Railroad Stories: First Real Job Was Working For Railroad

Seventeen-year-old boy's first real job lasted 10 years.

| Good Old Days

In 1945, I was a senior in high school in Herington, Kan., a division point on the Rock Island Railroad. During the war years, things were tight and busy, and help was hard to find. Ordinarily, men had to be at least 18 years old to work on the railroad, but the Rock Island Railroad got permission to hire 17-year-olds, which is how I got my first real job.

The railroad people came to the high school, gave their pitch and received several applications. They were looking for brakemen and firemen. After applying and being hired, we were able to make student trips on evenings and weekends. We also had to learn railroading rules and have physical exams.

Most of us were sons of men who were railroaders, and it was exciting for us to follow in our fathers' footsteps. That was especially true for me, since my father was a newly promoted engineer.

It was thrilling to get to work on the railroad. We had our high-school graduation ceremony the evening of May 17, 1945, and as soon as we got out of our caps and gowns, we went directly to the principal's office to use the phone. We called in and signed up to go to work for the Rock Island Railroad.

My first trip was May 18, 1945. I was called for a Wichita turn, which consisted of doing local work from Herington to Wichita, where we turned the engine around and brought freight back to Herington. What a wonderful experience for a 17-year-old, and I got paid for it, too.

I worked for the Rock Island Railroad for 10 years, and enjoyed every minute of it. I enjoyed each and every experience there. After leaving the railroad, I went back to school and became a pharmacist. Still, I have never really gotten those steel rails out of my blood.

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