Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Depot

One of the favorite memories of my youth, living in Heavener, was the time when I was delivering the Tulsa World newspaper in town (the West side). I inherited the job from John Owen, who was a couple of grades ahead of me in school. I think I was in the 9th grade at the time.

Okay, to be truthful, I didn't really enjoy delivering papers, but there were some benefits.
Since the Tulsa World was a morning newspaper, I had to deliver it before school each morning of the work week and before Church on Sunday. I learned right away that there was no way I could cover the whole West side on my bicycle and still make it to school on time.

Since I was going to turn 14 in January, my Dad allowed me to get a motorbike (one of the benefits I mentioned earlier). We bought it down at the Western Auto, from Mr. Council. The motorbike was a "Simplex"...belt drive, automatic transmission, but for a 14-year-old, it was quite a thrill to ride compared to a bicycle. Dad constructed a heavy-duty rack to fit over the back fender for me to hang my paper bag on.

The Tulsa World newspapers made their way to Heavener, each morning, aboard the Kansas City Southern. As I recall, the train was scheduled to pull into Heavener's station around 5:30 a.m., and since it was winter when I took over the job, it was dark at that time of morning. I tried to arrive at the depot before the train got there, so I was usually in a position to pull the paper bales from the train as it pulled to a stop. The guy in the mail car would always have them sitting next to the open door as the train came to a stop.

Back then, ....1958 or '59..., Heavener's train depot was a large two story building. It had a nice cozy waiting room where passengers, and those waiting to pick up passengers, could sit in one of several benches that filled the room. There was a window where tickets could be purchased and the ever-present 'status board' showing the expected arrival and departure times of the trains. Times were 'chalked' on the board because the times fluctuated day-to-day.

Since there weren't normally many passengers waiting for the train at that time of the morning, I usually had the place to myself. It made a nice warm (and dry, if it was raining outside) place where I could 'roll' my papers. About the only place I ventured other than the waiting room was the telegraph office that was located upstairs at the opposite end of the building. The operator would usually buy a paper from me if I would make the trip upstairs and offer him one.

The depot was exciting for a 14-year-old (at least this one). While the rest of Heavener was still asleep, for the most part, the depot and surrounding ramp was usually bustling. As the train's arrival neared, workers would start moving the large-wheeled carts into position to accept luggage and/or mail and freight deliveries. Okay, maybe it was just one guy, but he was 'bustling'.

When the train arrived, I would notice the faces peering thought the windows and I'd wonder where these people were going and where they came from. I don't believe I ever had the nerve to do it, but my old friend Ira Dale Franklin, when he was there (he had a paper route also), would sometimes take an armful of papers and get on the train and walk the aisles, selling most of them. I always had this fear that the train would take off before I could get off, so I wasn't as venturesome.

In warm weather, I would usually roll by papers on the outside of the waiting room. This allowed me to better monitor the activity going on around me on the ramp. It wasn't unusual to hear baby chickens 'chirping' as they were moved from the train to join the other boxes, mail bags, and who knows what else that was unloaded with them.

The Heavener train depot was one in a long list of things that I hated to see go away when it was torn down. I don't remember exactly what year that was, but it was no longer needed once passenger service ceased out of Heavener. It's removal was one of those "signs of the time" that one witnesses as years go by.


At April 27, 2008 at 5:26 PM , Blogger Craig Hall said...

With the price of gas, we might have to bring passenger trains back. My kindergarten class rode in one of the last passenger trains, somewhere around 1969.

At April 29, 2008 at 5:10 PM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

I remember going to the Depot when the steeam engines were still king on the KCS. There was almost alwaya an old 0-4-0 "panting" quietly in front of the depot or shuffling some cars around.
My next door neigbor's father (Owen Davis, father of Jim Davis) worked at the roundhouse where engines were serviced and maintained. When ond of the big Mallets (4-6-6-2) thundered through Petros gap south of town the ground fairly shook.


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