More Memories In Between

More Memories In Between

By Roger Heid


Not all my train related memories were good or amusing. This one occurred in January of 1952. There was a family in the neighborhood which seemed to be very well off. They had survived the turmoil of war virtually unscathed. Their two sons were given an elaborate Maerklin setup for Christmas. The younger of the sons invited me over so he could show off the train.

After, we had enjoyed playing for about two hours, the older son, in his late teens, entered the picture. There was a brief moment when he and I were alone in the room. He looked at me with a cold stare and said:

“You know, if your mother would roll in the hay with the Amis more often you would probably have a train even bigger than this one.”

I could not figure out what he meant, but the nasty undertone in his voice told me that this was not good. I left.

Back home, I asked my Mom what rolling in the hay with Amis had to do with model trains.

“Roger, stay away from these people, please.”

The older son wound up in prison. The younger son and I became best friends. His mother always welcomed me. His father avoided me whenever possible. He never spoke a word to me and my Mom. It took me years to figure things out.

*    *    *    *

On one Christmas, I think it was in 1948, Santa brought me a wind-up model railroad. This was a total surprise to me. From what I had gathered, so far, all the railroads other kids or their parents owned had been acquired prior to the war’s end. Somehow Santa had found one for me.


It wasn’t much of a setup, just a circle of tracks, a wind up locomotive and two cars, but I was totally beside myself. Now I had tracks and cars. The locomotive I already had was too big to fit on the tracks, but that did not bother me at all. My railroad system now had expanded, doubled, if you will.

I had become familiar with the process of switching trains like going from one train into another in order to continue a journey. I was able to hook the new cars to my old locomotive. The second train now existed. The fact that the cars were too small for my old locomotive, or the other way around, did not bother me either. In a situation like this you got to make do with you had to get the job done. It was as simple as that.

After about two hours of intense railroad operation, I finally remembered to hug and kiss my Mom and thank her. I knew she had something to with this. She must have written the letter to Santa. I sure didn’t. I couldn’t write yet.

The pleasure of owning the second train was very short lived. A few days after New Year, a house fire scrapped it out. Fortunately, I had put my old locomotive in her designated place in a different room, after I was done playing.

Those were not exactly my happiest days. My railroad had suffered a major setback. Never mind the tears.

*    *    *    *

Soon thereafter, my Mom, a war widow, started to date my future Step Dad. My MP friend Aaron had invited us for a lunch in the Base Snack Bar. That’s where they met. I guess they got along all right, because they got married, a few months later. We moved; now I could take my nice toys I got from him outside to play with and show off. Showing them off did not get the results I had expected. Those kids I played with were all Americans. They had the same toys.

That was all right by me. Now I did not have to worry about a toy of mine being stolen by some malicious neighborhood kid. That had happened once when I made the mistake to take one of the toys outside my future Step Dad had given me, before they got married. I had ignored my Mom’s warning.

On Christmas Morning of 1950, I found a Lionel Train Set under the tree. Oh, Happy Days, again. Now I was a full- fledged railroad operator. My business had finally reached a respectable volume. After I had squeezed my parents nearly to death, it was time to get serious. The train had to be on time.

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It wasn’t long after Christmas, maybe a week later, I came across John, a classmate of mine. He just stood there, crying his heart out. He started to shake, running out of breath; I had to hold on to him to keep him from falling on the ground.

He told me that he had gotten a nice Lionel Railroad set from Santa, but some men came and took the train away and that his dad was also gone. The men took him, too. Then his mother came and took him inside.

That night, I told my Dad what had happened earlier in the day.

“Well, Roger, this is not a good thing. You see, his father and a couple of other guys broke into the PX warehouse and stole a whole bunch of stuff. John and his mom will have to move to the Fort Leavenworth Housing Area in Kansas. That’s not exactly paradise. But don’t tell John.”

The first day back in school, the nurse hauled John back home. He would just sit there, staring at a fixed spot on the bench in front of him, totally irresponsive. Right after school, I went to John’s house to see how he was. I was going to invite him to my house so he could play with my train.

About an hour later, he rang the door bell and I let him in. I started up the train, but John just sat there, staring at some spot on the tracks. He refused hot chocolate and cookies. My mom took him back home.

I could not sleep much that night. This whole affair bothered to no end. I felt tremendously sorry for John. He was usually so cheerful, always laughing, always ready for some fun. I figured that even if I did not have my new Lionel Train, I would still be a lot better off than John, and I still had my trusty old locomotive. I had to do something.

As expected, John was not at school, the next day. I was hoping that he had not been hauled off by an ambulance. On my way home, I stopped at John’s house to see how he was doing. His mom told me he was upstairs sleeping. I could tell she was not the happiest camper either.

“Ma’am, I got to home now. May I come back in a little while? I have something for John.”

“Sure, Roger. We are not going anywhere. See you in a while.”

Back home, my Dad was not home yet, Mom was fussing around in the kitchen, I went to my room and packed up the train, totally disregarding any potential repercussions from my parents. As I was leaving again, my Mom was still busy in the kitchen.

“Mom, I’m leaving again. I’ll be at John’s house!”

I was gone before she could get a word in.

Back at John’s house, I immediately proceeded to assemble John’s train. His mom pointed out the place where to put it.

“Oh my, Roger, this is exactly like the train my husband stole, uhh, I mean what John got for Christmas.”

“Oh, good, and don’t worry, I won’t tell him.”

“Uh, he already knows about it. I had to tell him. I think he is more worried about his dad than the train. Are you sure you want to do this? How will your parents react to this?”

“That’s my problem, not yours. I am doing what I feel needs to be done. I still have my dad, you see?”

“I don’t know how to thank you for this, Roger.”

“Go, get John.”

Spare me the description of the ensuing scene.

As soon as John was fully concentrating on the train, I headed for home. I had to get this ordeal over with. Dad’s car was parked in the driveway. I braced myself and entered the house, ready to confront anything that may come my way. They were both in the living room. Apparently, they had eaten supper without me. My step father’s wrath was pending.

“Where have you been?” he inquired.

“I was at John’s house. I brought him my train. He needs it a lot more than I do.”

My Dad briefly looked me in the eye, got up and left the room. My Mom kept clinking away with her knitting needles, apparently not concerned about what was going on. Moments later, he returned, a bottle of Coca Cola in each hand. He handed me one of them.

“Roger, this shows you have courage, compassion and strength. I was going to buy a replacement train for John, but the PX is out of stock right now. I will get you a new one, as soon as I come back from Korea. Now let’s go eat.”

He never came back. I miss my (Step) Dad, to this date.

*    *    Finis    *    *





2 Responses to More Memories In Between

  1. Sally Karlsmark says:

    I read this story. Childhood memories never to forget.
    What a nice person you were to John. To give even
    to others putting someone else first. Sorry your
    Step dad did not return. But the love of trains always
    in your heart and what the true gift of giving really is.
    Something we see little of in this day and age but
    something we all need to start doing.

  2. Reynauld says:

    Great story Roger, nothing better than making people happy with kindness.

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