The Train to Ohio

A story about travel in a different time.

Today you are patted down, X-rayed, and walk down a chute into a seat that you will occupy for the rest of your trip. Train travel was much more social. and fun.

    ​It was June 1944, I was seven years old and I was excited. School was out, and tomorrow I would be going to take the train to Ohio. Each summer my mother and I would travel to Ohio to see her family, and I always looked forward to the train ride we took to get there. Early the next morning my father would take our luggage to work with him in the city. We didn’t have a car so he went by bus and subway from Queens to 14th street in Manhattan. In the afternoon my mom and I would follow, taking the bus and LIRR, meeting my father and our luggage, in Penn Station around five o'clock. We had a hot dog and then waited till our boarding call. I loved being in Penn station. It was so different, the announcements of trains arriving from all over the country. Newsstands that would sell me the “Hobo News”, people in all sorts of dress, including many soldiers and sailors. Around six o’clock they announced our train, The Jeffersonian was ready for boarding. We boardedthe train and said goodbye to my father for the summer. Our coach seats were in the middle of the first passenger car. The seats were caned, and the backs would tilt to a 45-degree angle for sleeping. They were wider than airline coach seats and were spaced apart far enough, that your tilted down seat didn't bother the person behind you. The trip to Dayton would take about fourteen hours in those seats. As we approached our estimated time of departure vendors appeared renting us pillows and selling us sandwiches. We rented the pillows and bought the sandwiches for later.

      After we left the station I would have my Hobo News and comic books to read. The Hobo News was a newspaper that was actually printed by Hobos. It was about 20 pages, full of cartoons and off color jokes. I loved it. As we wound our way through New Jersey toward Pennsylvania and darkness set in, we would eat our sandwiches (cheese on white bread) and then head to the club car.

​      The trip to the club car was a lesson in class. As we headed to the rear of the train we passed through the another coach car, then two Pullman cars, the dining car, two cars with roomettes and finally the club car which was the last car, also called the observation car.

​       In the club car I would have a coke and my mother a highball (rye and soda). Soon my mother would be talking to someone and end up singing. She had a very good voice and it caught on. Next she would be leading a sing along getting others to sing with her or alone. Needless to say the drinks for the rest of the night were sent over by admirers. I was the beneficiary of many cokes, and my mother a few highballs. For an hour or so my mother would light up the club car with song. I was very proud of her as we headed back to our car. When we got there we took our pillows lowered our seat backs and went to sleep.

The morning came and so did breakfast. We didn’t eat dinner in the dining car because it was too expensive, but breakfast in the dining car was necessary as it was the only game in town. Even as a kid I was impressed. The white linen tablecloth, real heavy silverware, cloth napkins. A black waiter fawning over us. My oatmeal came with real cream to pour on it. There was whipped cream on my hot chocolate.This is the finest restaurant I have ever eaten in I thought. And it actually was.

To add to this were the compliments paid to my mother from people who were in the club car last night.

When we reached Dayton my uncle Carl was there to greet us and drive us to Piqua for our summer vacation.

During the vacation my mother would team up with her sister Hazel and her brother Howie to sing in the local bar rooms in town. I come from a family that likes to sing. Me Too.