Monday, June 29, 2009

People get ready there’s a train comin’ – Video

Group Photo

Group Photo

Hard work and low-skilled positions were remembered at the 11th Annual African-American N&W Celebration held at the Virginia Museum of Transportation Saturday evening.

There were two less attendees this year with the passing of George Rogers and James Burks, Jr. Alphonzo Holland presented plaques to the family members.

Holland said when he first started working for the railroad they had “segregated restrooms and no hospitalization.”

They were hired as “non-promotable” workers in the early days but could move up a grade to “helper” earning a few cents more an hour.

The oral history of the segregation era between 1930 and 1970 are recorded in a special section of the museum.

About 50 people attended the evening celebration where the Loudon Avenue Christian Church Male Chorus sung several inspiration songs. A surprise and a favorite for Rev. Carl Tinsley, Presider, was an apropos selection of “People Get Ready” by the Impressions. Everyone joined in and sang along to close the program.

Reverend Carl Tinsley, Sr. dies at age 80 – “People Get Ready”

Bev Fitzpatrick, Executive Director, spoke to the crowd about equality and then announced that attendance at the museum is up by 1300 so far this year. He is still scraping together the matching half of the $1 million pledge by N&S but hopes to have the aviation part of the museum repaired soon. The roof had blown off in a storm a few years ago just after being repaired.

Anthony “Tony” Wade was the guest speaker. He has worked for the railway since 1977 and is Director of Domestic Metallurgical Coal Marketing.

A nice breeze blue where we sat near the President’s car and the rumble of rail cars passing by was music to their ears so said Rev. Tinsley.

Recognizing the need to expand the showing of the contributions of African-Americans to the railroad industry, fifteen African-American former employees joined with the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

During round table discussions, it was disclosed that in earlier years even though most blacks were paid less for performing duties classified as low skill jobs and considered non-promotable, they felt having a job with Norfolk and Western was good. It was stated N&W offered them opportunities to purchase homes and educate their children, which was a major priority in the black family at the time.

Also during the period of 1930-1970 a special sense of camaraderie existed among the black employees. This atmosphere generated an employee who was highly motivated, dedicated and who set out to uphold the image of N&W. Many saw themselves as trailblazers and role models possessing a desire to leave something for others to grow from.

People get ready, there’s a train comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
You don’t need no ticket you just thank the lord

People get ready, there’s a train to Jordan
Picking up passengers coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board them
There’s hope for all among those loved the most
There ain’t no room for the hopeless sinner whom would hurt all mankind
Just to save his own
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
For there is no hiding place against the kingdoms throne

People get ready there’s a train comin’
You don’t need no baggage, just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
You don’t need no ticket, just thank the lord.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Commentary, Local Events

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