49 Days of Gratitude Opening Ceremony – Feb. 9, 2019
’49 Days of Gratitude’ celebrate NC’s Merci Train [fr]
Over the course of 49 days, the town of Spencer, N.C. is highlighting French-America friendship with an event series that commemorates the arrival of a gift-filled train car 70 years ago from France, just after World War II. More: https://atlanta.consulfrance.org/spip.php?article6068
NC Merci Car – WWII Era 40 & 8 Boxcar – YouTube
“49 Days of Gratitude”
Feb. 9 — March 30, 2019
Member of the Association of
ASTC Travel Passport Program
N.C. Transportation Museum
411 S. Salisbury Ave.
Spencer, NC 28159
Dear North Carolinians,
I take great pleasure in congratulating you all on this historic 70th Anniversary of the arrival of North Carolina’s French Merci Train boxcar in Raleigh, N.C.
As a French-American, I am doubly thrilled and deeply grateful to North Carolina for organizing such a spectacular “49 Days of Gratitude” program. And so, from the bottom of my heart and to each one of you Carolinian, please let me first say:
M E R C I !
Thank you to all of you for participating in so many wonderful cultural events in the days and weeks to come!
One of the Children's Drawings displayed at the N.C. Transportation Museum, Spencer, N.C. Photo IMG 0143 © Brigitte Helzer. All rights reserved.
Thank you to all the volunteers, teachers, students of all ages and artists for sharing your unique talent, donating your time to make “49 Days of Gratitude” the EVENT of the Year!
Thank you to the dedicated, amazing North Carolina Transportation Museum Team — especially Sherry MASON BROWN and Kimberly LENTZ — for organizing such a spectacular “49 Days of Gratitude” celebration!
Coat of Arms of Alsace, Ms. Brigitte Helzer's birthplace, with potteries. The N.C. Museum of History "Merci Train" Collection. Photo IMG 0132 © Brigitte Helzer. All rights reserved.
As you already know, the North Carolina Merci Train boxcar, filled with hundreds of gifts sent to your state by the People of France eager to thank — the best they could — the People of North Carolina for the much-needed food they had collected for them via the Friendship Train in November 1947, arrived in Raleigh on Feb. 8, 1949.
Now you would think that, after giving so generously to the Friendship Train, your parents and grandparents were then pretty satisfied with themselves in helping the less fortunate in France and Italy, right? NOT AT ALL!
In true North Carolina Spirit… Less than two months after the Friendship Train campaign — between January 25-31, 1948 — North Carolinians launched their own “FILL A SHIP WITH FRIENDSHIP.” And what a great Ship it was!
Sponsored by the North Carolina Council of Churches and with the help of leaders from almost all denominations, the aim of the drive was to reach — county by county — every household in the state in an effort to “Fill a Ship With Friendship” with clothing, shoes (tied in pairs) and bedding including worn sheets, linens, kitchenware, silverware, soap and candles.
With a ship’s cargo estimated at 3 ½ millions pounds, that meant an average of one pound of goods from everyone in the state would have to be collected. And so they did!
To help promote their project, through the New Church World Service Film North Carolina even had a 20-mn movie, THIS ROAD WE WALK, a vivid picture of needs and work done overseas, shown all over the state.
In Winston-Salem, where the drive was held on January 25, all the clothing was collected by the Junior Chamber of Commerce and loaded directly into box cars.
To make sure all contributions were shipped promptly and distributed abroad on the basis on need alone while keeping overhead costs at a minimum, this “Ship of Friendship” cargo was sent through the interdenominational church relief organization, Church World Service Center at New Windsor, Maryland for sorting and packing.
In 1972, Dr. H. G. JONES, Director of N. C. Dept Archives and History, published his account of the event. Here is an excerpt:
(…) “From New York the boxcars were loaded on rail flatcars for delivery to the states, their running gear was too narrow to fit the American tracks. The North Carolina car reached Raleigh aboard the Seaboard Railroad on Feb 8. It was paraded down Fayetteville Street to Memorial Auditorium where the contents were officially received on behalf of the people of the state by Gov. Kerr Scott. The boxcar itself was given to the Forty and Eight Society of the American Legion.
A welcoming address to the accompanying French visitors and the assembled crowd was delivered by Jonathan Daniels, editor of the Raleigh News and Observer. Participating in the parade down the capital’s main street were several bands and military units. Featured were one of the three living Confederate veterans in the state and A C Davis of Rocky Mount protraying Uncle Sam as he had done in President Trumans inaugural parade.
The gifts aboard the train ran the gamut from hair nets and underclothing to Houdon’s original bust of Ben Franklin* which did not come to North Carolina and a valuable vase for each state in the Union contributed by Vincent Auriol the French president.
According to the train committee of which columnist Drew Pearson was national chairman and E. C. Bobbit of Raleigh was head for North Carolina, the cargo had been collected all over France and was meant not as gifts for individuals but as the permanent property of the people for use in museums, schools and other institutions. Many of the items including the case sent as a personal gifts are now in custody of the North Carolina Museum of History.
The boxcar was shown for a short time while on Halifax Street in Raleigh and later was displayed on the capital’s Nash Square and at the State Fair grounds. Several years later because of vandalism and natural deterioration it was moved to the American Legion post in Wilson. Members of that post are planning to do some restoration work later this year on North Carolina’s boxcar.”
Looking forward to continue working with North Carolina and with so many other states on our complimenting project #MDFDEFriendshipMerciTrain75, celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Friendship Train in 2022, I thank you again, dear North Carolinians, and wish you all much success in this fruitful and memorable 70th Anniversary of the Merci Train.
With my kindest regards,
*Note: Actually Benjamin Franklin’s bust was the work of French sculptor Jean-Jacques Caffieri (1725-1792), not Houdon. The sculpture was originally donated to the Benjamin Franklin University in Washington D. C.
The Danville Va Wednesday Mar 15 1972 page 30 In The Light Of NC History By H G JONES Director N C Dept Archives and History https://newspaperarchive.com/danville-bee-mar-15-1972-p-30/
The « Train de la Reconnaissance Française » aka « Merci Train » (1949).
© The Official French-American Project entirely conceived by Ms. Elisabeth JENSSEN to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Merci Train (2019-2020) and the 75th Anniversary of the Friendship Train (2022). All rights reserved.
Chair, Elisabeth Jenssen
Honorary President: The Comte Gilbert de Pusy La Fayette