In a world long ago and far away midst the tall cornfields of Iowa, there existed a small village named Oxford Junction. My maternal grandparents lived there. My grandfather was the local editor and printer of The Oxford Mirror (1879-1952). My grandmother ran the office and was the accountant. My brother Bob and I visited them via train numerous times during WWII.
Oxford Junction’s sole purpose seemed to be the support services for railroaders, whose steam engines ferried soldiers east and west during both great World Wars I and II, and furnished an even larger number of long freight trains thundering west to meet their masters’ deadlines. It also served the local farming community with needed goods and services.
Adjacent to the town was a gigantic rail yard where switch engines moved and assembled incoming boxcars into long trains, which would then be towed, to distant cities where their contents would be devoured for the war effort. This 24/7 movement of trains was an irresistible attraction for any small boy. Bob and I would stand on the third floor of the print shop and watch the engines shunt cars, take on coal and water, and load and unload passengers.
Each visit was a treat, as there was always something very different to do. There were no OSHA requirements back then. Our grandfather only needed to raise his hand and show us that the ends of three fingers had been mashed off in a hand press, and this was all the safety training a sane person really needed, even small boys. The hand presses were used for wedding invitations, handbills, advertising circulators, smaller printed items, but not for the newspaper. The newspaper was printed on a much larger press, located in the basement of the print shop, which was located in a converted three-story former hotel.
We did receive safety training about not putting anything into the molten lead pot on the linotype….