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  Railroads of Madison County
Karen Dinsmore
Memories of a NYC RR Train Girl

People Watching


Mom always took a book to read but I found it hard to concentrate when the train was rocking back and forth. I enjoyed watching people come and go and spent considerable time observing and sizing up everyone who boarded the train. People came in all sizes and manner of dress but there usually weren't many small children on the train. Some women came with furs on and I was sure they were really rich. Some people boarded with no luggage or simply a paper shopping bag and I was sure they were poor. Years later when I dated a wealthy man who gave his mother her presents in a shopping bag I changed my stereotypical views. I loved walking up and down the aisle as a child so I would volunteer to get everyone in the family a cup of water and even get drinks for older strangers who saw me bringing water to my parents and grandma. I did that about every hour and saved the adults from having to get up for a drink and it made me feel important. The route to Chicago and St. Louis wasn't scenic so I would draw pictures for a while as I loved to draw and then would do the drink routine and then look at a comic book my sister had brought after she was done with it and get up again to stretch my legs and head to the restroom as it was always a fascinating place to watch people.

I loved watching women do their nails or put on makeup or fuss with their hair. Women in the rest room were always very friendly and were willing to chat with a little blond girl with pig tails. Once a gal even asked if I would like nail polish on my nails and I was thrilled with my beautiful new nails. My mother was not so thrilled! On occasion a woman was changing a baby or breast feeding but they usually didn't linger like the women who were concerned about their appearance. Women would sit in there and chat for several minutes. My parents were so trusting of people they let me come and go as I pleased within the car. I knew if I didn't behave I would be staying home with relatives on the next trip so acting up never crossed my mind. One reason for my restlessness is because I was used to being constantly active at home. Mom thought that every child who slept past eight o'clock would grow up to be a good for nothing so I was always up early even if it was summer vacation or a weekend. It seemed when I was little if she or one of my sisters ever saw me idol for more than five minutes they would think of something for me to do. One by one they left home and while I no longer had to constantly polish shoes, rub suntan oil on backs, fetch things from upstairs or downstairs, and run to the mail box I found myself stuck with their former responsibilities of doing dishes, cleaning and ironing.

Traveling was a respite that got me away from those constant sibling and maternal demands and it gave me the opportunity to use my imagination, take in new sights and sounds, and learn so many exciting new things at my own pace. When I got into high school I was rarely home except to sleep as I headed three nights a week from school to work until eleven at one of Gackenheimer's Drug Stores and also worked weekends. Since Friday nights I was part of the Wabash High School radio crew doing color for football and basketball games Monday night was the one night I might possibly be home. In the summer I worked double shifts and was gone from morning to late at night. so sometimes I think dad planned those long vacations to give him a chance to see me.

Karen


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