My father was born in 1881, in Staunton, Ind., and my mother was born in 1897, in Turner, Ind. When they were growing up, they didn't have all the advantages of traveling, entertainment, etc., that we have today. They would go to the train station during the day to see who got on and off the train. To ride the train between these two small towns, about a two-mile ride, cost a dime.
There were passenger coaches and one car they called the miner's car. It made its run at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. If a miner missed the train, he had to walk to or from work. Trains never stopped for anyone. My grand-fathers, father, two uncles and a great-uncle all rode the miner's train to work in the mines.
When Chinook was going to open its mine, about a mile and half southeast of Staunton, the company hired a dozen men for construction work. Beginning April 30, 1928, they were to build a railroad track about a mile east of Staunton, to connect to the main track so the train could get the coal cars from the mine and deliver the coal to the proper locations.
In the 1960s, after the trains had been abandoned, but the railroad tracks still remained, the train crew would leave empty coal cars along the track east of my home. Finally, the mine bought several large trucks to haul the coal from the pit to the tipple for processing and to deliver the coal to the proper locations. My dad was one of the first employees hired to begin the construction work. It was late September 1928, when the first coal was hoisted. Dad retired Jan. 1, 1956.
Dad passed away in October 1956, and my aunt, who lived in Taylorville, Ill., asked my mother and me to spend Thanksgiving Day with her and her family. Since the train didn't stop in Terre Haute, Ind., we were told that if for some reason we changed our plans, we were to call the railroad so the train would not stop. We left Terre Haute on the 4 a.m. train, and went as far as Pana, Ill. My cousin met us at the station and told the station attendant that he would see to it that we were back by 6 p.m. to catch the train back to Terre Haute. He told the attendant that, so he would be sure to let the train crew know to stop in Terre Haute, since they usually didn't.
That trip was my only train ride. If the trains had never been invented, our town of Staunton would never have been the booming town that it once was.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.