To Join or NOT to Join, that IS the Question? by National Secretary, Anita J. Caruso

I hope this time of year finds everyone in good spirits, as it is with many fond and not so fond memories, that I write this article.

I’m going to take you all back in time, to 1976, when I married my husband (Sam), who worked at Crown Center Hotel in Kansas City, MO.  He had been working there for 6 years and I had no reason to believe that this wouldn’t be the place he would work until he retired.  Boy, was I wrong!

One day, he comes home and says, “I hear they are hiring at the railroad, I’m thinking of applying.  Do you mind?”  Well, who am I to tell someone that they can’t try a new profession, so I said, “Sure, as long as you don’t get a job that involves traveling or being gone overnight.”  Many of you are in families that grew up working for the railroad for many generations, but, no one in any of our families or any of our friends had ever worked for a railroad, so we had no idea of what was to come!

In 1980, our first move came when our daughter was 2 months old.  We left Kansas City and moved to Olathe, KS to be closer to his home terminal in Osawatomie, which was about 30 miles farther than I cared to move.  Although Kansas City was only 30 miles from Olathe, my family felt I was “out of town” already.

It was then that I got an invitation to join GIA Helen Gould Division #235 of Osawatomie, KS.  I had no idea that there was such an organization and I was very happy to be able to join.  It was very comforting to know there were other people out there who could relate to what I was learning to accept as “normal” and give me tips on how to run a household without a husband to count on.  They even let me bring my daughter to the meetings because I didn’t have a sitter or know anyone in Olathe.  That was very nice, too!

It was the monthly meetings that I so looked forward to attending, hearing about what was going on at the railroad from everyone‘s husbands perspective, trying to learn the “special lingo” that railroaders use, hearing ways to cope with holiday time when your husband was always working, going to functions by yourself because the railroad again has held your husband hostage and basically feeling like I had another family to lean on when our own families didn’t understand why we couldn’t commit to Sunday dinner in advance.  These are things that people with “normal” jobs never have to endure or understand as it’s a totally different way of life, for sure.

After 7 1/2 years in Olathe, my husband decided that a “better” job awaited him in Omaha, NE.  I thought I was going to die, right on the spot!  He applied and in true railroad form, had to leave immediately upon being contacted, to be in Omaha so he could establish a new seniority date.  That left me in KS with two small children and a husband who traveled back and forth from Omaha to Olathe for 8 months.  When the school year ended and the house sold, we headed north.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would end up living in NE.  I thought the only thing there was the race track, which was the only reason we’d ever visited the State and college football.

We arrived in NE in May of 1988.  From that day on, my husband would “bug me” to start an auxiliary here and I just kept putting it off.  Finally, he wore me down and in early 1995, I started sending letters out to all the wives of BLE members asking if they would like to join a new auxiliary in the Omaha/Council Bluffs, IA area.  We had a wonderful response and were initiated in September of 1995 as River City Auxiliary #12 with 15 Charter Members.

Now, 11 years later, it was one of the best things I have ever done.  I have made so many wonderful friends and have my own “extended family” here to look forward to seeing once a month.  We have shared many ups and downs through the years and I can tell you, having a group of friends with a common interest is a wonderful way to “let go of some stress!”

So, why join an auxiliary or start one, why on earth not?