Grand Trunk Lore

GrandTrunkIn 1859 Young Tom Edison got a job as a news butcher on the Grand Trunk Railroad selling newspapers and candy. He was just twelve years old. He set up a chemistry lab and a printing press on the train. He’d ride the train from Port Huron to Detroit and since he was an avid reader he would often walk up the hill from the depot in Detroit and walk east on Jefferson to the Detroit Public Library. They say he read almost every book they had. In 1948 I went to work for the Grand Trunk Railroad in Detroit. I would sometimes park my car next to the Detroit train Depot and walk up the hill to Jefferson Avenue and walk east just a block to the General Office of the Grand Trunk. One of my first duties in the morning was to go to the telegraph office and pick up wire reports on fatal crossing accidents and employee injuries. When I would go into that office I would imagine Tom Edison the telegrapher sending those wires to me. I was eighteen and when Tom Edison was eighteen he was a telegrapher.

Around 1975 I was Employee Communications Officer for Grand Trunk and I had my A-V Production office in Battle Creek. A fellow we called Old Jim would stop into my office occasionally and we would have a chat. Old Jim was around 70 and he talked very British. He was a news butcher and he rode the trains from Port Huron to Battle Creek and then back home. Battle Creek was about half way to Chicago. Old Jim was a master salesman and he would sell fruit and candy, sandwiches and newspapers, toys and fancy ladies handkerchiefs to passengers and he reminded me of something out of the nineteenth century. We’d often sit and tell stories about Tom Edison.

Sometimes when I lived in Clawson, Michigan I would take a commuter train into Detroit from Birmingham and as I walked up the hill I would imagine that Tom Edison was walking beside me. I felt proud to be working for the same railroad where Tom had begun his career. That was in the early fifties after I had returned from Korea. I still have a couple of books on Edison on my book shelves in my office and ever so often I read one of them and I must admit, sometimes I can visualize the two of us, Tom and I walking up the hill together from the old train station at the foot of Brush Street at the river.

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