Jack had been working at a steel factory a year before he decided again, to give California another try. His old high school class president had an apartment in Hermosa Beach and Jack was welcomed in. There was unemployment available for Jack and he began drawing funds and paying his way a bit. The apartments son (who had the same last name!) loaned Jack his surfboard and the sport stuck well. Jack began surfing with Brian Wilson as the beach was only ½ a block away. Surf at sunrise, wait till the wind blew out the waves, go back to the apartment and have lunch. Nap a few hours and go back surfing till sunset. Repeat. It was a high point of adolescence to be fit, tan and consumed by sport. Jack’s friend that drove him out to California a year before, had his old Hudson pass away with a head gasket failure in the high country in Arizona and they parked it near the railroad tracks and stole the tires and kicked the trunk jack out. The old Hudson made an appearance a year later!

Now, back to Hermosa Beach and the trip on the classic Santa Fe railroad. The unemployment ran out and there was just enough money to buy a train ticket and to take the Super Chief back home. No money for food on the trip. Just him, a few clothes and a set of bongo drums which fit quite nicely in the overhead rack. A strange looking fit young man, deeply tanned with long white hair and out of place with his obvious poverty. A sojourner without the false clothing or affectations of up and coming hippies. He was the real deal without knowing it. As the train glided back through Seligman, Jack chanced to see their old Hudson in Arizona still sagging into the sand next to the railroad tracks. It appeared like a sad dinosaur that had come onto some hard times. It’s probably still there.

So, three days on the Super Chief with no money for food and listening to the menu as the porter announced southern style baked pork chops with biscuits and gravy followed by strawberry shortcake over and over till Kansas City hove into view and a quick ride on the “local” for the rest of the way. Jack sat next to a kind woman then and she offered him some butter finger candies from a bag she had. He devoured the entire bag while she watched this white haired pre-hippie bongo player rave on with an unbelievable sugar rush. Arrival back home was rather uneventful with the awesome train depot unseen by Jack until decades later as it lost it’s tracks and was turned into shops and upscale restaurants.

It was about 5 years later that Jack began working for the Burlington Northern railroad. No nice relaxing trips without food, just hard work. Steel gangs, tie gangs, surfacing gangs and the more relaxing section crews. It was towards the end of passenger service for railroads and the only passenger train Jack wound up on with the gangs was an old bunk car and with Picnic tables for lunch. Usually hauled out to a job site to lay ribbon rail or work a derailment. Real comfy. Sort of like being at sea with the luxury accommodations. Those times were not far in the future as Jack volunteered for Naval duty soon after the Super Chief left him off in Kansas City. The draft was full on and young men like Jack had to make a decision or wind up where our country thought best to him to be. Navy on the nukes seemed more benign than Jungle opportunities. Jack went to sea. it’s pretty good. Jack Gator

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