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Date: 07/23/07 11:38
Definition of a Boomer
Author: hogantunnel

I don't mean those folks about to retire. I'm thinking of Linda Niemann's book, "Boomer: Railroad Memoirs," 1990, about her life on the SP. Do I have it correctly that a boomer was/is an employee with low seniority who couldn't hold a board and had to move to various locations to avoid being laid off? Thanks for any clarification.



Date: 07/23/07 11:51
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: wp1801

I have always thought a "Boomer" was a railroader who worked for many different companies following the good weather and good business.



Date: 07/23/07 11:57
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: TPWman

A transient worker, especially in bridge construction



Date: 07/23/07 11:58
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: hogantunnel

WP,

I am not certain and thus the reason for the post. However, it would seem self defeating for a railroad worker to quite one line to work for another and lose all seniority. Moreover, would a line be interested in someone like that with a spotty employment history? Just wondering.



Date: 07/23/07 11:59
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: MTMEngineer

Or, had low seniority because they never stayed in one place long enough to earn any. Itchy feet. Like Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon, "I Was Born Under A Wandering Star."

May have had things in his past that kept him one step ahead of his ex-wife, ex-jailer, disappointed parents, or whatever. Maybe someone with problems dealing with relationships or authority.

Remember, in those days a job was a whole lot easier to get. Walk into a yard office, tell 'em you'd worked for ...(name any railroad in any location, just to let 'em know you wern't totally without experience), maybe they'd send you down to the company sawbone (the physical consisted of such things as counting your eyes and making sure both your legs were real - not much more), and the next day you'd be a switchman, fireman, or whatever else they could use.



Date: 07/23/07 12:02
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: MTMEngineer

Come to think of it, we've sorta got the same thing in most business' today - but they're called consultants <G>.



Date: 07/23/07 12:12
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: WAF

Just someone who follows the work cycle throughout the year.



Date: 07/23/07 12:22
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: Former-PRR

MTMEngineer Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Or, had low seniority because they never stayed in
> one place long enough to earn any. Itchy feet.
> Like Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon, "I Was Born
> Under A Wandering Star."
>
> May have had things in his past that kept him one
> step ahead of his ex-wife, ex-jailer, disappointed
> parents, or whatever. Maybe someone with problems
> dealing with relationships or authority.
>
> Remember, in those days a job was a whole lot
> easier to get. Walk into a yard office, tell 'em
> you'd worked for ...(name any railroad in any
> location, just to let 'em know you wern't totally
> without experience), maybe they'd send you down to
> the company sawbone (the physical consisted of
> such things as counting your eyes and making sure
> both your legs were real - not much more), and the
> next day you'd be a switchman, fireman, or
> whatever else they could use.

I seem to recall the infamous Sutter Clinic in St. Louis that failed more people than they passed account "bad backs". In those days (mid 60s) a back x-ray was required for any TY&E
position. Now, if you can touch your toes, you're in.



Date: 07/23/07 12:35
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: hobojaks

One point to keep in mind, that in the period that the book was written SP had "system wide" seniority. So for example when a Boomer, who normally lived in Watsonville or San Jose, was on a board turning slow, they could move to Texas where they were turning and burning.

Now days seniority is limited to a particular hub. Hence if one has seniority in the Roseville hub, this does not transfer to Texas for example.

In other words a boomer went where the economy was booming.

Boomer the 'bo, by the way is the icon of the national hobo association, who I believe is the cartoon image of a hobo who travels with the agricultural seasons, picking apples in Washington, and harvesting wheat in the Midwest. Basically going where the work is.



Date: 07/23/07 12:41
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: PROPULDUDE

I know a guy with that name, But it's not from any of the aformentioned reasons...He clears a room if you get the drift..Cough, Gag, Cough....



Date: 07/23/07 12:43
The crane with the broken neck
Author: MTMEngineer

Former-PRR Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I seem to recall the infamous Sutter Clinic in St.
> Louis that failed more people than they passed
> account "bad backs". In those days (mid 60s) a
> back x-ray was required for any TY&E
> position. Now, if you can touch your toes, you're
> in.

When a boomer would leave one position for another, unknown, position, he could ask for a referral letter to help him somewhere "down the road".

Trainmaster, Yardmaster, Road Foreman, Travelling Engineer, Supt. or anyone else writing such a note would, of course, always write a favorable report - but, he had two stacks of stationery. If a prospective employer held the paper up to the light, and saw a watermark of a crane with a broken neck, the worker didn't stand a chance of employment regardless of what the pencil marks on the paper indicated.



Date: 07/23/07 12:46
Re: The crane with the broken neck
Author: Yardmaster

Hmm.. Thought they were missle submarines.

YM



Date: 07/23/07 12:48
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: SPGP9

Back in the days long before unions and diesel locomotives, boomers were railroad workers who traveled from place to place and job to job, never really putting down roots. Seniority wasn't a consideration as the industry was growing and there were always jobs available and strict union requirements didn't exist. Men would work in a given location, depending upon their skill or specialty, for as long as they felt comfortable, but when the muse hit, they would pick up and go to where they thought the grass was greener. Certainly, rumors of growing prosperity would be attractive to such people, hence the nickname "Boomer." This activity wasn't and isn't limited to railroad people. I'm sure dock workers, construction workers, sailors and other like people also have their Boomers. To me, our modern, independent truck drivers qualify for the appellation. Being a Boomer may not be a life-style that produces a retirement pension, home and family, or other such security, but some people prefer this as opposed to being "tied down." The lifestyle has been romanticized to a degree, but there are disadvantages as well. It really depends upon what you want in life.



Date: 07/23/07 13:08
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: RD10747

A 'boomer' drifted around to where the movement 'rush' developed..
and a traveling salesman at that time was called a 'drummer'...many
rode the cushions of locals and mixed trains...



Date: 07/23/07 13:19
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: BobE

Boomer is my puppy, 10-week-old purebred yellow lab!

BobE



Date: 07/23/07 14:02
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: Jim700

MTMEngineer Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Or, had low seniority because they never stayed in
> one place long enough to earn any. Itchy feet.
> Like Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon, "I Was Born
> Under A Wandering Star."
>
> May have had things in his past that kept him one
> step ahead of his ex-wife, ex-jailer, disappointed
> parents, or whatever. Maybe someone with problems
> dealing with relationships or authority.
>
> Remember, in those days a job was a whole lot
> easier to get. Walk into a yard office, tell 'em
> you'd worked for ...(name any railroad in any
> location, just to let 'em know you wern't totally
> without experience), maybe they'd send you down to
> the company sawbone (the physical consisted of
> such things as counting your eyes and making sure
> both your legs were real - not much more), and the
> next day you'd be a switchman, fireman, or
> whatever else they could use.

My family has been in the operating departments of the railroad industry since the 1890s and MTMEngineer's description of a boomer is exactly the understanding of the term, as related to the railroad industry, that has been passed down to me; i.e. changing railroad employers, not just changing seniority districts on a large railroad or working locations on a system-wide-seniority railroad. I worked with an engineer on Amtrak who fits the definition of a boomer as he has worked for the Santa Fe, the Durango & Silverton, the Georgetown Loop, the Washington Central and finally (?) for Amtrak at which he seems to have settled into for the long haul.



Date: 07/23/07 14:27
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: Steamjocky

I thought a boomer was a type of submarine or somebody that operates a boom. Well, maybe not.

JDE



Date: 07/23/07 14:52
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: DNRY122

Some railroad officials welcomed boomers, because they knew how to cope with "busy season" or "harvest rush" conditions. They were somewhat like seasonal help at resorts or holiday season temps in retail stores.
A "boomer" who became famous outside of the railroad world was "Haywire Mac" McClintock, who was a folk singer as well as a trainman. His most famous songs are "Ain't We Crazy" and "Big Rock Candy Mountains".
In the 19th Century there were "boomer" or "tramp" telegraph operators, who would often take night or rotating shift jobs that the "locals" didn't want; Thomas Edison was one in his early days, since he reportedly liked working nights.



Date: 07/23/07 15:59
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: hogantunnel

Thanks to all for the enlightenment. Obviously I was way off on my initial definition of the term. Very educational and informative.

MTMEngineer wrote:
"Or, had low seniority because they never stayed in one place long enough to earn any. Itchy feet. Like Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon, "I Was Born Under A Wandering Star."

May have had things in his past that kept him one step ahead of his ex-wife, ex-jailer, disappointed parents, or whatever. Maybe someone with problems dealing with relationships or authority."

MTMEngineer, your comments really struck a cord. I love that song from "Paint Your Wagon." Very poignant and melancholy, made more so by Marvin actually singing it. Reminds me of the part he played in "Monte Walsh." another loner and drifter watching his whole world change. And your thoughts about "things in the past" also hits the mark. There is a paragraph or two in Bowden and Dill's excellent book on the Modoc line about the type of people who worked in the crew cook house/dining rooms on the SP at such remote locations as Wendel. Guys with a dark or troubled past known only to them, many of them very intelligent, who just wanted to drift away from "society" for some undetermined amount of time. Always drifting...

Thanks again to all.



Date: 07/23/07 16:28
Re: Definition of a Boomer
Author: atsfman

He's an Okie, you know, boomer sooner. Anyway, when I was growing up on the Santa Fe in Oklahoma, my dad was an engineer, I met all sorts of people working for railroads, mostly CRIP, SLSF or ATSF. Many worked for Santa Fe during the late spring, early summer during the "wheat rush" when there were more grain trains than Carter had liver pills. Then when it got really hot and they were being cut off, they went north, worked for other railroads. One old guy like to work for railroads in Central America, then America, then Canada, and then repeat the cycle going the other way. They were not married, had no real family ties, just couldn't stand to stay in one place too long.

I think they are mostly extinct now.

Bob



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