These guys are like a family.
They'll tell you the same stories about life on the railroad. Sitting by the home phone (no cell phones, no pagers) waiting for that next call. Marking up on the extra board. Spending half of your life with the guys some you liked, and some you didn't.
Railroaders all have their stories ... and they like to tell them. A group of former railroaders the Norwalk Railroad Retirees Club meets once a month with their wives at Maw's Restaurant in Milan. The next meeting is Wednesday and you can bet there will be a story or two flowing with the coffee.
Ed Ciersezwski is the keeper of the club. From making reminder calls to collecting flower money, Mr. Ed makes sure the club runs as smoothly as the railroad did back when these guys were in their prime.
"I was still working when this club was formed," Ciersezwski said. "I took over in '91 as secretary and treasurer and in '97 I took over as president. We average 10 or 12 members per month. It depends on the weather.
"We go back to the steam engine days. We talk about this job and that job. We talk about some of the close calls we had. We talk about the union and, generally, like the women say, household talk."
Ciersezwski, who turned 77 Thursday, spent just under half of his life 38 years riding the rails.
He worked on the extra gang for three months when he was in high school. After graduating in 1949, he joined the service.
"I hired out Nov. 4, 1952," he said. "I was discharged from the service Oct. 1. My dad asked me if I wanted a job and they hired me on. I worked until 1990 I had 38 years of service.
"There are a lot of fond memories," he added. "I go over this roster and think about a lot of the good times. Wally Mackin and I would go to Toledo. We'd stop in Bellevue then head to Cleveland. (Sometimes) you'd have a local job between Norwalk and Brewster. A lot of good memories, but a lot of close calls ... especially in Cleveland. There may be flashing signals but people would dart out in front of you.
"You froze to death sometimes and you boiled some days. But it gave me a job."
Ed's dad (John) had 49 years and 11 months of service with the railroad.
"I told him to stay on one more month and get his 50 years in," Ciersezwski said. "He didn't care about anything like that."
From the Wheeling & Lake Erie to the Nickel Plate, to Norwfolk & Western to Norfolk & Southern and back to the Wheeling for some, life has been good.
My father-in-law, Charles Mushett, spent more than years on the railroad. Life wasn't always easy being on the road, but he has no complaints. He'll be there Wednesday sharing his stories.
It's a pretty good group of guys. And they have themselves a pretty good leader.
"I tried my best to raise a good family," Ciersezwski said. "I am so proud of my two daughters (Renee and Denise) and my son, Ed. And we've got eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Last October Emma and I celebrated our 53rd anniversary.
"Aches and pains come and go but inside your heart there are tears of joy," he said. "My wife has put up with me for over the years. I am thankful for everything God has given me. It's been a good life."