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Linn County Leader - Brookfield, MO
  • Coming of Age in Marceline

  • Anyone who has ever gone back to his/her elementary school and tried to sit at one of the desks that he/she slipped effortlessly into as a child will experience Lineus Berry’s dilemma: how to accommodate one’s memory of the way things were to the reality of what actually happened. You may manage to sit down, but i...
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  • Anyone who has ever gone back to his/her elementary school and tried to sit at one of the desks that he/she slipped effortlessly into as a child will experience Lineus Berry’s dilemma: how to accommodate one’s memory of the way things were to the reality of what actually happened. You may manage to sit down, but it may be a while before you can stand back up. Fortunately, the time you spend sitting with Berry and his recollections of 1950s Marceline are so entertaining that you’ll hardly notice the discomfort.
    The thing that enables the author of Marceline to fit the adult reader’s posterior back into that child-sized seat is his ability to write about childhood experiences so universal that just about anyone can relate to them. And while Marceline residents past and present will particularly recognize many of the personalities Berry revives, as well as the places they inhabited, readers don’t have to be Marceline natives to feel a sense of identification; they just have to be willing to remember.
    Lineus Berry, the pen name of Charlie Lineberry, was the son of a railroader who was reared in a community with deep ties to the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe. As Berry explains, “The town of Marceline was created out of thin air for no reason other than to serve the westward expansion of the nation via the ribbons of steel.” While historians will attribute the founding of Marceline to its location at the midway point between Chicago and Kansas City, Berry the autobiographer quips, “Just like the arrival of the ancestors the town’s location was probably due to someone who was just fed up. Soaking wet with sweat and nursing a nagging backache from riding a horse all day probably caused the surveyor to just stop short, get off his horse, drive a stake in the ground and declare, ‘This terminal is going to be right here because I’m not going any further today.’”
    Berry’s humor is evident throughout and is made all the more poignant through its juxtaposition with equally moving pathos as seen through the eyes of a little boy.
     The reader can’t know Marceline’s railroad legacy without getting up close and personal to its railroaders, and glimpses of Tommy Lineberry, Charlie’s Dad, provide abundant insight: “The passenger trains mostly stopped in Marceline on the way through, so we would meet the train and take our dad a sack lunch and a thermos of coffee. Memories of the sights, sounds, and smells of the working depot back in the old days were ingrained from hanging around waiting for the train. We would park down the tracks from the passenger platform up where the engine stopped and watch in the distance for signs of the distinctive oscillating headlight of a passenger train coming down Bucklin hill. When the train pulled in, my father would climb down from the lead engine cab and snag his lunch as he nervously watched the passenger platform for a highball from the conductor signaling it was time to go. The whole thing didn’t take very long as they had a schedule to keep...Actually, one of my earliest memories in life is of my dad climbing around on top of a steam engine, putting water in it when he first hired out as a fireman before the diesel locomotive days even arrived.”
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