Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Grampa Goes to Galesburgh

The Journey of a Lifetime - or Two

The truth is I didn't know my Grampa Kauffman very well. The truth is, I suspect, not many people did. He certainly didn't get along with my father. Perhaps he held it against me that I was born to be named after him and my birth certificate confirms this. I am, officially, Kendall Edward Kauffman, though I was only ever known by this name for a short period. Then, according to family accounts, my old man fell out with Grampa big-time and I was named Malcolm Rodney instead ( I have a name change document from Cook Co, Illinois to that affect) – maybe just to spite his old man!

Add to that I was never Grampa's favourite. My cousin Jerry Stone took that honour. When he drowned in a swimming pit aged about 12, it affected Grampa almost as badly as My Aunt Mae and Uncle Mel. Somehow I always felt that Grampa wished it were me that had drowned. Just a feeling I had.

Anyway, he was from a different generation by a long way. In the fifties he must have moved to Independence for he was about with my Grandma Erickson.

He was definitely in charge of whatever house he was in. Aunt Jane and Uncle Bud never had children so perhaps Grampa had forgotten what it was like. My Grandma died in 1960 and after that Grampa must have moved in with Aunt Jane and then remarried.

Family tradition has it that he was bit of a ladies man. I've heard stories that Grandma threw him out on occasions for womanising. You might have thought that age had slowed him down but apparently not, as he took Ethyl from Galesburg, Illinois as his second wife.

By 1965 or so he would have been well into his late seventies.

I was fairly shocked and not a little displeased when my old man said to me one day, “Grampa wants you to drive him to Galesburg.”

This was typical. Grampa would not deign to ask me – he would tell my old man what he wanted and expect it would be provided.

Anyway the deal was already done. I was to drive Grampa's car – with Grampa for company – to Galesburg. I was to stay overnight with Grampa and Ethyl and he would put me on the train back to Independence the next day – and give me £10. That's the way it was explained to me.

Would that it were as simple in execution as in inception.

Now, to get to Illinois the traditional route was 40 Hiway across the state and then US 54 to cross the Mississippi at Louisiana, Missouri and then US 67 to Galesburgh No dice for Grampa. He always went US 24 to cross at Quincy and then catch up with 67 and on to Galesburg. This was not the way to go and I told the OM so. It did me no good. It was 24 Hiway all the way. It was two lane most of the way. It took a century as you went through innumerable hick towns along the way. Such metropoli as Bucknor, Levasey, Lexington, Waverley, Moberly, Paris, Monroe City and Paris slid by slowly, re-pleat with traffic lights and stop signs. It was early evening before Galesburg hove into view.

Ethyl was a very nice lady and I had dinner with her and Grandpa. No other form of entertainment being on offer, I went to bed early.

As promised next day Grampa took me to the station, got my ticket and put me on the train to Independence.

Yes, there were still trains in those days which serviced small Illinois and Missouri towns.

I duly arrived back in Independence a sight quicker than it took to get to Galesburg.

I never saw the $10 and I never had the nerve to ask Granpa for the money.

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