Monday, May 21, 2012

Robert Jones

Bob says trains "just get in your blood."  He had his first steam engine cab ride in a Canadian Pacific locomotive at East Rygate, VT at the age of four - and he has never looked back.

Bob was born in December 1934 on a day that a few years later would be known around the world as a "day of infamy" - after the bombing of Peal Harbor and the start of World War II.  He was born in the Cottage Hospital in Woodsville, NH, across the Connecticut River from the family home in East Ryegate, VT.  He says his wife has never let him forget he is not a "native Vermonter."  (She was born in the Fanny Allen Hospital in Colchester, VT).

Bob's father, Cecil, worked fifty years on the Canadian Pacific Railway, his only employer.  During the World War II years his father was sent to Farnham, Quebec to become qualified as a train dispatcher (a job comparable to today's air traffic controllers).  The Jones's relocation to Richford, VT made it possible for Bob's Dad to see the family occasionally.  People generally worked 5.5 to 6 days a week at that time.  Young Bob was often allowed to travel the 35 miles by train to visit his Dad overnight.  A very understanding landlady let Bob stay in his Dad's room on these trips and even put up lunches for both father and son.

Bob's first railroad job could probably be classified as "illegal."    With a minimum age requirement of 16, the job of station janitor at the busy Richford passenger and freight station became available in 1947.  But Bob was only 13!  World War II was over and Bob's Dad was able to return to hid old job as third-trick operator at Richford.  So, what to do about an underage prospective railroad employee?  The solution was that Cecil bid off the job - all $1 a day and 7 days a week of it.  Then on payday, after cashing his check, he would had Bob his share.

Incidentally, this job involved mopping the two waiting rooms (one for men and one for ladies) and two large offices, emptying the trash, dusting, carrying ashes up from the basement, mowing the lawn and shoveling snow.  Bob definitely earned his $1 a day.

Bob wanted to 'go railroading' full time, but his Dad said "no", telling him that there was no future in it, with diesels coming in people would be laid off.  So Bob was accepted at the University of Vermont in Burlington and in 1956 earned a B.S. degree in Commerce and Economics with a major in Industrial Management.  During these four years he hitchhiked between Burlington and Richford, 60 miles, on weekends during the school year.  This allowed Bob to continue his part-time railroad work as a freight clerk and track worker.

After graduation, Bob was called to active duty from the active reserves.  Always athletic, he played first base on a military fast-pitch softball team at Fort Dix, NJ.  His teammates included Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax and Charley Neal, of the then Brooklyn Dodgers, along with Roosevelt Grier of the New York football Giants.

Bob and Janet were married in 1956 and a few years later Bob began a 33-year teaching career
at Shelburne (VT), later Champlain Valley Union High School, earning the position of Department Chairman.

Bob started working as a freight brakeman and conductor on the Vermont Railway in 1967, often teaching by day and railroading at night.  He worked every job and soon became qualified to operate over the entire system.  In a normal year he worked as brakeman, conductor and engineer for 100 - 115 trips.  Bob said, "I always carried my railroad bag and work clothes in the car."

He retired from railroading in 1999 with 41 years' service, having worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway in Vermont, the Vermont Railway and the Clarendon and Pittsford (Burlington, Rutland and Bennington to Whitehall and Hoosick Jct., NY), the Green Mountain Railroad out of Bellows Falls and the New England Central out of St. Albans.  Bob says, "there aren't too many miles of track in the state of Vermont that I haven't worked on."  During the summer of 1976 Bob worked as the Vermont Railway's pilot engineer on Vermont's Bi-Centennial Steam Train - "a great experience" he vividly recalls.

One of Bob's most satisfying railroad experiences was working a few years on the New England Central with his son Marc.  "I guess quite a bit of my love for railroading rubbed off on the boys".  Son Jim produces railroad DVDs under the name of Tell Tale Productions.  Check out Vermont Rail System; A Railroad Renaissance.
Unfortunately a third son, Steve, died in a boating accident on Lake Champlain just before entering his senior year of high school.

Janet was also bitten by the railroad bug.  She worked in a tourist passenger service on both the Vermont Railway and the Green Mountain Railroad for nine years.  If you can't lick 'em, you may as well join 'em, was her thinking.

Bob and Janet's cozy home is filled with books and DVDs about trains, beautiful paintings and models of trains.  Bob has researched written and published a total of 24 large hardcover books, many by Evergreen Press a company Bob founded in 1998.  He's also written many magazine articles for national railroad publications.

Railroads have been a rewarding life-long passion for Bob, a connection to his roots and a legacy to share with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  He is very optimistic about the future of both freight and passenger service in this country.

Bob's not one to sit idly while the world goes by.  He has a part time job at a supermarket, is involved in church and family activities, works out daily at a health club and generally "keeps his ear to the rails."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Jane Packard Bryant

IRREPRESSIBLE.  I think that's the word I'd choose to describe Jane.  Irrepressible and always on the go.

She was born in 1932 on Moose Mountain in New Hampshire, near Hanover.  Times were very hard and Jane and her sister, along with their parents "worked their heads off" on their dairy farm  They also made maple syrup which Jane doesn't like to this day because it reminds her of being so poor.

An accident changed her life.  At age 11 Jane was kicked by a horse and developed osteomyelitis (an acute or chronic bone infection) of the femur.  In those days there was no real treatment and Jane spent nearly two years in the hospital where doctors hoped to save her leg from amputation.  In a last ditch effort, they decided on a brand new drug and Jane became the first person in New Hampshire to be treated with penicillin.

Jane remembers her time in the hospital as a window on the world.  Her family's isolation on the farm, the tiny one room school and Depression era poverty had kept her awareness very limited.  She began to see other people and had more access to books and ideas.  She would watch at the window from a stretcher and see healthy children playing outside.  She determined that if she ever regained health and strength, she would spend her life helping others, especially children.

After nursing school and five children Jane began a 30 year career with the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties.

She became Vermont's first pediatric nurse practitioner and from 1970-80, through a grant facilitated by the VNA and Vermont Health Dept., helped organize  and run a community health center for low income children with funding from a  Model Cities grant and then HEW (Health Education and Welfare).  Childhood poverty was endemic in Winooski in the 1970s and The Winooski Child Health Center benefitted from collaboration with area pediatricians,  the Vermont Health Dept. the UVM Medical School Department of Pediatrics.  Jane says the project fell victim to Reaganomics and the population they served "went back to the emergency room" for care.

Throughout her life Jane had been open to the spiritual aspect of health and healing.  She knew the value of clinical competence, but noticed outcomes could differ widely.  One of her last endeavors at the VNA was working with hospice patients.  She became convinced that "the spiritual energy of love and intention could make the difference" and began to study Therapeutic Touch.  She became a certified practitioner of Healing Touch and opened a practice after retiring from the VNA in 1997.  Jane now sees patients in her healing room at All Souls Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne, at their homes, in the hospital or wherever she is needed.  She published articles in two national nursing journals and wrote two chapters in the book "History of Nursing in Vermont."  Jane also writes poetry and a work in progress is called "Moose Mountain Chronicle", an autobiographical account of her childhood.

Along with her busy nursing career, Jane's boundless energy led her to explore many other avenues to helping, healing and living in tune with the earth.  After her father made the suggestion she learned the ancient art of dowsing in the 1980s and enjoys the rewarding and vitally important work of bringing water to humanity.  Jane is a professional dowser and takes on 3 - 5 jobs every summer.

Another ancient and transformative practice Jane embraces is belly dancing which she finds "very grounding, but ethereal".  Over the years she has given talks and demonstrations at many womens' group  and events, performed at weddings, plays and at book signings.

Jane was a single parent for much of the time while her five daughters were young.  They decided to live their values and connect with the earth as far as possible.  In 1964 they began farming and raised sheep, pigs and chicken, boarded as many as seven horses at a time and sold eggs at church.

After the girls were grown, Jane married Cyrus Bryant a professional singer, conductor, violist and pianist (and retired physics professor) and reawakened an older part of her life ~ the joy of music.  Her father was "a jolly Frenchman" and music was a big part of their life on the farm.  Now she and Cy sing in the Burlington Choral Society, the Green Mountain Mahler Festival and The Unitarian Universalist Society choir.  They are rehearsing two to four nights a week, to say nothing of performances.  Jane's favorites are "the three Bs and Mahler", along with any "good Mass in Latin".

Jane likes to say she has nine lives and referred to their separate, but connected aspects a number of times.  I think I counted them:  child of the Depression, young wife and mother, nurse, farmer, dowser, belly dancer, healer, musical soul and grandmother.  No doubt there are even more.  Jane is very serious about the problems people face on the road to health and happiness, but her optimism and natural good humor smooth the way in doing what she can to help.

When I caught up with her last week Jane was spending time with one of her granddaughters, had just finished making lunch and a batch of oatmeal cookies.  Cy was at the piano as she was tidying up the garden.  I don't think I know anyone who laughs and smiles more than Jane.