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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Coming Home with Adlai

It's August 1952, and my entire family is on the train, heading home from our annual vacation trip to my other grandmother's house in the Adirondacks. I'm almost twelve. My sisters are seven and three. We take the train because there aren't any superhighways yet, and because my father, the official Bloomington doctor for the Nickel Plate Railroad, gets a free pass for one leg of the trip.

It isn't very convenient. We first take the Gulf Mobile and Ohio from Bloomington to Chicago's Union Station. Then we have to get in a taxicab (think five people and tons of luggage, including golf clubs and fishing gear) and switch over to the LaSalle Street Station, where we pick up the Nickel Plate RR (the free part) for the next leg, from Chicago to Buffalo. We wait for several hours in the middle of the night to begin the final leg on the New York Central from Buffalo to Schenectady, where Aunt Lucy will meet us and drive us all to Northville.

We are on the return trip now, all of the above in reverse, heading back to Bloomington. Adlai Stevenson has just won the Democratic presidential nomination. Adlai grew up in Bloomington, on our street, in the stucco house where his sister, Buffie Ives, now lives. Even though he lives on his farm in Libertyville now, and, most recently, in the Governor's Mansion in Springfield, he will always consider Bloomington to be his home.

Before boarding the train we had all noticed the unusual activity in Union Station. Policemen everywhere, milling people, buzz, a sense of excitement. It is only after we are on board that we find out from a conductor that Adlai is on the same train, making his first trip "home" after the nomination.

As the train pulls into the Bloomington station we look out the window and see crowds of people lining the platform. My father announces (several times, in case we didn't get it the first time) that he had no idea that WE were such important characters. Usually it would be just Fafa at the station to pick us up. Look at all these folks who have come down to meet us!

Welcome home.


Anonymous Caithness said...

Wow! Although I'd heard Mom talk about Stevenson's proxomity to 1308 often enough, I never heard THAT story.

LOL about the "free pass."

Love the childhood stories!

10:22 AM  
Blogger nina said...

Great story!
I have to say, having traveled many times with a family who likes to take along too much, not in a million years would a cab agree to pack us all in. Oh, the days of good service...

10:48 AM  

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