Train derailment brought out best in people

Apr. 23, 2013 @ 05:49 PM

November 22, 1963 was one of the dark days of our country’s history.  On that day our 35th president JFK was assassinated in Dallas, TX.  This nearly 50-year old tragedy we old-timers remember vividly. Where we were, what we were doing and the utter shock and disbelief that such a tragedy could occur in our country is permanently seared into our memories.  I can still “see” the mega headlines in the newspaper. So traumatic was the event that we will never forget it or the proceedings of the following days.

Likewise April 10, 1984 is permanently seared into the memory of many Marshville residents.  At 9:33 a.m. 17 Seaboard rail cars left the tracks and sparked a raging fire.  The smoke reportedly could be seen in Polkton.  Four of the derailed cars were filled with highly flammable, volatile methanol. 

Fearing a massive explosion, authorities ordered an immediate evacuation.  Some would-be tragedies fortunately have a Paul (or Pauline) Revere who alerts the townspeople of the impending danger.  Marshville’s Pauline was working at Security Bank (Sun Trust location today) when she was alerted by the drive-through teller of the derailment.  She raced outside to assess the danger. Seeing flames leaping from beneath a rail car on all sides and a 20-foot flame on the tracks, she dashed back inside and ordered everyone out.  Down the street towards Highway 74, they streaked.  Pauline’s high heels proved no impediment. When they reached the service station on the corner of 74, she spied a phone.  

Remembering her daughter Holly at Marshville Elementary, she telephoned Principal Bill Walters, who promptly began loading his students on to buses headed for New Salem and safety.  Pauline’s car was one of those burned; she alleges she heard the tires exploding as she raced toward 74.  Marjorie Pennigar was Marshville’s Pauline and she is still known by at least one resident as “Speedy.”

Janet Perkins recalls a car careening into her father-in-law’s cleaners demolishing it. She remembers the car’s “breathing” — its sides moving in and out. The aftermath is vivid as well. Her father-in-law, Norris, her husband Jim and she had to sit in a room at the Palomino Restaurant/Motel (now the Pier) with the railroad adjuster as people poured in to file claims for clothes lost in the fire.  People from all over came she said some even from as far away as Charlotte making outrageous claims.  The Perkinses knew their customers, but the false claims had to be paid as there was no concrete evidence to contradict them.  Ironically I chanced to meet the railroad adjuster during this clothing settlement at a restaurant in Monroe and he shared with me his amazement at the absurd claims being made that his company was obligated to pay.  Janet is not certain, however, that the claims were actually paid.  Her beloved ’66 Mustang was parked under a shelter at the cleaners; fortunately her husband moved it, so it was not lost.

Queen Sturdivant remembers yet another aspect of the tragedy. The strike at the Cuddy turkey plant begun in October was still in progress. To her dismay not all workers went out on strike and replacements had been hired.  She had taken another job until the strike was resolved.  She and her family fled to Monroe to stay with relatives until it was safe to return home.  She would later return to work at Cuddy without a union.


The adult summer reading program is one of Cheryl Hinson’s passions.  During last summer over 400 reviews were submitted.   Cheryl pored over them in the fall and compiled recommended reading lists on the 13 topics selected by the readers.  These laminated review folders are available upon request and the beauty of them is they contain the exact words of the reviewer and his/her first name.  Tried and true good reading!

Each month of the program has a special feature.  Movies were the June 2012 attraction.  In July Tom Aldridge, a 40-year veteran of chair caning, demonstrated the 7-step method he uses in his hand-woven restoration of bamboo cane and rush seating.  The other feature was “Catch the Coupon Craze” with Mandy Melton in August.

This year the June feature will be Scottish heritage and July’s, movies.  August’s, Cheryl is especially enthusiastic about, moonshining in Union County.  Members of the Sheriff’s department have agreed to facilitate this program.  A tv series featuring real life moonshiners gave Cheryl the idea.

The reading program will follow the same simple rules as previous years.  Participants must be at least 19 years old.  Books, e-books and books on disc are acceptable; they need not be from the Union County Public Library.  The topic is reader’s choice.  Upon completing a book, the reader must fill out an Adult Summer Reading Program Book Review Form (available in the library of course).  A book review is no big deal!  It’s nothing like the book reports we all remember from our school days.  It may be a few sentences or more if you feel so inclined. Its purpose is to tell something or some things about the book and/ or what you enjoyed about it.  The purpose is to interest another person in reading it. Complete it, turn it in and keep reading.  The weekly drawing dates will be posted. One major change for this year is a reader may submit only one review per week.  No stuffing the box!  The playing field must be level, thus, fair to all readers .

Of course there will be children and teen reading programs as well.  Reading is meant to be a family affair!  Check out the library’s new books, reading lists, books on disc, videos and other offerings.  Join a summer reading program.  Widen your horizons and have fun!


The Museum’s one-year birthday party slated for May 23rd is in the planning stages.  Everyone is invited to be a part of this momentous occasion.

Interested in pursuing your genealogy?  Another four-session Museum workshop, “Organizing, Researching, and Presenting my Family History” led by Jack McIver is being planned.  Call 704.624.3192 for more information.


At the April 15th Town Council meeting Erby Laney spoke in the public comment section.  He addressed the problems associated with the water pump station situated on his property.  He asked the town to compensate him for the use of his land and the mowing over the years.  Discussion about a resolution to the General Assembly to amend two Senate bills to preserve balanced municipal revenues was next on the agenda.  If these bills are not amended, Marshville could lose $150,000 in revenue and leave the town without any means of recouping this loss. The Council agreed to adopt this resolution.  The change from a part time to full time Director of Utilities was approved.  The Council voted against participation in the Union County Urban Forester program which would cost the town $909.12 for 2013-2014 fiscal year.  The services have been used only once in several years and the consensus was that it was not needed.  The next item was the level of participation in the Mecklenberg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO).  Federal law mandates an urbanized area exceeding a population of 50,000 (according to the Census Bureau) have an MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) to coordinate transportation planning among the member governments.  MUMPO includes all of Mecklenberg and most of Union county.  There are two draft options to allocate cost — by population or vote.  Marshville’s cost based on population would be $928; that based on having a vote, $6,119.  The Council voted to participate at the $928 level.

If you have some folksy news, an idea, suggestion or whatever give me a call at 704.289.1545 or e-mail me at