October 1999

Adventures in Mexico; NYC RR Old Baldy

As this chapter about life in the organ factory is being written I am preparing another service call to Mexico. If you look back at a previous issue (June 1999), you will read of my past experiences in this country.

At the end of that article I left room to continue some of the other things which happened after the episode where my hotel room was sold out and I had no place to go and could not speak the local language.

To start where we left off I was escorted over to a hotel which, according to them, would be much finer in quality. This hotel was only two city blocks from our work location but I was told by my friend not to walk there unless he was with me as it might not be safe even in daylight. The hotel indeed was much different when I arrived. The rooms were ample and they were equipped with a king size bed, large tilted mirror and a very nice television which featured programs both from the U.S. and Mexico. The first night I was there the long cover from a four foot light fixture mounted at the head of the bed fell off and conked me on the head leaving a nice goose egg which still stared at me the next morning.

That evening after work I decided to try the hotel food and entered the restaurant. No one there could speak English so after much search they found a menu printed in good old American. I ordered a rib eye steak and to this day I have no idea what it was but it was not what I ordered.

After the meal they offered some very good entertainment in the restaurant and the performer at the piano was very good, which seemed to be the rule with entertainers throughout Mexico. I did not have a good seat and some people at another table who could not converse in English used sign language asking me to join them by moving my chair to their table. The rest of the evening was very nice and I felt I had made friends even though no words were spoken. When they ordered additional items I was included and we had a very nice time together.

I have always found the people of Mexico to be of this nature including a gentleman by the name of Juan who was assigned to assist me with the repairs.

Now Juan was a member of the common people and had no money and very few possessions he could call his own. I gave him some money the first day and the next day he came back with a very nice blanket and said it was a gift for my wife. Even today when I look at the blanket I think how Juan put other people ahead of his own needs.

Back at the New York Central, I remember the time when Old Baldy, which I have written about in earlier issues, got caught up in a situation of his own making. Baldy was an old boomer and traveled from one boom town to another to find employment on any railroad which offered work. When he arrived at the Bellefontaine shop he settled down and remained here until his retirement.

In the old days most employers were much more lenient and it was good for Baldy as he decided to take some time off to have a vacation in Tennessee. He told the general foreman his mother had died and he had to get back home at once. They gave him the time off and sent flowers as they always did when a member of a family had passed away.

About two years later he again entered the office and gave the same story about his mother and again they gave him the time off and just to be sure sent flowers again.

At a later time his mother did die and they gave him time off again. When he returned he entered the office with tears in his eyes and told them he found out what the people at the shop thought of him as they sent no flowers to his poor old mother’s funeral. The general foreman simply looked at him and said the people here like you but we sent flowers to your mother when she could enjoy them. Baldy agreed that they were right and left the office.

And so it was in the old roundhouse.

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