Yes, Some dreams really do come true.
I'VE FEATURED a photo of the 819 Steam Engine on my home page. You may have heard me speak about rescuing the 819. It's the Steam Engine that for too many years, sat abandoned in Pine Bluff's Oakland Park.....where it was vandalized, stripped of its dignity, and---like a once-proud race horse--- was " put-out-to-pasture" and, over time, forgotten. To me....THIS elegant and one-of-a-kind Steam Engine represented my Father, my Grandmother, and my Brother because...they worked for the Cotton Belt Railroad for all their lives.
The Steam Engine signified all the goodness in my life-----including the Cotton Belt's gifts to me, as Miss Arkansas, 1958. One gift was a beautiful Lady Hamilton wrist-watch (paid for by Cotton Belt employees) and the other gifts were from railroad executives who provided two private cars----one to escort me to the Miss America Pageant-----the other to return me home-----after the Pageant ended.
Most of all....the 819 Steam Engine was a monument to my hometown of Pine Bluff....and to the Railroad that provided the town's citizens with steady employment, medical insurance, and family security.
YES, I AM THE PERSON responsible for getting the 819 out of the Park and to its original home in the Cotton Belt Shops....for restoration. As usual, many talked about the need to rescue the engine from the park but....I saw the need and immediately took action! I took all the necessary steps to activate the plan-- the dream. This is a fact....not a fantasy or a boast...simply a fact.
WHY DOES IT MATTER? Because I take pride in knowing that my life and my efforts stand for something; that during my lifetime, I consistently worked to help others and to make dreams come true, not only for me---but for those who mattered----like my father.
Shortly after the 819 made its successful journey "back home" to the Cotton Belt Shoppes where it was built in the early forties ....the Southern Pacific Railroad---by way of their PR Director, Jim Johnson---handed me the ORIGINAL (1937) BLUE PRINTS FOR THE 819 STEAM ENGINE.
Jim Johnson also wrote a letter to the editor of my hometown newspaper which stated, officially: "Sally Miller, alone,was the person responsible for rescuing the 819 from Oakland Park". That letter means the world to me. Socumentation is vital to my life, to my writing. For me, its not about praise, or ego, or self-importance....it's about THE TRUTH.
"Riding on a train, moving down the track, listening to the wheels going clickedy-clickedy-clack......and the whistle.....I love to hear the whistle! The way he's leaning on the horn, I know the Engineer loves the whistle too!" WOOOOOO.....WOOOOOO000000000000000000!"
The thought of working in New York City sounds glamorous to some people but, speaking from experience, I found New York City to be inconvenient, crowded, and, dangerous.
In 1981, as spokesperson for the National Confectioners Association, I traveled from my home in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, to the heart of New York City. Whether I took the New Jersey train, the bus, or drove my car, nothing about the commute was easy. Each afternoon, I tried leaving my office no later than four o’clock; the commute from New York’s Penn Station to the Little Silver Train Station took almost two hours.
One evening, after missing the bus to Penn station, I opted to take the NY Subway, a bad decision. It was six o’clock and, by now, most commuters were off the streets; some were already home. I knew I was over-dressed for the subway wearing a silk blouse with a matching straight/slit skirt, high heels and jewelry consisting of a gold medallion around my neck, gold earrings, and gold bracelets. Although I almost- never rode the subway, it was the fastest way to connect with the train to New Jersey.
It didn’t take long to sense trouble. Within minutes of finding a seat, I watched two guys race from the back of the subway car to sit directly across from me. Instead of looking at my face, they were staring at my neck. Uneasy, I glanced around the train, hoping to locate another seat. Suddenly, out of nowhere, two very hippie-looking guys crammed their bodies into the small bench seat beside me---one on either side. I felt my pulse accelerate; I held my breath. This was it. The enemy had me surrounded; the bad guys were across from me and their buddies next to me. I was about to be grabbed, raped, and killed!
The man on my left, the one with the biggest earrings and longest ponytail--- made the first move. Roughly hooking his right arm through my left arm, he whispered “Lady, get ready to stand up and move toward the doors—one—two---NOW!!!!!! Before I realize it, the other man had grabbed my right arm and, when the subway doors opened, both men propelled me through the open doors and onto the platform.
Everything happened quickly and they wouldn’t release my arms. The subway door closed, the train pulled away, and the head man--- the spokesperson--turned and shouted in my face: “Lady, do you realize you were seconds away from being murdered?!?!?” First of all, you shouldn’t be riding the fuckin subway this time of day and second of all, why the hell are you wearing those expensive clothes and damn gold jewelry on the God Damn Subway?!?! Lady, do you have some crazy-ass death wish? Those guys sitting across from you were professionals! They were ready to kill you to get that fuckin gold out of your ears, off your arm, and from around your neck!”
For the first time since he’d begun speaking-- I noticed the guns. Seeing me eyeing their weapons, both guys dropped my arms at the same time and flashed police badges in my face. “Lady tonight was your fuckin lucky night! You must have brought your damn guardian angel along for this ride. My name is Lennie and this is my partner, Steno. We’re undercover cops and it’s our job to ride the subway looking for criminals, murderers, drug dealers, and thieves. Officially, we were off-duty and headed back to the station to sign out when we saw what was going down with you. The minute those bastards swapped seats we knew you were the target. Those shitheads were only seconds from grabbing you so we had to get you off the train.
Lady, those assholes make their livin by robbing and killing women like you! You wanta know how long it’d take them to get that gold necklace off your neck?!?!? It would take about three seconds for one of them to hold you down while the other one sliced your fuckin head off!”
What a sight we must have been, standing on the subway platform. Evening commuters saw two long-haired, bearded men in dirty tennis shoes, ragged jeans, wearing grateful dead sweatshirts, each holding a gun, and standing on either side of a tall, fashionably-dressed female in high heels. Together, we climbed the crowded subway stairs to the busy streets above.
Before stepping on the bus bound for New Jersey--- I listened again to Lennie’s stern warning: “Never take the fuckin Subway Train when you’re all dressed up---fit to kill!” Steno stood close by, silent and unsmiling. They helped me on the bus and, as it pulled away from the curb, I looked out the window, hoping to wave goodbye to my heroes.
Both had disappeared into the crowd.
The incident occurred in 2015….one day before Easter. Each year….as the anniversary of the incident approaches, I can’t escape the sadness.
I once treasured long-ago memories of my two little girls dressed in matching-pink Easter dresses, carrying hand-decorated baskets, and joining other happy children for the annual Easter Egg Hunt. God only knows…. I tried to be a good Mother, even when there was never enough time or money.
In earlier days, I thought of Easter as a happy time. I loved decorating baskets for my daughters and filling them with the traditional peeps, chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and all things sweet and wonderful. When my grandsons came into my life, I wanted them to enjoy memorable Easters too…but Evil had other plans.
This is what happened only one day before Easter in 2015. Remember, there are no coincidences in my life:
“Yesterday, the day before Easter, I noticed one of my precious boxwood plants had died. Armed with my trusty shovel, I began digging around the base of the plant to remove it. As I lifted the dead plant, a yellow plastic Easter egg dropped from the loose dirt and landed beside my foot.
It took only a second to remember four years earlier, when I’d played Easter Bunny to my two grandsons. Apparently, I’d hidden the little yellow egg too well…. so well…. it hadn’t been found….until today…four years later. With shaky hands… I opened the egg. Four quarters fell to the ground, accompanied by a "Bunny" note. The note--handwritten by me--four years earlier-- said “I will always love you, Gigi."
That was our last Easter-- together. Two months later-- in 2011--my oldest daughter and her husband heartlessly- ripped my two grandsons from my arms and my life but....not my heart.
One yellow egg came out of hiding today… to remind me of what will never be again.
Sally Miller (Gigi).
Several months before Graduating from Lindenwood University with a degree in communication, the University President, Dennis Spellman, called me into his office. His son-in-law, John, was also there. Both smoking big cigars and smiling triumphantly, they took pleasure in announcing I was fired. They told me to move off campus immediately, to expect no more stipends but, with only a few months left toward my degree, THEY were going to “let” me finish my classes.
Then, like a Bully circling his victim, waiting to move-in for “the kill,” Spellman offered me an alternative: “If you can convince the Republican Party to hand me two million dollars cash to save your ass---I’ll keep you onboard. After all, the Democrats only gave us one million to destroy you.” Then, after making several demeaning statements about my character, the partners-in-crime dismissed me.
Lindenwood’s President had bragged about taking big money from the Democratic Party in exchange for firing me. Desperate to find an attorney, I contacted the Republican Party in St. Louis. Reluctant to get involved yet sympathetic to my situation, a party member referred me to a Republican lawyer from St. Louis named Paul Ground, who agreed to help me--for free--but on a limited basis. Apparently, his law partners didn’t support my cause.
Paul Ground, acting as my lawyer, called Dennis Spellman, to question his right to fire me. In response to my attorney’s remarks, Spellman repeated the same “deal” he’d made me earlier: “I’d be happy to re-instate Sally--- when the Republican Party gives me two million dollars cash. Since the Democrats only gave me one million, maybe we can start a bidding war with her Ass! Paul Ground expressed shock that a University President would blatantly discuss such corrupt dealings over the phone.
After being fired by the University’s President, I agreed to be interviewed by a team of writers with The American Spectator.
Wanting to hear my story, first-hand, they flew me to Washington DC to interview me in their offices. After meeting my plane, two staff members took me to a DC Hotel, checked me in, and escorted me to my room.
Barely inside, it was obvious my room had been visited prior to my arrival. The room’s sliding glass doors, opening onto a balcony, were wide-open; every light in the bathroom was on; the shower was running full force; the television set was blaring at top volume; and--- the room had a strange odor.
One of the staffers voiced his serious concerns, noting someone wanted us to “get the message.” The room had been exposed to all kinds of possibilities, including: hidden microphones, hidden cameras, possible poisons and gases, and, without a doubt… someone other than me...had a room key.
The staffer notified Hotel Security and I was immediately moved to another room on another floor. But, unprepared for such an ominous event, I remained frightened and edgy, all night.
Follow-Up: I quickly learned that, during that same period, the offices of The American Spectator had been burglarized at three different locations. Before this time, they had never experienced a single break-in.
PS. No wonder I have PTSD. Eventually...an overload of stress becomes a permanent disorder.