Orphan Train Rider

Orphan Train Rider
Oliver Nordmark - Age 15 - Esbon KS

Saturday, November 20, 2010

EXCELLENT Video Clip of NY Foundling Home's BABY TRAINS to LA

There is an excellent TV clip about the BABY TRAINS from the NY Foundling home that has recently been added to You Tube. It is a totally accurate, very well done, portrayal. Unfortunately, the address cannot be copy/pasted for whatever reason, but if you are interested in viewing it, go to www.youtube.com and type in Orphan Train Rider Story, and it will be the first choice. It is from the Lousiana Orphan Train Riders Association. ENJOY!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


On Saturday September 25, 2010 I traveled to the BALTIMORE BOOK FESTIVAL in the Mt. Vernon section of Baltimore for an all day event. The weather was PERFECT - warm and sunny -and the Festival was very well attended. I spent the day sharing the history of the orphan trains with many interesting people from all walks of life! Pictured with me here is a young man named Logan and his mom who purchased all three books. SMILE LOGAN!!!

I had the pleasure of meeting some other children's authors and enjoyed spending "down time" talking with them and learning of their journeys to book publication. Anita Reese sat to my right. http://www.anitareese.tatepublishing.net/ Anita has written two books that incorporate the use of sign language in the reading process. I purchased her book, "Learn to Read with Sign Language - Basic Sight Words" for my niece Sara Anne who is an emerging reader. On my left was author K. Michael Crawford http://www.happilyeverart.com/ who is the award winning author of a very unique series of books which combine reading with drawing. She also spent the day encouraging over 500 festival attendees to contribute to one piece of art work in an effort to break the Guinness Book of World Records and by the end of the day, the record was broken!!! Michael, I found out, will also be traveling to Waynesboro VA the weekend of October 16th for the "Book 'Em" event so we will have the opportunity to spend the day together then as well. Check out both of these author's websites for some GREAT CHILDREN'S BOOKS!

By the end of the day I was exhausted but happy with the event, having sold lots of books and made some very good contacts for future speaking engagements. A huge THANK YOU to my friend Stephanie Paloni Chupein who lives in the Fells Point section of Baltimore and graciously put me up for two nights so that I could be nearby for the event. Thank you for your friendship Stephanie, and for your "Bed & Breakfast" type hospitality!

Next up...... WAYNESBORO VIRGINIA'S "BOOK 'EM" EVENT - Buy a Book, Stop a Crook!" http://www.bookemfoundation.org/Waynesboro/index.html. This is a fundraising book event dedicated to increasing literacy rates and by extension, decreasing crime rates. Sponsored by the Central Shenandoah Crime Stoppers and Hosted by the Waynesboro Police Department, this worthwhile event is in its 7th year! Also attending will be my friend and author Melissa Foster http://www.megansway.com/ author of "Megan's Way". If you're anywhere near the Waynesboro area on the 16th, stop by and say hello!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


On September 11, 2010 the NATIONAL ORPHAN TRAIN COMPLEX hosted the annual National Orphan Train Reunion at the museum in Concordia Kansas where visitors were treated to an entirely new museum layout designed by curator Muriel Anderson. Among the many new exhibits and informative displays was this two cube exhibit highlighting the early life of Orphan Train Rider Oliver Nordmark (my grandfather). Each cube included two audio recordings that visitors could listen to through the headphones attached to the side of the display cases.
The first recording, and corresponding visuals, told of Oliver's experiences in the Children's Village Orphange in NYC after being removed from his home due to neglect. This included the story of his first night in the orphanage when he cried himself to sleep, fearful of what lay ahead for him, as well as his experience of being sent to the Power House Jail in the Orphanage after being caught breaking a uniform rule by wearing two uniform shirts instead of one on a particularly cold winter morning.
Oliver's second recording told of his feelings and experience of being chosen to ride an Orphan Train after being in the orphanage for one year. He and his younger brother Edward traveled to Bern Kansas where they were placed with a local farmer and his wife.
On the second cube, visitors listened to Oliver's tale of running away from his second placement - the McCammon's Farm - by jumping onto the side of a departing freight train as it pulled out of Esbon, Kansas on July 4, 1913. In search of a life of his own, Oliver traveled on the side of the train for nearly 200 miles to Goodland Kansas where he found work with a local farmer bringing in the wheat harvest.
In the final recording, Oliver tells the museum visitors of his experiences building and living in a sod house on the prairie outside of Goodland Kansas, complete with rats nibbling on his toes at night and rain dripping through the roof of the house for several days after a storm.
In an email I received from Muriel Anderson, she commented, "I've had a really great reception of the new exhibit. People really like to hear the voice of an actual rider."
This year's reunion featured, in addition to the new museum layout and exhibits, a tribute to MARY ELLEN JOHNSON - founder of the Orphan Train Historical Society of America (OTHSA).
For more information on the National Orphan Train Complex and upcoming State Reunions, be sure and visit their website at http://www.orphantraintdepot.com/

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Wow, has it really been a month since I posted on my blog???? I really must do better, but I do have an explanation, I'm happy to say.

First off, please click on the link above to view Maya Berman's AWARD WINNING documentary on the ORPHAN TRAIN MOVEMENT. She did a fantastic job I'm sure you will agree. I am amazed that she is just eleven years old!

Secondly, I am feverishly at work putting together a museum exhibit for the NATIONAL ORPHAN TRAIN COMPLEX in Concordia, Kansas which will feature Oliver Nordmark's audio recordings in four segments: Life in the Children's Village Orphanage in NYC.... Riding the Orphan Train and being chosen from the Opera House stage in Bern, Kansas.... Oliver's decision at age 15 to hop a freight train as it pulled out of town to run away and start a life of his own.... and finally, Life in a Sodhouse on the Kansas prairie.

The museum would like to include this exhibit in time for the yearly National Orphan Train Reunion Celebration which will be held in Concordia the weekend of September 11th. The work is coming along..... I have the audio segments isolated and transferred to separate CDs ..... and I am now working on the documents and artifacts that will complement each segment within the museum display case.

I have also been working on upgrading my display materials for regional Book Festivals in order to attract interested readers to my booth when I attend these events. I have three lined up for the fall, most importantly the Baltimore Book Festival which will be the last weekend in September. I have a brand new, colorful banner that I hope will attract readers attention and am working on some high quality posters as well.
And finally, I have been preparing for my presentation this Thursday at the Shannondell Retirement Community in Valley Forge, PA as well as corresponding with a teacher from the Tidewater area of Virginia who is interested in finding sponsorship for a regional Author Visit to include schools and community organizations - much like my trip to Kansas this past April.
Add to all of that the joys of summer.... vacation getaways, kid's activities, never ending yardwark, home improvement projects ..... well, you get the picture! I promise to do better going forward with more timely posts :)
So......THAT'S MY STORY AND I'M STICKIN' TO IT! As the song goes :)

Monday, July 5, 2010


Recently, out of the blue, I received a phone call from a grandmother in Bethesda Maryland, Thalia Funt, who is a native of central Kansas and had read about my book tour visit to Solomon Elementary School in the Solomon Valley Tribune.

Mrs. Funt’s granddaughter, Maya Berman, is an eleven-year-old who is homeschooled, along with her younger sister Shayna. Maya was a participant in this year’s National History Day Competition in Montgomery County Maryland. Her ten minute documentary on the Orphan Train Movement of 1854-1929 won FIRST PLACE in the Jr. Documentary Category. The documentary, which Mrs. Funt sent me a copy of, is extremely well done and accurate – I was quite impressed! No wonder it took FIRST PLACE!

Maya wrote to me and shared that her own great grandmother had possibly ridden an orphan train in the late 1800’s. Born in 1883, the only known information is that she was an orphan, living with an adoptive family in Kansas. Research revealed that there were no orphanages in Kansas at that time so it is very possible that she arrived in Kansas on an Orphan Train; perhaps sent by the Sisters of Charity or the Children’s Aid Society.

Many thanks to Maya, and to her grandmother Thalia, for sharing - not only Maya’s award winning documentary - but also a little of their own family history. It is through the preservation of individual stories that the history of the Orphan Train Movement will survive!

Saturday, June 26, 2010


After a successful two week book tour to Kansas and taking time to honor the memory of my Uncle Jim, it’s time to get back to the original intent of this Orphan Train History Blog.

I am so appreciative of your patience, blog followers, but I am now Back On Track and ready to pick up the story where I left off……way back on March 6th believe it or not!!!


Sister Mary Irene Fitzgibbon of the Sisters of Charity opened the New York Foundling Hospital on October 11, 1869 which was, appropriately, the Feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The sisters had intended to take three months to get the hospital ready to shelter the many abandoned infants that previously had been left on church doorsteps, in ash barrels, on trash heaps and other out-of-the-way places. But on their first night in the building, located at 17 East 12th Street, an infant was left on the steps and the Foundling Hospital was officially OPEN. By January 1, 1870, the original date that the sisters had planned to open their doors, 123 babies were already in residence.

By 1876 the Founding home had relocated to larger quarters; first to 3 North Washington Square, and then, in 1873, to 175 East 68th Street. With an unprecedented number of infants and small children coming under their care, the sisters came to realize that additional solutions were necessary to provide homes for so many children.

Following in the steps of Reverend Brace and the Children’s Aid Society, the Sisters of Charity sent their first train west in 1876. The disbursement of the children through the NY Foundling trains, known as Baby Trains or Mercy Trains, was run differently than the Orphan Trains. Since theirs was a Catholic institution, the nuns were especially concerned that the babies be placed in Catholic homes and raised in the Catholic faith. Instead of sending notices to local newspapers, therefore, the sisters sent letters to the priests of the Catholic parishes in the towns along the railroad. These letters expressed the need for families in rural areas to open their homes to one of the many abandoned babies living in the Founding Home. Priests would read the letter to the congregation during Mass and interested families could then complete a form requesting exactly the type of child that they would like. If a family had three sons, for example, and wanted a daughter, they might ask for a “two year old girl with blonde curly hair and green eyes,” or whatever they thought would be a good fit in their family. The requests would then be sent back to the Foundling Home where the sisters would considerately look over each child (there were thousands at any given time) to carefully select a child that would be a perfect match for the waiting family.

Chosen children would then be “tagged”, that is to say, their name and the receiving family’s name would be sewn into the hem of their dress, and a notice would be sent to the family informing them of the date and time to expect the train’s arrival with their new child.

Once the child had been received, the family was required to complete a “Receipt of Child” form which acknowledged receipt of the orphan as well as promising the Sisters of Charity that the child would be raised in the Catholic faith, sent to school, and given all the advantages of a naturally born child.

Interestingly, many of the babies who rode the Baby Trains were actually adopted by the receiving families whereas many of the children who rode the Orphan Trains were not adopted but lived, rather, in a foster care arrangement until they became of age to go out on their own. Why would this be the case? Imagine you have completed your request form for a baby from the NY Foundling Home and your Parish priest has mailed it off to NY for the selection to take place. What do you suppose you would be doing on your farm between that time and the time the child arrived? Getting ready, of course. You would no doubt be sewing clothes, knitting blankets, having your husband build a crib or bed for the child…all sorts of things. You were probably already “bragging” about your new little daughter to neighbors, friends and fellow parishioners. By the time the child arrived on the train, you were surely all ready to welcome her into your home and your heart. She was already yours! Once in your home, you would naturally want to protect this new relationship with legal status since children could be removed by the sending agencies for any number of reasons.

Families taking children from the Children’s Aid Society Orphan Trains, however, were not anticipating and preparing for a specific child. They were, instead, more likely coming into town to see the New York orphans, consider the options, and perhaps bring a child home to help with the labors of farm life. They may have gone into town thinking that they would be bringing home a boy to help work the fields only to find that most of the children that day were girls. A fourteen-year-old girl to help with the housework might end up joining the family instead.

My friend, and fellow author, Renee Wendinger is the daughter of an orphan train rider. Sophia Kaminsky (pictured above at age 4) was relinquished to the NY Foundling Home at 5 ½ months of age and traveled on one of the Baby Trains in June of 1917 to Minnesota when she was just two years old. You can read more about Sophia as well as the orphan trains in Renee’s book, Extra! Extra! The Orphan Trains and Newsboys of New York which is available through her website at http://www.theorphantrain.com/.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In Memory of James B. Nordmark

Yesterday I received the sad news that my uncle, James Bruce Nordmark passed away on Memorial Day, May 31, 2010. Jim was born the fifth child of Oliver and Estella Nordmark on October 12, 1926. He, along with my father, was the driving force behind my third book, PEANUT BUTTER FOR CUPCAKES: A True Story From the Great Depression. He graciously took the time to sit down with a tape recorder and tell me all the stories of his childhood...the good, the bad, and the very funny!

Jim served his country as a young man of 16, having changed the date on his birth certificate so that he could sign up. Before his 17th birthday, he was on a ship headed to the Mediterranean Sea.

He married Muriel Jones with whom he celebrated 64 years of marriage. Together they raised four children, Steve, Debbie, Joann and Jimmy.

I have so many memories of Uncle Jim.... Vacationing at his home every summer, waterskiing and camping at Pardee's Beach in the Poconos, traveling to Colorado with his family and mine, working with him on my book.....he was without question, my favorite uncle. In fact, my son James is named for him.

Life is complicated, and time and circumstances can overshadow what truly matters. Jim's life began under difficult conditions and he weathered many hardships and challenges over the course of his 83 years. He would often remark, after telling a particularly hard story, "But... I got through that."
It was part of his outlook on life, I would say. Do what you have to do to get through the tough times. Relish the good times.
Jim Nordmark was a kind man who loved his family and spoke with pride of their accomplishments. I am blessed to have had him in my family and in my life. I think that I can speak for our entire family when I say that I will miss him, and always remember him with a smile. I love you Uncle Jim.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I recently had the pleasure of spending time with a delightful young lady, Camille Fontenelle, of Newark, Delaware who competed this year in Delaware’s NATIONAL HISTORY DAY and was chosen to represent Delaware at the National Competition in June. Her topic was The Orphan Train Movement and she graciously consented to an interview for my Blog.

1. Each year, the National History Day Project chooses a category which students must make sure their topics fit into. What was this year’s category and what lead you to choose the ORPHAN TRAIN MOVEMENT?

This year’s category was INNOVATION IN HISTORY – IMPACT AND CHANGE. I chose the Orphan Train Movement because I was trying to find something that was about people and what they did to impact and change history. I had read the book RODZINA by Karen Cushman and it was so interesting and in the back of the book she had all this information about the Orphan Trains. So I was thinking, “This could be Impact and Change!” Then I got the PBS movie about the Orphan Trains to see if this was going to fit and it did so I just totally went with it.

2. I’ve seen student projects that are informational three fold displays but you chose instead to do a Dramatic Presentation. Why was that?

Well, I had done it before and I liked acting. I could have done an exhibit but I really don’t like doing exhibits – I don’t consider myself a very artistic person when it comes to putting portfolios together, so I preferred to do something I knew I was good at, so I did a dramatic presentation.

3. What type of research was involved?

I started with the documentary, then I tried to see just what was the CHILDREN’S AID SOCIETY and I found their website and then I looked at the Historical Societies. Illinois has a whole list of orphan train stories and records and newspaper articles. I tried to see what was online and contacted people from there. I contacted the Historical Societies of NJ, NY, KS and NE and I also sent a letter to the National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia, KS and received information from that.

4. Tell me about your experiences competing so far this year in the National History Day Project.

We had two people from my school compete in the Dramatic Presentation category this year – me and my friend – so we assembled and we got ready and kind of hyperventilated a little and then cheered each other on and went for it to see what would happen.

5. So were students there from all over Delaware?

Yes, there were people from Wilmington Christian, Pike Creek, Newark High…quite a bit of schools were represented there.

6. And so now you go on to Nationals! Where will that be held?

Yes! That is scheduled for four days in June – the 13th-17th at the University of Maryland in College Park.

7. So you’ll be competing in the Dramatic Presentation category against students from around the country who also won in their states? How many students do you think you’ll be competing against?

Yes, there will probably be over 100 students since each state can send two students and students from Guam compete too.

8. Is there a chance that there might be other students doing the same topic – The Orphan Trains?

There might be but I doubt it since the Orphan Trains is kind of an obscure topic. Sometimes the more obscure topics don’t get as much recognition, probably because the judges don’t have as much information on the topic and it’s harder for them to judge you.

9. How much time do you have to give your presentation…is there a certain time allotment?

Yes, it can’t be more than 10 minutes!

That’s not much time, Camille, to get all the information and all the feelings and repercussions of the Orphan Train Movement across to the judges, but I love your approach and I can see that you’ve worked really hard to accomplish just that with your presentation. I wish you the BEST OF LUCK – 250,000 children (orphan train riders) will be rooting for you in June!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Last week I was excited to be contacted and interviewed by author Dianne K. Salerni (WE HEAR THE DEAD: Sourcebooks May 2010) for her blog IN HIGH SPIRITS. Since we had so much to talk about, she ended up spliting the interview into two parts; the first of which is posted here www.diannesalerni.blogspot.com. Be sure to read the comments too! This portion of the interview is all about my recent book tour to Kansas and independent publishing. Part two of the interview will be posted in about a week and will focus on my books and the Orphan Train Movement. Dianne is a fantastic writer & reviewer. I hope you'll take a peek and ENJOY!
Early next week I'll have a posting on the Orphan Train Movement and the National History Competition coming June 12th in Maryand!

Monday, May 3, 2010


In no particular order.....The Nazareth Convent in Concordia KS - built in 1913, home of the Sisters of St. Joseph..... Displays from the Orphan Train Museum (Sisters of Charity, Clothing display and baggage cart)......

Muriel Anderson, curator of the Orphan Train Museum, and myself....... Presentation at Southeast of Saline Elementary School in Gypsum, KS.......

Donna Brown, posing outside our first hotel in Columbus, OH..... The gas pump that was in the yard with the goats and washtubs in Warrenton, MO........

My host in Salina Kansas and the real star of the Book Tour, Sara Gault and her family (Gage, Carter, Ben and Molly).

Sunday, May 2, 2010

More Pictures!

More scenes from the book tour...The chickens in the back of the car in Warrenton, Missouri.....The Huckleberry Tea Room Luncheon in Concordia, KS.....Donna outside the Country Inn & Suites (home away from home!).....The Swedish Country Inn in Lindsborg, KS. Remember.... you can click on any picture to see it a bit larger.
More pictures tomorrow!

Home Sweet Home!

Well, here we are on Sunday, May 2nd and I have returned safely home! What an outstanding two week adventure. I have SO MANY people to thank for the success of this book tour - I hope I don't leave anyone out - if I do, raise your hand!

First and foremost, I MUST thank Sara Gault of Shilling Elementary School in Salina Kansas. Sara, nearly single handedly, orchestrated this entire trip leaving no stone unturned. She handled the scheduling of school and community visits, publicity, and the acquisition of funding from the Salina Arts and Humanities Commission. Once I arrived in Kansas, Sara made sure that I felt welcome right from the start, introducing me to other teachers and principals in the school district and including me in the daily 4:15 pm "coffee clutch" at the mall! Coffee at 4:15....I don't know Sara, this may be the reason you don't sleep much at night-lol! Sara also made sure I wouldn't get lost while going from school to school by generously driving me around every evening showing me how to get to the next day's schools. We enjoyed some wonderful meals with Tina, Jean, Kathy and Kathleen and a special night out with Sara's family Molly, Ben, Carter and Gage - adorable little boys with excellent restaurant manners :) SARA, you are an amazing woman and I am blessed to be able to call you my friend. I truly hope that when you travel EAST in May, you give me a call and if you are anywhere near me, I will come to see you!

I, of course, want to thank the Salina Arts & Humanities Commission for funding this book tour, with a special thank you to Sharon Benson who, although drowning in preparations for a huge festival coming to Salina in June, found time in her busy schedule to come to my first presentation to enjoy my talk as well as check to see that I had everything I needed....which of course I did. The accommodations were excellent - I couldn't have asked for a more comfortable place to call "home" for two weeks.

Tons of "Thank yous" to the hundreds of students and residents of Salina Kansas who welcomed me so enthusiastically to their schools and organizations! You made me feel so welcome and I so enjoyed speaking with and meeting you. Your questions were always so thoughtful and I am thrilled to have been able to reach so many of you with the story of the Orphan Train Riders. Remember your homework assignment????? Have you found ONE person yet who doesn't know about the orphan trains and taught them everything you learned?? Remember.....250,000 riders are counting on you! (no pressure there, right?)

Muriel Anderson of the Orphan Train Complex in Concordia Kansas did a wonderful job in organizing my book signing at the museum as well as the luncheon at the Huckleberry Tea Room. And I will never forget the kindness shown me by Virginia Alexander who I had met in Kansas back in 2006 and who traveled to the museum to see me again and catch up on everything that has happened in the last four years! You made my day, Virginia!

To two of the BEST FRIENDS a girl could ask for - Donna Brown and Karen Williams - you guys are so special to me! When I would tell people what you were willing to do for me (drive out to KS, then fly back......then fly out to KS and drive back) they always looked at me in amazement and commented along the lines of, "Wow, they are good friends!" I SO enjoyed my time with both of you - I haven't laughed so hard since.....I don't know when! I will be calling you both to set up a time when the three of us can get together and laugh all over again!

A big THANK YOU to my family, Bob, Carlo, James & Estella, who agreed to "let me go" for two weeks and keep things going here at home without me. I know it wasn't easy but I hope you know how much I appreciated it! Thank you MOM & DAD who, although you couldn't come to Kansas with me as originally planned, were with me in spirit - and on the phone - throughout the entire trip. I felt your love and support during every presentation and missed not having you there. And mom....I can't thank you enough for doing all the laundry here at home while I was gone - what a priceless gift!!

Thank you to those who cooked for my family in my absence - Mary, Donna and Mom - thanks to you, no one starved!

Last but certainly not least, I want to thank EVERYONE who followed along with this blog, as well as my Facebook postings, during my book tour. Your blog comments, facebook posts and welcome phone calls kept me company, and made me feel like I wasn't alone on this adventure!

Okay.......... Did I miss anyone? Raise your hand....or post a comment to let me know!

I am posting some pictures that didn't make it onto the daily blog posts - some here on today's post, and the rest tomorrow. Then I'll be taking a few days off from blogging to get things back in order here at home before resuming my posts on the orphan train movement and individual rider stories. I hope you'll continue to follow along :)

Until next time.........

Saturday, May 1, 2010

DAY #17 - Some Things Never Change!

On our second full day together, Karen and I are rediscovering some old traits of our youth. For those who don't know...Karen and I were best friends in high school. After school we lost contact with one another and only recently (2 years ago) reconnected after 32 years! We were amazed and pleased to find that we quickly stepped right back into our friendship without skipping a beat...although we had a lot of catching up to do!
Well, Karen is now remembering just how stubborn I can be...."We don't have to stop for gas yet - even though it's totally on "E" - we'll be fine. That gas is a mile off the highway, we don't want to go that far off track, and besides it might be cheaper at the next place." (Karen meanwhile is thinking.....She does NOT want to deal with me if we run out of gas!)
I, on the other hand, am remembering....through example....that Karen can be a bit like Mary Poppins. What does that mean, you might ask? We love Mary Poppins..she's magical and she solves all the problems in the house right? Well....yes that's true. But, she also did that, "Spit, Spot, Come now Jane and Michael, hurry along!" thing.
Karen is up at the crack of dawn and the MINUTE her feet hit the floor she is in motion. Crazy me, what was I thinking that we would get up when we woke up and get a shower and enjoy our coffee while doing a little web surfing while we planned out the day's travel. OH NO! "I'll just take your bags down to the car," she said. Meanwhile I'm thinking.... I'm not done with that, what's the hurry. Then she says, "I'll go and get you coffee and bring it up while you get a quick shower....you don't need to wash your hair do you? Before I was out of my "quick" shower, Karen had returned, left coffee on the table, filled the cooler with fresh ice, restocked the food from the fridge, and carried most everything to the car. "I'll just wait for you down in the dining room -I'll have bagel - no rush." In other words, "Spit Spot Donna!"
Well, I did the best I could...resigned myself to a "bad hair day" and hustled down to the dining room, where Karen announced to everyone in the room..."okay, I'm ready!" So....I grabbed a yogurt and a spoon and spit spotted my way to the car so as not to upset "Mary"!
Just so you know...I am not a total pushover. Tomorrow morning...Mary Poppins is loosing her umbrella (I won't say where I'm putting it, but you can just imagine) and I will be calling the shots....even if it means resetting the clocks to make her think it's 4 am instead of 6! Even MARY doesn't get up that early! And frankly, after looking at this picture of my road weary car....maybe I'll send her out to the car wash here in Wheeling WV tomorrow morning to keep her busy while I take a little more "morning time." Spit Spot, Karen!!
P.S. For those who were anxiously awaiting our new country song lyrics.....we gave it our best shot, but what we ended up with was just not suitable for publication here on the blog....know what we mean Debby????

Friday, April 30, 2010

DAY #16 - Karen & Karla - back together again!

Who's Karla you might ask? I thought this was Donna's Blog??? Well, yes, but you see Karen flew into Wichita today at 4 pm and the first thing we did as we kicked up the last of the Kansas dust was revert back to our youth (oh wait, we're still young-lol!) and put Karla Bonoff on the CD player. Of course, the last time we heard from Karla......she was on an album and an 8 track! But, we still know all the words and remember the teen angst that accompanied our hair brush in the mirror performances! Oh, Karla we have missed you! How we wish we could have stayed in Salina, KS where she will be performing on May 3rd, but alas...we will have to put that off for another day - or another cross country trip. Okay, maybe not.

We left the airport and headed straight for the KS turnpike EAST enjoying the view of grazing cattle.... and more grazing cattle....and a few more. That might be enough grazing cattle for a few months :) Then we entered the great state of Missouri. Taking a page from my previous follower's comment, we tried really hard to find something resembling...oh I don't know.....home? So......we veered into a Pizza Hut! Now that should do it. Pizza Huts are EVERYWHERE, right?? Yes, but they're special in Missouri. Enough Said. What happens on the road home to Delaware....sometimes has to stay on the road. (Hint: Do you have club soda? With lemon? Oh, we only have lemon "packets". oooh. no thanks. Karen, just have a beer. Oh, okay...what kind of beer do you have? "I don't know, I don't drink beer.")

After driving for 200 miles, Karen sighed as we passed yet another 18 wheeler.... "I could never be a truck driver." To which Donna immediately and without thinking (becoming a bad habit) replied, "I could be a truck driver's wife!" So....tomorrow we will be working hard on lyrics to our new country song, "I could never be a trucker but I'll be a trucker's wife" - to the tune of Miranda Lambert's "Gotta Get a Gun." Be sure to check back, you won't want to miss that!

10:30 pm and we're in Columbia MO enjoying a few Jack Rose's (that's a mixed drink - get your mind out of the gutter) and relaxing before we start all over again in the morning.

See you then!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

DAY #14 - All good things must come to an end...

Today I had my last 2 school presentations here in Kansas. It's been a really exciting time and there have been so many wonderful people to meet and share the stories of the orphan trains with. I'm a little sad to see it come to an end.... I'll have great pictures and new friends to reminisce with, and the satisfying knowledge that through my efforts....as well as the work of so many other people....just maybe the history of America's Orphan Train Riders will not be lost to future generations. Did you know that it is estimated that one out of every 25 Americans is somehow connected to an orphan train rider? With the last train running in 1929, the youngest surviving rider is now 81 so of the 250,000+ children who rode the trains over a period of 75 years, there are fewer than 200 left to tell the tale. Maybe you'll tell one person.......

Today's schools and kids were just what I needed to end this adventure on a HIGH NOTE! These pictures are from Solomon Elementary School about 15 miles east of Salina. The little boy pictured with me at the table is Cameron - he is the grandson of Jean (one of the teachers who has worked so hard to make this trip a reality). What a nice young man! The group shot is with Mrs. Kirby's 4th grade students and the picture of me talking to the little girl is during my demonstration of choosing a child from the orphan train. I'm asking her if she knows how to clean chicken coops and collect eggs. "Oh yes," she answered me. Of course if she were from an orphanage in NYC she wouldn't know much about farm life, if anything, but orphan train children were in search of homes and families so they were apt to say anything in order to be chosen!

After a book signing and pictures, I continued on to St. Mary's Grade School back in Salina where I talked with 4th, 5th and 6th graders. Lots of great kids, questions and participation! My funniest comment came from John, a boy who, when I showed the slide of a sodhouse on the prairie, raised his hand to identify it as "a mobile home?" Hmmm... maybe one covered in mud John??

Many, many thanks to all the schools, students, teachers and community members who have made this book tour an absolute success! I am so appreciative and I know that when I remember my time here in central Kansas it will be with a happy heart and a smile on my face!

A day of preparation tomorrow for the journey home.......

DAY #14 - Vacation? Ya think?

I'll be blogging in 2 parts again today - for right now I just wanted to post this crazy picture that I took driving down interstate 70 at 75 MPH in 50 mph winds......READY?

This guy passed me so he must have been doing at least 80 mph. There was no tailgate on the truck....the suitcases and cooler rested precariously on top of a shelf just behind the cab, there were other items under the suitcases(the really important stuff no doubt!) and best of all.....two large dogs were crouched down trying to stay ON THE TRUCK and out of the wind!

Hey, I guess everyone needs a vacation once in awhile....no matter what it takes! All I could think of was the country song.... God is great, Beer is good......and People are crazy!

I'll be back with news from Solomon Elementary :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

LUCKY #13!

Here I am on the 13th day of my book tour to Kansas and I can honestly say that nothing has gone wrong the entire trip! Well, nothing seriously wrong. And believe me, if something had...I would write about it. Those of you who know me well, know that it's the truth. I am not a fan of people who put on happy faces and act like nothing ever goes wrong in their world....give me a break. If that's the case, you're not living very far outside your four walls-lol!

Today was in fact one of the best days so far. I spoke at two schools - each about a 20 minute drive away. Both presentations were given before large crowds (upwards of 100 students) and there were lots of great questions which makes me know that they were paying attention and thinking about what I was saying. Things like.... "What if the baby died on the train from NYC to Kansas? Would they bury it along the track or bring it to you and let you bury it?" Huh?? And this one... "I think if the train got to the end of the line and there was a kid left, then they should just leave that kid because he musta not been trying hard enough to get picked by a farmer. Maybe he was lazy and didn't want to work." Okay.... And the last one that comes to mind, and probably my favorite comment of the day.... "Why did you end Fly Little Bird, Fly! the way your did? It made me want to keep reading and I don't like to read." What?? Well you see it was actually a conspiracy, have you ever heard that word? I wanted to control your mind and make you do something you hated..... wait till you read my next book - it might cause you to want to clean your room or some other equally horrid thing!

I'm posting a picture from my first talk - I'm cringing because I look....I don't know...I can't tell what I'm doing, it's pretty bad. But, I wanted to show you how cool the PowerPoint looked on this wall sized screen. This school also had a great sound system so the tape recordings I usually play on my CD player were played instead through the sound system - what a difference.

My second talk of the day was in Lindsborg, Kansas at Soderstrom Elementary School. I'm posting some pictures of the town since it was very unique for this area of the country. I'm going to go back on Friday morning on my way to the airport to pick up my friend Karen (who has very generously offered to drive home with me even though her life has been thrown into general chaos....you know how thankful I am for your friendship, Karen. I hope to be able to repay you some day!)
Lindsborg has a main street that is laid in brick and very wide with lots of neat little shops, and wide tree lined residential streets with cute little picture perfect houses. I can't wait to get out and walk around, especially since Friday is forecast to be in the 80's here in central Kansas.

This has been an awesome trip but I'm beginning to hear my real life calling in the background.....Estella hit a car in the parking lot, it happened to be a brand new Lexus and the bill is $1800.... Christian (James' job coach) can't seem to get his GPS to work in the car's lighter and seems to think he can't get around town without it so that car needs to go into the shop... Bob's still working two jobs and trying to keep everything else going too and is starting to mention how, "I need a wife".... and the dog (Ginger) will soon be looking for a new home through the SPCA if I don't get back soon to take care of her....so, the party's almost over.

Let's hope my luck can hold out for just a few days more!!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

DAY #12 - The National Orphan Train Complex

WELCOME BACK! I took a true day of rest yesterday and didn't even blog. The hotel pool and spa were very relaxing - 20 laps and 20 minutes - then back to the room to get organized for the new week, visit with some friends on facebook, call home to check if everyone is surviving ("barely, but don't worry mom!") and watch a bit of TV after an early dinner.
Today I headed back to Concordia, 50 miles north of here, to tour the National Orphan Train Complex, take a video to show my Dad and Mom when I get home, buy some souvenirs, and sell another 20 books. I had a great discussion with the new curator, Muriel Anderson, about the future of the museum (she plans to re-do the entire interior) and we talked about a permanent display that would document Oliver and Edward's journey from the Children's Village Orphanage in Dobbs Ferry (Long Island, NY) to Bern, Kansas. The display would incorporate two excerpts of Oliver's oral history (wasn't my Dad brilliant to sit his father down and record his story?!) One side of the display case would include artifacts, documents and audio from Oliver's life in NYC and the orphanage. The other side would highlight his ride on the train and his years in Kansas. There would also be a brief bio of his life as an adult. So.....I have a new project when I get home. It will be up to me to decide what to include on each of the two audio clips and I'll need to go through our records to make sure Muriel has all the documentation that she needs, and if not, get it to her. I also need to get up to the NY Historical Society sometime in May so that I can review Oliver and Edward's records from the Children's Aid Society to see if there's any additional info there that the previous archivist left out when he sent me papers from Oliver's file records.

"A lot to do, a lot to do, a lot a lot a lot to do!" What's that from? Quiz question for the day-lol! Joany, I'm sure you'll know!

So......after my visit to the museum, I drove around town to see the sights then visited Concordia Elementary School for a 1:30 presentation and book signing to the fourth graders. The one hour drive back along Interstate 135 was very peaceful and relaxing. There is nothing to see but gently rolling hills etched with grazing cattle, a few windmills, and open sky that goes on forever. Some people would find that excruciatingly boring....but I love it! Good thing I'm here alone :)

Two schools tomorrow - one of which is in Lindsborg, a town settled by the Swedes. They're both south of Salina so it will be a pretty long day - see you then!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

PART 2 - Cowboys, Windmills & Tea Parties: SNAPSHOTS From the DAY!

What a fun day! Here are my "picture postcards" from Kansas. I love the shot of the windmill and the house...things have come a long way since the windmill and sodhouse on the prairie of Oliver's day, that's for sure. Well...maybe not the house, but the windmill has certainly been improved upon :)

Here is an old homestead that we came upon while chasing windmills - and a lone cowboy on a mule. I know it will never happen with a city boy for a husband, but I personally could live here in Kansas!

This is me with Virginia Alexander. I met Virginia when I was in Esbon, KS back in 2006. She knows a lot about the history of the area and she has sent me some great records over the last few years. I had no idea she was coming to the museum today to hear me talk and I was thrilled to see her again!

The sandwiches on the menu at the Tea Room all have names - This one is called "The Oliver" - how could we resist! Well, truth be known, I resisted since it is tuna (no thank you) but Virginia said she was going to order it in honor of Oliver whether she liked it or not, and order it she did!

Here is the player piano from the tea room - only 25 cents
a song - can you see the keys playing??

Here is 1/2 of our table at the Huckleberry Tea House. These three ladies are Kathleen, Tina and Jean - all good friends of my host, Sara Gault. They are all in education - principals and teachers - and wonderful people!

And last, but certainly not least.....the girls of the Tea House! Don't they look like they're having fun....dressing up in hats, boas, white gloves, etc. and sitting down to Afternoon Tea with girlfriends??? I don't think we have Tea Rooms in Delaware, do we? Maybe when I get back home, I'll look into opening one, it was such a fun time!

Tomorrow I'll be spending the day relaxing at the hotel....sleeping....reading....swimming in the pool... soaking in the hot tub (don't be looking for any pictures - there won't be any!)

Monday starts week #2 with fewer visits but more driving since the schools are in areas around Salina anywhere from 10-50 miles. I do plan to get back to Concordia since I haven't yet been able to actually go in the museum and I'm NOT leaving Kansas before I do that :)