My Kind of Town Chicago Is

The California Trip — Part 2

We caught the train at Harrisburg. I don’t know for sure, but it was probably my parents who drove us to the station. It was still called the Pennsylvania Railroad in those days, or the Pennsy for short.

There’s my grandmother Edna, great aunt Mary, and uncle Curtis on the train. I assume the empty seat is mine.

There’s my grandmother Edna, great aunt Mary, and uncle Curtis on the train. I assume the empty seat is mine.

I vaguely recall going through the Horseshoe Curve, and I know the train was a sleeper because it took us all the way to Chicago. That gave me plenty of time to read and I recall finishing a whodunit about an impossible murder with footprints in the snow that started in the middle of nowhere. We had several meals in the dining car, and the head waiter (or maître d’ or whatever he was called) was very good to us, especially to the women. He mentioned that passengers often forgot their books when they finished them—hint, hint. So I left that book for him, and regretted it ever since, because it was a good story by a one-off writer whose name I’ve never been able to recall. Oh, well.

We were to spend one day and night in Chicago, and during the day we took a bus tour. That was our modus operandi for most of the cities that we visited. Sad to say, the only thing I recall about Chicago is the tour guide explaining what a “gaper jam” is, which has nothing to do with printer paper jams. It’s when something happens that causes drivers to gape and thus slow down and cause a traffic jam.

Onward and westward we went. Across the Great Plains where my uncle Neal had said there was nary a telephone pole to be seen. That may have been true 15 years earlier when he rode the train, but it was not the case now. At least along the train route, there were always signs of civilization. Neal would be so disappointed when I informed him. But one of the train cars was a double-decker with a great viewing space on the upper deck.

I dimly recall that one of the sights we saw in Salt Lake City was a flower garden of some sort. This might be it. Then again, it might not.

I dimly recall that one of the sights we saw in Salt Lake City was a flower garden of some sort. This might be it. Then again, it might not.

And so we arrived in Salt Lake City, where we attended a performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I think they were very good, but I have no recollection of the concert. And we took a bus tour of the city. Our tour guide was named Stan Larson. He was a student, studying to be a lawyer, and he was very knowledgeable about the city and the sights. Why do I remember his name? At the conclusion of the tour, he personally drove us back to our hotel, and as he was dropping us off he turned around completely and looked directly at me as he said, “I’ll see you again.”

My grandmother replied, “Yes, but when?”, as she got out of the car.

At age 16 I had not yet completely shaken off all vestiges of vague, not so much belief but interest, in the paranormal, and I wondered just what he meant. In retrospect, probably nothing. But his name has stuck with me all these years. One time, maybe 20 years later, I found a Salt Lake City phone book and saw that there was indeed a listing for a Stan (or maybe Stanley) Larson, attorney at law.

Anyway, as I think back to our brief stay in Salt Lake City, I realize now that nearly everybody we met were probably Mormons. They all seemed pretty normal to me.

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