new york city
The normal hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30, and since we have our first hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico right now, it looks like it’s right on time. Nevertheless, for places like New York, where it is normally a little cooler, the hurricane season starts a little later, and may not really arrive at all. However, on June 4, 1825, a rare early hurricane arrived, moving off the East Coast and tracking south of New York. The hurricane caused several ship wrecks, and killed seven people.
The National Hurricane Center, states that on average, hurricane winds have impacted the New York City area every 19 years, and major hurricanes, of a Category 3 or higher, only every 74 years. The highest hurricane reading, Category 5 hurricane is not expected to occur there at all, because of the climate conditions there.
Nevertheless, on June 4, 1825, forming ahead of what is now considered hurricane season, a severe tropical storm surprised the Atlantic seaboard from Florida to New York City. At that time, they did not have the prediction capabilities, and this storm was first sighted near Santo Domingo on May 28th. It moved across Cuba on June 1st, with gale force winds, beginning at Saint Augustine, and approaching US soil on the June 2nd, and impacting Charleston, North Carolina on June 3rd.
The tide in North Carolina rose six feet at New Bern and fourteen feet at Adams Creek. As the tide rushed in, more than 25 ships were driven ashore at Ocracoke, 27 near Washington, and also some at New Bern. The plantations on the coastal areas near the South River were inundated with water, causing a heavy loss of crops and livestock. New Bern experienced heavy damage near the waterfront.
The storm pummeled Norfolk, with horrific force for 27 hours as the storm passed by to the east beginning on the morning of June 3rd. The wind was relentless, uprooting trees as it went. At noon on June 4th, stores on the wharves were flooded in a surge up five feet deep. High winds howled through the Washington DC area. The storm then moved northeast past Nantucket on June 5th.
The storm reminded many people of the September gale of 1821, except that the September gale would have been much more common. There haven’t been many early June hurricanes in that area since 1825, but there have been a number of hurricanes to hit the area since, including Hurricane Sandy, which did much damage in New York City, including the subway area.
The day after the debut of the Barbi doll on March 9, 1959, at the American Toy Fair in New York City, the doll had become an instant sensation. Basically, her debut makes Barbie 63 years old. The old girl has aged very well. In fact, she hasn’t aged a bit, although she can’t say she hasn’t had any work done. The reality is that Barbie has been redesigned at least every year. Of course, that isn’t saying she has had plastic surgery…or is it? She is, after all, made of plastic.
Barbie stands eleven inches tall, and at first anyway, had long blond hair. These days, of course as hairstyles have changed and it was decided that not all girls are blonds, her hair color and style have changed with the times. She has been given lots of cool clothes, shoes, a house, car, RV, and boat…and probably many other things. Barbie was the first mass-produced toy doll in the United States with adult features. I suppose that she caused quite a stir with many parents, but for girls everywhere, she was the princess they were going to be when they grew up. I know I couldn’t wait to get one.
The woman behind Barbie was Ruth Handler, who co-founded Mattel, Inc with her husband in 1945. Handler witnessed her young daughter ignore her baby dolls to play make-believe with paper dolls of adult women, at which point she realized there was an important niche in the market for a toy that allowed little girls to imagine the future. Barbie’s appearance was modeled on a doll named Lilli, based on a German comic strip character. Lilli was originally marketed as a racy gag gift to adult men in tobacco shops, but she later became extremely popular with children. Mattel bought the rights to Lilli and made its own version, which Handler named after her daughter, Barbara.
In 1955, Mattel became a sponsor of the “Mickey Mouse Club” TV program. With that, Mattel became one of the first toy companies to broadcast commercials aimed specifically at children. They used their commercials to promote their new toy, and by 1961, the enormous consumer demand for the doll led Mattel to release a boyfriend for Barbie. Handler named him Ken, after her son. Then, Barbie’s best friend, Midge, came out in 1963; her little sister, Skipper, debuted in 1964.
Of course, the Barbie doll was not without controversy. On a positive note, many women saw Barbie as providing an alternative to traditional 1950s gender roles. Her many careers, like airline stewardess, doctor, pilot, astronaut, Olympic athlete, and even US presidential candidate made some women see a possible future that was different than was common in the 1950s. Others thought Barbie’s never-ending supply of designer outfits, cars, and “Dream Houses” encouraged kids to be materialistic. However, the biggest controversy was over Barbie’s appearance. Her figure was unrealistic for a real woman. It was estimated that if she were a real woman, her measurements would be 36-18-38–led many to claim that Barbie provided little girls with an unrealistic and harmful example and fostered negative body image. Nevertheless, even with the criticism, Barbie never lost her appeal, and in fact she is as popular today as she ever was. I was just 3 years old when Barbie came out, and today, my great granddaughter, Cambree Petersen loves her Barbie dolls as much as I did, even if Barbie is…old!!!
We don’t often think of the United States having castles, but some do exist. Most are not considered true castles, but are rather country houses, follies, or other types of buildings built to give the appearance of a castle. In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but suggesting through its appearance some other purpose, or of such extravagant appearance that it transcends the range of usual garden buildings. Castles seem like almost ancient history items to most of us, and when it came to the United States, many people thought of the Old West and homestead type dwellings. Nevertheless, there are a few real castles here in the United States, even if we don’t have royalty here.
One such castle is Bannerman Castle in New York. The castle is located on Pollepel Island, about 50 miles north of New York City, on the Hudson River. The castle is in serious disrepair, but the Bannerman Castle Trust, Inc is trying to shore up the buildings so they don’t deteriorate further. The analysis that has been done indicates that 5 out of the 7 buildings on the island could be shored up. The others are too far gone. The castle has a strange history, and I suppose some would debate it’s claim as a true castle. The castle was built by Frank Bannerman VI over a period of 17 years. The island’s buildings were personally designed by Bannerman without professional help from architects, engineers, or contractors. The island has buildings, docks, turrets, garden walls, and a moat in the style of old Scottish castles. That was his passion. He loved Scottish castles and built his castle with a Scottish flare. All of the buildings are elaborately decorated, from biblical quotations cast into all fireplace mantles, to a shield between the towers with a coat of arms, and a wreath of thistle leaves and flowers.
Bannerman’s family immigrated to America in 1854, when he was three. They settled in Brooklyn, New York, where his father established a business selling flags, rope, and other articles acquired at Navy auctions. He was a patriotic man, who joined the union army during the Civil War. At that time young Frank began running the business. He was 13 years old. When the Civil War ended, the US government auctioned off military goods by the ton, mostly to be scrapped for their metal. It was young Frank who saw the importance of these materials, and it was his wise purchases that earned him the moniker “Father of the Army-Navy Store.” He could see that much of what was being sold had a market value higher than scrap. Under the guidance of the younger Bannerman, the Bannerman family became the world’s largest buyer of surplus military equipment. By this time, their storeroom and showroom took up a full block at 501 Broadway. Bannerman made his store into a type of museum/store. It opened to the public in 1905. Of it, the New York Herald said, “No museum in the world exceeds it in the number of exhibits.”
Frank was very prosperous, and it was during a business trip to Ireland that he met his future wife, Helen Boyce. They had three children. At the close of the Spanish American War, Frank Bannerman purchased 90 percent of all captured goods in a sealed bid. After that, it became necessary to find a secure place to store their large quantity of very volatile black powder. His son, David saw Pollepel Island, in the Hudson, and Frank Bannerman purchased it in 1900. Following the purchase, the building of the castle began. Today, the island is owned by the state of New York, and at this time visits are prohibited until the buildings can be made safer.
There are places in this world that have hidden places in them that might just surprise most people. At one time, these hidden places might have had a useful purpose, but later their usefulness was gone, and they were either closed up or removed altogether. The Brooklyn Bridge in New York City is one of those places. You can’t really remove a hidden place in a bridge, but you can close the hidden places up if they are no longer needed.
When the Brooklyn Bridge was built, portions of surrounding neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn had to be demolished in order to build the bridge’s two anchorage sections, which attach the bridge to land. This affected several local merchants more so than others, and because of that impact, the situation had to be addressed. To compensate local merchants and offset some of the bridge’s $15 million budget, wine cellars and other vaulted spaces were incorporated into the bridge’s design. The storage space that had once belonged to the merchants, had to be replaced with useable space, so several wine merchants and other alcohol sellers began renting the spaces in 1883, when the bridge was completed, and except for the Prohibition years, the cellars remained in operation until World War II.
The wine cellars were filled with wine before the Brooklyn Bridge was even operational. The cellars were the idea of bridge engineer John Roebling, and they were completed by his son Washington Roebling after John died. They were created as a solution to an alcohol problem, designed with the hoped that building the cellars would keep the wine dark, cool and secure. The cellars were huge. They are connected by a series of twisting tunnels named after French roads.
Prohibition brought a new era for the cellars. They were turned into newspaper storage areas. When Prohibition ended, they briefly reopened to the public, but World War II led the city of New York to take over permanent management of the cellars and close them to visitors. Since then, almost no one has seen them. The cellars remain empty and forgotten by the thousands of pedestrians and motorists who cross the Brooklyn Bridge every day. They are used for storage, and an occasional homeless person who finds their way inside.
These days, it seems we are hearing about mass shootings, terrorist-type attacks, bombings, and riots, all because people are “disgruntled” about something. It’s like everyone somehow thinks that the best solution to any disagreement is violence. Well, while this type of behavior is not new, it does seem to be happening more and more. Nevertheless, some of the worst attacks weren’t recent, but actually further back in our not so distant past.
On March 29, 1951, out of the blue, a homemade bomb exploded at Grand Central Station in New York City. While there were no injuries, commuters were quite startled. It wasn’t as easy to make a homemade bomb in 1951, because the internet didn’t exist. It’s not that the internet is the only place to find instructions on bombmaking, but it has made the process easier. Over the next few months, five more bombs were found at landmark sites around New York, including the public library. Authorities realized that this new wave of terrorist acts was the work of a man they dubbed the Mad Bomber.
This was not the first time New York had been visited by the so-called Mad Bomber. On November 16, 1940, a pipe bomb was left in the Edison building with a note that read, “Con Edison crooks, this is for you.” It was a clear indicator of a man who was “disgruntled” with Con Edison over something. What it was all about remained to be seen. Throughout 1941, more bombs were recovered , each more powerful than the last, until in December, the Mad Bomber sent a note stating, “I will make no more bomb units for the duration of the war.” What a strange turn of events. The Mad Bomber was…a patriot!! His letter also stated that Con Edison, New York’s electric utility company, would be brought to justice in due time. I’m not sure whether the people should have been praying for the war to continue, so that the bomber would stop bombing New York; or praying for the horrific war to come to an end. No matter what else he was, the Mad Bomber was not a liar. He made good on his promise, although he sent threatening notes to the press periodically. The year 1951 brought about a flurry of activity, then the Mad Bomber stopped again until 1954 when a bomb went off at Radio City Music Hall. Then in 1955, the Mad Bomber hit Grand Central Station, Macy’s, the RCA building, and the Staten Island Ferry.
The police faced a stalemate when it came to finding the Mad Bomber, but finally, an investigative team working for Con Ed tracked him down. Looking through their employment records, they found that George Peter Metesky had been a disgruntled ex-employee since an accident in 1931. Metesky was furious that Con Ed refused to pay disability benefits and, in the end, resorted to terrorism as his revenge. This seems to be the reason a lot of ex-employees resort to violence of some form. They think that because they were wronged, people must die to pay for the injustice they are feeling, never understanding that the people they injure or kill, were completely innocent in that matter. Really!! How dare they do such a thing?
Metesky, had been a rather mild-mannered man, prior to the accident. It was his fury at his injustice that turned him into a monster. Metesky was found to be living with his sisters in Connecticut. Following his capture and trial, he was sent to a mental institution in April 1957 where he stayed until his release in 1973. He died in 1994.
Anyone who has ever been the parent of a premature baby, knows the importance of the incubator. In the mid-1800s and before, a baby born prematurely had almost no chance of survival. Most doctors could only offer comfort care for the infant until death came. All that came to a slow change when a man named Martin Arthur Couney, who was born Michael Cohen in 1869, a Polish advocate and pioneer of neonatal technology, invented the incubator. As time went by, Couney became known as the “Incubator Doctor.”
While the incubator is an amazing scientific invention, its origins were a little less than what would normally be considered scientific. Prior to Couney’s invention, it was widely believed that premature babies were weaklings, who were unfit to survive into adulthood. It reminds me of what people used to say about orphans. Couney became one of the first advocates for premature babies. Couney allegedly apprenticed under Dr Pierre-Constant Budin, an established French obstetrician in the 1890s, but there is no proof that he ever became a doctor.
Doctor or not…scientist or not, Couney had a knack for inventing…at least in this instance. He called his invention “The Infantorium” and set about trying to get a doctor to use it, but they would not. Left with no choice, Couney decided to take his invention on the road. Basically, he turned it into an amusement park sideshow, where he gave it the famous name. His plan was to charge visitors 25¢ to view premature babies displayed in the incubators. Now, you might think this whole idea is completely insane, and wonder what doctor…much less parent would give consent for such a crazy idea. I did too. Well, we are both wrong in thinking no one would go along with this. Parents agreed, because their child was considered a lost cause anyway. They were also told that the care given to their children would be free, and if the child survived, they got their baby back. I’m sure is was the hardest decision they ever made, but they felt they had no choice.
Couney is best-known for his Infantorium at Coney Island, New York, although he traveled all around the world before coming to America. The “show” consisted of nurses caring for the children as people watched the process. During Couney’s active years at fairgrounds across America, he and his Infantoriums have become widely accredited with saving the lives of over 6,500 premature babies. Couney is additionally recognized as one of the first pioneers of neonatological technology. He was so well known that people sought him out. “One day, an on-edge young man with the hatbox wanted to see Dr. Couney on a personal matter, he said. The doctor assumed he had something to sell and sent him away. The man took his hatbox and left to spend hours wandering amid the dancing elephants, scenic railways, and carnival din of Coney Island. At last he reappeared; could Dr. Couney see him now? This time Couney said yes. The man opened the hatbox. Inside was a premature baby, tiny and red and struggling for breath.”
Dr Martin A Couney knew what to do. In fact, he knew more about “preemies” than anyone else in the United States. He was the first American to offer specialized treatment for them and could boast, toward the end of his career, that out of 8,000 in his care, 6,500 survived. “I can’t save all the babies,” he said, “but the percentage of loss is not large, and every parent knows I took good care of his baby until God took its soul. I never had a complaint or an investigation.” He was truly a great man. Martin Couney died on March 1, 1950. As a side note, Coney Island, in New York City was named after this amazing man.
When we think of “ghost towns,” we think of abandoned mining camps, towns that were passed by when railroads or highways went through, and these days, New York City. There are many ways for a town or even a city to die out…most of them are really sad. Sometimes, a town just outlives its usefulness, as was the case during the gold rush. When the gold ran out, the miners moved on or went back east to their homes there. The little town that had provided the supplies, homes, entertainment, and necessary offices, like post office and land offices, is simply not needed anymore. I’m sure that the people of the town held out as long as it made sense, and then they picked up and moved on to some other place that needed things like a general store for supplies. The little town then sat there and slowly slipped into disrepair and decay. When we visit such towns, we see history unfolding before us, and we are usually excited to find such an amazing relic. We can’t wait to explore.
Sometimes, as in the case of New York City, a city is “shut down” to help those within it to recover from something, such as a pandemic. That doesn’t usually happen when a new virus goes through, but it did with Covid-19. Normally, only the sick people are quarantined, but in this case, the medical experts (and many people would say that I’m using that term loosely), decided to quarantine the well people in the hope of stopping the spread of Covid-19. I can’t say whether that has been a good or a bad thing, but I tend to think it was a bad thing. When a city like New York City, suddenly is completely empty, businesses are shut down, jobs lost, and it didn’t seem to help. Months later, the city is still, for the most part, shut down, and businesses are considering a move to another location, just like the ghost towns of the old west when the mines dried up. The shut down of our cities is a slippery slope, and one that I think needs to be avoided, at all costs. Still, man will tell you that I’m not an expert, and they would be right. I am just a person who sees that our country cannot continue with this shut down much longer. Something has to change…something!!
While we like to visit ghost towns, we often don’t realize the hardship and heartache that went into turning these places into ghost towns. Just like we have seen in the cities across America, the business shutting down means the loss of a livelihood for millions of people. Depression sets in, and eventually everyone is angry about their rights being stepped on…and it’s not just one group, it’s many. Then, the sad thing is that there emerges a group of people who are…left out. The ones who don’t fit into any of the protesting groups…they are the quiet majority…the ones who usually just go quietly about their daily lives, without hurting anyone. Sadly these are the overlooked ones, and usually the last ones to leave the ghost town, because they are the ones who try to hope for the future. These days, that is much of America. We are just hanging out, waiting for things to get better, so we can get back to normal. Here’s to normal.
Some historic events seem to continue to intrigue us, many years after the event took place. The RMS Titanic was one of those events. The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912…as we all know, considering the movies that have been made detailing and even romanticizing the tragedy. Of course, the way that so many people lost their lives that night is something that many people have wondered about all these years. Musicians who played well into the disaster, in an effort to keep people calm, the many men who died because they did the honorable thing and allowed the women and children to be saved first, and the women who would not leave without their husbands…all of these gave us a glimpse of a time when people did the right thing no matter the cost. There are precious few of those kinds of people around these days.
With all the interest concerning the Titanic, an idea occurred to someone, that maybe there should be a duplicate Titanic…a way to return her to her former glory, even if it is only a duplicate. The new ship is supposed to be an identical copy of the infamous ocean liner, which sank in 1912 following a collision with an iceberg. However, to avoid a repeat disaster, Titanic II will be outfitted with plenty of life boats, and will have a welded, not riveted hull, plus modern navigation and radar equipment.
The project initiated by Australian businessman and politician Clive Palmer, has not always been smooth sailing, however. The project was announced in April 2012, which was 100 years after the original Titanic sank. The plan was that Titanic II would be the flagship of the proposed cruise company Blue Star Line of Brisbane, Australia. At that time, they intended to launch the Titanic II in 2016. The project was delayed until 2018, and then to an expected 2022 date, but with the 2020 Coronavirus worldwide shutdown, I wonder if that date will also have to be moved back.
“The ship will follow the original journey, carrying passengers from Southampton to New York, but she will also circumnavigate the globe, inspiring and enchanting people while attracting unrivaled attention, intrigue and mystery in every port she visits,” said Palmer in a statement. The planned maiden voyage will take passengers from Dubai to New York, however, reports CruiseArabia, with the first sailing scheduled to take place in 2022. It’s possible for this maiden voyage to happen, but it will take a few less problems going forward.
Alice Ivers Tubbs was born in Devonshire, England on February 17, 1851. She was the daughter of a conservative schoolmaster. While Alice was still a small girl, she moved with her family to the United States. The family first settled in Virginia, where Alice attended an elite boarding school for women. When she was a teenager, the family moved with the silver rush to Leadville, Colorado. As a young girl, Alice was raised to be a well-bred young lady, so few people would ever expect her to be known as “Poker Alice.” Nevertheless, marriage can change a person. While living in Leadville, Alice met a mining engineer named Frank Duffield, whom she married when she was just 20 years old. In the mining camps, gambling’s was quite common, and Frank was an enthusiastic player. He enjoyed visiting the gambling halls in Leadville and Alice naturally went along with him, rather than staying home alone. Alice stood quietly and watch her husband play…at first, but Alice was smart, and she picked up the game of poker easily. Soon she was sitting in on the games, and she was winning. Alice’s marriage to Frank Duffield was short-lived. Duffield, who worked in the mines as part of his job, was killed in an explosion. Needing to make a living, Alice, who was well educated, could have taught school, but even with 35,000 residents in Leadville, there was no school. There were also few jobs available for women, and those there were, did not appeal to Alice, so she decided to make a living gambling. Though Alice preferred the game of poker, she also learned to deal and play Faro. Very soon, she was in high demand…as a player and a dealer. Alice was a petite 5 foot 4 inch beauty, with blue eyes and thick brown hair. She was very rare in that she was a “lady” in a gambling hall…and not of the “soiled dove” variety. And Alice loved the latest fashions, she was a sight for the sore eyes of many a miner. Every time Alice had a big win, she began to take trips to New York City to buy the latest fashions.
Due to her traveling from one mining camp to another to play poker, Alice soon acquired the nickname “Poker Alice.” In addition to playing the game, she often worked as a dealer, in cities all over Colorado including Alamosa, Central City, Georgetown, and Trinidad. Later on, Alice began to puff on large black cigars, still wearing her fashionable frilly dresses. She, nevertheless, never gambled on Sundays because of her religious beliefs. Alice carried a .38 revolver and wasn’t afraid to use it. It was rather a necessity, due to her lifestyle. Alice soon left Colorado and made her way to Silver City, New Mexico, where she broke the bank at the Gold Dust Gambling House, winning some $6,000. The win was followed by a trip to New York City, to replenish her wardrobe of fashionable clothing. Afterward, she returned to Creede, Colorado. She went to work as a dealer in Bob Ford’s saloon…the man who had earlier killed Jesse James. Alice later moved to Deadwood, South Dakota around 1890. In Deadwood, she met a man named Warren G. Tubbs, who worked as a housepainter in Sturgis, but sidelined as a dealer and gambler. Alice usually beat Tubbs at poker, but that didn’t bother him. He was taken with her and they began to see each other socially. Once a drunken miner threatened Tubbs with a knife, Alice pulled out her .38 and put a bullet into the miner’s arm. I’m sure that man thought the threat was Tubbs, but the man should have watched Alice in stead. Later, the couple married and had seven children…four sons and three daughters. Because Tubbs was a painter by trade, he, along with Alice’s gambling profits, supported the family. The family moved out of Deadwood, to homesteaded a ranch near Sturgis on the Moreau River. Finally, Alice found something she loved more than gambling…for the most part. She helped with the ranch and raised her children. Then, fate would again deal Alice a bad hand. Tubbs was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Alice refused to leave his side. She planned to nurse him back to health. Tubbs lost his fight, and died of pneumonia in the winter of 1910. Alice was determined to give him a proper burial, so she loaded him into a horse-drawn wagon to take his body to Sturgis. It is thought that she had to pawn her wedding ring to pay for the funeral and afterward, went to a gambling parlor to earn the money to get her ring back.
For Alice, the time spent on the ranch were some of the happiest days of her life and that during those years, she didn’t miss the saloons and gambling halls. Alice liked the peace and quiet of the ranch. Still, she had to make a living, so after Tubbs’ death, she hired a man named George Huckert to take care of the homestead, and she moved to Sturgis to earn her way. Huckert quickly fell in love with Alice and proposed marriage to her several times. Alice didn’t really love him, but finally married him, saying flippantly, “I owed him so much in back wages; I figured it would be cheaper to marry him than pay him off. So I did.” Once again, the marriage would be short. Alice was widowed once again when Huckert died in 1913.
During the Prohibition years, Alice opened a saloon called “Poker’s Palace” between Sturgis and Fort Meade that provided not only gambling and liquor, but also “women” who serviced the customers. One night, a drunken soldier began a fight in the saloon. He was destroying the furniture, and causing a ruckus. Alice pulled her .38 and shot the man. While in jail awaiting trial, she calmly smoked cigars and read the Bible. She was acquitted on grounds of self-defense, but her saloon had been shut down. Now, in her 70s and with her beauty and fashionable gowns long gone, Alice struggled in her last years. She continued to gamble, but these days, she dressed in men’s clothing. Once in a while, she was featured at events like the Diamond Jubilee, in Omaha, Nebraska, as a true frontier character, where she was known to have said, “At my age, I suppose I should be knitting. But I would rather play poker with five or six ‘experts’ than eat.” She continued to run a “house” of ill-repute in Sturgis during her later years and was often arrested for drunkenness and keeping a disorderly house. Though she paid her fines, she continued to operate the business until she was finally arrested for repeated convictions of running a brothel and sentenced to prison. The governor took pity on Alice, who was then 75 years old, and pardoned her. At the age of 79, Alice underwent a gall bladder operation in Rapid City. Unfortunately, she died of complications on February 27, 1930. She was buried at Saint Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota. In her lifetime, Alice claimed to have “won more than $250,000 at the gaming tables and never once cheated.” In fact, one of her favorite sayings was, “Praise the Lord and place your bets. I’ll take your money with no regrets.”
I recently read a book about the orphan trains, which ran between 1854 and 1929. During that time, approximately 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children ride the train throughout the United States and Canada, to be placed with families who were looking for a child, or just as often, a worker for their farm. The orphan train movement was necessary, because at the time, it was estimated that 30,000 abandoned children were living in the streets in New York City. I had heard of the orphan trains, mostly from the movie called “Orphan Train,” but much of what really happened with those children was very new to me, and quite shocking.
Today, while my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I were in the Black Hills, we rode the 1880 Train, as we almost always do when we are here. When they mentioned that the train had been used in the movie “Orphan Train,” a fact that I had heard many times before, the stories from the book I had read came back to mind. My mind instantly meshed to train, the book, and the movie into one event.
The children who traveled on the orphan trains were victims of circumstance, and they had no control over their lives at all. Each one hoped that their new family would be nice. The older ones didn’t have high hopes. The older boys pretty much knew that they would be farm hands. And most of them were right many were made to sleep in the barn, because they were thought to be thieves. If they were thieves, it was because they had to steal to survive. They did whatever it took to survive.
As Bob and I rode the train today, in the eye of my imagination, I could picture what it must have been like to be one of those orphans. The were sitting there watching that big steam engine take them to someplace they didn’t know, and probably didn’t want to go. They didn’t have high hopes for a great future, but then again, the past wasn’t that great either. They were forced to make the best of a bad situation, and the people who were in charge didn’t really care what happened to them. They were just doing their jobs. I have ridden the 1880 Train many times before, but today, it felt a little bit different, somehow. I knew that I wasn’t an orphan riding that train, but I certainly felt empathy for the children who were.