Archive for May, 2012

Another Train Story
May 31, 2012

A private railroad car is not an acquired taste. One takes to it immediately. ~ Eleanor Robson Belmont

In a recent post, I shared the story of my grandfather and his college social club “key”. As he rode the train from Waco, Texas up to Washington & Lee in the early 1920’s, he encountered a young, black porter who mistook that key for an esteemed Phi Beta Kappa key.

Read what happened then: https://pewperson.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/the-key/

My grandfather’s story brought to mind another train story, this one from the days immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, as told to me by a fellow alumna of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (R-MWC).

As an active volunteer for R-MWC (now Randolph College, an awesome co-ed institution) in Lynchburg, VA, I’ve met some of the most remarkable women I’ve ever known. They were and continue to be dedicated supporters of our college, from every decade from the 1930’s to the present.

After Pearl Harbor was bombed, the students at R-MWC were called to assembly by President Jack. He gathered them together and told them to all go home; the rest of the semester and finals had been cancelled. He knew that all modes of transportation would soon be overwhelmed, and he just wanted his students to get home safely.

My friend Connie needed to get back to Ohio by train. She and a friend booked passage in a sleeping berth; because the train was so crowded, the two of them shared that berth, sleeping head to foot.

Connie had to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. She carefully crawled back into her berth, trying not to awaken her friend.

When morning arrived, Connie was HORRIFIED, MORTIFIED and AGHAST to discover that she had crawled into the wrong berth and had spent the rest of the night with a strange man! She shrieked and fled…

…and was once again embarrassed to see him across the dining car at breakfast! The only thing that would have made this story better is if she ended up marrying him or something, but as it turns out, they were merely “strangers in the night”.

(doo be doo be doo)

The End.

I LOVE that story!

Traveling cross country, whether by train or plane or even bus, used to be a special privilege, somewhat romantic and an occasion for which to dress appropriately. Walking through airports today, I miss that element of elegance. But I do cherish the old stories about how it used to be, and even remember dressing up to travel back in my younger years.

I still try my best to be a good example of what is “appropriate” in this day and age. But so sorry, but there are no hats, gloves or stockings for me. Rather it’s “tasteful casual”, for what it’s worth.

Oh, and let’s not forget the comfortable shoes, in case one needs to dash to a gate (after removing them to be x-rayed)! So much for the romance of traveling… alas, that is truly a civilization gone with the wind.

Late to Bed and Late to Rise!
May 25, 2012

It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom. ~ Aristotle

At Joel’s recent college reunion in Virginia, we totally screwed up our internal time clocks. To bed after midnight and wake up after 9 AM? It was total decadence! But it was also totally abnormal. One morning we stayed up talking with friends until 1:45 AM! We were stunned at how the time had slipped away.

Back in our younger years when we’d go to Racquet Club parties, we knew that we must get there early to eat the shrimp, because the “old folks” arrived at the moment the party started, and if we didn’t get there in a timely fashion, we were out of luck.

I recall having parties that began at 8 pm. and lasted until the wee hours. Apparently now we have turned into the “old folks”, because now we start parties about 6:30 and are yawning at 10:30.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have a daily early doggie wake-up call, but even if I didn’t have that, I’m afraid I just can’t stay up late anymore. Guess I’m finally, irrevocably and “officially” old.

When Shannon and Kat were staying with us over the Christmas break, we really enjoyed having them here. We’d cook dinner, and then off they’d go, to meet friends or go to parties. Seriously, they would go to parties when I was going to bed!

In particular, I vividly remember that on December 23, they were out visiting friends, then they swooped in to eat dinner with us, but had a later party to go to. I kept thinking, surely they needed to go get ready, but no, they lingered. Come to find out, the party host wasn’t even going to be HOME until 10 pm.

Who knows what time they got home! I swear, I never worry about them when they are so far away, because I don’t know what they are doing. But here, just knowing they were out there with the crazy drivers late at night… I had trouble sleeping. Only when I knew they were safely home could I sleep soundly.

Alas, with a Tucker pup to attend to in the morning, there was no sleeping in for me! Puppies are one of the reasons why God created naps…

Fast forward to the present day: after the aforementioned Virginia trip came a Charleston, SC trip which was almost as bad, time clock wise. Slowly, very slowly I am returning to a normal sleeping schedule, i.e. early to bed and early to rise.

And as the old adage promises, I keep aiming to be healthy, wealthy and wise…!!

The Key
May 3, 2012

 Love of learning is the guide of life ~ Motto of the ΦBK Honor Society

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Joel and I began dating as seniors at Lamar High School; I had already been accepted to Rice University, and he was accepted to Washington & Lee University in the spring of 1973, prior to our graduation.

At some point that spring, my beloved grandfather, “Paw Paw” asked me where Joel was planning on going to college. I remember vividly that I replied that he was going to “a small college in Lexington, Virginia called Washington & Lee.”

In a stunning, memorable moment, my grandfather said, “Oh! That’s where I went to college!” Unbeknownst to me, he had been in the class of 1924 at W&L.

He was suddenly an immediate fan of my then boyfriend, and likewise, my boyfriend was reciprocally a big fan of my grandfather. And then the stories came out…

Paw Paw was a member of the prestigious SAE fraternity; he described to me exactly where his fraternity house was, and when I visited Lexington, I took a photo of it to show him what it looked like fifty years after he had left Lexington behind. He had never been back in all those years.

He then shared with me some old photos of his years at W&L and gave me his old fraternity pin and one of his favorite keepsakes from that era, an engraved Kappa Beta Phi  key, which is now one of my fondest possessions.

Paw Paw was from Waco, Texas. Back then, one took the train from Waco to Lexington. He wore this Kappa Beta Phi key proudly, until a particular incident changed his thinking.

You see, the Kappa Beta Phi key was a spoof on the esteemed Phi Beta Kappa key awarded to deserving scholars. ΦBK was originally designated a society “devoted to the pursuit of liberal education and intellectual fellowship. The Greek initials for the society’s motto, ‘Love of learning is the guide of life,’ form the name Phi Beta Kappa.”

On this particular train ride back to school, a black porter noticed Paw Paw’s pin and proudly showed my grandfather his own Phi Beta Kappa key that he had earned from a black college; of course back then, most colleges were segregated by race.

This was obviously an intelligent and well spoken young man who deserved a much better opportunity than what was available to him, but he did what he had to do to earn a living back in those times.

As you must gather by now, my grandfather’s key only looked like a Phi Beta Kappa key from a distance. His was actually a satirical dig on those intelligent young men and women who had earned their keys the hard way… and he felt humbled by this young man.

PawPaw’s key was the opposite of a ΦBK one. The front side is beautifully engraved with his name and  “W & L   ’24 ”   in a gorgeous font. But when you turn it over, the back side reveals the real intent of that key.

Can you read it? The Latin motto translates to “We live to eat and drink” along with an etching of a beer mug and a hand reaching for it. “Dum Vivamus Edimus et Biberimus”

The encounter with the black porter profoundly influenced my grandfather, who was one of the most laid back and loving people I have ever known. At that time, his family was originally in the hotel business, but during the Depression, they lost their properties.

PawPaw ended up being a regional director of Greyhound Bus Lines back in its heyday, and I recall him tucking me in the seat behind the driver for him to watch over me and send me safely back to New Orleans when we went back and forth to visit. Believe me, those drivers took good care of me and my siblings!

I can’t help but think that his encounter on the train influenced his respect for all people. Certainly, he was a role model for me and others by his inclusive attitude…

And now I’m off to W&L for Joel’s 35th reunion next week. I always do think about Paw Paw when I’m in Lexington and pass his fraternity house…

Pewperson will return in 3 weeks!! Gosh, can you wait that long for a new post?