Archive for the ‘Milwaukee in the 1940s’ Category

Exactly a year ago, Joe and I were totally contented in our up north home—believing we might be there forever, and thinking no place on earth could ever be so special.  On a below zero March day in 2009, I went outdoors and heard the distant shrieking of a train—a rare sound, as we were 9 miles from the railroad track which ran north and south through that part of Wisconsin.  In the eight years we’d lived there, we’d only heard a train 3 or 4 times from our home—on days where there was virtually no wind or when the wind came from the exact direction of the moving train.

On that day in 2009, as I savored the faint, far-away music of the rails, I said:  “If we ever have to leave this beautiful home I want to live near a railroad track—one that is in active use!

Well a year later, here we are—living 280 miles from our northern home, and 280 yards from the busiest railroad in the area.  Many freight trains lumber through each day, and the Amtrak runs from Milwaukee to points west and back again to Milwaukee. 

The shrieking, rumbling, and clacking of trains send me into paroxyms of euphoria grounded in my childhood.  During World War II gas was rationed, and we traveled by train rather than by car.  Our family lived 80 miles north of Milwaukee in Chilton, Wisconsin.  Since the Milwaukee area had been my parents’ home for decades, we kept going back there.  My mother and I made the 80 mile train trip to downtown Milwaukee frequently—staying at the Schroeder Hotel, shopping at the Boston Store and Gimbels, and taking in a matinee film nearly every day of our city adventure. 

The sidewalks of Milwaukee were a sea of sailors from Great Lakes Naval Base.  I recall the spiffy white uniforms with flowing bell bottom trousers, and the cheerful courtesy of young military men in an era when manners and consideration were the norm.

Trains!  I felt like I was entering Heaven’s gate when I stepped into one.  Back then trains belched out black steam, and deposited soot and grime as they rumbled along.  But never mind!  The ride was worth it all!

Perhaps some folks get a thrill when they hear planes overhead.  I enjoyed air travel for 5 decades, but now I find airports to be exhausting and hectic.  Obviously the security is necessary, but the pleasure of soaring above the clouds has been dampened for me—especially since we no longer get a meal on our flights.  I guess I’m a down-to-earth person in essence!

The Amtrak is expensive unless one rides in a coach, so Joe and I undoubtedly will continue to fly when we travel any distance.  Sitting up all night in a train coach was fun in the early 1950s, when I rumbled west to my college in Colorado.  But at this point of maturity, I need a bed for sleeping.

Meanwhile, every day I experience nostalgia trips with the shrieking, rumbling, and clacking through our walls—just 280 yards from our door!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

NOTE:  The above copyright free illustration is courtesy of http://karenswhimseys.com/

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