HITTING THE ROAD
The N.Y., P. & N. railroad station in 1905.
My grandfather said very little about his early years, probably because there wasn’t too much variety in his life. His formal education ended in 1904 when he was 15 years old and still in the fifth grade. He then began a life of hard work that would last for some 63 years when he finished building his last house at age 78. His first job was working for his father on the family farm. Apparently his father had a way of dispensing punishment with what my grandfather called a buggy whip. He was made to lean over a railing and, when his father struck him he said he could see his own blood spurt from the wound on his stomach. One day, when he was 16, he took the whip from his father before he could touch him, pushed him down a flight of stairs and told him he was the last man that was ever going to lay a hand on him. That night, he left home for good,
He walked the two miles to Salisbury by way of Anderson Road (now Pemberton Drive) and went to the railroad station. The railroad station in 1905 was the N.Y., P. & N. Station (New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk) and was located on the West side of the tracks about 200 yards South of where the Union Station is today. He inquired of the station attendant when the next train was coming through. He said he didn’t care at the time whether it was heading North or South. The attendant told him that the only train going through that night was an express going South, to which my grandfather replied, “I didn’t ask what it was, I asked when it was coming through.”
Around 9:30 that night he took a chance that could have ended his life before it started. He said the train was going 30-35 mph as it approached the station. The attendant told him he could never catch it, but he hadn’t figured on my grandfather’s desperation and determination. As the train approached, he began running down the platform and was positioned to make his move when the train’s box cars passed close to him. He often told me that when he grabbed the ladder attached to one of the box cars he knew that if he didn’t hang on he would have been thrown under the train and killed. The jolt he got when he was snatched up by the speeding train separated him from his prized derby hat and relieved him of all the buttons on his leather jacket. But, hang on he did. He was now heading South, with no hat, and only the clothes of his back and $4.35 in his pocket. He said his hat had his name in the hatband and one of his family ended up with the hat. When he finally came home for good in 1910, the hat wasn’t returned to him and he never had much to do with his family for the rest of his life.
He stayed on that train until he finally got off in Pee Dee, South Carolina.