Orphan Train Rider

Orphan Train Rider
Oliver Nordmark - Age 15 - Esbon KS

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????