So on June 19, 1907, I reported for duty at the Santa Fe station. I had just turned 17 years of age on May 2nd, and I felt pretty well grown up.
I'll never forget my first day; the cashier handed me a big lot of time tables, a hammer and a package of tacks. I was to take them up town and put up one in each store and office (in fact, one in every business establishment in town), take the old one down and put the new one in place of it. At the end of the day I was all in and was just half done with the job. It took me two full days. I never knew there were so many places of business in the town, but I enjoyed the work, met a lot of nice people in the two days, and felt quite important.
Another job I had to do was measure the crude oil issued to engines. This was quite a dirty job, but I liked to climb up on the engine. The fireman would let me sit up in the cab and ring the bell while they were switching around in the yard, and he showed me how to feed the oil to the engine. Then sometimes I would ride around on the freight cars, which was lots of fun. Everything about the railroad was interesting to me, and I began to learn about everything that was done around the station while keeping up on my telegraphy.
The young man who apprentice operator just before me had graduated and was given a job as agent at Irvine, a little one man station about ten miles from Santa Ana. His name was Conklin. He had a bicycle that he had put three railroad car wheels on: two on one side and the third wheel on a crossbar to the other side, and he used to peddle this velocipede back and forth to work from Santa to Irvine.
One afternoon he was visiting us in the office and had a twenty two rifle he was demonstrating. He said it was not loaded, and he pulled the trigger to prove it. Luckily it wasn't pointed at anyone, for the thing went off, and the bullet went thru the agent's desk. Mr. Keeler, the agent, happened to be out at the time. It put a scare in the young man.
Another time Mr. Newman, the warehouse foreman, and I were up in the attic of the depot puttering around, and while we were over the office my foot slipped off the rafters and went through the ceiling, and also scaring the daylights out of the office force, and also scaring the wits out of me. I was sure that I was going to lose my job over that deal, but everyone got quite a laugh out of it, and I got off pretty light. The railroad company had to send carpenters out to make repairs, and I don't know if the agent explained it to the company. I stayed out of the attic after that.