Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I guess my story has a little different twist. When you receive a train for Christmas
it creates memories. My story is one that brought memories back. I call it,
" A soldier goes home "
A friend of mine's daughter teaches history to children with learning disabilities.
We were talking about the curriculum one day and she told me that W.W.II was part of
the fall subject matter. I asked her if they welcomed W.W.II vets to come and talk to
the students. "Of course we do, But you do realize that these are children with ADHD and
other special needs problems." "Sometimes they have difficulty focusing for long periods of time. I said, "No problem, I have the perfect person for the job " Enter my neighbor George, who is not only a war hero ( 2 purple hearts, 3 bronze stars and was also in the Battle of the Bulge ) but also a retired elementary school principal. He was also bestowed the honor of having the last elementary school built in our community named after him.
Who better to talk to these kids. Well I don't have to tell you that the lecture went well beyond
everyone's expectations. The lecture was in the auditorium during the last hour of class. When the bell rang to go home, nobody left. That is until the bus driver came in and wanted to know where everybody was.
Yes I'm getting to the train part now. It was getting near Christmas time and I knew George collected Santa Claus figures and also liked trains. So what better of a thank you gift than a Christmas train.
We all pitched in and purchased the Lionel traditional Christmas set. One of the main reasons being it's G gauge and has a remote control. George is 83 so this would be the easiest for him to operate. So, one Sunday morning my friend Bob and I went into his house while he was at church and set it up for him.
Well I don't have to tell you the look on his face was the same as mine when I received my first train set at five years old. We went through all the functions as we read the directions.
I think we made an old man feel like a kid again.
About a week later I went back to check up on the new railroad next door and asked Melba ( his wife ) if he was showing off his new train set . " Oh yes. Every one that comes over has to see it and watch all the functions, but no one is allowed to touch it. Not even the grand kids." Then quietly she said.
" I think he plays with it when I'm not home "
We both laughed and I went on my way.
A couple days later I received a thank you letter from George and it made me realize that indeed he was running the train. Unlike so many of our first train sets that create memories, this one brought back memories of W.W.II. I call it
A soldier goes home
In 1946 I arrived in New York after a 14-day voyage from the port of Le Havre, France.
This was across the north Atlantic in February. The seas were stormy and I was seasick the entire trip. From New York to my home in Missouri where my family had moved during the war to escape the dust bowl in western Oklahoma. I received a train ticket home. A steam engine with that wonderful steam engine whistle. The rails were not welded together then, and you could hear that rhythm....
clackety-clack, clackety-clack, clackety-clack. I'm going home, I'm going home, I'm going home.
I was lonesome, I had lost my platoon, and I felt alone and unsure of my future.
Trainloads of thanks


At age 5 I had my first Lionel Christmas.

At age 83 George had his first Lionel Christmas.

At age 53 I've had my second Lionel Christmas.