John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: December, 2019

So This is Christmas

When I was a kid, my Christmas centered around Lionel Electric Trains. My starter set consisted of a modest steam engine and its tender, a Baby Ruth candy bar box car, a Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) gondola, a Shell tank car and a Lionel Lines caboose.

Once I discovered Lionel Catalogues, I became aware of what was available. But money was tight, and I had to temper what I wanted. This would become my big gift. One year I asked for a Santa Fe diesel switcher, another, additional rolling stock. Relatives helped me to add automatic switches, an upgraded transformer and operating cars like Lionel’s cattle car and a log car. At the flick of a switch, cattle would leave their pens and enter the car or exit the car for the pens. Logs would be ejected from a flat car and into a saucer like container.

That is, of course, when they worked properly. Sometimes a cow or two would fall over jamming the path of others causing chaos, or logs would be flung in multiple directions knocking down scenery or blocking the tracks.

One year I asked for a PRR electric engine and my mother traveled to the Abraham & Straus (A&S) Department Store in Downtown Brooklyn to buy my desired motor. I was old enough that she allowed me to open the box when she returned home. To my horror, I realized that this unit was missing one of its two panographs.

I panicked and Mom returned it to the box, put on her coat and repeated her round-trip bus ride to exchange this engine. The trip took about two-hours and I waited for her return ashamed that I caused this to happen. Mom retuned with a new motor that passed inspection. To this day, I feel guilty.

By the time I reached 12-years of age, I had expanded my layout to allow two trains to operate at the same time. At 13, I had moved on and my railroad remained boxed and stored in our cellar bin.

When I was 17, I visited my father who was then stationed at March AFB in Riverside, California. Dad convinced me to ship my collection to him for my half-siblings, Nancy, Mark and Steven who were all quite young, He offered in return, a good pair of 7x 50 binoculars. His offer was an easy sell as I was beginning my life as a football fan and my Lionel Trains didn’t matter anymore.

Time marches on. Nancy, Mark and Steven outgrew electric trains, I married, and Mary Ann and I had our own children. I petitioned my Dad who agreed to return everything to me. Their return allowed me to build bigger and more complex layouts that I created in the basement of the house we rented in Middle Village, Queens. I continued to set up Christmas layouts after we moved to Port Washington in1977 until Beth and Michael also outgrew the magic of electric trains.

For twenty-years my trains remained inert and without power.

Drew Delach, my Number One grandson, entered the world in November of 1999. I told him early on that he was our only grandchild born in the Twentieth Century. When he turned four or five, I unboxed my train set and erected a new layout for that Christmas season. The look on Drew’s face when I powered up the system for the first time was magical. The action, the sound and the smell of these electric trains was as unique and powerful to Drew as it was to all who came before him starting with me.

Over the next four years I added additional items, a new steam engine to replace my original, a Long Island Railroad passenger car set and a set of four old IRT subway cars that I operated on a steel elevated line that ran above the train boards.

Four more grandchildren followed. Marlow and Samantha’s interest waned quickly, but the remaining two boys, Matt and Cace lasted the course. Cace is the youngest, and despite the inroads of electronics, my train set enthralled him longer than I could have expected. In February 2012, I underwent hip surgery. That Christmas season, I had to call on my son-in-law, Tom Briggs, to help me set up my railroad. By then Cace was the last kid interested. Together, we successfully set it up.

Sadly, Cace only came to visit my train set one time.

For Christmas 2013, I set up an abbreviated layout. A fool’s errand, the only times I turned it on was for my own enjoyment. Sadly, I would turn on all the illuminating fixtures on the layout, turn off  the basement lights and watch the lights while I listened to the sound, of the running gear and smelled the electric ozone as the trains circled my layout knowing this was my last stand.

Since then, my train set has remained boxed and stored in protective containers as they await either a future family resurrection or an estate sale.

Elisha Nelson Manning IV

December 15, 2019: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ:

An early pre-winter “Hawk” made its presence known today by howling through the MetLife parking lots reducing tailgate tents into scrap heaps. Undaunted, we the tried and true faithful Giants fans gathered one last time in another season of our discontent. It is practically a foregone conclusion that Pat Shurmur, the team’s head coach will be fired at the end of the season, just two more weeks away. The team was 2 and 12 going into today’s contest; a miserable season for sure.

Eli Manning has been our quarterback of record for 16 seasons, a team captain and the winner of the Walter Payton award as the NFL’s Man of the Year. This award recognized Eli’s dedication to curing juvenile cancer.

He was benched after the second week of the 2019 season in favor of Big Blue’s Number One draft choice, Daniel Jones, out of Duke University.

And so it goes…the inevitable passing of the torch to the new kid on the scene from the old king whose diminished skills left management, the coaches, his teammates and the fans wanting.   

Elisha Manning’s talents may still have been enough to produce a winning season if he had been surrounded by talented players. Unfortunately, the 2019 Giants are a bad football team that loses consistently. They manage to snatch defeat from victory every chance they get while repeating the same mistakes game after game.

Young Mr. Jones began fresh and new winning his first two games only to have reality return with a thud that led to a nine-game losing streak. During that ninth loss, Jones suffered a high-ankle sprain that relegated the young man to ranks of those unable to play.

Eli was temporarily reinstated as the starter for the Monday night contest against the Philadelphia Eagles in the City of Brotherly Love on December 9. Eli started smartly throwing two touchdown passes that generated a halftime lead of 14 to 0.

Unfortunately, every football game has two halves and the Giants did nothing in the second half while the Eagles scored 14 points of their own tying the game at the end of regulation time. The Eagles then proceeded to win the game in overtime: 20-14.

Coach Shurmur knows the season is effectively over and I believe he decided to give Eli one more chance at glory in today’s contest against the Miami Dolphins. After a shaky start that included throwing three interceptions and a Miami lead of 10 to 7 at halftime, Eli shook off the cobwebs and went to work.  He led his glorious eleven offensive teammates to four touchdowns in the second half and a final score of 36 to 20.

One play into the Giants last possession with 1:50 left on the clock, Coach Shurmur pulled Manning from the game showcasing Eli to the media, his teammates and the faithful who gave him a standing ovation while chanting Eli Manning, Eli Manning, Eli Manning…

This Most Valuable Player Super Bowl XLII and XLVI took it all in as he hugged his teammates and coaches. We continued to stand and chant his name after the game ended for as long as he remained on the field. In a way, we were celebrating his last hurrah.

Even though two games remain, one next week in Washington DC and the last game at home in MetLife Stadium once again against the Eagles, I expect that Jones will resume his career while Eli returns to the sideline. I hope so as Eli achieved all that was left to achieve against the Dolphins.  

Eli summed up his feelings:

“I don’t know what the future is. I don’t know what lies next week let alone down the road. The support of the fans and their ovation, chanting my name, from the first snap to the end I appreciate that. I appreciate them always. Special day, special win and one I’ll remember.”

Eli will soon leave the pro football stage, but we will see him in the future, first when his brother, Peyton enters the NFL Hall of Fame and again, when he follows in Peyton’s footsteps.

Thank you, Eli Manning.