Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Railroad Willie

Can you believe that a simple pocket watch is preserving my life? To my way of thinking it is. You see, I got this pocket watch from my wife even though she didn't even know I've always wanted one. It was a "pre-birthday gift". I saw it in the watch shop on the corner on "Mainstreet U.S.A. Disneyland". It reminded me of my dad.

My Pops was a "railroad man". He worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad. He was a "time-keeper" in his last job. He kept the pay records for all the men who worked on the various trains and yards. ie. The Sunset Limited The Zephyr etc. We, as a family, took many a vacation "back east" to see relatives and sights on the old pullman cars. Dad and I slept in the upper berth. Mom and sis slept in the lower. There were heavy curtains all up and down the aisles. During the day we had a "compartment". We could play games ie. cards, eat snacks we had brought or picked up at the last station or talk and get to know many of the fellow passengers and conductors. What a wonderful education it was.

When I went off to college by was the same thing. I had a box of fried chicken that would last the trip just about...three days, two nights. I'd get off the train to get fruit and milk etc. and was always afraid I would be left behind. I became "great friends" with many "conductors of color". We'd sit for hours and talk about all kinds of things. I'd eat in the diners only once a day, usually for breakfast. What a treat. By then I'd gotten used to the sounds and rhythms of the trains. It would rock you to sleep at night. I saw alot of the country during the day.

Now the special thing about this pocket watch is that it makes those same sounds. Whenever it is exposed to light, even in my pocket, it whistles, chugs, and clickety-clacks for several seconds. It then reminds me of my dad, my youth, my adventures and some great conversations. It tells the time, of course, but it doesn't chime the hour. It is battery powered so it doesn't need winding. Of course it has Mickey Mouse on it and he looks alot like "Steamboat Willie" only in a locomotive. On the front it has all the names of the Disneylands ie. Anaheim, Paris, Orlando and Tokyo. I've only been to the one in Anaheim. I doubt if I'll get to the others ever.

I was remembering today that the first movie my dad took me to, alone, was "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" the Disney classic. That was when it first came out. It was in downtown L.A. at night, dark and it was kind of scary. I had never been in a big, dark theater before. I loved the music and coming out of the theater, could sing all the melodies. I remember we were early and we saw some "trailers" and they were really scary. I cried in Pinochio. Yes, we were rather sheltered and naive back then. How the world/we all have changed in such a short time. And yet, there's a part of me that has stayed the same...dark places are still kind of scary and give me a creepy feeling. Many of my values have stayed the same. That, child-like, wonder is still through the eyes of my grandchildren. And I still want to seek out the light, illuminated places and shun the dark. Thanks Pops. Bob


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