Monday, July 18, 2011

A Summer of Memories

Last Friday, heavy rains in the Twin Cities area led to a washout at a train trestle in a suburb, and a train wreck was the result. An old friend of mine from Michigan, who is currently a railroad engineer, often copies me in on photos and videos of train wrecks as they occur around the country, and forwarded photographs of the Saturday train wreck to me not knowing that it had happened in Fridley, MN.

Because I knew him when he was living in Minnesota and knew he would appreciate finding out more, I sent him a link to local television coverage, and only then did Don realize a personal connection:

Wow, that was close to home. I grew up at 400 Rice Creek Blvd, Fridley MN from 1965 on. Before that we were a couple miles the other way on Talmadge Way. I did some of my finest "bridge diving" at that location.

When I was about 6 yrs old and my Dad worked for the City of Fridley and was on the volunteer fire dept, they got a call that a train had run down three kids from Talmadge Way on that trestle (involved in Saturday's train wreck) and only one survived by quitting running and hanging from a tie off the side as the train roared by. That was Bill Messer, 4 houses up the street. Kenneth and Dennis (the little blonde boy) Ellis, tried to outrun the train and were killed. They were four houses up and across the street from us. 1958 was a sad summer on Talmadge Way. The Elliss' boys Dad, Burt had survived the Bataan Death March not too many years before that and now this.

When Dad heard it was a little blonde haired boy from Talmadge Way that was killed, he was
frantic, as the whole scene fit my M.O. perfectly. I couldn't figure out why he was so glad to see me when he got home and why he cried so hard when he did.

Now I kinda get it.

Even though my friend Don is not connected in any way to the class of '62, the story is one that sounds like growing up in a small town in Northern Iowa, so it seemed suitable for this blog. Richard Holstad has spoken of one of his favorite movies, "Stand By Me" starring a young Kiefer Sutherland, and it, too, features a race across a bridge to avoid an oncoming train. More than that, it addresses the issue of coming of age, of being a youngster, a teen, a youth finding his way just like we all did in the '50s.

And the last line of Don's email certainly speaks to all we are doing here in this blog: "now we kinda get it."

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