I can't imagine that there aren't many of us who have taken something from a special closet, wrapped it up nicely, put a bow on it and presented it to someone as a gift. That "special closet" is where you keep those few things you have received as a gift and for one reason or another you cannot use so you save them to use as gifts to other people. But there are some things that cannot be re-gifted.
During the course of our travels through America while conducting our Capital Tours, we encountered, by happenstance, two of the "Merci Train" cars. The first one was in a dilapidated state being stored at an off-the-beaten-path railroad museum in Carson City, Nev., a city that in its own right is off-the-beaten-path. The second one we saw was encased in a chain-link cage at the American Legion Hall in Cheyenne, Wyo. It was in much better condition, due in large part to the chain-link cage.
Many readers have no idea of what the "Merci Train" is all about. I suppose that's part of moving forward and forgetting the past, but February 3, 2014, is the 65th anniversary of the arrival of this great gift from the people of France and Italy.
The "Merci Train" or "Thank You Train" was a gift in response to the American provision of some $40 million in food relief to Europe given in 1947. Over 6 million people in France and Italy donated gifts, enough to fill 49 box cars, to be given in gratitude to each of the then 48 states along with one for Washington, D.C.
The box cars were distributed and many of the states have taken steps to preserve them in one fashion or another. The one given to Georgia is now housed at The Southern Railroad Museum in Kennesaw, right in our own backyard.
The gifts that were in each railcar, made up of dolls, memorabilia and many personal items have for the most part disappeared into history although some states did put all or most of that stuff into state museums. Six of the states have records of actually destroying the rail cars and one state, Colorado, reported the car missing many years ago and it has yet to be found.
Now it's one thing to have Aunt Gertrude stop by for tea one day and in the midst of chit chat ask, "Whatever happened to that lovely green and pink vase I gave you years ago?" You know you would never have re-gifted that, so a hasty and tragic story of how it got broken ensues.
I guess the same protocol holds true if the visitor were Aunt Nanette from Bordeaux and she asked about that cute little train set she sent many years ago. Some gifts deserve to be treasured and not relegated to that "special closet."