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fPhursday, December 12, 1940
Retires After 50
Years of Service
Veteran Swift Hooper Pulled the Throttle of Famous "Old
97" for Four Years; Has Been on Winston-Salem-
North Wilkesboro Run for 44 Years;
Is Well Known Here
(By Clay Thompson in Winston-
Swift Hooper, the old-timer
who pulled the throttle of the
'famous old Southern 97 for four
years and whose train for 44 years
was familiar to those who lived
along the tracks between Win
ston-Salem and North Wilkes
boro as the very hills themselves,
hooted his contempt for the
sleek-looking, oil-burning stream
lined trains of today.
"I never saw one of them," he
said in a tone eloquent with his
contempt for the modern and his
love of the old. "I never saw one
of them," he said again, "but I'll
tell you this much: Whenever
they outrun one of the high
wheel coal-burning engines like
the old 97 they're going to have
to get up before day." v
Hooper has retired from an en
gineering job he took on Decem
ber 25, 1889, with the old Rich
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JEWELERS SINCE 1893
Next to Postoffice Elkin, N. C.
mond and Danville railroad,
which later went into receivership
and became the Southern.
He's 68 now, and his heart is a
bit weak for throttle pulling, but
he can tell you as much about
railroading as old Casey Jones
m fact, he is the Casey Jones
of the Winston-Sa 1 em-North
Hooper was pitching the coal
into the engine of Cal Teague,
who pulled the throttle of the
first train that ever rolled into
the hills of North Wilkesboro.
That was back in '9O. Shortly
afterwards, he started pulling his
own train there, and with the ex
ception of seven years spent on
the Southern main line from
Spencer to Monroe, Va., the
whistles of his trains No. 13 and
14 have resounded through the
Hooper rocked in his rocking-
in his home on the High
"Yes," he said, "four of those
years on the main line I was pull
ing old 97, the fastest train that's
ever been in this part of the
country or ever will be. ,
"I was supposed to have been
with her the day she wrecked in
1903 and would have been if I
hadn't asked for the day off. '
"Old Joe Broadie was pulling
her at 90 miles an hour when she
jumped the track on the curve at
Stillhouse trestle near Danville.
Old Joe and 11 others were killed
that day she left the track . . .
No, Joe didn't know the track.
You coudn't take that curve at
90 miles an hour. Joe was new
on the run."
And because Joe was new on
the run, a ballad was born and
placed on thousands of records
which in varying forms have spun
out the blue story of how old 97
was "going down that grade
making 90 miles an hour, and her
whistle broke into a scream" . . .
The story spins on to the in
evitable conclusion where old Joe
was "found in the wreck with
his hand on the throttle, all
scalded to death by the steam."
Hooper didn't say so himself,
but railroad officials are known
to have said that if Swift Hooper
had been at the engine's throttle
that fateful day back in 'O3 old
97 would have taken that curve
at Stillhouse trestle.
"The fastest I ever run 97? . . .
Well, the division man was late
pulling her into Salisbury from
down South one day. He pulled
her in late and I had to make up
THE ELKIN TRIBUNE. ELKIN. NORTH CAROLINA
NEWS TOOM THE
Mrs. Carl Polger entertained
her contract club Saturday even
ing at her home on Church street.
High score prize went to Mrs. C.
G. Comer and runner up to Mrs.
J. T. Threatte. Mrs. Polger serv
ed a salad course with supple
ment dainties suggestive of the
The very noted play, "Little
Women," was well rendered by
the high school juniors in the
school auditorium Friday even
ing, under the efficient direction
of Miss Jennie Martin, dramatics
teacher of the Dobson scjiool. The
characters did credit to them
selves in their special role, and
showed excellent training. The
cast was as follows:
Meg—Betty Folger; Jo Sadie
Draughn; Beth Carmen Ed
wards; Amy—Elaine White; Rev.
March Grady Cooper; Mrs.
March Prances Freeman; Aunt
March —Eva Kidd; Hannah, the
maid—Margaret Sparger; Laurie
Lawrence—Ganelle White; John
Brooke Noah Edwards; Prof.
[ i Mrs. J. W. Comer and son, Bob,
| and Miss Emma Comer spent the
, week-end in Bluefield, W. Va.,
with Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Keesee.
Mr. Joe Cox and Noah Ed
wards spent Saturday in Win
,| Mrs. Sallie Somers and Mrs.
Hugh Holcomb and children
;were Saturday visitors with Mi's.
Miss Kathryn Huddleston, of
Mt. Airy, visited her sister, Mrs.
W. B. White, Friday, and attend
ed the "Little Women" play.
I Rev. Mr. Parker preached at
the Methodist church Sunday ev
j Mrs. W. L. Reece, Mrs. Emma
Hampton, Mrs. Emma Mock, Miss
Edith Reece and Marianne Mock
were Sunday guests of Mr. and
Mrs. Fletcher Harris in Elkin.
some time . . . Old 97 didn't car
ry anything but mail, and the
mail had to go.
"Well, we steamed her up, and
I took the throttle, and we head
ed for the hills."
Hooper stopped rocking his
chair for a moment, and then he
"I gained 25 minutes from
Salisbury to Monroe, Va. That's
the fastest I ever pulled her."
The other three years Hooper
spent on the main line he had
trains No. 34 and 35, but they
couldn't "stay in sight" of old 97.
Hooper was born in Kerners
ville, and ever since he can re
member a railroad engine has
been his passion and glory.
"I had to have a job on one,"
he said, "so I went down to com
pany shops (now Burlington) and
got me one firing for Cal Teague
from Winston-Salem to Donnaha.
I fired for him seven months, and
|for Ned Harris a while. Then I
got an engine for myself, and I
pulled her until last October."
For 44 years he has pulled
passenger train No. 13 into North
Wilkesboro and ,brought passen
ger train No. 14 back to Win
ston-Salem. That counts up to
around a million and a half
I "Did I ever have any wrecks!
!Why I was killed out here at
i White street one day and was
dead for several days. I guess
they'd have buried me if Dr. Valk
hadn't brought me out of it."
Hooper's engine jumped the
track and fell on him at White
street as he was pulling into Win
Another time his engine fell
over on the turntable at North
Wilkesboro, and still another oc
curred when his train plowed into
a couple of box cars left on the
main line in Lynchburg.
"It was a cold, foggy morning
in Lynchburg, and yqu couldn't
see farther than the end of your
nose," he reminisced. "I was
pulling into the yard at a good
clip and broke into the cars. I
had a couple of carloads of young
steers on my train, and when it
wrecked the steers that weren't
killed really took the town."
Is Swift Hooper lonesome for
"Thunder no!" he'll tell you.
"Fifty-one years is long enough
for a man to stay on any one job,
and it's plenty lqng for a man to
pull a throttle."
Certainly the depot officials at
the dozen or so stops between
here and North Wilkesboro know
that Swift Hooper is not pulling
13 and 14 these days.
And it may be, too, that those
who live along the tracks know
that it is not Swift Hooper who
sits up there with his hand on
the throttle and his eyes on the
rails and pulls her whistle as she
thunders through the hills.
Swift Hooper, the Casey Jonas
of the Southern who has pulled
them with the best of them, has
finished his railroading.
LETTERS TO SANTA
EUdn, N. C., Dec. 6, 1940
Dear Santa Clans,
This is what I want for Christ
mas. I want a tea set, and a
game of Bingo; and a pair of
gloves. Peggy wants a doll, a pair
of bedroom slipers, a pair of
gloves. Sarah wants a wagon,
and a .trycycle. Bring my little
brother a rattler.
[ With lots of fun,
\ From Celia Hyatt
Elkin, N. C., Dec. 4, 1940
Will write you a line to let you
know that I have been a real
good little boy, and drop a hint
about what I want for Christmas.
I would like a dump truck, a lit
tle train, and a catapillar. You
can put a few oranges, apples,
nuts and things like that in my
stocking if you want too. Sin
Mr. Carol Conrad Harris
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Opposite jF. A. Brendle & Son Elkin, N. C.
Eyes-Examined • Office;
Glasses Fitted The Bank of Elkin Boildin*
DR. P. W. GREEN
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Examinations on Tuesdays and Fridays from 1 to 8 pan.'
By Appointment Phone 14t
SNOOPS: "Whv do vou to'.'"':"'.?'" 1 """. '
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fs matter how clean it
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