Thursday, June 30, 2011

They Took My Thumb

Erie-Lackawanna tugboat, Richmond Terrace and Bement Avenue

   My grandfather, the late Holger Anderson, was many things in his life; subway tunnel digger, LIE tree cutter, brass foundry worker, carpenter, floor scraper and other things.  By the time I was born he was exclusively a floor scraper, in fact, one of the best around.  Not long before I was born, though, he had still been a carpenter.

   As a carpenter he work for the Erie-Lackawanna Railway at a boatyard they maintained at the foot of Bement Avenue and Richmond Terrace.  He primarily worked repairing the wooden barges used by the railroad to shunt car around the harbor.  He had started in the yard working for Bethlehem Steel but at ome point the railroad took over and he ended up with a pension from them.

  As a railroad carpenter my grandfather worked with huge circular saws.  They had all sorts of safety guards and things to keep the users safe.  He also used little handheld saws.   With one of them he took off his thumb one day.

  Supposedly he stuck the severed digit into his pocket and drove up to St. Vincent's Hospital.  It was the early sixties so reattachment didn't work.   Later in life he used the sharp little stump of his thumb to grab recalcitrant grandchildren.  It was very effective.

   He's been gone 23 years now and would have been 102.   Still miss him.

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