Adventure American Inspirational

I was hoping to leave the office before the weather took a turn for the worst, but the rain drops started to fall as soon as I stepped out the door. Luckily, we had just finished up and left the travel trunks neatly stacked and carefully packed with our work tools. The portfolios within were carefully layered as they contained plenty of necessary papers; linen, tracing, sketching and transfer types. Everything needed for our temporary office down south, including folded drawing tables, were left in place for transport from our Brookline office to the South Station as we would be leaving tomorrow from the train depot in Boston to head down to Florida. At the depot, the rain cascaded down heavier than necessary to my dismay as I boarded the train along with a multitude of workers heading out of the city. I needed to just find a seat, keep my mind quiet, and know that soon the Wyoming sign would appear to signal my end stop. With a heavy sigh, my eyes closed and the noises became only a jumbled background of sound. I needed to unwind from the long intense day as my brain had been used up. The place I called home was, for now, a shared bungalow with my friend and colleague until work opportunities and the economy picked up and showed me another way.

Joining the firm, we were now able to call ourselves architects. When asked by chance out and about what we do for work, the answer always came as a surprise. Soon enough, I would feel accepting of this life knowing that yes, I did attend a college, I graduated in the top tier and learned my trade. I can and will acknowledge my career choice. Sticks and stones, brother! It has been an amazing journey, in these times. But now the light is shining on a boom in multiple industries of buildings, automobiles and electrical usage companies. The lion had become the ‘poster cat’ when the era became known as the Roaring 20’s. Our boss had contracted enough projects to have us involved and be full out engaged for the next year plus, no time gaps. I will admit, it was good to have our work acknowledged, curated, and admired but it had become a full plate in excess.  

The Olmsted Architectural Firm was given a surprise opportunity and the team members were offered a work assignment that was to take place at a choice mecca of sunshine and fair winds; Lake Wales in Florida. There was no other answer than ‘yes’ as this swank chance meant more to us than anything we had privy to as of late. The developers wanted our boss, F. L. Olmsted, to participate in creating an exclusive residential area that would attract the business elite. Wealthy and widely known people from the north came south with a desire to establish winter homes; Edward Bok, August Heckschner, and Irving Bush, to name a few. How it was that I, Charles, aka Chick Wait, came to work for Olmsted was a gift. Landscape architecture became my added green layer in the field of stick building.

I am in the place that I have wanted to be ever since college was over and done. My fifth year was such a bonus in so many ways, I still look back on my surprise awakening on that day when a piece of paper was handed to me. I was saddened not to be able to share the news with my father as he had passed away the year I entered college. But my mother was very happy and thrilled with my decision. She wished me success and good fortune in every way. I would be following the footsteps of my father, in a sense, as I knew he would be with me during every wonderous moment, guiding my hand. He sketched, drew and drafted many a fine building. An honor that I will always remember, was the letter stating my acceptance to attend the same school of my father’s learning. I would be following him on a similar journey. And now, I look back with reflection of the time spent on my extended fellowship quest in Europe. It most certainly was heaven sent. The style I was intrigued with became my guiding platform and one to introduce to the American culture; Mediterranean Revival. I was able to travel by rail, horseback and on foot go to iconic treasures in Greece, Italy and France. These were locations that I had only studied in books. But now, here I was, in a beautiful country, where I sit with a sketchbook and recreate these images.

Arriving back to the States, my steamer trunk is fully packed with mementos and treats from many fine places visited over the weeks. The Italian panettone would be a surprise treat for my mother. The trip back home over the ocean became my return from one adventure to my next adventure that would soon begin.

And here I am, in the most uplifting architectural firm to make a difference for the entire country. When we heard the news about this unique trip to Florida, and were given the go ahead to pack up, my buddies and I took our t - squares off the drawing table and had a bantering event using them as mock swords. We were like little kids, happy to be going someplace warm since the spring season here in Brookline was still roaring like a lion when besieged of icy rain at times.

The rain was now falling fast and furious on the commute back to Reading. My mind was spinning with thoughts of tomorrow. The air in the car felt damp and chilly, cigarette smoke lingered heavily throughout and I couldn’t wait to get off and just have a hot toddy. It would be a celebration of our good fortune to be chosen to go on this trip to Lake Wales. The train screeched to a halt and I quickly exited the car. Tucking my collar up and pulling my hat down, I walked the short distance to the bungalow flat. The hot toddy, I so wanted, was waiting courtesy of my friend and colleague in regards to our new quest. We cheered, and gave a toast of good wishes to celebrate our luck in ending a stressful day on a high note.

The morning arrived with more gloom in the air than expected. The weather was not going to cooperate today. I sighed, and my friend added a few swears under his breath. We left on a fully packed rail taking us straight through from Brookline Hills to the Boston depot which would bring us south and to our next adventure. Hopefully the trunks we packed would already be stowed aboard. Can’t do our job if we don’t got our tools. We exited one car crisscrossing through the crowd and stood waiting for the Philadelphia train. The wind blew the rain and we were soaked. I shook myself, like a dog, when I was suddenly surprised by an umbrella hovering over me. A young lady had seen my misfortune and took it upon herself to be nice to someone not very smart. I was slightly embarrassed but we stood together under the wide brim. She smiled and commented on the day. She was very gracious in not pointing out my stupidity and lack of preparedness. My work buddy was in the background and I could see him shake his head and laugh at my acting roll of a complete dunce.

We introduced ourselves and engaged in friendly conversation as the next train whistled to announce its arrival. We joined a surprisingly long line of passengers getting on this rail line to Philadelphia, and on to Pittsburgh. Prosperity recovery was the calling card from war devastation and people were flocking westward and to the south. I took it upon myself to escort the young lady and she stepped aboard as I followed. My work buddy was lost in the shuffle but I did not worry about him. Seats were soon filled and I looked around to hopefully find one last spot. To be left at the depot to await the next train would not be a positive start to the day. The young lady I met touched my arm and brought me in to sit next to her. I humbly said thank you, removed my hat and sat. Not the smartest card in the deck. I have to be better.

The train blew its whistle, steam escaping with a loud hiss, and we were on our way.

Time seemed to breeze by with the friendly ongoing conversation between myself and my new lady friend. After a seemingly short ride we arrived in Philadelphia. Our talk was filled with what we each had interest in and politely we shared our stories. I didn’t want to overload her with my overload of work talk and kept it simple. She was inquisitive and I was courteous with simple answers. Occasionally, I would look to my work buddy and see him seated far behind and we would give each other a wave and a thumbs up. Soon it was time to disembark. A throng of passengers were exiting and blending into the cityscape. The young lady and I looked at each other, I took her hand, smiled, and we wished each other success in our endeavors. Her eyes said more but she was still a mystery. I was happy that we met. My work buddy and I waited for the next train to our final destination. It would be a longer travel but then we would finally be in Florida. I couldn’t wait. This weather has got to lift. The storm front needs to now go north. As we waited, a gentleman with an envelope approached us, asking if we were the architects for F.L. Olmsted. Surprised by this notice, we answered ‘yes’ and he asked for us to follow him which led to a Pullman car. This rail car would be attached to the next and last train and we would be on to our destination. We looked to each other in complete surprise and our jaws dropped as we stepped into the car. Are we royalty or what?

The Pullman car is one I had known about but never travelled in. This was purely the elite of the elite; a luxury hotel suite on wheels. It was beautifully decorated with choice furniture, décor and anything we needed to be comfortable. A posh table was set up for our luncheon and we were seated with complimentary drinks. The car was soon attached to the train and we were on the way. The waitstaff were attentive and we were humbled with so much attention to detail and service to us boys, who push pencils for a living.

Enjoying the ride over the miles brought the train to our final stop and the long awaited destination; Lake Wales, Florida. The central highlands region had no river access on either side but the land was calling more people to invest in this wide expanse and the time was now.

We exited the car, graciously thanking the staff for giving us boys a grand time. The air was fresh, the day was warm and sunny and the two of us looked around. A hillside grabbed our interest as we waited for transportation to our final destination. We wanted to check out the scene and the first of many views we knew would make a difference in our design plans for this project yet to be defined.

Laughing and hollering in amazement, I swung an arm over the land and pointed over the panoramic landscape view. The child in me wanted to roll down the hill and run across the field. I think we both felt the same, but instead we grabbed each other in a bear hug, then raised our arms and whooped and hollered with glee.  I swear I felt another arm come over my shoulder and mentioned it to my buddy who questionably just raised his shoulders. I looked up into the sky, smiled and knew who truly guides my path.   

April 23, 2021 18:13

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