As a young person growing up in the country, my father’s work permitted him to always be home every night and all holidays. I attended school in town, and crossed the railroad track each day as I walked to my classes. In those days, railroad workers were “looked down upon” by some as being an inferior class of people because of their menial labor, their traveling to and from working areas, and the type of clothing they wore – mostly overalls, which were usually dirty from coal dust and soot, an engineer’s cap and a bandana tied around his neck. However, I wondered why this feeling of inferiority, as the men always wore big smiles and blew the train’s whistle – to me, they were very friendly, polite people.
A few years later, as I had grown to adulthood, what did I do but marry a railroad man! I learned first hand what being a railroad spouse really meant – after having grown up in a close family atmosphere where all members were home nights and holidays, it was a big adjustment for me, being home alone most of the time, both day and night, and always spending holidays without my railroader – it seemed he was always called out at those special times when being with family was very important.
The advantage was that I became a very independent person, and as our two girls grew up, I found myself the sole disciplinarian and decision-maker for the family most of the time. Many times, when the girls had school functions involving parents, I played the dual role of father and mother.
Being very family oriented, we planned our own Christmas holidays around our railroader’s schedule so that we could have time together; celebrations with other members of our family were then carried out in traditional ways. We were a close, loving family and strived to maintain that meaningful level of closeness by adjusting our time however necessary to benefit all family members.
Many facets of a railroad family’s life require adjustments, patience and a caring attitude in order to maintain a harmonious atmosphere for all concerned – especially during the holiday season. It is true that the life of a railroad family is like no other – but with sincere effort, it can be a very rewarding, happy life!