With all the rain we have been receiving, our area, along with many others have received multiple flash flood warnings, as well as flooding in many areas. When river water crosses a road, we are told not to drive through the flood, because it can take your car and cause your death. So many warnings are given to us in a flood situation. So much has been learned over the years about how to stay safe. So much has been learned about early warnings. So a lot of preparation is put in place, and yet, sometimes it’s just not enough. Such was the case on June 19, 1938.
At that time, they didn’t have pickups that drove the rail system to check the tracks for problems. Instead a track walker was sent out to areas where there was a possible problem. Custer Creek is a small winding river that runs through 25 miles of the Great Plains on its way to the Yellowstone River. Minor streams like Custer Creek are prone to flash floods because their small capacity can quickly and easily be exceeded during heavy rains. A track walker was sent out to make sure everything was ok on the trestle at Custer Creek in Terry, Montana, and he reported that all was well there. Just a few hours later, a sudden downpour came through the area. The rising water in Custer Creek washed out the bridge and when the Olympian Special came through, it went crashing into the raging waters with no warning at all.
Two sleeper cars were immediately buried in the muddy waters, and the moonless night extremely hampered rescue efforts. In the end, 46 people lost their lives. The rear cars stayed above the water, but many passengers were seriously injured. To make matters worse, they could not be evacuated until the following morning. To hear of a train going into river in a flood is…at the very least, rare. I’ve heard of trains derailing…we all have, but this was different. On a moonless, pitch black night, my guess is that the engineer had no idea what was about to happen. The shock must have been sickening to say the very least. Just knowing that people were going to die and there was nothing you could do about it, must have been the most horrible experience of an engineer’s life. Completely unimaginable.
These days there are different safety measures in place, but that still doesn’t guarantee that such an event couldn’t happen again. I don’t know what the solution would be in these situations, but I’m sure that if there is one, technology will find a way to fix the problem. In those days, with the technology they had, they had done all they could, and yet, lives were still lost.
For many people, today might not necessarily mark anything so special, but for my husband, Bob Schulenberg, this is a good day. He was just a little boy of four years and three months, and didn’t know a thing about this at the time, and probably wouldn’t have cared if he had known, but down the road twelve years or so, he would have cared. Even when he did care, he wouldn’t have known the exact date or anything. I know, you wonder what in the world I am talking about. Well, it’s the El Camino. I just found out that the car Bob always wanted was first introduced on this day, October 16, 1958.
For a four year old Bob, that day held no significance, and even now, he doesn’t know that this is the 56th anniversary of the El Camino…but he soon will. I don’t recall just how long we owned our El Camino, but it was a long time, and it was definitely Bob’s vehicle. The seat would not go far enough forward for me to easily drive it, so I only did so when it was absolutely necessary. Needless to say, while it was one of Bob’s favorite cars, it really wasn’t mine. I don’t like to have my driving experience be a lot of work for me.
At the time of its introduction by Chevrolet, the El Camino was considered a car-truck hybrid vehicle. That is rather comical to me. A hybrid!! Really!! It was apparently inspired by the Ford Ranchero which had been on the market for two years at the time of the El Camino’s debut. They said it “rides and handles like a convertible, yet hauls and hustles like the workingest thing on wheels.” It may have been a good hauler, but in my opinion, it was nothing like a convertible, and I’ve had one, so I do know.
The El Camino didn’t really catch on, and the model built on an Impala chassis was discontinued in 1960. It was re-introduced in 1964 on the Chevelle frame, and in 1968 they upgraded to the SS version which made it a sport truck. With these changes, the El Camino became one of the iconic muscle cars of the late 1960s and 1970s. It seems every guy wanted one of the newest models. I guess you had to be a guy to appreciate it so much. The El Camino was dropped permanently in 1987, and while Pontiac thought about re-introducing it in 2008, their financial difficulties cause that to be dropped from the plan in 2009.
I’m glad Bob got to have the car-truck of his dreams, even if it wasn’t my very favorite, but I can’t say that I was sorry when he sold it. It had done its duty, and served its purpose, but it was time for him to have a real truck. I can’t say I like driving his pickup either, but as long as he’s happy with it, I’m happy too. Here’s to the El Camino…1970s muscle car, and the car of a little boy’s dreams.
As a young family, my in-laws lived in Montana, and my father-in-law worked for the railroad. Their family was growing, and now they had 3 children, Marlyce, Debbe, and my future husband, Bob. My father-in-law was working for the railroad, and the family was living on railroad property.Things were going well enough, but in 1956, the decision was made to move the family from Dalin, Montana to Martinsville, Montana…neither of which still exist today, as near as I can tell, so unfortunately, I can’t say how long the trip was. That doesn’t really matter, because, any trip with three children under the age of 7 years, had to seem like an eternity. Nevertheless, this trip was about to get a little bit longer. They loaded their belongings into a 1951 Ford pickup truck, which was the first vehicle my father-in-law had ever owned, and it had been purchased brand new in 1951, so it was a nice vehicle. Everything loaded, they set out for Martinsville.
Along the way to Martinsville, a pickup pulled out in front of the 1951 Ford. The accident destroyed all their furniture and totaled the pickup. I can only imagine how awful that was. In those days, seat belts and car seats were unheard of, so I’m sure my in-laws thought they were all about to die. It was a devastating event, but the family was all ok, but, now they were stuck waiting for the police and tow truck, and had to figure out what to do next. The trip took just about the worst possible turn. I can hear the kids now. The girls were most likely crying because they were cold or hungry, and Bob being only 2 years old was either scared, or more likely curious…if I know him. It would be my guess that both of my in-laws had a massive headache from the trauma and worry, both for their family and for their future.
In the end, things turned out ok. The insurance money was enough to buy a 1953 Ford pickup and a 33 foot mobile home. I can’t imagine three kids in a 33 foot mobile home, but I’m sure they felt like it was practically a palace, considering the way things could have gone. Car accidents can conpletely devistate lives, but their little family was alive, and no one was hurt badly, so the rest of it was just stuff. If you can walk away from an accident like that in one piece, you thank the Lord, and count your many blessings.
My youngest grandchild is turning 15 today. That means that all of my grandchildren will be driving in some capacity. Three have their driver’s license, and now Josh will have his learner’s permit. It’s a very strange feeling when all of your grandchildren are driving. It brings you to a place of wondering where the years have gone, and how they could have gone by so very fast. It seems like only yesterday that my daughters were getting their licenses, and now my last grandchild is taking that step too. Josh has been studying like crazy for his test. Some kids don’t study and some do ok, but Josh doesn’t want to take any chances.
Like his brother, Josh already has a car, or in his case a pickup. He has been making payments to his parents to buy the family’s extra vehicle, and he’s doing a pretty good job making those payments, especially since he doesn’t have a job yet. He has been mowing lawns and other odd jobs to earn money, but now that he is 15, he is hoping to find a real job. I suppose that we will no longer have someone to mow our lawn now…but you never know, perhaps one of our grandsons will take pity on their grandpa and do that job for him.
Josh is a hard working student, and he proudly told me the other day that he has straight A’s. I know it is early in the year, but Josh hates to have grades that are not A’s, so he keep close tabs on his grades. It’s not that school is easy for Josh, because he has to work hard for his grades. He just doesn’t want to find out that he has a lot of catching up to do at the end of the quarter. It is the best way to do things, I’m sure you will agree.
While all of Josh’s accomplishments have made me so very proud of him, the thing about Josh that has most surprised me is the fact that he has grown so tall and slender. Josh was born 5 weeks prematurely, and spent two weeks in Denver in the neo-natal ICU. When he came home, he set himself to the task of catching up. He ate and ate…even getting a little chunky…until he started to walk, that is. That was the last time he was chunky. Now with the added height, he seems even more slender…but it is just normal for him. He towers over me now, and…yes, he loves that too. So much has changed in Josh’s life, it has been like watching a movie in hyper-speed sometimes. Today is Josh’s birthday. Happy birthday Josh!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!
From the time he was just a little boy, my nephew, Barry loved all things wheel related…from wagons to trucks, and especially tractors. Of course, when he was little he wasn’t allowed to do much serious driving, so he had to settle for a wagon or an old tractor that didn’t run. He was a serious macho man. He even wanted to forgo the entire school experience to stay home and work on trucks with his grandpa.
As he grew, and found out that refusal to attend school was not an option, he discovered that school had a few redeeming aspects after all…the girls. Like all little boys, this discovery made going to school bearable. He also found a new use for his wheels…and his first chick magnet was born. That was about 1987, and not much has changed as far as Barry’s love for most types of wheeled vehicles. These days, however, his chick magnet is reserved for the one chick that has the key to his heart…his wife Kelli.
Of course, Kelli probably wouldn’t go very far with him in the 1987 version of the chick magnet, so Barry has had to upgrade to a newer version…the pickup truck. Every girl would agree that while his wagon was very cute, it just doesn’t work well for going out on the town. And, lets face it, having your boyfriend pull you around in a wagon, would be a little bit embarrassing for a person in their twenties. That sort of thing tends to make you look a little juvenile. Girls don’t really like that.
Barry has not outgrown his love for wheels of any type though. His riding lawn mower has replaced the broken down tractor, and the four wheeler ha replaced the little wagon. It is long gone too, except for the memories in pictures. Still, Barry hasn’t changed all that much really. I wouldn’t be surprised if that little boy doesn’t still live somewhere inside the man he has become. I’ll bet that when he looks a a little wagon in pictures or at the store, he remembers the good old days when the wagon was all the wheels he needed.
In thinking of my grandchildren starting to drive, I am reminded of my own experiences in learning to drive. My dad was such a patient man when it came to the teenage driver, and I don’t know how he did it. I remember teaching my girls to drive, and all I can say is…I was somewhat less patient than my Dad. But my girls survived, and became good drivers. Now it is their turn. It is a task I do not envy. I know I will also play a part in letting my grandchildren drive, and I hope I will do ok.
I will never forget some of the training my dad gave me. Dad didn’t feel like a person had all the training needed to be a good driver unless they can parallel park. Now as you know, many people have lots of problems parallel parking, but I can honestly tell you that I do not, and it is due to the training my dad gave me. We were driving one day, and he had me drive around until he found what he was looking for…a good sized pickup with a big steel grill guard. It was down town in front of the America Theater. And so we began. I backed into the parking spot…bumped the truck…pulled forward…backed up again…bumped the truck…pulled forward…and, well you get the picture. I can’t tell you how many times I bumped that truck, but I parked and re-parked in the spot for at least 30 minutes, and by the time I was done, I could parallel park. It seemed a crazy plan, but it worked.
I remember a trip we took to New York to visit my sister, Cheryl. Dad was driving around Lake Superior, and after many hours of driving, he had a stiff neck. He asked me to drive while he laid down in the back. That, of course, left my mom the supervise, and she was, well a little nervous about it. It was a foggy evening, and that only served to increase the tension. Every time I got over about 20 mph, my mom would grab my leg and tell me to slow down, and when I say grab…well, I mean pinch!! She didn’t mean to, but she did. We finally got out of the fog, to my great relief. Most of the time Mom did ok, but I’ll pass on the fog driving with her, if you don’t mind.
I will always remember the driving lessons I learned…some of them with a bit of a smile on my face, because I can still imaging how funny it must have looked to anyone watching. Thanks Mom and Dad, and to my kids and their kids…well, all I can say is try to keep a good sense of humor.