1947 Friendship Train in Kansas
Dorothy R. Scheele
1947 a train crossed America, carrying food donated by Americans
for the hungry citizens of Europe. The Friendship Train constituted
a little known but fascinating historical event in American history.
The train originated from an idea developed by Drew Pearson, well-known
broadcaster and columnist. While in Europe after World War II, Pearson
noted that Communist Russia was sending a paltry number of boxcars
of grain to France and Italy. When the grain arrived, Communists
created huge celebrations emphasizing the source. Pearson surmised
that the purpose of the parades and festivities was to persuade
the European countries that the Soviet Union was their friend and
that they would be much better off choosing Communism as a way of
government. Considering a Communist Europe anathema, Pearson concluded
that the United States could send food to the Europe. He wanted
the American people, not the government, to send the food to Europe.
To that end he and others organized a train which would cross the
country collecting food from the people. Although the train traveled
through only eleven states, every state contributed.
31st, 1947, Wichita Eagle proclaimed that Texas and Oklahoma communities
are engaging in a friendly rivalry with Kansas in a contest of filling
the greatest number of boxcars with wheat for the needy in Europe.
Such friendly rivalry existed between towns, cities, and states
across the nation. Kansans were as eager as all citizens to accumulate
as much food as they possibly could.
statements from the November 16, 1947, Wichita Eagle reflect the
general attitude toward the train:
"I think it's
a wonderful idea," said Lewis Harry, 807 South Clifton, Wichita.
"Throw it (the
$5.00 he had contributed) in with the rest and use it where you
need it," said another man.
"I ain't never
growed no wheat . . . but I got some corn for this train of yours,"
said a local farmer.
A woman who
didn't know the governor's name sent a check to his office to buy
who had just finished a breakfast of juice, hot cakes, ham and eggs,
and coffee gave a $100 check saying, "I'd like to buy breakfast
for some of those folks over there."
in organizing Kansas's Friendship Train was Dick Long, editor
of the Wichita Eagle who was in charge of the train. Other volunteers
were Ed Dunn, chairman of the Friendship Train committee; Ed Weeks,
treasurer of the campaign; and Sam Wallingford, president of Kansas
Wheat for Relief Committee and co Chairman of the Friendship Train
the assembly point for nearly all the boxcars from Texas and Oklahoma.
Other cities and states sending one or two cars were Nevada and
Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and Colorado.
in Kansas surpassed all expectations. Sam Wallingford had extended
the original cut-off date for cash contributions, and by November
20 he had announced that the total amount had passed $50,000
and organizations throughout the state contributing cash and food,
almost all of which was wheat, are far too numerous to list separately
even though all deserve mention.* (Kansas newspapers published daily
reports of donors and their donations). Nonetheless, some cannot
be overlooked: By Thursday evening, November 20th, the date of the
train's arrival, the total cash collected from Shawnee County was
$10,096. The biggest single contributor for that day was Perry community
which gave $596 in a drive sponsored by the Thompsonville Community
Methodist Church. Los Alamos, New Mexico, sent $2,000. Viola, a
town of 125 sent $400. A donor who refused to give his name walked
in to the office of Mayor Tucker's secretary and placed $65 on her
desk, declaring that he wanted to cash to be used to buy flour.
Lew White, a member of the Jr. Chamber of Commerce, in Kansas City,
Kansas, noted that some organizations of young people had been instrumental
in helping the Sunflower state campaign. The Boy Scouts, Fairfax
Hills Teenagers, and the Camp Fire Girls were among the young people's
organization. The Camp Fire Girls, canvassing from door-to-door,
collected $2,100. At one out of the way train stop, an elderly woman
walked up to the master of ceremonies, placed a one dollar bill
in his hand, and simply walked away.
were equally startling. David C. White, a farmer from Kingstown,
Kansas, donated five carloads of wheat valued at $20,000. Page six
of the Wichita Eagle, Nov. 11, 1947, he stated: "If we want to avoid
another war we had better give our wheat than our boys and girls.
We just couldn't resist the temptation, my wife and I. It just made
us feel so good. And maybe we'll give some more."
from Oklahoma informed Wallingford that Enid was sending six cars
to Wichita and subsequently would send more.
added nine cars of wheat from Pawnee County. The gift was presented
to the Friendship Train on Sunday in an all-civic program held in
Larned. The main speaker was H. B. Unruh, President of Pratt Junior
College and District Governor of the Lions Club. He would also be
in Wichita on November 20th for the ceremony there.
As was customary
throughout our nation, each town that had been a collection
point for the train held departure ceremonies. Opening the event
in Wichita were bands from the North and East High Schools. They
had been prepared by Harold Clevenger and played under the baton
of Duff Middleton.
The Santa Fe
Railroad heightened the singularity of the event by using its new
diesel electric engine. Spectators assembled at the Douglas Avenue
overpass thrilled to the site of the Friendship Train when it slowly
blasted into view. As it did so, other trains at the station blew
their whistles to help celebrate this historic event. Flood lights
highlighting the train and forming a V in the sky further excited
the crowd. The Southwest's Grain Train, also known as the Pearson-Eagle
Train, was valued at $800,000. Much of the grain from this train
would be milled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (See the newsreel
under the Pennsylvania history).
dinner at the Allis Hotel honored those who had contributed
to the train's success. At this dinner Drew Pearson spoke briefly,
thanking the many who had helped. Other speakers at the departure
ceremony were Marcellus M. Murdock, publisher of the Wichita Eagle;
O. L. Gray, Manager of the Santa Fe Railroad; Gov. Frank Carlson;
Mayor Charles Ritchie; and Nicolo Guilli, representative of the
With the bands,
the floodlights, whistles, speakers, and the approximate 120 boxcars,
the thousands who watched the Southwest Friendship Train begin its
trip across Kansas and ultimately to Europe knew they had just witnessed
history in the making.
about 6 A.M. November 21, the train arrived in Newton about
one hour later. Despite the chilly weather, the initial small group
of people quickly grew to an estimated 750. Al Nordstron, President
of the Newton Chamber of Commerce, headed the welcoming committee.
The high school band delighted the crowd. L. B. McGee was chairman
for collections in the business district in Newton, and Mrs. Will
Dyck served as collection supervisor for Harvey County. Citizens
improvised a speaker's platform from a truck, with funds for an
amplifier donated by Preston Bean. Gerald Wilkins served as master
of ceremonies. Leaving Newton after a 30 minute stop, the train
roared off to Emporia.
crowd of 1,500 eagerly awaited the food train when it rolled into
Emporia about 10:30, Friday. Frank Eckdall, chairman for the Lyon
County Wheat For Relief Campaign, assured the crowd that they had
surpassed their goal of 1,500 bushels by at least 28. Cash contributions
up to that morning had totaled approximately $4,500. Grain dealers,
by reducing the price of grain to $2.67 a barrel, had encouraged
the purchase of more wheat than officials had anticipated.
Miss Betty Childers
of Junction City added novel encouragement by showing a toy train
at the rotunda of the administration building of Emporia College.
Named the Hornet Unlimited, the train was intended to attract students
so that they would help reach the college's goal of 100 bushels
of wheat which they did. The slogan for this small but effective
exhibit was "Skip a Meal and Feed a Family."
had been too busy to list contributors. (The November 19th Gazette
published a short list of donors.)** Despite lacking a complete
list at that time, the newspaper reported some notable donations.
Marion, Lyon, and Navarre Counties each contributed one carload
of wheat. (Conflicting information credits Marion County with contributing
two carloads.) Students and faculty of Lowther Junior High School
lead, presumably in school donations, by contributing five bushels
of wheat and $362 in cash.
pulled into the station as the high school band played to greet
it. Officials stepped off to speak to the crowd. Gov. Carlson lauded
Kansans for their extraordinary generosity, saying that they had
contributed more than the citizens of any other state. He spoke
about the time in previous years when Kansas had provided or received
help from other states, citing the assistance Ohio had given the
Kansas during the grasshopper plague and that from the eastern states
during an equal time of need. The governor said that remembrance
of the help was one reason for Kansas's extreme generosity.
were O. L. Gray of the Santa Fe Railroad, Mayor Charles Ritchie
of Wichita, and Marcellus M. Murdock, publisher of the Wichita Eagle.
The spectators especially anticipated hearing and seeing Drew Pearson,
most likely because he was the originator of the idea of helping
the distraught European people. He assured the crowd that the Europeans
would unquestionably know that the food came from the people, not
from the government of the United States.
Emporia, Pearson visited Mrs. White, who was the widow of Mr. William
Allen White, an outstanding editor of the Emporia Gazette. Fellow
journalists consider him as legendary, his newspaper having been
judged exemplary in small-town journalism. Mr. White had been a
friend of Pearson's father and was among the first journalists to
publish his column.
Mayor C. V.
Morris and local schools and colleges were present at the departure
ceremony which was said to be the most jubilant and enjoyable of
the Kansas sojourn up to that time.
left Emporia shortly before noon, carrying enough wheat to make
13,000,000 loaves of bread: included also were18 cars of various
groceries, three of which were rice, one of sugar, and one of salt.
Page one of
the November 21, 1947, Topeka Star Journal features a picture of
a spout from a grain mill with wheat pouring into a truck. Paul
R. Bailey is the mill worker in the picture. Also pictured are George
Saulner, foreman at the mill, and John Miller, Chamber of Commerce
Commissioner for Agriculture.
Topeka's two cars to the food train during the mid-afternoon stop
at the capital city. At least 14 other cars were also added that
came from various cities and towns. Some of the other points of
origin were St. Joseph, Missouri; Colorado, North Dakota, and South
of radio station WREN announced the half-hour ceremony. A transcript
of the festivities was recorded for a 6:00 p.m. broadcast over ABC,
a fact which undoubtedly made Topekans quite proud.
the event was Rep. W. S. Robinson, state representative in charge
of grain distribution. Some of the speakers were Rev. Bradshaw,
who spoke on behalf of Topeka churches; Dean John Warren Day, who
offered a prayer for the gifts, and Mayor Frank Warren. Also in
attendance was Dr. John Metzler of Chicago, who was National director
of the Church Rural Overseas Program.
Chamber of Commerce declared that the cash contribution as of
the evening of November 20 was $10,096. The biggest contributor
for that particular day was $596 from Perry County. The Thompsonville
Community Methodist Church sponsored the drive. Mission Township
donated $239. Homerooms at Topeka High School donated $275, an impressive
amount considering the age group. The largest contribution came
from the aforementioned David White and his wife whose donation
amounted to $20,000 in wheat and cash. Wholesale beer distributors
contributed 32 bushels of wheat. An auction held at Indian Creek
Grange Hall netted $356.
The train departed
for its next destination, Lawrence. The largest crowd of the entire
Friendship Train's journey through Kansas was in Lawrence, home
of the University of Kansas. The number of people is not surprising
when one realizes how eagerly individuals and organizations attacked
the one-week food drive. A representative from the French Embassy
said, "I can't even write about this to Europe. They just wouldn't
Rev. T. H. Aszman
traveled through Jefferson County soliciting donations. As a result
of his efforts, clubs and groups in Perry, Oskaloosa, McLouth, and
Valley Falls agreed to participate. Lee Huddleston of the Oskaloosa
State Bank led the Jefferson County drive. According to John Roberts
of the Oskaloosa Independent, some of Lawrence's wheat had been
designated for Topeka; he said, however, that he would definitely
see Lawrence received the credit as the donor.
institutions in Lecompton, Douglas County, donations exceeded $1,000.
Haskell contributed $156, the city schools contributed $464 and
41 bushels of wheat; and the students of Kansas University. contributed
the remaining amount. "Have $8,200 for Friendship Train," Lawrence
World Journal Nov. 20, 1947: 1+.
of Baldwin had overwhelming response according to Ren Bonebrake,
chairman of the Friendship Train Committee. The small community
had donated $600. The students and faculty of Baker University,
members of the Ives Chapel, and congregants of the First Methodist
Church all guaranteed their assistance. "Have $8,200 for Friendship
Train," Lawrence World Journal Nov. 20, 1947: 1+.
body of the Pinckey School Parent Teacher Association wrote letters
to their members exhorting them to support the Friendship Train.
Mrs. D. F. Jennings, president of the association, expressed complete
confidence in their support. Local radio station stations made spot
announcements reminding listeners of the Friendship Train and its
purpose. Vernon Reed, program director of KFH, sent announcements
to all stations in his network instructing them to mention the train.
and enthusiasm for the train stirred the locals in their incredible
generosity. Newspapers, radio stations, and churches exhorted Kansans
to contribute. In Kansas, giving seems to be a natural and heartfelt
instinct. T. J. Sweeney was the treasurer of the drive. Among the
first to donate was the Central Protective Association. At a meeting
Commissioner Elmer Ousdahl reported that members immediately dipped
into their pockets when they heard about the train, donating $73.
An additional $20 was added from the treasury itself.
Some of the
other monetary contributions were $1,500 from members of the Elk
Lodge. Baldwin residents gave $600. The combined donation from McLouth,
Oskaloosa, Winchester, Okawkie, and Meriden was $1,123. Eudora contributed
$324 plus 50 bushels of wheat. A warm contribution came from a Japanese
employee of a hotel in Denver. The employee had known Mayor F. W.
Schmitt in California. Hearing about the drive in Kansas, he sent
a note with $5, telling the mayor he wanted to help. The final cash
contribution from Lawrence was $8,488.
Frank Jahn offered
the earliest wheat contribution in Lawrence. He delivered eight
bushels to Underwood and Sons. Some of the many other wheat donations
came from Finley Bros. of Eudora; Fred C. Flory and sons, Virgil,
Ben, and Francis of Lone Star who gave 40 bushels. William Middlekauff,
10 bushels; Underwood, 20 bushels. The total wheat contributions
from Lawrence totaled $3,021.
Train rolled into Lawrence at 4:00 for its 30 minute stop. The
festivities were held in a park west of the Santa Fe station. Dr.
Novotny of the school district had dismissed the pupils at 3:00,
saying that he believed it was important for them to see history
in the making. Bands from the junior and senior high schools and
from Haskell Institute played a musical program until the train
who were members of Margaret Speelman's Indian Club, gave an basket
of grain to Gov. Carlson. Dressed in their native costume, the Indians
demonstrated their enthusiasm for the Friendship Train and their
desire to give.
speeches from Gov. Carlson and Pearson. The train left for Kansas
City, Kansas, its final stop in the Sunflower state.
was scheduled to arrive at the Santa Fe freight yard in the
Argentine district in Kansas City, Kansas, at 7 30 a.m. Nov. 21.
The goal for the city was one carload of flour. Contributions received
to date were gifts of $25.00 each from the Leader Clothing Company,
the Brotherhood State band, and the R. H. Weber Real Estate firm.
Boy Scouts collected
contributions from the audience at a wrestling match the previous
night at the Memorial hall, and Camp Fire Girls, who met in Huron
Park, received containers to use for canvassing their neighborhoods.
Clifford C. Nesselrode, Jr, as a representative of the Junior Chamber
of Commerce assisted the Camp Fire Girls.
Other cash contributions
included $102 which firemen gave out of their pockets while attending
a firemen's ball. The Firemen's Relief Association gave $100; the
Seventh Street Methodist Church contributed $32; the International
Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders and Helpers donated
$1.00, and the Washington Avenue Methodist Church donated $61. (A
more complete list of donors appears at the end of the text. )***
had filled an extra large boxcar with flour with a cash value of
$4,500. With leftover funds the Friendship Train Committee then
donated $1,060 to Kansas City, Missouri, to help that city fill
its boxcar, and it also gave $1,600 to the committee in New York
to purchase food for the Christmas shipment. The campaign leaders
were so thrilled to have exceeded their goal so impressively, especially
after the cash campaign had begun with a slow start, that they decided
to hold a celebration the next evening at the Argentine railroad
yards. Only about 150 attended, a steady rain causing most people
to stay home. Officials in addition to Mayor Clark Tucker were Don
Baldwin, Boy Scout executive; Lora Parker, Camp Fire Girl Executive;
Rev. Robert E. Penn, Head of Ministerial Alliance; and Jr. Chamber
of Commerce members instrumental in the Friendship Train campaign.
These members were Lew White, Howard Manning, John Claflin, Ralph
Evans, Charles Hackel, and John Witaker.
ended its odyssey in Kansas and headed to Kansas City, Missouri.
From there approximately 200 of the boxcars headed for Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, where the wheat would be milled and shipped to Europe
from there. From Kansas City, Missouri, the train traveled to Chicago
and then East where its contents would be loaded on ships sailing
Thanks Kansas - Just as Generously
Kansas have a proud and substantial reason for having received the
boxcar which France sent to Kansas in February 1949 as a thank you
for their contributions. Each one of the 48 states received a boxcar,
and one was sent to Washington, D.C. which was to be shared with
Hawaii. Kansas's car is located at American Legion Post #173, E.
13th Street and Canterbury Drive, Hayes, Kansas. Readers can see
it on the internet at www.mercitrain.org.
web site is www.mercitrain.org.
The site has pictures of all extant boxcars which he found while
driving across the United States, a jaunt which took about four
years. The boxcars for each state are pictured separately except
for the six that are missing. In some instances, the state car sites
also have pictures of gifts the French sent to Americans. The Merci
Train site and the Friendship Train site are companion sites.
November 16, 1947, has a lengthy list of contributors, both for
Kansas and other southwest states and counties.
** This edition
of the newspaper has a long list of contributors. "Final Splurge
Here Nets Two Cars Wheat" Topeka Daily Capital, Nov. 21, 1947: 1+.
** *The Women's
Society of Christian Service of the Methodist Church of Garnett,
Kansas, $38. Zion Evangelical and Reformed Sunday church school,
$28. Central Avenue Methodist Church $21. Many more are mentioned
in this article. Bonner Springs, $200 Sumner High School $24. Episcopal
Guild of Olathe and Hawthorne grade School, and the Parkwood Club,
$17. Police Force, $100. Ruby Avenue Good Will Society and B'nai
B'rith Saadia No. 40, money for a sack of flour. Kansas city Service
Grocers, $276. The Soroptomists Club, $150. Wichita school children
collected enough money to buy an entire carload of wheat. Six local
sign companies, Dunn Sign Co., Western Signs, Midwestern Signs,
Springborn Signs, Modern Signs, and Great Signs announced that they
would provide the writing for all cars going to Wichita which did
not have signs.
**** The Topeka
Daily Capital, Nov. 17-21 has lengthy lists to contributors.
of Works Consulted
"Friendship Train Interest Spreads Over Southwest," Wichita Eagle Nov. 15, 1947: 1+.
"Gifts, Large and Small, Roll in for Friendship Train Fund," Wichita Eagle Nov. 16, 1947: 15.”
“”Friendship Train Expected to Contain Over 120 Cars,” Wichita Eagle” Nov. 19, 1947: 1+.
“2 ‘Grain Specials’ Arrive in Phila.,” Philadelphia Inquirer Nov. 27, 1947: ????.
“45 Cars Of Food Already Assured for Relief Train” Wichita Eagle, Nov. 12, 1947: 4.
“Car From Graham County,” Topeka Daily Capital Nov. 17, 1947: 2
“Carlson Aboard Friendship Train,” Lawrence Journal World, Nov. 17, 1947: 1+.
“Churches Add Wheat to Pile With Offerings,” Topeka Daily Capital Nov. 17, 1947: 1+.
“Columnist to take Part in Friendship Train Ceremony,” Wichita Eagle Nov. 14, 1947: 1+.
“Emporians Speed Friendship Train on Way to Europe,” Emporia Gazette, Nov. 21, 1947: 1+.
“Emporians Speed Friendship Train On Way to Europe,” Emporia Gazette, Nov. 21, 1947: 1+.
“Final Splurge Here Nets Two Cars Wheat,” Topeka Daily Capital Nov. 21, 1947: 1+.
“Flour From K. C. Mills,” Topeka Daily Capital Nov. 17, 1947: 2.
“Food Train Fund Here Grows to $1,672,” Kansas City Kansan Nov. 18, 1947: 1.
“Food Train on With 23 Cars Added Here,” Kansas City Kansan Nov. 22, 1947: 1+.
“French Kids Get Rides on ‘Friendship’ Train,” Telegraph-Herald Sep. 6, 1951: 6.
“French Orphans Enjoy Gift Food,” Spokesman-Review [Spokane, WA] Dec. 30, 1947: 29.
“Friendship Food Meets Some Difficulty in Identification,” St. Petersburg Times Jan. 7, 1948: 6.
“Friendship Off Today After Ceremonies Here,” Philadelphia Inquirer Nov. 30, 1947: 1+.
“Friendship Train Adds Fourteen Cars at K. C., ”Emporia Gazette, Nov. 22, 1947: 1.
“Friendship Train Contributions Go To $3,164.88 Total,” Topeka Daily Capital Nov. 18, 1947: 1+.
“Friendship Train Drive Gains Momentum,” Wichita Eagle Nov. 13, 1947: 1+.
“Friendship Train Expected to Contain Over 120 Cars,” Wichita Eagle Nov. 19, 1947: 1.
“Friendship Train Fund Here is Growing Slowly,” Kansas City Kansan Nov. 17, 1947: 2.
“Friendship Train Fund Passes $6,000,” Kansas City Kansan Nov. 20, 1947: 1.
“Friendship Train In Emporia Friday Morning at 10:30,” Emporia Gazette, Nov. 20, 1947: 1+.
“Friendship Train Leaving Kansas with 174 Food Cars” Wichita Eagle Nov. 22, 1947: 1+
“Friendship Train Moving Across Kansas Picking Up Cars of Food” Lawrence Journal-World Nov. 21, 1947: 1.
“Friendship Train to Arrive Here Nov. 21,”Kansas City Kansan Feb. 14, 1947: 1.
“Have $8,200 For Friendship Train,” Lawrence Journal World, Nov. 20, 1947: 1+.
“Hillsboro Reaches City’s What Goal,” Wichita Eagle Nov. 21, 1947: 3.
“Local Food Train Fund Far Over Goal,” Kansas City Kansan Nov. 21, 1947: 1+.
“Mennonites Sending Car of Flour for Europe’s Hungry,” Wichita Eagle Nov. 14, 1947: 1+.
“Midwest Good Will Pours Out for Giant Relief Train,” Topeka State Journal Nov. 21, 1947: 1+.
“Missouri Towns Donate to ‘Friendship Train,” Maryville [Missouri] Daily Forum Nov. 20, 1947: 1.
“Money Pouring In To Pay For Wheat,” Lawrence Journal World Nov. 13, 1947: 1+.
“More Than 100 Food Cars to Leave State for Europe,” Wichita Eagle Nov. 18, 1947: 1+.
“On Friendship Train,” Lawrence Journal World , Nov. 6, 1947: 1
“Overpass Rites to Speed Mercy Load to Hungry,” Wichita Eagle Nov. 20, 1947: 1+.
“Rites Thursday Will Start Friendship Train on Way,” Wichita Eagle Nov. 17, 1947: 2.
“State Rivalry on Filling of Friendship Train Appears,” Wichita Eagle Oct. 31, 1947: 1+.
“The Kansas Way” Wichita Eagle Nov. 17, 1947: 6.
“Wheat Coming In For Relief Train” Emporia Gazette, Nov. 19, 1947: 1.
“Wheat Spills Over Top of County’s Car” Topeka Daily Capital Nov. 19, 1947: 1+.
Pearson, Drew. “Telling President of France About the Friendship Train,” St. Petersburg Times Dec. 20, 1947: 36.
any additional information which would add to this state's
Train was the genesis for the French Merci Train. Website www.mercitrain.org has information about that train.
to Friendship Train History by State