Train Whistles & Granddaddy Alexander

Train Whistles & Granddaddy Alexander

(Like Wikipedia, I welcome people to add names & pics… I will add things as I find them).

 

steamengine_TVA

(Thanks, TVA for the pic.. this is a restored, 1904 engine that ran on Southern Railway!) 

William Oliver Alexander : May 15, 1875 – June 29, 1935. Southern Railroad Locomotive Engineer.

Friday evening September 28, 2018 location = Collegedale, Tennessee, Collegedale Greenway 

I was jogging beside the railroad track headed toward’s Collegdale’s Southern University, and I heard a train coming: Sometimes it’s a CSX train, and sometimes it’s a Norfolk Southern train. Traveling at about 35-40 MPH a Norfolk Southern diesel locomotive comes barreling into the clear. I smiled, kept jogging, and I waved. Of course, trains blow their whistles at the crossings, and the engineer had just passed the College Station Crossing. I had no idea if my waves would illicit a friendly blow, but THEY DID …. “Toot, Toot…. toot ,  toooooot”: I smiled from ear to ear and continued jogging. Granddaddy Alexander whom I never met (he died 31 years before I was born) immediately came to mind…. However….

Join me  the summer of 1988.

My dear friend of  mine, Loraine Morgan Hammontree (February 2, 1913- May 13, 1989) , and I had been cultivating our awesome, Varnell friendship, and she had said, “Uh, Haven, would you like to visit my sister (Ralph Morgan, I’m tracking you down for her name! LOL) in Dalton. She can tell us some stuff about Varnell from our childhood.”  Loraine’s sister was several years older than Loraine and she couldn’t drive, and neither could Loraine who had heart failure. I rearranged some of my busy, summer schedule (I was in town for the weekend from Lipscomb University Summer Semester where I was just about to finish my last year) , and we drove to Dalton. Loraine’s, sister was so hospitable and so sweet, and charming. I fell in love with her lovely demeanor immediately.

 

Loraine: Haven, I was just a kid and I don’t remember, but my sister remembers living in the Alexander’s house in Varnell. (Turning to her sister) Tell Haven about living there and Mr. Alexander.  Mr. Alexander was Haven’s great-grandfather.

Loraine’s sister: (With a huge smile). I didn’t know that! Let me tell you.  You know , Mr. Alexander had a fixed schedule, and we always kind of knew he was coming. He would begin tooting the whistle as he entered Varnell, and we would run down to the track. The train went right in front of the Alexander house, and he was going slow. Depending on what he had, he would toss it out to us kids. Sometimes, it was candy wrapped in sacks and sometimes it was bags of coal we needed for our coal-burning stove. It was like having Santa Claus!

Loraine: (Turning to me with a huge smile.) Yeah, just like Santa Claus, that’s just what I was thinking.

The visit was perfect, and I had spoken with someone who knew Granddaddy Alexander personally. I took Loraine home with a full heart and lots of joy.

Before I finish this Santa Claus tale of  Granddaddy Alexander, I ‘ve got to share one more thing (I could be dead tomorrow, and I want Carter & Ammon to know) LOL ….

Trains (Steam engines in the 1900s – 1930s) were steam engines and so different from the powerful diesels of today. The trains stopped at every “pig trail” in those days. Granddaddy Alexander’s route took him from Atlanta to Chattanooga. When stopping at the “pig trails”, boys from the local area would bring stuff (nuts, berries, live animals such as baby squirrels or baby opossums) to sell to him. He would buy whatever for a few pennies. On up the line, while stopping for water, coal, or passengers, he would let the animals go free. He sometimes would even take a baby squirrel or a baby opossum back to his house in Atlanta for Nanny, Madeline, and Florence to play with!  In a few weeks he would put them back in his pocket, take them to Inman Yard where his engine was then carry them back up towards Chattanooga where he would set them free.

Back to September 28, 2018-

As I turned around to face my jogging destination, I was overcome with emotion, and tears came unexpectedly into my eyes as I started sobbing  with happiness about Granddaddy Alexander as I trotted onward.

No one is ever perfect, but William Oliver Alexander was a good, caring human with a wonderful heart.  His girls (Mary Naomi Alexander Caylor, Gloria Madeline Alexander Kirk, and Florence L. Alexander Sheeley) adored him. Nanny always shared how he loved life, loved to joke, and loved nature.

With my memories and the wonderful avenue of the Internet and/or writing journals, I can keep Granddaddy Alexander and his story “alive”.

-Happy Saturday to all- Haven

Happy 100th Birthday, Nanny!(They don’t count time in heaven by years… eternity ya know, but still )

nanny_1982

Happy 100thBirthday , Nanny! (They don’t count time in heaven by years… eternity ya know, but still ) May 15, 1918 – August 10, 1985.

Mary Naomi Alexander Caylor would be 100 years old today. She was born around 3 o’clock in the afternoon (a relative in Varnell, GA may have her birth certificate with the correct time).  Her parents had waited over 8 years for her. Nanny’s older brother had been stillborn in 1910.  She was born in Smyrna, Georgia in Big Ma’s house. Big Ma was a black woman who had turned her lovely Victorian, Turn of the century home into a home for borders.

From approximately 1924 until January 1936, Nanny lived at 1195 Niles Avenue Atlanta, GA.

Nanny_house

Today, My thoughts keep turning not to the grandmother I knew but to teenage Naomi who, without thoughts or cares, could go to downtown Atlanta AFTER DARK. Imagine if you will a 15 year old girl in 1933 going to downtown Atlanta with her best friend, Louise Hollingsworth and 10 year old sister, Madeline to see a movie at the Fox Theater or Lowe’s Grand!

fox

The three girls would walk from their house to Marietta Street (West Marietta Street now) to the Streetcar Stop. In 1933 there was an elementary school at the corner of Marietta Street and Knight Park. They would then take the streetcar to downtown. They would then return the same route after their movies were over. Doesn’t it just boggle the mind that they could do that? But yes, they did.

I hope and pray to write more about Nanny, Granddaddy, and Mamaw Wimpy this summer. I am doing this for Carter and Ammon. I want them and future generations  of Caylor-Browns to know more about how their ancestors lived in the 20thcentury. I know I am being a bit vain, but to my dear relatives who have disfellowshiped from me yet perhaps visit my blog you really should be sitting down with me to compare,  correlate, and confirm some of my memories. As you well know, I am not a fan of “false history”.

 

In the ATL (And Rich’s Department Store)

I along with probably millions of people who have lived in or frequented Atlanta for the past 40 or 50 years all remember Rich’s Department Store. Someone who is my mother’s age remembers it even better. Every time we go shopping in Atlanta, I think of Rich’s. I can’t help it! The family and I were just in Atlanta this past Friday and Saturday morning, and we went shopping at Lenox Square. If for some reason you are not too familiar with Atlanta and the Buckhead area, but like to go to Lenox Square Mall, the Lenox Rich’s was at the Peachtree Street side of the building. Macy’s took at big chunk of it on that end.  I really miss it, and get nostalgic every time we go.

Rich’s was started in 1867 in downtown Atlanta, and by 1906, it was in a large building between Martin Luther King and Whitehall Streets. My Nanny Caylor grew up in Atlanta from 1918 until 1936. She, her mother, and two sisters use to go shopping at Rich’s. When my Nanny was a child, Rich’s had a “pulley system” that ran above the customers heads with containers.  Evidently, the customers placed a ticket that coincided with the merchandise with their money, and then they sent the container to a cashier. The cashier then sent the receipt and the change back to the customer.( Now, if any of you can explain better, please do. It’s been about 30 years since my Nanny last told me the story).

My Nanny’s mother (Sarah Maro Cox Aleander… Sadie Alexander) was also a genius at sewing.  My Nanny rarely had store-bought clothes, but she had excellent home-made clothing. If my Nanny Caylor saw a dress she really liked at Rich’s, my Nanny Alexander would say, “Okay, let me study it for a few minutes.” She would then analyze it, store it in her memory then make my grandmother a dress like it. Cool, huh?

I only got to go the main Rich’s building one time around 1986, and I really enjoyed it. It closed not too long after that. Not just for nostalgia sake, I always enjoyed shopping at the Rich’s department stores that were in the Atlanta malls until the early 2000s. They had great, quality, men’s clothing (especially their ties), and always had good sales. Oh, me, thanks for the shopping memories, Rich’s!