BERT AND EILEEN

Today is Eileen’s birthday. Bless her heart always!

My first husband was born in 1948. I was born in 1949.

My paternal grandfather was born in 1898. My children’s paternal grandfather was born in 1884. Read that again and think on it. Not my kids GREAT grandfather, but THEIR grandfather was born 14 years before MY grandfather.  The math in that statement floors me everytime I think on it.

My first wonderful Mother-in-law was married twice, the first to Albert Tackett.  Bert, as he was known, was born in 1884 and she was born in 1920. [More math – that means he was 36 years older than her.] She was his second wife. Eileen was 22 when she married 58 year old Bert. He was a longtime family friend and had actually dated one of her sisters before he and Eileen became an item. It was love. In pictures, she is sweet and young and he is swarthy and good looking.

[When I was in high school, my history teacher, Phil McCullough, was a trivia buff, before trivia was a particular thing. Not sure how much actual history I learned from him, but I did learn the answer to “what is a Gandy dancer”? A Gandy dancer is a railroad section worker. Turns out it was a necessary bit of information to my future.]

Albert “Bert” Tackett was a Gandy dancer. Who would have ever believed it.

He and Eileen lost a first baby daughter shortly after birth. They went on to have three more children, Mike, Danny and Alice, the youngest. Pictures show they were a very happy family.  Bert died of a heart attack in 1955, age 71, when his young wife and family could have used his care and companionship for many more years.

Because Bert was a Gandy dancer, a railroad employee, Eileen had benefits from the railroad. One that served her well was flagging down the train. Eileen, in all her life, never drove a car. The family lived in a country house near the interurban tracks between Armington and Minier, Illinois.  As a railroad widow, she could put out a flag near the tracks and the interurban train would stop, in those days, and pick up the young family so they could ride to Lincoln for groceries and errands. At the end of the day, she could corral her brood onto the train for a return ride home.

It is a story of different lifestyles, remarkable to us, normal to them, in times gone by. The story is all the more interesting and unique when told and considered in 2019. In many, many ways we are worlds away from the 19th century and yet, our family is still, pretty darn close.

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