Chapter 2 - (Trains, Recollections and other Memories)A Chapter by Allen Smuckler
“The Train is leaving, last call to get on,
last call for adventure, last call for the rest of your life.”
- David Cochran
“Steam Engine No. 6201”
My first recollection of life began when I was 6 or 7 years old living in an apartment in Chestnut Gardens located coincidentally on Chestnut Street, in Bridgeport Connecticut, and truthfully was where my first vivid memories took place. Oh sure, I vaguely remember living in Baltimore, Maryland...but nothing vivid...the alleys, the milkman delivering milk in bottles, the row houses, the relatives. But that's all hazy. I might be confusing trips we took down there on a semi regular basis. Sometimes we drove but other times...boy, other times we took the train. I loved going by train...I looked forward to those trips, however, I'm not sure my mother did...3 young kids on a train for 5 hours...by herself. I say by herself because I never remember our father being on the train...he may have been, I just don't remember. I loved looking out the window watching life fly by...the dilapidated apartment buildings, busy factories spewing their thick billowing clouds of black, choking smoke, the people in the cities hustling and bustling to nowhere in particular, and of course the conductor.
"Trenton, next stop Trenton. Watch your step getting off."
"Wilmington, Wilmington Delaware...next stop. Make sure you have all your belongings. Watch your step!"
"Tickets, have your tickets ready."
"Balt-tee-more. Watch your step, getting off the train."
I always thought the conductor was God, or at least a policeman; directing and protecting while guiding and transporting his flock. His cool uniform and hat and all that stuff hanging from his belt or tucked haphazardly in his pockets. Never did see a gun though, but that was probably hidden under his vest. I couldn't think of a better job to have. It's what I wanted to be when I grew up; that or a cowboy...a conductor. Everything else was a distant second... or third, if you counted being a cowboy.
Sometimes, we had to make this tedious trip by automobile. My father was always along for those trips. One time when driving down to Balimore, as Balimoreans would pronounce their city...we had to stop at a toll to deposit the quarter into one of those crazy baskets on the turnpike. I never knew why we had to do this ritual, but every so often another one would appear and 'clink' it went. Sometimes, a real person would actually take the money, but my father liked the exact change lane. I think he thought it was cheaper. Well, this time, Dad drove up to the basket, let fly his quarter...and waited, what seemed to be minutes but was probably only a few seconds. Where was that clink. Could it be? Sure enough.
Dad inexplicably missed the basket completely, hence the reason for no clink or for that matter no clank. You have to understand the basket was no more than an inch or two away from his hand. How could he possibly miss it? But miss it he did. There were cars behind us. Cars on the sides of us...conductor-looking toll keepers eying us while the gate remained down. Without saying a word, my father reached out his hand toward my mother for another quarter. My mother without missing a beat and in a tone a judge would use handing down a prison sentence to a hardened criminal, emphatically told my father,
"I'm not giving you another quarter...get out and look for it." (And next time be a good person and stay out of trouble)...Which of course my father dutifully did...standing erect at first, then crouched and finally on all fours looking under the car, on the New Jersey Turnpike, for a stupid quarter that my mother couldn't bear to part with. I was angry with my mother for making my father grovel for that piece of change... But I was angrier with him for doing it. He did eventually find it and we eventually continued on our trip...a little less prideful but a whole lot wealthier. That moment was really the first time I noticed my parents interacting, perhaps other than my mom telling my dad to stop picking his nose...which of course he did. I can't precisely remember which incident came first...they may have, in fact, happened on the same trip or even simultaneously. Doesn't really matter, I guess.
© 2012 Allen Smuckler
Added on April 1, 2012
Last Updated on April 27, 2012
My Life (A Child's View)
AboutI'm a poet, a singer, a peaceful gunslinger.. looking to share my poetry..and a little bit of me...if I dare I 've been writing since I was 18.... am slightly older now, and still trying to fin.. more..
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