Someone once said that the mind is quicker than the eye. That’s true!
One day recently, I was driving north on Main Street and saw a man wearing bib overalls that reminded me of someone I had known when I was a child. I didn’t really know him, but like everyone else in Winchester in those days, I knew him for what he did. He was an important part of Winchester. His name was Mr. Fitzpatrick.
He was the crossing guard at the C&O Railroad track on North Main Street. He wasn’t the only railroad crossing guard, but he is the one that stands out in my memory, because I knew that he had a very important job.
Before the days of flashing lights and automatic crossing gates, Mr. Fitzpatrick and several others like him spent long hours in small shacks, very much like some of the little shelters children used in the not too distant past while waiting on the school bus.
Then when it was time for one of the many trains to pass through Winchester, he would light the lantern and make his way to the middle of the tracks, where he would stand, swinging the lantern back and forth to warn motorists of the approaching train.
The guard shacks, one for each railroad, were occupied winter and summer, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The men were friendly, helpful and necessary.
As the trains came to a halt in Winchester, the windows allowed many children a peek into the magic world of the railroad. Passengers would wave from their seats, as the interior coach cars were well-lighted. So were the dining cars with their white linen-covered tables and waiters in their white jackets with the small white towel hung over their arms.
Many meals were served while the trains were stopped in Winchester, waiting for the “all aboard.” The conductor would wave his signal, his arms by day, a lantern by night, to indicate that all were aboard that were going aboard and the train would begin its slow departure, gathering speed until the caboose moved at a rapid pace, on its way to another small Kentucky town and beyond.
One day progress passed through Winchester and the shacks were gone along with their occupants. And soon the trains ceased stopping here. Once in a while a freight train will move through, but the magic days of the passenger trains are now a part of history.
Another important person in downtown Winchester’s history was our street sweeper, a Mr. Bailey. Many of you will remember the man who pushed his cart through the downtown area, sweeping the litter from the streets. He started early, long before most people started to stir.
Of course in those days people were more conscious of their trash, and we didn’t have as much littering or as many vehicles. But even with the cooperation of the public, he had an important job. At no time did you find litter or unnecessary dirt on downtown streets.
He never hurried, he moved at his own pace, but the streets were always clean.
And he always had a smile and kind word for all passersby. He knew most people by name, and the children were recognized as “little lady” or “little man.” He was uneducated, but he was willing to work, and work he did for many years. While he was on the job, literally sweeping the street as women do their homes, he was happy, he was needed and he was proud
Occupations from Winchester’s past, long remembered, much appreciated and very much missed.
(NOTICE: The yard sale has been postponed until the first week of October. Hope it’s a lot cooler then. The Babbler)