By Jennifer Pollard
A wise woman told me once, she wouldn’t feel comfortable living in a town that didn’t have a train going through it. Now that I live in a town with a train, I know exactly what she meant. There is something about looking down the long length of track and imagining all the possible adventures that could be in store. Or thinking of the many people who have journeyed right over those very same tracks. While speaking to a local elder, he shared a memory of a whistle stop tour that had come right through Southern Pines. He was 10 at the time, and it seemed like just yesterday he went with his family to the Southern Pines train station to see Franklin Delano Roosevelt deliver a speech. Oct. 25, 1932, left an indelible memory in this man’s life. An exciting day when a train brought a presidential hopeful to town that would become our nation’s only four-term president.
Trains are not only a means of moving freight, they are an exciting way to travel great distances, enjoy a meal and sit back and let someone else do all the driving. I cannot think of a train without humming along to “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” which was introduced by the Glen Miller Band in 1941 and quickly hit No. 1 for nine weeks. (Even though I didn’t grow up anywhere near a train track, I was raised by a father that loved 1940s music more than anything else. In our family, you were as likely to know all the words to “Chattanooga Choo Choo” as you would the catechism at Catholic school.) That song made train travel seem glamorous. And after all, “nothing could be finer than to have your ham and eggs in Carolina.” It’s no wonder I left Florida to claim a North Carolina town with a train that ran through it.
‘Pardon me boy. Is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo? Track 29. Boy can you give me a shine? I can afford to board the Chattanooga Choo Choo. I’ve got my fare and just a trifle to spare. You leave the Pennsylvania station ’bout a quarter to four. Read a magazine and then you’re in Baltimore. Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer, than to have your ham and eggs in Carolina. When you hear the whistle blowing eight to the bar. Then you know that Tennessee is not very far. Shovel all the coal in. Gotta keep it rolling. Woo woo Chattanooga, there you are. There’s going to be a certain party at the station. Satin and lace. You used to call funny face. She’s gonna cry, until I tell her that I’ll never roam. So Chattanooga Choo Choo, won’t you choo choo me home? Get aboard….All aboard……”
What memories or songs come to mind when you think of trains? Did you ever see a presidential whistle stop tour? I hope you share your memories with me.
Jennifer Pollard, MSW, is a geriatric care manager with AOS Care Manager who has a passionate musical connection she shares with her clients. Her career has taught her the powerful role music has in preserving and unlocking our memories. “Better living through lyrics” has become her motto.