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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Tonk, anyone?


Date: 01/24/20 14:35
Tonk, anyone?
Author: cewherry

A recent posting by 'ExSPCondr' involved the name of a Southern Pacific official who during his career developed
quite a reputation as one of the more 'colorful', if that is the right word, individuals ever to occupy a position of responsibility
on the SP's Los Angeles Division. 

I first encountered George De Lellis around 1963 when he held the afternoon yardmaster job at what was officially known
as River Station, or more familiarly the "Links" yard which sat at the north end of Spring Street, a few blocks from today's
Union Station in Los Angeles. I was working as a fireman on a job that went on duty at 3:00PM at the Links and even at this
early date George had earned a reputation as a "Man-Eater", one you did not want to get on the wrong side of. 

Fast forward to about 1975. George is now Assistant Terminal Superintendent at West Colton and I am now an engineer working
into and through W. Colton and I still had no desire to test his 
mettle. 

When the yard at West Colton opened in 1973 the freight pool arrangement was such that at any given time there might be multiple
crews sitting around the "Administration Building"; SP speak for yard office, waiting for trains to arrive or depart or deadhead rides
to take 'spent' crews back to our home terminal in Los Angeles. One of the favorite activities of these crews was what seemed to be
an on-going, never-ending game of cards called Tonk. The game was simple to learn, played quickly and at twenty-five cents a hand
no one was going to get rich or suffer any great financial loss if their luck was not with them. It was also against the rules; but so was
reading non-company material or sleeping which the local management seemed to tolerate if not actually encourage. The one thing most
crews did to avoid the obvious, flagrant violation of the rules was to place a paper towel over our respective 'bank' of quarters, just in 
case someone just happened to look our way. 

One bright morning I was in the crew room, which was provided with tables for eating, paperwork preparation or any other authorized use,
busily engaged in our Tonk game of the hour when George suddenly appeared. He's dressed in a beautiful 3 piece blue serge suit,
polished shoes; the full treatment. The collective breath of each of the players was sucked out of that room. We're cooked. Fired. Done. Kaput. 
What happened next still amazes me to this day.

George asks: "How much a hand?". The conductor-dealer, replies '25 cents'. "Deal'em", says George as he puts in his quarter and 
sits down. We all make eye contact, slide our quarters out from under their covers and start to breathe again. For over 20 minutes 
George stays in the game and then excuses himself, wishes us all a safe day and leaves. 

From that day I had a different opinion of George De Lellis. I still respected his position and his well earned reputation but somehow 
he showed a different, more human side than I had seen before. I understand that in later years, after his retirement he has been 
a featured speaker at Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society conventions. A colorful guy, indeed.

Charlie









 



Date: 01/24/20 15:47
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: 3rdswitch

Boy, did this post bring back memories. In JAN '79, I was increased to the Los Angeles brakeman extra board. One of the first jobs I caught was the First Pico Rivera road switcher. While on "spot" in the North Vail industrial area, they taught me how to play in the caboose. The hands must have been more than a quarter as when we went back to work I had won twenty dollars during the first game of my life. It was played in the caboose on most jobs while on spot as well as the crew office in Los Angeles.
JB



Date: 01/24/20 18:30
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: KskidinTx

Well JB, I have a similar story.  On my 1st student trip in June '62 I rode a train from Newton to Arkansas City, Ks.  They had a lounge room upstairs in the old freight office where the crews would kill some time waiting for their trains.  I was waiting for a train to take me to Emporia.  There were a couple of card games going on and one table encouraged me to join.  There were playing Gin Rummy (sp) which I had never played before.  I think they were only playing for a nickle or dime a point.  An old head trainman told me he would help me if I wanted to play so I joined in.  What did I do?  Started winning.  The other players finally told my "helper" to butt out that I didn't need any help.  So he did quit helping me but guess what?  I kept on winning.  What can I say..............................beginners luck.

Mark



Date: 01/24/20 20:22
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: AmHog

Used to play Tonk at the car knockers shanty in between moves. Quick game, you can get in and out of the game quickly. Down at the the trainsman's crew room there was often a high stakes poker game going on. Played with chips, so no money showing.



Date: 01/25/20 08:43
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: Chico43

Along with Tonk, Booray was another popular card game in the shantys on the pike where I worked.



Date: 01/25/20 09:07
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: trackplanner

George De Lellis was a household name around our house growing up in the 60's from my hoghead dad that worked the LA area. Roland Roberts too.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/25/20 18:26 by trackplanner.



Date: 01/25/20 11:09
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: tehachcond

cewherry Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> A recent posting by 'ExSPCondr' involved the name
> of a Southern Pacific official who during his
> career developed
> quite a reputation as one of the more 'colorful',
> if that is the right word, individuals ever to
> occupy a position of responsibility
> on the SP's Los Angeles Division. 
>
> I first encountered George De Lellis around 1963
> when he held the afternoon yardmaster job at what
> was officially known
> as River Station, or more familiarly the "Links"
> yard which sat at the north end of Spring Street,
> a few blocks from today's
> Union Station in Los Angeles. I was working as a
> fireman on a job that went on duty at 3:00PM at
> the Links and even at this
> early date George had earned a reputation as a
> "Man-Eater", one you did not want to get on the
> wrong side of. 
>
> Fast forward to about 1975. George is now
> Assistant Terminal Superintendent at West Colton
> and I am now an engineer working
> into and through W. Colton and I still had no
> desire to test his mettle. 
>
> When the yard at West Colton opened in 1973 the
> freight pool arrangement was such that at any
> given time there might be multiple
> crews sitting around the "Administration
> Building"; SP speak for yard office, waiting for
> trains to arrive or depart or deadhead rides
> to take 'spent' crews back to our home terminal in
> Los Angeles. One of the favorite activities of
> these crews was what seemed to be
> an on-going, never-ending game of cards called
> Tonk. The game was simple to learn, played quickly
> and at twenty-five cents a hand
> no one was going to get rich or suffer any great
> financial loss if their luck was not with them. It
> was also against the rules; but so was
> reading non-company material or sleeping which the
> local management seemed to tolerate if not
> actually encourage. The one thing most
> crews did to avoid the obvious, flagrant violation
> of the rules was to place a paper towel over our
> respective 'bank' of quarters, just in 
> case someone just happened to look our way. 
>
> One bright morning I was in the crew room, which
> was provided with tables for eating, paperwork
> preparation or any other authorized use,
> busily engaged in our Tonk game of the hour when
> George suddenly appeared. He's dressed in a
> beautiful 3 piece blue serge suit,
> polished shoes; the full treatment. The
> collective breath of each of the players was
> sucked out of that room. We're cooked. Fired.
> Done. Kaput. 
> What happened next still amazes me to this day.
>
> George asks: "How much a hand?". The
> conductor-dealer, replies '25 cents'. "Deal'em",
> says George as he puts in his quarter and 
> sits down. We all make eye contact, slide our
> quarters out from under their covers and start to
> breathe again. For over 20 minutes 
> George stays in the game and then excuses himself,
> wishes us all a safe day and leaves. 
>
> From that day I had a different opinion of George
> De Lellis. I still respected his position and his
> well earned reputation but somehow 
> he showed a different, more human side than I had
> seen before. I understand that in later years,
> after his retirement he has been 
> a featured speaker at Southern Pacific Historical
> & Technical Society conventions. A colorful guy,
> indeed.
>
> Charlie

Charley, as I recall the "quarters on the table" version of Tonk changed when the Chief PO at West Colton, whose office door came right out into the locker room, clamped down on the games..."illegal gambling," and all that good stuff.  After that, a system of scorekeeping was devised on paper towels, so when a player had to leave, the financial settlements were made then.
   For a time, crews deadheading back to LA were vanned over to Ontario Airport, where they would await an RTD (Rancid Transit) bus to LAUPT, where a yard van from the LA Yard office would retrieve the crew.
   The Tonk games would go on while waiting for the RTD at Ontario.  Many were the busses missed (too full), while the games went on.  By chance, the crews would be on overtime.

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO.
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>  



Date: 01/25/20 15:03
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: cewherry

tehachcond Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

>    For a time, crews deadheading back to LA were
> vanned over to Ontario Airport, where they would
> await an RTD (Rancid Transit) bus to LAUPT, where
> a yard van from the LA Yard office would retrieve
> the crew.

Somehow, I had managed to shuffle that painful memory into my subconscious.
Thanks, Brian for another reminder of just why I'm so happy to be retired! 

Charlie



Date: 01/25/20 18:32
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: trackplanner

Hey, I drove those buses! Line 60 and then Line 496 freeway expresses, and the Holt/Valley Blvd local was the 484. Took almost 3 hours to get to LA, but followed the SP all the way. They were anything but Cadillac's though, lol!

>    For a time, crews deadheading back to LA were

> vanned over to Ontario Airport, where they would
> await an RTD (Rancid Transit) bus to LAUPT, where
> a yard van from the LA Yard office would retrieve
> the crew.

Somehow, I had managed to shuffle that painful memory into my subconscious.
Thanks, Brian for another reminder of just why I'm so happy to be retired! 

Charlie



Date: 01/26/20 06:05
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: mdo

You forgot to mention that around Colton in that era he was known as Jaws by the other terminal officers.   George later became an Assistant Division Superintendent of the Los Angeles Division, IIRC
mdo



Date: 01/26/20 10:30
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: tomstp

Booray is a wicked , sometimes painful, game.



Date: 01/26/20 16:57
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: tehachcond

mdo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You forgot to mention that around Colton in that
> era he was known as Jaws by the other terminal
> officers.   George later became an Assistant
> Division Superintendent of the Los Angeles
> Division, IIRC
> mdo

Mike, when he was the Terminal Superintendent in Los Angeles, he saw me pass in the hallway, and flagged me into his office,  I was working the Los Angeles-Bakersfield pool as a conductor at the time.  He politelly asked me if I would feel comfortable going to Bakersfield with a 3000 ton MUG train with two 7900's (GE U30C's).  I told him they would make it on the grades, but not very fast, and if one quit, they were dead in the water!
He thanked me, and I'm not sure if they tried it or not.  Most of us that knew him knew that if he was screaming and yelling, he was just venting and being George.  Of course, I didn't have to work under him as a subordinate officer either.

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO



Date: 01/27/20 08:55
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: Zephyr

I worked for George when I was Asst. Terminal Superintendent, Los Angeles, stationed at Gemco from about 1979-1981.  He and I got along just fine as he never had to worry about Gemco and the San Fernando Valley.  I don't think he every showed up at Gemco in those two years.  Later George worked for me when I became Asst. Superintendent of the Los Angeles Division 1983-1985.  We always got along really well, but there were those times when the "Jaws" side of his personality did surface over questions of process and integrity associated with Taylor Yard.

Pete Baumhefner
Clio, California



Date: 01/30/20 12:59
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: Kimball

In the late '70's early '80's I worked at a manufacturing company very near Taylor Yard in LA CA.  Right behind us was the old UP branch that still saw trains with SW's and a few cars going up towards Glendale.
They had a strict policy against gambling, games of chance, etc, etc.  However, when the Super Bowl, World Series, etc. rolled around, the Engineering Department would provide many blue-print copies of  drawing # ME-580, which was a huge "D-sized" grid for picking your squares in one of the many office Pools!  Squares were $1, $5 or even $10 each.  The person running the pool, on company time no less, usually took a 10% cut off the top!



Date: 02/04/20 19:20
Re: Tonk, anyone?
Author: Cabhop

George De Lellis  JAWS!



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