In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Out of Your Reach.”
Out of Your Reach
Was there a toy or thing you always wanted as a child, during the holidays or on your birthday, but never received? Tell us about it.
Thanks for the suggestion, Jen Rosenberry!
There was one thing that I always wanted as a kid but never received. Many birthdays and Christmas days came and went, but what I was searching for was never there. I could understand that they were relatively expensive, and it was just something that children in lower-income families didn’t get to play with often. I was fortunate to have a friend George Hestead whose parents even had a big sailboat. I hope I didn’t become friends with him because he owned Lionel Train sets. He had the most massive train set I have ever seen. It got spread over one whole room in his house. I can hardly describe it, almost enough track to get to Chicago. He had depots, bridges, tunnels, railroad crossings, flashing lights, smoke coming out of the engines. It was indeed awe, inspiring site for my young mind. I spent a lot of time at his house. He didn’t mind letting me share in his wealth, and it was a lot of fun. It would have been easy to covet that neighbor’s trains!
In 1949 my brothers Corky and Harlan and I rode the passenger train from Bryant to Watertown with mom. My love for trains made that a particularly, memorable day. We later learned it was a special day for sure. Our parents were in the process of getting a divorce. Our big house got sold, we said tearful goodbyes to our pigeons. Mother soon moved us to Watertown. That was a monumental change in lifestyle. We learned to tend a large garden before doing anything else, and do some cleaning and cooking. Cloths washing water was pumped by hand and heated on the gas stove in a washtub with lye soap cut into it. Harlan ran his arm up to the elbow in the ringer one day. Mother suggested we use more care after that.
Watertown was a busy railroad center. I soon concluded, I now had my train set, full size. We would go down by the tracks and play around the different trains while switching cars and being moved around, and changing engines. Oh, what a time I had! We occasionally hopped a ride, hanging onto the side of a car and riding for a way, that was quite an adrenaline rush. As we got braver, we rode out to the edge of town then jumped off before the train got going too fast. We walked back to town, walked everywhere in those days. A lot of men were out of work and hopped rides on trains everywhere. There was a hobo camp near the river, north of Riverside Park. They were mostly a friendly group and shared their meager meals with us.
We were living in the days before electronic games and TV, so we made our entertainment. One of my favorite places was the old roundhouse, where those big steam locomotives got turned around and sent back in the other direction. I would crawl down and hide underneath the turntable and watch all the action going on up above. Those were exciting and scary times. The railroad people were always trying to chase us away, but I think they probably concluded. Those kids don’t have much to go home for and overlooked some of our presence there. We were always careful. I remember any time we crawled underneath a train to get across the tracks. We were very, very careful. My brother and I still have all of our legs today, and some reasonably unusual memories.
One of the railroad workers who lived next to the tracks was Sherwin Linton’s father. When he was motioning for me to get away from the trains, he didn’t realize that little hooligan would later become friends with his son Sherwin.
Ice got harvested by a large crew at Lake Kampeska all winter. There was a huge ice house at the lake and another one in town. They supplied ice for everyone during the long hot summer. Both were popular places to play on hot days. Ice got cut into huge blocks then stored in the ice houses with layers of sawdust in between.
Mother rented a house on the south side of Lake Kampeska one time. That is when I met George and his prized railroad system. We started to caddy at the Country Club, that’s where I met Sherwin Linton. He was the only caddy with a guitar. That old Tennessee Flat Top Box has served him well. He still maintains a tour schedule plus plays at county and State Fairs. At 80 years young he appears energetic and still plays great.
I love my trains but will stay away from the tracks when I see
“The Long Black Train” coming.