Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bye, Bye, August!

Wednesday.  The last day of  August.  There has been some excitement this month, but in my world this August was about the slowest month I've spent for a long time.  We did have an auto accident, at least Gator Wife did, but no one was hurt and that was a super plus.  It resulted in a new car for her.  We did have a visit from a hurricane which brought a lot of damage to both our region and the East Coast of the U.S.  But generally speaking, for the members of our little world, it was a slow month.

This last day does bring one of my favorite events.  Since it's also the last Wednesday of the month, a little group of fellow retirees will meet for lunch today.  Our group has shrunk over the 16 years we've been doing this each last Wednesday since we retired, but those remaining still seem to have a good time solving the problems facing Americans and the sports world and our former place of employment.  Unfortunately for all those entities, we're the only ones who know the solutions.

All of our retirement group will remember August 31, 1961, but it's amazing how many people were not even around back then.  It was the day that Portland's Union Station became just a memory.  If you are among the people still under 50, you probably have no memories of Union Station.  It was the passenger rail station to the world.  When it was taken down, passenger rail travel from Portland all but ended for several decades.  It was the Downeaster to Boston and it's new little place near Thompson's Point that eventually returned passenger rail.

My memories of Union Station all date to a time before 1955 when I left Portland (on a plane) heading to Florida.  I have some fun memories of Union Station.  It was the place my Dad, my brother, and I took a train to Boston.  We'd attend a Celtics' game in the afternoon and then a Bruins' game in the evening. 

I remember a rodeo featuring the late Western Movie star Gene Autry when I was a very young, impressionable lad.  After seeing one of my movie heroes in person at the show, Dad and I were riding up an elevator in a nearby hotel to our room.  We weren't alone in the elevator.  When I glanced up, standing right beside me was none other than Gene Autry.  He glanced at my awe-struck face staring up at him, smiled, and asked, "Did you enjoy the show, Son?"  All I could muster was a slow, wide open mouth 'yes' nod.  He chuckled as we arrived at our floor and left the elevator.

I'll never forget that event that took place 65 or 66 years ago.

I also remember a time when as a toddler when my Dad and I were approaching the station.  He made me turn my head as we approached the door.  I never knew why, but just before turning, I saw a man standing facing a corner near the door.  I'll never know what he was doing.

As a teenager before we got our first car, my friends and I used to use the train from Union Station to Old Orchard Beach.  My first car in 1953 put a stop to those train trips.  Remember the old Budliners?

Passenger rail service was already in decline, but I had arrived back in Maine in time to see that symbol of a great era come tumbling down.

Nothing on the political front excites me this morning.  But we all must remember that schools are opening all around the area this week and the first of next.  It's time to start keeping a weary eye open for the youngsters heading to school.  Of course that also brings back one more memory:  my generation used to walk to school.


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