AN ANGEL IN THE CLOSET

Sk. In Closet copy© 2018 Bill Murphy

We often hear of skeletons in the closet, of deep dark sins and secrets hidden away, musty and dusty and, we hope, dormant and forgotten.  But what of angels in the closet?

My family has one of each – and both are from the same closet!

I come from two large families, with a total of 13 uncles and aunts plus all their wives and husbands. This large collection of unique individuals has gifted me with a wealth of stories and life experiences.  One of my favorite story-treasures involves my mother’s older sister, Lillie Fairchild Padget, and her husband Fred Padget.

Uncle Fred and Aunt Lillie (who everyone in the family called Sister) lived in Bogalusa, Louisiana.  Uncle Fred died of a sudden heart attack in 1947, and Sister moved next door to us on Evergreen Street.  Now Uncle Fred had an evil skeleton in his closet, which Sister packed up and brought to Jackson when she moved from Bogalusa.  She kept it not in a closet, but in a large trunk.

Not long after settling into her new home in Mississippi, she joined Griffith Memorial Baptist Church on Silas Brown Street, near our home.  And she began to sew.  She made for herself a beautiful, white Easter dress.

She was oh so proud of that dress.  It was of the finest silk, and rivaled the elegance of any wedding dress!  That top quality garment hardy cost her pennies to make!  The smooth, lily white material she already had.  It was brought from Bogalusa in the trunk.

You see, Uncle Fred had been an officer in the Bogalusa chapter of the KKK.  Sister made that beautiful dress, a dress to wear to church to worship and honor her Lord and Savior on the day set aside to celebrate that marvelous day He arose from the dead!

Sacrilegious? NO!

Read your Bible.  Over and over again we read where God used the weak to defeat the strong, the fearful to instruct us in bravery, and the ugly as a radiant example of beauty. This former skeleton in a closet, a dark symbol of sin and shame, my dear Aunt Lillie transformed into an angelic statement of love and devotion to our Lord and Savior.  I know that He looked down on that silk’s new form, and smiled.

 

 

~~~~

Advertisements

My Grandfather Lied!

© 2017 Bill Murphy

800-eg

My grandfather lied to me. It was the sweetest thing he ever could have done.

The time was in the mid 1940s. My mother’s older sister lived in Bogalusa, Louisiana. We visited her often. That trip, my grandparents were with us.

Bogalusa was and is a paper mill and railroad town. My uncle worked for the railroad there. And, my grandfather was retired from the Canton & Carthage RR. He’d been an engineer. So, I’d learned to love trains and railroading. Grandpa Fairchild walked for exercise. His favorite walking path was railroad tracks. He often took me with him. (That leads to several other stories!)  The photo of us was taken perhaps a year of this Bogalusa trip.

That day in Bogalusa, as we neared the rail yards, I told him that I wanted to push a boxcar! Instead of scoffing at this insane childish idea, he lead me over to a lone boxcar sitting on a siding.

boxcar-1

He instructed me as how to place my hands on that rusty, grimy, knuckle coupler on the boxcar’s end, place my feet firmly against the wooden cross-tie, lean forward ,and push with all my might. I pushed.

Of course, nothing happened.

Then he stepped off to the side, like a football coach on the sidelines. “PUSH,” he encouraged. “You can do it, PUSH.” I pushed.

A big grin spread across his face, as he patted me on the back. He told me that the boxcar actually moved – not far – only slightly – but that it moved!

Years later I came to realize the foolishness of my great boxcar push. There’s not a man alive who can singlehandedly push a boxcar. But was I upset by my grandfather’s ‘lie?’ Not on your life!

Grandpa Fairchild’s little white lie taught me that when I set my mind to something, it is possible. And discovering the truth about the boxcar didn’t burst that bubble! No sir! His ‘lie’ continues to give me impossible strength. Today, I want to be a writer. And in spirit, Grandpa Fairchild is still standing beside me, telling me to PUSH, telling me to try. This time he’s not fibbing – because you’re reading this – aren’t you!

 

~~

The ‘Infamous’ GM&O Rebel

b-gmn-rebel-jackson

When I was a small child, my mother’s older sister – known to the family simply as ‘Sister’ – lived in Bogalusa, Louisiana. Mom and I often visited her, riding the GM&O streamline passenger train THE REBEL. The Jackson, MS train station, now preserved as an historical site, was located just off Jefferson Street up the hill from the State Fair Grounds. The photo above is an earlier photo of the Rebel, when the GM&O was the GM&N. Notice the Old Capitol cupola behind the station. This was during the war years (WWII), so the train was always filled with soldiers, who according to Mom, ‘adopted’ me for the trip.

The Rebel was a unique train according to railroading history, a first of it’s kind. Up until the Rebel, built in 1935, all passenger trains in the US were ‘articulated.’ This means that each rail car SHARED a set of wheels between the cars. Individual passenger cars could not be uncoupled – none added or removed without serious work. The Rebel’s cars were built as are all passenger cars today, with wheel trucks on both ends.

b-interior

The Rebel also sported another ‘first’ for railroading – 5 airline-style HOSTESSES to cater to the needs of the passengers!

The Rebel was never know for its speed. The route from Jackson, TN to New Orleans, LA took 14 hours. Yes, this calculates to just under 35 miles per hour – but one must take into consideration the 55 STOPS it made along the way.

Speaking of stops – I remember one trip when we were traveling through typical rural southern countryside. The Rebel slowed down even slower. Looking out the window I saw an old woman waving something in her hand, as she trotted toward the tracks. The Rebel STOPPED and picked up her MAIL!

Being a railroad-minded child, I had my electric train. As a child’s toy, it simple went round and round an oval track. As a 3 and 4 year old, it greatly confused me that the Rebel LEFT the station heading RIGHT (south to Bogalusa) and RETURNED us to the station in Jackson heading LEFT. How did it turn around?

My mother loved to tell the (true) story of one return trip. I must have been no more than 3 at the time. She said that I refused to leave the station – until she led me up to the front of the train, where I could KISS the Rebel good-bye! Such has always been my fondness for trains!

The next time you’re in a bookstore, look for a book on American Railroading. You’ll find the Burlington’s Zephyr, Boston & Maine’s Flying Yankee, Illinois Central’s Green Diamond, and Milwaukee Road’s Hiawatha. Chances are you won’t find the Rebel – or if you do – only a scant mention. That unfairness always puzzled me. A few years ago, the sad reason for this slight came to light.

b-car-drawing

Unlike all the other glorious passenger trains of it’s day – the Rebel was designed and built for racial SEGREGATION! A schematic of a typical Rebel car, seen below, clearly reveals this. The smaller black section to the left has it’s own men’s and women’s restrooms – as does the larger white section to the right. (Schematic redrawn from an illustration in the GM&OHS NEWS).

Little 3 year old white boys in the early 1940s had no comprehension of this disparity. Therefore my memories of the Rebel are all beautifully positive – of happy times riding the rails – traveling to Bogalusa (a paper mill town) to visit my cherished aunt. And because of these trips, I still have a fondness for the sweet smell (to me) of a good ole paper mill. Ah, those were the days my friend!

 


This post is in response to the Daily Post Challenge.

~~