I never met my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer, because he passed away on October 16, 1951, and I was born in 1956. Grandpa worked for the Great Northern Railway as a carpenter. You might wonder what a carpenter would do on the railroad, but if you think about it, the seats on those trains were wooden, and as such, they could break or age, and would need repairs or replacement. That is just one part of the trains and stations that is made of wood. Grandpa’s train carpentry comes to my mind every time I ride the 1880 train in the Black Hills. The work done to restore those old cars, which would have been in my grandfather’s era, makes me think of the kind of work he must have done. The work in those train cars is beautiful. It’s not all fancy, but it’s very nice work. I don’t suppose all the work he did would have been in train cars from the Gilded Age, but I’m sure it was nice for the time.
Grandpa also made furniture, and in fact was really pretty good at it. I wish I could have seen some of the things he made. As a carpenter for the railroad, you know he had a talent for woodworking. I’m sure that in his day, many people made their own furniture, and the best ones developed a real talent for it. There are a number of people in our family who have inherited that talent, and with the proper tools and great imaginations, they have gone further than what Grandpa did. I’m sure grandpa would have been shocked at all the things that can be done with wood these days, but I would love to have something he made, nevertheless.
Grandpa’s work on the Great Northern Railway afforded his kids, as dependents, a free pass to ride the trains whenever they wanted to. They just had to show the pass and they could go between their farm in Holyoke, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. They loved it, and my dad, Allen Spencer, loved trains until the day he went home to Heaven, and beyond. Of course, having a pass didn’t stop my dad and my Uncle Bill Spencer from hopping the train…a big no-no, but to them, a lot of fun. I sometimes wonder why they didn’t take away their passes, but I guess they figured that “boys will be boys” and after all they had a pass. They loved having their dad work for the railroad, because they loved the trains. Today is the 143rd anniversary of Grandpa Spencer’s birth. Happy birthday in Heaven, Granda Spencer. We love and miss you very much.