f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

First Train Ride

Posted Wednesday, June 16, 2010, at 7:30 AM

A ride on the Frisco passenger train was a rite of passage for many youngsters in Cape Girardeau during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. G.D. Fronabarger took many pictures, though just one of each group, on those occasions that were usually at the end of the school year. The pictures were published in the Southeast Missourian. This group came down from Old Appleton to ride the train.

Groups would board the train at the depot in Cape Girardeau and ride to Chaffee where parents would pick up their children for the ride back home. For some groups, chartered buses would take them back to Cape Girardeau.

Sometimes a northbound train was boarded. A group from Lutheran Parochial School at Frohna, Mo. took a train in 1960 from Cape Girardeau to Wittenberg where parents met them.

Not all train rides were planned in advance. A story published Jan. 5, 1950 in the Southeast Missourian tells about an unexpected train ride for some pupils at St. Mary's School.

Weather Serves to Put Children on Frisco Train

Five Chaffee pupils at St. Mary's School here got an unexpected train ride Wednesday afternoon when ice-coated highways forced cancellation of the school bus run which would have returned them to their homes.

Arrangements were made by Julian Pickett, local agent for the Frisco, to hold the train briefly until the pupils could be taken to the station.

The Chaffee pupils, as well as those from the Leopold area, were absent from St. Mary's again today when both bus runs were cancelled because of the slick roads. The bus to Kelso, however, made its usual pick-up of youngsters.

At the school it was reported that 23 pupils were absent today, most of them from the Chaffee-Leopold area.

Frisco passenger train service at Cape Girardeau began June 1, 1904 and ended Sept. 17, 1965.


View 4 comments or respond
Community discussion is important, and we encourage you to participate as a reader and commenter. Click here to see our Guidelines. We also encourage registered users to let us know if they see something inappropriate on our site. You can do that by clicking "Report Comment" below.
  • Here's a short video clip of my brother's kindergarten class from Trinity Lutheran School making that trek to Chaffee in the early 50s.


    It's a digital copy of a VHS copy of an 8mm home movie, so the quality's not great.

    -- Posted by ksteinhoff on Wed, Jun 16, 2010, at 8:14 AM
  • An interesting aspect of this photo is that it was taken before the floodwall was built.

    The Frisco ran 4 trains a day between St. Louis and Memphis through Cape (2 North and 2 South bound) until about 1961. The southbound Sunnyland left Cape about 11:50 am and reached Chaffee at 12:10 PM. Its Northbound counterpart arrived Chaffee about 12:25 pm. Passengers could get box lunches there as the trains did not have a dining car.

    This schedule made it possible for Cape groups to make a round trip between Cape and Chaffee in about 45 minutes to an hour.

    The Memphian night train allowed Cape residents to travel to either St. Louis or Memphis for the day without having to spend the night. When Frisco sucessfully petitioned the ICC to drop the overnight service the message was clear that the end of the day train was not far behind. And in 1967, about the time of the completion of I-55 between St. Louis & Memphis, service ceased.

    The 3.5 hour trip to Union Station (3 hours to Tower Grove) for $5 was not competitive. Still, Mr. Houk's winding path along the Mississippi was a wonder for kids as young as 4 who were sent by themselves to visit relatives in the city under the watchful eye of the conductor, Mr. Owens.

    -- Posted by semowasp on Thu, Jun 17, 2010, at 7:14 PM
  • The box lunches that were served at Chaffee were brought down to the train by John Jr. Housman, who was only slightly 'challenged'. Mable from 'Mable's Cafe' would make them up and she would share a percentage of the profits with him. Most passengers treated him fairly but there was the occasional exception. This was his job. He liked to go down to Slaughter's and play the pinball machines after he had made his daily route.

    -- Posted by Chaffeedropout on Mon, Jul 26, 2010, at 2:34 PM
  • I was surprised to see a photo of myself after a ride from Cape to Chaffee. I am not sure of the year but it maust have been around 1955.

    I like your blog.

    -- Posted by NARBNL on Tue, Jul 10, 2012, at 8:22 AM