July 29, 2013


By Dee Deuth

Recently Jon and I were sitting on the patio at twilight, quietly enjoying being together. In the distance, we heard the faint sound of a train whistle, which brought a flood of memories back to me.

It was an August evening in 1951. My parents, my younger brother, Darrell, and I had made our usual evening trip to mail “The Letter,” which was a daily communication with my older brother who was in the Army during the height of the Korean Conflict.

My Dad missed Duane so much that he would write daily, using the hunt and peck method on an old Underwood typewriter. The rest of us would handwrite a note. The letter was sealed and stamped, and we left home by 8:00 p.m. to get it in the mail. However we didn’t mail it at the Post Office, but rather at the Great Northern train depot.

This particular evening was as usual. Upon arriving at the depot, we sat in the car with the windows rolled down, awaiting the arrival of the steam driven train. We listened for the faint sound of the whistle as it approached a crossing a mile out of town. Upon hearing it, Dad, Darrell, and I got out of the car and watched for the first appearance of the train. It was a routine we followed each evening. It was the usual.

As the train drew near, as usual, we marveled at the size of the engine, and the way it made the ground shake beneath us. As it rolled to a stop, as usual, the steam hissed and whirled from underneath. There were two passenger cars, a U.S. Mail Car and some assorted box cars. As usual, the Engineer got off and stopped over to visit with Dad, as did the Conductor.,They removed a mail bag and placed it in the depot – usual things we had seen each previous evening. We placed “The Letter” in a mail slot on the mail car, as usual. That was where the usual ended.

The Engineer asked Dad, “Can your wife drive the car?” (Not all ladies could drive)


“Have her drive up to Holland and pick you up at the depot. I’ll take you and the kids in the engine.” WHAT? We were going to get to go along on the train?

We wasted no time in climbing the steps into the hot engine. The Engineer had me sit on his lap at the controls. Dad held Darrell on his lap as he perched on the coal box. The Fireman added more coal, and with the help of the Engineer, I gently pulled the lever to make the train move. We traveled the 10 miles with me blowing the whistle at each crossing and carefully pushing the lever to increase the speed. Certainly NOT USUAL. When the train stopped at the next town, we disembarked, and the trainmen left us waiting in the dark summer evening for Mom to find the depot and her family.

Things have changed immensely since that evening in 1951. Trains have become a major way to transport materials from around the world. Diesel engines have replaced the steam train, and transportation requirements certainly wouldn’t allow a man and two kids to ride in the engine, to say nothing of pushing and pulling levers to propel this huge monster forward. These changes have now become our usual. But there is one older woman in the Quad-Cities that remembers that unusual night she drove the train.

What do you recall when you sit quietly listening to the world around you? This summer take a moment to do that and bask in a pleasant memory. Better yet, write it down so that it will live on with your loved ones.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer, and THANK YOU for reading 50+ Lifestyles!!

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