Merci Train - Connecticut
The only information we have about this state's car is that it was destroyed by fire at a "veterans post" (probably American Legion) in Stratford, CT sometime during the 1950s.
I read in an Alabama newspaper that a bride in Connecticut had won the privilege of being married in the wedding dress that came in Connecticut's Merci car. I have not had opportunity to do research in the state to find newspaper accounts of the event.
We would welcome any further historical or current information about the boxcar and the hundreds of gifts it delivered to the state.
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Photos were taken Feb. 20, 1949 near 25 West Main St. - New Britain, CT.
From Roxanne Godsey and Celia Roberts, a librarian in Canton, CT who have located information on the bridal gown from Connecticut's Boxcar.
On Sunday evening March 13th, 1949, six lovely young women reported to the office of Connecticut Secretary of State Winifred McDonald. The six had been chosen as finalists from among 150 women who each hoped to be chosen to be awarded, and married in, the satin wedding gown which had arrived in the Connecticut Merci Train boxcar from France in February of that year. It was to be a gift from the seamstress's union to the woman that the CT Merci Train Committee would choose that night.
All six finalists were chosen because of one basic requirement, that they have a 24 inch waist, the measurement that the dress had been made for, and because the committee had earlier decided that there would be no alterations made to the dress, and that they would award it to the woman who was the most perfect fit for it, and who was engaged to be married in June of that year. At the meeting that night, each finalist would be given an opportunity to try the dress on and be judged by 3 judges as to which one fit into the gown best. At the end of the judging, it was announced that Miss Connie Eaccarino of New Haven was the winner.
But unbeknownst to the contestants, the Merci Train Committee had been busy contacting merchants in the state to donate items that would be given to the finalists. Not only would Miss Eaccarino be awarded the dress, but she and her fiancé, John H. Farrell the third would also receive a set of sterling silver, a wedding band, a wedding cake, a going away hat, a new suit and shoes for John, and best of all, a honeymoon trip to Europe courtesy of the Lever Brothers Drug Co. where they would meet the women who had made her gown. The other five finalists also were given prizes, including a week at Schroon lake Resort for the first runner up and her groom.
From Roxanne Godsey (a great researcher for MerciTrain.org) we have received a reply to one of the several letters written to people in the New Haven area named Farrell.
The reply was from one of the Farrells daughters, telling us that her mother died of breast cancer in 2002, but that her father, John Farrell, was still living. Roxanne Godsey plans to follow up and try to obtain copies of any wedding pictures, or perhaps while they were honeymooning in Europe.
We at MerciTrain.org are all very excited by this development and we expect to hear more from/about him and his bride soon.
If you have any stories or family members who have any contact with the Merci Train please contact Roxanne Godsey
On 01/25/08, I received this email from Roxanne Godsey of Dallas, TX
I was looking for books about the (Merci) train on Amazon and came across this excerpt. You may very well already know of this, but I wanted to pass on the info just in case.
(I, Earl Bennett, founder of this web site, was not aware of the existence of the bell, nor of the abbey. In fact, everything that has been added to this site in the past 6 or 7 years has come to me through the efforts of others. I am no longer able to travel to conduct research, and I am thankful for, and to, the dozens of individuals who have shared with me (and the world through this web site) something that they knew, or had found, concerning the history of the Merci Train).
Mrs. Godsey's note continues:
The book is:
Mother Benedict: Foundress of the Abbey of Regina Laudis
By: Antoinette Bosco
The excerpt is (Pay particular attention to the underlined sentences):
In mid-May, Regina Laudis conducted an ancient ceremony on the monastery grounds, one called the "Baptism of the Bells". The nuns had acquired four bells to be placed in the steeple of their monastery, and each had a history and would be given a name. The first, named Francis-Julia, was a shiny locomotive bell from the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroad. The second, Lauren-Francesca, had formerly belonged to a Canadian farm. The third, Simeon-John-Ascension, had once been used by a Protestant church in Pennsylvania. The most unusual of the four, Mary-Eugene-Benedict, was a bronze bell cast in 1746 from the French village of Mouans-Sarthoux in the Maritime Alps. It had been used there in the ancient chapel of Saint Bernardin until the death in 1929 of the last member of the brotherhood, the "Confrérie" to which the chapel belonged. It had come to Connecticut on the French "Merci Train" and had been destined for the state library. But when it became known that the nuns in Bethlehem were interested in this bell, which came from the country they had left so short a time before, some friends arranged that this bell, one of the oldest now in America, be given to Regina Laudis.
To learn more about the abbey, its history, purpose, and goals, visit its web site (Abbey of Regina Laudis) Meanwhile, watch this space for other discoveries that Mrs. Godsey has made and wants to share with all who are interested. She also joins me in wanting to make sure that knowledge of this precious history is preserved for future generations in one place, easily accessible to everyone.
The Bell of Abby Ragina Laudis
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