The "Good Old Days"
I have just completed reading the December 1985 issue of The Hoosier Line and found it extremely interesting. It certainly brings back wonderful memories of my early days of railroading on the Monon in the 40’s and 50’s. I had almost forgotten about the “fun days” before the mergers began and when employees were known by name and not a number. I retired last year after 38 years and left with bitterness resenting all that had been destroyed or lost. But now you have shown me there are some things that can never be taken away….memories.
In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s rider caboose C212 was my second home, or maybe my first, for I had a regular job on #44 & #45 between Lafayette and Hammond. Six ten hour days were light weeks and it was a common occurrence to work a sixteen hour day and have to cut and run to keep the “hogs” from getting us. I think I could probably talk for two hours on all the crazy things that happened to us on that “rider.” Too damn hot in the summer, frost on the nail heads in the winter in spite of the fact that we burned the very best coal we could steal.
In the summer we had a couch in the baggage room in which we could “drop into” between stations. With our feet cocked against the door frame we would wave to everyone who would be waiting for us to come by each day. Our local was like a messenger from the outside world to Bill, Chet, Helen and the others who lived by the tracks and in the small communities where no one else bothered to stop or visit.
Did you know that on our local we used to deliver mail from our rider each day? Depending on direction, we would pick up the mail in Hammond and deliver it to all the small towns in between so the passenger trains didn’t have to stop or throw it off on the fly. Although our road crew consisted of six men, only two of us received mail pay: the head brakeman and the list man. Each of us got an extra dollar to go with our $9.23 a day pay.
The rest of the crew resented our privileged pay and never offered a hand no matter how late we were or how heavy the sacks were. Of course, we rubbed it in saying that we were government employees.
Some of the best cribbage games ever played were played setting on a side track waiting for the six passenger trains we generally met every day. We played when we could and worked hard as hell when we had to for back in the “Good Old Days” it was our railroad too and we were very proud of it.
By Jim Strother, as originally written in The Hoosier Line, Volume 7, Number 3
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