May is Personal History Month


May is Personal History month, a time for recalling and preserving family stories and moments that helped make you who you are today. My father, whose 89th birthday was this past week, is one who influenced me. He passed eight years ago but his spirit is still with me through his teachings. He showed, by example, good character and work ethics. I watched him rise early in the morning to get to work on time. I admired him for his diligence, patience and tolerance.

Dad was a conductor for the Pennsylvania Railroad. He is the third from the left in the group photo of his fellow railroad workers. The railroad yard where he reported to work was known as Cole Hour.

The picture instantaneously stirs memories of the late nights when we, dressed in our pajamas, would climb in the car to take the forty-five minute drive to Cole Hour to pick up his paycheck as this was decades before direct deposits.  Afterwards we would go to a nearby store that was open late into the night where he must have been able to cash his check. We were each allowed to buy one treat for ourselves.

I find it amazing how my parents raised our family of seven on one income, but I do remember when it was close to payday Mom would often times fix potato soup or something similar that was nourishing but not necessarily filling the table up. We would have glasses of water at dinner time instead of milk so we would have some for breakfast. For quite some time we only had one car which Dad used to commute to work. As kids, we had to walk or ride our bikes to whatever destination we were headed no matter the distance.

As a child, I had no idea how my parents budgeted Dad’s pay checks, but rather associate payday with a trip to the grocery store. I still remember all the grocery bags being brought into the kitchen from the car and the elation felt when unpacking the food and seeing the cookies, cakes and fresh colorful supply of Kool Aid envelopes.

It is refreshing to think back of my memories of my life as a child when my concerns were not how bills were being paid, but as to the excitement to be out with Mom and Dad for the drive to pick up the paycheck. We never had to worry about being fed or having our needs met because we were fortunate to always have what was needed. At that time we didn’t have to worry; that was our parents’ job.

What special memories do you have of the simple times that you had with your parents that you would like to share with your descendants? Open up your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of the times that you will always cherish.

  • Where did your father and/or mother work?
  • What routine was always scheduled for payday?
  • What special groceries were you always expecting to be brought home on payday?
  • Did you eat sparingly close to payday?
  • How has your father or mother’s examples influenced you?


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