As you might have guessed from my previous posts, I have a thing for New England.
Both of my parents and three of my four grandparents were born there. I went to college there; lived there for almost seven years afterward; and have gnashed my teeth a thousand times about my decision to move among the pierogi- and polka-loving people of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.
There is plenty in the Lehigh Valley to like, and more arrives each year. But we all define ourselves to ourselves in our own ways … and in my heart of hearts, I am a New Englander. Preferably a Masshole, but other states would do.
(It’s true that both sides of my family settled on just about the southwesternmost crag of New England, firmly in the shadows of New York City. But our roots in the region run deeper than that, deep enough to support my personal mythmaking.)
My folks recently found some interesting journals kept by my grandpa — the same dude who kept the calendars. (These journals will provide much of the fodder for future installations of Hope Street, and I’ll describe them more as we go.)
The entry I’ll look at this week raised a question that shook me to my imaginary granite foundations:
What if, instead of New England, my grandparents had settled in the Lehigh Valley … and instead of building memories at 1107 Hope St., I’d spent my childhood vacations going to Forks Township or Catasauqua Borough or someplace?
Heck, what if I’d lived here all my life, and New England meant nothing more to me than some dusty branches on the family tree?
The mind reels.
I found this entry in a scientific and technical journal kept by my grandpa. He used it to record information useful to his job as a draftsman, as well as random scientific tidbits he found interesting.
It’s undated — and the entries seem to hop around in time, so there’s no clear way to identify when this was written.
I don’t know much about his destination. Sheridan Machine Company is one of those companies whose name only shows up in obituaries, and not always recent ones.
A post on a railroad forum mentions a Sheridan Machine in Easton, but says it was “gone by the ’70s,” and the nearest train line is now a paved bike path. It’s possible I’ve been on that path without knowing it.
All I know for sure about this train ride is that it happened after my grandpa moved to Stamford from Springfield, Mass. (roughly around 1941), but before the Lehigh Valley road ended passenger operations (roughly 1961, if Wikipedia is correct). I’d bet pretty strongly on the early end of that spectrum.
Of course, I wonder whether he went to the Lehigh Valley for a job interview, which would have changed family history.
My grandpa didn’t settle at Time Inc. in Stamford, his largest and longest-lasting employer, until 1946. Before that, he worked for a company in Bridgeport that he must not have liked that much, because he only stayed there four years.
It’s possible — maybe remotely possible, but possible — that this trip came during a time in his life when he was checking out his options.
If he’d gotten a job here, my parents, who grew up and met in Stamford, might never have crossed paths. And whatever version of me ended up getting born might have grown up coming to the Lehigh Valley for my vacations, instead of Connecticut, and thinking of Easton as my home away from home.
(Heck, I might even have grown up here. My folks didn’t settle in their shared hometown of Stamford after marrying because it was an expensive place to live. That would not have been an issue for a young couple with roots in Allentown, Bethlehem or Easton.)
It’s also possible that the train trip was solely for business purposes. Perhaps my grandpa’s employer at the time was considering doing business with the company in Easton, and my grandpa was part of a traveling party going to check out their facilities and capabilities.
That doesn’t necessarily make sense either, though.
If he’d traveled on the company’s behalf, the company would probably have made his arrangements, and he wouldn’t have taken such precise note of the details. (Don’t I wish I could ride the train from Easton to Stamford for $8 today? Or the train from Easton to anywhere?)
Also, my grandpa was never a boss, as far as I know. I’m not sure he would have been in a position to be an “insider” on any kind of business deal. People higher up would have made those decisions.
So, I’ll never know what brought my grandfather to Easton.
All I know for sure is it was a round trip … and that, perhaps, I owe part of who I am to that ticket home.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go eat a Hoodsie cup.