Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More goodbyes

I know I have been TERRIBLE at putting anything into this blog, but now I've lost more of the important people in my life, and I must write something.

In the early 1970s, before I went to work for Amtrak, I got involved with an incredible group of people via the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association. This group of traction and railroad enthusiasts became a sort of core group for me, and helped to determine much of the course of my life. One of the key people in this group was Rick Borgwardt, the Royal Imperial Zaught. This title was bestowed upon Rick a bit before I first met him. It has no intrinsic meaning - and it certainly is not a title that could be inherited. There has only been, and there will only be, ONE Zaught.

Rick loved to hold court, and he did so for many, many years at the Railway Museum at Rio Vista Junction. How I loved to sit and listen to his stories when I stayed in the bunkhouse on weekends, after a day of toiling on the numerous projects being undertaken at the museum.

After I started work at Amtrak, Rick decided to give a whirl and also came to work in the San Francisco Reservation Bureau, as did Phil Reiner-Deutsch - who still works for Amtrak in Los Angeles. Rick didn't stay much beyond the closing of the Res Bureau, but it was fun to work with friends, even for a short time.

My heart goes out to Chris, Rick's partner through all these many, many years. Though I had lost touch with Chris and Rick for many years, I never forgot them. I will treasure my memories of Rick always.

Then there was Paul Ward Jr. I just learned today that Paul has died.

I don't remember exactly when I first met Paul, if it was before Amtrak or just after, but it was certainly very early in the 1970s. I know I met him through my partner at the time, Bill Ryan. Bil and Paul had been friends for many years. I do know that I was totally intimidated by Paul - both physically and intellectually. Paul was quite tall - 6'8" or more. And his knowledge of EVERYTHING traction, trolleybus, and radio was astounding. My memory has never been good enough to spit out facts and figures like Paul could.

One thing I definitely remember about the early days with Paul was the animated sleeping bag. Numerous times when were visiting Paul I noticed that there seemed to be someone asleep under a sleeping bag or comforter, and it was several visits before I finally met Jan. This was back in the days before Paul and Jan married. Jan always slept through Paul's visitors, since she wasn't a railfan or radio aficionado and couldn't follow the conversations. She and I would often laugh when we had dinner together, because we seldom ever got to speak. other to ask the other to pass the butter. In fact, when Paul and Jan married, I gave them a silver butter dish. Jan understood the joke. I know that Jan changed a lot when she became ill, and Paul had a great deal of anguish trying to cope with the changes. But I was lucky and remember her from her best days.

Paul had the most incredible sense of humor. I loved his great practical joke on the railfan community. This involved his submitting an article to one of the railfan publications about the Holton Interurban Railway. It was a complete fabrication, telling how, in the final days of operations, a tunnel collapsed and a trainset was still covered in the sand of the collapsed tunnel. Paul submitted the story under the pseudonym of Bert Souse, the name of W.C. Fields' character in The Bank Dick. It was hilarious to read the followup comments on Paul's article, which was taken as being completely true for far longer than one would have thought! Another instance of Paul's lightning humor occurred when several of us decided to make a completely spur-of-the-moment trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles one night. We piled into a couple of cars and raced across the Bay Bridge, stopping at Brennan's for a quick dinner. When asked for the number and name of our party, Paul immediately responded "Hitler, party of five." They almost threw us out! Paul wasn't making any kind of political statement, it was just the kind of complete non-sequitor that he loved.

Gosh, how I will miss these two people.