March 2000

Under Foot, Coming of Age

I have two very fine employees who have been with the company for many years and I'll be mentioning them in some future stories. When we build the large organs they are sometimes difficult to move around due to the size and weight and this is where this incident took place. When we are ready to put the organ on dollies to move it to another department, Mr. Niswonger will take the Johnson bar and lift one end so we can put some blocks under it and get it up off the floor.

Now it just happened we had some women visiting the factory one day when we were moving an organ and they were watching the operation. When Mr. Niswonger had the organ up on the Johnson bar and another employee was to put the block under it. Mr. Sherer shouted OK to set it down, so we set the organ down on his foot which was under the end of the organ. Everyone stood back and did nothing while he kept shouting about the organ being on his foot.

Finally after a minute Mr. Niswonger came around to look over the situation while the women were screaming to get it off his foot. We just moved at a very slow pace and finally lifted it so he could get his toes out.

The women were all over him asking how bad it hurt when he just smiled and informed them he had an artificial leg and foot and felt no pain at all.

We have seen him do this several times and always know what the outcome is going to be. Everyone in our crew was happy and laughing, but the ladies were not smiling one bit.

I will more than likely see him pull this same trick in the future since he has a good sense of humor.


Back at the New York Central we were attending apprentice school which lasted one half day each week at that time. We had two brothers in the class and one of them was nearing his 18th birthday. It was his intention to have a big celebration on the special day.

His younger brother came in the day after and told the story about the birthday party. After things settled down at the party he told his dad he was 18 and he was going to smoke a big cigar whether he liked it or not and proceeded to do just that.

After the cigar he then informed his father he was going down to the bar and have a drink whether he liked it or not and he also stated that when he returned from the bar he was then going to show his dad he could whip him on the spot whether he liked it or not.

Well, he did go to the bar and had his drink and returned home and told his dad it was his turn.

At this point the old man decided they would go to the vacant room upstairs and settle it.

The younger brother told us that for about five minutes it sounded like the whole house was coming down when the noise stopped and the old man came down and sat in his chair in the living room.

As I understand it, the 18 year old came wobbling down the steps later with some battle marks and a good understanding that the 18th birthday does not always mean you are an adult.

About that same time we had an old electrician working there and I was assigned to him for a few days. We usually drew the short straw and ended up down in the pit under the locomotive blowing the dust out of the traction motors and changing the brushes if they were worn badly. I often wondered why he would always ask me to hand him the rat killer when he wanted his large pliers and his hammer, so I asked the question and received the following answer.

"One day after a very large rain I was working in the pit when a big rat came out of the vent tube and looked right at me from a short distance away. I simply threw the hammer and pliers at the rat and killed him on the spot."

The more I worked with him the more I referred to them as rat killers and to this day I still catch my self asking one of my men to hand me the rat killers instead of the pliers or hammer.

I think both I and the 18 year old learned a lesson from the old man" which has stayed with us long after those days were gone.

And so it was at the old round house.


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