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Almost time for the annual train show in Florence

Some of the folks around here know my wife, Melissa, and I through our annual Florence Country Library train show that happens the second Saturday of December every year.

This will be year 11! We started with one train set and a rather small gathering, with more old folks than kids in attendance. One of the older men won the only train set and buzzed out the door without mentioning his name and surely without a thank you very much. Oh, the faces of those sad and disappointed children.

The second year and each year since have had a rule or two. You have to be younger than 18 and be present to win. Now that works.

Over the years we have added some additional prizes and made them age appropriate. We start with a pull toy train for the youngest fans. The next group wins a push train but with wooden tracks. Then we move up to the real Lionel “electric trains.” We try to have a Thomas the Tank engine set because it is familiar with kids due to the TV show and because the locomotive and cars are four wheel and easy to put on the track.

The grand prize for many years now is the Polar Express — again, familiar because of holiday television. This train is for older kids.

Funny how a toy that I got in 1946 is still popular and desired today and is amazingly similar to what we had “back in the day.” I know my generation had an edge when it came to toy trains, and trains in general. There were lots of “real” trains back then but that was not the secret to our longings. It was the wonderful Lionel catalog, which came out each fall with the new wonders for that particular year. Do YOU remember that catalog? Or maybe the trains in the Sears’ or Montgomery Wards’ Christmas catalogs.

While those store catalogs were black and white, the Lionel catalog was full color! So many trains and accessories. We knew we would get SOMETHING. Would it be big or small? Sometimes it was a new car or an accessory to place along the tracks, but one year my brothers and I got another complete train set AND a street car. And more track. Could you ever have enough? Oh yes, I am still expanding my set. The thing is, I don’t have any “train friends” around here. In Green Bay, we had a club and hobby stores where the hobbyists hung out and you met folks with a common interest.

Now in 14 years up here, we have not found any train friends. That is fine most of the year, but for our train show, it would be nice to have a few more “older” folks with an interest in trains that could join us and tell the kids why they like trains and what their trains are like.

Interested? Why not give us a call and set that Saturday in December, approximately 10 a.m. to noon, aside and come a say a few words.

Even if you do not want to talk or don’t have trains, come anyhow. When you see those kids playing with the trains we bring and then when some of them “win” a train of their own, you will remember what the old time holidays were all about.

You see, nothing has really changed.Kids are still kids — at whatever age.

Donald Lison

Florence, Wis.

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