Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Next Stop, Memory Lane Train Stewardess-Nurses to Gather for Reunion

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Next Stop, Memory Lane Train Stewardess-Nurses to Gather for Reunion

Article excerpt

In the days when airplanes were a novelty, cars were a luxury and the nation moved by rail, Frances Menown and Frances Pahlmann walked the distance between St. Louis and Washington in about 20 hours.

They made that walk in high heels - spectators in summer, navy pumps in winter - at least twice a week as stewardess-nurses on Baltimore & Ohio Railroad trains running between the Gateway to the West and the nation's capital.

Next month, they'll remember those trips at a reunion at Union Station in St. Louis.

Oh, what a job!

It paid $400 a month in the 1940s and included hand-tailored, gray-blue suits. The women met movie stars, presidents, prelates and train loads of just plain people.

Stewardesses had to be registered nurses, and they had to be single.

"My husband says that's why he had to wait six years to marry me," said Menown. "He had to get me off that train."

Menown, 72, and Pahlmann, 68, both of the St. Louis area, got a head start on the reunion Friday at Menown's home in Glendale. Menown worked the rails from 1947 to 1954, Pahlmann from 1950 to 1960.

So who was the most famous person they met?

President Harry S Truman regularly picked up the National Limited, B&O's morning run, to Washington out of St. Louis.

"I never voted for him," said Menown, a lifelong Republican. "But he was one of the nicest men I ever met."

Truman usually had his own car, but he seldom sat in it.

He spent the ride in the coach and dining cars talking to people, and he jumped out at every station to shake hands.

Back then, a president was much more like everyone else. Truman traveled without a media entourage. Television had yet to bring the president's face into people's living rooms regularly.

One day, a passenger asked Menown why Truman looked familiar. "Because he's president of the U.S.," she replied.

Other famous regulars: former House Speaker Sam Rayburn and Cardinal Joseph Ritter, a former archbishop of St. …

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