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Cross Country Train

Updated on November 11, 2012
Holding two of the swizzle sticks 42 years later.
Holding two of the swizzle sticks 42 years later.

The Indian Chief Head Swizzle Sticks

I was going through some old photographs and keepsakes at my mother's house this weekend and come across some Indian chief head drink swizzle sticks. I looked at those sticks and blurry memories from decades past began filling my mind.

I was 3 years old when my immigrant family decided that we did not like New York and would move on to California. My father drove my mother, brother, my dog and me to Chicago where he would continue the drive with our dog, and my mother would ride the train with my brother and me.

There was so much chaos in our lives at that time that even though I was so young I have some very vivid memories of the trips and moves we made. I recall the train and how exciting it was. I also remember my mother being very stressed with having two children, a 3 and a 4 year old with her. She was continually saying, "act grown up", and "you can not act the way you do at home in here." Her stress of leaving Europe and life in New York not working out had her on edge, and I really think that at this time she just wanted to go back home.

While we were getting ready for bed my mother put tremendous stress on me when she told me not to pee the bed. She said "you can't do that here". My brother was over doing things like that most of the time, but I was the problem. I worried about it all day, and now I was scared. I thought I would be in big trouble if I wet the bed, and I just could not control it. The next morning I was in trouble. My mother was scolding me and saying, "I don't know what to do, you are not supposed to do this, I am going to have to tell the porter." I was in tears, my mother was upset, and ready to tell this" Porter", and then they were both going to punish me. This was serious stress for a 3 year old.

When the Porter came by, I wanted to disappear. He was a black man in a very official-looking uniform. My mother held me by the hand as she told the porter what I had done. The porter looked at me and said in the warmest tone, "well, that's okay, I will take care of that," I will never forget the kindness of that man. Many adults talk as though children are not even there, or as tough they are not really grasping and intonations. This man did all he could to put my mother at ease and take the stress off of me. He later stopped by and gave my brother and me both some Santa Fe Indian Chief head swizzle sticks. We absolutely loved them!

To children who are traveling without toys, those swizzle sticks meant the world to us. After seeing how much we loved them, the porter asked us which colors we liked best. Red and Blue! we shouted enthusiastically. The Porter said he would be back with red and blue as soon as he could. As the trip dragged on and playing on the train was getting old, our Porter came to us and threw down about 20 swizzle sticks in every color available. To us this was like winning the lottery. We were absolutely thrilled, and remember the Porter smiling at my mother.

When we were settled in California those swizzle sticks were like trophies to my brother and me, and through four moves, two apartments and finally buying two nice homes, those colorful sticks remained with us. And now here I am at my mother's new home, and those swizzles sticks are still here. Somehow there are not as many, but I sure am glad that we still have a few left.

Sometimes the little kindnesses that we do in our lives touch others in ways that are substantial. Its too bad that I could not tell that kind Porter just how much his thoughtfulness meant to us. But its something I think about today when I have the opportunity to go out of my way for others. Perhaps when I am doing something kind for someone it will be a sweet memory for them the way that Porter's friendship was to me.

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  • Skarlet at HubPages
    I write many Hebpages on various subjects including classic Hollywood and vintage everything. I also hubs on business, investing and various ways of generating income. I have also published books, and numerous articles online. Links to many of my pages can be found at the above address. Sincerely, Skarlet

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    • Skarlet profile image
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      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Patriette. I have been on many trains since that time, and it always makes me feel good. That kind hearted Porter had such an impact on the whole atmosphere of train travel.

    • Patriette profile image

      Patriette 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      A lovely story, Skarlet! Nice pictures you've included, too. I absolutely believe in paying acts of kindness forward. You and your mother have been left with a sweet and indelible memory for life, reminding you to keep the kindness going. Voting UP and sharing...

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      I am sorry about your father feenix, that must have been very hard on your family. But what nice friends your father had. I guess those old school Pullman Porters were pretty special people.

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 5 years ago

      Hello, Skarlet,

      Yes, those old school Pullman porters loved to laugh, and loved having a good time.

      Also, my father died suddenly from a heart attack in 1954, leaving my mother a widow with three young children. And during the years following the death of my father, a number of his Pullman porter buddies stepped in and helped my family financially and served as "fathers" to my two siblings and me.

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      It was a very long time ago, but not quite long enough. I am sure your father touched a lot of lives that he was unaware of too.

      I just spoke to my mother about that porter and she remembers him well. He was an "older man who laughed a lot."

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 5 years ago

      Hello, Skarlet,

      I don't know where my head was. Your very nice photo tells it all. There's no way you could have taken a ride on the Santa Fe when my dad was working on the line (he died in 1954).

      But in 1970, my mother and I were still in touch with a lot of my father's old "riding buddies," and most of them were still working on that Chi-to-L.A. run. So chances are, the porter you met was someone I knew.

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Hehe. It was about 1970. That would have been something. This is one of those mysterious, blurry memories I had. After I found these swizzle sticks, I started searching, and they are going for $22 each now. I will never part with mine.

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 5 years ago

      Hello, Skarlet,

      What a wonderful story this is. I am very grateful to you for writing it.

      Now, if your mom, brother and you traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles at some point within the period of 1940 to 1954, that porter just might have been my father -- or, at the very least, he was one of my father's co-workers and a man whom I knew.

      And in my home, we had a large number of those swizzle sticks, as well as a whole lot of other "real cool Santa Fe stuff."

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Thank you WesternHistory. Yes, I forgot about Harvey and the girls

    • WesternHistory profile image

      WesternHistory 5 years ago from California

      Terrific hub on a very interesting topic. The Santa Fe and Fred Harvey did so much for early travel in the southwest. The Super Chief was probably the most historic of all trains.

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Thank you for the comment dahoglund. There is something exciting about riding on a train I don't know if we feel that way just because of what we have seen in the movies, but its definitely got more of a romantic attachment than flying.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I remember having taken train trips or maybe just one about that age. I don't remember much about it. trains could still be my favorite mode of travel. It is nice that you have something to remember it by.

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Thank you very much teaches12345. I think he was angel

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      This just proves the old saying that a little kindness goes a long way. The Porter was an angel sent to help and to bring some kindness to your family. What a great story with a valuble lesson. Voted up.