1947 Friendship Train in Pennsylvania
Dorothy R. Scheele
On a chilly
and drizzling Saturday evening the Friendship Train rolled into
East Liberty freight Yard at Penn Avenue and Dahlem Street in Pittsburg.
Railroad workmen had prepared the yard for the welcoming ceremony
and the attachment of the cars. The Pittsburgh Press had estimated
that between 3,000 to 5,000 would attend the celebration for the
train, but only about 500 were there. Most were likely deterred
by the weather. The City Police and Firemen’s Band launched the
entertainment, and local radio personalities and night club acts
performed. Mayor David H. Lawrence and J. S. Crutchfield, chairman
of the Pittsburgh Citizens Food Committee spoke at the event.
Some of the
many contributions filling Pittsburgh’s boxcars were 1,600 pounds
of assorted foods donated by the Italian Sons and Daughters, the
Independent Order of the Sons of Italy, and the Huntingdon Workers.
Eighteen hundred stores had placed food bins for people to make
their deposits. Outlying communities were asked to contribute cash
which would be used later to purchase food in New York. They donated
at least $1,000.
sent its donation to the food train to Pittsburgh. Parkersburg
shipped an entire carload, and Fairmont and Charleston each contributed
miles east, was the next destination. The fact that the city was
an unscheduled stop reflects the unbridled enthusiasm for the Friendship
Train. Johnstowners refused to be omitted from America’s wave of
generosity. Congressman Harve Tibbott and the Pennsylvania Railroad
arranged for the stop. The Blue Devils Trumpet and Drum Corps of
the American Legion Post 294 and a huge crowd greeted the train.
According to the Johnstown Tribune thousands more were at the Iron
Street and Prospect viaduct.
Windber in neighboring Somerset County plunged into collecting for
the train. School children in Cambria County, as well as civic organizations,
such as the Barnesboro Lions Club and the Windber Fire Company donated
thousands of dollars. Central City, at that time a community of
about 2,000 residents, collected $4,000. Residents of Johnstown
had collected enough to purchase an entire boxcar of milk, which
for reasons unclear, had been added to the train in Chicago. The
train next sped off from Johnstown to Altoona.
the area’s first snow had fallen the previous day, thousands
of enthusiastic Altoona citizens waved and cheered as the diesel-powered
Friendship Train roared into the PRR station on November 16. The
Hollidaysburg High School Band and MacCaabees Drum and Bugle Corps
added to the festivities. Mayor H. Atlee Brumbaugh and a small delegation
were already on board, having, as was customary for local officials,
boarded the train several stations back.
drive, lead by Mrs. Julia Homer, resulted in an impressive $7,409,
including the $1,341 donated by the miners of Clearfield. The food
drive, headed by Lee. J. Buechele, unquestionably succeeded. Altoona
bakers alone contributed one boxcar of flour, one of the two cars
from Altoona proper. Bellefonte, Bedford, and Lewistown each contributed
a full boxcar of flour. Among the other towns eagerly donating were
Roaring Spring, Tyrone, Bellwood, Williamsburg, Claysburg, and Hollidaysburg.
The total contribution for this central area of Pennsylvania was
had a bit of a personal connection with the train as native,
Marion Canty, was Pearson’s secretary and was traveling with the
train. After two hours of celebration, the train left for Huntingdon.
Although a stop
at Huntingdon was not schedule, the people insisted that the train
stop for their contributions. Despite being three hours later than
expected and despite a sharp wind and sub-freezing temperature,
the delay did not dampen the spirit of the 4,000 waiting for the
The PRR had
installed a large generator to provide lighting, and Juniata College
had lent rope to help the police keep people away from dangerous
areas. The Lions Club had organized the food drive and their members,
along with the Sea Scouts and the Air Scouts, had loaded the boxcar.
Huntingdon’s boxcar of flour and wheat was ready to go when the
Friendship Train roared into the PRR station.
the entire program from a flatbed car. Chief Burgess Loyal D.
Daubenspeck and Robert Powell, chairman of the Friendship committee,
spoke at the welcoming ceremony. A half-hour after its arrival,
the train roared off, leaving Huntingdon County residents with a
the next morning had a brief but highly publicized ceremony
for the Friendship Train. The John Harris High School Band opened
the ceremony. Among those speaking were Mayor Howard E. Milliken,
and Johns S. Branyon, President of the Harrisburg Jr. Chamber of
Commerce and chairman of the local food train committee. Branyon
presented Harrisburg’s nine cars to Drew Pearson.
the ceremony. The excitement was heightened, no doubt, by the presence
of the Freedom Train.* International press covered this important
moment. Time and Life magazines took still pictures; major motion
picture companies shot newsreels; the BBC taped and transcribed
the program for rebroadcast on an international level.
Four of the
boxcars coupled to the train in Harrisburg had come from York and
Williamsport. York’s campaign brought unusually large contributions
from industry and city and county schools. Seniors at New Freedom
High School collected $177 in a door-to-door canvas; York city schools
alone contributed almost $800. Local wholesale groceries took orders
by the case at wholesale prices. Each package carried a message
in French and Italian, “To our friends in France and Italy from
your friends in Pennsylvania.”
sent two boxcars of flour to Harrisburg. Cheerful citizens washed,
polished, and shellacked the engine which would tow the cars. Despite
the falling snow, the Williamsport High School Band played for one-half
hour before the brief ceremony, hailing the Saturday morning departure.
Station WRAK broadcast the ceremony, emceed by Mayor Leo C. Williamson.
Rev. Frederick E. Christian, the principal speaker, developed the
theme which had been adopted for the food train, “A Date with Destiny.”
filling Williamsport’s two cars came not just from Lycoming County,
but also from Clinton County and nearby communities such as Renovo
and Lock Haven. Harrisburg and the immediate area had filled five
boxcars, one of which was from Chambersburg. The cash collection
for Harrisburg totaled $13,874. One of the reasons for the success
of the cash drive was the work done by Abe and Dick Redmond of WHP.
On two occasions, they raised money by accepting pledges from people
requesting songs. One evening, they raised $2,200 and on another
and Girl Scouts, women’s auxiliaries, American Legion Posts,
schools, Sunday schools, and numerous other organizations and individuals
participated in the ubiquitous food campaign. Businesses supplied
their equipment and employees: Manbecks’s Bakery in Lemoyne donated
its trucks to collect food in outlying towns. A message in three
languages adorned each boxcar: “Food contributed in next-door fashion
by the people of Harrisburg.” General Outdoor Advertising had donated
the material and the manpower to make the 20’ x 4’ signs.
in the drive to help Europeans was sometimes part of the effort.
Mrs. Leland Embrey of Harrisburg, in affection for her friend in
France, made a special collection of her own. In her neighborhood
she netted over $21 in cash plus substantial food donations.
where the number of contributions was outstanding, was the train’s
next stop. Tiny Smoketown sent more than a ton of food. Lancaster
Country Day School contributed almost a ton. New Holland, a small
town, contributed 40,000 pounds of food. Elizabethtown, another
small town, sent two and a half tons. Flory Brothers Mill donated
two and a half tons of flour, and the Mennonite Central Committee
donated a full boxcar. Lancaster Mill Co. provided 800 empty cartons
for packing; Wright Bros. Bakery lent its trucks for transporting
the food; Miller and Hartman Warehouse on Lemon Street collected
and packed it. An empty boxcar, already weather-proofed, sat on
a track siding on Water Street, close to the downtown Farmers’ Market.
Local farmers brought their bushels of wheat directly to the car.
The value of the contribution was $63,000.
As the train
was departing, the McCaskey High School Band, led by Leigh Wittel,
played an international medley.
Train was heading for its final stop in the Keystone state, Philadelphia.
Gimbel Brothers’ Department Store displayed a full-page ad in the
November16 Evening Bulletin encouraging readers to “Attend the ‘send-off’
ceremonies for the Friendship Train. It’s an event in Philadelphia’s
hundred spectators, eager for the arrival of the Friendship
Train, waited at the Broad Street Station for the 4:00 ceremony.
speaking were Mayor Bernard Samuel, Fred S. Davis, treasurer for
the train committee, and cochairmen Arthur C. Kaufmann and Frank
C. P. McGlinn. The John Bartram High School Band provided the music.
In a moving tribute, the school’s color guard carried 51 flags,
each in honor of the 51 Bartram alumni who had died in the war.
Pennsylvania area had relentlessly collected food. In Perkasie,
a small town about 25 miles north of the city, an organization known
as Mothers of the Second World War amassed an enormous amount of
food in just two days: 2,700 pounds of flour, 700 pounds of sugar,
41 cases of milk, and 31 cases of other assorted foods.
At 6:00 the
train rolled out, heading for New York. The entire southeastern
area had contributed a total of 27 cars, one of which was from Atlantic
The train would
stop once more—in Trenton, New Jersey—before it reached its final
destination the next day.
Pittsburgh – Philadelphia run comprised the southern section of
the Friendship Train. There was also a northern section. Its only
stop in the state was Erie.
Ashtabula, Ohio, the train arrived in Erie on a cold, November
16 Sunday, a little after 5:00 in the afternoon. The one-hour ceremony,
held in the rotunda of Union Station, featured Henry Kaiser as the
principal speaker. Introduced by Mayor Gale Ross, Kaiser, an auto
manufacturer, represented Drew Pearson. Kaiser termed the food train
a “train of faith” and said that we must keep producing until there
is enough in the world for everyone.
its intended goal of one car, added two to the train. The contributions
of Meadville and Franklin, nearby cities, were part of Erie’s boxcars.
Headed by Mrs. Dudley Selden, Erie had held a tag day on November
13, on which $970 was collected. A retail store, Lorraine’s Dress
Shop, gave 10% of its total sales on tag day. More money was collected
in containers placed in stores for people to deposit change. The
total cash contribution for the city was $7,187. Wholesale grocers
contributed 160 cases of food free. Erie’s two cars, painted orange,
left the city heading for Buffalo.
not a stop for either train, made two separate contributions.
The city sent a truckload of canned meat, donated by wholesaler
Arbogast and Bastian with a matching donation from the Meat Cutters
Union, to the train when it was in Philadelphia. The Modern Transfer
Co. donated its men and a truck for the purpose. A week later Allentown
also sent an entire boxcar to the pier in Weehawken, New Jersey,
where it would be loaded onto a ship.
Veterans Committee, Allentown chapter, initiated the food and money
drive. The Mothers of the Second World War campaigned for cash contributions.
In another instance, spectators at the Muhlenberg-Delaware football
game gave $282. Pottsville, a small city 35 miles northwest of Philadelphia,
also added to America’s commitment to help Europe, sending 16,000
jars of baby food and 150 cases of other foodstuffs. All of these
donations were a part of the food drive in Allentown.
Train left the Keystone State with 51 more boxcars than it had when
it entered Pittsburgh.
Train, sponsored by the United States government, was touring the
country displaying American historical documents. It had no connection
with the Friendship Train. Although both trains were in Pennsylvania
at the same time, Harrisburg was the only city where they would
Train was the genesis for the French Merci Train. Website www.mercitrain.org
has information about that train.
any additional information which would add to this state's
to Friendship Train History by State