April 11, 2000
I, Kermit Thoreson, was born on February 4, 1927 at a little town named “Falun” about 8 miles from Grantsburg, Wisconsin. I attended grade school at Falun through the 5th grade. My dad “Timmy” was employed by the WPA in the middle 1930’s and when his job moved around Burnett County, we moved to Webster, WI, and then to Danbury, WI, where I went to school through the 9th grade. In 1943, we moved to Superior, WI, where Dad was employed as a sheet metal worker and later worked at a Superior shipyard until he retired. I completed high school at Superior East High in 1945.
After graduation from high school, I was drafted by the U.S. Army, completed basic training at Fort Riley, Kansas and was in basic training when World War II ended. I was sent to Germany after the war and entered parachute jump training in Germany and became part of the 508th Parachute Infantry Division, 82nd Airborne from April to September 1946.
After returning home and being discharged from the Army, and as I had been trained as a Radio Operator using International Morse Code, I found out that the railroads needed telegraphers and that a course in railroad telegraphy was offered at the vocational school at Superior. I also found out that American Morse Code, which the railroads used, was somewhat the same as International Morse Code and decided to enroll. After finishing school, I then hired out on the railroad.
On February 10, 1947, I hired out as a telegrapher on the Northern Pacific Railway out of Duluth, MN. My first job was at Moose Lake, MN from 9:00 PM until 5:00 AM, as they needed a telegrapher on February 10th. After I had passed rules exam, I was placed on a caboose hop and dropped off at Moose Lake to begin work. This was quite an experience as there was no one to meet me and I only had a switch key to gain entrance to the depot and upon entrance, found a long sheet of instructions left by the agent, most of which was unfamiliar to me. The days following, I went to the depot on my time off and the agent was kind enough to teach me some of the work required of a depot agent and telegrapher. I worked various stations on the Lake Superior Division of the “Extra List” until the fall of 1948.
On November 28, 1948, I married Gloria Steele. She was 17 years old and I was 20. In the fall of 1948, I was awarded my first regular position on the railroad as a telegrapher at Pine City, MN from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM six days a week with Monday off. We bought a small trailer home, with no inside plumbing or toilet and no refrigerator and moved it to Pine City, where we lived until September 1949.
In September of 1949, the non-operating employees, agents, clerks and telegraphers, were granted a five-day work week and as a result, I was able to bid in a job at Carlton, MN so we moved our trailer home to Carlton and lived in it for about three more years. During this time our first child was born, a daughter, whom we named Christine Ann, after her grandmother. It was said that she had to learn to walk before crawling as there was not enough room in our trailer home to crawl. We later rented an apartment with running water and a toilet and were in second heaven. A couple years later we bought our first home at Carlton with the help of a GI loan. A few years later, we bought a larger home just across the alley from the smaller one. We ended up with three more children, one more girl, Gloriann Mae, and two boys, John David, and William Kermit.
In 1952, I was promoted to train dispatcher for the Northern Pacific Railway and worked as an extra train dispatcher at Duluth, MN for a number of years commuting from our home at Carlton. When not working as a dispatcher at Duluth, I would work my regular telegrapher position at Carlton. About 1960, I was assigned a regular position as dispatcher at Duluth, MN.
While living at Carlton from 1949 to 1968, I was involved in the following activities:
Coached youth baseball and team manager of youth hockey teams
Village Clerk of the Village Council for 12 years
Volunteer Fireman for 12 years
Trustee, Carlton Presbyterian Church – 8 years
Committee member, Carlton Boy Scouts – 3 years
Chairman – Playground committee – 2 years
Commander – Carlton VFW – 2 years. (Wife, Gloria was president of the VFW Auxiliary one of these years.)
Member – Dallas Masonic Lodge – Cloquet, MN
Local Chairman and Vice General Chairman of the Dispatcher Union “ATDA” 25 years
Member – Burlington Northern Vets Association
Member – National Association of Retired & Veteran Railway Employees
In 1968, we were transferred to Minneapolis, MN, as the train dispatchers’ offices at Duluth, MN, Fargo, ND, and Minneapolis were consolidated into one office at Minneapolis. This was quite a change in our lifestyles, from a small community to a much larger one. I never did fully adjust to the “big city” life. We became active in our children’s activities and joined the Covenant Church at Blaine, where I was financial secretary of the church for about 5 years.
In 1970, the Northern Pacific Railway, The Great Northern Railway, the CB&Q Railway and the SP&S Railway merged into one railroad known as the Burlington Northern Railway. Train dispatcher offices at NP and GN were merged into one and eventually all the following dispatcher offices were merged into the Minneapolis office: Willmar, MN, Grand Forks, ND, Minot, ND, Newport, MN, and Billings, MT. We later merged with the Frisco Railway and then with the ATSF. Today, all train dispatcher offices have been merged into one at Fort Worth, TX.
My first wife, Gloria was diagnosed with cancer in December 1978 and died in May 1979. She is buried at Hillside Cemetery at Carlton, MN. She was 49 years old. She was a great wife and mother.
I married my second wife, Lenora Christine Thomas, on January 18, 1981. She was also an agent telegrapher, although she started work on the Great Northern Railway in 1952, due to the fact that the NP merged with the GN. As I love to fish, I sometimes say I caught a “Great Northern.”
I retired in 1988 and my wife, Lenora retired in 1993. After Lenora retired, we bought a condo on Green Lake near Spicer, MN where we now spend our summers and for the last seven years, we have been spending our winters at Mesa, AZ, in a retirement mobile home community.