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The 1947 Friendship Train in Indiana
by Dorothy R. Scheele

Indiana made a substantial contribution to the Friendship Train. The purpose of the Train was to collect food from every household, city, county, and state in the United States to give to the starving people in France and Italy. Indiana was one of the 11 states the Train traveled through, and the people gave generously. A more complete history of the Friendship Train is available on this site. Drew Pearson, a well-known columnist and radio broadcaster during mid-century 1900s, conceived the idea of the Train.

On November 10th, 1947, the Friendship train roared into the Hoosier state capital Indianapolis. Virgil Sheppard, executive director of the Red Cross, reported that people had placed four tons of food on railways, street cars and buses and that four more tons had picked up at the Monument Circle and the railway station of the Monon Railroad Line.

The Friendship Train blasted into Bloomington on November 11th, 1947, at 10:00 a.m. Announcement of the urgent need for food in Europe sparked Bloomington’s citizens into rapid action. Although the city had had only five days to prepare and to collect their donations, it had exceeded expectations.

The food drive was considered among the best campaigns the city had ever enacted. Almost all organized entities, radio stations, schools, churches, and civic organizations immediately began to answer the need. A railroad agent, Floyd E. Tindall reported that 708 cases of various non-perishables, such as flour, sugar, wheat, condensed milk, requested by the Citizens Food Committee, had been collected. On the morning of the 11th, a truck from Linton arrived with 25 cases of condensed milk, 100 pounds of beans and sugar, and 500 cases of flour.

Although the committee had asked for $560, they received $1,269. Much of the money and food donated was received by Mrs. Virginia Hunter, a secretary at the Mayor’s office. Page one of the November 11, 1947, edition of the World Telephone stated that it would publish a list of the donors in the next day’s paper.

The boxcars left Bloomington that evening to join the other cars of the Friendship Train in Chicago.

On the morning of November 12th, the train stopped for a half hour in Ellettsville. All civic organizations, churches, military posts, schools, and the general population were asked to contribute.

Community leaders supervised the Friendship Train drive. Some of the leaders listed in the November 6th Ellettsville Journal were Mrs. Myron Howard, PTA President; Rev. B. M. Winter, pastor of the local Methodist church; and Eugene Butterbaugh, president of the local Lions Club. Local schools declared ‘Friendship Day’ on November 4th. Students were asked to bring cash gifts, and churches took up special collections for the Train.

The Monon Railroad Line, built before the Civil War and essential to mid-westerners, provided rail service across Indiana and was essential in collecting food for the Train. Monon boxcars converged on Lafayette on Wednesday, November 12. The citizens of northwestern Indiana donated 14,800 pounds of food. Officials placed a special boxcar for the collection of food at the Second and Ferry Street station in Lafayette. W. M. Clements, Monon Agent, and Herbert Lerch, freight house foreman, oversaw the freight car at that point. People hurrying to the boxcar had the choice of personally placing their donations inside the car or handing them to the two men in charge.

Among some of the institutional contributors were the Jefferson High School students and faculty who donated food, sugar, flour, and $243 in cash; the police department contributed two cases of spaghetti; the Junior Red Cross gave two case of milk, one case of macaroni, and 100 pounds of sugar. Fred Meyer, from whom the Red Cross had purchased the food, planned to add four cases of soap to their donation. The Stockville Home Economics club gave cash for purchases for the train.

The gift from the Sons of the Abraham Synogague was not disclosed, as was true in other instances. Among some of the individual donors were Mr. and Mrs. Henry W. Marshall, and Julie Strayer, daughter of J. W. Strayers. The Lafayette Leader Weekly, November 28, page three, has a picture of the Girl Scouts who donated to the Train.
On the Train’s route from Indianapolis to Monon two freight cars were filled, one laden with 49 tons of food before it reached Delphi. Among the individuals, churches, and clubs that donated were the Kiwanis Club, which having received $84 in cash, purchased food to give to the Friendship Train. Local Monon agent, R. H. Royster, reported 20 cases of various cans of food and 1,000 pounds of commodities such as flour and sugar.

On November 12th and 13th, Monon boxcars traveled from La Crosse to Rensesslaer, stopping at 12 towns. According to Col. Frank R. Cheshire, vice-president of the railroad, citizens along the Monon Railroad line contributed seven carloads of food and soap. A front page story in the Lafayette Journal and Courier November 13, 1947, has printed a lengthy list of donors. The boxcars were turned over to the Pennsylvania Railroad in Hammond to travel to the East Coast and then to Europe. (However, the November 11, page one of the same paper states that the boxcars will go to Chicago to connect with other Friendship Train cars.)

Collected between Monday and Wednesday, November 12, donations from the length of the Monon Rail line were extensive enough to fill 12 boxcars.

Other citizens helped in different ways. On the evening of November 12th two fraternities from Purdue University, the honorary scouting fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, and members of the Delta Upsilon helped transport food to the boxcars.

On Friday November 14th, the Monon boxcars were moved to Chicago to connect with other boxcars of the Friendship Train.

Cities of the Calumet region of Indiana, Whiting, East Chicago, Gary, and Hammond participated in the Hoosiers state’s contributions. Women from church councils worked together to help with the collections of food or money. Both Hammond and Gary contributed to the Friendship Train which stopped in Hammond on November 13th. Hammond’s Mayor Frank L. Kaminski asked students to bring nonperishable foods to the fire station. Gary donated money. Albert Mulliken, head of the Junior Chamber of Commerce in Gary, coordinated the drive to collect the funds. Donations were sent to James Hansen of Gary Trust and Savings and F. N. Tyler at Gary National Bank; the $288 collected and was forwarded to the Citizens Food Committee.

Elkhart welcomed the Friendship Train in a grand style. At 11:30 a. m. on Monday, November 15, 2,000 people witnessed the exciting event of the Train’s cross-country stop at their town. A parade added to the celebration. Riders in the squad car leading the procession were Fire Chief John Williams, Police Chief William Roth, City Controller Harold Pribble, and other city officials. The Elkhart High School Band and the Municipal Band followed the car. The parade’s Marshall was J. H. Burke.

One hundred western riders from Goshen, Warsaw, Milford, Ft. Wayne, South Bend and Elkhart increased the thrill of the colorful procession. The E. H. Medlen Stables provided the horses and riders, and I. A. Miller also offered several palominos. Chick Thompkins was the publicity director. From a sound car donated by Harold Carmien, Radio station WTRC broadcast highlights as it followed the parade.

According to Irvin Kell of the Junior Association of Commerce, the two Elkhart food cars were valued at $4,000. After its departure, additional money in the amount between $300 and $500 was forwarded to New York City to add to the purchase of more food. Some of the nearby towns contributing were Goshen, Nappanee, Ligonier, and Wakarusa.

Speaking at this morning occasion were Gov. Ralph Gates and Mayor Walter Larson, Mrs. Drew Pearson; Mme. Alberto Tarchianni, wife of the Italian Ambassador; Jean Beliard, attache of the French Ambassador; George Selmer of the H. and A. Selmer Paris plant ; and Bill Hendricks, the representative for Harry Warner, Pres. Truman’s appointed chair of the Friendship Train.

With rousing enthusiasm, residents of South Bend
and neighboring communities rallied to greet the train to its arrival on November 15th at 8:00 a.m. The inclement weather did not deter the happy spectators. A parade formed to greet the Train and marched to Union Station. Hugh Martin was chairman of the reception committee. Gov. Ralph F. Gates and Mayor F. Kenneth Dempsey were among those speaking at the ceremony. The Governor stated that this trainload of food was symbolic of the practical sympathy and understanding of the people of American for the suffering of hungry people everywhere. Jean Beliard, attaché to the French Ambassador, and Madame Alberto Tarchianni, wife of the Italian Ambassador also spoke. Recorded on newsreel, station WOWO broadcast the activities.

Those helping to fill the boxcars were Rev. Charles R. Query who requested donations from churches, newspapers, and radio stations; Rabbi Albert M. Shulman who served as chair of the finance committee, and Giles Cain who headed the South Bend food committee. Miss Martha McBride, dietician at Indiana University, led the campus campaign. The Junior Chamber of Commerce canvassed local theaters for contributions.

The food committee requested approximately $560; the South Bend citizenry surpassed the goal and responded with $1,269. The Studebaker car company donated $600, and the Bendix Corporation donated an undisclosed amount. The local teamsters’ union, like virtually all unions across the nation, worked gratis and also donated $105. Mrs. Virginia Hunter, secretary to Mayor Bruner, received and recorded all monetary gifts. Otto Hughes, a school principal, headed the food drive for the local schools. School children contributed $1,100 in dimes and quarters.

Mennonites from Bluffton and Wells counties generously donated four tons of wheat. Over 500 groceries permitted purchases to remain in their stores until local trucks could collect them. These trucks conveyed the commodities to the Armory garage on South Eddy Street where they would be packed on the Friendship Train freight cars. Page one of the November 7, 1947, Star Courier printed an extensive list of contributors from South Bends and its environs.

Red Cross workers helped to pack the donations, and four Notre Dame football players, James Martin, John Pannelli, William Fischer, and Fred Early carried the boxes to the freight cars. Although three new boxcars from the New York Central Line were waiting for the South Bend contributions, only two, weighing a combined 80,000 pounds, were filled, the third probably shipped partially filled.

Although the Friendship Train did not stop in Evansville, the city’s Jaycees held a one-week campaign to collect money. Evansville’s location made it too difficult to transport the city’s gifts to northern Indiana. John Walton, Richard P. Meier, Roy Bush, and Del Greenwood assisted O. H. Roberts, Jr. who was chairman of the committee.
The Superintendent of Evansville’s schools, Ralph Baker, asked teachers to explain to their students what the Friendship Train was and to ask them for donations. The result was an impressive $990.

Probably one reason why students donated so much was the way the money was collected. Teacher Meta Schlundt had her students create a miniature Friendship Train from the ‘cheese boxes’ she brought to school. The children painted the boxes and put wheels and serial numbers on each car. ‘Engineers’ drove the train to every classroom. Each car had a plastic jar for the students to place their coins. The November 8 the Sunday Courier and Press printed a picture of three students and the names of all who participated. The students’ little train was reminiscent of the miniature train made on the Merced, California, Army Air Force Base. This little train chugged all around the base and then went into town with even a band playing.

Evansville sent the $2527 total it collected to the Citizens Committee, Washington, D. C.

The Friendship Train, came to be called the Sunshine Special, certainly a happy moniker, comparable to the ‘Wheat Special’ or the ‘Grain Special’ from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. It arrived in Ft. Wayne at 5:00 a.m. on November 16th for its three-hour stay. Selflessly disregarding the cold, relentless rain and the dark, early hours, 200 spectators turned out to witness the Train’s arrival. Some of the interested people lined the train tracks and others stood under the Harrison Street overpass. Engineers parked the train, which had one speaker car serving as a platform, near the overpass.

The Ft. Wayne Jr. Chamber of Commerce arranged a brief welcoming ceremony. Among those speaking during the presentation were Drew Pearson, Nicoli Guile, representative from the Italian Embassy; George Welsh, President of the National Association of Mayors; and Mayor Baals. The November 16th edition of the News-Sentinel has pictures of the dignitaries participating at the ceremony and of the speakers’ platform car.)
The Ft. Wayne committee had decided to request only evaporated milk for the Europeans. The drive was spearheaded by the Ft. Wayne Jaycees. Publicity chairman for the campaign was John Estabrook. A. J. O’Dwyer, chairman of the food committee, had also been invited to participate in a national radio program emanating from Chicago about the Train.

Helping to meet the city’s goal of 60,000 cans of evaporated milk were those attending a dance at the Prom Terrace Ballroom. The price of admission was five cans of milk. Johnny Apt, owner of the ballroom, did not charge for its use, and Local 58 of the American Federation of Musicians donated the cost of the band which was led by Larry Fenton and his Orchestra. The dance netted $1,000 which was used for the purchase of milk.

Cities surrounding Ft. Wayne contributed substantially to the Friendship Train. Warsaw and Wabash each sent two truckloads of milk. Mayor Homer T. Showalter accompanied the Wabash contribution. The Lions Club of North Manchester donated 6,000 cases. Muncie sent two semi-trailer loads; Columbia City notified Ft. Wayne officials that it would send a large number of cases.

Students from North Side donated 35 cases and $122 in cash; G. E. Elex donated 6,000 cans; and the Allen County Fourth District Tavern Owners Association gave $100 to purchase milk. Two hundred women employees of Pollak Bros. pledged two cans of milk apiece. Other contributors were the Indiana Wayne Lodge, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the Ft. Wayne Women’s Club.

Although evaporated milk was the requested item, contributors added one boxcar of carrots. The carrots were accepted in this instance because the boxcar, fully loaded, was thus easy to attach to the train. Dr. Carl Wilkens, formerly of Ft. Wayne and then employed by Gerber Baby Food, stated that the company would give one full boxcar of baby food.

The November 13th Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette printed the names of too many contributors to mention; however, a few should be noted: eighth grade students won the prize of highest donations per student—30 cans per student; Elmhurst High School sent 4,343 of milk. Eighth graders at Emmanuel Lutheran School carried their donations to the fire station, which was a pick up point. The students were rewarded by a tour of the fire station.

At the time of the Train’s departure, Ft. Wayne had added seven boxcars. The Train blasted off to its next stop, Mansfield, Ohio.

Following a precedent set with the Train’s first transfer from one state to the next, California to Nevada, Mayor Gates rode the train to Ohio to hand it over to Ohio’s Governor.

Mayor Roy Vaugh of Mansfield accepted the Friendship Train as Governor Thomas J. Herbert was not present.


List of Works Consulted

120,000 Cans Of Milk Seen As Friendship Train Gift" News-Sentinel [Ft. Wayne, IN] Nov. 14, 1947: 1.
$1,229 Donated For Purchase of Condensed Milk”
World Telephone [Bloomington, IN] Nov. 11, 1947: 1.
“’Mercy Train’ To Go Through City Saturday” Gary Post Tribune Nov. 12,1947: 25.
“Area Donations Rolling In For Friendship Train” Journal-Gazette [Ft. Wayne, IN] Nov. 12, 1947: Second Section, 1+.
“Area Ready To Give Aid For Hungry” Hammond Times Nov. 10, 1947: 1.
“Citizens Give 8 Tons To Food Train” Indianapolis Star Nov. 11, 1947: 1.
“City To Buy A Ticket On Friendship Train” Evansville Press Nov. 12, 1947: 1.
“City’s Gift Will Join Food Train In Chicago” World Telephone [Bloomington, IN] Nov. 12, 1947: 1.
“Contribute Food For Europe” “Lafayette Leader Weekly newspaper” Nov. 28, 1947: 3.
“Contributions End Today For Friendship Train” Fort Wayne Gazette, Nov. 13, 1947: 14.
“Famine Relief in Case Lots Lafayette’s ‘Friendship’ Gift” Lafayette Journal and Courier Nov. 11, 1947: 1.
“Food Committee Asks $560: Folks Respond With$ 1269” Star Courier [South Bend, IN] Nov. 14, 1947: 2.
“Food Train Due Here Saturday” South Bend Tribune” Nov. 12, 1947: 1.
“Food Train Reaches Utah On Way East” South Bend Tribune” Nov. 10, 1947: 1.
“Fort Wayne Greets, Gives Donation to Friendship Train” News-Sentinel [Fort Wayne, IN] Nov. 16, 1947: 2
“Friendship Train Car Loaded Here” Lafayette Leader Weekly Nov. 14, 1947: 10.
“Friendship Train Food Goal Exceded [sic] by City Donors” South Bend Tribune Nov. 14, 1947: 2.
“Friendship Train Fund Is Now $288” Gary Post Tribune Nov. 14, 1947: 21.
“Friendship Train Rolls East; Pearson Thanks City” Journal-Gazette [Ft. Wayne, IN] Nov. 16, 1947: 1.
“Friendship Train Rolls In For Area’s Donation” Journal-Gazette [Ft. Wayne, IN] Nov. 15, 1947: 1+.
“Friendship Train Total is $2575”Evansville Press Nov.7, 1947: 1.
“Friendship Train Will Stop Here Wednesday” Ellettsville Journal Nov. 6, 1947: 1+.
“Friendship Train’s Cargo Get 12 Tons of Food in Elkhart” Elkhart Truth Nov. 17, 1947: 1+.
“Friendship Train Food Goal Exceded [sic] by City Donors” South Bend Tribune Nov. 14, 1947: 2.
“Gary Gifts Add Fuel to Food Train” Gary Post Tribune Nov. 13, 1947: Second Section: 19.
“Generous Gifts To Relief Train” Lafayette Journal and Courier Nov. 13, 1947: 1.
“Governor to Arrive With Food Train” Nov. 13, 1947: 1. Elkhart Truth Nov. 13, 1947: 1.
“Hoosiers Donate Seven Carloads” Lafayette Journal and Courier Nov. 14, 1947: 18.
“Huge Milk Stocks Ready For Friendship Train” Journal-Gazette [Ft. Wayne, IN] Nov. 14, 1947: Second Section: 1+.
“Hundreds Scorn Rain To Speed Food Gifts” South Bend Tribune Nov. 15, 1947: 1.
“Jaycees Collect Fourth of City’s Food Train Gift” World Telephone [Bloomington, IN] Nov. 11, 1947:
“Junior Size Friendship Train Chugs Through Local School and Gets $12.60” Sunday Courier and Press [Evansville, IN] Nov. 8, 1947: 6.
“Many Place Generous Gifts on ‘Friendship Train’ Here” name of paper.June 25,1947 :
“One Food Car Assured Here As City Gives” South
Bend Tribune Nov. 13, 1947: 1.
“Package Gifts for Friendship Train” South Bend
Tribune Nov. 13, 1947: 1.
“Plans Made To Fill Car With Food” Star Courier [South Bend, IN] Nov. 7, 1947: 1.
“Pupils Contribute $990 For Friendship Train” Evansville Press Nov. 19, 1947:
“Pupils To Donate To Friendship Train,” Nov. 13
“Small Group Braves Rain To See Sunshine Special” News Sentinel [Fort Wayne, IN] Nov. 15: 1+.
“Stockwell Gives to ‘Big Train’” Lafayette Leader Weekly Nov. 21, 1947: 1.
“Three New Cars To Carry Food” South Bend Tribune Nov. 11, 1947: 1.
“Two Days Left For Donations To Food Train” News-Sentinel [Fort Wayne, IN] Nov. 12, 1947: 33.

The author welcomes any additional information which would add to this state's history.

The Friendship Train was the genesis for the French Merci Train. Website has information about that train.

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