A Lifetime at Grand Central

By Dean, William J. | The Christian Science Monitor, March 15, 1993 | Go to article overview
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A Lifetime at Grand Central

Dean, William J., The Christian Science Monitor

JULIAN GREEN writes: "There is scarcely a corner of Paris that is not haunted with memories for me." And so it is for me with New York City.

When you have lived in a city a long time, its fabric becomes a part of your life: the bridges, avenues, buildings.

One of the great buildings of New York City is Grand Central Terminal. It was the starting point for my first childhood journey outside New York City - the beginning of all my travels. My mother, my sister, and I were in a taxicab proceeding south along Vanderbilt Avenue. At 43rd Street, the cab pulled into the driveway leading to the west entrance of the terminal. A porter took our bags, and we entered.

From the top of the landing I saw the magnificent interior of the terminal, sheathed in marble. We walked down the stairway to the information booth in the center of the main concourse. There we inquired as to the track number for the New York Central Railroad train for Chicago, and thus began our adventurous 3,000-mile train trip across the United States from New York to San Francisco.

In my late teens I worked as a counselor at a boys' camp in Maine. I was assigned the job of bringing a group of campers by night-sleeper from New York City.

One sweltering late afternoon in June, I arrived in Grand Central Terminal and posted myself by the information booth, wearing a camp shirt for identification, to await the arrival of the boys. One by one, they appeared with their parents, some of them already looking homesick. The group grew until we had 30 boys and a raccoon in a cage. Farewells were effusive.

I led my flock through the gate to the train and counted them as they entered the sleeping car to make certain none had strayed. Once the train pulled out of the terminal, all thoughts of homesickness seemed to vanish. The raccoon was uncaged, and with boys screaming, it raced up and down the aisle of the sleeper.

Massive pillow fights ensued. The Pullman conductor assigned to our car, looking aghast, fled the scene. I was a gentle disciplinarian, insisting only that no boy leave the car. I feared losing some of my charges at station stops along the way. Not much sleeping took place that night.

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