My Grandfather was a Santa Fe Timekeeper and Quite a Bit More!

lawrence hauck

My fraternal grandfather, Lawrence Edward Hauck, was born and died in Newton, Kansas (February  11, 1908 – October 23, 1979) — a true railroad town.  You remember that famous diddy made popular by Judy Garland in a movie about the railroad line…”the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe“.  Newton served as the Middle Division dispatching headquarters for the Santa Fe until the mid-1980s, when all dispatching for the Chicago to LA  system was centralized in the Chicago area.  In 1995 the Santa Fe merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad and is now known as the BNSF Railway.  Most locals in Newton still refer to this railroad as the “Santa Fe”.

My grandfather Lawrence spent his life dedicated to working for the Santa Fe but he was also a complex man of many interests and hobbies including writing poetry, essays and typewritten personal letters to his children and grandchildren as well as composing songs for his trombone which he was accompanied by his sister or his niece on the piano, an intense interest in local history with thousand of hours logged as a volunteer in the offices of the Harvey County Historical Society as well as a collector of unusual stuff…  including coins, railroad nails,  barb wire, and small engine toys.  He was also a highly trained amateur radio operator or a “ham” as he proudly called himself.   In high school, Grandpa competed across a nine county area to win a $150 college scholarship for his essay on “How to Obtain Permanent World Peace”.  His ending paragraph reads like this:

With the experience of the past to guide us, and the vision of the future to prompt us, we can attain permanent world peace only by the continuation of the process of the development of world-wide program of education, world-wide cooperation among nations, and higher standards of patriotism everywhere.

Grandpa dreamed to be a teacher but he never was able to complete his college degree.  He tried two times to get the required credentials but the Great Depression, the sudden death of his mother at an early age and the start of his family with Grandma Helen ended both attempts.   He spent his entire adult life working for the Santa Fe in a relatively low paying role as timekeeper but one with critical importance in keeping the trains running on time and the crews assigned so that no role was left unfilled.  This was all done without the benefit of computer and networks so you can only imagine the attention to detail required.  Grandpa reminded me of the importance of his job because as he explained to me, “Harry S. Truman, you know, was a timekeeper before he launched into politics.” It did seem when Grandpa drove me proudly to the local ice cream shop on my holiday visits to Newton – always  in his beloved Ford Falcon — that he knew just about everyone in town and they knew him. He loved to introduce me to the locals on these short visits and he always had a ready supply of black licorice candies in his pants pocket to occupy me if these adult conversations went on too long.   Grandpa, like nearly all of the Spanglers and Haucks was a faithful Christian and he held numerous church positions of responsibility and leadership.  Aunt Faye’s husband, F.W. Kaiser, was a highly respected minister in the community as well which sustained this long line of service to others.

Grandpa loved the railroad so much that he listened to shiny black LP’s that only spun train whistle sounds – he played a game of trying to identify what sound was associated with which engine and which line.  He rarely made a mistake but I was a dismal failure at it.  They all sounded the same to this young, inexperienced ear and I know I thought this game a bit quacky at the time — I hope I was attentive and respectful to his little game as it is really sweet and charming memory looking back on it.

Grandpa’s parents were John Edward Hauck and Mary Almeda Spangler.  Both were born in Reberburg, Pennsylvania, in the late 1870’s but migrated west as very young children with their families and eventually married one another in November of 1897.  Almeda, as she was commonly called,  died of undisclosed reasons at the relatively youthful age of 49 years.  Unable to substantiate it, I remember my father speculating that she may have committed suicide as she struggled with depression her entire adult life.  Whatever the cause, her death left Faye, her only daughter (29),  and my grandfather (20) in the necessary state  to forge somehow ahead which happily resulted in a close bond between their families which they cherished over many years and decades until Faye passed away in 1977 just two years before my grandfather’s passing.   We loved visiting the elegant Aunt Faye, and appreciated the nice designer touches in her modest home at Friendly Acres including an electric organ that she entertained us with often when we visited.  She made incredible peppermint cream cheese candies from scratch – pretty pink and green patties imprinted with beautiful stamp patterns.  Almost too pretty to eat.

My grandfather was a sport fan but he loved to write letters to the editor with his opinions and reflections on football, baseball and of course, the beloved basketball.  Here is one of many that I particular admire because it showcases his intelligence and playful wit.

A Football Dictionary

Editor the Beacon:

Hurray!  It won’t be long now.  The grand old football season is almost here.  The sound of toe upon pigskin will soon be heard throughout the land, with it the roar of the crowd, the blare of the bands, a regular fall tonic!

However, to thoroughly understand the great college sport, it is necessary that Mr. Average Man study and adopt this glossary of football terms or he will be hopelessly confused when attempting to interpret the sport pages.

Here are the common ones:

College:  Administration building or buildings entirely surrounded by a stadium.

Stadium:  A concrete grandstand constructed to seat 20,000 people uncomfortably.  This building is always built and paid for and by the alumnae of the school.

Alumnae:  Former graduates who attend homecoming games and at such, are the poorest sports present.

Gridiron:  The playing field, 100 yards of soft mud most of the season.

Team:  Eleven husky fellows with uniforms of the same color (must not be confused with the band)

Coach:  A prosperous looking man with a bright sweater.  Always appears slightly nervous. Rules the team with an iron hand.

Yell-leaders:  Four or five of the noisiest boys in the school.  Must be either extremely handsome or extremely homely.

Trainer:  A dumb-looking fellow who carries a water bucket.

Referee:  A gentlemen attired in white trousers.  Blows a small whistle at random throughout the game.

Linesmen:  Two young fellows chained together like convicts.

Scrimmage:  Twenty-two players in the act of bumping into each other.

Touchdown:  Something that happens at the far end of the field.  Always obscured from view by the crowd in front.

Co-eds:  Pretty girls identified by their frantic screams at various intervals during the game. They usually carry small canes.

Fan:  One who pays five dollars or more for a ticket to a game.  The more violent ones can be recognized by their insulting remarks to the referee.


The Ham operator at work on the second floor of their home on 4th Street in Newton.

Happy Father’s Day to all the great Hauck men that have touched my life!

Gems from the Classics – shades of Edgar Allen Poe

Hush!  I hear a gentle dripping

From my leaky still a-slipping

Quiet lipping,

Bootleg sipping,

Underneath a cellar door.

Hark!  I hear strange voices talking,

Cops a-knocking, doors unlocking,

Awful socking!

Quiet walking.

Quoth the raven, “Never more!”



3 thoughts on “My Grandfather was a Santa Fe Timekeeper and Quite a Bit More!

    1. Yes…we are having a blast commenting privately about all the memories. I plan to scan and attach each story to their place in our family lineage on It is a way to keep their memories alive and for me to be able to store away all the family records that are cluttering my little house. Love St. Louis!

  1. Oops, I meant to reply on this blog. I did have to share this story with my sisters on fb. Thank you Tracy. I love the stories of Gma & Gpa Hauck and of you and the boys. This is so special!! My kids know all about Gma & Gpa Hauck too…they love the stories of him drawing those cartoons. : )

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