A trip out to Laws is always a good time and loaded with fun. When the Brill is running, now that is a better time as the train crew take great pride in sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with all of us.
The next time you venture out to ride the Brill car perhaps you will pass through the loading area and purchase a round trip ticket from a very friendly individual whose name is Paul, Paul Thompson to be exact. Paul is one of our longest volunteers who joined us in 1994, that’s 29 years! Like most of us Paul moved here from Southern California in 1994 after having his home built in Paradise, just north of Bishop. This was the family’s reward Bob Hoyle after 37 1/2 years working for Southern California Edison where Paul retired as a professional engineer. After graduating Van Nuys High school, Paul joined the Air National Guard 146th fighter squadron. In 1954 Paul went on active duty. Upon return home, Paul purchased a spanking brand- new Ford Fairlane and took long driving trips. He loved to travel. While working for Edison, Paul and his family spent time touring Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but he and the family’s true love was traveling throughout the western states. Paul’s love of trains started thanks to his mom. Grace Thompson would take Paul to the Burbank station to watch the steam locomotives. Paul has always had a love of trains and their history. For Paul, coming out to Laws to volunteer was like being at home.
Paul worked with the train crew and took on the monumental task of building the train barn which took nearly two years to complete. With the barn in place, it needed an occupant so Paul and the crew tackled the restoration of the Death Valley Brill car which was in bad shape. After 5 years of blood, sweat, and tears, the crew completes restoration of the Brill car and parked it in its new home. In addition to working with the train crew Paul also volunteers at the ChooChoo swap meet every May and in October. That’s not all, Paul can be found volunteering as a docent from time to time on Saturdays inside the library, building #39. No matter where Paul is, he truly enjoys meeting and greeting the museum visitors as they pass through. Paul lost his wife several years ago but still has two wonderful daughters to love who reside in Southern California. Paul told me in retrospect that he has had a good life with no regrets.
Paul still to this day loves trains and all the history of trains and if you share that same love, the next time you visit Laws on one of those beautiful days when the Brill car is running do yourself a favor and stop at the depot and look for a friendly face selling and taking tickets for the next ride and say hello to my friend Paul Thompson, you’ll be glad you did.
Last fall I was told I was lucky to be alive. That got my attention. As much as I’ve loved volunteering at Laws Railroad Museum and Historical Site, meeting visitors, sharing history, and writing Mail Car columns, I’ve made the decision to let that last brochure I handed out be indeed the last, and set new priorities. I’ll be moving on to new adventures: travels with my wife (maybe a river cruise or two) , writing, spending time with the shelter pups, and supporting the Care Shuttle efforts. Maybe a few other things too, if I can fit them in. I wish there were still time for Laws in that list, but its time for me to move on. Thank you all for giving me the opportunity to be part of the Laws mission. Its been an honor, a privilege, and a pleasure. Go Sox!
Reprinted from"The Mail Car" newlsetter