’s when Mike was young.
Mike attended East High School, graduating in 1968, and despite the times, never got into the burgeoning hippie movement. “I didn’t want any part of that at all!,” he said, “I was pretty quiet—no hippies, no drugs—just an average kid, I guess.” Mike is still soft spoken and unassuming, always throwing out, “Thank you dear” when he feels obliged. He is sincerely nice.
When Mike was a kid, he sold the Rocky Mountain News because, as he says, “all my family worked.” Most of Mike’s life has seen the ins and outs of Denver. Although he slyly claims the Minnesota Vikings as his football team, he says he has only traveled outside Denver on trips twice. He and a group that won a sales contest for the Rocky were sent to Anaheim, California for ten days. He said it rained the whole time, but the trip was still fun. He’s also traveled to Salt Lake City with his parents.
Mike started working out of high school at Denver Shippers in shipping and receiving, and when the union shut it down, they opened across the street as Colorado Shippers, where he continued to work until they were officially shut down by union violations. “They didn’t treat any of us very well.” But, Mike said it was still harder to lose his job when the union stepped in than to feel that their efforts had helped.
After Colorado Shippers he went to work for a temp agency for around five years. In hard times while working there and not being able to keep up his apartment, he talked of how he would pass the time by taking the bus back and forth. Back and forth after work, all night until 3:30 A.M. for his work shift, dozing on the longer rides and all of this to avoid sleeping outside and simply having somewhere to be. And then Mike came into our office.
About making ends meet with the VOICE, Mike said, “I enjoy it. [I] barely make ends meet, but I do make it. I love all my customers, and the job is less stressful. I really enjoy [vending] because I get to talk to a lot of nice people, professional people, not the riff-raff like on Colfax.”
Mike recently left an unfavorable living situation and has moved into a hotel. His hotel is $35 a night, which he exclusively pays for by vending the VOICE—he has never applied for outside assistance. Losing his father and best friend around seven years ago, Mike is quite isolated, telling of their passing with tears in his eyes. That “safety net” just isn’t there for him. But Mike isn’t jaded, he just works harder. About being alone, he says, “It’s not easy. Day to day, you know, it’s all I can do.”