A friend, Julian Stetnish, turned 100 years young this past June 9 in Edmond, Okla. Julian is in excellent health, and still quite active. I have known Julian since I was about 10 years old – or even younger. I lost track of him for many years due to my travels. Now that I have located Julian again, Bess and I try to see him at least every other year.
He worked for George E. Failing Company in Enid, Okla., for 34 years, and he also managed a semi-pro baseball team for George E. Failing. He traveled most of the time with this job, traveling thousands of miles per year in his Model “A” Ford. Having experienced the “Dust Bowl” in Oklahoma, Julian felt lucky to have a job when others did not during the Depression.
Julian met his wife-to-be, Nancy, at a basketball tournament in Enid. They were married for 54 years until Nancy passed away.
In his younger years, growing up, Julian loved riding on trains. He was different than most of the other passengers in that he never bought a ticket. When many of the young people his age were going to college, Julian was doing his “Rail Seminary” – that is, riding the train around the country.
He seldom had any money when riding the trains from place to place. Sometimes, he was gone for a year or so. He would pick up jobs at soda fountains and malt shops along the way. Julian traveled from the central part of the United States to the West Coast. He liked riding freight trains best because they started out slower than passenger trains, making them easier to catch. He would lay low in the railroad yards waiting on the next train.
In his elder years, Julian felt bad about riding the train for free, so he sent the president of the Union Pacific Railroad a check. He received a letter in return – with his check – saying that Union Pacific was happy that he wasn’t hurt, and that what he did was dangerous and asked him to promise never to do it again. Julian just chuckled.
He retired in 1972, but continued returning to George E. Failing’s company celebrations until he could no longer drive, or had no one to take him. To this day, Julian stays active reading and visiting with friends who come by. For the last three years, Julian has been a volunteer, handing out candy to the needy at the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
When leaving Julian after our last visit in 2006, I thought I saw a tear in his eye – I know I had tears in mine. You never know when – or if ever – you will see one another again alive. We do communicate by letter or telephone once or twice a year.
For those who remember Julian, give him a call at 405-340-2328. I know that he would love to hear from old friends.