Missouri Pacific Railroad
Little Rock Telegrapher's District
"Agents and Telegraphers Remembered"
"The rails go westward in the dark. Brother, have you seen
starlight on the rails? Have you heard the thunder of
the fast express? The names of the mighty rails
that bind the nation, the wheeled thunder
of the names that net the continent?"
---Thomas Wolfe, Of Time and the River
K. K. Parker (Sen. date Jan 2, 1917) , one of the most memorable agents on the old Little Rock Telegrapher's District at Dermott, Arkansas. A good agent who helped many others, especially young telegraphers who worked at his station. He loved selling tickets for travel all over the United States. He taught the young operators ticket tariffs, to properly read passenger train timetables and to correctly prepare various railroad accounting reports. His first love after the railroad was fishing, he would go as often as he could which was several times a week. He was the one who taught me to Bass fish and I enjoyed many outings with him on nearby lakes. He had two sons, and a wife who was a school librbarian. In the 1950s he left Dermott and bid in the agent's position at Waterproof, LA., where he retired. K. K. Parker had an unusually warm and ready smile for all people. He loved the railroad.
Tilman Byron Blann (Sen. date Sep 16, 1941) , was first trick cashier-operator at Dermott when I first knew him in 1947 when I was breaking in as operator. He relieved me the first day I worked, it was great to see him come early the next morning. He later worked as dispatcher in Monroe, various agencies, agent at Dermott and mobile agent. While he was working at Dermott there was a young lady named Sue that worked in the waiting room as a Western Union operator. Byron became quite fond of her and they finally married and had one son, named Tim. Sue tells the story that Byron came over to the waiting room so often and asked her so many questions that she finally married him so he would quit asking so many questions. It must have worked because they have been happily married for over 50 years and still live in Dermott. R. R. Lusk (Sen. date Feb 11, 1910) , was the regular assigned second trick operator at Dermott, when I first went to work there were times the operator had to hand up train orders to double header steam engines running about 50 MPH, which was quite a feat for a young operator; Mr. Lusk made it look so easy, having one hoop in each hand he would nonchalantly hand them up and never missed as far as I knew. I could never do it like him, I would throw the first hoop and then grab hurriedly for the second hoop and barely get it to the engineer on the second engine.
G. A. (Bob) Austin (Sen. date Sep 5, 1937), second trick operator at Eudora for many years then agent at Montrose where he retied. Had a son (called Little Joe Austin) named after J. A. Austin, Bob's brother who was MoPac VP, the son later became Division Supt. at Big Springs Tx and Palestine Tx. Bob Austin was a good man to work for, he was agent when I worked the swing operator job between Montrose and Dermott. Another telegrapher at Montrose was Mrs. L. M. Barker (Sen. date Jan 31, 1911) , she worked mostly second trick, was a tall nice looking lady, who was very good at her job and helpful to all who knew her. One of the most memorable telegraphers and agents on the Little Rock District was also at Montrose, H. Lee Simpson (Sen. date Jan 7, 1941), Lee had a ready smile and helping hand for all the young telegraphers working in and around Montrose. His wife was the Post Mistress there for almost 45 years. I never saw Lee except that he was friendly and a with a great disposition. It was nice to know Lee Simpson.
A. A. Smith (Sen. date Sep 9, 1942) , in 1948 was near retirement age, and was working as the first trick McGehee telegrapher. He had been a "Boomer", one who moved around and worked for various railroads. An excellent "Telegrapher", most likely the most skilled on the district. His hand writing was of the old school, beautiful, cursive and precise. He copied messages on the telegraph on an old Underwood All Capital typewriter. I can still envision him answering the morse wire by sending "MC", which was McGehee's call sign, inserting paper in the Underwood and then start typing. He would always copy several words behind, and when the sender was through sending, Smith would tap out three dots on the morse key which stood for "S", that was his signature indicating he had received the message OK, he would then type the remainder of the message from memory.
C. D. (Dub) Towles (Sen. date Aug 11, 1947) , worked several jobs both as telegrapher and agent, mostly at McGehee where he still lives. Dub tells the story about a friend of his who was conductor on the Delta Eagle passenger train, and sometimes liked to imbibe a little. He recalled one cold winter night he was on duty in the McGehee ticket office when the Delta Eagle arrived, the trainmaster and special agent were also there, when his conductor friend came in to tie up at the end of his run. As the conductor opened his overcoat to take out his timeslip a fifth of whiskey almost fell out in plainview of those present. However, he was a quick thinker, he immediately placed the fifth on the ticket desk and said, "Dub, give me a reciept for this, I just took it off a drunk passenger down at Lake Village".
James R. Shelton (Sen. date July 27, 1947), several years as telegrapher at McGehee, dispatcher at Monroe and later as agent at Monticello in the 1960's. A very good railroader. James was a generous person and was on duty and working as dispatcher when his father, Luther P. Shelton, section foreman, was killed in a rail accident in Collinston, LA. They immediately notified the dispatcher not realizing it was his father. His brother Charles. Shelton (Sen. date Jun 8, 1949) , also , worked as agent and telegrapher. Charles was agent in Pine Bluff and a great agent certainly one of the finest on the MoPac. He was liked by train and enginemen as well as the customers. I remember him as always smiling, regretably, he died from lung cancer at an early age. The Sheltons were a well known railroad family, in the early 1940s they lived in the section house at Galion, LA. There was a younger brother, Jerry Shelton, who worked on the same division as a locomotive engineer on the railroad.
Walter W. Baggett (Sen. date Jun 25, 1920), was agent at Mer Rouge, LA for many years up until February 1953, he lived in Bonita and drove back and forth each day. Before him the agent was a Mr. Ruff, who lived with his family in the upper portion of the old two story depot located about one block north of the freight station later used by Mr Baggett. Mr. Ruff stopped a bank robbery one night in Mer Rouge, he had heard a noise and looked out of the up stairs room and saw some people attempting to break in the bank, he shot a gun at them drawing the attention of others which prevented the robbery. In 1953 I bid in the Mer Rouge Star agency Clifton E Satterfield (Sen. date Jan 2, 1948) and stayed until 1964. Mer Rouge was a great town with good people. I have fond memories of railroading there, cotton gins, soybeans, logs, limestone, cattle, mules, etc.
W. W. Jones (Sen. date Sep 9, 1911) , agent several places but remembered for his many years as agent in Warren, Arkansas. Probably the best freight tariff agent of that era. He was a quite man, soft spoken, very easy going and most thorough in his work. Well known for being a good father to his children. Another person who worked at Warren was H. E. Green (Sen. date Jul 1, 1918) , he was the operator-cashier and maintained most of the freight records and cash book. In January of 1949 there was a terrible tornado that passed through Warren, killing approximately 54 people, two of which were Mr. Green and his wife. It was near closing time on that day and with a storm approaching Mr. Green left early to be home with his wife, he had just arrived when the storm struck demolishing their home. Beginning the next day, I worked his job for several weeks until it was bid in by, a good friend of mine, J W Marshall, Jr.(Sen. date Dec 5, 1947) , who worked there for a few years before going to work for Bradley Lumber Co. About two days after the tornado, a man came into the depot and handed me a cloth sack, which contained money and checks made out to the MoPac, which he had found that day near the home of Mr. Green. It was the custom in those days for the cashier to carry any monies home (usually a small amount of less than $100) over night so it would not be stolen. It matched perfectly with the amount in the cash book.
David L. Chase (Sen. date Oct 22, 1948) , worked many agencies on both the Louisiana and Little Rock Districts. His first job was the agency at Jerome, AR, later worked agencies at Wilmar, Warren and Hamburg before becoming one of Missouri Pacific's finest Traveling Auditors. David broke in with Mrs. Brown (wife of dispatcher H. J. Brown) at Gilbert, LA who trained many young operatrors.
Another Agent and Telegrapher was Jack D. Clarke (Sen. date Aug 25, 1948) , a good railroader, we worked many jobs together during the days we were on the extra board. Jack worked the last twenty or thirty years of his career in Pine Bluff, AR and was agent there when he retired. He and Charles Shelton were good friends and fished together. He now lives near Columbia, LA. Jack has many good stories about his days railroading. Get Jack to tell you about the time we were working in Hensley and he was heating a can of Viena sausage on the coal stove and it spewed hot liquid all over his face and arms when he attempted to open it during the night. The only thing soothing to put on the burns was some green ink we had in the little shack we were working in. None the less Jack had a green look the next morning. A great person.
A. L. Gordy (Sen. date Nov 19, 1941) , most remembered for helping and teaching the rules and morse code to young train order operators. One of his first jobs was working at Galion, LA during the first part of WW ll, he met his wife there, Mary Alice Wilson, who also was a telegrapher. There were no cafes or hotels in Galion, however, the depot was two story with living and cooking facilities upstairs. The operators would cook their meals there as well as sleep. Some of the young female operators were afraid to climb the train order semaphore to light or extinguish the lamp for the train order signal, Gordy would always climb it for them, wether he was on duty or not. He later served in WW ll in a "Railroad Battalion" in Europe, returned after the war, worked at Dermott and Tallulah, LA as operator and later was the agent in Tallulah. Gordy had a great personality, everyone worked well with him, very talented both as a person and with the railroad.
Cleo B. Garner (Sen. date Jun 16, 1943), was agent at Portland, AR for several years until the depot was closed in the 1960s, he then worked a mobile agency job until retiring. An interesting story he tells is that his dad J. W. Garner (Sen. date Aug 2, 1910), who was agent at various depots including Portland and later retiring at Lake Providence, LA. When his dad was agent at Forrest LA and living in the upstairs part of the depot, Cleo was born there in the depot. Evidently Cleo was familar with depots and trains at an early age. A brother, John W. Garner, Jr. (Sen. date Jan 6, 1947), worked many agencies and telegraph jobs on the Little Rock District as well and in fact he stayed with me the first night I worked for about 2 to 3 hours. The Garners were a great railroad family known and liked by all who knew them. Cleo still lives in Portland, stop by sometime for a visit, he and his wife will be glad to see you, ask him to tell you the story about the time he and his good friend, Fleat Crane, signal maintainer, went "Deer" hunting and driving down the road they saw a deer standing nearby and in their hurry to get out of the car, their gun accidentally discharged, shooting a hole through the top of a brand new automobile.
Fred Morris (Sen. date Dec 14, 1908), was agent at Eudora, AR. I did not know him well, he had a brother who was agent at Monroe, LA. Later when he retired, the job was bid in by C. N. Banister (Sen. date Mar 16, 1921), who had been the car distributor at McGehee. Banister was a good agent and person to work for, we went fishing a lot early in the morning on nearby Grand Lake when I was working a vacation relief position at the time. J. D. Williamson (Sen. date Aug 1, 1947), was the regular second trick operator, later became a traveling auditor and chief traveling auditor. J. D. was one of the best auditor's the MoPac had, he broke me in as auditor in the late 1950s. The first trick operator at Eudora was Jim Henry who I mentioned before along with Lee Edwards. The clerk-cashier was Mr. Walls. He was always playing tricks on Jim Henry, but one day Jim Henry got a little grass snake and put it in the cash drawer and when Mr. Walls opened the drawer and saw the live snake he almost had a heart attack, nearly falling out of his chair. It was always fun at the Eudora depot. During cotton season there was an additional clerk's position which was worked by Fred Henry, a good friend of mine and also a good fisherman. He had such a nice family.
J. T. Murphree (Sen. date Aug 16, 1920) , was agent at Wilmot when I first knew him (in the early 1940s), a friendly and kind man, a good agent whose wife Essie C. Murphree (Sen. date April 4, 1942) , was also an agent and telegrapher. When he retired in the 1950s, she followed him as agent at Wilmot. They had a daughter named Hazel Marie Murphree (Sen. date Sep 17, 1952) , she too was agent and telegrapher at various stations on the Little Rock District. The Murphree family was well known and liked by all who came in contact with them. I have fond memories of Mr. Murphree, always laughing and making other people laugh with his humor. We would hitch hike to Wilmot on Saturday, see the picture show, buy our train tickets from Mr. Murphree and ride the passenger train back home to Bonita on Saturday night. I guess that was the period of time when I first learned to love the railroad.
A. R. Lambert (Sen. date Jul 21, 1912) , agent at Bonita, LA and his wife Mrs. I. M. Lambert (Sen. date Feb 19, 1919) , agent at Jones, LA. Mr Lambert was the first railroad depot agent I knew, he lived near me in Bonita and I saw him almost every day going to or from the depot. He always walked, I never saw him driving. They were a good couple and loved by everyone in Bonita. For a small town Bonita produced a lot of agents, in addition to the Lamberts, there was Walter Baggett, Dub Towles and myself.
Lee H. Edwards (Sen. date Apr 29, 1942) , worked various jobs but is remembered for being the "Car Distributor" for many years in McGehee, Arkansas. He seemed to be well educated and a traveled man with many stories. His seniority date belies his age, he hired out on the MoPac when he was probably in his forties. Lee loved to play golf and did so when he could, often with one of his friends from Eudora, Jim C. Henry (Sen. date Sep 9, 1912) , who was first trick telegraph operator there and with William Smith , a previous railroader, but in later years ran the "Fixit Shop" in Wilmot. They were all golfing partners and enjoyed each other's company. Many small bets were placed on the game's outcome. There is an old story about Lee, when he lived in Wilmot before working with the railroad, that he buried a lot of "Gold" to be dug up later. People in Wilmot looked for it, but it was never found.
Murray S. Streeter (Dispatcher Sen. date Oct 20, 1940) , a train dispatcher who held seniority on the Louisiana District but had started out and worked many jobs on the Little Rock District when he was younger and before he became a train dispatcher. Murray 's initials were "MSS", all train orders issued by dispatchers have their initials placed under the last word of the train order to denote that it was the last word of the order and none had been left out. He was always joking and saying that MSS stood for "Many Stops and Starts". MSS worked train dispatcher jobs all over the MoPac system as well as other railroads, such as the Southern Pacific in El Paso. He was Division Trainmaster at Wynne, Arkansas and held various Chief Dispatcher jobs. A good dispatcher and personal friend with J. A. Austin, MoPac Vice-President (Sen. date Aug 31, 1938) they both started out railroading together as telegraphers at Montrose, Arkansas and then train dispatchers at Monroe, La. Another Streeter was Wilson C.. Streeter (Sen. date Nov 22, 1940) brother of MSS, he worked as agent and telegrapher at several stations on the Little Rock District, retiring in Montrose.
Last updated March 21, 1998