John Macfarlan

John Gamble Macfarlan (1901-1985) was one of eight children. There were seven boys and one girl. He was always proud of his military service. His National Guard Unit was called to active duty before World War II. They were at Camp Blanding, near Stuart, FL for a year before the war started. He spent the rest of his military service at Ft. Benning, GA. He held many different positions there. He worked with OCS (Officer Candidate School). He was connected with the Infantry School. He was Post Athletic Officer. As such he had to organize athletic events and tried to attend most of them. He left the army as a Lt. Colonel and later retired from the FL National Guard as a full Colonel. People were always showing up at the Macfarlan house to see Capt. or Major Macfarlan. These were people who had been in service with him and just wanted to stop by. He was well respected by many with whom he served. He had a great sense of humor and loved to tell stories. He dropped out of school in the 7th grade and wandered around a good bit – doing all kinds of odd jobs. He ended up working for the railroads when he met a man who said he was hiring. When he inquired about a job, the man said you had to be 21 years old. John Macfarlan was17 at the time but told the man he was 21.
He got a job and worked for the railroads and later for the Railway Express Agency (that was owned by the railroads). This fib came back to haunt him. His personnel records had him listed as four years older than he really was and the Express Company had a mandatory retirement age. He had to prove his correct age and unfortunately the courthouse where his birth certificate was filed had burned down. Eventually, he used his Army records to prove his correct age. As a boy he was called Gamble but never liked that name because kids teased him about it. As an adult he became John or Mac (which is what is wife Margaret always called him). Also as an adult, he got a high school diploma from night school and actually took a few college courses at the University of Miami on the GI Bill. He took mostly business courses and received “A’s” in all of them. As a young man in Miami, he was something of a man about town. He was Chairman of the Young Democrats, the Dade County Democratic Party and on the boxing commission, and considered several runs for political office. On one, which was either a state legislature seat or a Congressional seat, he always said that he was asked to meet with a man involved with race tracks in Florida who offered him $10,000 for his campaign. The man said if my dad didn’t take the money, he’d give it to his opponent. He decided not to run. I don’t think he had the kind of temperament for the rough and tumble of politics, and once he married Margaret (shown with John in the photo on this page), she thought politics was dirty business (she was probably right!). When the sheriff of Dade County had to leave office because of scandal, the governor of Florida (whose campaign John Macfarlan had worked for) offered to appoint him Dade County sheriff. He seriously considered it, but his wife went nuts over the thought. He didn’t take it. Each day at the East Coast Railway Station in Miami (his title was Terminal Agent, the second in charge, like an operations manager) before leaving for the day, he would walk through the entire terminal checking to see that things were in order. He stopped to speak to every employee and called each one by name. One piece of advice that he gave was that when you meet someone, you should learn their name and then whenever you see that person speak to them by name. They won’t forget you, he used to say. He was right. When he left Miami, the employees (most of them union workers who didn’t usually get along well with bosses!) took up money and gave him some wonderful going away presents including luggage. He spent many years taking care of his wife, who was crippled by Arthritis.
After retiring from the Railway Express Agency, he returned to Miami and to First United Methodist Church.

The Macfarlan Sunday School class is still in existence today. He loved to tell stories and loved history. This site is a collection of the history lessons he gave to the Hot Meals program at First United Methodist Church. There are no sources on any of this material, but he would often work late in the night researching his lessons to make sure they were accurate

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