Friday, March 26, 2010
My Dad has a real soft spot for railroads. As a youth he would accompany his grandfather "Lug" Watson, a locomotive engineer, on rides on the London and Port Stanley Railway to the docks at Lake Erie. His "Uncle Bill" Watson was also an engineer in the Sarnia and Michigan area.
I remember Uncle Bill very fondly. He and Aunt Betty would often drop by at my parents' home whenever shopping or the horse races or an itch for a drive would bring them to London. Uncle Bill's voice belonged in a much larger man. He was loud because of his living with my widowed and somewhat deaf great-grandmother Elizabeth Watson. It was surprising for me to learn in later years that Bill had once had a real struggle with alcoholism. Petite and smiling Betty and Elizabeth had seen him through the ordeal. (I never once saw my Aunt Betty upset or downcast. She ran variety stores in Sarnia and would often arrive with exotic Yankee candies for Scott and me. Even widowed and taking the bus to visit us, she was all smiles.) Bill and Betty loved our little dachshund "Otto", and the dog always got first loud welcome when they arrived. Simple, resilient, hard-working, thankful people who REALLY enjoyed their years in retirement together.
I will tell a story of Lug Watson. He and an associate were crossing the townships of Elgin County. The railroad line intersected a dirt country road at a very sharp angle with the road somewhat hidden by a hedge. They did not see the little old green-grocer in his dilapidated truck approaching the intersection. CRASH! Cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes, pots and metal parts flying all over the place. The two men in the locomotive only suspected what had happened and they hit the brake. Often they had waived to this merchant in their travels. Was he alive?
Once stopped they left the cab to the sound of pathetic whimpering up front. How surprised they were to find the little Jewish merchant intact, crouched on the "cow-catcher" and hugging the head-lamp! Before long, the three of them were rolling on the ground in laughter and much relieved.
Years later in retirement my Dad visited the Railroad Museum under development in St.Thomas. Their guide told of a project to re-build one of the old L.and P.S. engines. He pointed to a black and white photo on display, and there was "Lug", standing proudly in front of his old charge. Dad now has a copy of that picture hanging in the den.