Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Family Treasures

Granddad Albert, Dad Dave,
 Dave, Amanda, Treyvin
(Amy's son)
Last weekend, we drove to Wichita Falls, Texas to celebrate the 95th birthday of Dave's granddad, Albert.  Albert still lives alone (though he does have help with meals and cleaning), bowls frequently, attends church regularly and loves to be surrounded by his children and grandchildren.  How often do you get five generations in one picture?
Albert worked his entire career for the MKT Railroad, as a telegrapher and Train Master.  MKT stands for Missouri-Kansas-Texas, but the railroad was familiarly known as the K-T, or "The Katy".  Just a few years ago, one of the local schools asked Albert to visit a classroom and demonstrate the telegraph for the students using the telegraph key he still owns.  He repeated his demonstration for us this weekend.  He can recall the dots and dashes of Morse code and send a message faster than I can text it.

He also has a Train Order Hoop stashed in his garage and gave us it's history.   During the pre-radio communication days, the Train Master would write out orders for the passing trains - routes, times, sidings, etc. - tie them securely to a circle of string, attach the string to a Y-shaped stick and hold it up toward the train.  The engineer stuck his arm through the hoop and pulled the string loose.  Albert saw this as a huge technological improvement over the previous method, in which the orders were attached to a solid metal or wood hoop.  The engineer took the entire stick, removed his orders and tossed the stick back out the window.  By the time he did that, the train had moved at least a quarter mile down the track, and Albert had to walk to retrieve it.

Albert is also a World War II veteran of the Marine Corp.  Even though the Katy railroad is now defunct, and WWII is ancient history to today's school children, Granddad's memories are still vivid, so we encourage him to tell the stories of his life.  These stories are family treasures so I thought I would record a few of my favorites:

In 1938, Albert was working for the MKT Railroad as an apprentice telegrapher.  While he was learning, he wasn't being paid, so he picked up various odd jobs.  One job was helping to move a young lady's possessions to a new room two floors up.  As he carried a load of clothes from the closet, he noticed a pretty red dress sized for a petite woman.  He remembers thinking, "Boy, I would like to meet whatever fits in that dress."  A few months later, in April of 1939, he attended a BYPU (Baptist Young People's Union) meeting and a girl wearing that pretty red dress stood to speak.  They were married 3 months later and it lasted 70 years.

During their brief courtship, Albert and Anita took a train trip from Frederick, OK, to Wichita Falls, Texas, so that Albert's parents could get to know her.  Albert's father worked on the train, and stopped by their seats to chat with them occasionally.  During one stop he noticed his son casually place his hand on the young lady's knee as they spoke.  The shocked father called Albert aside and said "I hope you intend to marry that girl!"  Oh, if only the world were still shocked by such  a simple gesture . . . 

Have you ever wondered what to do in case of a tornado?  Forget all the rules about basements, away from windows, etc.  Albert was once caught unaware, with no time to make it to the house, so he laid face-down in the black-eyed-pea patch where he was working, and survived unscathed.  The challenge is to find black-eyed-pea patch when you need one.  

In August of 1945, Albert and his fellow Marines were aboard a ship in a bay off Okinawa. Over a hundred ships were crowded into the harbor, packed so tight they blocked each other from moving.  And they sat . . . and sat . . . and waited for word on their purpose there, but none came.  On August 6, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.  And still they sat.  Albert received word that his second son had been born on that same day.  And they sat.  On August 9, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. And they sat.  On August 15, 1946, Japan surrendered and the waiting Marines finally got their orders - to return home.  They were then allowed to know the reason for their long, boring (according to Albert) stay at Okinawa:  If the bombs had failed to bring about Japan's surrender, the men aboard those ships were to march on, and capture Tokyo.  I haven't been able to find mention of this "back-up plan" in the history books, but I trust Granddad's memory. 


  1. Lovely post, Tami! Enjoyed the stories very much. Albert and the rest of your family truly are treasures.

  2. What a treasure Albert is and how wonderful that he is still in his own home and able to share his memories with you. Not gonna lie, I actually got a little tear when I read about how he married that girl in the red dress after only 3 months and it lasted 70 years.

  3. A wonderful account of an amazing life! Happy Birthday to Grandfather Albert, 95 years young.

  4. I loved reading about y'all's Grandad Albert's experiences in WWII! Fascinating history that needs to be told.
    My heart lurched when you said you were in Wichita Falls. My son is there but he will finally be home for a two week visit in Sept! I am so excited to see him and hear about where he is going with the USAF. :)