A few thoughts from Jon Flora, President & CEO
Christmas 1960 holds special memories for me. I was 4 years old; my brother was 9. The Big Morning arrived and my Dad couldn’t wait to take us to the attic. It was a good-sized room that didn’t get used much – until that day. We climbed the stairs and what should appear before our young eyes but a very large Lionel train set. Two locomotives. Lots of train cars. A plastic tunnel. All spread out over 4 full sheets of plywood.
Wow. It was indescribable.
There’s one thing about electric trains. They make noise. A lot of noise. And they smell of oil, puffing smoke, and warm electrical devices. Add in the locomotive whistles and it was just toy nirvana.
We had hours of fun with those trains. And, then, five years later our family moved from Wisconsin to Washington. Mom wasn’t interested up in packing up all “that stuff” and Dad was busy preparing for his new employer. The trains were unceremoniously given to the preacher’s kids.
Yes, half a century later, I’m still bitter.
Skip ahead to about 9 years ago. My family was busy setting up our Christmas tree, the Nutcrackers and snow globes, and the lights. Lots of lights. The house was festive and almost ready for the holidays. The last thing to be set up was a Lionel train around the base of the tree. I’d picked it up a few years earlier just for this annual purpose. Not nearly as cool as the earlier iteration, it was nevertheless loved by our daughter and hated by the cat. Our adult friends liked to play with it during parties, and – yes – it proved that I still loved model railroads.
A week or so after the holidays were over and all the decorations were being carefully re-packed, my daughter asked a simple question: “Hey Daddy, Can we keep the train set up all year?” My wife had a look of panic while I had the gleeful memories of 1960. “Of course, we can!”
So the two of us got busy building a table in the basement and the train, just a simple oval, had a year-round home. The two of us played together and had fun for the next couple of years. Then, my daughter grew up and focused her attention on art and music, shopping and getting through high school. I decided a hobby would be good for me so I kept playing with the train. And added a few cars. And a few more.
Today, I have a collection of Lionel trains dating back to 1946. Most are post-World War II, American-made gems. A few cars are valuable, the locomotives weigh a ton. I learned early that if I didn’t maintain some limitations, the train set could overtake the entire house. So I made it easy. Much of the rolling stock represents railroads where NACM BCS does business: the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii. When I travel on behalf of our association and have a little extra time, I seek out model train shops which are, sadly, a dying breed. But, when I find a good one, wow. I almost missed a flight once.
Today, we are living in a mixed up, constantly changing and very challenging world. Complicated issues facing our communities and nation cause angst among friends and family. There’s just a lot of pressure on all of us. Some is self-imposed; some beyond our control. Solutions often seem out of our reach.
Perhaps my little story will give each of us cause to take time this season to breath and be grateful for all we have in our lives: family, friends, health, careers and, yes, electric trains. Who knows? Maybe we will find a solution that brings us back to a simpler or at least more thoughtful way of life. I hope so.
By the way; if you come by our office later this month, you can play with a train that’s under our office Christmas tree. It’s a great lunch hour diversion.
In closing, I want to offer our ongoing thoughts, prayers and good wishes to our colleagues and friends in Alaska. Friday’s earthquakes and continuing aftershocks have had a major impact on their personal and professional lives. NACM will continue to monitor the situation and let you know if there is any support that might be needed.
For all of us at NACM Business Credit Services, I wish you the happiest of holiday seasons. We’re grateful for your friendship and business, and look forward to our continuing relationship in the 2019.