• Railroad to the Past

    union station Couple of weekends ago I was sitting at the Harvey House Diner inside the almost empty Union Station, drinking a strawberry milkshake and reminiscing. Not that long ago this place was crowded with thousands of people as the second largest train station in the country, filled with sounds, voices and emotions. Today it spends it’s days quietly, ironically populated by the dead. I am not old enough to remember the glory days of the Union Station but in another place and another life I rode my share of rails. There is something special about traveling by train. It’s an experience rather than just a means of transportation. On a long train ride you have time to relax, to think, to read, to sleep, to talk, to eat, play cards, meet people, sleep some more, and, most importantly, to look outside the window. You actually travel to your destination; you see changing landscapes; unknown places slowly pass before you; you wake up in the middle of the night at some station you’d never heard off, its sleepy inhabitants getting on the train and you can hear them walking through the rail car; you see a sunrise and then a sunset hundreds of miles later and the train keeps chugging along making that rhythmical sound that only a train can make and gently swaying from side to side. Finally you arrive, your train is greeted at the station by the sounds of a brass band and waving crowds trying to see a familiar face through the dusty window. You are tired and continue swaying even on the solid ground. A happy reunion or a new adventure awaits.

    Many of my trips started at this train station:fun trips, work trips, tripsunion station that I loved and some that I didn’t, like the one to the army, or a trip to the unknown country when I left one last time, not knowing if I am ever coming back. Many times my parents or friends were there to wave good-bye or to meet me when I was coming back. I may not remember every time but I do remember the feeling, feeling of someone waiting for you. I think at least once in a lifetime everyone should travel by train, even for no other reason than to experience it.

    In the meantime, you can always spend a slow lunch hour at the Union Station and imagine all the hustle and bustle of the past, the tears of joy or sadness, emotionless voice of the announcer, the constant hum of the crowd, whistles of the conductors, in other words life that used to be there and and now is not.

    Union Station,
    Old walls still remember
    Sounds of life.

    union station union station union station

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  • Old Photos: The Redistribution of U.S. Wealth

    I found this 1946 Life Magazine article while searching for vintage Kansas photos (the article features a farmer from Shawnee County, KS and a future post is forthcoming). We frequently hear about the way it used to be, stable middle class of the past, high taxes on the wealthy and many other economic and cultural realities that were lost over the past 60 years. The article briefly touches on several segments of the post-war society, their roles in the economy and their material well-being. The language of the article is strikingly similar to what we see in the media today. Over time, the classes described in the article were redefined or disappeared; rich people are not content with just two Cadillac’s; no one is paying two thirds of their income in taxes; and $12,000 a year does not equate to being successful. There is one notable exception: the teachers are still being screwed. Anyway, the article is short, enjoy.

    The redistribution of U.S. Wealth

    Taxes, unions and higher prices are making the man with a large income Poorer and the poorer man richer.

    Published in the Life Magazine December 16, 1946 p91.

    ©Life ©Time Inc.

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  • Checked Off My Bucket List: La Recoleta Cemetery


    I’ll start by busting another myth: the streets of Buenos Aires are crowded with hot Latin-American women with model looks and explosive tempers, who would make a certain lonely foreigner lose his mind, ship his child back to the USA and make his home in Argentina, earning a meager living by playing guitar on a busy intersection and singing off-key. Let’s just say that I am writing this from home and the country of Argentina will never hear me sing. While it’s true that most Argentinians are in good physical shape, the looks of men and women you see on the street are pretty average, far from what my wild imagination led me to believe.

    La Recoleta Cemetery is a world-famous Buenos Aires landmark and we visited it on our very first day in town. While being buried in a crypt (or mausoleum) is not a preferred way of getting rid of my body, the cemetery is fascinating to see for many reasons like architecture, sculpture, artwork, sheer amount of marble and granite, amount of religious imagery per square foot, record number of tourists looking for the Evita’s grave and a visual history of the Argentinian facial hair fashions. Over the period of almost 200 years the Argentinian upper crust invested untold amounts of money into placing their likenesses in a variety of Biblical, Roman, Egyptian and whatever else-inspired imagery. There is a mind-boggling number of mourning virgins, sad Jesus’s, Roman Emperors and weeping angels, portrayed in sculpture, portraits, engravings and stained glass. We took our time taking these pictures, but I will try to limit the number to a few that I like.

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  • Old Newspapers: Soviet Invasion Of Afghanistan


    Behind The Iron Curtain: Rules for the Soviet Military Contingent In Afghanistan
    Behind the Iron Curtain: War In Afghanistan

    In December of 1979, when my age was barely in the double digits, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan didn’t really make a big splash on the the government-run news. The New Year 1980 celebration was coming up, people were busy buying presents and stocking up on hard-to-find delicacies for the holiday table; and the TV mumbling something about helping out our Afghan brothers sounded exactly the same as it did every other time the Soviet Union was fighting a remote Cold War battle by proxy. I don’t think that many people knew then that these events will affect the country for the next ten years, destroy tens of thousands of Soviet and millions of Afghan lives, and ultimately contribute to the end of the USSR.

    January 14, 1980 © Time Inc.

    I wondered how the first days of the invasion were covered in the American press, so I stopped by the library to look at the old newspapers. Looks like it made front page news almost right away but there was some uncertainty about the extent of the Soviet military deployment. In less than a month it made it to the cover of the Time magazine. In Kansas City the invasion coincided with the firefighters’ strike so most of the front page space was dedicated to the coverage of the union negotiations and how the city was handling the lack of fire protection.
    All the articles should be large enough to read if you click on the image. The microfilm quality is not the best, but it has nothing to do with me.

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  • Holocaust Remembrance Day: Odessa Jewish Ghetto

    Continuing from my previous post about the orders issued by the Romanian Authority in Odessa regarding the treatment of the Jewish population and the creation of a Jewish Ghetto.
    The source is in the National Archives of Ukraine, translation mine.

    Order number 2 from November 15, 1941 by the Commander of the Odessa Garrison General N. Gineraru directing all persons of Jewish origin to declare possession of precious objects, gems and metals to the city police by 12pm on November 19th.

    “Odessa newspaper .- November 17, 1941 – № 28. – P. 2.

    I, Gen. Nikolai Gineraru, Commander of the Garrison of Odessa, on the basis of the Supreme Decree №1798 of 21 June 1941 and § 486 of the Code of Military Justice, in the interest of the Army, in order to protect the country, maintain order and public safety

    ORDER :

    § 1. All persons of Jewish origin living in Odessa are mandated by 12pm on Nov. 19, 1941 to declare all their precious things, stones and metals (platinum, gold, silver) -in any form: jewelry, coins, household items, etc. The Jews living in the areas of Odessa, Ovidiopol, Ochakiv and Berezovsky regions are required to submit their declarations within 48 hours after the publication of this order. Statements in duplicate must be submitted to the City Police (in rural communities to the local authority). One copy of the application remains with the Police, the other – stamped by the city police or rural authority – is returned to the applicant.

    § 2. Those guilty of violating this order will be punished by death.

    § 3. This order is to be published in Romanian, German and Russian languages in Odessa, Ovidiopol, Ochakiv, Berezovka and enters in force in Odessa on November 16 of this year, and in Odessa, Ovidiopol, Ochakiv, Berezovsky regions, on the date of publication.

    Establishing the facts of violation of this order is the duty of all officers, military, judiciary and civil police, as well as all military personnel with an official mandate for policing services. Violators will be escorted with the protocol and found property, to the court-martial of the Odessa Military Command (Kanatnaya Street., № 27)

    Commander of the Odessa General N. GINERARU.

    Military prosecutor Colonel BYLUTSA-Dumitrescu

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