Red: A Father’s Railroad Legacy
The bond between father, son, and locomotive spans generations in this story written by former railroad historical society president Dan Lynch for the Journal Gazette in June, 1990.
The news that Comiskey Park in Chicago is to be torn down made me realize just how long ago I was last there.
Sometime in the late 1950s is my best guess, but I recall it for it was my father who took me there to see the White Sox, his favorite team. This man, so close to be for the better part of 40 odd years, was an elegantly simple human being of a few pleasures, unassuming, unpretentious, and just a little shy. At just under six feet, he was my friendly giant, for I looked up to him in every way.
By the time I was born in 1946, nearly a half century of his life had come and gone. His hair had worried into a soft gray, but everyone still called him Red. Red Lynch, the roundhouse foreman. His given name was Lawrence. I called him Dad.
One of three sons of an Irish immigrant coal miner, he was born in Powhatan, West Virginia in 1989. One brother, Joe was itinerant. The other, Terrance, worked in the mine. He had three sisters. Mary was a nurse. Agnes and Ceal married eastern money and lived in fine old Victorian homes on hills with cooks and servants.
Somehow, Lawrence ended up in Chicago in the law 1920s, and began his long career as a machinist for the New York Central System, an 11,000 mile rail dynasty. Its most famous train was the celebrated Twentieth Century Limited; 16 and one half hours, New York to Chicago, all first class. He was proud of his railroad. They made him a supervisor in 1940.
This was the man who carried me on his shoulders countless nights until I had fallen asleep. This was the man I startled when, at age two, I plucked the lighted cigar from his mouth and placed it squarely into my own. This was the man who fostered my interests, coached my Little League team, bought me toys, gave me money, lent me his car and moderated disputes between my mother and me. Always so much older than the other kid’s dads, he was more of the nature and disposition of a kindly old grandfather. He was my best friend.