It is snowing, creating a billowy playground for me, my cousin Rae, and some friends. We have expended a vast amount of energy playing “snowball”, creating snow angels, and constructing a three ball snowman. My mother rounded up coal for the buttons and eyes and celery for the nose. While admiring our accomplishment my aunt yelled from an open window, “It’s getting dark, everybody head for home.” Acknowledging her order, we dispersed to our family apartments.
Rae and I landed in the laundry room and removed our frozen clothes. She wrapped herself in a blanket left for her by her mom and departed. Our apartment was just a few yards from the laundry room making my journey very short.
I took a hot bath and sat in front of the test pattern on the Stewart-Warner television sipping hot chocolate for a short period. My father arrived home from work at the appropriate hour and we ate dinner. After a few t.v. programs I was off to bed. Falling asleep tonight will be difficult even though I am assured by mom and dad the milk and cookies will be left out for Santa. It is Christmas Eve, 1949 and I’m five years old.
My “bed” is a rollaway cot in the dining room. I open one eye and see the flower patterned wallpaper. The room is lit by the morning sun showing through partially parted curtains.
I rollover and eye both parents standing between the bed and the dining room table. I am quickly greeted by a smiling mother, “Merry Christmas, sweetheart.” “Merry Christmas, mom. Good morning, dad.” Merry Christmas,” he responds. They parted from one another and I rose from the bed. I immediately spotted the table was ringed by the triple rail tracks of an electric train. On the tracks were seven cars led by a locomotive and caboose. There was a up passenger station, crossing signals with gates and a transformer with two levers. “Oh my gosh,” I scream, “it’s just what I wanted. It’s perfect. Can you show me how it runs?” “Sure can,” dad says. Except for church services, the remainder of the day was spent with my father. He showed me how the coal car could dump its load and how the milk cans were put into its car properly and which button to push to get the cans to exit on to the platform. “Push here and watch the logs roll off the car.” Right again. He put a pill into the smoke stack of the engine and out came white smoke when the train moved. He told me to pull a lever on the transformer and a whistle blew.
The train that gave me so much joy in my youth is still running today and elating mom and dads great-grand children.
Six years ago my parents were at our home visiting for a few days. During their stay I invited a train collector friend to our house. After introductions, Jim and I left to inspect the train. He was very impressed with its condition and mentioned that it had some value. In a surprise question he asked what my father did for a living back then, citing the original cost for a set like this was expensive. I yelled from the room, “Ma, do you remember what you guys paid for my train set?” “Not exactly, honey, I think a hundred and twenty-five dollars. When I get home I’ll look at the receipt.”
By Carlo Orlando©