Gratitude Train, Box 90, 1949


When we discussed the “Friendship Train” images from 1947, we briefly mentioned the French “Merci Train” response.

In Box 90, I found a few negatives of the Merci or Gratitude Train visiting Stockton in 1949. The 49 boxcars, one for each state arrived in Virginia on Feb 3, 1949, and left for the ride to other states on Feb 8, 1949. So these images are from February or latest March 1949.

This is one of the French boxcars of the French Merci Train sent to the United States. in 1949 as a “thank you” token to the American people for the Friendship ship of food and clothing sent to France in 1948.

The 40/8 boxcar was filled with many articles of handcraft and heirlooms from the French people. This is the kind of French boxcar that transported our men, horses and equipment in France during World War I, and appropriately marked “40 men or 8 horses.” 

The car allocated to California, and given to the 40/8 Societe by Governor Earl Warren, was placed in Fresno as a war memorial.

As usual, these events come with local appearances and speeches of notables. I was unable to locate anything of significance with respect to the Stockton train station arrival. I’ll leave that up to the historians.

French representative addressing the crowd, 1949, Stockton train station
Veteran addressing the attendees, 1949, Stockton Train Station
Veterans and representatives at the Merci Train ceremony, 1949, Stockton Train Station.
Behind the scenes photograph, 1949, Stockton Train Station.

The above image illustrates how I often felt as a kid attending grown up stuff. Joel had an eye for these moments.

The “eternal flame”, solemn moment for the WWII casualties, carried from France to the United States may have been the focus, but all our eye really rests on is the child.

Few other images in this box are unrelated to this event.

Stockton street, Flood of Nov/Dec 1950

The above image is another one of the 1950 November/December flood in Stockton. This flood was not as bad as the 1955 flood, but it was a reminder that something needed to be done to prevent this in the future. It would take a devastating flood in 1955, to take action.

We’ve seen Joel’s mother Clara Pahl many times in images, and she’s present in this box also.

Clara Pahl, Joel’s mother, 1949
Clara Pahl, Joel’s mother, 1949

The rest of the images in this box are all basketball related. So you know what to look forward to next blogpost.

Restored Gratitude Train Boxcar in Fresno, image: Todd Schannuth, Dec 2013

There’s a 2018 link below to a good 3 minute video on the California boxcar in Fresno restoration process with historical background images from 1949.

https://www.fresnobee.com/latest-news/article220161880.html

Link to my Friendship Train blog episode below.

Cheers !


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