On today’s posting, you shall go on a date. Not to worry, you are not part of the date, just an obvserver standing off in the background. This is an excerpt from my latest effort, titled AGAIN. If you wish, you can learn more about the book at http://againkuhn.com. However, you do not need to do any preparation to go on the date. The year is 1964. You will be accompanying Richard and Patricia to Washington, D.C. The train ride begins in Philadelphia. Have a seat…
Richard would look for any excuse to make a trip to Washington. He loved the “politics” of the city and marveled at all the buildings and monuments along its famous mall. In 1964 the Smithsonian Institution opened its newest addition, The Museum of History and Technology, featuring exhibits focusing on the nation’s history and displaying artifacts that reflected what many referred to as The American Experience.
Richard and Patricia were on the early train to D.C. with the mission of spending the entire day at the new museum. For Richard, it was the perfect day that included his favorite things: a train ride, the nation’s capital and, of course, the girl of his dreams.
Both travelers had gotten up extra early so it was no surprise they were both fast asleep, leaning shoulder to shoulder against each other by the time the train passed through Wilmington, Delaware. Richard woke up as the conductor was announcing the train pulling into Union Station in Washington. He felt well rested, but disappointed that he had slept through practically the entire train ride. He attempted to awaken Patricia slowly so as not to startle her. That didn’t work. The minute he began rubbing her arm softly, she let out a yelp and at first was totally disoriented until she realized where she was.
“Wow, I hope you enjoyed my companionship. I guess I talked your head off the entire trip since we left Philly,” she said in a sleepy voice.
“Actually, I didn’t hear a word you said. We both slept through every clickety-clack. But I feel great. I needed the sleep. I’ve got my museum shoes on and I’m ready to go.”
“I need a little more time to wake up and I am hungry. Can we get something breakfastsy to eat before we take on the entire history of the country?”
“Not to worry. I will find a chicken willing to give us some eggs.”
The two got off the train and walked through the door into the main chamber of Union Station. Richard stopped for a moment to get his bearings, then he grabbed Patricia by the hand and headed off in a diagonal direction. When he got to a certain point he stopped.
“I don’t see breakfast here,” Patricia said.
“No, breakfast is not here,” Richard responded. “There’s a restaurant about one block away when we get outside, but I wanted to show you a little history while we’re here.”
“Oh no, is this one of your train stories? I know you love trains, but I love breakfast even more.”
“Patty, just give me a moment because right where we are standing, something pretty colossal happened in 1953.”
“That’s the same year I last had breakfast so be quick about your little train time capsule, okay?” Richard was undaunted by her sarcasm.
“Patty, right where we are standing, back in January 1953 a train arrived here at Union State. But it didn’t make a normal arrival. It was full of people who were coming to President Eisenhower’s inauguration, all the way from Boston on down. The engine pulling this train was what was called a GG-l. It was the largest train engine of its time and the Pennsylvania Railroad had tons of them pulling their passenger trains. This particular engine, just a few miles outside of Washington, developed a problem. The brakes had stopped working. No matter what the engineer did, he was not able to slow down the train. They were able to notify the people here and get everyone out just as the GG-1 came roaring into the station—literally. It went right through the platform, crashed through the wall over there and came to about here and collapsed through the floor to the basement level below. It was like a scene out of a movie with big special effects and all. And can you believe it, people were injured, but no one was killed. Isn’t that amazing?” Patricia actually gave Richard credit.
“Y’know, I actually remember seeing that on the news. I was ten years old. That’s pretty cool that we’re standing right where it happened. You do know your train stuff.”
“Okay, more history to come at the museum, but for now you are free. Let’s get breakfast.”
They spent the rest of the day at the museum and still didn’t get to see everything they wanted. But there was one special exhibit that was just temporary as part of the opening celebration for the new museum. You had to make a reservation for it, which Richard and Patricia did first thing when they arrived. Their appointment was for two o’clock that afternoon. When the time came, they showed up in an area where there was a photography studio. Here they were first instructed to select a backdrop for their picture. These were on rolls above like pull-down shades. They provided a background for the picture and featured different scenes throughout history. In addition to the backdrop, those to be in the photograph then selected from a collection of clothing to match the period of time. Richard and Patricia selected a picture of a parlor from a photo taken in 1910. Then they each changed into the appropriate clothing. Richard put on a fine vested suit with a stiff upturned shirt collar and bowtie. He topped it off with a black felt bowler. Patricia picked a full-length lacy dress with a high, tight collar all the way up to her throat. She then picked the widest, most feathered hat and tied it to her head with a big ribbon that came down and knotted under her chin. When they appeared in front of the backdrop, a crowd had formed and applauded loudly. They made the perfect Victorian couple. Even the photographer commented he had never seen a more natural couple representing that time period.
The test Polaroid™ picture the photographer took came out so well that Richard and Patricia ordered several larger prints of the master set that would be mailed home to them later.
“Maybe we’ll get them framed,” Patricia suggested, “Then hold them until Christmas and give them to our parents as a fun gift. What do you think?”
“That’d be a good idea. I think they’d get a laugh out of them,” Richard said.
They had a late lunch at the museum and spent another few hours until it was time to head back to Union Station. They had walked quite a bit since morning so they took a cab back. Once inside the station, Patricia suddenly stopped Richard and grabbed both his hands.
“Do you know what happened right here at this very spot?” she asked him.
“A girl was about to catch a train home to Philadelphia when she realized she hadn’t once all day told her boyfriend how much fun she had and how much she loved him more and more everyday. And then right here, Richard, in front of everybody at this very spot, she plowed her lips into his and gave him a great big kiss.”
Afterward, Richard admitted he had never heard that particular train story before. Patricia was so proud she knew all about it and he didn’t.
AGAIN won First Place, General Fiction, at this year’s Independent Book Awards. Both Kindle and paperback are available at amazon. I hope you made it back home before your parents’ curfew.