Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Twenties - 1946 - 1958

    I bid in a job on second trick at Shawnee OK probably in Dec 1945.  The yard office was located about1 ½ miles from the south part of Shawnee at that time.  Trains came in from Pauls Valley on the GCSF portion of the railroad.  I worked with the dispatcher out of Ark City and also out of Ft worth.  Trains crews came in and laid over until they had another train load to go back north or south.  There was a railroad hotel at south Shawnee and a restaurant.  The GCSF  train crews came up from Gainesville Tx.  I could listen in on the dispatchers phone and hear the train orders put out between Purcell and Gainesville.  At that time they had helper engines located at Davis and Ardmore to take the trains over the mountains located south of Davis Okla.

    I had to call train crews to go to work and I copied lots of messages both from Ft worth and Ark City on the telegraph wire.  There were 2 types of messages, one was a preferred message and the other a day message.  Some things were more important than others.

    I roomed with Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Thomas a 221 S Philadelphia St in Shawnee.  They lived about 2 blocks from downtown Shawnee.  I went to work at 3 p.m. and finished at 11 p.m. except during stock rush.  I helped Mrs. Thomas with the washing and ate Sunday dinner with them.  She was one fantastic cook.  The job was easy until stock rush and then we were really busy.  I copied consists of trains and where the cattle were going and when they needed to be watered.  Shawnee was the place they unloaded the cattle to be watered.  The cattle had been in stock cars about 30 hours when they arrived at South Shawnee.  They were shipped from various places west of Ft worth and were destined to go to the Flint Hills in southeastern Kansas to be fattened on the native bluegrass.  I did not see the little towns in Kansas until a few years ago.  Moline, Matfield Green, Burden and Cottonwood Falls are among the small towns where the cattle were finally unloaded.  I have always thought the Flint Hills in Kansas are one of the most unique places in the United States.

    I finished working in south Shawnee about the first of May and then went to Ralston to relieve the agent for his vacation.  After working in Ralston for 2 weeks I went to Marshall for about 3 weeks and then went to Cherokee to work the wheat rush again.  I finished  at Cherokee in August and then went back to Minn for about 10 days.  I had not been home in 18 months and was glad to see my family and my new nephews.  I had not seen Daisy’s boys.  Dale was about 3, Dean was 2 and Dennis was a baby.  Daisy had her hands more than full.  Think they lived by New Richland at that time.

    This was late August when I was in Minn and a strong cold front had came in.  I was wearing a wool suit and it felt very comfortable.  However I started back to Oklahoma and when the train arrived in Kansas City at 11 p.m. the temperature was 105 degrees.  I knew I was back in the south again.  My first job back was the Ponca City first trick.  I had an apprentice helping and it was a busy job.  Sold tickets for 3 passenger trains and the phone rang all the time.  I went out to Wentz pool and got wet.  There were station wagons going out from downtown every hour to the pool.  Very convenient because young people didn’t have cars in 1946.

    Then I went to Guthrie on 2nd trick after working at Ponca City and then over to Enid yard office for a couple of weeks.  Came over to Perry and worked about a month and then I worked at Marshall again.  I ended up on third trick at Guthrie that winter and stayed for a couple of months.  Guthrie was a killer of a job.  Copied about 40 train orders every night and then I had to write up the ticket ledger and usually had about 35 messages on the teletype.  I sold tickets for 2 passenger trains and people came from Stillwater at the last minute to buy tickets going every where.  On top of that I typed up about 30 freight bills after 5 a.m. in the morning.  The next operator that came in told the agent there was no way he was going to do all that work and he didn’t have to do it.

    After finishing work at Guthrie I was due a two week vacation and so went to Minn again.  The folks  were living about one mile north and east of Hope at that time.  I received a letter from my friend Helen Alford that the Newkirk-Ponca City swing job was up for bid.  I sent my bid in on the job and I was the high bidder.  I came to work on the job April 7 1947.  I met Dale the first night on the job and he asked me for a date the following Sunday evening.  He was wearing fancy cowboy boots and was tall and skinny.  Think he weighed about 145 pounds.

    The summer of 1947 the Santa Fe  railroad was doing a lot of repair work to the tracks and to the signals.  They had a huge work  crew and also a signal crew at Newkirk.  The men lived in converted box cars while working on the track.  I went out with Dale ever so often but also went out with some other guys.  A group of us roller skated about 3 times a week at the Newkirk skating rink.  Had lots of fun that summer and I worked hard at my job.  I begin to learn the ticket tariffs and I sold lots of tickets at Ponca City going every where in the United States.  Ponca was a town of about 16000 at that time.

    I worked on Saturdays first trick Ponca.  Sunday first trick Newkirk, Monday Newkirk evening shift, Tuesday Ponca  evening shift, Wednesday Newkirk third trick and Thursday Ponca third trick.  I worked this job until I took maternity leave in July of 1949.

    Dale and I dated for a year and a half before we married on Sept 5 1948.  We were married in Pauls Valley Okla at his sister Lelda’s.  Dale and Lelda’s Aunt Francis and her husband  George Forrester showed up unannounced at Lelda’s house about 11 a.m. on the day we were married.  They had been on a toot and Lelda and her Mother were pissed off good.  Here I was 21 years old and I made small talk with Francis until she left.  She was expecting a baby and I heard all about how she was the black sheep of the family.  Found out years later that one other Aunt and one other Uncle and a couple of Dale’s cousins liked the sauce very well.  They all tried to hide it from me..How funny

    We bought a house at 437 Fairview in August of 1949 and lived at that address for 21 years.  It was a new two bedroom house with a covered breezeway a one car garage and a acre of ground.  We were told what a horrible mistake it was for us to buy  that house but it was a good decision.  I had a garden and Eddie had lots of room to play in.  the Kay County Health Center sits on that piece of ground now.

    I went back to work when Hugh was 8 weeks old.  I didn’t drive a car at that time so Dale took me to work or I called a taxi.  Dale was working from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. and he would feed Hugh when he got home from work.  It was very hard but I had an automatic washer and that helped.  My job was very demanding and seems like I was short of sleep all the time.  I learned to drive a 1951 Packard with an automatic shift when I was 25 years old.  Then in 1954 we had an Oldsmobile 98 Holiday.  That was a very nice car.

    I would go to Minn on vacation and take Hugh with me.  We went in the early part of Dec when Hugh was 14 months old.  We arrived in Owatonna and stayed with Daisy and Don for a few days.  Then we got on the train to go to St Paul and the train was late.  I missed my train out of St Paul so I sent a telegram to my Dad at Willow River telling him I was on the bus.  I don’t remember how I got to the bus station in St Paul but I was familiar with the cities.  My Dad and Richard met me and we drove out to the farm.  We were snowed in for 5 days and then it was time to go back to Ponca.  We arrived in St Paul and caught the Rock Island to Kansas City.  The train was late into Kansas City and I knew there was a Pullman car on No 23 still out in the yard.  I got some milk for Eddie and found a porter.  We ran down the tracks , me with Ed and the porter with my suitcase.  I bought a lower berth from the conductor and undressed Ed and put him to bed with his bottle. He had cried a little but then went off to sleep.  We woke the next morning, dressed and were in Ponca City.  A man in the upper berth remarked about how well Ed slept.  Can you imagine traveling that way?  We were a better country years ago in a lot of ways.

    .We both enjoyed Hugh and watched him grow up strong and sturdy.  He was a bright little button and he used to sit by his record player when he was 3 years old and play one record over and over.  I didn’t realize that he had a good ear for music.  His singing voice was deep and strong by the time he was 8 years old.  We enrolled Hugh in Lutheran School KG when he was 5 years old and he attended Lutheran School until the end of 4th grade.  Mrs. Smith was his baby sitter until he was 9 years old.  Gram and Peggy helped also.

    Dale’s family thought I should stay home and not go back to work after Hugh was born.  Dale and I didn’t pay much attention and lived our life the way we wanted.  They gave up trying to control after a few years but they would express some critical opinions from time to time.

    I learned to drive a car when I was 25 years old and that made it so much easier for me to work and do my shopping.  Dale had 2 buddies that he went quail hunting with in the fall and sometimes he would go trout line fishing in warm weather.  One morning I got up to go to work and Dale and Ralph Brown had been down on the Red Rock creek running bank lines.  I looked in the bath tub and there were 2 large catfish.   They had gone down after getting off work at 2 a.m. and there was no time to clean them.  That was an unusual surprise.

    Life rocked along through my 20’s.  I had major surgery when I was 28 years old.  We bought a boat and did some water skiing.  We were partners in a cabin with Walt and Jean Cobb.  Dale and Walt built a cabin out of lava bricks and it is still out at Lake Ponca in good condition.

    My brother Richard was killed in a car wreck in 1957.  He was 21  years old at that time.  I went to Minn for the funeral and still get upset thinking about it.  I was still working  as a telegraph operator for the Santa Fe but CTC had been installed and train business was falling off.  I could see that it would be a matter of time and my job would be abolished.  Dale owned a couple of school bus routes and had messed with a freight hauling business and a Fairmont milk route.  Will write about my 30’s in the next installment.

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