Our friends took the long way home from their son’s wedding in California in order to experience more of our country using US Route 20 as their highway. I just got the most amazing post from Chip who is a newly retired Social Studies teacher and Dale, his wife who worked in town government for many years. They gave me permission to use this as a Veteran’s Day Posting. The email title was “Did my father and Dale’s stop at this station on their way to war?”
On Thursday we detoured south off of U.S. route 20 to visit the town of Dennison Ohio, better known to the one and a half million World War II US Army soldiers and Army Air Corp recruits whose troop transport trains stopped here for the steam engined trains to replenish their water tanks, as “Dreamsville USA”.
Although the origin of the soldier’s nickname for this stop is uncertain, our tour guide believes that it was because of the kindness shown to the troops by the local townspeople who organized a food canteen providing refreshments and a warm smile to soldiers on virtually every train that entered the station, day or night, for more than four years.
It may also have had something to do with the Glen Miller song popular at the time, “Dreamsville Ohio”.
From March of 1942 through December of 1946 more than 20 troop trains a day, carrying more than 600 newly inducted military conscripts each, passed through this Pennsylvania Railroad repair and maintenance terminal on their way to various training stations located through out the country.
Although we will never know for sure, it is likely that my father Army Air Corps Lt. George Bull and or Dale’s dad, Lt. Bill Shaw received a sandwich, coffee and a warm friendly smile from the dedicated women volunteers here.
The museum is an amazing restoration of more than eight railroad cars and just dedicated on the day we arrived a restored 1935 steam engine. Perhaps the most touching exhibit, and the smallest, is display of an original wax sandwich bag, given in the middle of a cold December night by one of the canteen volunteers to a 19 year old army private away from home for the first time in his life. That private, touched by the experience,carefully folded and put the empty bag in his rucksack.He carried that symbol of home and generosity for the next four years of World War II and on the fiftieth Anniversary of the end of the war this now elderly veteran returned it to the Dreamsville museum as a token of his appreciation.
If you get a chance, take a look at the Dennison Depot Museum video. we have had a lot of amazing experiences on this year’s road trip journey, but this was one of the most emotionally touching.