Note to Readers: Charles Trentelman is a retired journalist and columnist from the Standard-Examiner, the daily newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He moved to Union Station to tell the stories on this new blog of the people and objects that make up one of Utah’s most significant museums and museum collections, taking in antique cars, Browning firearms and Utah’s extensive railroad history.
This is his first blog entry:
Cigars, who knew?
Not just any cigars. Union Pacific cigars. Be Specific, go Union Pacific and one has to assume these are primo cigars, too.
Or maybe not. I dunno, not being a smoker. On the side of the box it says the cigars are mostly tobacco, but also contain a bunch of stuff that is not tobacco. Is this normal forcigars? For Union Pacific cigars?
Again: I dunno.
A box of these cigars showed up in the Union Station archives a while back. Lee Witten, the chief archivist, showed them to me as an example of “the cool stuff we get down here.” Someone just brought them down, there they are.
Save them. Preserve them. Figure out why they exist at all. Put them on display. That’s what archives do.
This is why I decided to volunteer down at Union Station. The railroad, car and gun museums are constantly getting really cool stuff donated, or found, or it just sorta shows up. The Foundation lacks money to go out and acquire things, so it really does have to depend on the kindness of strangers.
Just to run the place depends on kindness. Volunteers do most of the guiding and touring around the museums, but the guys who do that are doing it out of love and deep-seated knowledge, so they’re providing a service with a level of quality that money can’t buy.
Monday morning, just wandering around getting acquainted, I met Ward Armstrong, who is a past president of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame, former owner of a sporting good store in Ogden that shut down way before my time (around 1972) and guru, so said Foundation Director Roberta Beverly, of all things guns.
Armstrong dragged me into the Browning gun collection to show me a display on gun engraving that Darwin Brimhall, another volunteer, had put together. Brimhall gave me a quick rundown of how the Browning company makes its intricately engraved guns, the sort of guns that sell for a zillion dollars. The museum display includes some very unique items used in that process.
There is very little about guns of any sort that the guys in the museum don’t know. I plan on dropping in often because every time I see one of those guys I know that all I need to do is point to a gun, say “wow, that’s cool,” and off they go.
Museums preserve a way of life from the past that we wish we could see again. It is fortunate much of that past is in the memories of these volunteers.
Some times we have to extrapolate. Take those cigars.
Last time I rode Amtrak it was nice, but not the sort of high class operation that first class diners on trains in my father’s generation would have expected. Amtrak dining is very nice, and the food is good, but the whole experience is a bit pedestrian — plastic tableware, a rather limited menu, things obviously microwaved.
Those cigars speak of fine linen tablecloths, real china, real silverware,and cooks down below preparing the sort of meals you dressed for, almost. Check out a copy of the film “From Russia with Love” and look at Bond ordering wine with dinner, if you want to get a feel for it.
And you can imagine the guys (it was always guys back then, highly sexist) sitting around in the lounge cars after dinner with their brandy, trying out one of the Union Pacific’s finest cigars.
I wouldn’t try these. They’re almost certainly dried out beyond consideration. For all I know they were horrible even when brand new.
Be that as it may, they represent a little bit of the past that just sorta showed up at Union Station one day.
Pretty cool, eh?