My Great Grandpa Harmon lived a stone’s throw from the train tracks in Emmett, Michigan. The family had big gatherings on Father’s Day, and I remember Grandpa sitting on the front porch while all the kids played. Every hour or so we would run up to him and ask, “When is the next train coming, Grandpa?” He worked at the depot for many years before retiring, and he knew the schedule by heart.
He would look at his watch and tell us to the minute when the next train would arrive. If the time was short, we would dash over to the side of the tracks and wait for the first glimpse of the train.
It doesn’t sound very safe to let kids so close to train tracks, but the adults were watching and I’m sure we were scolded if we ventured too close. It was so exciting to feel the whoosh of air as each car passed. We would count them until we lost track.
By the 60s, passenger trains were not running much, but freight trains were still a regular sight in Grandpa’s neighborhood.
As much fun as it was to count train cars and play in Grandpa’s yard, it was even better when he came to visit my grandmother (his daughter). He was well into his eighties and still driving the sixty miles to our town by himself.
One time when Grandpa Harmon was visiting, he was playing with us. I ran circles through the living room, into the hallway, to the kitchen and back into the living room. On one of my trips around, my mother grabbed me and scolded, “Don’t play so rough with Grandpa. He’s old!”
“It’s not my fault, Momma. Every time I run past Grandpa, he pulls my pants up real tight.”
Even in his eighties he enjoyed giving a good wedgie.
Another thing Grandpa did was to hold my mother and tell us to tickle her feet. He knew that was her most ticklish spot. He’d hold her arms tight so she couldn’t get away while we tickled her into submission.
I can see Grandpa’s sense of humor in this picture with their dog sitting in a chair. It’s a copy of a copy, so it’s not great quality, but it’s one of my favorite pictures of Grandpa.
Only a few years ago when I started researching my family tree, I learned some other things about Grandpa Harmon. He was often called upon to break up fights. The train depot was across the street from a hotel and a bar. Whenever a fight broke out, somebody would yell, “Go get Sherm!” All he had to do was show up, and the guys would say, “We were just stopping, Sherm.” According to my mother, Grandpa rarely had to get physical. His size and reputation were enough to put the kibosh on their shenanigans.
My mother told me another bit of trivia when I was learning how to knit socks. “Grandpa Harmon knew how to knit,” she told me.
“Yes, during World War I when women were knitting socks for the servicemen, they often called upon him to turn the heel.”
I haven’t mastered the skill of knitting socks yet, but knowing my Grandpa could do it so well inspires me to keep learning.
I wish I knew more stories about Great Grandpa Harmon. At least his sense of humor was passed down in my family. My brother, Les has always been a jokester, but that’s another story I’ll save for another day on my 31 Days of Family Joy.
This post is part of my 31 Days of Family Joy, linking up with http://www.thenester.com.