Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie

By Andrew Carnegie | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
RAILROAD SERVICE

FROM the operating-room of the telegraph office I had now stepped into the open world, and the change at first was far from agreeable. I had just reached my eighteenth birthday, and I do not see how it could be possible for any boy to arrive at that age much freer from a knowledge of anything but what was pure and good. I do not believe, up to that time, I had ever spoken a bad word in my life and seldom heard one. I knew nothing of the base and the vile. Fortunately I had always been brought in contact with good people.

I was now plunged at once into the company of coarse men, for the office was temporarily only a portion of the shops and the headquarters for the freight conductors, brakemen, and firemen. All of them had access to the same room with Superintendent Scott and myself, and they availed themselves of it. This was a different world, indeed, from that to which I had been accustomed. I was not happy about it. I ate, necessarily, of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil for the first time. But there were still the sweet and pure surroundings of home, where nothing coarse or wicked ever entered, and besides, there was the world in which I dwelt with my companions, all of them refined young men, striving to improve themselves and become respected citizens. I passed through this phase of my life detesting what was foreign to my nature and my early education. The experience with coarse men was probably beneficial because it gave me a "scunner" (disgust), to use a

-65-

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