Skinner - Keller LIRR 1971 
LIST Meeting Anecdote


Back around 1970-73 I attended Friday evening meetings of the National Railway Historical Society/Long Island Sunrise Trail (LIST) Chapter in the basement of Christ Episcopal Church in Babylon.

Prior to meetings, members talked, while others set up tables and sold and traded photos of the LIRR. The business meeting was then called to order and, afterwards, someone did a presentation or gave a talk on some topic about the Long Island Rail Road .

In 1969, I became very close to a retired LIRR Conductor named Jeff Skinner.  In his retirement from the LIRR after, I believe, 49 years of service. (Born in 1900, he started in 1917 as a Guard).  He wrote the veterans’ column for the employee magazine called The Long Island Railroader, first under the name “The Old Timer,” then under his own name.  He was also the sole surviving member of the Long Island Rail Road’s Trainman’s Trio, a popular railroad-sponsored band that performed popular songs of the day at railroad and non-railroad events as well as at shows, local theatres and even on a couple of occasions on a float at the Atlantic City Beauty Pageant.

In the early part of 1971, Jeff wondered if there would be any interest in doing a presentation at the NRHS/LIST chapter of the songs the Trainman’s Trio once performed.  I was all for the idea and Jeff and I rehearsed a number of the songs the trio once sang.

On Friday evening, May 21, 1971 Jeff Skinner and I did a presentation after the chapter’s business meeting.  Jeff spoke about the history of the Trio and played and sang many songs from that era on his 4-string guitar: the same one he used as a member of the trio when he wasn’t playing a ukulele. 

On several of the songs, he and I performed a duet, singing some of the old songs in two-part harmony. We wore LIRR trainman’s caps and did our “show.”  It was well-received by all the members and was a most memorable evening for me, a young man recently-turned 19.  One song I remember in particular was “Cecilia.” 

Does your mother know you're out, Cecilia?
Does she know that I'm about to steal ya?
Oh my, when I look in your eyes,

Something tells me you and I should get together!
How about a little kiss, Cecilia?
Just a kiss you'll never miss, Cecilia,
Why do we two keep on wasting time?
Oh, Cecilia, say that you'll be mine!

(Words by Herman Ruby, music by Dave Dreyer – 1925)


The first photo pictured here is of Jeff Skinner doing his portion of the presentation.  No one took photos that evening that I can recall other than myself, so, when I got up to do our duets, there were no other photos taken. 

The second photo pictured was taken with my camera by Jeff’s wife Doris at Jeff’s house in Williston Park prior to the performance, as we figured we’d not get any photos of the two of us together as none of the members ever had reason to bring their cameras to meetings.

I have NO idea why, that evening, I didn’t have someone use my camera and take photos of the two of us, but I didn’t and as a result lost out on what may have been some terrific paired shots to look back on years later with fond nostalgia.


Anyhow, I’ve been recently told by one member who was there that evening (Art Huneke) that it was one of the best presentations that he’d ever seen at a chapter meeting.  I felt honored as I’m sure Jeff would too, if he were around today to hear these kind words.      Dave Keller / September 30, 2007