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George Adams is an all-around railroad yard worker in a small Oklahoma town in 1952. He also works a night shift as a sort of local constable to patrol the small town, for which he earns $40 per month. Everyone likes George and most people get along with him. He lives with his wife and two sons, about 9 and 11 years old, and his wife's sister who will be starting college in the fall. His world is about to change as the railroads retire steam engines in favor of diesels. As George says, this is a year he'll never forget.Written by
A fine cast populates this Warner Brothers movie made for television. "The Long Summer of George Adams" is a nostalgic look back at the actual middle of the 20th century, and the lives of middle-income folks who live in the small towns of Middle America. In reality, it could be small town life in any part of the country then. The film is a drama with much warm humor.
The movie is based on a novel by Weldon Hill, the pen name for William R. Scott. He became popular with his first book, "Onionhead" in 1958. A movie based on that book flopped at the box office. But this TV film was well received when it aired on NBC in 1982. Scott grew up in small-town Oklahoma and all of his stories are either set in Oklahoma or are about Oklahomans elsewhere.
James Garner plays the lead character, George Adams. Adams is a likeable, humble but intelligent character. He's at middle age and due to his living and work arrangements, he and wife Norma have not been able to be intimate for some time. So, George is feeling frustrated. Much of the early comedy stems from this situation. Joan Hackett is superb as Norma. She worked mostly in TV movies and series and won a Golden Globe in 1982. She was nominated for an Oscar, BAFTA award and Emmy in her relatively short career. She died of cancer at age 49 in 1983. The rest of the cast all give fine performances.
George works for an unnamed railroad, although the name on an engine and coach cars reads, "Ozark and Panhandle." He is an all-around yard worker in his small town that has a railroad turntable and roundhouse for servicing a steam locomotive. To supplement his income, George works for $40 per month as a night watchman or foot patrol constable for the small community of Cushing, Oklahoma. The year is 1952 and the railroads are fast retiring stream for diesel engines. George and other railroaders are expecting notices of employment changes or discharges at any time.
George doesn't even own a vehicle until his dad finally insists that he take his pickup. That adds some to the curious oddities of this movie. I was an Army brat who grew up mostly in bigger small towns (10,000 to 20,000) during that time. My home town was an active railroad town for decades. It was then served by two railroads, and is on the main rail line of the Union Pacific Railroad. I even did a stint working in the signal department of the UP after my Army service during the Cold War. In the mid-20th century, Railroad jobs were considered top jobs. They paid the top blue-collar wages that beat out many white-collar jobs. And the railroads had great benefits. Railroads and their employees have been exempt from Social Security from the beginning, and they don't draw Social Security. They have their own retirement and health service programs.
Although some of the towns and names are real, they have some fictional treatment and placement in the story. In once scene a road sign reads, "Guthrie, 46; Oklahoma City, 61." Those would be the correct distances from Cushing, Okla. But other towns referred to as close are not. When Olin Summers (played by David Graf) climbs the town water tower, he says he can see all the way to McAlester. Well, McAlester is 120 miles away from Cushing, while Tulsa is only 50 miles away.
George gets transferred to a new job in Gunther, but there is no Gunther in Oklahoma or Texas. There is a Gunter, Texas, a small town 50 miles north of Dallas - and 200 miles south of Cushing, Okla. But it's likely that Gunther is a fictional town in the story. Norma and others make disparaging remarks about it as such a dirty place. Later, George talks about hauling firewood from their farm to sell in Muskogee. But that's 95 miles away from Cushing while Tulsa is only 50 miles away. So, the use of towns in the story is very loose.
Some of the other aspects also seem odd. The town of Cushing in the story is little more than a hamlet or small village of just a few hundred people. Aside from the blacktop of the main street in town, most of the side streets are dirt. Cushing, Oklahoma was and is a town of several thousand population, with its own local police force and black top or paved roads before 1950.
There's no indication of a railroad ever running through Cushing, Okla., but there is such in the smaller village of Cushing, Texas. Most of the movie was filmed in Texas, including Cushing. The town shows abandoned rail beds in satellite photos, and it still had a tall standing water tower in 2017. A short street along the abandoned rail line is named Railroad Ave. The railroad scenes in the movie likely were shot in Rusk, at the Texas State Railroad yards. A scenic 25-mile tourist train now runs there.
Here are some humorous lines from the film. For more funny dialog see the Quotes section under this IMDb Web page of the movie.
Ernie, "I must be goin' psycho or something. I smell dead Commies." George, "Oh, those are loyal American chickens. I got a feelin' the Summers' produce house suffered some heavy losses recently."
George, "Well, what's it gonna be, huh? Now come on... gonna' be the GI bill or what?" Ernie, "I'm still sufferin' from combat fatigue. I'm thinkin' in terms of beer drinkin', fishin' and girls. And not necessarily in that order.
Ada May, "This house in Gunther - does it have an indoor toilet?" Norma, "No." Ada May, "Well, you can't have everything."
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