1947 Friendship Train in Texas
Dorothy R. Scheele
Train is a unique and fascinating event in American history.
It traveled across the United States from Los Angeles to New York
in November 1947. 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. The idea for the
Friendship Train was created by Drew Pearson, a noted columnist
and broadcaster. (See the first and second entries of this website
for a detailed history of the Friendship Train.)
residents heard about the train, they responded with unbridled
enthusiasm. Their very first response, however, was not enthusiasm
but indignity: the train was not coming to their state. Indeed,
as was stated in a memorandum about the train, the closest it would
be to the Lone Star state was 800 miles. (Actually the nearest proximity
which can be determined at this point is about 550 miles, the distance
between Amarillo and Omaha). To Texans, the fact that their state
would not play at least as big a part as any other state in the
country was unfathomable. The unknown author of this same memorandum
emphatically stated, “TEXAS CANNOT BE IGNORED.” A letter from the
Methodist Church in Wortham, Texas, signed by R. O. Seely and three
others to Gov. Jester expresses similar thoughts: “. . . . urge
you to take action and make necessary arrangements so that the state
of Texas, that is recognized abroad for her warm heart and sympathetic
understanding . . . . We believe it is unthinkable that Texas fail
to have a share in such a project.”
to have learned about the Friendship Train long after the idea for
it was publicized. Although it was announced as early as October
11, 1947, earnest work to collect food did not begin until late
October and early November. A letter from one of the Lions Clubs,
which would be the foremost organizers for this incomparable humanitarian
event, declared that immediate action was imperative. In the letter
the train is referred to as the ‘Food for Peace’ train. In another
letter dated November 6, 1947, Gov. Beauford explained to Mr. R.
O. Seely that he was in contact with relevant persons and organizations
to begin the food drive. In another anonymous letter the writer
states that Melvin Jones, founder of the Lions Clubs, had just issued
a plea to the Texas clubs to participate.
and Lions Clubs had different names for the trains which they
sponsored or helped to sponsor: the Texas Food for Peace Train,
the Train of Mercy, the Panhandle Train, the Wheat Train, and the
Southwestern Friendship Train. Most likely the Panhandle Train and
the Wheat Train eventually combined with the Southwestern Friendship
Train keeping just that one name. The Lions Clubs decided that one
train should start in Amarillo and the second in the South; they
did not specify which city. Urged into immediate action and needing
publicity, the clubs first contacted all newspapers and radios.
Letters requesting information on who to contact in their community
flowed into Gov. Beauford Jester’s office. The Governor promptly
set about contacting people to help start the food drive. Word about
the Friendship Train spread rapidly.
In Amarillo radio stations KGNC and KFDA advertised the train and encouraged
giving. At a meeting of 60 representatives from various organizations
in the Panhandle, Mr. Lon Edwards of the Downtown Lions Club was
chosen as chair of the collection committee.
of money and food began to pour in. School superintendent Charles
M. Rogers received special permission from the school board to allow
the children to donate. The Groom Lions Club donated $616. Some
of the other Texas cities giving cash were Friona, Borger, Memphis,
Stinnett, Clarendon, Childress, and Turkey.
also contributing to the Amarillo effort was the Panhandle Wheat
for Relief which collected $1,000. In Hartley, Baptist and Methodist
churches lead a drive resulting in 500 bushels of wheat. Amarillo
contributed two cars of flour; the city’s final cash tally was $8,471.
Childress and other small towns near it combined their collections
with Amarillo’s. Some of the towns which contributed to the grain
cars were Gruver, Vega, Hartley, Whitedeer, and Perryton, NM. Additional
towns donating cash were Lubbock, Clarendon, Paducah, Hereford,
Memphis, and Canyon. The plethora of communities participating in
the Friendship Train campaign made listing them all nearly impossible.
One could safely say, however, given the enthusiasm and the generosity
that Texans had for the train, that almost every town in the Lone
Star state donated.
held a food jamboree to raise money and to acquire food donations.
The city named its train the Food for Peace Train. Almost certainly
this was not a separate train, but the name for the boxcars originating
from Midland. Probably the Midland boxcars and also the cars from
nearby Odessa joined the Southwestern Friendship Train in Ft. Worth.
Friendship Train left Amarillo on November 18th with at least 12
cars. It would pick up 10 more cars in Enid, Oklahoma, and at least
five more from other towns before it joined the 114 cars waiting
in Wichita, Kansas. As was typical throughout the country, there
were ‘farewell’ ceremonies for the Friendship Trains. The one for
the Southwestern Friendship Train took place in Newton, Kansas.
Gov. Frank Carlson and Drew Pearson both spoke. Gov. Jester could
not attend, but he sent a telegram expressing his gratitude and
pride in Texas.
As far as
can be determined, all the Texas trains passed through Ft. Worth; consequently, determining departure dates for trains and the cities
from which a boxcar originated was problematic. For example, on
November 18th, 11 cars, originating in the Santa Fe yards, traveled
through Ft. Worth. Six cars had been sent earlier that week but
their origin is indeterminable. In other states the towns and cities
usually put their logos or names on their boxcars. One could assume
that Texas towns did that also although there is no mention of it.
was called the food arsenal of Texas. The city itself contributed
one carload of grain, one of powdered milk, and one of miscellaneous
food items. However, a note from an unknown Lions Club member declares
that Ft. Worth sent four boxcars. Ft. Worth citizens had given $12,000
to the Lions Club. The money left over from that contribution, $667,
was to be combined with other monies from other parts of the state.
The state office received approximately $5,000 in contributions
which it passed on to towns needing help filling their cars.
Some of the
contributors to the Ft. Worth food drive were Waples-Platter Co.
which donated 50 cases of condensed milk; Bewley Milk which gave
$250 worth of flour, and the Ft. Worth Poultry and Egg Co. which
donated 250 cases of powdered eggs. Taylor and Simpson Co. donated
over $800 worth of powdered milk. Cars from Austin, San Antonia,
Waco, Houston, and Galveston added to the number of cars from Texas.
Brownsville donated an entire boxcar of grapefruit juice.
were responsible for [sic] forty-six cars leaving Texas and joining
the Southwest Friendship Train on November 17th. Also, another $10,000
has been sent to Drew Pearson which represents money received too
late to purchase food . . . .” According to the Ft. Worth Star Telegram,
Nov. 21, 1947, the Southwestern Friendship Train had 70 cars when
it left Wichita, Kansas. Whether these cars went through Ft. Worth
or had been sent before the 46 Lions cars is indeterminable as of
effort mounted by the Texas Lions Clubs resulted in the 46 boxcars
and $10.000 donated to the Southwestern Friendship Train. With the
Lone Star state flag donated by Ft. Worth flag dealer J. J. Langeveron
attached to one of its cars, on November 17 the train joined the
other 114 boxcars waiting in Wichita. KS. The next stop was Chicago,
and from there to New York and the ships waiting in the harbor.
“11-Car Texas Relief Train Rolls North” Ft.Worth Star Telegram Nov. 19, 1947: 1.
“13 Cars of Plains Donated Food Will Roll Toward Today” Amarillo Daily News Nov. 18, 1947; 1+.
“70-Car Southwest Food Train Rolling” Ft .Worth Star Telegram Nov. 21, 1948: 14.
Car Texas Relief Train Rolls North Ft. Worth Star Telegram Nov.19, 1947: 1
“Dallas To Donate Milk For Friendship Train” Ft. Worth Star Telegram Nov. 6, 1947: 5
“Final Report ‘Friendship Train’” From the holdings of the Texas State Archives #2.
“Food Jamboree Set at Midland” Dallas Morning News Nov. 9, 1947: 9.
“Friendship Cars Filling Rapidly” Amarillo Daily News Nov. 14, 1947: 1+.
“Friendship Food Shipment Leaves Here For Rendezvous” Ft. Worth Star Telegram Nov. 19, 1947: 1.
“Friendship Food Train Being Loaded Here Today” Ft. Worth Star Telegram “Nov. 15, 1947: 1.
“Friendship Train Drive Intensified” Amarillo Daily News Nov. 12, 1947: 2.
“Friendship Train Gifts Top $5,500 Keep Rising” Ft. Worth Star Telegram Nov. 16, 1947: 1+.
“Meeting Called Today to Plan Coordinated Gifts for Europe” Amarillo Daily News Nov. 7, 1947: 4.
“Meeting Called Today to Plan Coordinated Gifts for Europe” Nov. 7, 1947: 4.
“Plains Cities Add To Friendship Train” Amarillo Daily News Nov. 11, 1947: 2.
Weaver, Rufus. Letter to Beauford H. Jester. From the holdings of the Texas State Archives #9.
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