Eye-Eye, All Aboard!

A front section of the restored railroad station. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

A front section of the restored railroad station. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

no preaching no peddling sign



beware pickpockets



Yesterday was my eye exam with my ophthalmologist. Full exam, including having my eyes dilated. Not my favorite thing to do and then drive home on a sunny afternoon. But if you have to spend an hour and a half getting your eyes checked, there’s no better place to be. My doctor’s office is in a restored brick railroad station. The interior brick walls are covered with authentic depot signs, including those you’ll see scattered throughout this post.

do not flush

My favorite Christmas memory is when I was in second grade, and our family took the train from Kansas City to Vista, California for a family gathering. The train ride was two days each way, and for hours each day I practiced learning to write cursive. My dad and I went up to the viewing car after lunch, sat at a little table and each ordered a Coca-Cola with a cherry. We turned over the paper place mats, Dad took out a ball-point pen for each of us, and during the trip he patiently transformed his 7-year-old daughter’s printing skills into cursive writing skills.

Both of my parents had excellent penmanship, but while my mother knitted and my brother played with baseball cards, I had my dad’s full attention. Away from business, church, hospital and bank board meetings, Dad was relaxed and focused on teaching me cursive letters, words, and sentences. The crowning accomplishment was when I rewrote the printed menu entirely in cursive on a paper placemat.

After Christmas vacation when the teacher asked what we’d learned over the holidays, she was surprised when I said I could write cursive. She gave me chalk and let me write basic sentences on the board.  When I finished, she—and my classmates—cheered and clapped for the result. But after school she gave me a Big Chief notebook to use for writing cursive…at home.  Many of the students in my class still hadn’t perfected even printing all the letters of the alphabet yet, and she didn’t want them to feel discouraged. That was okay because my parents took over, and several times each week I’d come home from school and on my desk would be an envelope with a letter written inside from my dad or my mom. Since cursive requires practice in both reading and writing, after I read the letter then I wrote a response, tucked it in the envelope and “mailed” it to their desk.

Yesterday was a good reminder that even dreaded appointments can also be excellent opportunities. My eye exam was actually an exercise in seeing the past clearly and appreciating those memories. If I’d had more time, and some blank paper, I would have rewritten the depot signs in cursive. Especially the one to beware of pickpockets and loose women. My dad would have loved it.

no spitting -$500 fine a yr inprison



Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, importance of doing good things, Kansas, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

54 responses to “Eye-Eye, All Aboard!

  1. Molly

    Mom, I knew some of this story, but not all the details (like the letters when you got home). Thank you for putting it in writing so that Grace and Gannon will always know it!

    I am so glad our little school district of Chapman has continued to teach cursive so that Grace and Gannon know it, but I am concerned that there are so many districts that have decided it is not “worth” the time it takes to teach it. I guess they will just have to go on a long train ride!

    • Excellent suggestion, Molly! If all 2nd or 3rd graders took a long train ride to learn to write (and also read) cursive, it would financially help Amtrak and all passenger trains, and think of all the learning improvement and eye-hand coordination, too. Remember when the trend was that kids didn’t need to learn basic multiplication because of calculators? That caused a lot of learning problems. I think saying they don’t need to learn to write cursive because of computers will cause just as many. Some skills can’t be ignored, and Grace and Gannon are getting really good basics.
      Thanks, Mookie.

  2. Marylin, what a great story . I remember learning cursive and I also liked learning Roman numerals . What happen to all of those skills? Now we have to learn technical skills to manage all our devices .

    • Cursive AND Roman numerals, what a great combination, Gerlinde! And now these skills are difficult to find any where. I think it’s a real loss, and it changes us somehow, to miss out on another creative form.

  3. juliabarrett

    Once again I am impressed with your impressive parents. They really were parents to you. Lovely.
    Like Sheldon Cooper I do love trains and old train stations. The signs are priceless! I would visit the eye doctor for the signs alone!

    • You would love this building, Julia, and everything in it. He has two antique cupboards of surgical eye tools from the late 1890s and huge half-bowl early experimental contact lenses that would make you cringe. But the authentic signs and the framed pictures of trains and passengers would charm you!

  4. Priceles memories to cherish , I love the old signs. Have a wonderful weekend.

  5. All of the artifacts and imagery in this post reminded me of a similar one I posted a year ago (almost to the day) “Train Lovers, Welcome Aboard.” Among other authors. I included a reference to Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Travel” with this excerpt: Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take, No matter where it’s going. I re-read your comment back then and realized it alluded to the fully developed story you told so beautifully here. Neat!

    Photos of the antique quotes are choice as is your visit to the ophthalmologist as an entry point for savoring clarity of vision, especially to see clearly the shimmering images of the past. My son teaches cursive as an art form in his middle school art classes at Mandarin Middle School. But let’s face it; it’s a dying art without parents and astute teachers realizing its value and pushing it.

    What a legacy to Molly and other family members too. Just warmed the cockles of my heart – all of it charming!

    • Thank you so much, Marian. Your response is so touching.
      I also agree that writing cursive is a dying art, and I think it’s a huge mistake that so many schools have opted out of teaching it because it’s “no longer necessary.” In graduate school I took an elective course that included a panel of psychologists, physical therapists, classroom teachers and writers discussing some of the unusual combinations of learning techniques. Cursive writing was one of the skills that all shared important examples of problems caused in development when it was omitted. The physical therapists, especially, talked about eye/hand/mind connections that improved with cursive writing. It was very interesting.

  6. A lovely story, and thank goodness someone had the foresight to save all those old signs. I can remember learning to decipher printed signs wile travelling – with great difficulty – as a small child, and recall being puzzled for a long time by the word “alight” in “Passengers must not alight while the bus is moving”. To me, it meant on fire! Long live cursive writing!

  7. In this techno age where everything is done so quickly on a computer or other device, good handwriting is a thing of the past. I remember doing exercises as a child to improve my writing – which used to be very stylish but sadly these days through lack of doing has gone sadly down hill. I remember the thrill of buying a proper italic style ink pen – slanted for me with my left hand – and the satisfaction of producing a beautifully written thank you letter. Nowadays it’s all done by email – or not at all😐

    • I remember in 8th grade having a student teacher in an art class, Jenny, and she wowed us all by teaching us basic calligraphy using quill pens! From there she had us write our initials in calligraphy and then use those letters to create animal faces or flowers, etc. That one exercise taught me a permanent appreciation for the “art” of writing.

  8. Marylin, this post is beautiful in so many ways. First, I loved cursive writing as a child and once won a penmanship award. Second, to have your dad’s attention all to yourself on the train must have been so lovely. Third, though I am not a fan of eye appointments, my opthamologist told me at my last one that I had 20/20 vision (with my glasses on of course) and that made me very happy. I am more confident when I drive at night now for some reason. 🙂
    Those railroad signs are a hoot and so priceless.
    xoxo Joanne

    • Every detail of your comment means so much, Joanne. Especially the one about the importance of having quality time with my dad as he taught me cursive writing…which I’ve loved every since. That train trip was special in so many ways; it’s one of the family memories I cherish.

  9. Thank Heavens for forward thinking parents and for little girls anxious for more knowledge.I loved cursive script from when I first saw calligraphy on old awards and took to copying it when I could.
    Many times I was asked to write something for someone leaving work or in the memorial book of the local council. I wonder who will do things like that if schools no longer teach it. Another art form to be lost perhaps. Yet it’s so good at teaching children to be careful and to concentrate. I hope there’s a resurgence somewhere along the line that allows others to do as you did even if not on the train.
    xxx Massive Hugs Marylin xxx

    • I’m afraid it is a dying art, David, and also a dying form of communication. I think we lose a lot by only texting and sending emails, so I can imagine you copying the calligraphy on old awards. Maybe others will renew the interest in the same way. Massive Hugs to you, too! 🙂

  10. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Oh, Marylin, this is so good! You have “an eye” for finding good blog material everywhere! Don’t you wish our grandchildren were still being taught cursive? Maybe it’s up to us to take them on a train ride and teach them! Sweet memory.

    • I was so glad to learn that Grace and Gannon are being taught cursive, Nancy. Not with the same focus we learned it, but at least it hasn’t been eliminated from the curriculum. Wouldn’t it be fun to take our grandchildren on a 2-day train ride and teach them cursive along the way? 😉

  11. Marylin … Like you, my Dad also encouraged me to work on my cursive writing. He had beautiful penmanship. I remember sitting at the kitchen table at night and practicing the Palmer Penmanship Method of cursive writing. 😉

    I’m amazed that some schools no longer have students learn how to write cursive. It means, as you pointed out, that they won’t be able to read cursive writing and that includes important historical documents like our Declaration of Independence.

  12. Thanks for sharing all these signs, Marylin. It is really great that they have been preserved. I feel sad that so many train stations are out of use now. How many train journeys cannot be undertaken anymore? Why is it that train rides have been overtaken by car travelling and a lot of air travelling? Is this an improvement in our way of living? I feel very nostalgic about train travels. In our modern day and age we do seem not to be able to afford them as much anymore. Very sad!
    I am writing from the perspective of an Australian citizen. Believe me, here in Australia the trend is very similar to trends in USA. A lot of train stations have been closed down!

    • Unfortunately, Australians and Americans do have this in common. While I’m glad that professionals saved this old railroad station and gave it new life with their offices, I miss the wonderfully build railroad stations that used to be so popular. Airports and bus stations do not have any of the charm, do they?

      • The old railroad stations are often magnificent buildings. Of course, it is good when we can see them preserved.

      • When we arrived in California via train for Christmas that year, we stopped at three train stations before arriving at the one in Vista. All were fascinating buildings with tile work, stucco and brick, and wonderfully arched windows…plus the were all decorated with Christmas wreaths and lights. They seemed magical to me.

  13. What a cool place! Now I know why you have such inSIGHT and are able to come up with so many interesting posts! 🙂

  14. It makes me sad that cursive handwriting has gone by the wayside. It’s like a foreign language to some kids. How do they read historical documents? Sigh.
    I love this story, Marylin! Like your father, the beware of pickpockets and loose women is my favorite! What great signs.

    • It is a lost skill, Jill. And truthfully, it does close a lot of possibilities for understanding many documents.
      Pickpockets and loose women… 😉 …kind of gives you ideas for another novel, right? 🙂

  15. Don

    As I read your post Marylin I was once again reminded of the sheer beauty of a Father/daughter relationship. What a gift that must have been for you.

    By the way, those depot signs are priceless.

  16. Ha! I loved the signs. Old public buildings like that can be so lovely inside. Hugs!

    • The signs really are so much fun, Teagan, especially because they were serious at the time! I’m so glad you commented. I’ve been reading your novel writing blog posts and loving all the obstacles you’ve encountered but not let stop you. But for some reason my comments to you just sit and spin and won’t go through. So now I can tell you here to keep up the good work. It sounds fascinating. 🙂

  17. Claudia

    What a lovely memory you shared. Your parents were certainly extraordinary teachers and mentors. Beautiful handwriting was once a treasure and now I don’t think anyone notices it among the tech and busy of today’s living.

    • Before his Alzheimer’s and her dementia, Claudia, they were extraordinary teachers and mentors to numerous adults and children in our town and our church…and in my life and my daughter’s. This is one of my favorite memories. I agree with you that it’s such a waste that no one seems to appreciate beautiful handwriting any more.

  18. Marylin, thank you for sharing your wonderful memory with your dad about writing cursive. You triggered a memory of mine as well. I was so proud of myself when I could write cursive. I think it wasn’t until I was in grade three. My favorite sign was “beware of pickpockets and loose woman” too. LOL

    • There is a sense of accomplishment and pride in learning to write cursive, isn’t there, Tracy? I remember using my new skill doodling on the edges of newspapers around the house, copying the printed words in cursive, and copying recipes from the newspaper for my mom–writing in cursive, of course–on index cards. 🙂

  19. Another deligthful story that has me beaming! Oh Marylin, what a wonderful place to have your eyes tested, I had mine done recently and I can assure that the signs hanging on the walls of the building of that office are nothing like as entertaining as these! Had me laughing out loud 😀 I love how your dad taught you cursive on that wonderful train trip and how he and your mom left you letters and you ‘mailed’ back your replies. And in sharing your treasured memories, I remember that in primary school (elementary school) up until I was 11, we had an actual lesson called ‘Handwriting’ in which we learnt cursive and wrote with fountain pens, the kind with those little replaceable plastic ink cartridges (the old fashioned, wooden, lift-up desks we sat at still had the little holes where once upon a time ink pots sat, but no longer used since we had moved into more ‘modern’ times…). My mum still has a couple of my exercise books with my italics perfectly written inside. I can’t believe I actually wrote them, they look so precise and neat, nothing like now! Although being a leftie, on ‘Handwriting’ days, I always came home with the entire side of my left hand and wrist covered in smudged black ink 😉

    • This is so much fun, Sherri! We practiced with with the pens with those little replaceable plastic cartridges, too! I’d forgotten about that until you mentioned it! And I remember that two of the boys pulled out the little cartridges before we went out to recess. They squeezed them at others, squirting ink! That put an end to the ink pens!
      I’m relieved that my grandchildren are still being taught cursive writing in school; in many school districts here they’ve stopped it, saying it’s unnecessary and they don’t have enough time.

      • Haha…I can see it now! So glad for your grandchildren, I remember my children learning cursive at school in CA, sad to think that it’s considered unnecessary by most school districts now. I remember when my eldest son was 14 (he’s 33) we had to buy a computer because the teachers started refusing to mark handwritten work. Too bad they didn’t pay for the computer, it cost us a fortune and was a dinosaur within 2 years!!!

      • So you had to buy a computer, Sherri? Oh, great, get a computer now, then a newer one with other programs, instead of learning to write clearly and neatly…a skill you can update on your own? Yep, makes sense to someone, probably. But not to me. 😉

  20. Jim

    Sweet story about you and your dad, Marylin. He was always so exuberant but still patient when doing business with people, and I’ll bet he was that way as a ‘teacher’ too. I had not heard this story and I enjoyed it very much.

    As for the railroad perspective, you know you are in my roundhouse! My great-grandfather was an engineer on a narrow-gauge steamer in the 1880’s and 90’s on a run between Como and Breckenridge in Colorado. He transported passengers, goods, and lots of ore back and forth over Boreas Pass, which summits at almost 11,500 feet. Quite a feat for an old steamer, especially in winter. He and my great-grandma raised three boys in Como, including my grandpa. All three became railroaders in Colorado when they grew up. Then great-uncle Neal’s son Jimmy became a railroader in Nevada, making three-generations of railroaders in my family. My cousin Margaret Coel has written a book entitled “Goin’ Railroading,” which is an entertaining record of railroading in Colorado, including the contributions from our family. Yep, we like railroads in my mom’s family! 🙂

  21. Honey, your family has so many wonderful railroad connections and stories, and my favorite learning-to-write-cursive experience with my dad was on a train. Simpatico! Maybe we can take our grandchildren on a train trip; think of all the football trading cards and story writing activities we could all do! Love you, sweetie!

  22. This was a fun post to read all the instructions and penalties – a year in prison for spitting! Yikes!

    • Oh, I know, Elizabeth. Yikes, is right! But I’m amazed that the penalty for spitting is a year in prison, but for pickpockets and loose women there’s only a warning to beware. Hmm… 😉

  23. Love the signs, Marilyn. I recall going to France as an 18 year old and being amazed they needed to be told not to spit inside a railway carriage! Snobby little Englander that I was! And he memories are terrific.

  24. calvin

    A touching and moving post, Marylin. The love and appreciation for your father shines. And is reflected not just in this story, but also in your warm smile we look at here and when you come calling. This made me smile too, for that I thank you ten fold.

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