I suppose today’s real men are different than previous. I would never declare one better than the other. All I know is what personally shaped my life and what still influences me today. Both my grandfathers were “Railroad” men. The examples of commitment and grit have infused my blood with drive and ambition. One of the legacies I am able to hold onto is denim. They wore the hell out of denim! I wear denim every day. It is in my blood. The smell and the feel connects me to my roots.
Lastly and certainly not less important are the strong incredible women who supported these men. I have been truly blessed by having a family with such strong, smart incredible females. This will always be part of my heritage and now I can proudly transform it all into iconic art. I hope you will follow my progress with this series.
With this personal project I have incorporated the locomotive and the bold powerful lines that make this industrial iconic massive piece of steel into a contemporary design. The added twist is I am using the denim colors and texture to represent this contrast.
The subtle detail of the denim for me is like the connector. Denim is the glue that has made this country so different. I don’t expect this is for every one but it really is a personal project for me.
The Artist’s grand-daddies were Wade Alderman and Archie Strickland. Both of the patriarchs were railroaders their entire life.
Wade was a middle-born child of 14 siblings raised in Plant City, Florida. His father moved the family in a covered wagon from South Georgia when he was four years old.
Wade went to work for The Seaboard Air Line Railroad and remained with them for 45 years as a “Car-Inspector.” This meant that he had to check both sides of every railroad car of a long train before it was allowed to roll out of Yeoman’s Yard. A red tag was placed on any car not passing the inspection and had to be pulled out and sent to the “Gary shops.” Wade worked for the first 21 years, seven days a week with five holidays, never missing a day of work. He took David’s dad when he was a kid to the Union Station in Tampa and let him blow the whistle on the engine of “The Orange Blossom Special,” serving New York to Florida. Eventually, the two railroads merged and called “The Seaboard Coast Line Railroad.”
Wade and Archie were then retiring and there was no longer any friendly competition between the two.
Its passenger operations were taken over by Amtrak in 1971. After many mergers, the two old railroads were finally owned by CSX Transportation.
My mom’s father was born in 1902 (117 years ago). His father died when he was 9 years old and in the 3rd grade. He had a younger sister, brother and mom. In those days the oldest child would quit school and go to work to support the family. Even though he only had a 3rd grade education, he was considered an unbelievable mathematician and voracious reader. I remember my mom telling me they were one of the very few in our neighborhood that took a “paper” and shared it with all the others in the community.
He never had the opportunity to continue his education but later in life he would become the president of his boilermaker’s union at the railroad and actually held that position until 1954 when he retired. In those days (depression times) the guys with the railroad had pretty good jobs compared with many others. He was with the ACL RR for approximately 32+ years – first in Waycross, GA then moved when the “shops” moved to Tampa (UCETA) They lived in a community called Uceta and the shops which were in walking distance of their house - therefore the name - ACL Uceta shops
My mom and her sister often visited the shops. The buildings would have 4 or 5 huge engines that had been brought in for repair– some with wheels still on and some that were being dismantled to be worked. They were rolled in on regular train tracks. My mom and her sister knew everyone and the guys would let them climb up into the engines. The engines were soooo large. She said she actually sat inside the engine, it was sooo high. The guys would be black from working on the dirty, dirty engines. My grandfather would come home in greasy, black oil/smut all over his skin and clothes. Not a pretty sight. In fact one of the reasons for his retirement in 1954 was an extreme allergic reaction he had to all the dirty oil and no telling what else during those days.
Their little community had approximately 30-35 very small homes. With the exception of 3 or 4 guys, everyone worked for either the Atlantic Coast Line RR or Seaboard RR. It was a very close community (actually no competition). They knew each other’s families and knew the job of every RR worker – all the way up to the engineer. It was a proud group of workers – no matter which RR you worked for. Again these were the best of jobs during the depression era. They shared with everyone in the community – vegetables, fruit, chickens, eggs and the dairy products from the cows.
She told me that some of the most memorable train rides were during World War II. The trains would be packed with military. So full that they would take turns sitting/sleeping with those that had to stand. Her mother would fry (don’t remember how many) chickens and baked the most delicious biscuits and packed them in boxes so they could share with the soldiers on the train.