1909: Spokane’s A.H. Simmons knows lots of languages

Busman’s holiday much?


NPRR station in Spokane, built 1890, here seen in 1926 (image credit: Spokesman-Review)

Looks to me like this long-serving rail employee’s vacation was…lots of train travel.

And in those days, you were awfully lucky to be given any vacation ever.

Check out the final note here for a skill that he picked up in frontier territorial times.



Spokane, Wash., Sept. 15. — A. H.
Simmons, gatekeeper at the North-
ern Pacific Railway company’s sta-
tion in Spokane, who says he has an-
swered more than 1,000,000 questions
by people of almost every national-
ity during his 20 years’ service, has
been granted a vacation, the first
in a fifth of a century. After a trip
to Seattle, he will visit relatives at
Duluth, St. Paul and Chicago, after-
ward going east for a week. Besides
being looked upon as a “human en-
cyclopedia,” Simmons is possessed of
a remarkable memory for names and
faces and he has a wider acquaint-
ance among railroad and traveling
men than any other person in the
Pacific northwest. He understands a
dozen languages and several Indian
dialects and is master of the Chinook,
the universal language among the
redskins of the continent.

— from the Pendleton (OR) East Oregonian of September 15, 1909, page 1, column 1

What do you think?
qʰata mayka təmtəm?