As part of the railroad family, my grandfather would get train passes once or twice a year for my grandmother and me to travel. We usually went to Buffalo, N.Y., Bradford, Pa., or Johnsonburg, Pa., to visit relatives. Each trip was unique and exciting to me.
I remember waiting in the train station in Mt. Jewett, Pa. There were hard benches on one side of the room and the edges hurt my dangling legs. We carried a large, black, cardboard suitcase with a black handle.
The conductor always stepped down, placed a small stepstool on the ground and helped passengers depart the train. Then he would loudly announce, "Booaard! All Aboard!" We stepped up on the stool, and with the conductor's help, boarded the train. We found a seat and settled in for the trip. The plush covering on the seats made my legs itch. Grandma always sat on the "backward" seat so I wouldn't get sick to my stomach.
The gentle rocking motion and the clickity-clack of the wheels almost made me go to sleep. Then the conductor would come down the aisle, calling out, "Tickets? Tickets, please! Let me have your tickets!" As people gave him their tickets, he punched a little hole in each one with a paper punch, then handed them back.
Before we realized it, the conductor came back down the aisle and loudly announced the next stop. He always reminded everyone to be sure to get all their luggage. The small towns had small, rectangular buildings for stations or depots, but the size of the huge, domed one in Buffalo frightened me. Wherever we went, there was always someone to greet us and give us a big, hearty kiss on the cheek.
Once, I was wearing a bright red coat with heart-shaped pockets on the front and a small, off-to-the-side hat. The conductor called me Little Red Riding Hood, which made me laugh. Just as we were passing the engine, the whistle blew and I started crying. The conductor came over, dried my tears with his large, white handkerchief and comforted me. When I finally smiled, he handed me a nickel and said to have a good time and not to forget him. I never did forget his kindness to a scared little girl, and I never forgot riding on the steam engine trains!
Frances Wolf Williams
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.