My Railroading Days – another of my misadventures stories.

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My Railroading Days – by:  Pam Paden Tippet


It was spring or early summer, as I recall, when Casey Keal hired me to work the “extra-board” at the Missouri Kansas Texas (Katy) yards in Parsons, Kansas.  Everyone started out working the extra-board – meaning you were an extra for any job that needed filled whether because of illness, vacations, or somebody just wanted to “lay-off” for a while.


I am remembering that I had to read a lot of rule books, take some tests, and spend many hours training before I was declared “qualified” to begin working.


I’ll never forget – my first day of actual employment at the Katy railroad.  Right off the bat I had caught a “hold down” job for six weeks, as the Agent of the Erie, Kansas Depot, to cover the usual agent’s vacation.  A little nervous about my newly acquired duties, I arrived at the depot on this very hot summer morning and nearly had heart failure.  Were my eyes deceiving me or did the railroad track, not far the depot, actually resemble McDonald’s arches?  I couldn’t get the door unlocked fast enough, and it seemed like forever before I heard a voice on the other end of the dispatcher’s phone.  “Yeah, Erie – what is it?”  “I think we have a ‘sun-kink’” – I almost yelled in his ear.  “What do you mean – you think?” he says.  “Well, sir” I said, “I’ve never seen one before but the track looks kind of like McDonald’s arches.”  Well, the cursing began and everybody up and down the Katy line was being dialed-up to copy train orders, and I guess I had done my first official Agent job.


I loved the railroad terminologies, and I guess working the operator position was my favorite job. That was where the action was – copying train orders from the dispatcher in Denison, Texas and getting the orders to the Conductors and Engineers.  Real people ran the railroad back then – not little computers hanging off the train where the caboose used to be. We did have the ability to talk with the train crew via radio, but all instructions went through the dispatcher in Denison. There were times that they depended too much on the radio use and found themselves in a predicament if they lost communications.


It was also during my Erie Depot Agent job when I found out about the consequences of losing radio communication. I was playing pool with some friends at the American Legion in Parsons one summer evening when someone said I had a call from the railroad. This was before cell phones, of course, and I had told the yard office where I would be just in case something came up – which never ever happened – not in Erie.  Oops! – The “North Yard” (dispatcher’s name for Parsons’ yard) operator said, “…dispatch says to get yourself to Erie, pronto!  You have to put flares out and hang orders.” 


It takes a little bit to drive from Parsons to Erie, and even though I’m sure I was driving over the speed limit, it seemed like it took an eternity – and in my state of panic my heart was racing faster by the second.  My head was spinning with horrible thoughts, “…what if I couldn’t get the flares lit, oh damn, I was wearing barefoot sandals, and I had to climb that tall order staff in the dark of the night.”  And then I started rehearsing in my head what I had read about how to fold the orders in the string so that the crew could grab them off the staff.  “…what if I messed up?  What if the train blew right by me and had a head on with the on coming train?”  This couldn’t be happening – nobody had to use these antiquated methods for delivering orders any more. But it looked like I was going to have to.


After unlocking the depot door in record time, I heard the dispatcher’s phone ringing as I entered the room.  Somehow, some way, a miracle happened and somebody got through to the train crew and told them to stop in Erie for orders.  I was so happy to hear Johnny Miller’s voice – he was one of my favorite dispatchers that seemed to really care about people. The train wasn’t going to “blow by me” as I had feared, and all I had to do was copy train orders for them.


Not all of the dispatchers were as nice as Johnny Miller.  Some of them, like many of the railroaders, didn’t believe that women had any place working there.  One dispatcher in particular – John Robert Nash – had the reputation for really disliking the women and being so hateful to them that he would make them cry. 


I recall, quite well, the first time that I worked with John Robert Nash. Someone had laid – off, or was ill, or for some reason, I was working the week-days operator job. It was time to “call a train” – give the dispatcher the engine numbers, number of railcars, crew, etc. in order to obtain the necessary orders for the train to proceed. Several times I had tried to contact the dispatcher by giving the “North Yard” sign-in.  Finally, after having received no response from dispatch, and having no orders for the train crew, the yardmaster came into my office and asked if I had started “102”.  I have tried several times, I told him, but dispatch doesn’t answer.  Well, I am assuming that the yardmaster had taken some steps in this matter, and finally Mr. Nash replied to my call.  I have never in my life encountered such a rude man.  He purposely gave me a hard time, questioned everything I said, dictated train orders so fast that some of the other seasoned agents along the line were having difficulty keeping up, and was outright discourteous to me. Once I had copied all of the orders – with no errors or problems – he said to me, “…well go on about sweeping the floors or whatever it is that you do there.”  Knowing his reputation and his dislike for women, I don’t know exactly why, but I found this to be extremely humorous.  I remember laughing so hard – and Phil “Beetle” Bailey was working the “callers” job that day and was also in my office. He asked why I was laughing so hard – and I told him what a jerk I believed John Robert Nash to be.



Yes, those were the days my friend – and I don’t care what the old-timers said – I loved my railroad days despite the whining egotistical women haters!


Some of the best people ever to work for the MKT – Katy – Railroad were:   Casey Keal – Bill Chandler – Johnny Pellin – Alex Cruz – Richard Chavez – Phil Bailey – Sue Gilliam – Nola Beach – Steve Culbertson – Ron Rife – and all of the great Engineers & Conductors of the 70s.  There were many more that my forgetful mind has forgotten, but if you would remind me – I would remember.


Sturgis, SD 70th Motorcycle Rally

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Although this took place a few years back – my girlfriend asked me to post it on here.

Trip Itinerary


Thursday, Aug. 5th, 2010

  Traveled to Joplin, MO to the Cracker Barrel where we met Larry Alloway (long time friend from Parsons, KS) for breakfast.  It started to rain pretty hard while we were there so the crew riding motorcycles, (Steve, Randall, and Lloyd w/Katy on back) chose to slip into their raingear.

Didi, Casey and I were tucked inside our trucks pulling toy-hauler and motorcycle trailers.

  The rain was over before we hit Kansas City, MO and the sun was out once again.  After several more stops at places that I can’t remember, we settled down at camp in Sioux Falls, SD sometime past my bedtime.  We were all pooped out and ready to rest.  Randall, Katy’s grandson, chose to throw his sleeping bag on the floor rather than bother with making his bed out. (He’s only twenty-one…kids can do that.)


Friday, Aug. 6th

  Another rather long day of travel was broken up by a nice break when we experienced the “Wall Drug” on I-90 where we had their famous “Roast Beef Sandwich”, among other “treats”, and shopped for various souvenirs that were a must.

  We arrived early evening at our camp MountRodney just two blocks from Main St., Sturgis, SDUSA.  Of course we were greeted with a nice rain shower immediately after we set up camp, but the beautiful rainbow that followed soon after made it worthwhile.

  Casey insisted that we all mount our motorcycles for a run up and down Main Street, and, of course, find a place to eat.  We had chicken-on-a-stick and similar vendor type foods and checked out many of the jillions of T-shirt and everything from soup to nuts shops.

  Once again we all crashed, worn out and in need of rest.


Saturday, Aug. 7th

  This is where my “old-timers” starts to set in, but I think we went to a Perkins that Lloyd had spotted for breakfast, and headed out towards Mount Rushmore.  I do remember that the ride was beautiful, the weather was great, and of course Mount Rushmore is always a sight to see.  I remember arguing with the admittance staff that my “Senior Card” entitled me to get into any “National Park” free of charge…but because of something to do with the parking facilities being run by a private organization, etc., etc., I lost that argument and had to fork over the dough.  All ended well, though, when Lloyd bought us some delicious ice-cream before we set out on the motorcycles again.


Sunday, Aug. 8th

  Didi’s family had come into Sturgis and we had the pleasure of meeting them on Sunday.  We had burgers for “brunch” and spent part of the day checking out vendors that we had previously missed.  After purchasing some more “much needed, of course” T-shirts, etc., we drifted our separate ways.  Didi and Steve spent time with family, Lloyd and Katy went off on a motorcycle jaunt, and Casey and I checked out the Knuckle and the One Eyed Jack’s for a few cold brews…of which, they tell me, I may have had a few too many.  (Can’t imagine that!)  Casey and I went to camp for a nap…Casey says he couldn’t wake me…I’m thinking HE had one too many, ‘cause Randall has him on video singing and playing the guitar on the Beer Deck at our camp.  (I’m soooo glad he didn’t wake me.)


Monday, Aug 9th

  After breakfast on Main St., we went to view the showroom of “Show Bikes”.  Those, you would just have to see.  They were un-describable…to say the least.  Everyone took pictures, but even those don’t do them justice.

  We went to the Full Throttle where Casey was mesmerized by the girls dancing on the bar, and rode out to the Buffalo Chip…that we think is over-rated.  Also went to the Broken Spoke that had the best shirts we had seen so far, we thought.  Steve bought Didi a really sexy little top that she wore to dinner, so I donned one of my “biker chic” fringed leather halter tops.

  We rode to Rapid City and had a fun dinner at TGI Fridays, but on the way, unbeknownst to me, the top strings of my halter top became untied.  At 75 mph, going down the interstate, something started slapping me upside the face.  Imagine my horror at discovering it was the untied strings of my top.  I’m trying to wrap them around my neck with one hand while driving with the other as the gang is pulling farther and farther away leaving me behind.  Finally I just crank on the throttle and come up beside Casey going about 85mph holding my top on with one hand and driving with the other.  He looks over at me with a stupid look on his face…I show him that I am holding my untied strings in my hand…and the crazy man just shrugs his shoulders like “so what’s the big deal”.  It was then that I nearly ran him off the road.  Of course he had to go up ahead and tell everyone that “Pammy lost her top”. Damn man never could keep a secret!


Tuesday, Aug. 10th

  I thought I had already ridden the most beautiful trails ever until we rode SpearFishCanyon…It was awesome.  Then we rode through the “BadlandsNational Park”.  That is truly a sight to see if ever there was.  We saw all kinds of creatures that day.  Little ground squirrels would run over our laps when we sat down.  Prairie dogs would stand up, look at us, and I swear one of them waived at me!  He was sooo cute. We saw lots of mountain goats in the distance, but what took the cake was the one that was standing right by the side of the road…I could have reached out and touched him…as I came around the curve.  Wow!

  Think we ate supper in Rapid City at South of the Border that night.


Wednesday, Aug. 11th

  Bye-bye, Sturgis…We left camp and headed across the line over into Wyoming.  Steve was hooping and hollering as we crossed the line.  (He is from Wyoming.)

  Of course we couldn’t miss seeing Devil’s Tower.  There were some crazy folks climbing the darn thing while we were there.  I could only see them through binoculars, and then they looked like little ants.  Didi was evidently feeling energetic, along with Randall (the kid), so they walked the almost mile and a half trail around the bottom of the tower.  Not feeling quite that energetic, I just walked slowly around the park until I found a neat rock that I slipped into my pocket.  Casey, who was lazily sitting in the shade of a tree, tried to tell me that we would all go to jail because “I stole a rock”.  I didn’t pay any attention to him though.

  We went on into Cheyenne where we had a pretty campsite.  Didi and Steve stayed at Steve’s parent’s home there. (Randall finally got a real bed to sleep in.)

  I’m not sure, but this might have been the night that Katy fed us milk and Oreo cookies for supper ‘cause we were all too tired to go eat.


Thursday, Aug. 12th

  I think we were getting lazy by then, because we all slept in that morning.  Steve rode out to our camp to say that Fred and Giesela, his Mom and Dad, wanted us to come to their house for lunch.  They fixed us quite a feast and it was most welcomed.  It was the first home-cooked meal any of us had had in a while.

  Leaving Steve and Didi to visit with his parents, the rest of our group went on to a campsite in Ft. Collins, CO.  We rode the Big Thompson River Canyon Rd. up to Estes Park and had dinner at a neat little restaurant tucked away in the mountain.


Friday, Aug 13th

  Being the superstitious person that I am, I was somewhat afraid to ride on Friday the 13th.  I warned everyone to be careful and Randall said it was his best day.

  We rode through beautiful EstesPark again and up to the RockyMountainNational Park.  It started out being a nice WARM ride, but once we started up the mountain, about every 2,000 feet higher, we would stop and add a few more clothes.  By the time we got to 12,183 feet, I was resembling an Eskimo and wishing I had something else to put on.  There was snow on the mountain (in August, mind you) and it was an awesome picture. Once in EstesPark again, we stopped for ice-cream because Lloyd was having withdrawals.   We rode the Big Thompson River Canyon Road, for the last time, with the sun at our backs, and I said “I take back what I said before…THIS is the most beautiful ride I have ever been on.”

  Coming back into Ft.Collins, Randall, who was riding behind Casey, got pulled over by the local P.D.  Seems he had lifted his goggles as he approached the red light.  We think the cop was just bored.  Anyway…No ticket, all was well, and guess it WAS his best day.

  Casey loaded my “Road Queen” into the toy-hauler, and I checked my trip meter to see that I had put 700 wonderful miles on her since we hit Sturgis.


Saturday, Aug. 14th

  Steve and Didi met us somewhere outside Ft. Collins at a Cracker Barrel for breakfast and we headed off down through Denver, stopping only if necessary, until we hit Guymon, OK.  Some of the “younger” of us went partying that night.  That wouldn’t have included Lloyd, Katy, Casey or me.  Ha!


Sunday, Aug. 15th

  Still looking at seven hours of driving time before we got home, after having a great meal at the café that Didi used to manage in Guymon, we hit the road.

  Somewhere along Hwy 412, we said good-bye to Lloyd who headed towards Tulsa.

  It was a safe smooth trip and those of us in the trucks had good conversation about what a very nice and fun vacation we had experienced.

The True Story of Rudolph

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INTERESTING! The True Story of Rudolph.

Bob May stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December
night. His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap. Quietly sobbing.
Bob’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn’t
understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her
dad’s eyes and asked, “Why isn’t Mommy just like everybody else’s Mommy?”
Bob’s jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought
waves of grief, but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob’s life.
Life always had to be different for Bob. Small when he was a kid, Bob was
often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in
sports. He was often called names he’d rather not remember. From
childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. Bob did complete
college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a
copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was
blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. *
*Evelyn’s bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob
and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago
slums. Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938. Bob struggled to
give hope to his child, for whom he couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas
gift. But if he couldn’t buy a gift, he was determined to make one – a
storybook! Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told
the animal’s story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again
and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling. Who
was the character? What was the story all about? The story Bob May created
was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a
misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer
named Rudolph, with A big shiny nose. Bob finished the book just in time
to give It to his little girl on Christmas Day. But the story doesn’t end
there. The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little
story book and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to
print the book. Wards went on to Print, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946
Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph.
That same year, a major Publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards
to print an updated version of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of
kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May. The book
became a best seller. Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May,
now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he
created to comfort his grieving daughter. But the story doesn’t end there
either. Bob’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to
Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing
Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.
“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a
phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song,
with the exception of “White Christmas.” The gift of love that Bob May
created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him
again and again. And Bob May learned the Lesson, just like his dear friend
Rudolph, that being different isn’t so bad. In fact, being different can
be a blessing.MERRY CHRISTMAS!*

Ending November With a Bang!

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My husband Casey and I took our RV to Muskogee, Ok on Nov. 26th to the Three Rivers Museum where I had been invited to give a presentation about “Run Rabbit Run”, my book about my Grandma Edna. The members of the History Explorers Club were very receptive and had lots of fun questions for me.  Considering the cold weather and Thanksgiving approaching, I was very pleased with the turnout, and I sold several books.

Casey had a short appointment at the VA Hospital in Muskogee the next morning, and after having a great breakfast at the Shawnee Restaurant, we traveled on to Parsons, Ks to begin the Tippet Clan celebrations, but not without a small defugalty. Although we were bucking a hard North wind, we thought the wind noise was extra loud. While getting fuel at Big Cabin, Ok Casey noticed that the windshield on the driver’s side was pulled out about an inch at the top.  There is a truck and trailer repair shop right next door to the truck stop so we went there to get it fixed.  The repairman said he had never seen this happen before but felt he had the problem fixed before we went on.  About ten miles down the road, the windshield popped out at the top again.  Casey fixed it himself this time and I’ve been telling him ever since – “If the windshield on your motor home is held in with duct tape – you might be a redneck.”  He doesn’t seem to find it as funny as I do.  J 

My job was to prepare the pumpkin desserts for Thanksgiving, and I had also volunteered to make deer chili for the travelers who would be arriving on Wednesday evening. I couldnt find the timer – but felt sure that I could remember to check the desserts for doneness while I was making the chili. Well – Pammy “talks-a-lot” – my Cherokee Indian name, Ha! was talking and stirring (and drinking a little beer), when I remembered the desserts that had baked several minutes too long. Ooops!!  The nuts on top were very, very dark!  My niece, Jordan said we will swear that they are “black” pecans and are meant to look like that.  Actually, I didnt hear any complaints about them, and most of it was eaten the next day.

Sometime during a peaceful sleep after retiring in our motor home on Wednesday night, Casey and I wake up and we are freezing! Half asleep, we are trying to figure out why our hydro-heat has gone off.  Well – Casey is working on the problem – I don’t have a clue where the heat is coming from in the first place.  He decides that we will deal with it in the morning and he turns the generator on so we can have electric heat.  I heard him telling someone that it was a “three dog night” and we only had two dogs.

Thanksgiving Day turned out to be lovely in Parsons, and the recreation center was the perfect place to hold all 40 something of us. There was basketball playing and visiting and laughing and cooking – and most of all eating!!! We had 4 turkeys, hams, every kind of side dish imaginable, and umpteen desserts.  We were blessed!

Friday, the 29th, we rented the Senior Citizens Center to hold a celebration for David Charles Tippet’s 100th birthday. What a wonderful day it was.  More foodies of course – and Kelley had made awesome centerpieces holding memories from the past for all of the tables. Seth put together a great video of pictures and memories that made us all tear-up.  Friends and family came in all day bringing cards and wishing David a happy 100th.  Someone asked about my book and someone suggested I bring some in, and the family said sure thing – Grandpa David loves your book.  So I had another great book sales day. 

We all hung around at the Tippet home as long as we could on Nov. 30th to tell David happy birthday on his actual birthday. We watched him read the many cards that he couldn’t get to the day before, and even open a card from the President of the U.S. congratulating him on being a centenarian. 

Here is a little something that I wrote to my Father-in-law:

The Richest Man in Parsons, Kansas


David Charles Tippet, born on November 30, 1913 will celebrate his 100th birthday this November 30, 2013.


David and his bride Virginia (Toni) Tippet had eleven children and celebrated fifty-three years of marriage together. Nine of their children – along with their spouses – are going to be present – with their children and their grandchildren to help David celebrate his 100th birthday.


David survived the Great Depression, as a young man, riding from town to town in railroad boxcars and working only for his meals as he went. 


He served the United States of America in the U. S. Marines during World War II.  He spent numerous days living in a fox-hole and lived on a diet of coconuts in the Philippines. 


Having a great talent for writing and telling stories, David ran the Parsons News for several years until he was appointed Postmaster of the Parsons, Kansas Post office by President John F. Kennedy.  But even after his wife, Toni Tippet became the editor; David spent many long nights assisting her with the newspaper.


Not only did David and Toni raise their own flock, they took in their friends and eventually their in-laws under their wings.  I know that to be a fact because I was the first daughter-in-law, married to their eldest, Casey Tippet.  I had lost my daddy and mama both before I married Casey, and I consider myself to be very lucky to have married into such a loving family. Toni and David treated me just like I was one of their own.


A hundred years to treasure must have a world of fond memories – and a million bright meaningful moments for the heart to keep as sweet souvenirs.


David has a long list of friendships and people whose lives he has touched – plus so many priceless lessons from which we could all learn so much.


A treasure of knowledge from the decades you have seen through, and now you’re a proud centenarian, and the world has a treasure in YOU – David Charles Tippet.


Happy, happy 100th birthday – Dad, Father-in-law, Grandpa, Great-Grandpa, Great-Great Grandpa David.  We all love you so very much!


Pam Tippet (on behalf of the whole Tippet clan)