PRR Westbound Train No. 993  4:58pm (L.F. Henry)
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Wilferd J Shaffer


by Roger E. Shaffer


The following discourse applies to the one who was most commonly referred to as "Shaffe" by peers.

For self identification, it was simply "W.J.S.," but to me it was "Dad."


W.J. Shaffer - his younger days

He was not afforded the pleasure of knowing his father. Dad was born March 30, 1883, and his father, Josiah, died April 28, 1883. He and his mother, Mantilla, then went to live with her parents. Grandfather Henry provided the male relationship as the young Shaffer grew from babyhood to an adult.

There are a couple of items from his younger days that I can recall hearing, one of which involved food. He and his mother were visiting friends and had dinner with them. One of the foods served was turnips. This happened to be something for which this particular young fellow had a thorough dislike. The host, thinking she was going to be considerate of the boy, served him some turnips, not knowing his reaction to this vegetable. Not wanting to be unkind to his host, he ate the unsavory turnips with gusto, in order to get rid of them as quickly as possible. This was noticed by the host, and she gave him some additional turnips with the comment, something like this, "Just look how this boy likes turnips! "

All that I know more of this incident was that some of the additional turnips were eaten (not with any pleasure) and a few were left on the plate with words something like, "I'm full!"

Another incident involved a Halloween Party at school. Not having a mask to wear, he figured that the wick of a torch used by a railroad engine crew would provide good blackening material to apply to his face. It was completely satisfactory to afford its purpose. Party a success!

Returning home, it was, of course, necessary to remove the blackening material from his face before going to bed. The grandfather Henry household, of course, had no running water in the house, but the water for household purposes was supplied from a fresh water spring not far from the house. So a trip was made to the spring to secure water for cleansing his blackened face. Returning to the house, and using a towel for drying, he went off to bed. I'm not sure if it was due to the lack of lighting, but he was not aware of the condition of the towel after usage.

When the adult members of the family arose and saw the towel, they were astounded by its appearance. The kerosene, which produced the blackened soot, did not mix very well with the cool spring water; so, the resultant greasy substance was absorbed by the towel in question! What embarrassment, indeed!

For school attendance, it was necessary for him to walk a distance of 1 3/4 miles to Shaffer's School, which was adjacent to Shaffer's Church. (One of his classmates at school later became the father in law of his son, Roger.)

After his school days, he worked in the Hanover Junction Cigar Shop, owned and operated by H. I. Glatfelter. His mother was also employed there. Later he secured a position with the Northern Central Railway as a clerk at the Hanover Junction Station. His first day of employment with the railroad was September 30, 1907.

Mary ShafferThen came courting days. His selection was a girl from Glen Rock by the name of Mary Roser. The local paper, Glen Rock Item, one day carried the item titled, "Telephone Girl Marries Railroad Man." The bride secured the name due to the fact that her dad, Daniel Roser, housed the local telephone exchange in his home, and Mary became the telephone operator.

One thing I never found out, and never had the idea to inquire, was why Dad always called or made reference to his wife as "Sis." I'm sure, however, that it must have had a particular significance to something in their association or their marriage.

He served as railroad station clerk for the Northern Central Railway, and then with the Pennsylvania Railroad after it acquired the Northern Central, under the supervision of agent George Mathias. When Mr. Mathias was later transferred from Hanover Junction to Mt. Washington, Maryland, as station agent there, Dad was promoted from clerk to Station Agent at Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania. station agent cap badge
This promotion then enabled him and his family to secure residence in the "Station House," as it was commonly referred to locally. The building provided for railroad activity for the Pennsylvania R. R. and the Western Maryland, owners of the building. Dad served as agent for both the Pennsylvania and Western Maryland at Hanover Junction.

W.J. Shaffer peering out windown of Hanover Junction Station
Dad at the Station House

Dad's responsibilities as station agent involved passenger ticket sales, express shipments, freight activities (carload or less than carload), and general cleanliness of the railroad facilities in and around the building as well as the waiting room. He also had to make sure the railroad platform kerosene lamps were lit each night, and he had to announce, in the waiting room, the arrival of passenger trains. His working uniform was identical to passenger railroad employees - a white shirt, black tie, black shoes, blue serge uniform, and cap.

Speaking of black shoes, here is one place that I can take part. One of Dad's traits was to always have well polished and clean shoes. The only shoes I ever had as a youngster were black, and black seemed to display dust very well. As for dust, we had plenty of it and for a kid, keeping one's shoes clean seemed so unnecessary. But Dad never let up, "Clean your shoes!" So a little wipe of one foot on the other pants leg seemed like it should be sufficient to meet the order of the day.

In one of the rooms on the 3rd floor of the Station Building, Dad would do some minor shoe repairs for the family as well as harness repair for the area farmers who needed this service. He received training in harness making and repair from Abraham Miller of York, Pennsylvania. Miller operated a harness shop that was located on South George Street in York.

W. J. Shaffer portraitDad was, for a number of years, the superintendent of the Lutheran congregation portion of the Shaffer's Union Sunday School. John B. Spangler served the same office for the Reformed congregation portion of the Sunday School.

During the period of my life that I am aware of, I never heard Dad refer to my grandfather Daniel Roser as anything except "Mr. Roser", even during the time that he resided with our family.

Dad's first ownership of a motor vehicle took place in 1921, and that was a Chevrolet touring car. Winter weather required installation of curtains with small mica windows in them. Rainy weather required the same thing. Following the '21 Chevy, a Star auto was Dad's choice. The Star was followed by Studebakers that remained his favorites.

One of the things that, as a kid, I always enjoyed, were Saturday evening train trips to Harrisburg. On Saturdays, Dad would close the office after train #500 at 1:28 P.M. and not have to reopen for the evening trains. Dad and I would often then board train #993 at 5:04 P.M. for Harrisburg. From the station, it was an easy walk to the River Park, where we would sit and watch activities on the river. We stopped at a small comer store to get some peanuts on the way to the park, and we enjoyed sharing some of them with the squirrels and pigeons. Very pleasant moments! After a while, we headed back to the station and boarded the train for the return trip home, arriving at 9:46 P.M.

There were more lengthy trips, such as Niagara Falls, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, but when Baltimore was the destination, Mom would accompany Dad and me.

Dad usually had some pieces of good advice, and so here is one of them. When my wedding was made known, his words were, "Don't complain about the food your wife sets on the table unless you can do better!" Well, I've had to keep silent on that subject because I couldn't come close to equaling the preparation of food, much less "do better." However, I must cite that on one occasion, I broke the rule. A meal was once served that I took outright objection to, and I made it known to my wife. But it didn't take long, after her tasting the food, that she voiced her complete agreement with my opinion. That made it necessary to prepare other food, and the magazine recipe food was never again set on the table.

Shaffer household after moving from railroad station
Our home after moving from the railroad station

Garden work was a pleasure for Dad after moving from the Railroad Station to the red brick house across the railroad tracks. The plot of land covered an area of 5 acres. This allowed for raising lots of food. Potatoes, corn, beans, beets, tomatoes, along with fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc. provided lots of good eating, but much work for Mom to prepare these foods for current and winter usage.

In addition to vegetable garden work for Dad, lawn care was of top value and interest. The development of a rock garden was an aim, and a very nice rock garden was later constructed in the old vegetable garden. We carted in stones for a bench and a walkway. Rose bushes were planted with arbors for their usage and to beautify the area. Dad always had the idea of enlarging the lawn area. I was not always in complete agreement, for I was the one to mow the grass. You must remember this was before the days of the riding mower.

After the close of the station at Hanover Junction, Dad was transferred to the Depot in York, Pennsylvania. This meant using the Studebaker for transportation, as train schedules did not permit use of rail transportation, and too, the number of local passenger trains was decreasing at a rapid rate.

After retirement, and prior to his final illness, he thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated his ability to spend time in his landscaping and vegetable garden work.

Wilferd and Mary Shaffer

Mary and Wilferd Shaffer