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The 1947 Friendship Train in New Jersey
by Dorothy R. Scheele

Trenton was the only stop for the Friendship Train in New Jersey. Almost all communities sent their donations to the capital to be loaded onto the train. The southern section of the train arrived in the state’s capital around 10:00 on November 17th. As was the case in many similar ceremonies across the country, the clergy participated. Prayers were offered by Rabbi S. Joshua Kohn of Adath Israel Congregation and the Rev. Frederick J. Halloran. The invocation was delivered by the Very Rev. Frederick M. Adams. Musicians Local No. 62, directed by W. Radich, provided the music.

For some as yet undetermined reason, New Jersey began its food drive very late. Not until November 12th , five days after the train had left Los Angeles, did the Governor and mayors begin organizing committees and food drives. Gov. Driscoll appointed Brig. General James J. Bowers as his representative for the Friendship Train. Spencer Miller, State Highway Commissioner, ordered trucks to pick up donations from any community and haul them to Trenton. James. J. Bowers sent telegrams to municipalities, asking for donations. Leonard Dreyfuss, chair of the Governor’s Citizens Food Conservation Committee, also appealed to communities. Having the distinction of being the first to respond was South Orange. The city’s donation, however, was not listed.

Citizens of Trenton itself had raised $1761 for the purchase of food which Russel Lupo was able to buy at wholesale prices. Mr. Lupo was a member of the finance committee as were Michael Commini and Joseph Landgraf. Mrs. Siegfried Roebling served as chair. Trenton had also donated enough groceries to fill half a carload.

Probably because New Jersey’s donations for the train started late, information about the food drives is scant. In Newark Mayor Murphy’s office appointed William S. MacDonald of the Newark Excise Board, as chairman. Irvington Steel and Iron Works drove some of the city’s gifts to Trenton. Dougan and Fischer bakeries sent tons of flour separately. Another truck hauled three and one-half tons of food which had been contributed by Elizabeth, Kenilworth, Union Township, and Colonial.

In Ridgewood, the Village Commissioners, the Citizens’ food [sic] committee [sic], the Board of Education, and the public school faculty and students set a goal of five tons for the Friendship Train. S. William Walstrum, head of the Citizens Food Committee, managed the food drive. Walstrum declared at the start of the drive that Ridgewood was known for its generosity and quick response to direct need. “…I predict that at least five tons of foodstuffs will go to Europe and Italy [sic] as Ridgewood’s response to the hunger that prevails in those countries.” The effort swung into high gear. Principals at all schools agreed to the use of their buildings as collection depots. Local merchants stocked as much of the required food as possible for the committee to purchase.

On Friday evening and Saturday morning, volunteer faculty and students sorted and labeled packages. They loaded a Village truck on Saturday morning so that it would be ready to depart at noon for Trenton where its cargo would await loading on the Friendship Train on Monday. The estimated weight of the truck was five tons. Ridgewood had met its goal.

Other towns in that area which contributed were Phillipsburg where residents took their contributions to the municipal building; Roseland and North Caldwell sent their donations to Borough Halls; Rockaway, Denville, Wharton, Mine Hill and Dover sent their gifts to Scott Motor Sales Company; Westfield sent its donations to the American Legion Home. Among other contributing municipalities were Essex Falls, Bloomfield, Caldwell, Glen Ridge and North Arlington. How much these towns contributed was indeterminable.

Camden began an intensive food campaign on November 10th. Every individual, industry, club, business, and school became part of the drive. In Moorestown, Hal Kushel set up a booth for collecting funds. The county president of the PTA, Mrs. L. B. Stiles, called on all local chapters to help in the schools and asked town authorities to assist. Albert Miller, Elwood Sapp, and Robert Mayhew assisted Edwin Segal, chairman of the Camden Friendship Train Committee. Segal spoke to various organizations urging their support. A local Architect, Oren Thomas, headed a committee which collected from industries. The Mayors Association of South Jersey, representing 37 districts, created procedures which would provide ways of collecting food and money.

The county commander of the 40 American Legion Posts stated that the local commanders of all posts would make house-to-house calls. More than 1,000 containers for money collection were placed in stores, taprooms, and restaurants. Students at Camden and Woodrow Wilson High Schools created posters for store windows throughout the city. Other high schools participating were Bonsall, Fetter, and Yorkship. Communities Audubon and Collingswood raised $620 and $700 respectively. Camden’s campaign slogan had paid off: “If you don’t give, they won’t live.” The zeal and effort throughout the county resulted in contributions filling two boxcars.

Farther south, Atlantic City sent one carload of groceries to Philadelphia to join the train there. James V. Giammarino of Gibbstown declared that the entire community would be canvassed that weekend. Ventnor’s mayor Harry Hodson appointed a committee of 35 to solicit donations, and Mayor Sylvester B. Billbrough of Paulsboro requested that the policemen help collect money and food. In two days parochial and public school children of Gloucester City had collected a ton of food. Mt. Ephraim children raised enough funds to purchase 11 pounds of sugar, 100 pounds of flour, two cases of evaporated milk, and one carton of rice and beans. Mt. Ephraim police contributed $15 and a case of soap. Communities in Cape May County worked to raise enough for one boxcar of food.

The Friendship Train arrived in Trenton on the evening of Monday, November 17th. Welcoming ceremonies were held the next morning at the PA Railroad Siding on East State Street. Gov. Driscoll formally presented the Garden’s State’s gifts to Mayor Connolly who in turn presented the railcars to the French consul general Claude Lazard and the Italian representative Nicolai Giullis. Both men spoke to the crowd, thanking them for their compassion and generosity.

Mayor Connolly spoke on behalf of all the Garden State’s mayors. He especially praised public and parochial school children for having collected more than 300 cases of canned goods. A group of children from Mrs. Carolyn Kibble’s 4th grade class at Junior 5 had asked Drew Pearson to take the Bible they had to children in France. Pearson promised that he would do so.

By 10:00 a.m. New Jersey’s donations to the Friendship Train were bound for the waiting ships in New York harbor.

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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