"The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings '.(Nahum 2:4)
They say, whomever they are, that one blessing of growing old is our "vivid recall". Remembering those blessed moments of childhood. Memories that seem to supersede our current events. Some circles even call this phenomenon "memory diminisher ". Well here I go again, strolling down memory lane, sharing my so-called diminished memories.
Today's the day. The day for which I have been waiting, since my last birthday. For you see, I was about to take my first streetcar ride with grandpa, on my Mom's side of our family. I just couldn't sleep for dreaming of sitting with him, in that big "motor-man" driver's seat, and grabbing onto the steering wheel as we swiftly move down the track.
Then it came, that moment in time. Here he was, standing tall, dressed in a spick-an-span conductor's uniform, wearing that squared off black conductor's hat, bearing the shinny conductor insigne showing the big number 40.
"Come on son, and climb aboard", grandpa shouted in his all familiar conductor's dialect. Then, after all the passengers were comfortably seated, we were off. However, not before Grandpa whispered a short little prayer. I'll never forget that moment. " Dear Lord, please keep us safe as we travel down your highway of life, Amen". Oh, did I forget to tell you my Grandpa had one of the most beautiful tenor singing voices, I have ever heard. And his favorite hymn was "It Is Well With My Soul".
I learned later, that grandpa served as both the motor man and the conductor that day, due to cost savings. You see, the economy was still a little slow, as the "great depressions" had not been far behind us.
The trip, which was about 30 miles one way through those Appalachian hills, seemed like an eternity. From my side window view, I probably could have told you the total number of trees, including the type birds and number of squirrels. I was that attentive.
I don't remember much about the passengers that day, as I was too busy taking in the beautiful surrounding fall scenery. One passenger did leave a lasting impression. It was the little old plump lady with her faithful small dog companion. For some unknown reason, this little dog did not take a liking to me. Each time I would make a sudden move or look squarely at him, the dog would show his teeth and growl profusely.
Then it happened. I can still hear the call. "Come on up here, son. and help me drive this big ball of steel". I could barely hear his voice through all the noise of the overhead trolley pole, as it guided along the electric cable. The short walk, from the rear to the front of the car, seemed like an eternity. In fact, I almost fell down twice walking to the front of the car, as the car swayed back and forth, causing me to scarcely miss falling on the little old ladies dog.
I climbed up in grandpa's lap, feeling like a "million dollars". Pinch me, oh lord, is this real, I cried ? Am I really driving this big street car down the road ? Grandpa even let me wear this big conductor hat. It wasn't until a little time later, that I learned my alleged steering had nothing to do with the drive, as the car was actually being steered by the tracks.
I could not help but notice a large shotgun, propped in the coroner of the driver compartment, out of sight of the passengers. My inquisitiveness just got the best of me. "What's the shotgun for, grandpa ? "Well son, sometimes, when the car is empty of passengers, I'll stop and do some hunting, hopeful to bag our super'. As I had mentioned, times were still tough in those Appalachian hills.
I guess one of the most exciting maneuvers, aside from my sitting in the driver compartment, was what happened when we reached the end of the line. You see, streetcars were not made to turn around on the tracks, so grandpa had to turn all the seats around, before shifting from one end of the car to the other, as the car had a driver compartment at both ends. I was solicited to help turn the seats, as well as help prepare the other details for the trip home. Grandpa, however, would not let allow me to help, in readjusting the trolley pole, as it conducted electricity.
Another exciting experience, before we started our return trip home, was our lunch period. Grandpa had a brought a big bucket crammed full of food and sweet goodies. What a feast I had, I got to eat all that candy.
The ride home was much shorter than the initial ride. I guess it was because I slept most of the way home. The last thing I remember, as we were getting off the car, was grandpa's friendly voice.
"I guess this trip was just too much for our young lad", grandpa softy whispered', as he carried me down the streetcar steps and into the car barn.
I just couldn't wait, till school started the next week, to give my lasting impressions of my first streetcar ride. Why, my teacher even allowed me to relay my adventure to the entire class. To some, I was a hero, while to others it was all just a big joke.
Riding on grandpa's streetcar, as it was formally know, was some adventure. Was this entire experience, just a joyful dream, or did it really happen ? Although grandpa never mentioned my adventure again, I'll go to me grave, ever thankful for the trip. And yes, I just know it really happened.
" When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11) .
Author's Post Script
Early on, many cities turned from horse drawn cartages to electric-powered streetcars. The electricity to the streetcars came from the powerhouse, located at the car barn, where it was generated. A streetcar would touch this electric wire with a long pole on its roof. Back at the powerhouse, big steam engines would turn huge generators to produce the electricity needed to operate the streetcars. A new name was soon developed for streetcars powered by electricity; they were called trolley cars.
I was lucky, as I just happen to come along, as WW II was coming to a close. The streetcars were also starting to wind down. I was fortunate to have had that streetcar ride, as this particular car line disbanded shortly after my one and only adventure.
Do you still have a grandpa living ? If so, go quickly and just give him a big hug.
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