model train set on track

TCA & Friends

e*Train Issue: Dec 2003   |   Posted in:

By Gordon Wilson

As most of you know, I am a past TCA National President. During my term we raised the dues; renovated and added onto our National Toy Train Museum and property; donated money to and fulfilled a long overdue promise to Paradise Township; expanded our Internet capabilities; gave Charter Kids Club members a commemorative box car; developed an Employee Handbook; gave every member a Pocket Edition Post War Reproduction Guide; and in general; spent a lot of money, much of which came from your dues and contributions.

So why is this important now, some four years later?

Bill Miles is our National Treasurer, but Bill rarely ever gets his due consideration. His wife, Patricia, is always there with him, as two peas in a pod. As the President, I had many ideas of how, where, when, and why monies should be spent on various projects. In my mind’s eye, they were all to benefit the membership.

Bill would ask, in his own quiet manner, do we really need this and how many members will it benefit? In other words, Bill asked the HARD QUESTIONS and demanded a reasonable, rational answer. He was and is the keeper of the books and the overseer and guardian of the member’s dues money, in addition to our entire treasury and financial worth.

We have members who see the TCA’s “bottom line” and salivate, asking “Why don’t we do this or that?” Unlike other major tinplate clubs, we have and maintain an operating museum, library, business office and PAID employees. We also retain a legal firm in Harrisburg and donate annually to the local fire, police, and first aid companies. In short, we need someone to oversee on a daily basis, our financial integrity. That person is Bill Miles, who has done so for nearly two decades. He is a volunteer, by the way!

As are all of the officers and BOD members of the TCA. During my term as President, Bill and I didn’t always see “eye to eye” on how and why monies should be spent. For any of you who may have a disagreement with your significant other over how much you spend on a toy train, you probably know that sometimes these differences can cause the air to become a bit tense. Nonetheless, Bill and I always parted as friends. For me, trains do not impact friendships. You can replace a toy train! (and a budget item)

Tonight, 11-11-03 I was putting some stain on a 6″ square piece of wood because of Bill and Pat Miles. That piece of wood is going to be the base for a very special piece of memorabilia.

As most of you also know, I am not just a lover of toy trains, but I live, die, breathe, and bleed for the Philadelphia Phillies Major League Baseball Team. To me, they are just a big a passion as Lionel, Marx, MTH or K-Line.

Around the last week of September I received an email from Bill and Pat asking if I would be attending the Phillies last game at Veterans Stadium. Alas, I could not. I had been to the last game at the Polo Grounds in New York (the Phillies played in that game) and at Connie Mack Stadium in Philly. I thought no more of the email.

On York Thursday, in the lobby of our Museum, Bill approached me with a nicely wrapped package and handed it to me. At about the same time I had to leave for a meeting with the TCA Internet Committee.

Upon returning, I finally opened that package. A toy train? Some memento from my long ago days in the Atlantic Division? Some cute thing as a joke to remind me of some of the stupid things I may have said or done as TCA President?

None of these. It was a gift the Phillies gave to every fan in attendance at the last game in Veteran’s Stadium. It was a ceramic likeness of Veteran’s Stadium. While at that game, Bill and Pat Miles thought about ME.

If it were not for TCA, in all likelihood I would not know Bill and Pat Miles. What makes this so VERY special to me, and Bill and Pat could not have known this – I don’t think, unless they talked to my wife Christie – is that on a display case in the Foyer at the entrance to my home in Arizona, I have a ceramic model of Connie Mack Stadium on a 6″ square wooden base.

Next to it is an autographed ball from Phillies Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.

On the same table was (note the past tense) a ceramic model of the Polo Grounds, where I once physically walked into Robin Roberts when I was 12 years old.

The Polo Grounds model is now gone, and Veteran’s Stadium is in its place, with an autographed ball by another Phillies Hall of Fame pitcher, Steve Carlton.

Yes, the TCA is about collecting and operating toy trains. That is what we all have in common, regardless of race, religion, creed, sex, occupation, or financial worth.

I sincerely hope that everyone reading this can point to another person or two or three or more, and say that they too have many friends within the TCA who are friends only because of the TCA. I am happy to say that I have many valued friendships which resulted from being a member of this fine organization.

Bill sometimes gets a lot of grief because of his position as Treasurer of our organization. Rarely, I’m sure, does anyone ever walk up to Bill and say “Thanks for doing such a great job with our (my) money.”

This gift from Bill and Pat was totally unrelated to a toy train, but was something that I feel came to me from them through their heart and a friendship that I shall always value greatly. We may live some 2800 miles apart, but every time I pass through the foyer as I enter my home, Bill and Pat sit right there where I can see them. To me, and I hope you, this is what TCA is all about.

Saying “Thank you” seems so inadequate, but for now, Bill and Pat Miles, it is the best I can do.