From Nahant to Wausau


On the first day of 1942, my great-grandfather, Ralph Boyer, was living in Nahant, MA with his two young sons and pregnant wife, Babe.  Three weeks before, Pearl Harbor had been bombed and the United States had declared war.  By the spring of 1942, Ralph had accepted a new job at a paper mill in Wausau, Wisconsin, and the Boyer family prepared to move again.  In comparison, Ralph and Babe's previous 100-mile move from western to eastern Massachusetts was small change: from Massachusetts to Wisconsin, the Boyer family had a 1,200 mile move to make, this time with two kids (maybe three, depending on baby Glenda's birthday) under the age of eleven.

A map of the Boyer family's 1,200 mile move

To make matters worse, their ten-year-old son, my grandfather Dinon, came down with the mumps just before the big move.  The timing was terrible: Ralph was soon due at his new job, their Nahant home was probably already leased or sold, and Dinon had a painful sickness that required him to be quarantined for several days.

“As a result, my mother had to find a neighbor to take this sick little kid – because I was really sick – and nurse me and be quarantined," my grandfather said.  "Now, at that time, quarantine was a very big thing.  You had this great big sign that was stapled to your front door to warn people that you were quarantined in there for something … it might've been mumps, it might've been measles, or scarlet fever, y’know, there were a number of different things you had to be quarantined for."

My grandfather posing with his toys.  He was
careful to never play with his favorites when
sick because then, to protect against contag-
ion, they would have to be burned.

I'm not sure who, but my great-grandparents found a generous soul to care for Dinon, and they made the move to Wisconsin, leaving their sick son 1,200 miles back in Massachusetts.  The next problem, after he got well, was how to get an unchaperoned ten-year-old boy from Nahant to Wausau.

"My parents are in Wisconsin and I’m in Massachusetts!  No airplanes!  So, what they did, they put me on the sleeper train in Boston.  I had a numbered berth, and I thought it was great,"  Dinon said.  "All this time riding the train, I thought it was great, I mean, here I am, a ten-year-old and no supervision and I could (theoretically) do what I want to do.  Ha, there wasn't much to do except watch the scenery or talk to some of the passengers.  And I remember just before I got sick in Nahant, my mother, who is a Super Cook, she burned a banana pie, and so I talked about the burnt banana pie to some of the people I met on the train, that was the big thing.  But I enjoyed the trip, I really did."
"I had supper in the dining car with some celebrity, and I don’t remember who it was now, but he was well-known at the time and I knew who he was. He was traveling by train, which was the way to go, he didn't have a car.  So we had supper together and enjoyed each other’s company."
Cute kid, isn't he?  In this photo, his appearance
favors my father and my younger brother
Poor Babe - that celebrity probably heard all about that one banana pie she burned.
After dinner with the celebrity and a night in the sleeper car, the train arrived in Chicago in the morning.  And, in the process of switching trains, my young grandfather got impatient.

"I had this big heavy overcoat on and my suitcase, I mean, I was loaded down.  And the conductor is checking everybody’s ticket, and I thought that was dumb, why’s he checking?  So I slipped by him, I didn't have him check my ticket ... well, that was a bad decision," Dinon said.  "I met the traveler’s aide man at the station right there at the train, and then we went into the station, and then he looked at my tickets, and he said, ‘Well, where’s your pass to the next train station?’ because I didn't get my pass at the train station in Chicago, so of course I didn't have one!  So he had to make all kinds of telephone calls to get it ok'ed to let me transfer from one train station to the other.  And then he arranged it, and they put me on the 'Hiawatha', which was, at that time was a part of a number of trains that were named.   If you were going to San Francisco, why, there’s ‘The City of San Francisco’, but the 'Hiawatha' went from Chicago to Minneapolis-St. Paul and went through Wausau."

In the end, he made it to Wausau on the 'Hiawatha' train, and the little Boyer family was whole again, beginning a new chapter of their lives in the American Midwest.

(to be continued)
Nahant, MA
Nahant, MA

Who are your villagers?
Bath Time...On the road...again!

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