Times Change, but Trains Are Still Magic.
The older I get, the more I’ve become aware of how much and how rapidly things have changed since I was a kid. I occasionally tell my 7-year-old granddaughter about some of the things I remember from when I was her age, but she just stares at me, unable to comprehend the gulf between then and now.
I remember telling her that I had no television when I grew up … and then realizing that, really, SHE has no television … not in the sense that you and I mean it. She watches videos, but they’re all downloaded from the internet. And most of the time she watches on her “personal device.”
One of my dad’s friends owned an 8mm movie projector and every so often he’d bring it over to our house, set everything up, and we’d all watch a couple of ancient black-and-white cartoons … right there in our very own living room! Now that was something to brag about at school the next day.
The local drug store had a small lunch counter with maybe eight stools. I can remember peddling my bike over there for a bite to eat, usually a tuna sandwich and a strawberry milk shake. The tab was 30 cents for the sandwich, 20 cents for the shake.
Gasoline was around a quarter a gallon as recently as 1960, which always sounds wonderful until I remember that my first full-time job paid $40 a week.
O course, we also had measles and whooping cough. Polio, too. One of the kids at the summer day camp I went to came down with that awful scourge and I was quarantined … restricted to my house for two weeks, my mother anxiously watching for symptoms.
Some of my best memories—and this will not come as a surprise—are of traveling by train from Connecticut to visit grandparents either in Florida or in St. Louis. There was no greater adventure for a kid back then than an overnight train ride. Sleeping in the upper berth at night … eating meals in a rolling restaurant … watching the countryside flying by outside and catching an occasional glimpse of that glorious steam engine up front as the train swept around a curve.
It’s still a big deal for kids, even today. In recent years, I’ve taken my daughters and their daughters on the overnight ride from Los Angeles to Seattle. Everyone loved it … because the magic is still there.