A friend of his had asked Harold to build two benches. These were to be placed in strategic places around the friends unbelievably extensive Lionel train layout, a layout big enough to run 27 trains at once with plenty of room to spare.. The friend wanted something that resembled depot benches, a very appropriate thought for the occasion. So when I understood the situation I suggested that we go to the train depot in Princeton (IL) to see if any of the old benches were still there. We were delighted to see a solitary bench in its original state.
There was no one around in the still functioning original depot so I immediately got to work with ruler, pencil, and camera documenting the size and shape of the beautiful and graceful bench. It was curvy, comfortable and inviting, solid oak with arm rests and no pads. It was also double sided, i.e. the bench had two seats sharing a common back. Our benches were to be single sided. So I crawled underneath to document the supporting structures and noting how they could be modified to be a strong single bench. I had been under there long enough that Harold sought relief by sitting down at one end of the bench with his back to one of the main entrance doors. When the heavy door swung open, its tired hinges squeaked enough to draw my attention to a mans shoes entering the depot. He swung around in front of Harold and I heard them exchange greetings as old familiar friends. There was a pause at the end of the pleasantries and then the visitor asked “What are you doing here?” Without missing a beat, Harold replied “I'm waiting for a train because I'm running away from Margie.” (Marge is his well known wife of nearly 70 years!) I smiled to myself and started to grin as the silence extended into a very awkward social moment. “What's this?” I heard the visitor ask, distracted. It was clear that he had spotted my feet sticking out from under the bench. I heard the bench creak as Harold shifted his weight to lean forward and look, as if he hadn't paid much attention to the unusual situation. “I don't know. He was here when I got here and he hasn't moved much. I think it is one of the town drunks sleeping it off.” Again a long awkward silence as I stifled my urge to laugh out loud. Quietly the visitor tendered “I didn't know Princeton had a town drunk.” Quickly Harold leaned back saying loudly “There are more town drunks in this town than I care to talk about.” By that time, I had all the information I could learn, so I finished dusting the floor with the back of my shirt, pulled myself out and rolled over onto my knees, facing Harold and the visitor with a silly grin on my face, and dusted my shirt off a bit. “Well!” Harold blurted. “I see he has sobered up enough to introduce him to you.” I grinned, shook my head and stood up to properly shake hands with a new friend as Harold introduced us.
We quickly left the ancient depot, leaving the graceful old bench to its solitary watch for trains and visitors to build a couple of sturdy replicas for a similar purpose. We left with school boy spring in our steps giggling about the charade we had just witnessed.