Mom told me a couple of tales about train trips she had taken. She usually enjoyed it when she was young. She preferred the train to air travel.
The first trip occurred when Jane was around 10 years old. She was traveling from Johnstown to Harrisburg in the winter time. She was dressed in a woolen skirt with woolen socks and warm underwear. Jane loved to travel on the train by herself because of the attention she received.
At the time children did not usually travel alone. Her father, Jack, knew both the conductor and one of the porters. Jack tipped the porter to keep an eye on Jane. The conductor was the father of one of Jane’s friends. They both were happy to keep an eye on her during the journey.
Jack had bought her a new book to read on the trip. She was busy reading and enjoying the book when a woman passenger decided to join her. Apparently, the woman was a bit concerned about a child traveling alone. At one point the woman took the book from Jane and began reading to her. This really annoyed Jane, and complained to the conductor who told the woman to leave her alone. When the woman protested, the conductor said that if she didn’t go back to her own seat and leave the child alone, she would be put off the train at the next stop. With that the woman complied.
The second train trip took place much later. By this time she was married and had two sons. It happened on a Christmas Eve during WWII. As best as she can remember it was 1944. We were traveling from Georgia to Florida. It was a time when segregation was a fact of life in the South. The train was full and the color line was blurred because of it.
Among the passengers there were four young black soldiers who decided to sing Christmas carols. There voices were absolutely beautiful, and the soldiers were celebrating the season the best way they knew how. Most of the passengers appreciated their effort
A middle-aged, well to do Southern woman, decided that she couldn’t travel with “them” in the same car. She complained to the conductor. She made it quite clear that the singing was interfering with her sleep and she was not pleased to be riding in the same car with “them”. She complained to the conductor about her sleep. The conductor told her that there were no sleeping compartments available, and that she would just have to go back to her seat and make the best of it. The woman continued to complain and that annoyed the rest of the passengers who were enjoying the music.
The conductor had about as much as he could take and told the woman that if she didn’t go to her seat and remain there she would be put off of the train and the next stop. Well, as you might imagine, the woman pulled herself up to her most powerful stance and said he could not do that. She further informed the conductor that the Vice President of the rail road line was a friend of hers and she would report him. He said that was fine with him and he would be pleased to all the VP himself. This did not slow the woman down, so the next stop somewhere in rural Florida the woman was deposited on the station platform with her luggage to await the next train through.
The train then continued as did the music. The rest of the passengers were pleased with the conductor. And, the music was greatly appreciated.