Journey’s End 1964 (Part One)
by John Delach
A guest blog by Bill Christman
Summer trips to Journey’s End stopped once our Dad took ill. He passed on Christmas Eve, 1957. RIP, Dad.
Life continued and we carried on. My sister, Helen, married Don Markey and once their first baby, Anne Marie, came into the world, Helen revived the Journey’s End experience. In 1964. Helen and Don thrilled Mom by inviting her to join them there.
I was working for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in Manhattan, having started there in early July following my graduation from St. Francis College. Helen surprised me with a call from New Hampshire inviting me to join them for the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
That call became my proverbial “one small step” that began my not-so-giant leap.
Mom had driven the 200 or so miles in our 1959 Ford and I had no car of my own. I had gone with my parents to Journey’s End as a kid several times. I loved the place and I wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity some ten years later. Besides I was 21 and full of myself even though I was hardly worldly or sophisticated. How to get there and return home? I decided to take the train from NYC and fly home.
This was my first opportunity to ride on a real train, not the NYC subway.
I bought a ticket for the train leaving on Friday after work meaning a late arrival in Brattleboro, VT. I vaguely remember asking a ticket agent at Grand Central Terminal for a ticket to Brattleboro being told I would have to change trains. That was upsetting, I was a rookie, what if I missed my connection or fell asleep and didn’t get off? This is not the subway where you just double back or wait it out. I had no choice but to stay awake.
How did I let my sister know what train I would be on? None of the cabins had phones and forget about cell phones-this was 1964. I must have called the Rilling’s main house and left a message for Helen.
I asked the conductor to let me know when we reached my transfer station. (Let’s say it was New Haven although I’m not sure of that.) As we rode onward through Connecticut I became more concerned. In the oncoming darkness many stations either had no identification or I could not identify them before the train moved on. The loudspeaker, what there was of it, sounded garbled or only on in the other cars.
The conductor, true to his word, told me this was my station when we reached New Haven and I’m sure I pushed everyone out of the way, so I could detrain before they closed the doors and pulled out. It didn’t seem long before my next train arrived; I remember asking the conductor if this train stopped at Brattleboro and he assured me it did. Ahh, things were moving in the right direction. But not for long.
The train was scheduled to in Brattleboro around 11:30 pm. That was not going to happen. I joke that we spent too much time standing at various stations, probably waiting for mail to arrive or delivering milk. It became obvious that sticking to a timetable was not a priority.
Little did I understand when making my reservations that the North-Eastern railroads were going to hell in a hand basket and the last thing on their agenda was passenger service. They were bleeding money because of antiquated union contracts and ICC restrictions on pricing and loss of passengers. By 1964, hardly anybody took long distance trains in the North East. The interstates opened up New England for easy access by cars and buses and people flew for longer distances. Had I taken a bus, I would have easily made it to Brattleboro by 11:30.
Springfield, Mass was the worst; a long delay with no explanation. Vendors came through the cars with the most unappetizing sandwiches, which most passengers passed up, me included. When a newspaper vendor came through with the next day’s edition, I began to get concerned about whether I would ever get there.
I probably dozed off several times as we made our way north along the Connecticut River valley stopping at towns like Amherst, Northampton, Deerfield and Greenfield before finally entering Vermont.
We finally pulled into the Brattleboro station at 2:30 am. In my mind’s eye I still see a chipper looking Don Markey greeting me, appearing as though sleep was no problem for him. The five miles or so trip from the station to Journey’s End is only a blur but I do hope I had the good sense to apologize to everyone the next morning for my tardiness and interrupting their sleep.