Memory of the Day: The Great Train Adventure

One of the biggest adventures of our young lives was when Lewis and Cleo put their two boys on a train in Greenville, MS to begin a journey and adventure. Not entirely sure of our ages, but figure I was 13-14 and Wayne was 10-11. That summer, mom and dad took us to Greenville to board a train to Washington, DC. Not sure I would have been that comfortable putting my young teen boys on a train, but it was a different time.

The trip took a couple of days if I remember correctly. I believe we headed north from Greenville to Memphis and then east from there. We never had to leave our car, but it changed trains a couple times as we went along. We slept in our seats overnight and ate in the dining car with money our folks had given us before we left. One highlight for both of us was the cute blonde girl on one of the legs of our trip. We never met her, but named her Bridgett. I think she got off in Nashville or Knoxville. Other details of that train trip are buried in the past, but there were more memories when we got to DC. Our Uncle Harold met us at the train station and we stayed with him in his apartment in Maryland for a few days. He took us to see the Smithsonian and all the monuments in DC. He also took us to see Danny Kaye perform live at an outdoor theater. Wayne and I think it may have been Wolftrap that is still operating in the DC area, but not sure if it was around that long ago. We loved Danny Kaye and his show was really funny. When we finished there, Uncle Harold drove us to our grandparents home in Giardville, PA. The plan was for us to spend about 4 weeks there before our parents and little sister, Kellye Sue, came up to visit and pick us up. Unfortunately, we ended up spending about 6 weeks there. There’s not much in Girardville to entertain young teens, but we did have our baseball gloves and a ball so we endlessly played catch in the side yard of my grandparents home. We also had the run of the town while Grandpap Grant was working at the Raven Run Colliery in Shenandoah, PA. One of our favorite things to do was to go down to the ice cream shop every afternoon to get an ice cream cone. I think we made that trip because, again there was a cute girl working there. I think there is a theme going on here. Wayne was much more outoing than me and enjoyed flirting with her. Though he accuses me of ending the romance by telling the girl that he was 11. I don’t remember that at all.

In addition to playing endless hours of catch with the baseball, there were one-on-one games of Wiffle Ball in the side yard with many trips onto the movie theater (next door) roof to retrieve our ball and many games of Rook in our bedroom. One day our grandmam gave us money for the bus and a movie and we rode the bus to Shenandoah, about 10 miles away and went to see Bye, Bye Birdie.

Wayne and I spent that summer exploring the mountain behind my grandparents home. It was pretty treacherous with lots of small abandoned coal mine shafts and huge holes in the mountain from strip mining. Some of those holes were more than 100 feet deep with water in the bottom. There were also very tasty blackberries and blueberries. Well one day, we decided we wanted to climb to the top of the mountain. We started up without snacks or water. The plan had been to be back by lunch time. As we climbed we had to work our way around the huge holes and at one point we found ourselves facing a wall of shale above a strip mining hole. It looked climbable to Wayne, but I was more cautious (afraid). Shale could be really slippery and this was more like sand. So Wayne began his scramble up. He was always a climber. I let him get to the top and I started. I got perhaps half way to the top and began sliding down the slope. All I could think about was being found at the bottom of a 100 foot drop floating in the slimy water at the bottom. I froze. Wayne talked me off that slope with encouragement and coaxing. Not bad for a little brother. Well once I got above the slide, things were much easier. We found a powerline right of way to climb to the top. Once we were on the top, we stopped to rest and admire the view of the other side of the mountain. It was all trees and valley down that other side. No holes no dirty earth on that side of the mountain. It was beautiful.

As we sat on top of that mountain, I determined that I was not going back down the way we came. It took some convincing, but Wayne finally agreed. We headed down the other side of the mountain into the valley below. It was a much easier walk down than up. We didn’t have any obstacles except the trees and once we got to the bottom, it was a long hike along a highway. We knew which way to head to get home, but didn’t really have an appreciation of how far it really was. We had to walk around the end of the mountain to a pass that the road to Girardville ran along. At the end of the mountain we came to Ashland where our Great Uncle Wilson lived with his family. We found his house and found him sitting on the front porch. We stopped to visit and drink lots of water and lemonade. By this time we figured we could walk the rest of the way to Girardville. Now my best guess is that after climbing the mountain and coming down the other side, we had hiked at least 5 miles to Ashland. Giardville was about 3 miles from Ashland and we started our hike home. Somewhere about a mile and a half from Giardville, Wayne’s legs failed him and I repayed his rescuing me from the side of the mountain by carrying him on my back the last mile and a half. We reached our grandparents home in time for supper. I can’t speak for Wayne, but I was nearly too exhausted to eat. We went to bed early that night.

Our parents finally arrived and spent another week there then we headed home by car. Perhaps a little less of an adventure as we were no longer on our own, but the trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway was magnificent.

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2 thoughts on “Memory of the Day: The Great Train Adventure

  1. A couple things I recall about the train trip–the dining car was awesome and the formally dressed waiters were very nice to us. One guy in particular always opened my coke bottle with a great flourish at the table and poured it in the glass. I also recall a delay at Memphis after a kid suddenly ran out from behind some sitting freight cars and threw a brick through the window of our car.

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