Friday, January 28, 2011


Hey, trains and streetcars are coming back. If you lived in a family like mine where your father-in-law and his father were engineers on the railroad and my husband wanted to be, and loved trains and passed that on to all his sons, you would be elated. My husband even proposed to me beside a railroad track and on our engagement night he went to pick up his dad and his crew as they were deadheading back to town!

The way the airlines are treating us these days, causes one to think back on the comfort and the amenities of a good old train ride. It also reminds me of the first time I took a train ride. It was during WW2 and I was at school in Chicago during the Christmas Holidays as I had no money to go home. I, along with other students from California and Massachusetts, was working at the Chicago Post offices as part time Christmas rush help. When I arrived home from work one day on the EL (elevated train in Chicago) and the streetcar, I had a message to see the President of our college. He asked me if I wanted to go home for Christmas. He told me the person who had given me my scholarship had given him money to give to me to go home. I was thrilled.

I also was a little nervous about taking a train for the first time, so I went down to Union Station the day before I was to leave and took a sort of 'dry run'. In 1943, Union Station looked almost like an army and navy base for it was fraught with soldiers and sailors. They were mostly a serious lot, anxious to get home on a long awaited leave before being shipped overseas they knew not where. Once you were sent over, you didn't come back except in a body bag or injured. Not until the war was over. I bought my ticket and found the proper gate and watched the very train I was to take leave at 6 P.M. sharp. My brother Paul always thought this dry run was so funny and frequently told the story and laughed.

The next day the train was loaded with military personnel. It was so crowded I did not think I would be able to get on, but some of them hoisted my suitcase up the steps and me also and there I sat for part of the journey---on my suitcase. As we continued on our trip, some of the congestion was relieved and eventually I ended up in the aisle on my suitcase. Later a soldier got me a seat. It was on an old car as they had scared up all the old cars for use during the war. The seats were stiff and straight and were actually benches that faced each other.

As the night progressed, I ended up sleeping on the bench with some soldier's heavy overcoat over me. He was so nervous and paced the aisle smoking one cigarette after another. The train plowed through snow and we were diverted to a side track also and we did not reach Ironwood, Michigan (in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) until 12 noon the next day. Reunions with family were a sight to see. There were no social divisions here as everyone, rich and poor alike, had someone in the service. We had two stars in our window for my two brothers . We were glad that they were blue and not gold.

As for streetcars, how much fun we had jumping on the Kedzie Avenue streetcar in Chicago near our college hanging on to the rear platform bar and sometimes extending way out into the street! I just read where they are going to put some l950's streetcars into use in Milwaukee. And they are in great shape--albeit l950's shape. They use them in some cities in Europe and the strange thing is that though bus companies are competing sometimes on the same route, when the people have a choice, they pick the streetcar to ride.

It is a freer more open kind of transportation. Easy on and easy off with more room to move. In Portland and New Orleans here in the U.S. they have put the streetcars back and the people love it. And according to this report, more cities are looking into it. Man, how I loved to hear the clang of the bell in the Spring from our dorm from Kedzie Avenue. It is the same when I hear a train whistle in the night.

Trains and streetcars--some of my most favorite things in this world.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My World Today

Today is a snowy day and the first thing that my Golden Retriever did was go out and make another of his angels in the snow. I did get a picture of it this time and I hope you can see it O.K.

He makes one just about each time we let him out .

I do love a day like today when you feel so warm and cozy in the house and have enough goodies stored to keep you happy and a good book to read. I am reading Anna Quindlen's Every Last One for one of my LIR (Learning in Retirement) classes which begin up at the University this week. My watercolor class starts on Wednesday. It is the only one which is held in the morning , she offers wryly, as those who know I only am ready to get going in the afternoon. It is hard to get up when one has just turned out the light at 1:30 or 2:00 the night before.

I am also taking a class called The Circadian Novel (books whose stories are contained within a single day). James Joyce's Ulysses is probably the best known example and we all know how we feel about that one. But we are to start with Saturday by Ian McEwan. Haven't obtained that one yet and with this snowstorm will probably not get it today. I do remember reading A Day in the Life of Ivan Ivanovich for Russian history. All I remember is how hungry he was and how he chewed up the fishbones in the soup and ate them too.

Green Bay is riding high these days after the Packers beat the Falcons last Saturday night. It will be quite a tradition to see the Chicago Bears and the Packers in the NFC championship game---long time rivals and they hate each other. Every coach that comes here hears first of all that he must beat the Bears. I hope Aaron, our fantastic quarterback, doesn't get hurt. Chicago plays

Though it is a long time away yet, I have decided to go back to Green Lake in Minnesota this year. It is way too expensive and impractical, but I have decided how long do I have to be practical and why should I be? I am happy with my decision. None of my family will be there but the lake still is and I hope to get a hitch on my car and take my Bayliner with me. It is about 400 miles from here and all of my family are laughing to think I would try such a stunt, but we'll get there somehow come hell or high water.

I hope you all are safe from all the terrible weather some parts of the world is experiencing. You in Australia and you who live out East and you in California and other spots that have problems. Do you really think it is Global Warming or just the 20 or 30 year cycle that some claim it to be?

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I have discovered that I have chess on my computer. Not good. I get so frustrated and I always lose and I haven't the slightest idea of how to set my men up to get his men and when I think I have got them, they have an ace up their sleeve and plop me and get my queen or my knight or any of my biggies right off the bat. And when they get me so I cannot move without giving one of my biggies away, I get right upset.

I learned the game from my young grandsons years ago. Once in a while then I could even beat them. But, hey, even the world champion can't beat the computer, can he? I don't remember whether he was going to have a match or if he did.

So it is a good diversion for when the weather outside is 10 degrees or so. We have had such a cold winter and it is a hassle to go out. You can get the car warmed up, but then if you want to go shopping or something, you have to get out of the car, right?

I get to the library and the grocery store and the docs and that is about all I attempt. We have had a dusting of snow the last few days but snow is not a problem.

I have been reading some of the blogs lately and note that the people in warmer climes are anticipating Spring already. Gee, I had not even thought about it yet. Here in Wisconsin, Spring is so far off and hard to contemplate.

Of course, we have the Green Bay Packer play-off game to anticipate and that is what keeps this town going. Can you imagine that when it was as cold as 10 degrees the stadium here was sold out. People in this town live for the Packers and so for now, winter is O.K. with them.

And then we have the ice fishermen. For sure, the Bay is covered with ice and all the inland lakes so they are also happy. Not too many have shacks as well furnished and supplied as shown in the movie Grumpy Old Men. Many are just open to the elements. We also have seen a four-wheeler pulling a kid on skis. It is fascinating to watch. I used to walk out to where they were fishing but not lately.

And of course, we have regular cross country skiers but not so much downhill. Oh there is a little hill nearby they use but mostly people go to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan to all the hills there. We, who have lived in Colorado think they are little hills too. But they have fun on these too.

I'm beginning to sound like Sarah Palin and her Alaska series. I did enjoy seeing Alaska but as a critic wrote, the whole thing was a photo op for Sarah and things tourists might do if they visited Alaska, not the way most Alaskans live. And Sarah really didn't do much without guides, her father and others to help her and even do them.

Hope you all are faring well during this winter season. January is followed by February and then there is March--sometimes Spring shows its head in March.


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