1944 to 1946
We lived in some of the coldest houses when I was a child. I could use an axe and split kindling from the time I was about 9 years old. The stoves were cast iron and we had a cooking stove in the kitchen and then a heating stove in the living room. We also used coal in the stoves. I wore long underwear at least until the 8th grade and also wore long cotton stockings held up by a garter belt. What a contraption that was. I did wear snow suits in the winter when I walked 1 ½ miles to school. I think my mother made one snow suit and then I remember one that was store bought. My shoes were ordered from Mont Ward catalog and sometimes they fit and sometimes they didn’t. When I worked that summer for Gran Wilker when I was 16 years old I was able to go to town and buy some nice shoes that fit my feet. Think they were about $4.00 a pair.
My mother made most of my clothes in . I remember one nice red skirt with pleats all the way around and also 2 corduroy outfits with a skirt, vest and slacks. We were allowed in 1943 and 1944 to wear slacks to school as it was cold walking to school. I lived with the Supt of our High School and he probably noticed that I was walking to school with only ankle socks in the bitter cold weather.
Now lets get on with what happened when I went to to go to Radio School. My Mother myself and my friend Myrtle Olson went to Minneapolis on the train. Mother rented a Hotel room and then we went down to the Radio School on Lake St and finished my enrollment. We found a room a 2433 Emerson Ave South which was one block from the street car line. I found a job that day at a cafe on the corner of 6th and Hennepin in the entertainment dist of Minneapolis. That is where the movie theatres were located. There was a bowling lane located directly over the cafe in which I worked. The bowlers would come down for a quick snack and two women that worked for the CNW railroad would come in on their break as well as newspaper people that worked in the area. One of the bartenders who worked in a bar close by always came in for a chicken sandwich every evening when I worked there. The men who operated the movie projectors in the area also came in. Was a real homey bunch. The street car went by on 6th Ave on its way to St Paul and those people came in for coffee and a snack. My street car went right down Hennepin Ave to within a block of my room in the third story of the apartment house.
I went to school at 9 a.m. and finished at 3 p.m. with an hour off for lunch. My room was about 6 blocks from school and I walked to school and back every day. I then went downtown on the streetcar and went to work at 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays I worked from 4 to 10 and sometimes filled in for someone that wanted off work. I learned the international radio code and improved my typing and practiced teletyping. We also learned Radio Law and theory so that we could receive our License. I was busy going to school and working. On Saturday we washed our clothes in the basement. They had an electric washing machine that you put quarters in to make it buzz. That was an easy way to do washing.
In Oct of 1944 after spending 7 weeks in radio School a large group of girls were hired by the Santa Fe Railroad as telegraph apprentices. We were provided tickets to Chicago. We arrived in the morning and then went to the Santa Fe Headquarters where we were assigned to the state that we wanted to go to. We spent the rest of the day in downtown Chicago and I remember visiting the and we were close to lake Michigan. I and three other girls picked Oklahoma as the state to work in.
I told another story about coming to Cherokee Okla as a telegraph apprentice. I worked at Cherokee from Oct until about the middle of February. I was then sent to Newkirk to learn how to copy train orders over the phone and how to run the interlocking plant at Newkirk. I was promoted to telegraph operator in April of 1945. My first job was at Ralston Okla on the third trick. Ralston had a branch line of the Santa Fe that came in on the old southern Kans Div from Caney Ks. In April back in those days cattle were shipped from Texas to be fattened for market on the rich grass of the Osage hills. They were shipped to and Bowring and unloaded at the ranches in those areas. The cattle trains came off the old second dist of the Okla div of the Santa Fe. They came through to Shawnee and then to Ralston. They tried to keep the cattle trains off the main line as this was a seasonal business that lasted about 4 weeks. They had to unload the cattle trains every 36 hours to water the cattle. Shawnee was the place where lots of cattle were unloaded and watered.
I worked at Ralston about 3 weeks and then went to Red Rock for about 2 months. They needed a third trick operator to copy train orders whenever a train got stuck for time waiting for another train. There were 4 classes of trains on the railroad. The passenger trains were 1st class trains and had the right of way over all other trains. The 2nd class trains were the red Ball trains with loads of important things like refg cars with meat, fruit and vegetables ,lumber steel and so forth. Next were your drag trains without a number that carried wheat, gravel chat and non perishable commodities. The last classification were the local trains they switched the elevators and dropped off cars at the house tracks at the small towns along the line.
I next went back to Cherokee Okla in June of 1945 to work the third trick job during wheat harvest. Cherokee is in the middle of the wheat country and in 1945 custom combines came in from the south and worked their way north to . They would stay in one community about 10 days and then move on. There were 2 big elevators in Cherokee and I can’t remember how many car loads of wheat they shipped out but it was sometimes 25 cars a day. Cherokee had a branch line coming in from the south that started in Presidio Tx. We received car loads of wheat from Thomas, Fairview, Carmen and Yawed by the train load going to the Enid terminal elevators. Also had wheat trains coming out of Kiowa Ks. Wheat harvest was indeed a busy time.
The war ended in Aug of 1945 and the night the war ended the armory in Cherokee opened up for a dance and all the people came to listen to the music and dance. I guess we thought all our problems in the world were over. At that time we did not know what happened to the Jews in Germany or how terrible the conditions were in Russia.
I finished working in Cherokee in the middle of August and was sent to Shawnee to relieve the operator in the uptown station. There was a doodlebug train running from Ark City to Pauls Valley Okla. The train came into Shawnee about 9:30 a.m. from Pauls Valley and the other train from the north came in about 1:00 p.m. There were a lot of people coming in from the south to shop in Shawnee and I sold a lot of tickets every day. It was a busy job with a lot of office work.
The next job I worked was the third trick at Cushing. I had to learn how to operate the teletype machine. Mostly it was just learning the forms that I had to learn to send messages. I also had to write up abstracts, but that was easy thanks to Joe at Cherokee who had taught me that.
If I remember correctly the next jobs I worked were at Hillsdale ,Nash and Burlington Okla. These were on the Enid dist and I relieved the agents for their vacations. I worked those jobs in Nov or Dec and the important thing to learn was how to start a fire in a pot bellied stove and how to bank it so you didn’t have to start a new fire every morning. I had to sweep the depot and carry out the ashes and bring in coal from the coal shed. I think I dumped the ashes in the middle of the tracks. The jobs were easy and I didn’t have much to do. I sat around and tatted and embroidered and taught myself to knit. I would maybe bill out a car of wheat and take mail off the doodlebug and take it to the post office. I was learning more and think my next job was at Edmond Okla on the main line.
I worked at Edmond Okla for several weeks and would take the trolley to Okla City almost every day and look around. The trolley went right through Nichols Hills and am glad I was able to do that. I had to type up freight bills and do some accounting work at Edmond. I did copy a lot of train orders at Edmond as it was mid way between Guthrie and Okla City. There was one that stopped at Edmond. It was No 27 and came in about 7 a.m. There were lots of mice in the Edmond depot and I spent some time trapping them. From Edmond I bid in a job at So Shawnee yard office. Will tell you about Shawnee in my next writing.