Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A couple of reasons I'm here

Do you ever think about all the things that had to happen just the way they did in order for you to be born?  It first occurred to me as a little kid when I heard my grandfather telling a story of how, when he drove a truck in Chicago in the 20s, he drove right into a race riot.  He was pulled out of the cab and the crowd was going to do a 1920's version of Reginald Denny on him.  But, one gentleman in the crowd in the crowd recognized him and said "Hey, that's Braunie...he cool."  And, indeed he was and because he had treated this man in a way uncommon for the situation when they had worked together on the docks, my grandfather was picked up, dusted off and apologized to and helped back into his Mac truck.  Consequently, the lineage that includes me was allowed to continue.  So, as a little kid, hearing that story, I thought, "Hey, I almost wasn't born.  What are the odds that one of my grandfather's friends would have been in that crowd to save his life."  As time went on, I realized that it isn't just the dramatic moments like that...it's everything.  Every little choice that my ancestors made on a daily basis for thousands of years all had to happen for me to eventually be born.  When I came across the items below, I realized how unlikely it was that my paternal grandparents got together.

Aside from being some of the links that make up the chain, these guys got me interested in pocket watches, especially railroad watches.  Both of these belonged to my grandfather.  He was a brakeman and a conductor working on the railroad out of the Barstow Station.  Had he not somehow ended up out in the middle of nowhere (I mean, can you imagine Barstow in 1910-1919?)...no chance for me.  You see, my grandmother was a very devout woman.  So devout that she was going to become a nun.  But, she decided to take a year off to think about it and ended up working as a Harvey Girl in Barstow.  Happily for the Braun family, Edmond Braun was also working there.  I know little of their courtship other than Edmond swooped and Anna bailed on the convent idea.

I just realized that 99.999% of you probably have no idea what a Harvey Girl was.  Back in those days, they didn't have dining cars on the railroad.  So, they had gigantic cafeteria type restaurants at certain major stops.  There was one in Barstow because people would then arrived in Los Angeles and not have to worry about being famished.  So, they had to staff these places.  From what I know of them, they were pretty strict.  My grandmother was from Chicago and she was actually recruited there, if I remember the family story correctly.  Then, once they were at their destination, the Harvey Girls had to live in dormitory like buildings under some pretty strict rules.  But, that's when my grandparents met and I'm here writing about it, so, obviously there was some wiggle room.

I came across this book years ago and learned a lot about Harvey Girls that my grandmother never told me.  It's actually pretty interesting. 

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