April 1999

Jerry Betts & Friends; NYC RR Lunch

In the early days I have had the good fortune to meet two very fine people who have become lifelong friends. The first was Jerry Betts from Columbus, Ohio; the other Ken Smith from Gahanna, Ohio.

Jerry first came to my shop in 1966 and brought Ken over a short time later. At that time I was repairing organs for a few parks and road shows and had not yet started building organs.

Ken, Jerry and I used to go Zoo Park which was next door to the Columbus Zoo and listen to the Ruth organ owned by Mr. Gooding. I think this helped inspire both Ken and I to build our own band organ.

This had led to Ken building two of the finest organs l have seen, and I have built an organ company. While I was repairing organs I would call Ken when any good organ came in the shop and he would come over and together we would record all the good information we could find in it. This turned out to be of great help to both of us and resulted in getting us started in the right direction.

I soon found out that Ken was a fine craftsman and an expert draftsman, which has been a great help to me over the years. While I went on my way repairing organs, Ken started a research program and gathered a large amount of information from many places, and was kind enough to pass his information on to me. This information and drawings along with my experience in repairs helped me to form the Stinson Organ Company.

My friend Jerry Betts is gone now, but his kindness and the help he gave me in the early days will never be forgotten.

In future stories I will mention some of the good times we three have experienced over the years. Friends like these only come along once in a lifetime.

Back at the New York Central Railroad things never seemed to change much from day to day.

One thing which never changed was the entertainment generated by my friend Jim and he was as it again as usual. As I mentioned in an earlier issue, Jim had a small grocery store which he ran during the day and worked at the NYC during second shift, which ran from three to eleven.

In the summer months we usually sat outside the locker room next to the sidewalk and ate our lunch. We were paid for eight hours work in those days and the company gave us only 20 minutes to wash and eat. The company also reserved the right to work us during this time, and let us eat at their convenience if they had a rush job.

On one hot summer day we had just sat down to eat when the foreman came up and told one man to get the jumper cables and go start a locomotive with dead batteries as it was needed to replace one which has having electrical trouble. The man told the boss it was his lunch time and he would do it later after he finished eating at which time the foreman told him to punch out and he was fired as far as he was concerned.

After a fight between the company and the union, the man gained his job back but lost one week of employment. That was the last time I remember anyone refusing a job from this particular boss, which I might add was one of the better ones we had to work for.

Jim and several others were sitting along the walk eating when Jim called over a young girl out of a group of kids playing in the area and asked her if she knew the mean old goat who owned the grocery store at the end of the road. Not recognizing him in his dirty work clothes as the store owner, she told him she knew him.

Jim told her to tell the mean old goat at the store that he was coming down to beat him up when he found the time to do it. The next day, she went in the store and didn’t recognize Jim in his clean clothes as the same man she was relaying the message for. The store’s owner told her to tell the man at the roundhouse that he would come up there and take care of him also when he had the time. These messages went on for several weeks, and as far as I know, the little girl never knew she was talking to the same person in both locations.

Things like this provided daily entertainment and made the job more enjoyable. And so it was at the old roundhouse.

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