Saturday, June 03, 2006

Passing of a fascinating fellow

I received a call from a woman the other day, saying her father had died and since he may have given some railroad material to us at CSU some years ago, perhaps we would be interested in receiving more. I was embarrassed to admit that I didn't remember her father or the donation until she started describing him and then it all came back as a very pleasant memory.

About a decade ago, Jerry Adams, the fellow who donated the huge Cleveland Union Terminal Collection to us, took me on a social call to see Vern Murray, the last C.U.T. employee and the fellow who'd facilitated Jerry obtaining the collection in the first place. When we arrived at Mr. Murray's house, we met a lively, interesting friend of his, Fritz, who had been a maintenance worker for the C.U.T. and colleague of Vern's and who entertained us with some marvelous stories about the terminal.

The Cleveland Union Terminal (which is now Tower City for those of you new to Cleveland) ran underneath the streets and buildings on the southwest corner of Public Square. He related how, in one instance, he had to dam up leaks coming down into the Terminal from Prospect Avenue overhead. He got his tools and materials together, laid down on a mechanic's dolly (the little rolling platform, like a big skateboard, that mechanics used to use to work under automobiles) and pulled himself hand-over-hand along in the crawlspace between the Terminal's ceiling and the underside of the street. It was pitch dark up there and filled with spider webs, rats and, in some cases, homeless people and other disturbing discoveries he'd make.

He was a delightful, enthusiastic fellow and I'm sorry to hear that he'd died in April, without my ever having visited with him again. He would have made for a fascinating oral history subject. I'm also saddened to note that with his death, I'm the only survivor of that meeting, Jerry and Vern having died in years previous.


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