This I Believe

Thompson, William B.


  • William Thompson describes life in his hometown, Croton-on-Hudson, and how simplicity keeps life manageable and productive.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. William B. Thompson is a locomotive engineer for the New York Central Railroad. When he isn't sitting at the throttle of the 20th Century Limited or working as an officer of his union, Mr. Thompson is an active citizen in his home town of Croton-on-Hudson. These are some of the things he has come to believe in his busy life.
I've been a railroader for 42 years, as a locomotive fireman and later as an engineer. I've been on the road enough to build up a special appreciation for my home and family and for the town I live in, Croton-on-the-Hudson, New York. Living a happy life among family and friends in a small town has had its effect on what I believe. My creed, if that's what you call it, is built
around simplicity. I believe that simplicity brings out the best in all of us, helps us to live happier and more useful lives. Even my problems, and I don't have many, become easy to take care of when I break them up into their simple parts.
When I read the paper, turn on the radio or television, I'm often tempted to feel that the whole world is a mess and there isn't much hope for anything. I learn of children being involved in dope addiction, of gang wars, of students being involved in bribery and cheating, of our government officials being involved in corruption and selling influence, and I begin to wonder what is happening with the world. Still I think these things happen because the people involved lose their sense of right and wrong in the complexity of college athletes, the complicated machinery of government, and the bigness and loneliness of tenement life in our big cities. I
know these things go on, but they don't go on in the life I know and am familiar with. The life I know is good, not bad. The people I know don't get involved in the disgraceful things I read about in the newspapers. The officials in my town get elected because they have a sense of responsibility to the people who live there.
I'd like to tell you a little about my town. I hardly know anyone there who doesn't work. A great many people work for the railroad. The others commute to New York. I don't know any families on relief and I haven't heard of families staying on relief because they're too lazy to work. I think the people in my town are too proud to live on charity. I would be. I don't know of any scandal or crimes in which any of our young people have been involved. For one thing, the kids go to Sunday school and church. So do their parents. The
church have young people's club that meet during the week and the youngsters have good times. We have good schools, which we are proud of. The schools have planned recreation, dances, football, basketball games. I've never heard of a player being fixed. Our students play for the fun of it and learn to be good sports. Most of the people in my town turn out for their games.
I believe in my town. The officials, well, they're our next door neighbors. We play golf with the police chief, and our children call him by his first name, no "Misters" attached, because he is their friend. I belong to a number of clubs and organizations that do things for our kids: take them to ballgames at the Polo Grounds, have parties for them in the high school gym on Halloween and during Christmas week. The younger generation in our town isn't going to the dogs. They're fine kids. It's when
I break the world down into the part I myself know that I realize the corruption and wickedness involves only a small part of the people. I like to think of towns like my own, where neighbors live together in friendship and understanding, especially respecting one another's religion and politics. I'm sure there are thousands of towns in America like mine. People, when you come right down to it, are pretty much the same everywhere. And in a town like mine, you get to know them. My town represents my country in its finest and simplest element. I'm grateful for it and for the fine independent people who live there.
There the creed of William B. Thompson, who has a son who is a paratrooper, and three daughters, two of whom were in the armed forces in World War II.