The Olympian Hiawatha left Seattle’s Union Station each day at 3:15 pm. I boarded it on Wednesday, September 3, a 14-yearold off on the longest trip of his life (having left Washington State only for short trips to Portland, OR and Victoria, BC). My route would pass through 13 states, with two nights on the train to Chicago and one night from Chicago to Boston. I couldn’t have been more excited.
The train was a beauty, gleaming in orange, maroon and gray with a long-nosed 3-unit diesel locomotive built by Fairbanks-Morse, styled by Raymond Loewy with a wide corrugated chrome band across its snout. It was made up of several “lounge coaches,” a “Tip-top Grill” car with informal dining in one end and a cocktail bar in the other, a dining car, some sleeping cars and a unique “Sky-top Lounge” at the tail end. I rode and slept in a “lounge coach” (no sleeping car for me, but a 14-year-old can sleep anywhere) and ate in the “Tip-top Grill” which was much cheaper than the diner. Burgers and sandwiches were fine. I was pretty much on my own, but not bored. I
was fascinated by the scenery of new states rolling by, and by exploring the
train itself. We reached Spokane after dark and crossed the Rocky Mountains
at night, a disappointment to me. I was awakened by the sound of splashing
water in Deer Lodge, MT, where a crew was washing the windows with
big long-handled swabs. On this first morning out, I had my breakfast in the
“Tip-top Grill” with Montana rolling by outside.
It seemed to me to take forever to get through Montana, with stops at Harlowton and Miles City. In the evening we passed through a corner of North Dakota (Marmarth, Bowman and Hetinger) without stopping, and made
our next stop at 10:40 pm in Mobridge, SD. Another night’s sleep and we were in Minneapolis and then in St. Paul; cities I’d actually heard of. Now I was getting someplace. Breakfast found me again in the “Tip-top Grill”, and the train in LaCrosse, WI. Then, in quick order, Milwaukee and Chicago, where I said goodbye to the beautiful Hiawatha.
After a night in Chicago (courtesy of an old friend of my mother), I boarded the New York Central’s Paul Revere, bound for Boston. After the Hiawatha, the Paul Revere was a big let-down. It had an old black steam engine, soot-stained windows, and probably stopped at every town along the way. At Albany it even lost its New York Central dignity; with a change of
engine, it ran on the tracks of the Boston & Albany to Boston’s South Station.
Wikipedia defines it in
many ways, e.g. account,
history, record chronicle, narrative, story, portrayal sketch, depiction, an essay on a learned subject. The
synonyms go on ad nauseum. My less formal
definition includes wording which might be considered akin to blasphemy:
Something old, something new, something
borrowed, mostly true, recognizing the reader’s choice to accept or reject the writer’s point of view.
Flo and Jo, Florence Dodge and Josephine Fitzpatrick, have led this program for years. It is structured to be an opportunity for self-expression based on the delivery of a wide variety of vignettes bound to touch your heart
and soul. Comments on presentations can be added to copies of the material shared by the author and given to the class. Some comments are made orally. The class leaders offer suggestions as well.
Remember those days of childhood, school and beyond? Topics of vacations, holidays, time spent in the military or Peace Corps appear in some papers. Family fun brings forth
memoirs unique to some and familiar
to many. No matter our background, we often remember similar episodes in our own lives.
Charles’ tale of cross country travel at 14 years of age goes from Puget Sound to Massachusetts. Travelling by rail, he compares the modern train to a less elegant grimy one which takes him from Chicago to New England.
Can you imagine a trip you made long ago? For the rest of his story, read on and sign up for the ongoing MEMOIR WRITING class.