All aboard! Next stop, Bellefontaine! by
50
(55 Stories)

Prompted By Planes and Trains

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Railway station, Bellefontaine, Ohio, 1950s and before

If every kid had a daddy

“Where’s the bowl, Daddy?” “You don’t need a bowl. Watch this.”

To take him on a train to visit Grandma and Aunt Gert and Uncle Marty

What a wonderful world!

The train made one stop

Between Indianapolis, Indiana, and Youngstown, Ohio

The conductor called out loudly, “Bell-Fountain.”

The train cars stopped their noisy shaking and came to a halt

“Why did the train stop, Daddy?”

“Some people need to buy food,”

We had our own food, but we got off anyway to stretch our legs and use the bathroom in the station—Daddy, and Leon, and me

“Lainey” (my sister Elaine) was not with us,

Either she was not born yet

Or she was a tiny infant and

Mommy and she were not yet ready for train travel

Bell Fountain!

I wouldn’t have known back then

The name was spelled as “Belle-FONTAYNE”

Bellefontaine, Ohio

Spelling and Reading were in my future

But I knew a bell

And I knew a fountain

So I liked the name, “Bell Fountain.”

“Bell fountain, Bell fountain. Never to be forgotten”

I was fascinated even then with the sounds of words and names

Could my aging brain have manufactured a flawed memory?  What makes me so sure, that our train stopped and we went to the men’s bathroom in Bellefountain?

Bellefontaine was a railroad town from the 1890s to the 1950s,” says Wikipedia

“The city was the site of one of the largest roundhouses and repair centers on the Big Four/New York Central Lines.

“Trains stopped here to have steam engines serviced and to switch crews.”

 

Back on the train, the noise and shaking resumed. It was time to eat.

Daddy handed us each a plastic spoon and individually-sized cardboard boxes of Corn Flakes.

“Where’s the bowl, Daddy?”

“You don’t need a bowl. Watch this.”

He showed us how to open the cereal using the perforations marked on one side of the box, and then to hold the box carefully on our laps with the opened side up

And right there on the train, as we sat up straight and carefully, Daddy poured some milk in each box!

We were pulling out of Bellefountain, the train was beginning its loud noises and shaking, and we were two happy boys gobbling our cereal and milk,

If every kid had a daddy

To take him on a train to visit Grandma and Aunt Gert and Uncle Marty

What a wonderful world!

Our destination, Youngstown, Ohio. Uncle Marty would meet us and drive us to Newton Falls, my Dad’s home town.

 

 

Profile photo of Dale Borman Fink Dale Borman Fink
Dale Borman Fink retired in 2020 from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA, where he taught courses related to research methods, early childhood education, special education, and children’s literature. Prior to that he was involved in childcare, after-school care, and support for the families of children with disabilities. Among his books are Making a Place for Kids with Disabilities (2000) Control the Climate, Not the Children: Discipline in School Age Care (1995), and a children’s book, Mr. Silver and Mrs. Gold (1980). In 2018, he edited a volume of his father's recollections, called SHOPKEEPER'S SON.

Visit Author's Website



Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. What a wonderful memory Dale, of your special boyhood trip with your father and brother.

    Thanx for sharing the story of the train ride but more so about the love of family.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Truly delightful memory, Dale. Picture-postcard perfection; the way you remember the name of the stop, the description of the rail car, your wonderful father and yes, those boxes of cereal! What a memory that brings back. I liked Frosted Flakes, but no matter. Opening the box and pouring milk, ah, it was perfect, wasn’t it?

  3. Marian says:

    A sweet memory, Dale, and what fun that you got to eat cereal from the little box. As Dana commented, the love of family comes through beautifully.

  4. Very nice. ‘Yes’ I felt like I was there.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    That is a very sweet memory, and the cardboard cereal bowls really filled in the magic of the experience. Along with the beautiful name you have never forgotten.

  6. Suzy says:

    Love this, Dale! A magical train trip through the eyes of a child. And I’m glad you included the video, to prove that it really was pronounced Bell Fountain, despite what we might have thought from the spelling. I watched about the first 3 minutes, but that was enough.

    Also can’t resist mentioning the song allusions I saw, to Surfin’ USA (“if every kid had a daddy” is like “if everybody had an ocean”) and Louie Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World. Were those intentional, or is it just me?

    • Great comment! The “Surfin’ USA” parallelism was definitely accidental. But Louis Armstrong has been deep in my bones (and ears) all my life (and in my Dad’s too), so on some level, I probably was echoing that inimitable refrain that he sang.

  7. John Shutkin says:

    What a great story, Dale. And delightfully told from a child’s perspective. That “voice” comes through perfectly, right down to the dialog. Also loved the poem/song inclusion.

    And two things are particularly evocative for me. One if the way that so many Midwestern towns bastardized French pronunciations. Plenty of that in Wisconsin. (The local high school when we lived there ten years ago was Nicolet — and, yes, the last syllable rhymed with “bet.”) And not only do I remember (carefully) eating cereal from the individual packages as a kid, I even remember the packages’ cutesy name: “Kel-Bowl-Pak” (Kellogg’s cereals).

  8. Your insightful observations even make me appreciate my own story more–thanks for that!

  9. Joe Lowry says:

    Nice memories. Too bad so many rail lines no longer exist.

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