Friday, 25 June 2021

Henley Probus Club

AT the 411th meeting at Badgemore Park Golf Club, speaker Tony King entertained members with an

AT the 411th meeting at Badgemore Park Golf Club, speaker Tony King entertained members with an account of a journey across America by train. The first railway builders in America had to deal with extremes of climate, wild animals and Native American tribes.

Construction teams worked from the west and the east, ultimately meeting in Omaha where a gold spike was the last to be driven into the soil to mark the exact spot.

Some passenger coaches were luxurious, built by George Pullman with beds and swivelling armchairs to give passengers a fine view.

Later, Amtrak wagons were double-deckers, giving much improved comfort and observation. This was the time when Thomas Edison first introduced film booths, so-called “peep shows”, the birth of the movies Los Angeles was a small village at this time amid fields of fruit in the favourable climate.

To promote the area, building sites were named Hollywoodland. Once film studios were built nearby, Hollywood became its name.

Such significant names emerged from these early days of film, such as Cecil B deMille, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Al Jolson, going from silent movies into the talkies. Leaving LA from Union station, still in its original décor, Mr King’s train followed the coast north to Santa Barbara and onward to San Francisco.

After two nights in the city, the train made for Reno and Sacramento with dramatic scenery stretching away on both sides.

Salt Lake City was the next destination but flash flooding meant the journey continued for some miles by coach towards Cheyenne.

At Denver, they left the coaches and boarded another train. Then there was the region where Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill first performed the famous Wild West shows in the 19th century.

Next was Chicago, where skyscrapers emerged before any other city and Al Capone and other gangsters ruled for many years.

Then Cleveland, Pennsylvania, Niagara and so on to Penn station in New York, which still boasts its original décor.

Mr King’s journey seemed long and eventful but satisfactory.

Henley Probus Club meets at Badgemore Golf Park Club on the second Tuesday of the month at 10.30am. For more information, visit henley

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