Leon Russell Crawford

Leon Russell Crawford was born in Newton Kansas on the 6th of Feb 1894.

According to Leon’s wife, Winnie Crawford, the family lived in Oklahoma when Leon and his sister Bernice were young. Winnie stated:

Judson Crawford worked on a ranch in Oklahoma because Josie’s sister and husband were there. The family all almost died. Judson was extremely ill. The children, Bernice (over 2) and Leon (1) almost died because of poor diet.

Documentation for this story has not been found. However, Josie’s sister and husband did live in Oklahoma.


The family was living in Dodge City by his 6th birthday. As a child, Leon attended the Third Ward School that was located on Boot Hill.


wwiLeon and his brother, Marion, served in the U.S. Army during World War I. Leon served as a 2nd class gunner in the 25th AA Battery of the first AA. In April and May 1918, his unit was at St. Misner during the 2nd Battle of the Marne. The unit then served as part of the outer defense of Paris. (Pictured: Homer Short & Leon Crawford on back row, Russel Horton (brother-in-law) and Marion Crawford (brother) on front row.)

On March 15, 1919, Leon sent a telegram to his parents stating that he had arrived in Camp Stuart, Virginia and that all was well.


Leon was honorably discharged from the military on 28 March 1919.

redrosesLeon married Winnie Currey on Christmas Eve 1919 at her sister’s house. After their marriage, the couple lived at 504 Avenue G. Ever the romantic, Leon purchased a red rose for Winnie for their 1st anniversary. Each year he added a rose until he was purchasing a dozen roses. Each subsequent year, Winnie would receive a dozen red roses from her husband on Christmas Eve.

1960-Crawford-Leon-Switchman-retires-web2After serving during WWI, Leon returned to work with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad working as a switchman in the railroad yard. Leon did not appear on the payroll for the AT&SF Railroad during Oct. 1923. According to his wife, Winnie Crawford, there was also a time during the depression when he was also laid off. She said that the railroad would call Leon in to work when needed. Thus, the family had to maintain a telephone so they could receive those phone calls. By 1953, Leon had been promoted to foreman for the AT&SF. Leon retired from the railroad in May of 1960. During his employment with the railroad, Leon was a member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen and received his 50 year pin in Feb of 1967.

By 1953, Leon and Winnie were living in the Crawford family home at 911 Second. This home was the nucleus of Winnie and Leon’s family. The home boasted a large room for the kitchen that housed a long pine table. Family gatherings took place around this table, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Often times Winnie’s friend, Mary Hoffman, or a lone college student who couldn’t go home would join the table. These celebrations always involved a lot of food – most of it cooked in that kitchen. One of the rules for the children at the table is that we had to try everything. At some point, that rule was relaxed to ‘you have to try everything but the oysters’. The scalloped oysters were a favorite Thanksgiving and Christmas dish of the adults but disliked by the children at the table. By not requiring the children to try the oysters, the adults discovered that it left more for them.

Even though I never witnessed Leon cooking, he was at home in the kitchen. He would often set the table while his wife was preparing the food. One of his favorite sayings in the kitchen was in regards to clean-up when he would say ‘I’ll do the plates’ – referring to the paper plates that had been used for the meal. Ironically, Leon often helped with the dishes – even when paper plates weren’t used.

If one listened closely at that table, Leon would sometime talk about his family. Unfortunately, as a child, I wasn’t always paying attention. I do remember two of his stories.

The first family story involved the land south of the river (Arkansas River) in what was known as South Dodge. Leon would talk about helping his ‘Uncle Jimmy’ farm that land. At the time, I had no idea who ‘Uncle Jimmy’ was. It was only after working on the family history that I realized that the ‘Uncle Jimmy’ from Leon’s youth was his great-uncle, James H. Crawford. James H. Crawford did own a lot of land south of the Arkansas River.

The second family story was told at a Sunday dinner. It was girl scout Sunday and I had attended church with my girl scout club instead of going with the family. That Sunday, we attended the First Presbyterian church in Dodge City. During dinner, we were talking about my experience and I remember Leon saying that his family was Presbyterians. This little tidbit has not been verified – but many of the Crawford families in early Kentucky were Presbyterian.

crawford-leon-b1894-1969-winnie2Leon and Winnie celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1969. For their anniversary, Winnie gave Leon a wedding ring. Leon wore this ring until his death in October 1976.

2nd Generation Railman

1942-Crawford-Leon-Railroad-Picture-webTrains played a large role in my life growing up. Sometimes watching the trains was a form of entertainment. The words ‘switch engine’ and ’roundhouse’ were parts of our vocabulary at a young age. I’m sure this is because my grandfather, Leon Crawford, was a second generation railroad worker.

In our world, granddad worked for the Santa Fe. In adult terms, he was employed by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. According to granddad’s railroad retirement records, he started work as a yard helper, switchman and engine foreman in December of 1916. However, his compensation record indicates he also worked for the railroad from April thru November of 1916.


Crawford-Leon-b1894-1917-WWI-Portrait-webThe same compensation record indicates that he wasn’t working from May 1917 thru March 1919. This would coincide with granddad’s military service during World War I. Leon Crawford enlisted on 26 April 1917 in Dodge City, Kansas. He served in the 25th A. A. battery 1st A.A. Sector as a wagoner. He was discharged at Camp Funston, Kansas on 28 March 1919.

One of the stories my grandmother told me about my granddad’s career was about the need for a telephone during the depression. Because of the economic downturn, granddad had been laid off. Some days, the railroad would need the extra workers. On those days, they would call (as in phone call), the laid off employees asking them to come back in. Grandma said that even though they didn’t have much money, they had to have that telephone. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have known about the chance to earn money day to day. For grandma and granddad, that phone was a life line

One of my early memories of my grandfather and trains is of an opportunity that I missed out on. One Saturday morning, my brother(s) and I were promised a chance to ride on a train. Dad told us he had some errands to run and when he got back he would take us to the railyard where granddad would give us a ride. In the meantime, I was supposed to help mom with the laundry. When dad got home, I didn’t get to go with him since I hadn’t helped mom. My brother(s) got to go for a train ride that day.

1960-Crawford-Leon-Switchman-retires-web2Granddad retired from the railroad in May 1960. He was a member of Lodge No. 217 of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen and awarded his 50 year veteran’s pin in Feb 1967.