The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson


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Despite growing up on a farm, watching animals being bred, watching Betty’s horses, and working with Carl, the notion of doing something other than taking a leak with my own little wiener never occurred to me. Even after an older Cousin, who must have been about 15 at the time, let me watch him jack off and reach an orgasm (he was into keeping his loads in a little bottle in the refrigerator for some reason) I did not put “two and two together”. Throughout my extended youth (I would turn out to be a “late bloomer”) not one person of any age ever touched me — dammit! [Why, if I’d known then what I know now, I’d have joined the Catholic Church (except there wasn’t one in Carmichael then)]. The blessed event that was my own first orgasm came much later. Meanwhile…


Dad took a new job in Modesto, roughly 90 miles south of Sacramento, so all our stuff got packed up and shipped in a huge van to a new house in a small corner of Modesto. There were a number of adaptations that had to be made, not the least of which was receiving milk by delivery in quart bottles: like, 20 at a time? On the farm, we had our own cows, and kept their milk in gallon jugs: my bothers and I would polish off an entire one at every meal, and that was whole milk, not pasteurized or skimmed. But the stuff we got in the bottles was skimmed milk, and we thought it was like drinking water: our intake of milk dropped off rapidly.


The 7th grade was a whole new experience for me, much of it quite negative. For one thing, I was a natural hellion, and disliked regimen in almost any form. I also disliked sports, since I was very uncoordinated, but also could not see any real point to the kinds of sports we were required to play: baseball? I couldn’t hit the ball even off a stand! Football? I couldn’t hang on to it and run at the same time. And so it went. But the real problem was the requirement to dress for PE. Actually, we had to UNdress, put our clothes in a locker, change into little grey shorts, go out and play, then come back, UNdress again, shower, dry off, and put our street-clothes back on and go to the next class.

The problems came particularly in the shower-room: there were guys there who were men! They had hair down there! They had huge penises! And they loved to beat up little Bruciebabe, who was still a child.

Further complications arose because I loved to look at all the nude guys, but didn’t want any of them to see me watching! Of course I got caught peeping, so I also got towel-snaps and occasionally more brutal forms of abusive bullying. I tried getting a Doctor’s excuse: no deal—there was nothing wrong with me. I tried making myself appear sick: no deal—the Doctor saw through that in a heartbeat. So, I stumbled along, knowing there was something wrong with me because I hated sports but loved the nude guys! Such angst! I formed no friendships, kept to myself and somehow managed to get through the first year intact. I dreaded the approach of the eighth grade.


Modesto did have a few redeeming features; most notably (for me) its location on the main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Our house was just a few blocks away, and when I was not in school, I was usually somewhere around the railroad. I met the southbound Daylight every afternoon: it was due in at 4:50 or so, and usually made it. For this little tyke, standing beside one of those gorgeous GS-4 locomotives all decked out in the smart orange and red scheme of the Daylight trains, this was the high point of each day. Once in a while a kindly fireman would beckon me up into the cab, where all the heat, fire, handles and gadgets were simply awesome!

GS-4 Orange and Red

The Daylights ware Southern Pacific’s Premier trains in the hey-day of passenger trains. In my youth they ran from San Francisco to Los Angeles via the coast (The Coast Daylight), and between San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles (the San Joaquin Daylights); later they also ran North from Oakland to Portland (The Shasta Daylights). Still regarded as the most beautiful passenger trains to operate anywhere in the world, they are, of course all gone. Just one example of their famous locomotives still exists:

All other examples of this spectacular machine have been scrapped.

For most of my years in Modesto I continued to meet the afternoon Daylight as often as I could, usually every day. I could watch the train depart and ride my bike home in time for dinner. There was not a lot of other excitement around Modesto’s station, although once the local steam switch-engine failed to clear the high-iron for a northbound freight, resulting in a spectacular wreck. I lingered past dinner time to watch crews trying to untangle the mess, and caught holy hell for not being home on time.

The SP also occasionally sent one of their famous cab-forward locomotives down the valley if they had a particularly long train to handle. What went south had to come north, and this usually occurred in the afternoon when I was out of school. I would hear the distinctive sound of the air pumps on those huge machines and ride my bike over in time to see them getting under way again after having taken on water. These things were amazing:

SP Cab-Forward Locomotive

They are essentially two locomotives on a single frame and designed for heavy drag-freight use. They were used almost exclusively on Donner Pass. Putting the cabs in front prevented asphyxiating the crew when passing through snow-sheds which were essentially wooden tunnels designed to divert the avalanches so common in the high Sierra. On our trips to Tahoe it was not uncommon to see a freight-train with three of these mammoths working their balls off: one in front, one in the middle of the train, and one at the rear. The three crews could not communicate: they simply had to know when the engine was doing the right thing.

f the 400 or so of these built, just ONE remains - in the Railway Museum in Sacramento.

Watching one of these get under way was incredibly exciting (with tender, these are a city-block long)! All the machinery is exposed and beefy. I could ride along the tracks for a quarter of a mile or so before the thing out-ran me: I’d stop and watch as 125 cars rumbled by, gathering speed, so the caboose receded into the distance rapidly. Naturally, I wanted to become a locomotive engineer, but while I was in college, steam died. Diesel locomotives just don’t have the charisma of steam!


Too soon, September rolled around and I entered the eighth grade. But, something had happened along the way: I was beginning to grow up!

So, the eighth grade was perhaps a little less stressful than the seventh. I remember less about it, though I know my feelings of inadequacy and differentness persisted. By the end of Junior High school I was at least beginning to mature, and there were a few stirrings of the hormones beginning to rage. But, I was still far behind most of my peers physically: academically, I was ahead of many, being something of a bookworm, or what we now call a nerd. High School terrified me, because I knew the Physical Ed bullshit would continue for another four years!

To be continued …



Written by Bruce

December 12th, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Posted in Early Years,Trains

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