Railroad work is hard work

Downtown Parkersburg could to be a lot of “fun” beginning about 7 a.m. Wednesday when some of the streets are closed as the rails are replaced on the railroad trestle along Sixth Street.

Sixth Street from the Ohio River to Avery Street will be closed to all vehicular and pedestrian traffic from 7 a.m. Wednesday until about 5 p.m. Friday while CSX crews use equipment to replace the rails, “shooting” spikes into the ties with machinery comparable to a large nail gun.

Cross streets passing below the trestle periodically will be closed as the equipment passes overhead. Police will be directing traffic. Emergency vehicles and bus traffic will be accommodated, police Chief Joe Martin stressed. Parking in private lots on Sixth Street will be accessible, and on Wednesday and Thursday parking will be permitted in private lots near Sixth Street and Garfield Avenue and near Market and Sixth streets, the chief said.

Due to rails being replaced on the Ohio side of the river, the Belpre Bridge will have one lane closed beginning at 6 a.m. Monday.

I must admit I want to see this rail-laying piece of equipment in action since one summer while I was in college I worked on a railroad section gang, replacing rails, ties and ballast by hand. I still have a creosote burn on my right arm from new ties and remember digging with a pocket knife a sliver of rail out of my leg when I missed the spike head with a spike mall and chipped off a small piece of steel.

I also can remember the knock-down, drag-out fight between the section gang and the bridge crew when we combined to clean up a derailment and got into a “discussion” (as it was reported to the railroad) after a bridge guy threw a spike claw and hit a section ganger in the ankle. I wonder if “discussions” like that still happen?

While I enjoyed the heck out of that summer and learned the real meaning of hard work, I’m glad the hardest physical work I do now is pounding a keyboard or carrying a camera.

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A part of a more innocent age died last week and with it a woman who was every teenage boy’s crush in the 1950s and 1960s.

Annette Funicello, 70, lost her 25-year battle to multiple sclerosis – a slow, degenerative disease that left her unable to walk, unable to speak and eventually in a coma.

Those of us who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s remember Annette as the adorable Mouseketeer on the kid-friendly Mickey Mouse Club (many of us can still sing its theme song) and later as the clean- image, well-clad “girlfriend” on a series of beach movies, most of which she made with Frankie Avalon.

Girls I knew fell in love with Frankie, Paul Anka and even James Darren and boys wanted to be them so they could date Annette.

After the fun-in-the-sun beach movies, Annette reportedly had no interest in the edgier, more “adult” roles.

“People are more interested in changing my image than I am,”she said in an interview, to her credit and to the continuation of her America’s sweetheart image. Scripts were sent to her, and “I read the first 10 pages and I’m a prostitute or a doper, and I fold them up and send them back.”

I’m sure generations before mine had their American sweethearts, just as there are some for today’s generation, but Annette was my generation’s girl-next-door who never strayed from the good-girl image and made us all love her for it.

Her passing reminds me of a simpler time, a more innocent time, a time when sex for sex’s sake, sex crimes, drugs, murder and political insanity was not rampant and family entertainment was the rule of the day with families gathering together to watch TV programs around a black-and-white set in their living room.

Annette … and her time in history … will be missed by those of us who grew up with a crush on her.