Moving By Train, 1920

by Milo Ketchum

In 1919 my father accepted a position at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, and we moved that summer, lock stock and barrel. I do not remember precisely all that we went through, but I can visualize most of the moves that we made.

Packing was done by the moving company directed by my mother, with the supposed assistance of my two sisters and myself, all looking to be sure that we took our most prized possessions. In my case this was my new bicycle. When we were all packed, and all our belongings shipped to the station, we stayed for a night at the Boulderado Hotel to wait for the daily train to Denver. Ordinarily we would have taken the Interurban, but the train ticket had already been purchased and besides, the Interurban did not take us to the Denver Union Station.

We took the Rock Island Railroad to Chicago rather than the Union Pacific. My father had a tenant farm in Kansas, in Norton County, south Jennings, which was on the Rock Island. Also, my mother was born and raised near Newton,

It was always a great experience to travel on a Pullman Car and eat in the Dining Car. Our family had two big comfortable seats to our family so we could each have a window seat to look at the changing landscape. You could play in the isles as long as you were quiet and didn't bother any one, you could play with other children or talk to passengers.

Then there were the meals in the Dining Car. We always asked to go early so we wouldn't need to wait until a place was available. The trip to the car involved going through several cars and staring back at all its occupants as you went by. Crossing between cars was always a thrill with the swaying cars and the opening of the heavy door between. I was usually so absorbed with all the unfamiliar sights and sounds to really pay much attention to my food, but always delighted in the desserts. Occasionally we had to sit with strangers, and there was all the protocol to be learned from your parents on how you open up a conversation with out being "nosy".

There were all those changes in scenery as we passed through the various areas of the country: the bleakness of the planes, the farm land of the middle west, the squalid aspect of cities, the ruggedness of the Appalachians, and the infrequent vista of the ocean if we moved along the coast.

As the evening progressed the porter would ask to make up the section for the night, and we all went back to the Observation Car to wait. Again it was necessary to traipse back through the cars and across the gap between cars. The observation car was always fun because, under proper guidance, we could go out to the rear platform and see the tracks moving behind us and listen to the click of the wheels as they passed over the Joints. After awhile our parents would summon us to return to our car.

I was always assigned to the top berth which involved climbing and crawling into a space only about three feet high. If you had difficulty, then you could summon the porter who came with a stool. Dressing and undressing was always difficult. There was no possible way so see out or to know whether it was day or night except that as the morning went on, the porter would rouse you and ask to make up the section for the next day.

There was no direct connection in Chicago between railroads, no Union Station, so you had to transfer, which was accomplished by the Parmalee Transfer Company whose tickets were included with you fare. I always seemed to be terribly confused with this phase.

From Chicago we took the Pennsylvania Railroad which would bring us directly to Philadelphia, and we arrived at the huge station with an immense shed in the middle of the city. We had reached our destination but we yet had the rest of the adventure to experience: where to live and how to adapt to all the new conditions.

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