Cherry Pie, Ice Cream On President's Train, Published 11 June 1947
Riding the President's Special is really quite an assignment. First of all. of course, is the Job of getting on the train. ' To begin at the beginning, it took a bit of pressure even to r-ereuade the East Block that Canadian newspapermen were fit people to ride on the Presidential special.
But finally that point was achieved, and ten newspapermen were allowed to go to Rouses Point, New York, where the Canadians were to go aboard the train.
We arrived at Rouses Point, organized our wire services, drummed up what news we could, and went to bed. In the morning, some of the boys went up to the official train, on which were Rt. Hon. Louis St. Laurent, secretary of state for External Affairs, who welcomed President Truman into Canada, and also Hon. Ray Atherton. United States ambassador. There wasn't much news in this, but it was a routine checkup anyway.
At ten o'clock the mounted police looked over our credentials. Alan Anderson, of Canadian Information Service, vouched for us, while a shrewd-eyed White House operative looked over the scene.
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In due course we hustled down to the yards, and awaited the coming of the train. Meanwhile, we were without facilities, and at least one reporter was obliged to squat down before his typewriter like an Indian before a camp fire, and pound out his best copy in a railway yard before a ditch. Something better might have been arranged.
At last the train came in, and we all made a dash for the last car. I flung my baggage in a car, and it turned out I was lucky, since I picked the club car, where I should have been anyway, since that is the press headquarters for such trips. Relieved of my baggage, I rushed back to the final car where Mr. St. Laurent was warmly greeted by the president. It is not of the official side of the trip, however, that I want to write.
Once the train started to roll, I had a chance to size up the train itself, and also its personnel. You see an endless parade of picturesque newspapermen. There was the lean Swiss: the Reuters man with the "vedy" accent, and one Oriental. Some of the foreign correspondents came along for the ride, and some like the Associated Press man, had to work like galley slaves.
While others took their ease over frosted glasses, others worked themselves into a frenzy over a hot typewriter. There was an endless parade of people up and down the train
The club car Sun Gold had. in charge of it, an old-time steward, a chap who has 30 years' rail roading behind him, and who has a wonderful way with people. It was a pleasure to know him.
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The dining car was one of the Baltimore and Ohio railway's very best. There are no finer diners than those of the B. and O., and this blue, and silver dining room on wheels was the very finest. Long renowned for their food, they also have plates with engines on them. I chided Steward Chittenhouse to produce a plate with a diesel engine on it. He called my bluff, and did! This diner operates all the time, and will serve you what you want. For instance, I got in about 12.15 in the afternoon. He gave us Breakfast menus. That's breakfast time for morning paper scribes. As it turned out we wanted lunch. And such a lunch. Crabs fresh from Maryland; shrimps that melt in your mouth, lovely cherry pie buried under rich ice cream. The coffee was black and strong and and I had three cups. They feed you well on the presidential special. In case anybody thinks it was on the house, I rush into print to say that table d'hote and a la carte are both cash
What interested me was this. Here we were in Canada, yet only American money passed as good currency. Actually, the Canadian money was discounted in Canada, even as we rolled through Prime Minister King's own riding, Glengarry. However, that was just an interesting technicality. The service was so good you didn't care what the discount on the Canadian dollar was.
Bulletins, releases, previews of the president's speech. Soft southern drawls, curiosity about Canada. Where's this place? What time are we due? Crops are late here. People in Canada have different kind of houses. So were the random conversational shafts, shot into the air.
At last we swung along the famous cross town tracks, and headed slowly out toward Island Park Drive. As he looked out at the dismal precincts along the tracks, Alf Sykes wisecracked: "I know what Truman's speech will keynote; it will be Cross town tracks must go!"
Then pleasant homes, good clean wash in Hintonburg, and at last Island Park Drive.
It was all very interesting, not a little exhausting. But riding the presidential special was an experience