Friday, June 29, 2012

The Regina Railway Yard and the Last Day of School

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The Regina Railway Yard and the Last Day of School
As I drove home yesterday the two schools near where we live had just emptied.  Students were everywhere on the two sidewalks – both sides of the street.  There was happiness on everyone’s face for sure.  School was out now for the summer!  WOW!

At that moment I had another flash back! Whoa!

I was in Grade 5 again and just completed the year. I was exiting Haultain Public School in Regina, Saskatchewan.  I was 11 and leaving this school for the last time.

I had started school at the Innismore School and stayed there until the end of Grade 3. Then it was off to Haultain… which was just north of our home on Elliott Street about four blocks.  But there was a problem with that four block distance – there was the major Railway shunting yard for CPR and CNR trains.  To get to the school and take that short walk of four blocks meant you had to cut through and duck under gigantic railway cars – box cars and flatbed cars mixed with oil tankers.  You had to cross about 8 sets of tracks and their rail cars.

The official plan was for us to walk six blocks over to Winnipeg Street, go under the road subway that went under the Railway tracks and then we walked north and east to the school.  That was a total of 16 blocks to walk with your books and school stuff - one way… which we called the “Long Way”.

It just made more sense to duck under the railway cars and cross track after track of steel to get to the north side of the railway yard. That way we could avoid the 12 extra blocks of walking.

Whoa!  What a flash back!

Towards the end of the School year, maybe in April my sister and I were heading home. We had walked the short four blocks south on Elliott Street from the school, ducked under and around the snow fences of the rail yard, and headed over the tracks to our house. Our house was only a short walk from the railway tracks and through the tall grass.

As we came up to our house there was a police car sitting outside. Inside the house was a very tall policeman talking with my mom.

The policeman looked at us and said something like, “Your home early… which way did you come?”

Oh Oh I just knew we were in trouble somehow.  We had circumnavigated the rail yard and the train tracks to get home quicker.  The cop had been watching us and followed to us to our home a few days before… and now had come to capture us.

We knew that we were not supposed to be near that railway track and that rail yard!  But my sister and I knew that mom never watched us and all the rest of the kids had done this all the time!  So we did it too.

BUT someone had reported the kids crossing under the rail cars and standing beside the tracks as the huge locomotives had swished by us.

Dangerous wasn’t the right word for this action on our part. It was just plain stupid.

I first started crossing under the trains when I was 9 years old. I had played tag with my friends in and around the rail cars since I was about 7 years old. We lived beside the rail yard – what did you expect?  It was fun!!!!  We did this all summer long – when school was out!

As the policeman met with us he told us that in no uncertain terms were we ever to cross that rail yard again – or go near it!  We would have to walk around the long way – or we would have to quit Haultain School and head over to Thompson School which was further away yet!

There were no school buses in that day – so it meant a further walk to school.

For two months and a bit my sister and I walked the long way to and from school. We knew the police were watching.

At the end of Grade 5, that last day of school at Haultain Public School we were done walking that long way.  In the fall we had to start school at Thompson Public School… a much further walk – west and south – away from the train tracks.

On that last day of school I exited shouting with all the other kids… “No more School… No more books… no more of the Teacher’s dirty looks!!...”

And we shouted it over and over and over again… with gusto!

Yet at that same moment I realized that I would not be back again to that old school building – because we got caught!!!

To the present…
But then yesterday as I watched the kids walking down the street… they were close to home… and were safe as they walked. The ones that lived further away had climbed aboard a bus and were being carefully taken home.

I also realized that I had both my legs and have lived a full life.  The young guy that lived across the street from us on Elliott Street had lost one leg as he had crawled under that one freight car that horrible day. The locomotive was shunting the long trains and the far away banging had come… and with each bang the cars had started rolling.  His leg was just inches from the wheel when the car moved – and the leg was gone – snipped off neatly.

That had happened when I was in Grade 4.

Yesterday the kids at the two schools near us were just happy and heading home from school for their summer vacation… and I smiled.

I write this today so my grandkids will know… oh boy – what a flash back that was!

~ Murray Lincoln ~

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