Sepia Saturday

Sepia Saturday

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Looking back.........men with hats.


A photo posted by a childhood classmate on her facebook post brought back many memories to me.  She posted the photo, as she was related to three of the children and she is the younger girl in the photo riding the carnival ride.  I am posting the photo as to what is going on in the background.  The time period has to be around 1953 and the location is unknown to the owner of the photo.  I suspect it is in one of the neighboring towns of Murray, Iowa.  The possible towns could be Afton, Creston or Osceola.

I remember seeing steam engines when young as they traveled through Murray, Iowa.  The tracks divided the town and to travel to the grocery store we would have to wait for the trains to pass by while the cars and trucks waited to cross.  The dark smoke from burning coal was very visibile and the sulfur smell is a strong memory to me also. The coal car itself was filled to various degrees depending on the last time they had loaded up the coal for the train.  The mechanics of the propelling of the wheels because of steam power is still a fascination to see.

The hobos riding along on top of the cars during the warm months made the watching of the train more enjoyable.  My mother shared with me that it was common for the hobos to get off of the train and knock on doors for free food to  eat.  She said that when she and my dad had first married, they lived in a rented house close to the track in Murray. It was a bad place to live as the sound of the trains literally sounded like they were coming through the living room.

 It  was not a surprise to her to have someone knock on the door and politely ask for a plate of food.  My mom would tell of finding cold boiled potatoes and bread for them to eat and they really like hot cups of coffee, which they would eat while sitting on the porch outside. Milk and spare desserts would make them very pleased.

One other distinct memory of the old trains was the one seeing them traveling down the tracks in the country.  Highway 34 ran parallel to the track so one could see the engine puffing out its black and gray smoke, billowing out in cloud-like forms. The smoke stack left a trail behind it for a very long distance. The smoke trail would be different on windy days but the stretched trail along the top of the cars would make it seem like a magical thing.

One other observation from the photo is the dress of the people in the background.  It was some sort of town celebration that was going on as the men were wearing dress slacks and white shirts, not the everyday jeans or bib overalls. The conversations seemed important as they ignored both the passing steam engine as well as the kids on the carnival ride. I really can't see how they could hear one another when the train was going by them.  I can't imagine that the engine is parked there but it might be as you see people crossing the tracks with out worry on the left side of the photo.


On a different vien of thought, I found a postcard photo of a school building in Dexter, Iowa.  This was not necessarily a common look of the schools built back then as most of them didn't have the decorative details as this one has. What I found interesting is that it must have been designed and built at the same time as the one in my school in Woodward, Iowa.  The reason being that it is exactly the same building as the one I first taught here in Woodward back in 1976. I would declare that the same architect plan was used and maybe the same crew could have built the building.



As evidence to my belief of them being the same structure different locations is the drawing of the Woodward building. when it was first built.   It was built in 1906 and torn down in 1993. This is the first time that I have ever seen another building in Iowa that was just like this one.

I didn't attend here, I was a teacher in this building starting in 1976.  My room was in the area where the three back basement windows are on the right side.


As a footnote to the above drawing.  I had few pictures of the real building while I was teaching in the building.  Once the building was torn down,  I created the drawing from a postcard similar to the one created of the Dexter building. The postcard was being sold at the Iowa Historical Building in Des Moines.

You have noticed that I am totally off theme. I do have some men with hats, standing and talking. I rarely keep my train on the track, so to speak.  I was feeling guilty as I had not posted for a long time.  With winter coming I will be forced to stay inside and my blogging should pick up to a more regular pace.

Thanks for stopping by my post today.  Check out the other bloggers who are participating in Sepia Saturday by clicking here.

21 comments:

Honest Abe said...

Nice story. Enjoyed the old photos too.

Kat Mortensen said...

I enjoyed your memories of the steam trains, Larry. Coincidentally, your mention of hoboes connects with my recent memory of being dressed up as a hobo for Hallowe'en. I only thought of that this morning.

Peter said...

The two buildings are very, very similar to each other. I bet the same architect was involved. You have drawn a nice piece of history for me. Thanks!

Postcardy said...

I wonder whether there were any more school buildings like those.

Mike Brubaker said...

Next to sailing ships, steam trains remain the most romantic touchstone for stories. A good photo to inspire some nice memories.

Little Nell said...

Nice to see you back! I really enjoyed your wonderful decription inspired by this photo. I was amazed that your mother felt happy and safe enough to give food to the hobos who knocked at the door. They seem to have been very grateful and not presenting a threat at all.

Titania said...

Larry, a fine and very interesting post for Sepia Saturday. Your drawing is beautiful. Is it not a shame that buildings like this are torn down instead of repaired and improved?

Kathy Morales said...

I enjoyed your stories about the trains. I have a picture of Mystic (Iowa) High School that looks very similar. Same general shape, 3 stories - but with a roof with gables, similar dome. I think it opened in 1918.

Crystal Mary said...

As usual, very interesting Larry. Men wore hats and shirts had long sleeves, and often a tie was on also. We call hobo's, swagmen..they carried they swap (sleeping bag) and walked the land, knocking on doors. I always ran and told my mother when one came over the hill near our home, as they always stopped. Mum got them to chop wood and when they were finished they sat on a bench unto the trees at the side of the house. Mum would make up a tray with a pot of hot tea, milk sugar, thick slices of bread with spreads.. They were happy days as a child. Mum is still alive and now 94.

Far Side of Fifty said...

That is a King Kiddie Ride. It looks to have permanent structure.. as in ceiling rafters for the canopy and a large permanent pole that is visible on the left side of the photo. Possibly this photo was taken in a amusement park? That is some kid ride..must have been from the early 1940's..or maybe the late 1930's..those kids were not strapped in or anything.
My husband really enjoyed this old photo..thanks for sharing it:)

Wendy said...

Your memories of trains reminds me of stories my grandmother told of preparing meals for hobos that passed frequently through Shenandoah, Virginia, a major stop for the N & W Railroad. Spotting that photo on Facebook inspired a thoroughly enjoyable post.

Deb Gould said...

Liked this a lot! When I was a kid, we lived in an old farmhouse that was between two railroad crossings -- the whistle blew right behind the house at least six times a day! It drove us nuts for about two weeks; after that, we never even noticed it!

Bob Scotney said...

I don't think we ever ha hoboes on the trains in the UK. However we had tramps who came round door to door trying to earn something for a drink.

I went to school every day on a steam train for nearly eight years. Diesels and electric locos never had the same appeal.

I reaaly enjoyed this post Larry as it brought back fond memories to me.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

The old school building is grand, there was a lot of pride in that I am sure. I am glad that others (self included) did not theme along this week either; I did not consider the hats, but went to a group photo and journeyed on from there. I like reading about those shots of history; doing ancestral research on hubby's side has turned up heavy links in Iowa, places we never heard of, Tama, Indian, etc. So I always think I might stumble across some of those on your blog. It is strange when I consider that the 1950"s when I was growing up now seem ancestral.

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

Great recounting of the excitement about trains. We used to ride to our vacation cottage at grand Beach in Canada on one. The ride to and back was the most thrilling part of the vacation..

Karen S. said...

Oh gee Larry, a man after my own heart! I grew up in Michigan, but I moved to Minnesota when I was 20- and it feels like home. I'm betting that first photo could be Osceola with that train in the back ground, because that town is still big with trains, and have the best ever rides for the public to enjoy, the fall colors, a pumpkin patch- pick your own-hop back on or just view the lovely sights out there. This was a fun post, thanks so much.

Jana Last said...

Very nice post! Your story about your mother feeding people who came to the door for food sounds similar to a story about my grandmother.

My dad recounted a story when, during the Depression, a less fortunate person came to ask for food. There was only some bread and a couple eggs in the cupboard. My grandmother fried the eggs and made two sandwiches for the man. She then fed her own children and went without lunch herself.

Rob From Amersfoort said...

It must have been a majestic site seeing those large locomotives steaming through the country side. When I grew up they had all been replaced by diesel engines.

Tattered and Lost said...

Completely fascinate to see the children's rides are tractors. Never seen anything like that.

Meri said...

Dear Larry: I never worry about the Sepia Saturday theme when I post. Perhaps it is my basic aversion to authority.

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

I can remember back in the 60's as a very young girl where we lived in Southern Illinois hobos would knock on our door and my mother would give them food. I'd forgotten all about that - we lived very near a train track. Thanks for the memories!