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Big Chuck

May 22, 2013

Safety Patrol D.C. visits never get old

I asked Cam Morris, head of Eastern Travel/Oneonta Bus Lines, how many years her company has been handling the Safety Patrol trip to Washington, D.C.

“I honestly don’t know, Big Chuck” she said with a laugh. “More than 60 is about as close as we can come.”

I have written about this in my column before, but having just come off another memorable weekend in our nation’s capital I wanted to share it with you all again.

I went on my Safety Patrol trip around 1960. A whole bunch of us from Sidney went. It was a big deal then, and I suspect it is to today’s kids, also. It was the first overnight trip I ever took without my parents. It was my first trip to a big city and it was the first trip where I was in charge of my own money (“Twenty dollars, and come back with some change,” I was told).

My roommate was Billy Kent, a friend from my old neighborhood. His folks owned the big department store in Sidney. We had a blast on the trip. On the way down we stopped at the Gettysburg battlefield. I remember sitting in the dark, witnessing the dramatic unfolding of the Electric Map. A deep-voiced announcer intoned the progress of the advancing armies upon the town of Gettysburg. Little red lights snaked across a giant panoramic map of the area representing the Confederate army. Blue signified the Union troops.

We sat in hushed silence as the “voice of God” told us about the backdrop of the war, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, and the Union general at Gettysburg, George Meade. The suspense as the red and blue lights got closer and closer was unbearable. When the battle was engaged all the little lights on the board began to flash on and off and a great sound of crashing cymbals filled the room. My pounding heart almost burst through my chest it was so exciting.

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