Orphan Train Rider

Orphan Train Rider
Oliver Nordmark - Age 15 - Esbon KS

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I have the BEST FRIENDS!

It's so true! I have the best friends a girl could ask for. When I was first planning my book tour to central Kansas, I knew that I would need to drive as opposed to flying due to the number of books that I would need to bring, as well as other display items, promotional materials and equipment. Right away my friend Donna Brown offered up her services as a travel companion pointing out that it is not safe for a woman traveling alone by car for three days half way across the country! (Unfortunately I do not have a picture of Donna - she is extremely camera shy and avoids pictures at all cost!) That left me with the task of finding someone to ride home with me since Donna informed me right away that, "I will be flying home as soon as I get you there safely. What am I going to do in Kansas for two weeks??"
Step in my sister-in-law Dru Nordmark. She decided she would like to fly out for the second week and then drive home with me. That plan was going along nicely until some unforseen family things got in the way and sadly she had to back out. NO PROBLEM! My oldest son, Carlo, who is a history teacher said that he would gladly take Friday April 30th off and fly out to Kansas and help me drive home. GREAT! Problem solved. Until......yesterday when he informed me that since the school system was going to be changing their "No Child Left Behind" testing methods, all staff would need to attend a three day training from April 29th - May 2nd. Ut-oh!
What to do? No way was I up for driving across the country by myself. It would take twice as long and be twice as stressful! With fingers crossed and wishful thinking, I sent an email to my best friend from high school, Karen Williams (that's her in the picture on the left) who - even though we had been out of touch with one another for 30 years - I had recently reconnected with and found that we hadn't missed a beat in our friendship. I knew she was between jobs, by choice, so there was a chance.....
I am pleased to say that the answer was an immediate YES! and Karen has already booked her flight. Problem solved, book tour ready to get underway, I am a LUCKY GIRL! Looking forward to meeting lots of wonderful people in and around Salina, Kansas!

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Many, many thanks to Joany Erickson of "Yaya's World" http://yayashome.blogspot.com/ for her enthusiasm about my books and her clever way of bringing some attention to my newly started Blog.

WELCOME to all those who are now following ORPHAN TRAIN HISTORY from Joany's blog and GOOD LUCK on the contest to win a set of my books!

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and that you will learn about part of our country's history that has, for too long, been in the shadows.

And now..... the teacher/presenter in me can't help but give you a homework assignment! After reading the posts here on my blog (best to start at the beginning to understand the entire story), go out and find one person who has never heard of the Orphan Trains and tell them all you know about the era! Feel free to report back about the amazed reactions you encounter upon "teaching" a friend or relative about this missing 75 year social experiment!


What does "SKPYE AN AUTHOR" mean, you might ask? I too found myself asking that question after the opportunity was brought to my attention by a tech savey teacher in northern NJ who was looking for a way to invite me into their classroom to speak about the Orphan Train Movement, but did not think the school's budget would be able to swing the speaking/travel fees associated with my visit. Sure, that's a great idea I responded, having no idea what I was agreeing to.

What to do? QUICK! Do some research on SKYPE.....turns out it's a way to speak - like a phone service - from computer to computer. It's free of charge if both people have a SKYPE account (which is also free) and the only other thing you need is a microphone and speakers. OKAY....got that! But wait, there's more. You want the students to be able to see me in real time on the White Board at the front of the auditorium??? SURE! No problem. GEEZ! What did I just agree to? How do I make that happen? QUICK! More research.... Google Search for "Skype an Author" and low and behold, many authors are already doing this! Okay, click on http://www.skypeanauthor.wetpaint.com/ ... well, look at that. Step by step instructions on how to become an author who "SKYPES" - complete with recommendations on what webcam to purchase to obtain the best quality presentation. Webcam purchased, hubby helps out by hooking everything up, and TAA DAA! SKYPE AN AUTHOR ready to go!

Now that I am official....I figure why not go for broke! Back to the website and sign up to be on the list of authors that skype - here's my page! http://skypeanauthor.wetpaint.com/page/Donna+Aviles

After a test session to get the kinks out, I am set to go with my first SKYPE presentation to over 200 5th graders in Northern NJ on April 13th. And if that isn't exciting enough..... a second school has already found me through my wetpaint link above and scheduled a SKYPE presentation for mid-May!

Could this be the future of Classroom Author Visits????? I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


A very grateful WELCOME to my two new "followers" Beverly Stowe McClure and Kevin Atteridg. I hope you will scroll down and begin reading from the beginning - January 19th. I also welcome you to comment on anything you find interesting or anything that gets you thinking and generates a question! I'm happy you're here!

SALINA BOOK TOUR UPDATES: Things are really heating up with my book tour to Kansas which is scheduled for April 19-30th. I have three classroom presentations on Monday the 19th followed by a speaking engagement at the Eaglecrest Retirement Community @ 7:15 that evening. Tuesday the 20th I have four classroom presentations and Wednesday the 21st will find me at four different schools during the day and at the Salina Public Library @ 4:00 pm. Thursday the 22nd I will have three classroom presentations and will be the guest speaker for a fundraiser at the Smoky Hills Museum in Salina. This will be a fun event with attendees receiving train "tickets" in the name of an orphan train rider. At the end of the evening they will discover what became of "their child". Dinner will also be served. On Friday the 23rd I will have four school presentations and on Saturday the 25th I will be the guest speaker at a fundraiser for the National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia, KS. WHEW!! And that is only week #1. More updates to come on week #2.....

Monday, March 8, 2010

Be sure and Check out today's blog post at http://www.yayashome.blogspot.com/ for part #1 of a 3-part interview with Joany Erickson of YAYA'S CHANGING WORLD!

Saturday, March 6, 2010


In September of 1854, the first ORPHAN TRAIN departed New York City for the state of Michigan with 46 boys ranging in age from 7 to 15. In the following 75 years, over 250,000 children would be transported from east coast cities to communities in every one of the 48 contiguous states. Most, however, were concentrated in the Midwest. While many of the children were indeed orphans, there were just as many half orphans, as well as children who were abandoned by living parents who could not care for them. Taken from orphanages as well as off the streets of the cities, these children would travel together either in boxcars or in passenger cars with their passage donated by the railroad companies or purchased at a reduced rate by the sending agency. The above picture is a Boys Cottage at the Children's Village - an orphanage in Dobbs Ferry on Long Island where my grandfather Oliver Nordmark spent one year before being chosen to ride the train to Bern, Kansas.

With some variability, the orphan trains worked basically like this: Notices would be sent to newspapers in farm communities along the train's route announcing the date and time that a "company of orphan children, under the auspices of The Children's Aid Society" would be arriving in town. Farmers and merchants were encouraged to come and see the children, hear the address to be given by the Escort explaining where the children were from and that they were in search of homes, and then hopefully leave with a new child in tow. Once the train arrived in town, the children were taken to whatever large gathering place was available in town. Often times this was an Opera House where vaudeville performances were frequently staged. If not an Opera House, perhaps a town hall or large church. The children would be lined up on chairs on the stage of the Opera House and then the townspeople would come in, hear the address, then walk along the line of children, inspecting them, and perhaps choosing one to take home. People taking children were expected to treat them as their own children, properly clothe and feed them, send them to school and sunday school, and have them help out on the farm and around the house.
Once placed in a new home, the plan was for a representative of the placing agency to go and check on each child at least once a year to make sure that everything was okay and that both the child and the family were happy with the placement. In truth, this did not always happen. Imagine a train full of 30 children stopping in one small town and those children chosen by farmers who had come in to town that day. Farmers may have traveled as much as 30-40 miles to be there for the train's arrival. With children disbursed at a 40 mile radius around the town, it was not always possible for the agent to get to every child. So, what might happen is that the agent might ask about a particular child while in town and get a good report from a teacher or merchant who knew the family. Or, as has been reported by riders themselves, the agent would always come when the child was at school and the foster parent would vouch for the placement when in fact, the child was terribly unhappy or even abused. The system was not without flaws, that's for sure.
Any child not chosen during the stop would board the train and travel to the next town on the route to try again. If any children remained when the train reached the end of the line, they would travel back to NYC to try again another day on another route. The more the railroad system was built up, the further west, south and north the children traveled.
CHECK BACK SOON to see how the Sisters of Charity operated their "BABY TRAINS"!