Jerry Burnaman

During the journey of life families make memories.  One of my memories is from my childhood when in late October the Sears Roebuck Christmas Catalogue came to our country home.  We called it the “Wish Book.”

The glitter of beautiful toys, clothes—just about anything a boy could want—mesmerized my mind.  It took a very short time to memorize the page numbers of every toy or trinket that captured my want.

There’s one thing I longed for, but never did get—an electric train.  One reason is they were a little too expensive for our budget, but the main reason is we didn’t have electricity.

I would read every detail about the trains, gaze at pictures of track layouts, and imagine how wonderful it would be to sit and watch the train go around the track.  My imagination was probably more dramatic than the train itself.

The Lionel Train was the best.  I’ve read about the inventor, Joshua Lionel Cowen.  He was the driving force behind the Lionel Corporation, which, in 1954, became the world’s preeminent producer of electric trains.

Cowen’s inventiveness literally exploded.  In 1887, when he was seven, Cowen built a small steam engine to power a toy train he had carved from wood.  The thing unfortunately blew up in his mother’s kitchen.

At eighteen he patented a fuse that would reliably ignite a photographer’s flash powder.  The navy saw its potential for mine detonation and quickly hired the young inventor.

Eventually bored with fuses, Cowen’s ingenuity struck again when he put a dry cell batter in a metal tube and attached a small light bulb.  Seeing no immediate profit in the idea, he gave it to a friend, who promptly founded the Eveready Flashlight Company.

Fascinated with miniaturization and electricity, Cowen brought the two together in the summer of 1900, when he built another toy train.  A store owner purchased it for a window display, but the first customer who saw it, promptly bought the display.  The store owner ordered six more trains, and Cowen was on his way.

Over the years dads have bought their sons a Lionel Train and enthusiastically helped put the train and tracks together.  They make beautiful memories.  Those early productions are now collector’s items, handed down to a son, then a grandson.  

The Lionel Train continues to be popular, but somewhat sad the Sears Roebuck Catalogues are no more.  However, Lionel Trains are still made and you can purchase them on Amazon and other outlets.  

There are many other avenues of making memories.  The important thing is to give our children love and a sense of worth.  The Bible teaches, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).  

Love for family and children is more enduring than material things and will not tarnish.  It is a memory that gives strength for living.

 — Jerry Burnaman is pastor  of Grays Prairie Missionary Baptist Church

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